I had a conversation with a law enforcement professional a couple of months ago who was looking for some insights on getting into a career as a speaker and trainer.
I expressed that personally I think the first key is content. You need to develop quality content that will help people overcome challenges and obstacles, reframe negative experiences, improve their wellness, grow and develop skills and talents or achieve their goals. Your content may address more than one of these areas. I shared two key questions from Seth Godin regarding content development:
- Who is it for?
- What is it for?
When answering those questions being as specific as you can, will help guide the content development. Once you have the content then the next step is to develop your skills as a presenter / speaker / trainer / teacher. This includes an understanding of how people learn, developing a variety of methods of engaging people in your session, and honing skills in developing and using visual aides. All of these are important to enhance great content, not replace it. If your presentation entertains people, but they do not learn anything to help them during the presentation, then it was entertainment, not training. This process should be a career long journey of self-improvement.
Another lesson I shared was that if you are looking to make speaking and training a full time profession then determine the lifestyle you want first, and build your business around that. Failing to do that will result in the business driving your lifestyle and it may be driving in a direction you do not want.
He asked an interesting question near the end of the conversation about what qualifications, if any, would help to get booked for speaking engagements. My answer was, “Be a former Navy SEAL. Outside of that I can’t think of any.” While I said it a bit tongue in cheek, the reality is that being a former member of the military Special Operations community will open a lot of doors as a speaker and trainer. Once those doors are open however, there is still a requirement for them to provide quality content in an engaging manner. (I have been fortunate to interview a number of former members of the Special Operations community for the Excellence in Training Academy who have both a great message and a great delivery.) Members of the law enforcement community have great respect for the service, sacrifice, commitments and hard fought lessons of members of the Military Special Operations community and there is a lot we can learn from each other. The reality then, is that there are no special qualifications. The best credential is a reputation for delivering quality content in an engaging and effective manner.
Yes, if you want to speak mainly to Chiefs of Police and Sheriffs it may be helpful to be, or have been a Chief of Police, but it is not necessary. To speak predominantly to SWAT groups it may help to be a current or former SWAT operator or have a military Special Operations background, but it is not necessary. To speak to FBI National Academy Associations it may be helpful to be an NA grad, but it is not necessary. Having a PhD may open some doors while other audiences do not care about your formal education or the letters after your name. What pretty much every audience cares about is the content, its relevance to them and the effectiveness of the delivery of that content.
People want useful content delivered in an effect manner so focus on the content and the delivery of the message. This goes for in person training, virtual training, blogs, newsletters and podcasts. Remember to stay focused on the message, not the numbers. Numbers are not reflective of impact. Speaking to an audience of several hundred at a conference general session may be good for the ego, but is not necessarily more impactful than speaking with a group of 20 in a breakout session where you can have meaningful interaction and the ability to address specifics issues or concerns. Numbers and metrics such as number of subscribers, downloads, etc. may be helpful if you are looking to get sponsors for your podcasts, newsletter or other digital content, but what’s important to the listener or reader is the message, the content, and the takeaways, not the metrics. Having great content, delivered effectively will build the metrics for digital content. The same is true for in person training.
As a trainer, regardless of the platform you are using, focus on the content and delivery. Know who it is for, and what it is for and then seek to serve that audience with meaningful content delivered in an engaging and effective manner.
Winning Mind Training – Dedicated to serving the heroic men and women of law enforcement.
The Excellence in Training Academy – A membership site created for law enforcement trainers willing to invest in their ongoing professional development.
Dare to Be Great Leadership – Committed to helping aspiring and frontline leaders on their leadership journey through a weekly leadership blog and the online Dare to Be Great workshop.