I hope you are a little shocked that I'd write "biorrhea" in a blog post.
But you also instantly get what I mean.
Speaker bios are notoriously over-engineered. Worse, some online audiences are less tolerant than offline audiences (notably those waiting for a thought leader to take the stage…see my recent study here).
To say that a speaker bio should be short, however, would be grossly simplistic. Read on for better speaker bios in your webinars.
Get clear on the bio's purpose
The word "bio" (biography) is a misnomer. Audiences really don't care that you won an award in sixth grade for rescuing a unicorn. Bios serve one function: To motivate attention and involvement.
- Answer the audience's Big Implicit Question: Do you have credibility? In their unspoken words, "Should I listen, trust that you can deliver on what's been promised?"
Approach the bio as supporting evidence
I'm on the Professional Sales Advisory Board at Ohio University's The Schey Sales Centre, and I'm delivering a keynote for an upcoming learning conference. When I share at the former, do you think they care that I can spell pedagogy? When I speak at the latter, do you think they care that I've helped solve multi-million dollar sales problems?
The speaker bio is the supporting evidence for answering the Big Implicit Question.
- Take a hatchet to every detail that is even close to marginally irrelevant to the audience.
- Don't think, "Super-duper short". Think, "Super-duper relevant."
- Include as much as needed to answer the Big Implicit Question. No less. No more.
Don't be afraid of humor...especially with humorless audiences
Supporting evidence doesn't have to be limited to your alma mater. And in some industries that have been especially scrubbed within an inch of their lives, there's a huge opportunity to be a welcome face in a sea of boring.
People relate to people. My bet is that you're pretty interesting during Happy Hour. Tap in to the (suitable for work) elements of your interestingness.
- Find, and use, a simple tactic like the Rule of Three
Plan the bio as performance art
Even a great bio is dead in the water if it fails to get attention and incite anticipation. Which means that how it's delivered could actually hurt the cause.
Remember, the brain avoids boring. Great performance itself is a compelling thing to listen to.
- Write bios to be read aloud
- Avoid complex sentences
- Write in an active voice
Help others help you
Webinar moderators come in all shapes and sizes. A few are former radio pros who kick real butt. More commonly they're an extra person in the company, an editor from the publication where you rented the list, or (gasp) a senior executive who nobody can say no to.
- Don't be shy about asking the moderator to practice
- Make sure they know how to pronounce difficult names, particularly yours
- Consider a third-party (outside) moderator who will push to improve performance, including how the bio is constructed and delivered
The bottom line
Audiences are different, and the needs for speaker bios change with the audience. There's never occasion, however, where you'd argue that a weak beginning is advantageous. Now go forth and rock it.