If you feel overwhelmed by all the hats you have to wear and balls you have to juggle as a speaker, you’re not alone. A huge part of our mission at The Speaker Lab is demystifying the unknowns when it comes to starting a speaking business. Today we’re going to address one common source of confusion: speaker one sheets.
Still grappling with a lot of those unknowns? Let us help! Check out some of our other pieces for aspiring speakers on how to build a personal brand, how to build your network, and how to become a motivational speaker. And if you’re really serious about taking the next step in your speaking career, consider working with us.
We get all sorts of questions about one sheets from people getting ready to launch their speaking business. Some things you might be wondering:
- What even is a speaker one sheet?
- Do I need a speaker one sheet now that the internet exists?
- How do I create one?
- Who is a speaker one sheet for?
All very valid questions. If you’ve had any of these floating around in your mind, you’ve come to the right place.
Consider this piece your one-stop-shop guide to creating a speaker one sheet. We’ll start by talking about the purpose of speaker one sheets and how you can use them in your business. The fact is, one sheets used to be a bigger deal before so much of the speaking industry shifted online. With this in mind, we’ll clarify where your speaker website fulfills some of the same goals as a one sheet and how to prioritize between them. Then we’ll go through the basic outline of what to include in a good one sheet, with some tips for how to make yours as compelling as possible. And finally, we’ll include examples to help get an idea of what a speaker one sheet actually looks like.
Our goal today is to equip you to use your speaker one sheet (if you have one) to your greatest advantage. And if you don’t have one yet, you might realize after reading that you should prioritize other marketing tools (like your website) first.
The purpose of a speaker one sheet
A speaker one sheet is a document that summarizes your speaking business. Just like your speaker website, the audience of a one sheet is almost always a potential client, not the audience of your talks. Back in the pre-internet days, a one sheet was quite literally that–a single piece of paper that you gave to a client so they could learn about your speaking services at a glance. Combining your resume, personal introduction, and a “pitch” for your talk, a one sheet was an essential tool to getting paid gigs.
However, as the speaking industry has adapted to a digital-first world, especially in the wake of COVID, the definition has expanded. A one sheet used to be your first chance at a good first impression with a potential client. Now, that role belongs to your speaker website. Most event planners will already have looked at your website before the phone or email conversation where you get to send a one sheet. They will already have watched your demo video, skimmed your bio, and made sure your speaking topic “menu” matches up with their goals.
So, what’s the point of a one sheet? Do you even need one at all?
Well, it depends on where you are in the launch of your speaking business. Do you have an updated speaker website and demo video? If not, hold off on putting together a one sheet. Your speaker website (featuring your demo video) is the most important marketing asset that will help you establish your expertise and book paid speaking gigs. If you are even thinking about a one sheet while your online presence is still limited to a facebook page with a cover photo from the first talk you gave in 2017, reprioritize. Read our piece on how to create a speaker website if you need some pointers.
So what are the situations where you should create a speaker one sheet? Here are three common ones:
- Often, a speaker one sheet is part of the arsenal of marketing assets you use to put your best foot forward with a client. For example, if a client contacts you asking for more information about the type of speaking you do, you might want to send more details about your niche and speaking menu in a compelling single page document (like this).
- Further into the client negotiation process, you might need to send a short proposal of your talk with more details about your qualifications and the results you help your audience achieve. This one sheet might be the document your client shares with a team who approves your speaking engagement, so it deserves careful attention to detail. We’ve linked a few examples of speaker one sheets like this in section 3.
- A speaker one sheet will also come in handy if you work with a speakers bureau or agent. That way, the middleman advocating on your behalf to the client can provide more information right away without having to contact you for more information.
You might easily encounter all of these situations and more over the course of your speaking career. That’s why we recommend creating a “master one sheet” even if you don’t need one yet. While the master one sheet might never actually see the light of day, it can serve as a skeleton template for more tailored versions.
To recap: your speaker one sheet should be an easy reference to remind the reader who you are, what you do, and why you are a great speaker for their event. It can serve as a general introduction to the entire scope of your speaking business or a pitch for a particular topic or speech.
Elements of a speaker one sheet
Given the differing situations in which you might use your speaker one sheet, the structure and content can vary widely. However, there are five basic elements that we recommend including in your “master one sheet.”
- Pictures. Unless you are creating a longer document that maintains the spirit but not length of a one sheet, limit these to one or two. A headshot and a picture of you speaking on stage can go a long way to give an idea of your personality and experience. Potential clients want to see your face and get an idea of the person they’re dealing with. A professional action shot on the stage will help convey your credibility and legitimacy as a speaker.
- Bio. Your bio should convey the basics of who you are and what you do in a single paragraph. Remember to include any prestigious awards or accomplishments that help establish your expertise. We have a whole piece on how to write a good speaker bio with examples and a template!
- Niche + topics + audience. The person reading your one sheet wants to know who you help and how you help them. If your one sheet is aimed toward a more general audience and on the shorter end, this can be a single sentence at the top or bottom of the page. If you are using your one sheet to propose a specific talk or set of talks, this could include workshop or keynote titles and learning objectives. Try to communicate both the results you achieve for your audience and the benefit the client stands to gain from hiring you.
- Testimonials. Highlight your two or three strongest client testimonials on your one sheet. Choose testimonials that are a) concise and b) the most compelling for the client(s) with whom you are sharing the one sheet. Longer or less immediately relevant testimonials can all go on your website, which presents the “whole picture” of your speaking business.
- Contact info. Your client needs an easy way to reach you. If you don’t have an email address @ your website domain, now is the time to create one! A phone number is also handy for the occasional client who prefers to call–remember calling is often a faster path to getting booked than email!
Now, you might be wondering…can I really fit all five of those in one sheet? Maybe. You should always try to integrate all five (especially elements 3, 4, and 5), but if space is limited there are creative ways to combine them. If you’re struggling with this, you can use the speaker one sheet examples we mention in the next section for inspiration.
Tips for creating a great speaker one sheet (with examples)
Beyond the basics, there are some best practices you can follow to make your speaker one sheet effective.
For starters, keep it concise. For some of the contextual examples we mentioned, there are times your “one sheet” might actually be a multipage document showcasing your speaking expertise. But if you’re using your one sheet during a preliminary discussion with a client or any other “first impression” situation, sticking as close to one page as possible will serve you well. As an example, look to the speaker one sheet of Australian speaker Neen James. It’s minimalist, it’s memorable, and it tells you everything you need to know about Neen’s speaking accomplishments. While it doesn’t include any photos, her stylized signature and logo provide some of the personalization that pictures would otherwise supply.
Going hand in hand with conciseness in your writing is a design principle: don’t be too text heavy. If your one sheet just looks too text heavy, nobody will read it. Yes, even if it’s very concise text packed with helpful information. Just like when using slides for a talk, you have to mix it up to engage your reader. Check out this speaker kit by Chandler Bolt, which fulfills all of the criteria for a one sheet in several action-packed, low-text slides.
Tip: Don’t let this principle cause you to eliminate important information. Your use of text depends on what the person reading your one sheet is looking for. A detailed pitch for a specific keynote or workshop, like this one by TSL student Gerren, requires a lot more text than a generic overview of your speaking business. If you know your client needs more information and fewer graphic design bells and whistles, give it to them.
Avoiding too much text is just one piece in the overall goal of making your one sheet look sharp. This workshop proposal one sheet by TSL student Ravi goes the extra mile when it comes to graphic design. Note that he hits all the essential elements except a bio, but uses quality photos that highlight his speaking experience. Even without a bio, it’s obvious he’s a professional! If you don’t feel confident with this aspect of creating your one sheet, look for someone in your personal network or on a site like Upwork or Fiverr to design it for you.
Finally, Whether you’re working with one page or ten, reiterate your credibility throughout. For example you can use testimonials from people who are well-known figures within your niche. Or, like TSL student Lindsay, you can mention your credentials (her 20+ years of marketing experience) in the context of describing your talk.
The examples we’ve shared of speaker one sheets (or more-than-one-sheets) show you how much this marketing asset can vary depending on your goals. Remember, a speaker one sheet is used in particular situations in addition to your other digital assets like a website and demo video. Creating a speaker one sheet might not be the best use of your time right now if you don’t have those other assets locked down. But in the long run, having one (or at least a skeleton template) on hand if someone asks for it will come in handy.
You can learn more about the pros and cons of using a speaker one sheet by listening to Episode 44 of The Speaker Lab podcast.