As a speaker, your homepage is important online real estate. Why? Because it’s the first thing bureaus, planners and other prospects visiting your site for the first time will see… and how you set up your home page helps determine not only their initial impression of you and how hireable you are as a speaker, but how likely they are to get to your other key website pages.
For the next few months, I’ll be writing Your Homepage Gets You Hired, a series of 5 tips to help you build an effective speaker homepage. You’ll learn the critical elements of a speaker homepage, and get practical advice you can implement right away to create or improve upon your speaker website.
Let’s get to it!
Tip #1: Show ’em who you are.
You need at least one professional picture of you on your homepage. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, you’d be surprised at the number of speaker home pages I see that either don’t have one at all, or have a few grainy shots that don’t say anything about who they are, or what they do.
Imagine going to the website of a new product you’ve heard about, and there’s no picture of it on the home page. Or there is, but you don’t find it until you’ve scrolled down the page – and it’s a small iPhone shot, crammed in beside a block of text.
How excited would you be about that product? Probably not very. I mean, if the manufacturers aren’t even showing it off, how good can it be?
Same goes for your product – you. Prospects may be coming to your website because they’ve heard about you and what you do. They may be aware of your ‘brand’, but ultimately they are hiring a person. A good photo tells them, at a glance, who that person is and what that person is about.
So what makes a good photo? And once you have one (or more), how do you use it effectively on your homepage?
A good speaker photo is professionally shot.
Yes, everyone in the world has cameras on their phone, and they take pretty good pictures. Your homepage deserves more than just pretty good.
For your speaker shots, you want to work with someone who understands lighting, backgrounds and colour; someone who knows how to bring out your personality, tell your story, with an image.
Keep the background neutral. A white or solid colour background makes you the focus of the shot, and makes it much, much easier to remove that background later. Why? So you can use photos of you in web banners, promo boxes, in your one-sheet, even on your business card. Ask your photographer if they will provide you with both background and transparent background (background removed) versions of your photos.
Get headshots, head-and-shoulder shots, and full-body shots in different outfits. This gives you a lot to choose from. Your head-and-shoulder shot might be perfect for your homepage header and social media profile pictures; your full-body shot might be perfect to spice up your one-sheet.
A good speaker photo shows your personality.
Your photos should match your mission – who you are, what you speak about, and why you are driven to speak. If I’m looking to hire a speaker who specializes in corporate humour, I’m going to be turned off by a photo of someone glaring stone-faced into the camera.
Make a list of what you want prospects to know about you and your approach. Our corporate humour speaker might jot down:
- I’m funny
- I satirize corporate culture
- I’m irreverent
- I’m entertaining
- I’m someone your audience will remember
Now turn that into a sentence, a statement about you that you want your prospect to think when they see your photo:
Here’s someone memorable who’s going to be wickedly funny.
Bring that list and your statement with you to your photo shoot, and talk to your photographer about it.
A good speaker photo shows you in action.
Hire a photographer to take pictures of you at your next gig (get permission first!), even if the event has a photographer. Bringing your own means you can plan out a what kind of shots you want beforehand, and most importantly it means you own the rights to the photos, and can use them however and wherever you want; for example, in a large feature image banner on your home page, or as part of a homepage slideshow.
On a budget? Hire a student. Check with local colleges and universities that offer photography programs – many students are looking for opportunities to build their portfolio and get some professional credits.
Don’t have any action shots? Don’t worry. Just use your professional photos. In an ideal world, we’d all have galleries full of laughing audience shots, standing ovation shots, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize for Speaking shots… but we don’t live in a perfect world (yet) and we’ve got to use what we have. As long as you’ve got good professional photos, you’re covered. You can always add action shots when you get them.
So where do I use my photos?
I had a client who was reluctant to put anything larger than a thumbnail photo of herself on her homepage. She, like most of us, hated seeing pictures of herself. She also felt it was conceited: “I don’t want to come off like some guru.”
Of course, you may feel differently. Maybe you love seeing pictures of yourself. Maybe you feel that the world would be vastly improved if only there were more pictures of you plastered all over it. If so, good for you! I agree.
No matter where you fall on the spectrum, there are several ways to get your gorgeous mug on your homepage effectively:
- In your website header. This is the stuff across the top of your website. Something as simple as a head-and-shoulder shot of you and your name, tagline, title etc will work. The best placement for your image in the header is the top left; that area tends to be the first place our eyes land.
- Above the fold. This means the area that shows up on your screen in full, before you need to scroll. A photo of you here, along with some targeted text, can be very effective, and even works along with a photo of you in the header, as long as the photos are different.
- In a banner or slideshow. Make a big statement with a wide image banner or slideshow featuring photos of you with brief teaser text and call-to-action buttons, linked to the key pages on your website. This is a great place to showcase any photos of you in action.
- As the background image. Why not? Go all out. If you’ve got a great shot, use it as the full-screen background image for your homepage. Keep text on this page to a minimum – navigation, a few call-outs directing visitors to where you want them to go, maybe a quote – and let your image take focus. Yes, it’s bold… but done well, it can have a huge impact.
What about stock photography?
Just… don’t. Don’t use it. Please put your mouse down and back away slowly from the stock photography websites.
Ok – I don’t mean never, ever use stock. Just don’t use it on your home page. Your home page, and the rest of your speaker website, are about you, not about happy_office_workers_high-five.jpg. Stock images are fine to use in blog posts, for example, but not to promote you. And seriously, how many times have you seen these people?
Yeah, me too. I feel like I know them.
Your homepage needs to have impact, and stock photos have no impact. Most importantly, they have no YOU. Keep them as supporting images in articles and blog posts – ban them from your homepage.
Have a look at your homepage. Where have you put your image? Do you show up in the header and/or before the fold on your homepage, or are you off to the side somewhere? If you aren’t as present as you should be, speak to your designer or webmaster about creating a new header, or rearranging some of your homepage content to include a good shot of you.
Are your images crisp and clear? Do you feel like your photo truly reflects who you are, what you do, and why you do it? If not, make it a priority to get professional photos done. Ask other speakers who they recommend.
Do you have any action shots? When you book your next speaking gig, ask if you can bring a photographer with you. If not, ask if they will be taking pictures, and if you can purchase the rights to use any of them on your website.
(coming in September)