How a Creative Professional's Portfolio and a Speaker's Reel Can Work Together


An amazing portfolio is crucial to selling creative services: if your potential clients can't be sure that you've already done work that meets their standards, it's hard for them to tell if you'll be able to handle such work in the future.

The same holds true for landing speaking gigs. While a speaker's reel — clips of examples of your public speaking — isn't strictly necessary, having a great speaker's reel makes it a lot easier to land speaking opportunities, particularly the big ones. Put together, your portfolio shows that you can do what you say, while your reel shows that you can talk about what you know. The combination makes you a double threat, far more able to land both client work and speaking gigs in the long run.

Establish Your Expertise

As a creative professional, you should be giving talks about what you know, like the work you do for your clients. It's easy to become an expert, particularly if you work on a very specific type of project. But showing off that expertise is a little harder. You can gain expertise by association: speaking at events that your potential clients respect can gain you a little respect by association. Having video of those events is absolutely necessary, however, so that prospects who couldn't attend the event can still watch you show off your smarts.

It's useful to integrate video of yourself speaking about the key issues your clients face within the marketing materials you share. It can be difficult for a potential client who finds you online to immediately trust you, because, from his point of view, he only sees a website. Video makes you more trustworthy, especially if the video shows you speaking to a wider audience.

If you’re the top person in your field — even if it’s a very narrow field — you can charge a lot more money.

The same efforts work in the opposite direction, as well. If you're still working to convince conference planners and the like that you're a great choice to speak at their event, being able to show off a relevant portfolio can be helpful. Of course, anyone putting together a big event will want to know that you have the speaking chops to address their audience. But if they aren't sure that you know your area of expertise inside and out, being able to show off all the work you've done in the field is extremely useful. Most speakers' applications or requests for proposals offer you the opportunity to share websites — so make sure that you're putting your portfolio where event planners will see it. Similarly, if someone comes to your website, they should be able to find examples of your past work right off the bat.

Being an expert is advantageous. If you're the top person in your field — even if it's a very narrow field — you can charge a lot more money. If you've got the experience and knowledge to back up your work, you will know right off the bat what the likely results are and clients will pay for a little more certainty in their lives. It's just a question of communicating that expertise.

Build a Consistent Brand

When you're selling your services, creating a brand is crucial. The first step is ensuring that every last scrap of material that has to do with your company looks the same — same colors, logos and design aesthetic across the board. But a brand is more than just the visual impression that potential clients see. You've also got to create a consistent feeling or impression throughout every interaction with a prospect.

Clearly, your speaker's reel and your portfolio should have a similar design — preferably both when embedded in your website and when shared through other methods with interested parties. But you've got two different opportunities to reinforce your brand.

Take the time to choose appropriate items to include in each presentation of your work so that everything reflects the same philosophy about your work. You want potential clients to feel like they know you, at least a little bit, just from looking at your marketing materials — you need to be trustworthy and responsible, but you also need to show a clear advantage to working with you over any other creative professional.

If you're only just beginning to brand yourself and your business, take the opportunity to build your brand correctly from the ground up. Go out of your way to land gigs that accurately represent what you want to do in the long term, even if you have to give in a little on your ideal rates. Being able to show off your expertise earlier in your creative career is worth taking the hit.

Follow the same guidelines as you build both your portfolio and your speaker's reel. Both need to be entirely professional and polished. If you need to hire help to get either item to that point, do so. Even if you're comfortable with the technical tools necessary to produce the promotional versions of your work, make sure that you get critiques from people with more experience, as well as the audience that you're trying to reach.

Make It Easy for People to Come to You

In the past, you'd have to drag your portfolio all over town (or even mail copies to far off places) in order to land work. That's no longer true: it's a rare creative who doesn't place her portfolio online. Placing a speaker's reel online is a similarly simple matter. But it's still not common to see integration between the two. Making it easy for a visitor to your website to notice your speaking reel from your portfolio (or the other way around) can let the two reinforce each other, showing your expertise in your topic.

By marrying together your reel and your portfolio, you can make them more effective.

It's generally a good idea to provide context for the pieces in your portfolio and reel. If you make a regular practice of speaking about your work and recording those efforts, you can drop a short video (perhaps directly out of your reel) on to the same page of your portfolio where a given piece of your portfolio lives. It takes a little work to regularly share your projects during your talks — and you can't share any work covered by an NDA or that would otherwise expose information about your clients you aren't entitled to share — but it pays off. Speaking gigs are an opportunity to show off your portfolio and win over new clients on the spot.

By marrying together your reel and your portfolio, you can make them more effective. You can also make it easier to market your services as a whole: You need to take the right steps to promote each individual page of your website. Not only do you need to optimize your work for search engines, but if you can submit pages of your site to social networking sites, you can direct more traffic to your site.

Including multimedia on the various pages of your website can make what would otherwise just be a portfolio piece far more appealing. That's not a requirement that you should only show off one body of work to to both conference organizers and creative clients. Minimizing the amount of effort it takes to update your website, your portfolio and your speaker's reel is useful, however.

Consider the overall design of your website as you're thinking about how to share information about your business and past work. The right user experience will emphasize what you can offer to anyone looking to work with you. It's ideal to lead those interested parties into an easy way to take the next step.

Take a Long Term View of Your Body of Work

At the end of the day, your portfolio and your reel are the same thing: collections of your past work put together with the intention of landing future work. Each is just specialized to show off one thing that you do.

Put together, they can offer potential customers a better impression of your abilities and expertise. They're marketing tools and you'll need to experiment to see how they best can be used, along with all the other marketing strategies you put into play. Continue to modify both your reel and your portfolio, swapping in new examples of your speaking or your client work as you can. Neither should be carved in stone.

The opportunities to share your work, particularly online, are going to continue to grow. Be prepared for new tools that pop up that let you share your work in new ways with new audiences. Don't think of either your portfolio or your speaker's reel as a one-time project: they're on-going efforts, for the life of your career.

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