How to Get Speaking Engagements and Becoming Highly Sought-After
For many, public speaking is a terrifying affair, while for others, it is an incredibly exciting opportunity. Needless to say, if you do plan to get gigs or speaking engagements, you will need to speak in front of an audience.
Public speaking is a great way to grow your audience or your platform, in addition to being a powerful way to share any concepts or ideas that you may have. It is also a good tool for forging relationships.
What is a speaking engagement?
This is basically speaking in front of a group of people about a particular topic that you’re knowledgeable on to either inspire people or inform them of new concepts.
Any scheduled speech in front of an audience, be it unpaid or paid, is considered to be a speaking engagement.
How can you get speaking engagements?
Well, there are a few fundamental questions you need to ask yourself first before landing a gig.
For one, you need to know the reason why you want a speaking engagement. So, ask yourself;
1. What are your reasons for getting into speaking?
Your reasons for booking speaking gigs will help you with every other step in this whole process, which we will discuss as we continue.
Many public speakers usually get on stage for one of the following reasons;
- To build their careers as speakers
- To advertise their coaching or consulting services
- To sell their books
Some may even be motivated by all 3 reasons, not that it matters though. The most important question is “what is your primary reason for getting into public speaking?”
Your answers could vary, depending on the motive, so you may need to take your time and think about this. You can have a talk with your friends and mentors and make a decision before you proceed, that way you will not have to redo your work.
Additionally, you need to know who you want to speak to. Therefore, the second question you should be asking yourself is,
2. Who do you want your audience to be?
Here you explore the different options you have as your audience. Focus on the group that you get excited to speak to, whether it’s moms, executives, entrepreneurs or teenagers.
Once you discover the group that you’re most excited about speaking to, then you can start looking for any events that involve your target audience, where you can be allowed to speak at.
After learning your target audience, you need to ask yourself what you want to speak about, and what about you makes you qualified to speak on the said subject.
3. What topics would you like to discuss?
Let’s assume that you’re standing on stage, before your ideal audience; what would you talk about? What would you share with them that would inspire them and enrich their lives?
With regard to you being qualified, you need to ask yourself, why would anyone choose you to present information on a particular topic out of all the other speakers who are also knowledgeable on it?
Keep in mind that people may not pay you simply because you’re knowledgeable on a particular topic and know your target audience.
Apart from these important questions that you should ask yourself before traversing your locale for gigs, here are a few other things you need to do in order to land speaking gigs.
Step-by-Step to Landing Speaking Gigs
1. Outline your presentation
While it may seem easy to land speaking gigs by simply walking up to a venue and saying, “I’m a good and eloquent speaker, what would you like me to speak on?”, it’s really not.
Some, if not most venues, will want you to approach them with an outline of what you can present. This shows them your value from the get-go; that not only are you confident in your abilities but you are also knowledgeable and know their audience well enough.
This doesn’t mean that you write out full talks. However, you should come up with one or two topics with their basic outlines. Your outline should be able to answer basic questions. (Bonus if they have catchy titles!)
2. Join any networking organization, service club or interest group
While this isn’t restricted to any particular organization, the group you join should have people speaking on a daily basis.
Being a member of a club may afford you the chance to give a presentation on the topics you’re knowledgeable on. This will present you with a good opportunity to test your public speaking skills and maybe even get some contacts who may invite you for speaking gigs in the future.
Additionally, this is a good way to get feedback on how you deliver your content and the quality of your content, which gives you the opportunity to continuously improve and refine your public speaking skills as well as your work.
3. Establish your online presence
While you don’t need to be on every social media platform, you should be active on some sites, preferably the most popular ones or those commonly used by your target audience. Your professional social media profiles or pages should include:
- A dynamic photo of you at a speaking engagement
- Your full name
- Titles for a few of your works
- A concise description of what you talk about
- Your local area
- How interested people can reach you to book speaking engagements (your contact information)
To set up your presence online, you will need a website, that is, if you don’t already have one.
In this digital age, a website acts as your business card. Any individual, firm or organization that may be considering whether to hire you may want to learn more about you, which is where your website comes in.
Your website doesn’t need to be fancy or complicated. However, it should include a few pages that tell people who you are, what you talk about as well as any testimonials, recommendations and a contact page.
On the other hand, if you already have a website, ensure that your site clearly states that you’re a public speaker and are available to those who need your services.
After your website is up and running and you’ve done everything else mentioned above, you can then begin looking for venues to speak at. This brings us to:
4. Book a local venue to speak at
You can now begin making phone calls and emailing places that usually host speakers. If your goal is to speak to boost your career, start with listings of local upcoming events.
If your objective is to sell books, then visit your local bars, coffee shops, bookstores and local library and set up book readings.
Keep in mind that it may be a few months before you actually get booked for an event. Therefore, you should keep your calendar aligned for a gap. If you do book an event that will be occurring on specified dates, then you should ensure that this is added to your schedule.
Additionally, some venues may have particular guidelines for speaking proposals while others may prefer having you write a basic proposal with details on what you can present.
Pro-Tip: Do not be afraid of rejection as you may have to approach a dozen or more events/venues before you actually land a gig.
5. Give a presentation at a regional conference
After landing your first engagement at a local venue, you can then try to speak at a regional conference that aligns with your area of expertise. This would be a good place for you to build your experience, confidence and skill.
This is not to mean that you should stop approaching local venues, please keep at it. However, a regional conference presents you with the opportunity to build your career while competing with more individuals for much better spots. You are, in effect, spreading your wings!
In order to better your chances of getting picked, you need to ensure that your online presence is sharp. You can also add a list of engagements you’ve already done to your site and include testimonials from individuals who attended them.
(You could also say you're an 'international speaker' now.)
6. Ready, Set…Film!
As you improve your skills at regional and local level, you should also think about how you can further grow your brand. A good way to do this would be to include a demo video on your website as a way to market yourself.
You may be asking, what’s a demo video?
If you’re not familiar with a demo video, this is a short video that shows highlights from your talks. This video can be used to show potential clients whether you’re a good fit for their events.
If you have no footage of you speaking, you can either:
- Record any upcoming speaking gigs, no matter how small they may be.
- Locate an environment where you could speak for free and film yourself speaking, even with no audience.
- Have a friend come film you as you give one of your talks
- Ask conference organizers to film your presentation
- Hire professionals to film you while you give a talk
The most important detail is getting your talks filmed. You can then source for professional help turning the raw footage into 5 to 10 minutes of your best moments on stage and a few 1-minute or less clips of you being amazing!
Then, you can add these demo videos to your website as well as your social media accounts.
Pro-Tip: Don’t go into debt to do this. If you are limited in terms of financial resources, try to work with what you’ve got.
We’ve covered the most important and basic things you need which may help you land speaking engagements. Now here are a few additional tips.
Additional Tips for Getting More Speaking Engagements
Practice Makes Perfect
Once you’ve decided on what you will be focusing on as your area of expertise, you should reach out to local associations and businesses that are related to your industry.
While you may have to speak at some engagements for free, you gain exposure while improving on your skills. Additionally, you can use these free speaking engagements to help you land more, and hopefully, paid engagements.
Press releases for the win!
If you want to begin earning income from your career in public speaking, you need to start familiarizing yourself with press releases.
While they may not be the most exciting thing to write, they are an easy way to state who you are, where you’ll be giving your talk and why. In addition, you could also include your contact information and promotions for any other future events.
Press releases also allow you to include your testimonial content, which you can add, using transcriptions from your testimonial clips.
You can then send your press release to any businesses or associations your content may relate to as well as all publications in your location.
There’s power in testimonials
While we’ve mentioned testimonials in passing a few times above, did you know that over 85% of speakers get hired because another individual recommended them?
Constantly updating your website to include video testimonials and audio quotes that say good things about you is a good way to advertise yourself by letting other people advertise you, using their words.
The more individuals who can say that you did an amazing job when you gave a talk, the quicker and easier it will be for them or prospective venues to hire you.
Never be afraid to ask for opportunities or more information. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve called a venue before and they said they were fully booked, try again next time.
Call up different organizations and tell them about yourself, what you specialize in and tell them that you would like to give a talk at their organization.
No harm will come from asking, so, just ask.
Pro-Tip: The more you ask, the more answers you will receive.
Draw up a hit list
No, this is not a list of people you want to eliminate. This hit list should include any potential venues you’ve identified that you would like to speak at. They can be:
- Not-for-profit organizations and charities that could utilize your expertise
- Regional and local venues that you’ve already spoken at
- Regional conferences that are in a way related to your area of expertise
- Regional and local places you are yet to speak at
- Any major national venues you would wish to speak at
This list will help you set a goal for the number of speaking engagements you would like to have done is the set period of time you decide upon.
You will be required to put in the work and legwork, but that’s okay because your efforts will bear fruits, right? You decide.
If your social media accounts are active, try using hashtags to find events you may be interested in. By searching hashtags, your newsfeed will soon be swamped with people and events you can connect with.
If you aren’t big on using social media, you may need to change your perception of it. Instead, try to see it as an asset for building connections and getting acquainted with people across the globe.
Social media is also a good way to market yourself, so you should therefore embrace it.
Conclusion: On Securing Speaking Engagements
In conclusion, there’s a lot that you can do to help you secure speaking engagements, as you can see above. The most important thing you should keep in mind though is to ensure that you’re really good at what you do, are willing to do your best and that you don’t give up, even when it you get discouraged after 15 rejections in one day.
Your light is at the end of your tunnel, illuminate yourself!