If a speaker gives a mic-drop presentation, and there’s no one around to hear, does their message even matter?
Booking great speaking opportunities is almost as important as delivering great presentations. With no audience to hear your message, you’ll never make an impact on the world.
But how do you get speaking engagements, or more speaking engagements if you’re not booking enough?
Keep reading. We cover the full what, why, and how of booking more speaking engagements.
What is a Speaking Engagement?
Speaking engagements are where one person or a panel of people speak on a topic they are passionate about and share their unique perspective on it.
The speaker talks about a topic in a way that can educate, motivate, or inspire their audience.
Types of Speaking Engagements
Over the past few years, speaking has evolved to accommodate the ‘P’ word (Pandemic), with more virtual speaking engagements. But the other types of speaking engagements still exist, and we’re going to walk you through some of them!
- Conference/conventions – A large-scale gathering where multiple events are held over numerous days to discuss and engage on common interests. For example, a software conference where experts present trends and experiences with others in the same field.
- Training Seminars – This is a smaller-scale event where an expert comes to educate the audience or teach a specific skill. For example, a speaker teaches the audience about emotional intelligence in the workplace.
- Religious seminars– This is when a speaker discusses topics related to religion at religious institutions; for example, a Christian author hosting an event to discuss the impact church leaders have on their communities.
- Networking events– A gathering of industry professionals to establish connections with one another and discuss their work, such as a writer’s seminar where authors, editors, and other industry professionals gather to engage in their writing experiences.
- Webinars – This is a virtual gathering where the audience can be from anywhere in the country, or even the world.
- Interviews – This is when an expert is invited to discuss themselves and their work in more detail in front of someone else’s audience (more on identifying your target audience below!). This could be having a clinical psychologist come on a podcast about mental health tips.
- Panel discussion conferences – When a group of experts gets together to discuss their mutual interests and provide their unique perspectives on the topics. For example, a panel of authors in the romance genre discusses the tropes that need to be phased out because it impacts real-life views on romance.
Speaking Engagements: Should You Do Them?
Speaking may be a calling for people. It just fits their personality and their goals in life to a T.
For others, they may not have seen speaking as their calling, but that doesn’t mean they won’t rock it. How does one decide on getting into speaking engagements? Here are some tell-tale signs:
- You’re an expert in a topic, or it’ll be easier for you to become an expert in a topic with some hard work and branding choices
- You’re passionate about a topic enough to engage others
- You have a published book and speaking would help with your author branding
- You have a unique perspective on a topic
- You’ve already been asked to speak; people see potential in you
- You need to network and generate new clients for your business
Benefits of Speaking Engagements
Taking on speaking engagements can be nerve-wracking but in the long run, they can help you:
- Reach more of your target audience
- Promote your book and increase sales
- Solidify relationships with industry professionals
- Expand your following
- Get exposure and grow your business
Types of Speaking Engagement Locations
If you’re wondering which places have speaking engagements, we’ve compiled a list of some of the places that frequently book speakers:
- Chambers of Commerce: Almost every city has one
- Places of Education: Like Universities, colleges, and schools.
- Libraries and Bookstores: Turn a regular book signing into a speaking engagement.
- Conferences and Trade Shows: Find which conference your audience frequents.
- Corporations: Bigger companies get speakers to educate their employees on relevant topics.
- Nonprofit organizations: See when their next event is!
- Places of Worship: For example, churches and community centers.
- Media Publications: Like Podcasts, TV interviews, etc.
How To Find Speaking Engagements
When you’ve made it in this field, speaking engagements usually find you, but until then you’re going to have to put in the work to find speaking opportunities.
We’ll show you where and how to start on this journey. These tips will be valuable for beginners and intermediate speakers, so make sure to read on:
- The Topics
- Your Audience
- Your Brand: Becoming the expert
- Build your own event
- Join forces
- Follow the crowd
- The art of speaking for free
- Pitch yourself and your work
- Cold calling
- Extra Tips For Speaking Engagements
When starting out, or looking to refocus your efforts, you need to have a look at which topics you’re passionate about. Here are some questions you can ask to figure out where you can leverage topics from:
- What knowledge and experiences do you have?
- Do you have any qualifications?
- Do you have unique ideas and fresh perspectives?
- Can you design a roadmap towards becoming an expert in your ideal topics (for example, a published book on the topic)?
Once you’ve figured out where you stand, you need to figure out where your target audience is.
The first step is to identify your target audience. To do that, you must consider your target audience’s demographics and interests.
Are they businesswomen looking to find a balance between working and family life? Or are they millennials learning how to deal with life changes in the 2020s?
Next, you have to link your objectives to their needs. Here are some questions to guide you:
- What problems do they have that you can help solve?
- What interests them about your topics?
- How can you impact them using your message?
Now, it’s time to see where your niche audience hangs out, in real life and online.
For example, research the trade shows they attend and the blogs and social media influencers they follow.
Having all this information on hand allows you to immerse yourself in the right community and build connections and trust with the audience. This will help you find speaking engagements that land you in front of your target audience.
Your Brand: Becoming the expert
How do you build connections and trust with the ideal audience? By building your brand. In the eyes of your target audience, you are an expert, someone they can rely on.
Not every speaker out there has a bunch of PhDs to their name. They became an expert through using their experience and understanding of the topic.
The following list will help with building your brand:
Publish a book
Being a published author in your field puts you many notches up in expertise. It’s an excellent way to get traction in front of your ideal crowd.
If you’re an author looking to get speaking engagements, you’re already on your way! With your book you’ve already proved that you can speak on this topic enough to fill several pages, so what’s a 2 hour speaking gig at a seminar?
A book is a great way to position yourself as an expert and market your brand, and speaking engagements are a great way to market yourself and your book. A win-win situation!
You must have an online presence in today’s world to have a successful brand and a website is the best way to do it! It ensures you’re taken seriously in the speaking engagements space.
Your speaker website or author website is a central location to house everything about you. From your experience to your speaking topics to the demo videos of you speaking. Don’t worry we cover demo videos below!
Everything you want to be associated with your brand has a home on your website. This website makes potential clients more likely to book you for speaking engagements.
With a website, you have a convenient place to host your blog. This is a space where you can share your insights and unique perspectives in a way that gives potential clients a taste of what you’re capable of.
And you can expand your reach by posting content that your audience would love.
Any new-age author or person solidifying their business will tell you that email marketing is an absolute must when it comes to maintaining an audience and converting them to clients.
It’s a controlled space where your audience has every opportunity to never forget about you and constantly be reminded of your brand.
You must incentivize people to join your list with an offer through your website and do some networking.
We’re in the age of media, so feel free to get creative with how you do your branding.
- Start a YouTube channel that leverages your expertise and solidifies your brand
- Go on a podcast that has your target audience
- Start your own podcast and have speakers in your industry come on it, which exposes you to their audience
- Post related content on your social media to garner followers interested in your industry
You may want to burst onto the scene and book a ton of speaking engagements, and someday you can. But the best way to start your journey is to network.
Find conferences and venues where you’d like to speak at and become friends with the people organizing it or the other speakers there.
Now, we’re not saying you should gate-crash an exclusive event, but you could find a way to meet people who may know the organizers of those exclusive events.
It may be a slow-burn but building long-lasting relationships will have you reaping rewards consistently down the line, rather than getting once-off opportunities from acquaintances.
Why is networking the way to go:
- Befriending industry professionals can lead to them recommending you to event planners when they’re looking for speakers
- Event planners will be more likely to recall you for more speaking engagements
- You’ll always know what’s going on in your industry
It takes time but hold off on pitching yourself or you’ll become another business email in their inbox.
It may sound as if we’ve given you license to stalk an events coordinator and become their friend, but as the saying goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
Note: Make sure to put these people and their details into a spreadsheet for cold calling later. We discuss cold calls in more detail below!
Build your own event
When you get started, you may feel like you’re the new kid being left out of the cool kids’ table. It’s time to get unconventional by hosting your own convention.
If you have a large enough following and resources, you can create your own conference.
For most that’s a tall order, so you could instead host a webinar or have a gathering in your community using one of the online community gathering tools like Meetup, etc.
Stack your event with awesome, curated content that gets the audience wondering when’s your next speaking engagement.
Now, it’s time to create your own cool kids’ table, filled with your peers!
If you know of authors or other speakers in your industry, ask them to join a panel of your making. This may be an attractive offer for some event planners.
Follow the crowd
Keeping your eyes on your competitors and other industry professionals will make finding your ideal events easier.
Follow event coordinators on LinkedIn, the events’ Facebook pages, and the speakers in your field on Twitter.
You’ll see your social media feeds flooded with event dates and speakers talking about the events they’re speaking at.
This will help you learn about what’s done in the industry and how you can go about pursuing your speaking engagements.
For example, if you learn that a certain event happens every June, find out when that event starts looking for speakers and pitch them your proposal when the time is right.
Or book yourself a seat at a friend’s speaking engagement and post about it on social media with the relevant hashtags, making yourself more visible to the event planners.
The art of speaking for free
If you’re not famous or you don’t have credibility for speaking yet, then you’ll likely have to accept a few free-of-charge speaking engagements before you start putting a price tag.
We know…working for free is not ideal. But there are some upsides to speaking for free:
Sell your inventory
You could be speaking so that you can sell higher ticket items. In that case, you can accept free speaking engagements if they allow you to bring your books and other products. Then you can sell your books to the audience at the back of the hall after the speaking engagement.
For the experience
What you don’t get in dollar bills, you get in experience. With this opportunity to speak, you can refine your speeches, get more comfortable in front of the audience, and learn more about the speaking engagement booking process.
No one starts at the top of their game, so use free speaking engagements to climb towards that level.
It may seem like a loss to walk away from a speaking engagement empty-handed, but in truth, you could be walking away with some new friends and contacts.
Do your best and the organization may offer you a paid speaking engagement next time or refer you to others.
We’d like to make an additional point here. You could be getting paid speaking gigs, but a nice organization pops up on your feed that looks worth your time. Downside is that they can’t afford to pay you.
Consider the location, the audience, and your schedule. It may be worth waiving your fee if it fits the big picture of what you want to achieve.
Build client base
So, the speaking engagement venue won’t pay you, but maybe someone in the audience might.
You could be speaking to your prime targets in that audience. They may turn into long-term clients of yours.
This could be them asking you to speak at their next corporate event, referring you to other clients, or providing the best review you could dream of, etc.
When you’re looking to buy a book, one of the deciding factors is the book reviews. You want to know what other people thought about it and if you’d like it.
The same thing goes with speaking engagements. Event planners want to know how you impact an audience.
As a speaker, you need testimonials and proof of performance. Next time you’re booked for a speaking engagement, ask the event personnel to write a review on what they thought of your talk.
Don’t forget to engage with the audience after the speaking engagement to see what they’ve said online.
Proof of Performance: Demo Video
We mentioned having a demo video earlier, but it needs its own corner on this blog.
If you’re starting out, you may wonder what on earth would you demonstrate in a video. You haven’t even spoken yet!
Or if you have spoken somewhere already, maybe you didn’t record it – not to worry! Just a little extra effort and you’ll have your demo video up and running on your website in no time.
If you’re struggling to find your next speaking engagement to record (hence you are browsing through this blog), you just need to find an open space for you to film yourself speaking. Remember to speak as if you are in front of an audience.
If you do have a speaking engagement recorded, put that bad boy up on your website!
Note: Your demo video should be a good 2-5 minutes of your best work, so make sure it’s well-edited!
Pitch yourself and your work
You need to be able to sell yourself and your topics in a way that has people wanting to know more.
You can either send your pitch over email or have an elevator pitch prepared for your run-in with a contact you have from your networking activities.
Your pitch needs to have the following:
- A heading that hooks them immediately, like the headline of an article
- Well-thought-out topics that would be of interest to the relevant person you’re pitching to
- Description of the topic to show how it incorporates your unique perspective
- What the audience will take away from your talk
Now that you have your spreadsheet of contacts from earlier and a good pitch, it’s time to do some cold calling.
A cold call is when you contact a potential client who hasn’t met you to get business from them. This can be an actual phone call, email, or other sort of online messaging.
Most would hesitate with this method of getting speaking engagements because it takes a lot of effort, and you won’t benefit as much as you would if you waited.
One of the exceptions to waiting would be if you are known for something else. Even if you’re not a well-known speaker but you have a published book, you’ll be more recognizable by your online presence as an author.
How to cold call or email
You’re contacting a stranger hoping they’ll book you for a speaking engagement – it doesn’t get more awkward than that!
But it doesn’t have to be awkward at all. There’s a simple formula that you can follow to help you warm up your cold calls to try and spark their interest.
- Use a subject line that grabs attention without looking like spam.
- Warm them up by starting off with how you appreciate their work or something they’ve done.
- Tell them about yourself and the experience you have in a maximum of 3 sentences.
- Pitch them on your idea for their event and the benefits the audience will get from it.
- Ask them an easy-to-answer question, for example, when will the planner start looking for speakers for the event; they’ll be more likely to respond.
- Link your website in your email signature for them to learn more about you if they’re interested
Extra Tips For Speaking Engagements
Here are some extra tips for getting speaking engagements:
- If you’re still struggling to find where the event planners may be online, check for related forums in the industry
- Focus on consistently engaging with your community, because if you can guarantee interest in your topics, you have better chances of booking speaking engagements
- Don’t be afraid to ask your fellow speakers for advice
- Don’t only search for event planners; board members, executives, and even speaker bureau personnel are great networking opportunities
- Don’t limit your networking to the bigger social media platforms, use places like Slack and Substack, for example.
Making The Most Out Of Speaking
Booking one speaking engagement doesn’t mean the work is done. You have to put in some effort to get the most out of the speaking engagement. Here’s how you do it:
Not only should you bring your books or other high-ticket items to your speaking engagement, but you should also hold a signing at the back after speaking to add extra value to your work.
The speaking engagement doesn’t have to end
Take the opportunity to invite the audience members to ask questions at the back of the room at the end of the event. This will help you build more personal connections with your audience.
Bring a clipboard and pen for the audience to add their email address. You can later enter those into your email list.
How To Keep Getting Booked
We’ve compiled a few more tips you can use to help you build momentum with speaking engagements:
- Practice speaking – Practice your speeches to the point where they sound like a conversation rather than a speech; the audience will be more immersed.
- Ask for feedback – Simply ask the event organization for feedback on the speaking engagement so you know what worked and how to improve the rest
- Advertise on stage – Be subtle and advertise yourself while you talk by saying where else you’ve spoken and that you’d love to speak more on your topic
- Refine the hook and pitch – Your hook ideas and pitch could always use some tweaking to make sure it’s the best they can be
- Use data – Monitor your email list click-through rate, the sales of your books along with any changes you’ve made to your approach to speaking engagements to see what is and isn’t working
Speaker Engagements: You’re Here To Stay
With these tips, we know you’re ready to tackle the speaker world head-on. Whether you’re an author promoting their book or a speaker who’s passionate about their message, you have the tools you need.
In order to show your industry that you’re here to stay, you need a permanent online presence that’s professional and authentic to who you are. They need to know you mean business.
An easy way to accomplish this is with a speaker website or author website. It’s an easy way for your target audience to find you online and learn more about you. Plus, you can easily slot in a page where people can book you for speaking engagements!
We have experience in making speakers’ and authors’ website dreams come true and the expertise to make sure you have a stellar online presence.
Simply fill in this inquiry form and we’ll be happy to help you on your journey!
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