Today's blog post is a little off-topic but it's something I've been asked about repeatedly lately. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me for advice on how to book speaking gigs, well, I could buy a sandwich for lunch tomorrow! Ok, so I haven't been asked about this a lot, but I figure it's been asked enough times that chances are more of you are wondering about it too.
You may want to become a speaker specifically. Or you may just want to land a few speaking gigs to help promote your business or brand. Whatever your reason, if you're interested in booking your first, or more, speaking gigs, here are my 8 tips to do so.
Now, please beware that these are my tips. I am, by no means, an expert at helping others launch speaking careers. But these are the methods I've used and that I've seen others use to successfully start speaking at relevant events.
Have a Blog
In my opinion, you need to have a blog or regular source of content that shows people you are an authority on a topic and that you can think for yourself while educating your audience. Regurgitating content that the "big names" preach and lacking independent thought will not land you speaking gigs.
Most importantly though, you have to be able to educate. Speaking is about helping, teaching, and providing value to the audience. You need to be able to show event coordinators that you've got this ability.
Write a Book
This falls in line with having a blog and should be a part of your plan for establishing yourself as an expert. You need to write a book.
No, you don't need to spend 2 years researching your topic, paying high priced editors, and finding some huge publishing house to publish a bound and printed book for the masses. Of course, if you can do this, go for it! But in all reality, there is this wonderful world of self-publishing that allows you the power to create and publish a book without the significant time and hassles of the past.
In fact, I know people who have written, published, and promoted a new book in under a week. I know, they're probably a little crazy, but they did it! And you can publish a book too. Look into what you need to do then do it.
You need to show yourself as an authority in your field, niche, or industry. And when you are introduced as a speaker, they should be able to promote you as an author, lending to the credibility of your expertise. So go write a book. Seriously.
Guest on Podcasts and Interviews
I won't lie, and I tell people this all the time, when I started out, I was kind of a podcast whore. And I mean that in the nicest way possible 😉 I would be a guest on almost on any podcast that would have me. It allowed me to expand my audience, my reach, and my influence. But most importantly, it allowed me to practice speaking on my topics.
I could hear myself. Learn where I needed to make improvements or little quirks I could work on to provide better content in a controlled speaking environment. Let's face it, there's no backspace button once you start talking!
So if you haven't spoken much or are trying to get started, offer yourself as a guest to podcasts or other types of interviews in your industry. It will help establish you as the authority you are but also allow you to improve your speaking skills for when you get on that stage. BTW, you can also use these episodes to refer event coordinators to when looking to book gigs so that they get a better feel for how you sound and come across.
Have Videos of You Speaking
Full disclosure here - I am preaching this, but I know I don't practice this. I seriously have this on my list of get-my-butt-on-it-already things to do.
One of the most important, if not THE most important, things event coordinators want to see is what you look like on stage, how you convey your message, and how you present in general. Videos are the only way to do this. And a lot of event coordinators won't even book you if you can't show them a video of you on stage.
So, even if you can't get videos of you actually on stage, make sure you are recording videos of you speaking and educating. This could be tutorials, weekly video segments, messages, or other types of videos that you share with your audience. Mix up the content. Some could be at your desk on webcam. Some could be someone else filming you "present" something educational. Some could be handheld mobile device, selfie-style. Just get a variety of videos that show you, your personality, your speaking style, and that you can educate on camera.
Get Comfortable Speaking
I already mentioned doing the podcasts and recording videos. These are good starts to getting comfortable speaking, but nothing compares to standing in front of a room full of people, staring at you, waiting for you to talk, taking photos of you, chatting among themselves while you speak, scrolling on their phones, and a number of other possible distractions including trying to manage a remote to advance your slides while remembering what's on the next slide and staying on topic on the current slide. Oh, and you better not plan on having cue cards or cheat notes to get through your presentation either. You need to be able to stand up there and present the whole thing without any aids other than what's on your slides. This isn't the 80s anymore and speaking has become an art form that brings high expectations from the audience.
Ok, I'm really not trying to freak you out. But standing on that stage isn't easy. And it isn't for everyone. So before you invest in the idea of speaking, try it first.
Contact your local Chamber of Commerce or find local networking events around your area. Find out if you can come in (for free) and present a short session on your topic of expertise. Chances are these groups are smaller and more targeted in scope. This will allow you to practice your speaking skills and presentation styles to find what works for you. It will also allow you to get photos and videos of you speaking (make sure to bring a friend or someone who can record and take photos of you)!
Be Uniquely You
Through all these stages of writing, recording videos, and practicing speaking, stay true to YOU. There is something inherently unique about you. Don't try to sound like or look like someone else. It will show you through that you aren't being authentic and it will damage your opportunity for future speaking opportunities.
Embrace your quirks. Speak, stand, dress, and present yourself how you feel comfortable. You can read a million tips about how to dress, or how to speak, or how to connect with the audience. And while I'm not saying to ignore these things, I'm suggesting you take these into account to enhance your personality.
For example, yes, I will stress about what I'm going to wear on stage and I may buy a new outfit for the event. But I'm going to pick something that reflects the professionalism of my brand, my style, and which I'm comfortable wearing. There is nothing worse than being on stage in something you aren't comfortable in! And I am a hand talker. Yup, watch me on camera or on stage and these hands go flailing every which direction - which is why I like when they give me a handheld mic cuz at least one hand has to stay controlled that way 😉 But I embrace this quirk, and even joke about it with the audience. It's part of who I am and that makes my sessions authentic to me.
Have a Speaker's Page
If you plan to take speaking seriously, you need to take it seriously. This includes putting a dedicated page on your website that shows people who you are as a speaker. You can view my speaker's page for an example.
In general though, this page should indicate that you are available as a speaker. It should highlight your skills, accomplishments, and achievements. Include testimonials from various people to support your speaking credentials. You should also have photos and/or videos of you speaking to enhance your legitimacy as a speaker.
And you should have a list of topics that you are prepared to speak about - 3 is the ideal number of topics to list. Too many and it's too hard to choose. Too few and you look limited in your capacity. Of course, you can tailor your sessions or offer alternatives when someone calls to book you, but these topics should give prospective event coordinators the information they need to know what you are qualified to speak about. And, very important, each topic should list the key valuable takeaways that the audience will benefit from. It's all about the value you can provide!
Use Social Media
Of course, this post wouldn't be "me" if I didn't promote the value of social media to help book more speaking gigs 😉
Yes, you have your audience, your platforms, and your networks across social media. So use them to promote your speaking availability. Let people know when you're going to be speaking at local events or conferences. Invite your audience to help you pick topic titles as you formulate your speaker's page. Use Facebook ads to promote your speaker's page or speaking skills to people who book events. Use your LinkedIn network to reach out to or send messages to people who have influence to hire speakers at their companies. Update your profile bios or About sections to list yourself as a speaker.
There are a variety of ways that you can showcase your speaking skills and let people know that this is something you do. Like everything else, get creative! But use social media to your advantage.
Hopefully, if you're interested in speaking, these tips will help you get the exposure and opportunities you are seeking. However, like I said, this is definitely not something that I am an expert in. So if you have any additional insights or suggestions to help book more speaking gigs, please share them in the comments below! We'd all love to learn from your experiences too 🙂