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Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

Speaking: Tips to Land Speaking Engagements

Written By: Carol Roth | 8 Comments

One of the topics that I’m most asked about, but rarely see any information regarding, is speaking engagements. So, to help shed some light on this sometimes overwhelming subject, I’ve reached out the fabulous CarolRoth.com contributor network of experts, advisors and entrepreneurs to find out their best tips for landing speaking engagements. Their answers are presented below in no particular order.

You may notice some similar ideas listed, but I kept them separate, as something in the way one is framed may resonate differently with you.

1. Be Everywhere and Be Real

I was brought on by a financial services company to speak about personal development years back and the person who made the decision was a huge fan of the multitude of videos that I was putting on the net talking about the brain, personal development, and performance. The key for me was being real, being uncensored, and putting out as many videos as possible! So, be everywhere, be yourself if you're putting content out there on the web and let that attract people looking for good speakers.
Thanks to: Ryan Critchett of iMobileRescue iPad Screen Repair.

2. Show Your Stuff on LinkedIn

I was hired for two different speaking engagements after consistently answering questions in the LinkedIn Q&A area. Be pithy, be helpful, and show your personality, and you never know who might be reading your answer.
Thanks to: Rosemary ONeill of Social Strata.

3. Passion for My Craft

I just landed a speaking engagement with Foodista at the international food bloggers conference in Portland. If there is any takeaway that I can teach, it would be that if you do what you are truly passionate about, no one can say no. It's just infectious.
Thanks to: Warren Bobrow of Cocktailwhisperer.

4. Find Your Target Audience

If you want to be hired for speaking engagements and you already have established yourself as an expert (why else would they hire you), you need to define your target audience. For example, since I specialize in helping women succeed, I target women's network and diversity groups within companies, women's organizations, and technical societies that have women's groups. I might give one free talk at many women's organizations as a "teaser" that leads to additional paid engagements.
Thanks to: Renee Weisman of Winning at Work Consulting.

5. Hot Topics Get Attention

Speakers offering speeches on hot topics get hired. A hot topic is one that is in the news or one that deals with a new innovation, like the cloud, or one that seemingly goes against the grain of conventional wisdom, like using human resources as a means for competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Thanks to: Leonard Scott of Leonard Scott & Company.

6. VIDEO - Like a Movie Trailer!

Show them a video of your past speaking engagements. It's like a movie trailer for your impending presentation. They can more easily visualize you speaking for their event when they see and hear you speaking on video.
It doesn't have to be super high-end, but the video quality should be clear (e.g. not too dark and grainy), stable (e.g. not shaky and with too much panning) and the audio should be clean and clear.
Use a montage of multiple engagements to subtly let them know that you speak frequently.
Thanks to: Rocky Walls of 12 Stars Media.

7. Reverse the Risk

The first thing to do is to speak for free to establish your skill. Then, enter contests so that you can become an award winning speaker. Secure media mentions to enhance your credibility. Always provide exceptional value. For example, every member of my audience receives a free copy of my book. Finally, I always provide a guarantee for the meeting planner that if the audience does not find my presentation of value, I will not collect a fee. I've never not collected the fee.
Thanks to: John Paul Engel of Project Be The Change.

8. Follow-up After the Pitch!

People neglect to follow-up after the pitch and this is HUGE. We can't see into their inbox or schedule, so we have no idea if they received the message. Be persistent and follow-up if you don't hear back. Don't wait a week - do this in 3 days or you may be forgotten about. Show that you're interested in their event and that you can truly benefit their audience. Don't give up!
Thanks to: Ali Rittenhouse of Ali Rittenhouse International.

9. Don't Forget to Shave!

This may sound obvious to males, or at least to aging Baby Boomers such as myself, but the trend of unshaven faces is reaching epidemic proportions. Why this is happening is the subject of another post. However, if you're a guy and you want to be taken seriously for a speaking gig, make a strong effort to be cleanly shaved, not to mention combing your hair (another topic worthy of a post) and dressing for success.
Thanks to: Jim Taggart of Taggart Leadership Consulting Inc.

10. So You Want to Talk

Have something great and important to say!
Thanks to: Jim Camp of Camp Negotiation Institute.

11. Work Your Network!

Four of my last five speaking engagements this year came directly from contacting a single person in my network and expressing a desire to speak. The fifth resulted from a social media contact where the person organizing an event contacted me. There is nothing more valuable than a good network! Everyone should constantly work to build and maintain one.
Thanks to: Monique Y. Wells of Understanding Time Management.

12. Speak Up!

One of the best tips that I would offer anyone looking for hired, speaking engagements would be to connect with their local or regional Toastmasters chapter. While Toastmasters constantly trains and develops speakers, they are contacted by many for upcoming community and professional events that want speakers.
Thanks to: Sherell Edwards of The Christian Women Leadership Exch.

13. Share

Develop a close relationship with a like-minded speaker and trade speaking engagements. When s/he speaks somewhere one year, the next time you call that vendor so that you can speak there. Allow your friend to do the same with your clients.

You'll double your speaking engagements!
Thanks to: Jason Howell of Jason Howell Company.

14. Just Be Valuable

Just be valuable to those people who are seeking speakers and those who may have influence. By recognizing that business is a two way street and it is not just about you (one way street), it will allow you to showcase your authenticity, even if it means recommending someone else to speak. No one can create value, as it is unique to each person, but everyone has the opportunity to be valuable.
Thanks to: Leanne Hoagland-Smith of ADVANCED SYSTEMS.

15. You Don't Ask, You Don't Get

Sometimes the simplest strategy is the best strategy. I decide I want to pursue an industry group, I google key companies in that industry and look for their various internal Diversity Networks (women, African-Americans, etc.). I contact their program director, offer to do a program for them, which is sometimes paid and sometimes gratis. However, what that does is get me an army of fans within that company, which then leads to paid engagements for corporate events.
Thanks to: Anne Miller of Chiron Associates Inc.

16. Email News Releases to Clients

A simple, short news release emailed to clients about a new topic with an attached photo most often is enough to get a response. I follow-up with a short video or send them to my site to see a clip from my latest speaking engagement. People like to SEE and HEAR a sample of what they will be getting.
Thanks to: Gary Christensen of Christensen's Delivery Service.

17. Talk to More for Free

Create a newsletter, blog, Twitter account, Facebook page, etc. and share your words with subscribers for free. The value of what you say is more important than the length of what you say. Let people know you are available to speak. If they value what you say for free, they may be in a position to help you find those who will pay you to speak.
Thanks to: Don Nations of DNA Coaching.

18. Naked Speaker Truths

I've found that having outrageous titles gives you an edge in getting speaking gigs. It catches the eye of the booker and they will read about the content. The title gives them an instant idea of what you are and how you present. In a few words, you've cut through the clutter of other potential speakers. Which would you rather listen to "Naked Speaker" or "The Truth About DRTV?" Make the topic relatable and upbeat, putting you ahead of the pack. FYI - I look better dressed.
Thanks to: Mark Alyn of Mark Alyn Communications, inc.

19. From Pro Bono to Paid Gig

My first paid speaking event for a university (their women's leadership conference) came because I volunteered to help them with their social media. I sat in on one of their board meetings and offered suggestions on how they could use social media to get more visibility. Two months later, the head of the leadership program invited me to speak. I did two sessions on "How to Launch a Business without Quitting Your Day Job." From there, I was invited back to speak at a youth leadership event.
Thanks to: Tai Goodwin.

20. Knowing 10% More

Conventional wisdom suggests that the person who knows 10% more than everyone else is an expert. Not only will you wow them with your grasp of the subject matter; you will also be at your best with command of the topic. Don't just be prepared, be over prepared. Then, you'll be at ease and do a great job.
Thanks to: Greg Gottsacker of North Star Business Systems, Inc.

21. Become a Friend of YouTube

In fact, start your own YouTube channel- it's easy. Next, buy a flipcamera and practice, practice, practice perfecting your speaker topics using small segment tips around those topics and upload them to your channel. Be creative with your topics and especially your titles. Be bold, daring, and even controversial to get people's attention. These tips can be put on your website and sent to prospective conference planners as an example of you as a speaker. Remember to smile a lot.
Thanks to: Paula Vigneault of Collaboration Soup.

22. Great Speaking

It's hard to pick just one. I like doing previews for a group who can hire you, sending a good short video (a la youtube) or writing articles for their trade pubs. There is never just one thing--it takes a concentrated effort.
Thanks to: Gayle Carson of Carson Research Center.

23. An Unusual Tip That Works!

My ONE best tip on how to get hired for speaking engagements is not what you would expect it to be. Yes, it definitely helps if you have a successful product or book which confirms you as an entrepreneur and or expert in your field. Along with this, of course you must be able to speak well in public settings. However, the key to getting hired for speaking engagements is building relationships with people, especially those that you already know. The people who know you will recommend you.
Thanks to: Kevin Benton of Kevin Benton Ministries.

24. Show Your Sizzle!

The world of social media has made it easier to connect with hosts of amazing events. And thus, the competition is higher than ever. If you don't have a short video sizzle reel of your previous speaking experience showing your personality, skill & knowledge as you capture an audience, then you're already behind.

It is well worth the investment to get a professional video made to submit with your proposals. Stand out and show how you can benefit the event.
Thanks to: Sue Koch of Soaring Solutions.

25. The Easier, the Better!

Make it EASY for them to say YES! When trying to land a speaking gig, I've found that the more 'red tape' I can cut out for the event coordinator, the higher my chances are of getting the gig. Be sure to provide not only contact information, but samples of previous speaking engagements, references, testimonials or even just a list of similar functions/venues where you've spoken. Putting all of the information at their finger tips saves them the time/effort of researching you and you'll reap the rewards!
Thanks to: JP Jones of Market Yourself: The Book.

26. The Power of the Testimonial

My single best tip on how to get hired for speaking engagements is let someone else do it for you! It is much easier (hopefully) for a third party (e.g., PR rep, agent, assistant, etc.) to sing your praises than it is for you; it's also better for the booking agent to hear about your accolades from someone else. Testimonials in general--for ads, speaking events, radio spots, etc.--are an excellent marketing tool, as they lend some credibility to your claims.
Thanks to: Scott Harris of Mustang Marketing.

27. Go Commander!

The promise of seeing someone who is not afraid to run around town in pink camo fatigues and pink combat boots is enough to get people talking- and the threat of an audience member having to do push-ups in front of the entire room for leaving on a cell phone! Client groups go crazy when one of their colleagues gets "busted" by The Colonel. These go down as "the most fun staff meeting I've ever attended" and from there, it is word-of-mouth referrals that keep me busy.
Thanks to: Anthonette Klinkerman of Courtesy Bootcamp™.

28. Choose a Compelling Brand Name

Have an intriguing brand name that will grab attention. This will make you stand out over the competition and compel the decision maker to look closer at what you have to offer. And make sure your brand reflects your product and or service. This combination has made me a magnet for engagements.
Thanks to: Dr. Tom Potisk of The Down to Earth Doctor.

29. Getting Booked Ass Backwards

Attending a Mac n' Cheese productions Pot Luck, I was so thrilled with the program that I became a raging fan. This caused them to not only notice me, but invite me to speak. That's what you call good Karma!
Thanks to: Lennie Rose of Big Ooga.

30. Make Your Pitch Unique

Landing a speaking gig is about the all important pitch that you have to make to at least be considered. So, when crafting your pitch, make it unique with a catchy title and some engaging content that will entice the group or individual considering your offer to see something unique that you have to bring that others have not offered. Including a video and/or audio recording with your presentation will certainly help others to see that you are clearly the best speaker choice for their next event.
Thanks to: Myles Miller of LeadUP.

31. Write for Trade Publications!

Write articles for trade publications! I landed a speaking gig by writing an article in a cemetery and funeral association trade publication. The story focused on how to do community outreach and encourage preneed sales by using funny films to attract audiences to discuss funeral planning, a topic most folks would rather avoid.
Thanks to: Gail Rubin of A Good Goodbye.

32. Today's Gigs: Webinars

I have been offering webinars (free and low-cost) for about 1.5 years through lots of associations across the country. Some have led to other speaking gigs, as well. Do a great job and you'll get noticed!
Thanks to: Dalya Massachi of Writing for Community Success.

33. Get Your Foot in the Door

One best tip on how to get hired for speaking engagements? Do your research and then, Fed Ex the CEO and VP of Marketing your press kit with ten questions (and answers) their audience really should know. Include a shoe in the package -- to get your "foot" in the door. Chances are that you'll stand out from the crowd and get noticed. Be big and bold in how you show up. Own your expertise and attitude. Speak, even if it's for free. You never know who's in the audience and who's looking for a speaker like you!
Thanks to: Robin Samora of Let's Make You Shine.

34. Get LinkedIn to Speaking Gigs

Join a variety of LinkedIn Groups within your specific niche. Many conference and seminar organizers will post a call for speakers. It's as simple as responding with your interest and having the expertise to present. From in-person conferences to remote webinars, there are always a variety of speaking opportunities available.
Thanks to: Allison Jackson of A Communication Solution.

35. Answer the Call

Being on many newsletters and e-mail lists is a great way to keep up with your industry. Many times, they announce "Save the Dates". I usually send an e-mail to the organizers with my bio asking if they have all of their speakers yet? Most of the time, they don't and they will ask me if I am available to speak and/or to do a presentation. This is how I get my speaking engagements.
Thanks to: Eula M. Young of Griot's Roll Film Production .

36. Publicity Generates Demand

Generating free publicity will stimulate demand for speaking engagements. Putting on seminars for the Chamber of Commerce, doing pro bono work for the Economic Development Board, writing columns for the local newspaper, and making presentations for local Small Business Centers will all get you visibility. Proactively contacting the right people at Colleges and Businesses will also land you speaking gigs. Always try to use a hook about a current event in the news and give your qualifications.
Thanks to: Robert Papes.

37. Trade in on Trade Shows

If you're looking for a new audience who is hungry for new and innovative resources, look no further than trade show events. Most people think of these as the local chamber events, but there are major trade shows that bring in ten to 20 speakers for their events, and they pay for the speaker's expertise! One great resource is TSNN.com. Fill out the profile and contact the event planner to find out what type of topics they're looking for. Begin by doing breakout sessions and work up to a keynote.
Thanks to: Sharyn Abbott of Author Training Programs.

38. Video is King!

Like everything else in life, good marketing creates sales opportunities. Speakers are story tellers & the best way to show people how good a story teller you are is to SHOW THEM. Having sections on your website & blog that demonstrate you doing what you do best is key. The more people can see snippets of the quality of your work, the more confidence they will have to invest in you as a speaker. Invest the time and money to have them done right and edit for length. It will Get YOU Noticed!
Thanks to: Ben Baker of CMYK Solutions Inc.

39. Get Paid - Then Market

When speaking at a public venue where other programs are going on, find their meeting planners and let them know you're a speaker also doing a program there and exchange cards. In Dallas once, I couldn't locate that person and left my card with their registration. The next morning, getting ready to go to the airport, the president of the company saw my name tag and hired me to keynote that night. Their speaker had been stranded in the snow. I got my full fee plus a consulting deal.
Thanks to: Tom Justin of Core Level Marketing, Inc.

40. Leverage Every Gig!

Let it be known in EVERY talk you do that you really appreciate folks taking your flyer/card/one sheet and giving it to the _________ [kind of people you are going after, for example, directors of business centers, program chairs of business groups, etc.] they know. Get VERY specific about who you love working for. Also, be sure to get everyone's cards by holding a prize drawing-- Then, follow up by asking attendees to introduce you to the decision makers in their orgs, either by phone or email.
Thanks to: Dr. Barnsley Brown of Spirited Solutions SpeakingCoaching.

41. Must Speak to Speak!

By remaining active with my graduate school's clubs and roundtables, I have been requested numerous times to be a speaker. As the members of these groups are professionals in other organizations, I often receive more requests after each one that I give. I've spoken at the UofC Women's Business Group, Chicago Young Professionals, Blogspot Radio, Forte MBA Women's conference and more! It's definitely a domino effect! As they say, it takes money to make money. The same can be true of speaking engagements.
Thanks to: Libby Andrews of Stick-e Products.

42. Keep Blogging

The best way to land speaking engagements is to blog and become an expert in your industry. When you blog, you can immediately show up in the search engines and business will start chasing you, instead of you always having to chase business.
Thanks to: Derrick Hayes of W.O.E. Enterprises.

43. I Sell My $20K Keynote Daily!

I do a keynote, "Science in the Movies" using movie stunts to create science buzz. Price: $20K.
I browse for big gigs & pitch decision makers by phone, no matter what their website says.
"HOW AWESOME!" But then, "Ooh, out of our budget."
Me: BUT "I have a sponsor lined up to cover most (or all) of the cost." Client pays what they can (more than you'd expect) & I take balance in trade for email lists, recommendations & marketing help.
I speak, sell books, & get more speaking invites.
Thanks to: Steve Wolf of Science in the Movies.

44. Invite Success

Send out an invitation to anyone you'd like to hear you. Invite them your place of business for a lunch time session. Teach them something that will help their business (ideally something you can provide more help and guidance on). Order coffee and snacks and make it a fun time. Be sure to add value and collect business cards. You get to let them know you speak and have an excuse to remind them about what you do and how they can hire you. Win-Win.
Thanks to: Mark Black of MarkBlackSpeaks.

45. Ya Don't Ask, Ya Don't Get!

Every time you speak, be sure to hand out a feedback form. Make sure one of the questions asks if they know of a group or organization (in your target area preferably) that needs a speaker for an upcoming event. Leave space for collecting their contact information and be sure to follow up!
Thanks to: Elene Cafasso of Enerpace Executive Coaching.

46. Knock Your Socks Off Marketing

Create knock your socks off marketing materials that tell your story: who you are, what you speak about, who has heard you, and what you'll do for their organization. You get 40 seconds for someone to size up your Media Kit before they move on to the next candidate. As they say, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." So, invest in yourself and put together an eye-popping marketing package that will have them say, “We just have to have her! (or him as the case may be.)
Thanks to: Christine Clifford, CSP of Christine Clifford Enterprises.

47. Speak It, Show It, Present It

Your speaker website is ready - professional photos, great content, and valuable information. When an organization checks you out, you look like exactly the problem solver they need...but...when they meet you in person, your physical impression does not match what you've presented. Be sure to pay as much attention to your Total Image (Visual, Verbal, and Vocal) in person as you did when preparing your promotional materials. Don't subject yourself to a credibility disconnect.
Thanks to: Dianne Daniels of Dianne Daniels Speaks, Inc.

48. Start Local

When you focus on local organizations that can use your skills, you have a better chance of striking up a conversation and being considered just by virtue of you being local. It is also easier to build a list of potential clients when you narrow your geographic search area as well. I am new to professional speaking and flopped around a bit until I realized, I don't really want to travel far and wide for work. Once I realized that, I was able to do real market research and land my first gigs.
Thanks to: Jennifer Hancock of Humanisticleadership.com.

49. Are You Worth it?

If you don't get yourself known in your field, why should anyone pay you to speak?

You need credentials!
Constantly get your name out there to create a reputation. Before anyone will pay you, you have to pay your dues.

Get interviews on radio blog stations. Write blogs. Spread your teachings on Social Sites. Offer advice on other's blog sites. Write a book. Write articles for magazines. Become known as an expert on your subject.

Prove yourself worthy to be heard & paid for it.
Thanks to: Harris Glasser of Serving The People Press.

50. Speak for Free

If you're unknown, the best way to get a speaking gig is to offer to speak for free. After all, you're usually pushing a product anyway and the gig will most likely pay for itself in that regard. Free anything is hard for people to pass up. Tell whomever is hosting the gig that you want to speak for free and they'll most likely add you to the list. Working your way up to paying gigs by speaking free at places like your local Rotary club is also a great way to hone your skills and build a resume.
Thanks to: Chase Fleming of Content Row.

51. Let Others Pitch You

The best way to get hired is to let someone else sing your praises. I try to find individuals I know who are members of an organization I am targeting. I connect with them one-on-one and tell them why I think I have something to offer.
I have a strong elevator pitch and pass on the great reviews I have received from other engagements. Then... they pitch me to their organization. Third-party endorsements are gold.
Thanks to: Cynthia Kay of Cynthia Kay and Company.

52. From FREE to FEE...

The best way to land paid speaking gigs is to speak for free at civic groups. But it is VITAL to EXCEED THEIR EXPECTATIONS and never commercialize yourself. Give GREAT info and people will approach you at the conclusion of your presentations.
Thanks to: John DiPietro of Advanced Business Concepts.

53. In Your Own Backyard

Speaking opportunities are often closer than you think. Start with who you know. I was asked by our neighbor, who is the coach of her daughter's soccer team, to provide an inspirational presentation to kick off their soccer season. What about your local grocery store or bank; could their team benefit from a presentation on customer service? Do the people you sit with on committees and community boards know that you are a speaker? Look close to home and be the expert there first.
Thanks to: Charmaine Hammond of Hammond International Inc.

Do you have another tip for landing speaking engagements that wasn’t included? If you do, please share it below. And as always, many thanks to everyone that contributed to this article!

And if you would like to become a part of the CarolRoth.com contributor network and find out about opportunities to contribute to future articles, sign up here: http://www.carolroth.com/carolroth-com-blog-contributor-sign-up/

Article written by
Carol Roth is a national media personality, ‘recovering’ investment banker, investor, speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett (Shark Tank, The Voice, Survivor, The Apprentice) produced technology competition series, America's Greatest Makers, airing on TBS and Host of Microsoft's Office Small Business Academy show. Previously, Carol was the host and co-producer of The Noon Show, a current events talk show on WGN Radio, one of the top stations in the country, and a contributor to CNBC, as well as a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN, Fox Business and other stations. Carol's multimedia commentary covers business and the economy, current events, politics and pop culture topics. Carol has helped her clients complete more than $2 billion in capital raising and M&A transactions. She is a Top 100 Small Business Influencer (2011-2015) and has her own action figure. Twitter: @CarolJSRoth
  • shelhorowitz

    When you’ve booked a speech–send the organization some articles they can run one per issue in their newsletter, ahead of the event. By the time you get there, they feel that they know you.

  • writeahead

    Great ideas, all 🙂 I am looking to secure some speaking engagements as part of my company’s marketing strategy. Can’t wait to share my knowledge with a bigger audience!

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  • Thank you for this information and all of the suggestions. I have been a speaker and a life-coach for 18 years and it can often be challenging to come up with new ways to market your self. I sincerely appreciate all of the tips and am going to start implementing them.

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  • rozytomokova

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