Paid Speaking GigsGetting booked for speaking engagements (especially paid ones!) is something that many would-be speakers struggle with, especially when they are first starting out. So, here are 4 tips to help make this often arduous process a little less challenging:

(1) Build Up Your Rep
It’s very hard, if not impossible, to get booked as a speaker for paid gigs if you’re not known as an expert in your field or niche. If you are new to public speaking and looking to get your foot in the door, a great way to get experience and build up your reputation is to speak for free at first.

You can start off by offering free online webinars to build up your confidence. Record these sessions, which serves two purposes: 1.) you can watch it back to find out what you did well and what needs to be improved and 2.) you can use the recorded videos (in whole or just the highlights) as part of your resume to get booked for future paying gigs. And every time that you speak, get testimonials and references (on video, if possible, but in writing at a minimum) to help amp up the trust factor that event planners will be getting a bona fide expert when they hire you.

(2) Be in the Loop
So, now you’ve got some speaking experience, but before you can be booked as a paid speaker, you have to know where you want to speak at. It’s important to be in the loop when it comes to what events are going on in your field, area of expertise or particular business niche. Subscribe to (and actually read!) all of the pertinent newsletters, blogs, social media accounts (LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter can be especially helpful) and email lists relevant to your industry, so that you can find out about all of the trade shows, local chamber events, seminars and conferences that your speaking and expertise would complement. Even consider subscribing to newsletters and accounts that aren’t an exact fit; sometimes, opportunities arise where you don’t expect!

(3) Have a Clear, Direct Pitch
After you’ve researched and found where you want to speak at, have a clear and direct pitch that is geared towards that specific event and what that particular audience would want to hear about. One common mistake that I see all too frequently is sending out the same generic, stock materials to every event booker out there. If there is a conference on business technology, sending your materials regarding restaurant franchising not only makes you look unprofessional, but can annoy the event organizer, thus burning a bridge that you may want to cross in the future for an event that is a better fit.
Look for ways to tweak your pitch, so that your expertise can enhance their topic in some way. In the above example of the business technology conference, is there a way that you can tie business technology into your usual restaurant franchising topic?

And make sure that your pitch materials are as hassle-free for the event booker as possible. Include all relevant contact information (don’t make them have to hunt you down because they won’t!) and specifics about what your presentation would offer to their attendees. Feel free to give a few options, but don’t burden them with too many choices, as they may become overwhelmed with your information and move right on to the next speaker.

(4) Make a Lasting Impression
Word of mouth can be a speaker’s best friend when it comes to getting more or repeat gigs, but in order to get people talking about you in a positive manner, you have to make your presentation stand out. Let’s face it; there are a ton of speakers all vying for the same gigs, so if you bore attendees to death (think Ben Stein’s character in Ferris Buller’s Day Off), you will be easily forgotten or even worse, remembered for the wrong reasons.

Get creative to wow your audience in a way that is authentic to you and your brand. In addition to providing useful, valuable information, think about ways to make your presentation entertaining and include as much audience participation and engagement as you can. Including freebies, contests, humor, music and/or chances for feedback can really boost the entertainment value of your presentation and help you make a lasting impression. Do this well and word will spread quickly. You’ll get booked for more speaking engagements than you can imagine!

What other tips do you have for getting booked as a speaker? Please share them below.

Thanks to JP Jones of Market Yourself: The Book, Harris Glasser of Serving The People Press, Sharyn Abbott of Author Training Programs, Eula M. Young of Griot’s Roll Film Production, Dr. Barnsley Brown of Spirited Solutions SpeakingCoaching, and Dalya Massachi of Writing for Community Success for the inspiration behind some of these ideas.