Whether you’re a motivational speaker or a subject matter expert, learning how to get speaking engagements is the first step to launching your public-speaking journey. Like any new venture, getting your foot in the door isn’t a walk in the park, especially if you don’t have the name recognition. At first, you’ll find yourself donating your time.
Ready to Get In Front of a Crowd? Here’s How to Get Speaking Engagements
Prepare to spend countless late nights to get your first few speaking gigs. Fortunately, if you nail your first couple of engagements, your bookings could soar exponentially. If you’re a successful speaker, your name will spread fast, and you’ll start to land new speeches through word of mouth.
If you’re starting, booking a speaking engagement might sound like a far-fetched dream. However, if you put in the effort, you can reach that dream much quicker than you ever imagined. Before embarking on your journey, consider these techniques that will help you jump start your career:
1. Understand Your Purpose
Approach the first step – understanding your purpose – like opening a business. What’s your business plan? Who is your target market, and how are you going to make money?
Why do you want to become a professional speaker? In a nutshell, you need to dig deep into your heart and understand the why. Perhaps you have a Ph.D. in astrophysics or a valuable life story to share. Regardless of who you are or what your experience is, your speeches need to have some value. Be it comedy, unique knowledge, or an affiliation with a charitable organization; you need a topic that will capture your listeners’ attention.
2. Know What You’re going to Say
After discovering your purpose, or at least making a decent attempt at it, you need to figure out what you’re going to say. Yes, most speakers don’t give the same speech time and time again, but they carry a similar message. They also maintain a familiar personality.
Knowing what you’re going to say helps establish your brand. For example, will you give speeches to raise awareness for a serious issue, such as drug addiction? Or, are you going to share a comical life story that will have the audience bursting out laughing?
Don’t just come up with the words or the story. Say them out loud, and say them out loud many times. Start speaking to the mirror, your family members, and your neighbors – anyone who will listen. As they say, practice makes perfect.
3. Create a Platform on Social Media
You likely already have social media profiles, but there’s still some work that you need to do. The best approach is to either create new profiles or re-design your existing profiles. You don’t want prospective clients to see your posts about burning lasagna or getting stuck behind someone with three carts at the grocery store.
The following platforms are a must-have for professional speakers: Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. These websites give you a voice and a way to reach your fans and help you land gigs. And don’t just create profiles and forget about them. You need to post on each website and engage with your followers actively.
4. Build Your Own Website
After creating social media profiles, the next step to landing speaking engagements is to create your own website. Preferably, you should buy the domain “FirstNameLastName.com.” If this isn’t available, you’ll need to think of something creative.
Although a website won’t likely be the primary way you book gigs, it helps establish your brand and creates a sense of legitimacy. If you have a website, prospective clients know you’re serious about speaking. You can showcase videos of speeches on your website, add a contact form, and link your social media profiles. As you grow your career, you can monetize your success by selling items through your website or other marketplaces such as eBay. You may even be able to sell ebooks on eBay for profits.
5. Join Local Networking Meetings
Check with your chamber of commerce or local social club to see if any groups or networking meetings could benefit you. Even if they’re not directly related to public speaking, just creating connections can help your career take off.
Now, if you want to join a group that can help you improve your speaking skills, look for a local Toastmasters club. The Nonprofit behind Toastmasters has a handy tool that lets you find the nearest Toastmasters club to your zip code. Best of all? Many local clubs are either free or very cheap. There’s no better way to begin marketing yourself and building connections.
6. Start Speaking at Local Venues
Did you know that Jennifer Lawrence had a minor role on the TV pilot Company Town back in 2006? Just a few years later, she landed leading roles and became one of the highest-paid female actresses. The moral of the story, you have to start small before you make it big.
Local venues near you may have an ‘open mic’ where you can give a speech, whether stand-up comedy or something more serious. However, let’s say you focus your speeches on your experience as a polyglot. In that case, you should find a local language club. If you can speak multiple languages, you could convince the club to let you give a speech even if there isn’t an open mic event.
7. Get an Agent
After you gain experience, build local connections, and boost your online presence, it’s time to start thinking about getting an agent. There are two paths you can take when it comes to getting an agent. The first option is to join a website such as My Speaking Agent. You get instantaneous access to conferences and the names of the people who control the agenda.
Alternatively, you can join an agency, such as Core Speakers Agency, that will do more of the work for you. This second route is a bit more complicated. The process is similar to how actors and musicians join talent agencies. Keep in mind that agents will take a cut of your earnings, so chose your agent wisely.
8. Go Big
Now that you have connections, experience, an online presence, and possibly an agent, it’s time to ‘go big.’ As a professional speaker, you need to set goals for yourself. You’ve worked so hard to get to where you are – don’t let your success fade away. For someone starting to speak at more significant events, a realistic goal is one speech every month. Do your best to hold yourself to that goal.
As you start to become more successful, don’t forget your roots. Continue to speak at local venues in between bigger events. Also, keep in contact with the connections you met through local groups. You never know when these connections could help you boost your professional speaking career even further.
9. Record Your Speeches
Every time you give a speech, whether at a local club or a national conference, always record it. You can either buy your own camera, set it up before you speak, or bring a cameraperson along with you. The way you record your speeches will depend on your budget. No matter how you go about recording, it’s absolutely imperative that the sound and video quality is good. You will use these videos to book gigs in the future.
As long as the conference or organization you gave a speech for allows it, you should post your speech on YouTube and your website. Doing so is a great way to promote yourself without incurring any significant expenses. If you really want to know how to get speaking engagements for your career ahead, think “lights, camera, action!”
10. Book Your First Ten Gigs
At this point, you have established a goal, say one gig every month. Suppose you have an online presence, a solid network, and a decent amount of professional speaking experience. In that case, you should be able to book your first ten gigs in no time. However, you don’t want to wait ten months to land your first ten gigs. Always plan well in advance. If you get your name to the top of the list, your shot at landing a speech is much higher.
As you book gigs, you should also consider the financial aspect of professional speaking. Unless you’re retired and speak for pastime, you’ll need to make sure you’re making money or breaking even on your speeches. New speakers earn anywhere from $100 to $2,000 per speech. You should also try to negotiate travel expenses, if possible. Don’t quit your day job during your first year of speaking, but make sure your newfound passion doesn’t make you go into debt.
How to Get Speaking Engagements in a Nutshell
Whether you’re a veteran speaker or just starting, learning to get speaking engagements is perhaps the most difficult part of launching a career. You’ll often feel like you’re swimming in a sea of sharks. Navigating the industry isn’t easy, but after you get your feet wet, you’ll start to see your hard work paid off. Before diving in headfirst, make sure to follow the ten steps above to help you launch your professional speaking career.