One of the questions I frequently get asked is “How do I find opportunities to speak?” There are primarily three ways to go:
- Signing with an agent
- Joining a speaker association
Using an agent or a firm that specializes in connecting speakers with opportunities will require that you either pay an up-front fee or more likely that you give a portion of your speaking fee to the agency.
Additionally, just like it is difficult to get an agent for your book it can be just as challenging to find an agency willing to help you book speaking engagements.
These may have dues for both national and local chapters however they will frequently have meetings and seminars that provide valuable information to help you become a better speaker and also to help you land speaking engagements.
Some of the associations, like the National Speakers Association, will require that you provide proof that you are a speaker. For example, the requirements are that a percentage of your annual income comes from speaking and/or that you have delivered 20 paid speeches in the prior 12 months.
One great association to explore is your local Toastmasters club. Whether you are new to speaking or an old pro, your Toastmasters chapter is a great place to practice delivery methods, get comfortable with off the cuff responses and also practice writing and presenting your speech. I highly recommend that you at least visit one or two meetings near your home. You don’t have to join right away and can experience what the club is all about before making a commitment.
If you are just getting started looking for places to speak, you may want to try the DIY or “do it yourself” method of landing speaking engagements. Also, unless you are thinking about building a business around your speaking rather than your writing, you need to keep your mind open to speaking opportunities even if they do not pay any money. If the venue allows you to sell your book, who cares if you also receive a stipend for your speaking?
How do you go about finding local speaking engagements?
The best place to start is the library. Hopefully you are already friends with your local librarian. He or she can be a valuable asset when it comes to research for your books but also when it comes to finding speaking opportunities.
Your librarian can help you find the local rotary clubs and chambers in your area. These clubs don’t pay, but you usually get a free meal and the chance to sell your book. Also, the audience is small so it is the perfect place to practice before you actively seek larger, paid opportunities.
Along with chambers, seek out libraries and houses of worship if your speech is appropriate. Remember to look for events that will draw your target audience.
Once you have a few speeches under your belt and you are ready to explore larger options, you’ll want to research the local and national associations for your particular niche.
In the Entrepreneur article, 3 Ways Entrepreneurs Find Paid Speaking Engagements, the first idea is researching industry associations:
Whenever we think of a conference, we think of an event like New Media Expo. However, these large events do not pay speakers. Because they’re so popular, many speakers gladly come and speak for free to gain exposure and new contacts.
If you want to book paid speaking, your best bet is to speak at the conferences of industry associations. These industries could be healthcare, lawyers, auto, and so on. Speaking for these associations doesn’t mean you have to talk about their industry. You can talk about topics to help their industry, and these are the topics they want to learn more about. They are looking for new skills and strategies to help improve their industry. If you’re a social media expert, for example, you could have a talk about social media marketing strategies healthcare institutions need to incorporate.
Industry associations have budgets to pay speakers and are always looking for new and interesting entrepreneurs. You can find these associations with a simple Google search. Also, many of these and other conferences around the world can be found through a website such as Lanyrd.
Branding on the Net offer 14 tips for Finding Speaking Opportunities. This one is time consuming but the more times you pick up the phone, the more opportunities you’ll discover:
Smile and Dial. Flipping the pages of a meeting planner directory and cold calling can drum up business. Most speakers who use this approach successfully make 40- 50 calls everyday. If you are smart about finding the
“right” targeted leads to call, this is especially effective.
Here are three sources for this information:
A) Douglas Publications – www.douglaspublications.com They make 2 publications: The Directory of Association Meeting Planners and Directory of Corporate Meeting Planners.
B) NTPA Directory (National & Professional Associations) It lists national conventions, meetings, and trade show dates for over 7,700 trade and professional associations with an annual report published each February.
C) Columbia Books, Inc. – www.columbiabooks.com
Using this same process, your LinkedIn network is also a great place to search for meeting and event planners that may be looking for a speaker with your point of view.
Keep in mind that paid speaking engagements take longer to secure. Often meeting planners are seeking speakers a year in advance so this process is all about building relationships with those that hire keynote speakers.
However, your local opportunities can arise more frequently so keep your ear to the ground and continue to look for ways to bring your books, your story, your message to your target readers.
Bottom Line: Speaking engagements are a great way to build your personal brand, to make a name for yourself in your community and in the niche market of your focus.