How to Land Speaking Gigs

Speaking gigs are a testament to your expertise in your chosen field. Landing a guest speaker spot at an industry conference, for instance, can be both a confidence boost and a great way to promote yourself. It can also provide many opportunities for growing your audience and increasing your visibility. You have the expertise. Now, you need to start connecting with others and promoting yourself.

How to start landing speaking gigs

  1. Know your reasons. Besides the monetary rewards (which can be substantial), why do you want to do more live speaking? How does it fit into your greater business/career plan? Are you trying to grow your brand in order to sell more products and services? Do you want to meet fellow professionals and expand your network? Or are you looking to learn more from people like you and perhaps even pass some of what you know to others in your position? Your primary reasons for wanting a speaking gig will determine the type you should be aiming for.
  2. Research. In order to get a chance at landing a guest speaker spot, you need to have a general idea of the opportunities in you your industry. At the very least, know what are the major upcoming events (they usually happen every year). Look into conferences, seminars, interview opportunties. Don’t just limit yourself to a single geographical area – if you have a web presence, chances are that you could be spotted anywhere within the country. As you speak at each function, add the event’s logo to the “As featured at” section of your website.
  3. Grow your brand and platform. The more live speaking gigs you land, the larger your brand grows. The larger your brand becomes, the more live events you will be asked to attend and the higher the fees you can charge (if you so choose). Always consider how your brand will appeal to your target audience and how you can convert each audience to become fans of your work and subscribe to your list.
  4. Create a demo reel. Listing your achievements on your blog or website could very well serve a purpose, but the best way to land a speaking gig is to actually speak. Actors create demo reels to overcome the Catch-22 situation of no prior experience means no work; no work means no prior experience. Speaking is similar. If you have not spoken at a live event before, you need a reel to demonstrate your ability and to put event planners’ minds at ease that you are up to the job. Making videos might seem tricky at first, but they are what gets you noticed and makes you visible for the purpose of securing a speaking gig. It is a chance for potential event planners to see your expertise in action and to assess your public speaking and presentation skills.
  5. Tailor your content but stay authentic. Your goal might be to secure a speaking gig, and you should keep that in mind while you create your content and work on developing your brand, but don’t let it distract you from the way you run things on a daily basis. Create your audio-visual content, but don’t make scoring a guest spot on a conference its sole purpose. Remember – all of your web content should function as a selling point, and statistics show that a customer is much more likely to trust your expertise if he or she has seen it in action. Same with conference organisers. Your video content can range from an introductory web clip to a demonstration of how to use your product, to a webinar.
  6. Host webinars. Webinars and webcasts are, in a way, speaking gigs. Not only are they an excellent way to practice your presentation skills, but hosting them is also a fantastic chance to demonstrate your expertise to your subscribers and customers and to interact with them similarly to how you would during a traditional conference. There are many ways you can combine your talking points with visual aids such as slides, whiteboards with annotations, multiple choice surveys for the audience, etc. We also advise that you make the webinar available for downloading, after it’s been streamed – not every subscriber or event planner has the time to watch a video in real-time.
  7. Stay visible. Interaction and communication are essential. Make sure that the message of your brand is constantly communicated through all your channels so that the audience learns to recognise you and your brand for your expertise. Being amazing at what you do isn’t enough to land a guest speaker spot – people need to see you in action in order to believe that you are worth booking and listening to.

Takeaway points

  1. If you want to be booked as a speaker, you need to put yourself out there. Put a photo of you on your webpage; upload past talks (or videos you have made); demonstrate your authority with, say, a published book or featured interviews.
  2. Do your homework. What outcome do you want to achieve as a result of your speaking? Not all speaking gigs will support this outcome so take the time to analyse which gigs you want and need the most  and which you might pass. (In the beginning, consider speaking at every event to build your profile).
  3. People need to see your expertise with their own eyes, and video content is how you can help them do so.

Action steps

  1. Identify some key events you want to speak at. Approach the organisers to find out their application requirements. Most require you to demonstrate your authority and to submit examples of past talks you have done. If you don’t have these, submit a demo tape of you speaking.
  2. If you need to practice your speaking skills, record yourself on video. Creating video content is a great way to work on yourself and your presentation. Watch all your recordings and each time identify one thing to improve on. Repeat the process until your presentation is natural and flows well. It takes practice and very few get it right on the first try – keep practising – but don’t become a polished robot. Project your personality and humaneness.
  3. Plan your signature talk. This is a talk that you will probably perform several times to different audiences. This is good practice and knowing your material at a deep level builds confidence and projects credibility. As you gain more experience, you will tailor your presentations to specific audiences.

Photo credit: thephilsimon via Foter.com / CC BY

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