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Five Ways to Get Speaking Engagements to Market Your Business

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In this article you'll learn...

  • How to become a better speaker so that you feel more prepared and less nervous and can get more speaking engagements.
  • How to build key relationships to get more speaking gigs.
  • How speaking for free can help you grow your business and get more speaking engagements.

Speaking is one of the best ways to get the word out about your company, especially for service-based businesses. As a public speaker, you share your expertise, gain credibility, and engage with your audience in a direct, relevant way that often leads to growing your business.

But getting speaking engagements can be tough, and many would-be public speakers struggle to find opportunities. Here are five ways to get speaking engagements that market your business.

1. Become a better speaker

It sounds obvious, but by becoming a more engaging, polished speaker, you gain even more opportunities to speak. When you're a really good speaker, you'll be able to ask for testimonials from those who've invited you to speak, and such testimonials go a long way with others who are looking for speakers.

So how do you become a better speaker? The best strategy I know is to record every presentation and watch the video later, taking note of what you want to improve next time. When I was first starting out as a speaker, I even recorded myself doing mock speeches at home, just so I could watch the recording and get better.

Earlier this year, I interviewed bestselling author and professional speaker David Meerman Scott, who told me that he spent years working on improving his speaking. He said he would focus on a different thing each time he spoke—how he stood, where he put his hands, how he modulated his voice—and, over time, he became the extraordinary speaker he is today.

2. Know your material

This point might seem obvious as well, but knowing your material inside and out will make you a better speaker, simply by easing your nerves. First, you should know your speech; you should have practiced it over and over. Knowing your speech really well means that you can be more confident and at ease when you get to the stage and step in front of the crowd. Larry Winget, another well-known speaker and author, once told me that being well prepared is the best way to overcome nerves. Mitch Joel has said the same thing.

But knowing your speech cold isn't enough. You need to actually be an expert in your content area. The more you know, the more confident you'll be taking questions from the audience.

What's most important about your actual presentation itself is that it not be a pitch. Don't try to sell anything. Instead, give your audience takeaways they can use and action steps they can follow. Your goal is to help them.

3. Have a speaking page on your website

Add a page to your website promoting yourself as a speaker. It's one of the best ways to get speaking engagements. On the speaking page, post a demo reel—perhaps a few clips from previous speaking engagements that you've posted on YouTube —as well as a biography, a list of topics you can talk about, and the titles of a few signature speeches that you are prepared to deliver at a moment's notice.

A page on your website that touts your expertise and availability as a speaker allows meeting planners and others who hire speakers to see you speak and get a sense of what you're like on stage. They like to see proof, up front, that you actually can engage an audience.

4. Build the right relationships

Many entrepreneurs think they have to speak at big events or large corporations to market their businesses effectively. Not so. Plenty of smaller groups out there want to hear what you have to say. What's most important is that you have a clear target market and speak where they're going to be.

Let's say, for example, that your business provides a service to physicians. You can try to speak at large medical conferences—and good luck with that—or you can reach out to local medical practices with multiple physicians and begin to form relationships with the key players.

Ask them what topics they most want to hear about. Send them your "one sheet"—a one-page document detailing the most important information about you as a speaker—and let them know you're available to speak. When you have a speaking engagement that's open to the public, send an email to your local contacts and invite them to come hear you. When you add a video of one of your speaking engagements to your website, send out a link with a quick note about the video and topic.

Eventually, someone you've been cultivating a relationship with will have a speaking opportunity. And because you've been persistent, they'll think of you first.

5. Speak for free

When you're first starting out, you should speak for free. I once asked bestselling author and "everywhere" public speaker Gary Vaynerchuk what his best tip for speaking was. He said he spoke for free for years before he landed his first paying speaking gig.

The truth is, we all started out speaking for free, and that gives us the necessary expertise to be good enough to not only charge for our speaking services but also speak at larger and larger venues.

But even when you can command a speaking fee, you have good reasons to continue to speak for free. These days, when I know I'm not traveling for a while, I'll send out an email to my local contacts list to let them know I'm in town and have some time in my schedule to speak.

As much as I enjoy traveling to speak to different audiences, I hate leaving my family behind, so for local gigs I'll either offer a lower rate for my speaking services or I'll offer to speak for free, especially if it's for a group that's in my target market and there's a high likelihood that I'll walk away with some new business.

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Susan Baroncini-Moe is a public speaker and the president of Business in Blue Jeans, a business and marketing consulting firm for service-based businesses and startup entrepreneurs.

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  • by Cara Posey, CMO at Speakerfile Wed Nov 14, 2012 via web

    Some good ideas here, but it really depends on the scope of your business. If you are national or international in focus, it may adjust your methods. Many industry speakers do seek and accept non-paying speaking engagements in exchange for an audience of prospective customers. I always encourage speakers to make sure their presentations are not too sales focused. No one wants you to come to their event only to promote your self or your services.

    Here's a recent post I did on Speakerfile's blog about public speaking for business:

  • by Susan Baroncini-Moe Wed Nov 14, 2012 via web

    Agreed, Cara. In fact, I'd argue that most speakers should entirely avoid trying to sell in speaking engagements, certainly when being paid, but also when the engagement is unpaid. More often than not, a speaker can sell far more by delivering value and content *without* selling than one can ever sell by trying to "sell from the stage."

  • by Gregory Evans @ AEG Distributions Wed Nov 14, 2012 via mobile

    I've had the opportunity to give speeches in front of large crowds about my product, and the information from this site, has helped me stay focus on the information of the product and not the "must generate" more sales. So, thanks for the useful tips.

  • by Rod Sloane Thu Nov 15, 2012 via web


    Having mentioned Larry Winget, I am sure that you have read Larry's book "60 Ways to Get Rich and Stay Rich in the Speaking Business"

    #2 is Ask lots of people to buy your speech....lots of people, at least 20 people every day.

  • by Susan Baroncini-Moe Fri Nov 16, 2012 via web

    Gregory, thanks for your comment. With your wealth of experience, I'll bet you've got some great tips, too. I'd love for you to to share your favorites!

  • by Susan Baroncini-Moe Fri Nov 16, 2012 via web

    Rod, that's a great one for sure. Larry's a phenomenal speaker and a friend and you absolutely cannot go wrong following his advice.

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