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.