Getting Speaking Gigs


My very first speaking engagement came about rather unconventionally. My mentor had been telling me for two years I needed to get out into the business community to speak about my business or I’d never break through the barrier to success.

One day he announced he was going to pick me up for a luncheon and we arrived at the Lion’s Club meeting in time for him to introduce me to several people. However, just before we finished eating he leaned over and said, “By the way, you’re their speaker today.”

I can’t remember if I actually said anything to him but I do remember feeling like I wanted to crawl under the table or develop the skill of becoming invisible. But rather than embarrass him I got up and talked for twenty minutes. I have no idea what I said, but they were kind enough to applaud.

I grew up with a stuttering habit, was dyslexic and had ADD. These are not the sought after traits of a speaker! I was terrified of the reaction I would get from the audience, but this first audience laid my fears aside and they not only gave me a warm welcome, but thanked me for my time and information.

Every month for an entire year, this amazing mentor took me to various social organizations, kindly referred to as the “Animal Circuit”: Lions, Kiwanis, Elks, Soroptimists and Rotary Clubs. It was exactly a year after my debut when a young woman approached me to tell me what I had said at her club six months prior saved her business.

Well, that’s all the ammunition I needed to feel justified in speaking to business owners. I also started speaking at groups where people had been laid off to encourage them to start their own business and never have to face being laid off again.

Even though it took a couple of years, the day I showed up at an event and forgot to bring my notes in, was the day I became a professional speaker. A public speaker delivers a message, but a professional speaker engages the audience, every presentation is unique and seems to evolve with a life of it’s own!

I was fortunate my clients began to refer me to larger speaking events. I was booked at expos for entrepreneurs, chamber functions, trade shows and conventions. I found a passion for speaking.

That is the biggest secret to getting speaking engagements. When you are passionate about what your message is, it is obvious to your audience and they want to share it with others. The majority of my speaking gigs come from referrals.

I found local newspapers list events for business and social organizations and they became a target audience. It is a great testing ground for new material as well. It was important to create a new title at least once a year to keep up with what was going on with business environments, Social Media, audience requests and organization’s requirements.

I looked over other speaker’s websites and made notes of where they had been and approached the same organizations and about 50% of the time I was able to get a booking. I called each and every chamber and if they didn’t have a speaker’s series I helped them launch one as an additional revenue generator.

The thing that amazed me was how receptive everyone was. Even associations have educational portions for their programs and I found there is an association for absolutely everything. There is no shortage of potential speaking engagements.

However, what I found I enjoy the most is a platform designed specifically around a concept. Last year I worked with an event planner and she created “Designing Your Masterpiece.” It was an all encompassing full day event with 6 speakers, lunch, display tables and sponsors.

Each speaker broadcast to their lists to increase the audience, sponsors sent out to their lists, media carried spots because we named a non profit to be the beneficiary and we held preview calls three weeks prior to the event with all lists encouraged to listen in as a teaser for the content being offered.

I currently follow what other speakers are up to on their social media pages and always have a live conversation with those who are in alignment with my target message. We often create teleseminars and webinars to help promote each other and sometimes those events become larger onsite events.

Since I work with authors I look for conventions and trade shows with feature author programs and I have found they are typically booking one to two years in advance but I also offer the event organizer a fill in position or to add a breakout session just to get my foot in the door.

Using social media, we can connect with anyone anywhere in the world. There is no limit to where we can end up speaking!

I just got booked to speak in Dubai in June . . . who would have thought it would be possible? So set your goals and make a plan. It’s just a matter of time and focus. You’ll find your name in lights in no time!