Approach the Podium: How To Get Speaking Engagements

One of the best ways for a Freelance consultant to demonstrate and validate our bona fides as an expert in our chosen field is to get in front of an audience and deliver a talk to peers and prospects. As we all know, billable hours and referrals are built on confidence and trust and we must do everything possible to encourage and sustain their growth. If you would like to get on the speaker’s circuit but have not yet done so, begin by acquiring some public speaking experience and as you do, think about topics that you can convincingly address.

I’ve been teaching since 2006 and I’ve found it to be a learning experience for me, as well as for my students. Teaching is a wonderful place to start building your public speaking resume and you will be (modestly) paid as you and your students learn.  Absolute beginners are advised to approach an adult learning center to explore opportunities to teach a workshop that you propose.

As your teaching skills become more proficient, browse the catalogues of community colleges and four-year institutions and contact department heads to inquire about teaching for a semester. BTW, the workshop that you proposed and taught at the adult learning center represents curriculum development and in the world of teaching, that is a plus. You could be asked to expand your workshop into a semester-long course.

Step up your activity in local business or social organizations that offer professional development or even current affairs programs. Attend a program or two, get to know and build relationships with the program organizers and make it known that you are able to serve on a panel that will address a subject in which you have special knowledge.

Speaking on a panel is a great way to let program organizers see you in front of an audience. Do well and you may next be invited to moderate a panel and eventually, receive an offer to be a keynote speaker. If you know of a potential speaker, moderator or panelist who program organizers may want to feature, do not hesitate to make the referral. That will be a feather in your cap and increase your value to the organizers.

Give careful consideration to the topics you can speak to and the corresponding prime audience demographics. Should you approach organizations where you are not known, it will be very important to help program organizers understand where your topics and their audience needs intersect. Create a one page document for each of your talk titles.

List the your name and company name at the top, followed by your talk title in a bold and larger font. In five or six bullet points, describe the primary content of your talk and the benefits that audiences gain by attending. It is also useful to write a 60 second pitch for the talk that you personally make to program organizers and to those who can make referrals for you. Add your talk titles and those descriptive bullet points to your website, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook pages.

If you have presented a webinar, or recorded a podcast or video, upload these to your website and social media accounts, so that program organizers can see and hear you in action. Larger organizations may request that you send in a few of your Power Point slides for review.

Speaking of Power Point, if you are fortunate enough to land a speaking gig that gets you in front of potential clients, strongly consider paying an experienced graphics specialist to customize slides for you. it is so in your interest to present high-quality slides that represent you and your brand well. While you’re at it, have your graphics person embed your photo into your “one sheet” talk info documents,  so that they can be used by you and program organizers to promote your talk.

To make your goal to obtain speaking engagements a true marketing plan, commit your proposed actions to writing and make a list of organizations where your speaking talents as keynote, moderator and panelist are best suited. Ask clients and colleagues which conferences they attend as you make your choices. Then, visit the program websites and find out about previous speakers and topics.

Finally, be aware that the vast majority of speaking engagements are considered opportunities for exposure and are unpaid, but that should not discourage you from selectively and tactfully asking for an honorarium.  If you speak in a location that is more than an hour away, or where the parking cost is large, ask if expenses related to getting you to the venue will be covered. If you must take a hotel room, ask if the program organizers will reimburse the cost.

Generally speaking, lining up teaching or speaking engagements is a long-term project, since schedules and course catalogues are determined far in advance. Consider it something useful to do when business is slow.

Thanks for reading,


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