Some Basic Best Practices For Professional Speakers

If you’re treating your speaking business like a real business then you are looking at all sides of the business equally. Just like any business you must consider all that goes into making it successful, profitable and sustainable. This starts by recognizing all three sides to the business.

Today I want to focus on best practices around sales and marketing. While all sides of the triangle are equally important we’ll start here. But before we do that, we need to take a moment and go to the center of the triangle. This is what separates the successful speakers from the wanna be speakers. There is no place for ordinary if you want to stand out in the crowd – and crowded it is. So, unless you are committed to being Way Beyond Ordinary, you should perhaps consider a different means of earning a living.

Sales & Marketing

In the marketing area we’re talking about everything that you do to get your business noticed and to get yourself booked as speaker or to sell related products. Although this category is worthy of books all on it’s own, we’ll talk about a few key things you need to be doing – well.

Create a strong web presence

You need to create a space for event organizers and planners to go to learn more about you and what you can bring to their audience. This will include your social media outlets like a professional Facebook page, Linked In profile, Linked In Company page, Google + and Twitter. It will also include your website.

All roads lead to your website. The goal of all social media should be to get event planners to your site where they can view videos of you speaking, learn about the topics you speak on, get a sense of the type of audiences you appeal to and get details about how to hire you.

Your web presence must reflect your brand and let meeting planners get a feel for who you are and what they will get when they hire you. They need to “feel you” in the website.

Get out there and start speaking

There a plenty of opportunities for a great speaker to practice their craft. Side note: by practice I do not mean rehearse, you better be great no matter the audience. Rehearsal is done in your home in front of your loved ones and mentors who will give you honest feedback – not an audience!

While I am not an advocate of giving your speaking services away for free, there are times when you can use the opportunity to speak to an audience in exchange for other valuable rewards.

Create Opportunities

Get out there and start asking for the chance to speak. Here are some ideas to consider.

  • Your favorite local charity. Offer to speak to the group for a fee charged to attendees. Split the fee with the charity, creating a fundraiser. Most charities have powerful marketing engines that they will happily put into action when you are raising funds for the charity. In your proposal, also agree to split any future sales stemming from the event itself.
  • Chamber networking meetings. Most local chambers host monthly luncheons, happy hours or other networking events. And most have a guest speaker as part of their agenda. You’ll need to be a member of the chamber, but that’s a good thing too. Determine a topic that will be beneficial to a broad audience and submit a proposal. Or better yet, have a personal conversation with the meeting organizer.
  • Parks and Recreation programs. Most communities have adult enrichment programs as part of their parks and recreation program. These are typically smaller audiences. In most cases you set the fee and split it with the park board, usually you get 80% and they take 20%.
  • Speaking on college campuses. College and University campus activities programs are rich ground for speakers. Contact the Campus Activities Office at your local university for information on how to submit a proposal. Topics that assist students with challenges they face as young adults, post college life and career discovery are all great options. Other good topics will target specific groups such as health conscious young women, or students about to graduate who face student loan debt. The key is to spin your topic to gain interest of this audience. Most college campus activities offices belong to the National Association of Campus Activities – As an associate member you can get connected with colleges in your region or nationally.

Getting value from free

So, what if they are not paying you? Do you still speak? Sometimes free is not actually for free. If you can gain value in some other way then it’s worth it. Here are some examples of value you should request when agreeing to speak for free.

  • Marketing materials. Ask the organizers how the event will be publicized and provide your own promotional content. Get links to any online marketing and promote on your own social networks.
  • Photo opportunities. Get photos of you speaking and with local celebrities and attendees. Utilize these photos on your social networks and to build your website images.
  • Local press coverage. Ask about local press and if there is opportunity to be interviewed as an expert guest speaker. If the organization has not notified local press, you can.
  • Write your own story or press release on the event.
  • Ask if you can bring in a videographer to record your presentation. You can then use it on your website and other social sites. This is a great way to gain footage for a “sizzle reel”.
  • Get testimonials from event organizers and attendees.

Tell the world you’re a speaker

Sometimes gigs come from the most unlikely sources and you never know who might be the connection you’ve been waiting for. So, tell the world you’re a speaker, what you speak about and how you help audiences with your words. Word will spread and before you know it, the right people hear about you and you’re on your way!

What other avenues are you finding successful in your quest to get your voice out to the world. Share your best practices and success stories.



13 Responses to Some Basic Best Practices For Professional Speakers

  1. Peter Watts says:

    Great advice Kenny. Thank you. I do some of the free-stuff, and you’ve pointed out for me new ideas about some of the returns I should be achieving

  2. Kenny says:

    Hi Peter,

    Glad you enjoyed the post. Keep in mind there is no such thing as “free”, but a lot of people ask for it. Also, money is just a tool, so sometimes we don’t need to be compensated with money, but we do need to be compensated with something of value to us. Good luck!

    My best,

  3. Susan P. Cohen says:

    Kenny, thanks for these tips on how “free speech” can contribute to our bottom line. Your suggestion to tape our talk and do our own press release not only helps our marketing, it conveys that we are experienced professionals. I can’t wait to give these a try.

  4. Beth Niebuhr says:

    I enjoyed this article a lot. I used to get speaking gigs easily because I was a woman in an atypical profession for women – a pilot. I still use that angle because it’s a bit unusual.

  5. great article! I used to speak professionally and I likened your chart to a 3-legged stool. If one of those basic pegs was shorter or longer or didn’t exist, you’d topple! great job! p

  6. Terrific pointers. I love the charity angle — you get paid and so does the charity. Brilliant! One thing: You may not have to be a chamber member to get a speaking gig, but as you mention, it’s a good idea to join anyway.

  7. A lot of good ideas here. I do a lot of speaking within my company. The more speaking you do the better and more comfortable you feel. Rehearsal is important but the real skills are honed in front of an audience.

  8. Yakini says:

    I really enjoyed this article. We are literally working on the marketing piece for her speaking part of the business, so this article was right on time and gives me some good tips. Thanks!

  9. Amy says:

    Speaking is a part of any business. I can see that I’ve got lots of work to do in this arena. I look forward to learning more from you!

  10. Stacey says:

    Sometimes as a business owner, you tend to focus on just 1-2 areas. Great reminder to find a way to get it all done.

  11. Stephannie Stallard says:

    Public speaking or even speaking in groups is something that I struggle with. I have a lot of ideas but can’t always find the right words to get my point across.

  12. One point I’d add here is to NOT be too attached to how the outcome will appear. Some miss great opportunities because it didn’t look like they wanted it to look. So, keep your eyes open and don’t miss it! ?

  13. Certainly! Always offer something outside the ordinary and on the side of extraordinary!

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