Last week, I received a lot of questions about “How do I start a speaking career?” So, how do you get started? As a former meeting planner and professional speaker manager, I have seen so many entrepreneurs and professionals who had a great deal to say but just didn’t know how to brand and market themselves. For an entrepreneur or business executive, speaking is a powerful tool in building your personal brand as an authority or market influencer. If you’re good, it can be lucrative, too!
There are essentially two types of speakers. You are either (1) a motivational speaker or (2) an expert speaking on a particular subject matter. For the sake of this blog post, I’m going to focus on the subject matter expert category, as those types of speaker possess the highest revenue potential.
3 Things to Keep in Mind
Previously, I was a talent manager for a speaker who earned $25,000 per keynote (which only the top 5% achieve), the majority of speakers earn between $7,500-$10,000 per speaking engagement. Honestly, this is a “sweet spot” for the corporate and association meetings marketplace. As you start to build and establish your speaking career, there are three things for you to keep in mind about the speaking industry:
1) Speaking opportunities are often generated by Word-Of-Mouth referrals and building relationships. So you have to “Work it….To Earn It”.
2) Corporations are “Desperate But Hopeful” to find experts who can provide a new and unique approach to help solve critical issues, foster innovation, increase performance, and grow customer engagement.
3) Reputation is Everything! Reputation reflects your ability to speak, deliver real tangible solutions and tools, excellent reviews received from your audience, and your professionalism.
Let’s Get Started!
Whether you are new to speaking, or, simply looking to take your speaking career to the next level it is critical to recognize the importance of building a strong foundation to support your personal brand and having the ability to communicate that brand in a clear and concise message “Who You Are” and “What You Do” across multiple platforms (speaking, social media, other media, website, and original content). The lack of a clear message is the #1 reason why people don’t get speaking gigs.
Here are five things you can do today to start your speaking career:
1. Start Your Social Media Today – The day you decide you want to speak is the day you need to start a social media marketing strategy to build followers and connections to market your speaking services. You want to put your best face out there for everyone to see, so you must present an up to date, professional online image. According to Guy Kawasaki, 90% of your avatar (picture) should be your face, and the background image, the other 10%, should tell a story about “Who You Are”. If you want to represent a professional image, then your avatar needs to exude professionalism. For the corporate and association markets, it’s critical to have a LinkedIn and Twitter account. Complete your profile so it reflects your current expertise, key words for your target market, work experience, and accomplishments. You should use the same profile avatar for all your social accounts and in your marketing materials. No matter how people connect to you, whether Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook, potential clients should be able to recognize you instantly online or in person.
2. Have a Great Headshot/Avatar Picture – A picture says a thousand words! Don’t be cheap! Your picture should be taken by a professional photographer. This will run between $500-$1,000. People connect to other people on both an emotional and personal level, so smile, let them see your eyes, and exude that confidence and positive attitude. You always want to put your best foot forward for that first impression, and your picture is often the first way people are introduced in today’s digital age.
3. To Whom Do You Want to Be A Hero to? – This is a question I ask all my clients. Speaking is a tough business and it puts a lot of demands on you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Life is too short to be working for or with people you don’t like. Or to not to be able to do the things that gives you energy and passion. Audiences appreciate and admire when they see passion and get energized when they feel you truly understand their challenges and dreams. I heard a dynamic Mark Buckingham speak and read his book Go Put Your Strengths to Work. It changed my life and how I work. Required Reading!
4. Get Clear – My rule of thumb is no more than three speaking topics. SERIOUSLY! I have had professional speakers send me a list of twelve speaking topics. I didn’t hire them and never referred them. This looks like you are desperate and “Jack of all trades, but Master of None”. The person hiring you doesn’t have time try to figure out what you do. As a professional speaker you must brand and position yourself as an expert or authority and convey a clear message of “Who Are You” and “What You Do”.
5. Do the Hustle! – Just like any business, you have to hustle to get new business. Unless you have a bestselling book, your first speaking gigs usually come from your own professional network. Identify 10-20 people in your network who can personally vouch for you or are very well connected and willing to introduce you to potential speaking clients in your target market. Also, look for opportunities to be a panelist. Submit a Call for Presentation to a local or national trade or professional association, or check out speakermatch.com. If you work for an organization, is there an internal opportunity for you to present? You can even host a Meetup.com event and run your own session. The point with these suggestions is, “you have to start putting yourself out there and start building your reputation as an expert or subject authority, and practice speaking to help your refine your message.” Don’t expect these first gigs to pay. It is more important to get the exposure to establish your expertise, hone your craft, and build your reputation. I highly recommend your read Relationship Economics: Transform Your Most Valuable Business Contacts Into Personal and Professional Success by David Nour
I hope this has been helpful and want to hear from you. Do you have a speaking topic? Who do you want to be a hero to? Do you have connections to people who can refer, recommend, or hire you as a speaker? Are you on social media? Why or Why not? What’s stopping you from starting a speaking career? Send me your questions, I would be happy to answer.