We've Gotta Have it
Skip the Speaker’s Bureaus: Find Your own Paid Speaking Gigs
Become your own booker and gain access to a lucrative field.
After a lifetime of gathering experience, knowledge, skills, and wisdom, you know your worth, and you’re ready to be paid to share your story. “Speaker’s bureaus” can be elusive and out-of-reach for those of us who fall beneath their radar. Instead, focus on your own network to gain access to organizations and events that will hire you to enlighten their employees or members. Here, my 9 tips to find your own paid speaking gig.
- You’re much more likely to get hired of you present yourself as an specialist rather than a generalist. Who is your ideal audience? What is their exact demographic, and what are their needs? What do you want their takeaway to be after listening to your talk? The more specific you can get, the better.
- Work with an editor. An editor can help you shape your talk into 30 and 60 minute versions. She can show you how to grab an audience, pull them in, and keep them with you.
- Consider hiring a voice coach to help you with vocal stamina and physical presence.
- Watch and learn from great public speakers like Michelle Obama, Eve Ensler, and Sallie Krawcheck on Youtube and Ted talks. Notice how they use more than their words — their voice, body, and language all tell compelling stories. What can you borrow from these masters to make your own talk more compelling?
- Create your fee structure. How much should you charge for the 30-minute and 60-minute versions of your talk? And don’t be afraid to charge a premium. Here are some guidelines for what to charge, or you could use this calculator. Once you’ve picked your fees, stick to them! To be seen and valued as an expert, you need to be confident in your numbers. You might not be an experienced speaker yet, but you’re charging for a lifetime of experience with your topic. Also keep in mind the “lifetime value” of your talk. This is the single takeaway that will solve a listener’s problem or inspire them to reach their greatest potential. For example, if your platform is about workplace bullying and you’ve endured a hellish experience and come out the other side, describing the methods you used to resolve the issue provides concrete ways for others to to tackle this problem should it come up in their own lives. This result is what I call “lifetime value,” and it’s actually priceless.
- Practice delivering 30-second, 3-minute, and 5-minute pitches about your talk to anyone who might be interested. Include a short line about the “lifetime value” that your talk offers. Create a dedicated website (or a page on your current one) for your talks. Clients need to see you in action, so post some video clips of yourself speaking to various groups. Keep the clips short, no more than 5 minutes each. Posting your CV, social media links, and client testimonials is not enough.
- Create a dedicated spreadsheet of your business contacts, especially those in corporate America (that’s where the big speech-giving money is!). Ask yourself where your ideal clients are, and in what industries? When are their industry conventions? What are their professional organizations? Who do you know in your network who can help you reach the inside booking contacts? Are any of your direct contacts responsible for programming events? Reach out and try to meet in person with as many of these people as you can. Be prepared to offer them something from your own network, like advance notice about upcoming job vacancies in your industry, an introduction to valuable business contacts, or volunteering to help out at their next event, in return for their help. And thank them often!
- Join organizations like Ellevate Network, Lean In, or other women’s groups to make new connections in corporate America. Attend their events and give your pitch to new contacts. Make some new friends and expand your circle. Ask questions, and be a good listener. Share resources, opportunities, and contacts freely. And don’t forget companies that focus on Millennial and Gen Z audiences, like GOOP, Vice, Hello Sunshine, and Refinery29. Remember that your knowledge and wisdom is a valuable commodity! These organizations are often looking for content from those of us that have been through the storm and come out the other side. Our view of life and work can be a source of inspiration to younger audiences who are working through their own struggles.
- Create your own events that you can market to multiple sources. Charge premium prices and create an email list of attendees, resources and fans. Let your community know what you’re doing, and remember to keep your social media networks current.
Become a Killer Speaker and Get Paid! (TheCovey, Feb. 2019 Issue)