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Flickr User Cydcor

You know that thing that happens where you really do your work to grow an aspect of your life or business and then clients start coming out of the woodwork wanting to work on that very thing?   That has been happening in my business around speaking gigs.

So far this year I’ve had 3 big ones:

  • A plenary session for 100 people on Mindful & Innovative Leadership at the New Mexico Mindfulness Leaders Conference.
  • A breakout session on Wisdom and Entrepreneurship at Wisdom 2.0 2015.  120 people attended but over 200 people were turned away due to room size.
  • A keynote at a retreat in Albuquerque called Wild Leadership (just seeing that title makes me smile).  🙂

As I’ve been increasing this aspect of my own business and working with more experienced entrepreneurs, the percentage of my clients that have “increase paid speaking engagements” as a goal has radically increased.

Traditional Advice for More Speaking Gigs

Brian Palmer, who runs the National Speakers Bureau, says the motivational speaking business is strong and will continue to grow.  In 2014 he said, “the business is very healthy and we’ll end up with our best year ever.”   Read more.

Just because the industry is growing, doesn’t mean becoming an in demand and well paid speaker happens over night.   It takes practice and clear intention.   But there are some strategies that can help smooth the journey.

Here are 7 Traditional Tips for Increasing Speaking Engagements  (and then 8 Unconventional ones):

  1. Create a strong brand that positions you as an expert.  I’ve blogged and Facebooked and ranted about the importance of having a strong brand many times.  For instance, in this post.  Get the deep story of your business into your bones and getting speaking gigs becomes MUCH easier.  
  2. Polish your speaking abilities.  Top speakers are constantly polishing their speaking abilities.  Organizations like Toastmasters are all about this.
  3. Uplevel your physical presentation.  How you look – both in person and online – is the first impression people have about you.  Your clothes, website, and business materials matter.
  4. Listen to other great speakers.  Successful speakers are familiar with how other great speakers present.  No mystery here.
  5. Understand your audience.   “So many presenters fail to realize how important empathy truly is, focusing on their ever growing list of information they wish to impart. They think more about what they want to say versus what the audience wants to hear.” Sarah Lloyd-Hughes rocks the essential role of empathy in this blog post.
  6. Create a one page speaker sheet.  Your one page speaker sheet is traditionally a speakers most important marketing asset.  Here is a post on creating a speaker sheet with several examples.  With so much emphasis on the web now, whether it’s still as important is a matter of debate.
  7. Start with volunteer gigs.  Indigo Ocean Dutton shared: “For me it finally happened through doing a volunteer gig for a friend’s class of 17 students. The kids liked me so much they talked about things I had said to their peers who weren’t in that class, and campaigned to have me become their commencement speaker. It’s my first paid speaking gig.”  Volunteering as a speaker is a common stepping stone on the journey for many.

But What If You Are Unconventional?

When I first started my coaching business, I went to Toastmasters.   I knew I wanted to get better at public speaking and to do more of it.  People told me that’s where you go to improve your speaking.  So I went.

The people were very nice.  And, to my depth oriented nervous system, the speeches felt formulaic and built from the outside in.   I pushed myself to go for months because I had been told that I should.  But it wasn’t a good fit.  Eventually I stopped.

And while that was a relief, I didn’t have another plan.  My path forward as an authentic and heart centered public speaker felt stalled.

Until I started meeting another kind of speaker – many of them through the Wisdom 2.0 community – who took a more depth oriented approach.  Their talks felt much less scripted.  Much less about impressing.  More about deepening a dialogue or bringing up the issues that weren’t yet being talked about.

A light bulb went off in my nervous system. A deep knowing that my path wasn’t to be a contest winning presenter at gatherings for other speakers.  My role was to speak from the heart in service to sparking deeper conversations about the intersection of wisdom and entrepreneurship.  Once I accepted that, the way forward for me as a professional speaker cleared.

8 Unconventional Tips for More Speaking Gigs

Since that “Aha!” moment, I’ve practiced and learned marketing approaches and taken part in more interviews than I can count.   Here’s 8 things that have emerged as helpful on the road less traveled (thanks my friends from the Wisdompreneurs group who contributed to this list!) to getting more speaking gigs:

  1. Think about what’s missing from the conversation.    Speak to THAT.   This tip comes from my friend  Michael Margolis.  People can feel the difference between when you are focused on deepening the larger dialogue and the “Aren’t I amazing?” vibe.  The former is very attractive.
  2. Add a speaker specific position to your Linked In profile.  I recently took George Kao’s excellent course, Using Linked In to Gain New Clients.  One of the suggestions he has is to add positions for different roles we have in our business.   I added one as a “Professional Speaker on Mindful Leadership, Mindfulness in Business and Conscious Entrepreneurship.”  It’s already bringing leads.
  3. Use media – traditional and new media –  to practice.  My friend Jerome Braggs – one of the most dynamic speakers I’ve ever met – says, “Do more interviews on radio shows, tv shows, and create more youtube videos of you speaking–even 1-2 minutes work marvelously. Potential bookers LOVE to have something tangible when looking at potential speakers that allows them to get a feel for your personality, message, and delivery. This reduces the risk in their minds of hiring you blind, and not having you mesh with their audience.”   I’m particularly found of podcast interviews and Google Hangouts.  These more relational ways of public speaking bring out my relational wisdom side – with great results.
  4. Uplevel the self care for your body.   It’s hard to have the dynamic energy and presence that are necessary to thrive as a speaker if your body is depleted and you don’t feel comfortable in your own skin.  Treat your body like the temple that it is and you’ll be much more effective as a public speaker.
  5. Create great content on a regular basis.  Blogging and video allows you to practice organizing your ideas, delivering them in compelling ways and presenting them so they stick.  Plus, as you learn to do them well, you will build a “platform” – marketing speak for people who love your work and follow you via social media, YouTube, and your newsletter.  These raving fans are your best source for more speaking gigs.
  6. Weave speaking into conversations with your tribe.  Speaking of blogs, social media, video and the like, I invite you to start weaving your public speaking self info the conversations you are having there.  Please do it with a light touch.  No need to shout it out to everyone you meet.  Instead, how about telling the story that starts “I was speaking at a breakout session last week and …”  Subtle can be very powerful.
  7. Have a dedicated Speaking section on your website.  Your website is the online home of your business story.  If you want more speaking gigs, let people SEE this part of your story.  You’d be amazed at how many people who have the goal of more speaking gigs that have little on their website to support this intention.  Two examples of people in the wisdom space that do this are Joan Borysenko and Arjuna Ardagh.
  8. Make friends with the numbers.  Jason Stein makes this suggestion:  “If you want paid speaking gigs, share about the metrics. Don’t just talk soft skills of stress reduction, but answer the whys?  For example, the stats show that mindfulness increases productivity.”  As I’ve become increasingly comfortable talking about the science of mindfulness, Emotional Intelligence and the like, increasingly professional organizations are hiring me.

The Real Money Is Often AFTER the Talk

Several Wisdompreneurs pointed out that often the most effective way to monetize speaking gigs is by having a clear offering to guide people to after the speaking engagement is over.

For instance, WholeSpeak founder Jonathan Bender said:

“I would also suggest to broaden one’s definition of what it means to have a paid speaking gig. It’s easy to make more through an offer at a free talk sometimes, than to have it pay upfront.”

Jason Stein stated it this way:

“The other recommendation for the article is a paid speaking gig can lead into consulting if you’re prepared. The speaking is the information the consulting is the action of change about the information.”

How to plan consulting packages and other offerings is beyond the scope of this post.  My goodness, I’m already at over 1500 words!  🙂

What’s Your Best Tip for More Speaking Gigs

What I realized in writing this post is that there are a variety of approaches for getting more speaking gigs.   And, I’m sure there are a bunch that haven’t been discussed yet on this post.

What have you found to be most helpful for getting more speaking gigs?   What questions do you have?  I’d love to hear about it in the form of a comment below.

Paul Zelizer
Paul Zelizer
Paul Zelizer is one of the first business and marketing coaches to focus on the needs of Wisdompreneurs – people who have a business is based on the principles of wisdom and spirituality. In addition to conscious entrepreneurship, Paul is passionate about just about anything you can do in the mountain high country, power yoga, dark chocolate, sustainable living, ecstatic poetry and deep centering breaths. He lives in a solar adobe home in the mountains near Santa Fe, New Mexico.