Build Your Audience through Professional SpeakingThough it may be among people’s top fears, speaking has many advantages. As the featured speaker at an event, conference, or meeting, you are perceived as the ultimate authority in the room. Speakers have a tremendous amount of influence with an audience, which removes a great barrier from purchasing your services. Speaking also allows you to reach large numbers of people. For example, a trade association with 600 members may only get 60 people to attend the meeting, but as the speaker your information and bio are promoted to all 600 members.

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of trade organizations in every major city that need speakers for their weekly or monthly meetings. That’s right, they NEED speakers. That equals opportunity for you!

In addition to trade associations, consider teaching at your local adult learning centers and community education programs. Even if only 10 students register for your class, your business is promoted in their catalog, which is often sent to tens of thousands of people. Other potential venues include retirement centers, community centers, churches, schools, and charitable organizations.

Here are the steps to getting on the speaking circuit:

  1. Write a brief and interesting description of your presentation and what attendees will learn. If you’re inclined, you can also develop several presentation topics.
  1. Add a Speaker page to your website. Include a description of your topics and any testimonials that you gather from your engagements. This effort alone can bring opportunities, especially when combined with your other efforts to optimize your site for search engines.
  1. Contact local trade associations, groups, schools, and organizations that reach your target audience and let them know that you are available to speak. Look for contact information on websites or simply send an email to introduce yourself.
  1. Pack your presentation with useful information. Do not make it a sales pitch for your business! If the audience likes what you have to say, they will want to learn more about you and your business. Make it educational, funny, interesting, and engaging. Use plenty of stories and examples. Practice it several times out loud, even if it’s just in front of your cat, to make sure it flows well.
  1. Engage the audience by asking questions and soliciting their participation.
  1. Use props, when appropriate, for visual interest. But don’t use gimmicky props! On the other hand, visual props that illustrate a point can enhance your presentation. I always bring along examples when I speak about information products and then I pass them around the room.
  1. Give attendees something to keep, such as a single-page handout with tips or a booklet. Be sure to include your company contact information. Remember, brochures are boring. The goal is to give them something that they will keep handy to remember you later.
  1. Respect the time allotted. It’s better to finish early than late—then you can open the floor for questions. When you run over your time, you risk losing the audience’s attention, especially if they are anticipating a break.
  1. Wrap up with a brief pitch for your business and let them know you’ll be available for questions after the presentation.
  1. Send the event coordinator a thank-you note!

You might be surprised by how quickly your business can grow as a result of your speaking engagements. Soon, you may find that you don’t have to go looking for speaking opportunities. As you build a reputation, the invitations to speak will come to you. And after you do enough free speaking, you will inevitably find opportunities for paid speaking engagements. These can range from a stipend of $50 up to thousands of dollars. Professional keynote speakers earn from $3,000 to $10,000 and up for presentations, and also have all travel expenses paid.

How to Find Speaking Opportunities

Contact local chambers of commerce and service groups such as Rotary and Kiwanis. For trade associations, search online for <your city> plus “association,” “group,” or “organization.” Also, start letting peers and clients know that you’re available to speak. Ask what groups they belong to and if they can connect you with the right people. It really isn’t that hard to get booked once you start looking around.

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