Getting Booked for Speaking EngagementsEach month, the Nonfiction Authors Association asks a burning publishing question of the industry’s best, brightest, and most innovative experts. Here’s what they have to say! 

NFAA: How do you get yourself booked for speaking engagements? 


I secure paid speaking engagements with three distinct strategies: 

First, I maintain a video blog and embed many of my videos on my website. That “buys the risk out” for potential clients. They can see the way I look, the way I sound, and my delivery and approach. The video blog doesn’t attract more website visitors; instead, it builds confidence with the visitors who find my website through some other channel. 

Second, I spend a bunch of money on marketing. I advertise on Google, BING, YouTube, LinkedIn, and the display network. I also send out postcards to about 7,000 recipients six times each year. In 2016, I spent more than $100K on marketing. In 2017, it was about $60K. Out of 100 speakers, I bet only two or three spend money on marketing, and it makes a huge difference. 

Third, I try to calibrate my website to rank well for my ideal keywords. I specialize in technology trends including big data, artificial intelligence, and blockchain, so I’m always looking for new content I can post about those topics, along with the primary “keynote speaker” phrase. A significant percentage of my clients find me through organic search.

Patrick Schwerdtfeger is a business futurist who specializes in technology trends, including big data, artificial intelligence, and blockchain. 


I started getting booked to speak at small events by offering to fill a gap in their content. I think I succeeded by taking the time to 1) actually attend their events, 2) getting to know the attendees, and 3) by talking with the organizers to understand their mission. Before speaking, I rehearsed a lot—recording myself to identify tics and yawn moments and making sure to stay on point. (Yes, I was nervous!) I also made sure to provide lots of extra value to their audience with follow-up offers such as the slideset, a free ebook along with any print books I sold there, and a special offer for services or something like a short intro to self-publishing course delivered via email.

I realized early on that it’s important to understand the goals of the organization and how it is funded. Those on shoestring budgets welcome new speakers but established events that pay almost always have a closed network. I reached these paid speaking gigs with recommendations from organizers of the events where I spoke for free. After a while, organizers started approaching me. As an event organizer today, I understand the value of recommendations and appreciate speakers I know I can count on, inviting them back and happily recommending them to others.

Carla King is founder of Self-Publishing Boot Camp, an educational series of books, workshops, and online courses to help independent authors publish professionally and successfully.


The biggest question I get is how I started my speaking career and then how I find places that are good venues for me. I got my start doing talks at libraries, local Rotary clubs, and small writers groups. I did this to both learn how to gauge the audiences and hone my speaking skills. If you’re just starting out, dig into your local market, which is often ripe with opportunity. You’ll also get to know who your “crowd” is—by that I mean who you should be doing speaking gigs for. Often, I see speakers start out pitching themselves to one group, only to find they aren’t really their market. That’s why starting a speaking career by doing events for a variety of audiences will help you refine that crowd and save you a bunch of time when you’re pitching bigger venues.

Most of my speaking engagements are geared to published authors and business owners looking to expand their reach by publishing a book, so my conferences have to be super specific. I will often go after associations (because they often offer conferences), as well as organizations such as Blogher, which is designed to support mom bloggers (an enormous market) and women in business in general. I will spend some time identifying speaking opportunities by looking at past conferences, looking at their speakers and topics, checking out their social media, and even looking up the conference hashtag on Twitter to read through some of the conversations that happened during the conference. That way I know I’m pitching myself to something that’s worth getting on a plane for.

The other thing to keep in mind is compensation, which varies greatly. For example, writers conferences often don’t pay, but will compensate you for lodging and air travel. So you’ll want to be clear on your goals for speaking. When I do speaking gigs, it helps drive the business, so not getting a speaker’s fee isn’t really an issue per se.

Penny C. Sansevieri is the author of 16 books, an adjunct professor at NYU, and the CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc.


Getting yourself booked for speaking engagements takes persistence. Develop a powerful speech with some drama, facts, and humor, and make sure you have a hook so the audience wants to know more.

After you have your speech perfected, the real works begins: getting your presentations booked. Find associations that are a match with your topic like education or pets or medical. A simple Google search is a good start. Then, call and find out the person in charge of booking speakers and email him or her a) your topic, b) bullet points of why it is beneficial to audience, and c) a headshot and short video clip of you speaking—this only needs to be about a minute to two max! 

Follow up within a month.  If they don’t book you put them on the list to follow up with in 6 months. Once you land an association, follow up with every state that has the same type of association. 

Make it a habit to market every week. Build up your list and have at least 30 emails to send out at a time. One of the greatest benefits of speaking is that you can sell books in the back of the room after your presentation. Make sure you specify to the presentation organizer that you have the opportunity to sell your books.

Donna Hartley has been an international professional speaker for more than three decades. She is the author of the Fire Up series and has been featured on NBC, ABC, PBS, and in the New York Times. She is known for her product sales and coaches other speakers on how to sell from the platform. 


I ask and/or submit to speak. The hardest part for me has been finding conferences and other events to speak at. I network online and off, and pay attention when I’m with my tribe to hear about opportunities. When I find an event that seems to fit, I search the site for information about speakers and submissions. I keep a list of ideas I can speak about, and tweak the topic to fit the event. I have templates ready to copy, tweak, and paste with things like my bio and other details many places ask speakers to share.

I keep a list of events I’ve spoken at so I can pitch them again. In many cases, events won’t book a speaker two years in a row, so I try to find new events so I have speaking gigs regularly. 

Leslie Truex is an author, freelance writer, blogger, and online entrepreneur.


I look for announcements of relevant upcoming conferences (or podcasts/radio or TV shows that need guests) and contact them. Since many events often book far ahead, I often ask, “Who would I talk to about being on a future program?” 

Of course, I also make it known on my websites that I speak, and I cultivate a reputation as being helpful and easy to work with. As a result, many of my best speaking gigs have come when the meeting planner approached me.

Shel Horowitz writes, speaks, and consults on profitable social change/green business. His latest book is Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World


Over the past five years I’ve done quite a bit of speaking at conferences for writers and publishers. In almost all cases, offers for speaking engagements have come to me from readers of my blog at Building a community, writing really helpful articles, and engaging with readers turned out to be exactly what was needed to interest organizations looking to help educate their members.

On the nuts-and-bolts side, having videos of you speaking will allow people to see your speaking style. I also include information on speaking topics and procedures on my “Speaking” page, linked on the main menu of my site. This page also shows where I’ve been talking recently, and the kinds of responses received from audiences, both powerful forms of “social proof.” 


As always, consistent exposure provides the best results. I do my best to mention upcoming speaking topics as far ahead of time as possible in my newsletter and social media marketing. I prepare a guest post that projects knowledge of the upcoming topic, but doesn’t give away too much!

Before the event, I send a “welcome” email to attendees as well as a bonus PDF worksheet or list of relevant resources. I also invite attendees to submit questions ahead of time.  

I view each speaking engagement as a prelude to the next. My opening slide includes a link to a PowerPoint PDF of the visuals plus space to take notes. I also include a “bonus” Q&A summary, checklist, glossary, recommended resources, and a planning worksheet.  

 After the event, I always thank the host and send a follow-up email to participants. 

@Roger C. Parker invites you to get a head start turning your experiences and ideas into a realistic writing and marketing plan! Download his free workbook, 99 Questions to Ask Before You Write and Self-Publish a Brand-building Book.

If you like this blog post, you’ll love our Professional Speaking Course! Learn more about our courses for authors here.