Recently I was invited to speak at a writers’ conference in another state. It was scheduled several months out, but knowing how tenuous travel and events are in our current pandemic climate, I politely declined and asked if I could instead deliver a webinar for members of the organization. They were thrilled to offer an alternative event to their members, creating a win-win for all.
In my opinion, webinars are one of the greatest benefits to emerge from pandemic life. Speaking by webinar can be done from the comfort of your home and delivered to just about anywhere. Many trade associations, nonprofits, corporations, and religious organizations have adopted webinars to keep chapter meetings going, engage members, employees, and customers, and even host multi-day conferences. (We’ve hosted the Nonfiction Writers Conference online since 2010 so we were ahead of the times!)
I serve on the board of a nonprofit that previously hosted monthly in-person meetings but has shifted to offering webinars as an alternative. These events feature guest speakers covering a variety of topics along with Q&A with the audience. The speakers are able to mention their books, hold them up, and invite attendees to purchase online.
If you’re an author who wants to speak, there are more speaking opportunities available than ever before when you factor in the ability to deliver events by webinar. Whether the organization uses its own video conferencing platform, or you sign up with Zoom and offer to use your own, this is a powerful way to reach many potential book buyers.
As for the equipment needed, I recommend a Logitech web camera (under $100), a high-quality microphone (Blue Yeti or Audio-Technica, $100 to $200) and some decent lighting. I use a $30 desk lamp that has adjustable brightness settings.
How to Locate Webinar Speaking Opportunities
The process starts by determining where your target audience spends time. Answer these questions:
- What associations do my readers belong to?
- What companies employ them?
- What nonprofits do they belong to?
- Are they attending religious services?
Next, you will want to start researching potential speaking opportunities. Here are a variety of resources:
- National Trade and Professional Associations Directory – This is a large-sized printed book that starts at around $350 to purchase and $800 for access to an online directory. You can often find a copy at your local library or you can purchase a used copy on Amazon or eBay. Or purchase a copy here: https://www.associationexecs.com/national-trade-and-professional-associations-directory.
- Marketing Mentor – Maintains a smaller list of associations. Categories include business, healthcare, law/legal, and more: https://www.marketing-mentor.com/pages/trade-list.
- You can locate many association meetings in your own backyard with some simple Google searches. Example: <your city> + “association.” This could be “Sacramento association” or “Orlando association.”
Conferences and Trade Shows
Look for events that reach your target audience and then search for their speaker submission guidelines. You may need to reach out to event organizers or other staff to inquire about opportunities, which may or may not be happening online. Here are some event directories:
Nonprofits and Charities
Just as trade associations host monthly and annual meetings, so do nonprofits.
- IRS Directory of Nonprofits is compiled by our friends at the IRS:
- Love to Know lists several dozen popular nonprofits: https://charity.lovetoknow.com/List_of_Nonprofit_Organizations.
- Candid offers a handy search feature: org/.
Read trade magazines, newsletters, and blogs to locate event announcements.
Schools of all sizes welcome speakers.
- For colleges, start with the campus activities coordinator for the school you want to target. You can also contact individual department heads, such as the History department or Women’s studies. Don’t be afraid to get creative. Locating one good contact can help you get connected to another simply by asking.
- The National Association for Campus Activities (https://www.naca.org/Pages/default.aspx) and the Association for Promotion of Campus Activities (https://www.apca.com/) both hold showcase events for speakers and entertainers. You may be able to do these remotely by webinar.
Grade, Middle and High Schools
For grade, middle, and high schools, contact school administrators and send a pitch. Hint: if you can turn your event into a school fundraiser by offering the school a percentage of book sales, you may have better luck getting your foot in the door. And today most schools can project an online event to an entire classroom—or even an entire auditorium.
Houses of Worship
Religious institutions of all kinds welcome speakers with something to offer their congregation. For example, The Unity Church is known for being author-friendly and will gladly host special events. Reach out to these and other religious organizations and offer webinar-based workshops.
Local Events Directories
Consider pitching yourself as a speaker to companies and other types of organizations. During our recent Author Brainstorm Exchange event, one of the participants shared that her book is related to retirement and specifically meant for those leaving behind executive-level careers. We identified an opportunity to reach out to financial planning companies, offering presentations by webinar for their clients. This enables the financial firm to offer valuable content to their clients at little to no cost, while showcasing the author and her book. (And after leading several of these sessions, I would suggest she consider charging a fee for her “workshops.” Note how the word “workshop” makes it sound like something that should come with a fee.)
Here are some additional ideas for groups you could target:
- First responders’ departments (police, fire)
- Retirement communities
- Real estate offices
- Financial planning firms
- Corporations for “lunch and learn” sessions
- Shopping malls (they NEED events to bring in people)
- Car dealerships
- Media offices (like your local newspaper)
- Adult learning centers
- Parks and recreation departments
- Military organizations
- Hospitals and healthcare centers
As you can see, there are endless options for locating speaking opportunities. Speaking is one of the top ways authors sell books and when you add webinars to your marketing mix, you can reach more people than ever before.
Another Option: Host Your Own Webinars
You can host and promote your own webinar events, making them free for attendees in exchange for capturing email addresses. Free webinars can be a valuable marketing tool for reaching potential readers and customers around the globe while you build your email list, promote your book, and promote other products and services.
If you decide to host your own events, you will need to promote them to as many people as possible. Share the event registration link on your social media networks and online event directories. Also consider investing in paid ads on Facebook or elsewhere to attract more attendees.
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