Whether you want to speak for free to sell books at the back of the room or you want to get paid to speak, there are many ways you can locate speaking opportunities.
When you do locate opportunities, don’t be afraid to pitch yourself via phone or email. Just make sure you’re prepared with an excellent speaker page on your website, a list of your speaking topics, professional photos, and video clips of you in action. If you don’t yet have video clips, focus on booking some free local gigs in order to gain experience and get some video you can use later.
There are thousands of associations that hold monthly meetings and annual conferences. You are more likely to get paid for larger events, but local events need speakers! Here are some directories to locate associations:
- Directory of Associations.com
- Marketing Mentor
- National Trade and Professional Associations Directory – This is a huge printed book which you can also find at your local library or purchase a used copy via Amazon or eBay.
- Weddles Guide – A more affordable option than the NTPA directory above.
- 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.”
Nonprofits and Charities
Just as trade associations host monthly and annual meetings, so do nonprofits. And many of the larger nonprofits are well-funded and pay speakers.
Local Service Organizations
Groups like Rotary and Kiwanis welcome speakers, often on a weekly basis. They also appreciate a wide variety of topics. Contact chapters in your area to inquire about opportunities.
Many organizations put out a “call for speakers” when planning events. You can often locate these on Twitter or via Google searches. Set up alerts on talkwalker.com/alerts, a free service that monitors search terms that you choose. You might set industry-specific searches for “call for speakers business” or “call for speakers healthcare.” These alerts monitor Google and social media so you can get immediate notification when opportunities become available.
Big money can be found by speaking at corporate events. Finding these can take some effort, though. Here are some ways to do so:
- Search Google for <industry> + “conference.” Example: “business conference” or “women’s conference.” Note that you may need to build a list and keep track for the following year since speakers are often planned many months in advance.
- Meeting Professionals International is the top association for meeting planners. They often host showcases for speakers where event planners can see speakers in action with the goal of potentially inviting speakers to their future events.
- LinkedIn is a great resource for locating key contacts. For example, if you know that XYZ company hosts an annual event, you can try searching LinkedIn for XYZ company + “meeting planner” or “event planner.” Oftentimes the event planner details their role in their LinkedIn
Colleges and Schools
Schools of all sizes welcome speakers, and usually pay them.
- 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 and the Association for Promotion of Campus Activities both hold showcase events for speakers and entertainers.
- For grade schools, middle schools, and high schools, contact school administrators and send a pitch. Hint: if you can turn your event into a school fundraiser, by offering them a percentage of book sales, you may have better luck getting your foot in the door.
All libraries welcome speakers, especially authors who are speakers. You won’t get paid, but make sure you’re allowed to sell books.
Find contacts for events by attending trade shows, conferences, and trade association meetings. While you may not meet the event planner directly, all you need is one good contact within an organization. Then you ask, “Hey, would you mind connecting me with the person who books speakers for your events?”
Think about trade associations where your potential contacts spend their time. For example, if you offer presentations and programs for human resource professionals, get involved in the Society for Human Resource Management. If you offer programs for attorneys, check out the National Association of Legal Professionals. Go find your tribe and get involved!
Also, join the National Speakers Association. You’ll not only develop your craft, you’ll get to know other speakers and you can refer business to each other. Really—this happens all the time with NSA members.
Speakers bureaus connect top keynote speakers with large events, and they take a percentage of the speaking fee. Celebrities get the most action from bureaus because they earn top dollar and are easy to place at events. However, if you have a niche topic and a lot of experience, plus some great video of you presenting, it may be worthwhile to pursue some bureaus. A quick Google search will show you many options. Follow each bureaus’ guidelines to submit your materials for consideration.
Don’t be afraid to mail out a speaker packet to meeting planners, CEOs and potential contacts you’ve identified. You can include a speaker one-sheet with a description of your topics, pro photos of you in action, and your contact information—including a link to your site where you have video clips of you speaking (these are essential for booking paid speaking gigs).
Build Your List
It takes time to build a list of potential opportunities, so this should be an ongoing activity. You might want to use a contact management system such as Insightly or Zoho CRM.