Many people often ask me
what it takes to get people to "pay" you to speak. Before an organization is
willing to pay a speaker they need to feel there is value in what the speaker
has to say. Keep in mind speaking for free does NOT mean that you do not offer
something of value.
The goal of speaking before
a group should not always be motivated by money. I can remember situations during
my career where I would have been willing to pay for the opportunity to speak
to a group. One thing that always occurs when you are speaking before a group,
whether being paid or not, is that you are making impressions to everyone in
that group. The more people that hear you speak, the more people there are who
can refer you others who CAN pay you.
Organizations such as Rotary,
Elks, Lions, Moose, Chamber Of Commerce needs speakers all the time. Several
non-profit organizations and associations have meetings every month and often
have trouble looking for speakers. Contact all your local associations and introduce
yourself. Many of the members of these associations have businesses of their
own and often have the ability and authority to "hire" speakers to speak within
their own organizations.
The speaking business, and
I emphasize the word "business" is a heavily referral based business. Most people
prefer to have a friend or colleague refer a speaker to them that they have
actually heard speak. The more people that hear you speak and are familiar with
your abilities and message the more people there are who can refer you to paying
clients. Whether you get paid to speak or speak for free you should focus on
delivering your message to each audience.
Most audiences have people
who do have the ability to hire you or know someone else who can. I can honestly
trace paid speaking business to many of the free speaking engagements I have
performed. Over the years I have learned various methods and techniques that
help me to maximize these free speaking engagements.
Often these same organizations
that do not have budgets for the speaker can offer other "in kind" services
that are worth more than your actual speaking fee. For example, I have spoken
for an organization that did not have a budget to pay speakers but did have
the resources (people & equipment) to professionally videotape my presentation.
In the end they provided me with an original recording along with several copies
of the video of my presentation. Had I hired someone to professionally videotape
my presentation, it would have cost me much more than my regular speaking fee.
Many speaking bureaus will
not hire you until they have seen and heard you speak. They may hire you if
someone they know refers you but typically will still ask for a demo tape (audio
or video). Whenever I am speaking at an association meeting in a new city, I
try to contact the local speakers bureaus and let them know I will be speaking
in the area. After getting permission from the client who hired me, I offer
the speaker's bureau the opportunity to come and hear me speak.
When you do speak to any
organization, bring plenty of business cards. Have your name, address and telephone
number on all your handout materials. I also include my web address and e-mail
address as well. It still amazes me the people who have attended keynotes I
have delivered 3 or 4 years ago contact me because they saved my handout. I
have had people who have attended one of my sessions give copies of my handouts
to other people they know because they felt the materials I provided were worth
sharing. These people, just based on the handout, called me and hired me to
speak to their group.
Speaking to associations
is a key part of my marketing efforts. Let me explain. The bulk of my speaking
services (about 60%) are providing "in house" workshops and seminars to the
corporate market. Another 25% is "keynote" speaking to associations and organizations.
Providing "one-on-one" coaching to executives and individuals accounts for 10%
and the remaining 5% is providing local continuing education seminars. These
four types of speaking provide a constant source of referral-based leads for
my business. The percentages do vary from year to year. Some years I may spend
40% of my time delivering keynotes, 20% coaching individuals and the balance
of 40% is providing "in-house" corporate programs. A lot will depend on associations.
Most associations will not hire the same speakers as they hired last year. If
they do hire you again it may not be until 3 years later because they like to
have different speakers each year. On the other hand there are associations
that I have spoken to each year for the last 4 years, but I will usually provide
a different program.
Not all speakers can provide
"in house" seminars and also provide keynote speeches. The speaking skills involved
for delivering a keynote and not the same as those skills required to provide
a "hands-on" workshop. The keynote speaker is usually hired to entertain a group
at some special function. That is not to say, that the keynote speaker does
not offer substance and education value, but the speaking delivery and approach
of a keynoter requires some different skill sets. This is important to understand
from a marketing perspective since the people you may be marketing to be different.
Corporations typically hire
trainers and workshop leaders. They generally do not hire keynote speakers for
"in house" programs. They are looking for people who can provide some type of
training for their staff.
Associations generally hire
keynote speakers, lunchtime speakers and after dinner speakers for one of their
regular meetings or special annual meetings. Some associations will also offer
some special training seminars to their membership in conjunction with their
event. The speaker who can provide both a keynote and training session will
often be hired because they can meet the needs of the client for both speaking
situations. For example, in October of this year I will be providing three half-day
seminars for a client as part of their annual conference. On the last day of
their conference, I will also be providing the lunchtime keynote. Because I
was already being paid my full fee for these three seminars and needed to be
there during lunch, I offered to provide the lunchtime keynote at no additional
fee. This is a "win-win" situation for both of us.
Keep in mind; many of these
association members also work for corporations who need "in house" programs.
Speaking at association meetings continues to generate leads and actual work
for me as an "in-house" trainer. I have even provided many FREE lunchtime 45-minute
programs that have lead to multiple "in house" seminars. The condition of providing
the program FREE was to require that key decision makers attend these lunch
time programs and hear me speak, especially those people who have the authority
to hire me. I also make sure I am introduced to these people during the lunchtime
event and follow up with them afterwards. This was the way I "broke into" the
corporate market and established some credibility as a corporate trainer. These
corporate executives then referred my name to other corporate executives, which
in some case were either their next-door neighbor of a member of the same church
they attended. As I mentioned earlier in this article, this is a referral-based
business. In can trace many of my best paying clients back to some "pro bono"
speaking I provided either that year or a few years earlier.
Many of these associations
will often provide you with the names & addresses of their entire membership
list. I also ask the person who hires me to provide me the names and contacts
of other people they know who they think may be interested in hiring me. I also
ask that they make the initial contact with these people. When I do call them,
it is not a "cold call" but a follow up call to the one initially made by the
people who hired me. I add the names of these people to my mailing list; especially
the members who attended my session and heard me speak. If you do offer to speak
for free, ask that the person who hired you provide some kind of press coverage
and place an article in the local newspaper announcing your speaking engagement.
Always try to have them include a photograph of you as part of the article.
An article with a photograph always draws more attention. It also helps you
establish a "celebrity" status, at least in the local newspaper. Other executives,
both corporate and associations will read this article and may contact you just
based on the article. This article will more effective in attracting other business,
than a classified ad you would have paid a lot of money for.
You can even call the local
newspapers and mention that you will be speaking in the area and offer to write
a short article about your topic that they could publish in the local newspaper.
The article should not be too promotional but offer some sound advice to the
typical client you would like to attract. Have them include your name, address
and telephone at the end of the article so people will be able to contact you.
This also let's the newspaper that you would be available as a good contact
for future articles and believe me they will contact you.
Another effective method
is to become an active member of key associations who have the types of business
contacts that may be good for your business. Becoming an officer in the association
affords you the opportunity to become first known as a member of this association
and get to know the members personally. Through this professional association,
the other members become more familiar with your speaking services and what
you have to offer. They are then in a better position to either refer you to
someone they know or even hire you for their own company.
The moral of the story is
to speak everywhere, even if for free. It works. The more people know about
you the more people there are who can tell others. Continually build your network
of business contacts and soon you will be asked to speak for your full fee.
The key is to learn how to "leverage" these FREE speaking engagements into generating
PAID speaking engagements.