How to Get Corporate Speaking Engagements

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If you’ve heard or read our discussions of speaker fees in different industries, you’ve probably noticed that corporate speaking clients pay speakers the most. Even if you’re not motivated by the need for some cash, you’ve probably considered becoming a corporate speaker because it’s such a thriving sector of the speaking industry. Big companies host events and hire speakers all the time. Whether you’re hired by HR to train new employees or invited as a keynote speaker at a symposium with other companies, corporate speaking will provide you with many opportunities to book paid speaking gigs. But where there are many opportunities, there’s quite a lot of competition. To help you differentiate yourself, we’ve created this step-by-step guide for you to get corporate speaking engagements. 

Even if you don’t know a single person who hires speakers, you can launch a successful corporate speaking business. It will take some creativity, time management, and a few long hours spent doing boring tasks. But with these steps, you can find corporate clients, deliver transformative talks, and forge relationships that turn into even more corporate speaking gigs down the road. 

We have all sorts of resources to help you with the process of launching your business and getting paid speaking gigs. You can start here for an overview of our 5-step process of becoming a motivational speaker, which we’ll reference throughout this guide. And check out our article here for how to find conferences looking for speakers. Now, let’s talk about speaking to corporations!

Corporate speaking engagements at a glance

Before we dive into our tips for getting corporate speaking engagements, let’s cover some background. When we talk about corporate speaking engagements as its own industry, we simply mean that the client hiring you is a big company. Strictly speaking, there are dozens of corporate industries. Usually speakers start out in one narrow niche (more on that next) and then expand to other types of clients. Whether you speak to one corporate industry or have a message that is less field-specific, the same methodology (with small tweaks) generally applies. 

There are many different types of corporate events. Individual companies or offices often bring in trainers and speakers on a variety of topics. Multinational companies could hold events that gather teams or departments from around the world or country in one place for alignment and morale. Internal conferences for strategy updates or end-of-year summaries often bring in outside speakers to add interest and keep attendees from boredom. Teams of all sizes require training and education for implementing new technology, new best practices, or new internal policies. Incidentally, these kinds of seminars are a great opportunity for repeat business. Big annual conferences sometimes balk at the idea of hosting the same headlining speaker year after year. But if you are speaking in-house and using your proprietary methodologies to transform employees or business practices, your client will want you to come back to continue the change you started. 

Now let’s move on to our expert tips for getting booked and paid to speak for corporations! We have organized the piece with four tips applicable to the start of your speaking journey followed by three more applicable to more established corporate speakers. 

Keep in mind these aren’t things you should start all at once. Nor is this a step-by-step guide to follow in order to succeed. Rather, these are strategies that you can gradually integrate into your speaking business plan that will help you succeed in the corporate speaking industry. If you are pivoting from another industry to corporate speaking, you can use this article as a checklist for ideas on how to align with your new audience. 

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1. Start with a narrow niche

 

You can’t speak to everybody. We say it all the time, you’re probably tired of hearing it! However, in our experience with thousands of aspiring speakers, it’s become clear that it can’t be said enough. People still come into the speaking industry thinking that their message is so important, they can market it to anybody in any industry. That’s just not possible–finding a clear niche at the intersection of your interests and experience is absolutely essential. 

This is especially true for corporate speaking since there are thousands of possible clients and thousands of speakers vying for those engagements. You cannot differentiate yourself from the sea of corporate speakers without a clear, focused niche. In other industries where there’s less competition for speakers or fewer well-paying gigs (e.g. the religious and faith-based industry), you may have to broaden your niche to make a good living as a speaker. But that is not the case if you’re seeking corporate speaking engagements. Corporate event planners are usually looking for something very specific to their needs. If you are marketing yourself very broadly, they will look for other options that meet their needs more. 

You should be able to describe your niche in a simple sentence that takes the form of “I help ____ do ____ so they can _____. Here are a few examples of how this might sound for a corporate speaker.

  • I help corporate executives maximize their productivity so they can spend more time with their families. (This example is from our founder Grant Baldwin’s book The Successful Speaker. Read it for more great tips for speaking in any industry!)

  • I help finance corporations stay up to date on DEI best practices so they can foster inclusive, empathetic workplaces.

  • I help project managers find and implement new software tools to improve productivity and communication across teams. 
  • I help female tech executives prioritize work-life balance and mental health so they can advocate for themselves in a mostly male field.

Once you have a narrow niche, you’ll be able to better serve your clients by focusing on solving one problem until you have a repeatable methodology 

2. Perfect your pitch

Because corporate speaking engagements are very competitive, it’s all the more important to perfect your sales strategy before you dive into selling yourself. Big corporations tend to have pre-ordained speaker and events budgets. Clients in other industries may have to go up the chain of command to discuss your fees and contract. A corporate event planner is more likely to know immediately whether they can meet your demands or not. 

It’s important to keep in mind why you’re being hired as a corporate speaker. If you’re speaking to a specific team or company, the subtext might be that their leadership is struggling to motivate or incentivize certain behaviors among employees. Corporate clients rarely want purely feel-good motivation ( that might have its place at, say, a youth conference)–they want a speaker who can add value to their organization. Proving that you can add value to a big organization is a tough order. Essentially, you are telling a company that you can inspire their leaders and/or employees to be more productive, collaborative, creative, you name it…and that you can do it better than all the other speakers. You have to have a good handle on your target market and the expertise to back up your ability to solve their problems. 

Learning how to pitch yourself as a speaker will help you get from initial call to contract much faster. We have a lot of resources on selling yourself as a speaker–listen to our podcasts here and here for starters. We also have a longer blog on how to get your marketing assets and lead strategy in place here

3. Lean into social media 

Corporate event planners and other decision-makers are often active on social networks within their industry. Corporate events themselves often leverage social media for promotion or community connection. Getting active on social media is a great way to get to know your audience, keep tabs on demand in your target market, and get your name in front of event planners. Keep in mind that you might not get many direct leads from social media–amidst the noise, event planners are rarely choosing their speakers there. But building a solid presence on one strategically chosen platform can ensure that your name is already in their periphery. Furthermore, a solid following online can back up your sales pitch by showing the consistency of your personal brand and your positioning in the speaking industry. 

Unless you’re already a social media professional, staying active across all major platforms is probably too overwhelming a task. Choosing one social media network and excelling there will get you far better visibility than posting everywhere and burning out. LinkedIn is especially popular as an avenue for both knowledge dissemination and community-building in the corporate world. Big events may have an active twitter or instagram presence as well, where the use of hashtags facilitate live commentary and connection. Evaluate where your clients, audience, and fellow speakers in your field spend a lot of their time and put your energy there. We have a great podcast episode on using social media to get more speaking gigs here

4. Lead workshops

Corporations tend to organize big conferences with high-paying glitzy keynote opportunities. In fact, that’s probably what you think of when you hear “corporate speaking.” Understandably, many would-be corporate speakers set their sights on those from the outset. Reality check: the competition is steep for those spots. If you’re a newbie speaker, you probably won’t land yourself a corporate keynote gig at the beginning of your career. 

However, the same conferences often include workshops and breakout sessions. These smaller speaking opportunities are a great way to get your foot in the door with corporate clients. While they don’t pay well if at all, workshops are often the first step to the big corporate speaking engagement you’ve been dreaming of. You can learn all about the differences between workshops and keynotes here.

There are several ways you can leverage a workshop to get you more corporate speaking engagements in the future. The simplest is to get to know the client and show that you’re easy to work with. Too many speakers let their years of experience inflate their ego and become prima donnas that people dread working with. 

What you lack in experience, make up for by helpful, respectful communication. Take the initiative for a planning call, or write  a thank you note! Even the littlest things can make a huge difference to a frazzled event planner. Shining testimonials from prior clients are an important part of your marketing and digital assets–and you don’t have to deliver a paid talk to get them! 

If you go above and beyond the expectations for workshop leaders, your client might invite you back as a paid speaker–or recommend you to another event planning team–because you were a dream to work with. And don’t forget to encourage your attendees to mention your workshop when they fill out feedback surveys about the event!

5. Expand your niche

We started with telling you to narrow your niche. And that advice still stands–at the beginning of your speaking journey. However, as you build your business speaking to corporations, you can and should strategically expand your niche while also getting more specific. How, you may ask? Good question. 

As you acquire more clients, you’ll be able to see which ones gain the most from the solutions you offer. You can then tailor your signature talk to better address a specific set of problems. Now, companies in different industries face a lot of the same problems. Do you speak about something broadly applicable to large organizations? Anything from productivity, to management style, to DEI? Then you can leverage any of your prior corporate speaking gigs even if your clients were in a totally different industry. 

Pivoting to offer tailored solutions to multiple industries comes with challenges. You will likely have to adapt several versions of your signature talk. You have to carefully align your marketing to appeal to multiple types of clientele. Chasing a bunch of different clients at once can often make your marketing and/or social media presence seem confused. But if you focus your content on the value you add, regardless of client, you can successfully appeal to an expansive and diverse niche.

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6. Sell additional products

Diversifying income streams is a pivotal point in every speaker’s career. At some point, you will realize that you can communicate your transformative solutions through avenues other than speaking. In fact, many “greats” in the industry got their start purely to expand the reach of their other products.

Adding products to your speaking business involves a lot more than making extra cash. You have to create something that aligns with, but doesn’t detract from the value you offer from the stage. It has to be something unique, but widely applicable. You also have to consider whether this is a resource you will try to sell individually or in bulk. 

Corporations are ripe target customers for these kinds of supplemental products. People in charge of corporate learning and development want to minimize the number of decisions they have to make. Think of it this way. Let’s say you’re hired by HR departments to train employees. You decide to publish a course or book related to what you speak about that breaks down further action items. By hiring you and buying a corporate subscription to your course at the same time, your HR client has saved an additional decision about providing continuing education to their team. 

Even just selling additional products that particularly appeal to your audience members could make you more attractive to clients. If you’ve written several books for CEOs, event planners who hire speakers to speak to CEOs know that their audience will likely find you engaging and interesting. We have a great podcast on expanding revenue streams based on your expertise here.

7. Become a corporate trainer

Do you love working with corporations? Is systematizing the content of your talks something you find fun, rather than a burden? Do you want to scale your corporate speaking business into something bigger than yourself? Corporate training might be the next step in your speaking career. Corporate trainers don’t just speak to various companies, though that’s part of it. They develop a methodology that can be delivered by themselves, their employees, or anyone certified to provide the training. 

The first step to becoming a corporate trainer is really focusing on what you deliver. As you book corporate speaking engagements, figure out what you have to offer that’s really unique. Can you codify a curriculum that leads a business or team from A to B in a repeatable pattern? You are well on your way to a corporate training business. 

The next step–and perhaps the hardest–is figuring out how to scale. Some corporate trainers work with smaller teams within a company, or deliver supplemental keynotes as part of larger seminars. If that’s your business model, you can scale much like any kind of speaker. That means diversifying your income, outsourcing certain tasks, and finding bigger ways to make an impact. 

However, many corporate trainers service big clients with large-scale enterprise learning operations. This means that hundreds and potentially thousands of employees need contemporaneous access to the same transformative content you offer. You can only be in so many places at once…at some point hiring people to deliver your training for you is the only way to expand. This requires some fine-tuning of your marketing and sales techniques, as well as development of licensing and IP protocols. Clients who want to hire you to speak must be convinced to hire someone you’ve delegated instead. You also have to build a business infrastructure to manage your training programs, employees, sales, marketing, accounting and more. 

Corporate training is a field within the broader corporate speaking industry that offers a great deal of opportunity, but requires a special kind of business strategy. Listen to our podcast all about the ins and outs of corporate training right here.

Conclusion

There are many other areas of corporate speaking that you can and should hone in on to get more corporate speaking gigs. Networking, for example, can often become a primary source of lead generation. Corporate events are a hive of activity and connection. You can also invest your time and writing skills into an industry-specific blog or email newsletter to build your authority. Corporate speaking has served as the launchpad to flourishing speaking careers for many speakers from many different backgrounds. If corporate is your industry of choice, these tips will help you position yourself amidst the competition and knock your goals out of the park!  

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