How to Get Invited to Speak at a Conference: 9 Key Steps

Table of Contents


Public speaking likely either terrifies you or fascinates you. But the fact that you’re reading this article right now probably means that you’re more in the latter group. You’re intrigued by the idea of speaking, even if it also scares you, and you think you have something worth sharing. Maybe you have a fresh perspective on something. Or maybe you just have an inspiring story to tell. Whatever your reason is for wanting to get into public speaking, the first step is just having the desire to do it. Unfortunately, that’s also the easiest step. Now that you know you want to speak, the next step is actually finding somewhere to do it.

In this article, we’re going to show you how to get invited to speak at a conference, one of the best platforms for public speaking. We’ll go through a step-by-step guide on how to figure out what industry fits your message the best, how to create a good speaker profile for yourself, the best ways to build your reputation and expertise in your chosen niche, how to network and build relationships, how to craft and submit a good proposal to event organizers (and follow up!), and finally, we’ll show you how to deliver a great speech. So if you’re ready to start the process of getting a speaking gig at a conference, let’s dive in!

Step 1: Identify the Right Industry

When it comes to speaking at conferences, there are seven major industries you should be aware of, according to Grant Baldwin, our founder here at The Speaker Lab. Conferences are typically industry-centric and focus on a particular niche, so it’s important that you know your target listeners and industry because that will dictate the content, purpose, and form of your speech. Knowing who is in your audience and what they expect or need to hear is absolutely crucial to your success as a speaker. Let’s take a look at the seven major industries for speakers and what the general expectation is for speaking at a conference related to each industry.


Corporations and large companies are a great source of opportunities for speakers for a number of reasons. First of all, they are always looking for speakers. They need speakers to give talks at their never-ending trainings, seminars, industry events and conferences, and company retreats. Speaking opportunities abound with big corporations. Not only that, but the revenue potential is very good in this industry. These companies usually have sizeable speaker budgets set aside every year, so the pay could be a big motivation to speak at a conference in this industry. If you can establish yourself as a noted speaker you could have good, consistent revenue coming your way, not to mention a consistent client base.

There are challenges when it comes to speaking in this industry, as there are with every industry. With corporations and big companies, even planners generally seek a specific type of speaker who will fit their agenda nicely, so if you don’t match up quite right you may be overlooked. This is also one of the more competitive industries for speakers due to the higher pay rates. Breaking into this industry can be quite difficult, but if you manage to do it, it should be pretty rewarding.


Associations are group that come together around a common cause. Think: American Psychological Association or Future Farmers of America. They meet and gather around a shared interest or profession or cause and often host pretty large conferences or trainings that, like with corporations, are generally well-funded when it comes to hiring speakers. If you are able to establish yourself as a key part of a particular association’s ecosystem, it can be fairly easy to continue getting invited and booked to speak. Many associations have chapters in different locations that refer new people and partners to each other.

Faith-based Organizations

Churches, synagogues, mosques, and other other places of worship where people regularly gather for messages and communal worship would fall into this bracket. The frequency of events that involve delivering messages, sermons, and speeches makes this industry ideal for the right kind of speaker. The pay is typically lower when compared to other industries but larger organizations may have regular budgets for guest speakers to take to the stage. Obviously, to speak in this industry, you’ve got to fit the bill for whatever religious affiliation the organization holds. Much like corporations, faith-based organizations have clear agendas and ideal messages that they are trying to put forward. If your message aligns well with an organization in this field, presenting in this realm provides a meaningful setting to deliver a message of value.


Nonprofits cover a pretty wide range of profiles. They could be Rotary Clubs, chambers of commerce, other civic groups, NGOs or nonprofits involved in community work like job skill training or health and wellness, or even groups like energy co-ops and credit unions. The potential of there being a nonprofit organization that could fit within the scope of your message is pretty high. Budgets can vary widely from group to group, but nonprofits will often have budgets to pay speakers (despite what the name might suggest).

Government and Military

This group includes local, state, or federal government departments that might need to hire speakers to present at events and trainings. The military will also hire people to come to trainings at different bases and share a message. As you might expect, government and military budgets (particularly here in the United States) are quite large, so this industry could be a pretty lucrative source of income if you can break into it. Of course, it isn’t easy to establish yourself as an expert in this field, but should you do that, steady referrals and ongoing work is likely to come your way.

Colleges and Universities

This is an interesting industry when it comes to speaking. Universities are often pretty large entities and, although they have a constant need for guest speakers, it is a market that can be hard to penetrate. Different target groups include new student orientation groups, campus life activities such as clubs, Greek life (fraternities and sororities), and student governments. All of these groups will have regular events and offer a good opportunity to give talks and share your brand. Pay may not be very good for some of these groups, as they are student groups limited to whatever budget the school offers them. However, speaking at larger events such as commencements and graduations could offer decent pay, as well as referral to other universities.

K-12 Education

There are countless grade schools across the country. From back-to-school rallies to general assemblies, schools offer loads of opportunities to be invited to speak to teachers, parents, and students.

A good task to do when searching for conferences to speak at is to research what a particular audience expects from a speaker. Look over past conference agendas and speaker lists – Youtube is always a good source for watching past speeches and talks given at big conferences. You could also survey potential attendees or talk to industry insiders. After doing the research, you’ll be better able to tailor your message to align with the specific needs and interests of the audiences you’ll be speaking to.

Find Out Exactly How Much You Could Make As a Paid Speaker

Use The Official Speaker Fee Calculator to tell you what you should charge for your first (or next) speaking gig — virtual or in-person! 

Step 2: Prepare Your Speaker Profile

A speaker profile features several parts that are important to showcasing yourself as an expert speaker in your niche. An eye-catching bio is key to your speaker profile. Use your bio to highlight any relevant qualifications and experience you have to the industry you’ve chosen. Emphasize any unique or fresh perspectives you might have and mention your achievements in the industry. You may not realize this but personal anecdotes and stories are important to include in your bio because it allows you to create a connection with whoever is reading over your profile.

Your speaker profile should also include any any and all of your best previous speaking engagements and the topics you covered. Brag about yourself a little bit! Showcase your awards, your recognitions, and any media appearances you’ve made. Be sure to include links to articles, books, or research papers you’ve authored or co-authored. Establish expertise is key to your success as a speaker.

Be sure to collect testimonials from event organizers and attendees if possible. Even better, use video testimonials to really push your profile. When an event organizer sees lots of positive feedback and testimonials, that greatly increases your chances of being hired.

If you listen to The Speaker Lab Podcast or read our blog posts, you know we really encourage our speakers to have speaker demo reels. These include clips of your best presentations and highlight your speaking style, how engaged you keep your audiences, and what your key messages are. Think of this as a highlight reel of your speeches – keep it concise and impactful.

Step 3: Network and Build Relationships

Participating in conferences, workshops, and seminars are great ways to network and build relationships with people in your field. Engage with speakers, organizers, and attendees – make sure they know your name and remember you! Follow up with your new contacts after the conference or event.

You should leverage your contacts by reaching out to colleagues and friends who work in the industry for advice and connections. Ask for introductions to event organization and high-level decision-makers – those are the people that will invite you speak at a conference. Using LinkedIn and other social media networks is a great way to expand your connections. Your social media feeds should basically be flooded with people and organizations that host and hold events and conferences that you can pitch to.

Step 4: Create a List

This is pretty straightforward. Create a Google Doc or spreadsheet with links, dates, and contact information for each event you are interested in giving a talk at. Waiting for requests might not be the quickest way to build your business. Make sure to include events that aligned with your niche and area of expertise. Be sure to find out when different events are taking speaker applications – this is usually several months in advance – and reach out to coordinators to express an interest and show you expertise. This is a process that should be repeated and repeated until you’ve got a list of both dream events and more realistic opportunities. Continuously refine your list as new events come up and your niche evolves.

Step 5: Craft Your Proposal

Now that you’ve got a list of conferences you’re interested in speaking at, go and read the conference websites and promotional materials. On each website, identify the key themes and goals of the event so you can see how you can tailor your message and proposal with these themes and goals.

Be sure to consider the specific interests and needs of the audience you’ll be presenting in front of. If your topic isn’t timely or doesn’t address current challenges, your listeners may lose interest. The same can be said if your talk isn’t unique or interesting. Your message should stand out among all the proposals that the event organizer is looking through.

In your proposal you want to make sure you define clearly the objectives and takeaways that you’ll offer your audience. Include a descriptive and engaging title for your talk and provide a detailed outline of your presentation, key points, and activities. If you have a website, share it. The more information you offer the organizer, the better chance you have at being invited to speak.

Step 6: Submit Your Proposal

There are several things you need to pay attention to when submitting your proposal to an event organizer. First of all, carefully read the submission instructions. You don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to speak just because you didn’t include everything you needed to in the proposal. Make sure all the required materials are in your proposal and submit it before the deadline. Include a professional headshot and bio (use the one from your speaker profile). Attach relevant articles, books, or previous presentations and personalize your submission to the conference and its audience.

The proposal should be addressed to the correct person or committee. If you’ve attended the conference before, mention that! The same goes for if you have any other connections to the conference – maybe local companies or previous speakers. Highlight to the organizer exactly why you are a good fit for his or her specific event.

Step 7: Follow Up

I would argue that this step is as important as the initial proposal. Following up with an organizer indicates you are really serious about the event and are super keen on being involved. Send thank you notes to the organizers for considering your proposal and reinforce your enthusiasm for the opportunity. Keep it brief and professional, but with a friendly tone.

After an appropriate amount of time, follow up and check on the status of your proposal. Be polite and concise when you ask and express your continued interest. Be willing to give any more information they may want. It’s worth remembering that the organizers are probably pretty swamped, so respect their timelines and processes. You can follow up more than once, but do your best not to come across as overbearing. And of course, be sure to show appreciation for any feedback or updates.

Free Download: 6 Proven Steps to Book More Paid Speaking Gigs in 2024​

Download our 18-page guide and start booking more paid speaking gigs today!

Step 8: Deliver a Memorable Presentation

You’ve been invited to speak at a conference! Now your only job is to deliver what you’ve promised – a great presentation and message. Prepare thoroughly and keep your audience engaged from start to finish. We’ve got other articles that help you learn how to create and deliver and memorable speech that you should check out.

Step 9: Leverage Your Speaking Engagements

Once you’ve given your speech and delivered on your promise to the organizer, it is important that you seek out feedback and testimonials from both the organizers and the attendees. Use their positive feedback in your marketing materials and take their criticism as avenues to improve your performance.

Post about your experience and your talk on social media. Write blog posts or articles about the event. Share photos and videos from your presentation. Publicize, publicize, publicize!

Another important follow up step is to ask the organizers for referrals to other events. If they liked what you offered and feel you backed up or exceeded what you offered, they are likely to tell other organizers about you. Network with attendees, decision-makers, and other speakers and stay in touch with them and listen for future opportunities!


Each step is important in getting the invite you want to the conference of your dreams. Know your niche, keep your profile updated and current, network, create a list of your ideal speaking engagements, craft and submit that proposal, (hopefully) get that invite, and deliver! If you hold up your part of the bargain, you’ll have more opportunities coming your way soon. But his takes time, patience, and persistence. Trust the process and persevere. To be a great speaker requires practice, patience, and hard work. Keep working to improve yourself and your message and the opportunities (including conferences) will come!


Explore Related Resources

How to Build an Email List: 10 Proven Strategies for 2024
Ready to build your email list and grow your audience? Here are 10 proven strategies to help.
How to Write a Powerful Credibility Statement (with Examples)
An effective credibility statement will tell your audience why they should believe you, drawing from your experiences, research, and passion.
16 Speaker Website Examples To Inspire You to Update Yours
Your speaker website is often the first impression you make on event planners and decision makers, so make it count. Here are 16 examples of great speaker websites to inspire you.

Learn How You Could Get Your First (Or Next) Paid Speaking Gig In 90 Days or Less

We receive thousands of applications every day, but we only work with the top 5% of speakers.

Book a call with our team to get started — you’ll learn why the vast majority of our students get a paid speaking gig within 90 days of finishing our program.

If you’re ready to control your schedule, grow your income, and make an impact in the world – it’s time to take the first step. Book a FREE consulting call and let’s get you Booked and Paid to Speak®.