Opportunity Alert: How to Find Conferences Seeking Dynamic Speakers

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Ready to launch your speaking business get hired by conferences looking for speakers like you?

Here’s how it should go. You throw a demo video on YouTube and boom! Invitations to speak at big, glitzy conferences magically appear in your inbox. You turn down all but the highest paying opportunities, basking in the glory that comes with high-profile audiences and all-expenses-paid hotel stays.

Wait, no that’s not right. At first, the gigs won’t come right to you. You have to find them. That means researching events whose organizers and audiences are interested in your particular speaking niche. Researching conferences looking for speakers, narrowing down the options that might lead to paid speaking gigs, and contacting event planners is an unavoidable task for every speaker. It’s tough. But it’s not impossible–and we can help make it easier. 

Today we’re giving you a rundown on how to find conferences looking for dynamic speakers like you. We’ll start with some generally applicable tips for starting your research. That includes how to lay the foundations for a solid lead pipeline, how to find events on the internet, and how to make the use of personal networks. Then, we’ll go through seven speaking industries with examples of what kinds of events are hiring speakers.

Preparing to find conferences looking for speakers

Before you start researching “paid speaking gigs near me,” make sure you have a good handle on your personal brand and marketing assets. We don’t mean thousands of followers or email subscribers, though of course that helps. But when you pitch yourself to potential clients, you should be able to describe of who you are, what you do, and how you can help the attendees at their conference. 

What’s just as important? Creating a really clear idea of your target market. Ideally, you will only invest time reaching out to leads that really fit your niche. While there’s nothing wrong with attempting to land a long-shot gig, you should expend most of your energy on clients that could be the perfect fit. That means you know what industries and topics to include in your searches (or your Word of Mouth marketing). Be a steakhouse, not a buffet! 

Another important initial step is establishing a way to track your pipeline. This is one place where you will list all the events you find, links to their websites, points of contact, and any further data. This can be as simple as an excel spreadsheet! Create columns for relevant information, event planners’ emails, status of the engagement, etc. Or you can invest in a CRM to help you track every potential gig from start to finish. We have a great podcast on creating your speaking pipeline and using CRMs here

Finding conferences looking for speakers on the internet

All right, enough preparation. How do you actually find events looking for speakers?

Easy. Start with Google.

If you just search “events hiring speakers,” or “paid speaking gigs near me,” you won’t get very far. You’ll likely be overwhelmed with options that aren’t particularly well suited to your niche and advice columns. Instead, combine search terms with a specific geography (your target city, state, or region) and topic (your field, industry, or interest). Test different search terms and look to the “related searches” at the bottom of the search results page for ideas. 

For example, let’s say you’re a Texan who speaks to small business owners about social media marketing. If you search “marketing conferences,” you will be bombarded with a sea of every type of marketing event in every possible geography. (Seriously, try it.) Some of them might be relevant, but you’ll exhaust yourself with cold leads if you reach out to every single event planner on every single event page. But if you search “small business social media marketing conference in Texas?” You’ll find Eventbrite pages, listicles, and online promotion pages for conferences that fit right into your niche. 

Social media is another great resource for finding upcoming events looking for speakers online. You can tackle this a couple different ways–by following speakers you look up to and seeing the events they speak at, or by searching for and following hashtags or topics related to your speaking niche. Either way, try to keep things 

Search Engine Optimization is another strategy you can use online to help event planners come to you. This means using keywords or phrases that event planners are already searching for in your website and blog content. There are dozens of different ways to approach SEO and many free or paid online tools you can use to find the best keywords for your field. We have a podcast on SEO for speakers you can listen to right here

While it’s not the focus of this article, you can also bring clients to you with online advertising. Our podcast covers that here.

Networking your way to paid speaking gigs

Speaking is a relationship business. Every speaker relies heavily on a network of friends, family, acquaintances, other speakers, and past clients. Building your network is a lifelong endeavor, but it starts with being easy to work with and easy to refer. 

First, make sure your friends and family know you’re a speaker. You never know whether Great Aunt Matilda knows someone who is hiring speakers. Don’t treat your speaking business like something secret just because it hasn’t taken off yet! If someone in your personal network hears about an event looking for speakers, your name should be the first that comes to mind. 

Don’t let your fear of competition hold you back from asking for referrals from other speakers. Speakers are a friendly bunch, and not every speaker can cover every gig. By honing in on your niche, you will make it easier for other speakers to refer you to gigs that aren’t in their wheelhouse.

Once you successfully deliver your first talk and get glowing reviews, express your thanks to the client and ask them to refer you to other event planners. Just like speakers, event professionals tend to know each other, so it’s important to be kind and easy to work with! Most event planners looking for dynamic speakers for their next conference will be relieved to get a recommendation from somebody they trust. If you fulfill their expectations, they will continue the chain and pass along your name. 

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Tips for finding paid speaking gigs by industry

Corporations

The bigger the client, the bigger the paycheck. Big corporations are often your best bet for a high-paying gig, whether it’s at a company retreat, industry conference, or employee seminar. 

Selling yourself to corporations is in some ways easier than other industries, because they take your rates at face value and expect speakers to charge their worth. It’s also a very competitive space. The easiest way to get a speaking gig at a corporate event is if you’re already part of the corporation or you know someone there. This is the time to scan your personal network for corporate leaders, event planners, and HR workers you may know! 

Associations 

Professional Associations are another great avenue for high-paying speaking engagements. The easiest route to speaking to associations is being part of one, attending conferences, and then speaking at them. But if you don’t have connections to any professional associations already, fear not! Often, you can tailor a talk on a generic subject to a particular industry with a little bit of extra research. 

The best way to find associations hosting conferences looking for speakers is to start local. Your chamber of commerce can help introduce you to local professionals who are members of associations. Speaking to local chapters is often the first step to speaking to regional and national conferences of the same association. And once you’re “in” with one chapter, you can easily get a referral to other chapters in other states, regions, etc. 

Associations organize all kinds of events that need speakers. At the regional and national level, there are almost always annual conferences or trade shows. Locally, look out for professional development seminars, summits, or trainings. We have an entire article on how to get booked and paid to speak for associations right here.

Church/Faith-Based organizations

If you’re at the stage where you just need more experience to get comfortable on stage (or get footage for your demo video), this is the place to start! Places of worship and faith-based organizations may not always pay much, but they often welcome guest speakers with a message to share. If you attend religious services yourself, chat with the leadership after service and let them know you’re interested in speaking. Alternatively, you can look at websites, bulletins, and facebook pages to find points of contact and information about ministries that might host events looking for speakers. The possibilities here are pretty endless–you could speak to women’s ministries, marriage conferences, youth groups…and you are not at all confined to “churchy” or overly theological topics! Many Churches host informational seminars that offer value to the community on topics such as personal finance, current events, and more. 

You can listen to our podcast on finding contacts in the faith-based speaking market here and read our blog on succeeding in that industry here.

Nonprofits

Nonprofits encompass many different kinds of organizations that in turn hire many kinds of speakers! Local civic organizations, fraternal organizations (Moose, Elk, Eagles), service organizations (Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, VFW) and similar community-oriented groups often welcome early career speakers. Community service nonprofits and cooperatives often hold skills training seminars, fundraisers, and milestone celebrations. Bigger nonprofits and NGOs in turn have bigger budgets for topical speakers at a variety of events and need experts to lead internal employee trainings and seminars. Learn more about speaking to nonprofits at our podcast episode here.

Government/Military

These clients are usually hiring outside speakers to teach skills to government employees, contractors, or military personnel. If your expertise has a unique applicability to these fields, play that up in your marketing. This is another industry with a big budget, but it can be very hard to break into if you’re not already on the inside. On the bright side, once you’re in, you’re set.

We have a great podcast on speaking to the military that you can listen to right here.

College/University

Speaking for student groups, who often have a modest speaker budget from their University, is a relatively easy way to break into the college scene as a speaker. Special interest clubs, student orientation groups, campus life activities, Greek Life, and even student government will often host multiple speakers a year. Keep in mind that students are not professional event planners, so give some grace when communicating with them. 

Getting hired by the University itself to speak is much more difficult. You can’t expect to get a commencement or major speaker slot right off the bat. However, universities work like many corporations, and host employee seminars, training summits, and topical conferences that might align with your niche. Whether your audience is students, professionals, or a mix of the two, you can often tailor a corporate talk to a more academic setting. 

Education (K-12)

Schools and school-adjacent organizations host all sorts of speakers for rallies, general assemblies, leadership development events, and professional development trainings. The budget might not be on your side in this industry but the quantity is! Schools are literally everywhere, so you can often book multiple events in the same area on the same day, making a wider travel radius affordable. 

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Conclusion

When you first launch a speaking business, you will inevitably spend many hours combing through Google and other resources before you actually hear back from a potential client. Becoming a speaker means playing the a long game. Like any entrepreneurial endeavor, it requires a great deal of grunt work at the beginning. You really can’t skip or outsource this part of the process. Only you know your niche well enough to judge whether any given event is a good fit or not. 

Successful strategies for building your network may differ, but the skills you build in one industry are almost always applicable to another. We always recommend starting with low-hanging fruit–if there’s an aspect of your niche that seems more popular and widely applicable, start there. Our founder Grant Baldwin goes over the seven speaking industries in detail in his book The Successful Speaker. We only scratch the surface in this article, so head on over to order it on Amazon here. We also have a super helpful blog article with non-industry-specific tips for researching and finding speaking gigs right here

 

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