16 Types of Speaking Engagements (And How to Find and Book Them)

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Imagine standing on a stage, a sea of faces looking up at you, hanging on to your every word. It can be life-giving, addicting even. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just getting starting as a speaker, speaking engagements are game-changers for your career. Not only do they allow you to share your message, your expertise, and your insights, but they also open doors to new opportunities, help you build your brand, and connect you with leaders in the industry.

The Importance of Finding the Right Speaking Opportunities

Speaking engagements are a powerful tool for professional growth as a speaker. They are the best opportunities to hone your communication and leadership skills, build your confidence, and position you as a thought leader in your field. These engagements will also provide you with super networking opportunities, connecting you with potential clients, collaborators, and industry influencers and decision-makers. Each speaking event is a platform to showcase your knowledge, share your valuable message, and stay ahead of industry trends, making you a more valuable and credible member of the industry.

If you’re representing a company, speaking engagements do more than just boost personal credibility. They amplify your company’s credibility and reputation.

In the world of public speaking, there are three primary types of engagements: keynotes, workshops, and seminars. Keynotes are high-profile talks designed to inspire and motivate large audiences, often setting the tone for entire events – think TED talks. Workshops are interactive sessions focused on teaching specific skills or knowledge, involving smaller, more engaged groups. And seminars, which can last from a few hours to several days, offer an in-depth exploration of topics, blending activities and discussions to enhance learning.

Types of Paid Speaking Gigs

In this blog post we will take you on a deep dive into the many forms these opportunities can take. From webinars and panel discussions to corporate training and breakout sessions, we’ll explore every avenue available to you as a professional speaker. You’ll learn how to find these opportunities, pitch yourself effectively, and secure those speaking gigs. Whether you’re aiming to deliver a keynote at a major industry conference or lead a niche workshop, our aim is to provide you with the strategies and insights you need to succeed.

Ready to elevate your speaking career? Let’s get started. First up, keynotes.

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Keynotes

What is a Keynote?

Keynote speeches are high-profile talks that are generally designed and selected to set the main tone or theme of an event. Typically, a keynote is considered the highlight or main piece of a conference, convention, or corporate gathering. Keynote speakers are the most important selections for event planners.

In general, keynotes range from 45 minutes to an hour in length. Again, these are the main speaking events at big gatherings. Audience sizes can vary pretty widely for keynotes, from small groups of a couple dozen to crowds of thousands (think Tony Robbins) depending on the event’s scale.

Keynotes are designed to inspire and motivate an event’s audience. Whatever the target audience is and whatever the primary message or theme of the event is, that is what the keynote is supposed to deliver. And a keynote should deliver that message in a way that deeply resonates with that target audience in an emotional and intellectual way. Keynote speakers should aim to leave a lasting impact – that’s the dream for event planners. They’ll weave personal stories, humor, and other important, often profound, insights into their presentation. Keynotes are often the most memorable part of a conference or event.

Types of Keynotes

Industry Conferences

Industry conferences, or trade shows, are large gatherings of professionals within a specific industry or sector. Keynotes at these conferences features thought leaders and experts in their respective industries discussing trends, innovations, and the future direction of their sectors. Picture tech summits like CES or healthcare forums like HIMSS or finance conferences like Sibos. These are all prime examples of industry conferences. They are crucial for industry professionals to gain insights, network, and stay updated with the latest developments.

Potential keynote speakers for an industry conference typically include individuals who are recognized leaders, experts, or influencers within that particular industry. Industry leaders like CEOs or presidents of big companies can talk about trends and challenges in the industry. Experts like researchers or academics share their deep knowledge on the industry. Government officials, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, analysts, and even celebrities or public figures are more examples of potential keynote speakers for industry conferences. Established motivational speakers generally will fall into one of these categories.

Corporate Events

Corporate keynotes vary from industry conferences in that they are tailored to address company-specific challenges, goals, and culture. They typically feature executives, consultants, or motivational speakers who have a message that aligns with the organizations goals and objectives. Unlike industry conferences, corporate keynotes prioritize actionable insights and strategies relevant to the company’s workforce and leadership. The target audience is, of course, stakeholders (executives, employees, investors, etc.) of the company.

Academic and Commencement Speeches

Academic keynotes are a bit different in style from the other forms of keynotes we’ve gone over. They are delivered at universities, educational institutions, and commencement ceremonies and aim more to celebrate achievements, impart wisdom, and inspire graduates or incoming students as they transition into the next phase of their lives. The expectations that event planners have for speakers for these sorts of keynotes typically include reflections on education, advice for future endeavors, and motivating students to make a positive impact in their communities.

Finding Keynote Opportunities

Researching Industry Events and Conferences

Taking the time to identify events that are in your niche and are looking for keynote speakers is key. Search for major annual industry conferences, summits, and symposiums in your niche. These could include trade shows that feature keynote speakers. Also, look for large gatherings where professionals within your industry meet to showcase new products or services and then check the events calendars of various relevant associations and organizations within that field.

There are loads of online resources that you can use to find speaking engagements. Platforms like Eventbrite, Meetup, and Conference Alerts can be very useful in finding upcoming conferences and events. You can also subscribe to industry-specific magazines or newsletters that include event calendars and announcements. Most industries will have industry-specific publications. It can also be as simple as following relevant industry hashtags and event planners on LinkedIn, Instagram, X, and Facebook for updates.

Networking Strategies for Finding Keynote Slots

Attend Industry Events

Attending industry events is probably the best way to get your foot in the door and set yourself up to get that next keynote spot. At events, be engaged – participate in workshops, panel discussions, and Q&A sessions to get your name and face out there and increase your visibility. Also be sure to connect with the event coordinators and other speakers to share your interest in future keynote opportunities. Keynotes don’t just fall in your lap.

Leverage Professional Connections

Using your connections as a speaker is another excellent way to find good keynote gigs. Let your contacts know about your interest in keynote speaking and ask for introductions to event planners. If you engage in associations or online forums that are specific to your industry, then you can set yourself up well to expand your network.

Build Relationships with Event Organizers

Go a step beyond just a meet-and-greet with event organizers. Try to really build relationships with them and establish yourself in their circle. Offer to help with event planning or speaking engagements in smaller sessions to get on their radars. You should also send personalized follow-up emails to the event planners you meet, expressing your interest in booking speaking engagements with them in the future.

Online Platforms and Resources for Keynote Bookings

Speaker websites are invaluable resources for speakers to find speaking engagements. Once you have a website, use it to highlight your particular keynote topics and messages, making sure to include clips (a speaker reel is ideal) and solid testimonials.

Networking can be done on just about any social media site, but LinkedIn is obviously designed for that particular goal. Use LinkedIn to showcase your speaking engagements, again, including demo videos, testimonials, and even endorsements. When you regularly post and interact or engage with content within your industry, that boosts your visibility in the field and could help you nail down those gigs.

Pitching Keynotes

Crafting an Effective Keynote Pitch

Every pitch needs a strong introduction that keeps the reader interested from the get-go. Address the event organizer by name, give them a brief overview of who you are, your message, and your credentials as a successful speaker. Your pitch should start with a solid, catching hook that includes some statement or question that is relevant to that particular event’s theme.

A pitch needs to clearly explain to the event planner what your topic and message is and the value it will offer their target audience. Highlight what makes your keynote unique and aligned with their event’s goals. Make sure to specify what exactly the audience will gain from your speech and what sets you apart from other guest speakers.

Tailoring Your Pitch to Different Types of Events

Industry Conferences

For industry conferences, your pitch should use plenty of terms and examples that are industry-specific. It should still be easy to read but show that you know the industry inside and out, making you ideal for the niche audience. Address topics that are trending in the industry and talk about emerging trends, including case studies or success stories if you know of any. You want to really show that you know the industry you’re pitching to.

Corporate Events

If you’re pitching for a speaking opportunity at a corporate event, make sure the planners know that your keynote is aligned with the company’s strategic goals and values. Your speech should motivate and benefit the employees of the company in a way that is tailored to the organization and the specific challenges it is facing currently.

Academic and Commencement Speeches

For keynotes like these, your pitch should focus on motivational and aspirational themes that will move and inspire the students you’ll be speaking to. Emphasize your own academic experiences and your personal story and discuss future trends and opportunities that are relevant to the students.

Workshops

What is a Workshop?

Workshops are interactive, educational sessions where participants engage in hands-on activities, discussions, and exercises. They tend to concentrate on specific topics and audiences and aim to provide in-depth knowledge on that topic as well as equipping participants with practical skills.

Differences from Keynotes

Workshops typically range from 45 minutes to several hours long, sometimes extending over several days. Keynotes are typically between 30 minutes and an hour in length.

Workshops cater to smaller groups, somewhere between 10 to 50 participants in general. They foster a more intimate setting that allows for more engagement and interaction between presenter and participant. Keynotes, on the other hand, address large audiences, from 100 people to as many as several thousands attendees (maybe bigger in special cases)!

As we’ve mentioned, workshops are all about interacting. They involve participant engagement through activities, group work, discussions, etc. Participants are always encouraged to ask questions and contribute to the session themselves. With keynotes, the speaker is not expected to interact so much with the audience but rather deliver a prepared speech with a particular motivation behind it.

Types of Workshops

Corporate Training Workshops

The first type of workshop we’ll go over is the corporate training workshop. These are often designed to enhance specific skills such as leadership, communication, or team-building for employees of particular companies. They can also focus on disseminating knowledge about the new tools that are being produced, company policies, industry trends and regulations, or recent innovative practices.

Corporate training workshops also have content that is typically customized to meet the unique needs of the particular organization or department that has organized the workshop. The purpose behind the workshop is to help achieve specific business objectives for the main stakeholder or company, such as improving productivity or fostering a certain workplace culture and environment.

These workshops are also typically designed for employees within an individual organization, aiming to provide a cohesive learning experience. There will be exceptions where a number of companies can send their employees to a workshop program, but typically, you’ll be working with and hired by a single organization.

Public Workshops

Public workshops differ to corporate training workshops in that that are open to a broader audience. These workshops tend to be available to anyone who is interested in the topic, generally requiring participants to register and pay a fee. Public workshops attract individuals from various backgrounds, industries, and skill levels, making it a bit less predictable as to what the ideal audience is.

Like other speaking engagements, public workshops can cover a broad array of subjects – personal development, hobbies, professional skills, industry-specific knowledge. Topics are typically driven by the current trends and what the market is demanding. This could be a great avenue to speak on your particular passion.

These types of paid speaking gigs are often designed to generate income for the organizer, whether that’s an individual expert or an organization. This means there is money to be made with these opportunities. They also provide really valuable networking events and business opportunities.

Educational Workshops

The third type of workshop that we will look at here is educational workshops. These are obviously targeted at students or professionals for continued education. They are geared toward students, educators, and pros who are seeking to enhance their knowledge and skills in a specific field.

Educational workshops may offer certificates or continuing education credits (CEUs) that contribute to professional development requirements. They’re typically aligned with recognized educational standards or industry requirements.

Frequently, these workshops are sponsored or hosted by educational institutions. Some may also be sponsored by professional associations or industry groups. They have institutional support. Educational workshops are all about interactive learning. They emphasize interactive learning through not only the workshops, but also seminars and hands-on activities to reinforce theoretical knowledge.

Finding Workshop Opportunities

Identifying Companies and Organizations that Need Workshops

In order to find workshops, you need to research industries that frequently require or utilize workshop training. Industries like technology, healthcare, and education are good examples of this. In your research, try and identify the common challenges or skills gaps within each industry that your workshops could address.

When doing this research and finding potential workshops, create a list of the companies and organizations you’re finding that could benefit from your particular workshop topics. Reach out to their HR departments, training managers, or department heads (whoever is responsible for professional development) and gauge interest before potentially pitching your talk to them.

Using Professional Networks and Online Platforms to Find Speaking Engagements

If you’re looking for more speaking engagements and are focusing on workshops, you should join what relevant associations you can find and go their meetings and networking events. Participating in the local industry meetups and events will help you connect with potential customers and clients to get more speaking engagements.

Use LinkedIn to showcase your own expertise. If you have content related to your workshop topics, share it and connect with decision-makers. You can also use platforms like Upwork, Freelancer, and Fiverr to find workshop listings and facilitators. There are also lots of professional forums online that can be utilized.

The internet is the best place to market yourself. Host webinars and write blog posts about your workshop topics to attract potential clients. You should also do your utmost to maintain an active presence on social media in order to increase your visibility. Any successful speaking business will have an online presence. That’s how you get that paid speaking gig.

Volunteering Workshops for Exposure

In order to find paid speaking gigs you must hone them. And finding ways to practice your workshop takes research, too. Figure out what conferences and industry events align with your expertise and submit proposals to those conferences.

You can offer free workshops for exposure and networking when you’re getting started. This might also look something like sponsoring a session or event with your workshop to gain visibility. These free workshops can absolutely go in your portfolio!

Leveraging that exposure is also important so be sure to really connect with attendees, organizers, and other guest speakers. Get contact information where you can and follow up after the events to keep establishing and building those relationships. This also allows you to gather feedback for marketing materials.

Pitching Workshops

Creating a Compelling Workshop Proposal

The first thing a good workshop proposal needs is clear structure. Start with a catchy title and a brief summary of the workshop, outlining the main topic and objectives. Include a detailed outline of the workshop’s content – this means key points, activities, and the rough timing for each section, bearing in mind that an organizer may require you to tailor it a little bit for their specific audience.

Define who the workshop is intended for, such as employees, managers, students, or professionals in a specific field because every workshop event has an ideal audience. If you can explain why your workshop is relevant to that target audience and how it addresses their specific needs and challenges, you’ll be much more attractive to planners.

Also highlight the interactive components of your workshop. Do you use group discussions, hands-on activities, or Q&A sessions? Let the organizers know your style. Again, mention any possibilities for customizing the workshop content to better fit the client’s specific context or industry.

Highlighting the Practical Takeaways and Benefits

In your pitch, clearly state the specific skills or knowledge participants will gain by attending the workshop. Explain how these skills can be applied in their daily work, schooling, or professional practice.

Organizers also like measurable outcomes, so include what outcomes participants and organizers alike can expect. This may be improved performance, increased productivity, or enhanced teamwork. You know best what your workshop offers. This also means talking about the long-term benefits of your workshop and the company or organization will benefit for months and years to come.

Another way of presenting the benefits you offer is by emphasizing the return on investment (ROI) for the organization because it is an investment on their part to hire you. Testimonials from previous workshops that show the impact and success of your training are good to include here.

Seminars

What is a Seminar?

As a speaking gig, a seminar is an educational session that can last several hours to a few days. Seminars will often have multiple guest speakers or experts hired for speaking engagements to present on different aspects of a topic.

Seminars are generally attended by professionals, from new employees to corporate executives, who are seeking comprehensive knowledge and advanced training.

Differences from Keynotes and Workshops in Terms of Depth and Duration

Seminars, again, can span from a few hours to multiple days or a full week, depending on the topic and organizer. They are structured with a mix of presentations, discussions, and activities.

The depth of content in seminars is different from other speaking engagements. While keynotes tend to be brief, motivational, high-level overviews and workshops are more interactive, skill-building sessions, seminars are about presenting extensive and detailed content that covers various aspects of a particular topic. The content of seminars typically goes much deeper than other speaking opportunities.

Another way seminars differ from other engagements is the interactivity. Keynotes have pretty limited interaction while workshops are highly interactive. Seminars combine all of that. There will be lectures, group discussions, and Q&As.

Types of Seminars

Corporate Seminars

Corporate seminars are a form of providing in-house training, generally. They are conducted within a company for that company’s employees. These seminars will focus on the specific topics that are relevant to the organization’s needs (maybe leadership or compliance, for example). Corporate seminars have content that is tailored to address the specific challenges and goals of the company.

Public Seminars

Public seminars are not exclusive to one company. They tend to have open enrollment and are available to the general public. Participants typically need to purchase tickets or pay a registration fee to attend.

Public seminars, unsurprisingly, can cover a pretty wide range of subjects since they are not organized for any particular organization.

Academic Seminars

Academic seminars have a scholarly focus. They are centered on academic topics and research. These seminars are often hosted by universities or educational institutions. The audiences are typically made up of students, researchers, and academics.

Virtual Seminars

Virtual seminars are obviously seminars that take an online format. They are done over the internet usually via webinar platforms. What makes these unique is that they are accessible to a global audience without any geographic limitations.

Participants can join virtual seminars from anywhere and often have the option to view recordings later. These seminars may include live Q&As, polls, and even virtual breakout rooms for discussions.

Finding Seminar Opportunities

Finding seminar seminars typically takes all the things that you have to do to find other speaking engagements. Connect with some HR professionals at industry events and through LinkedIn. Build those relationships, particularly with companies that may benefit from your seminar topics.

For academic seminars, reach out to universities and colleges to offer your seminars for their students and faculty. You can propose guest lectures or specialized seminars that align with their academic curricula. For virtual seminars use platforms like Zoom, Webex, or GoToWebinar to host virtual events and promote your seminars in relevant online communities and professional groups.

Pitching Seminars

Developing a Detailed Seminar Proposal

As with every proposal, start with a brief summary of the seminar you are offering, including the topic, target audience, and your seminar’s objectives. What impact do you aim to leave on listeners? Outline the structure of the seminar with key topics, activities, and rough time allocations. State the expected learning outcomes and what participants will gain from your message and teachings and then offer options for tailoring your seminar to meet the specific needs of the organization or audience that you will be providing with your presentations.

Emphasizing the Depth of Knowledge and Practical Applications

The other important part of pitching a seminar is, unsurprisingly, highlighting your expertise and experience in the subject matter. Event planners obviously need to know that you are good at what you’re offering. Emphasize the practical skills and knowledge that participants will acquire as a result of your experience. Mention any interactive components, such as group discussions, hands-on activities, or Q&A sessions, to demonstrate engagement and practicality.

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Additional Types of Speaking Engagements

Below, we’ll list a few more speaking engagements that are worth knowing about. These are just a few more tips to think about when trying to build your portfolio and credibility and to establish yourself as a respected and known speaker. Several of these could probably fit under one of the big three groups of speaking engagements but they are not the most common or lucrative. They are still worth noting and trying to focus on.

Webinars

Webinars take on the same form as virtual seminars, which we’ve discussed already, but are typically much shorter and less in-depth. They are short virtual events or workshops conducted over the internet, and typically involve a live video presentation and interactive elements. Webinars can feature educational content, training sessions, thought leadership discussion, marketing and sales presentations, interactive sessions, networking events, and workshops – they are versatile options.

They are generally anywhere from half an hour to two hours in length, highly interactive, global in reach due to their platform, and often recorded for later viewing. Worst case scenario, if you can’t attend live, you can always find a video to watch later.

Finding webinars is fairly simple: look for industry-related online platforms, professional networks, and companies that regularly host webinars. Once you’ve found ones that seem of interest to you and your message, develop a concise pitch that includes the topic, target audience, and expected outcomes of you talk. Highlight your expertise and the benefits of your webinar for the audience.

Panel Discussions

Panel discussions are a bit different from anything we’ve gone over so far. They are generally made up of sessions featuring multiple other guest speakers discussing a specific topic, usually moderated by a host. Most speakers and experts will find themselves on a panel at some point if they are established in their field or niche.

Typically the sessions will be 45-60 minutes in length and include diverse viewpoints, lots of audience participation through Q&A, and plenty of conversation (it is called a ‘panel discussion,’ after all).

To find a panel discussion you fit with, you can do the normal things like find conferences, trade shows, or professional associations that organize these events. However, it is pretty common for one to simply be invited to speak on a panel as a recognized expert by a potential client. If you build credibility, this will increase your chances of being asked on to one of these panels.

If you do choose to pitch yourself to new clients for a panel discussion, emphasize your unique perspective and expertise on the topic and provide more detail if asked for it. Highlight your past experience in similar discussions and suggest potential questions or themes you can address.

Moderating Panels

This type of speaking engagement goes, naturally, hand-in-hand with the previous one. Rather than being a guest speaker on a panel, you could also be the moderator. A panel moderator guides the discussion, introduces panelists, manages questions, and ensures the discussion stays on track. It requires quite strong speaking skills including facilitation skills, impartiality, and the ability to engage both the other speakers and the audience.

Being a moderator requires some networking. Establishing relationships with event organizers, professional associations, and industry leaders may put you in the position to be asked to moderate a panel. It is not only about having moderating skills and perhaps experience – you also have to know the industry and the topic being discussed. You may not be the ultimate expert on the subject, but you’ll have to know enough to keep a quality discussion moving.

Guest Lectures

Guest lectures are typically one-off speaking engagements where an expert is invited to lecture on a specific topic, usually at educational institutions. They typically last one or two hours and are focused on providing in-depth knowledge on a relevant topic and are followed by a Q&A session.

Often academic institutions will invite you, similarly to panel discussions, but you can also reach out and pitch yourself, especially when you’re getting started and trying to establish yourself as an expert in your field. Study the school’s or course’s curriculum and then offer a detailed outline of your lecture and how you see it benefitting the students or professionals you’d be serving.

Motivational Speaking

Motivational speaking could fit under many umbrellas. It is probably what most people think of when they think of professional public speaking in general. Motivational speeches are engaging talks that are aimed at inspiring and motivating (duh!) audiences, often using personal experiences and stories. They emphasize emotional connection and actionable insights, typically lasting about an hour (or less).

Whether you’re an established professional speaker or not, it doesn’t matter – if you have a story that you think can inspire or motivate people, target all sorts of speaking opportunities and speaking gigs. You could look at corporate events, schools, community organizations, and even self-help conferences. If you want to find paid speaking gigs like this be sure to focus on your own unique story and its inspirational value. When pitching for a speaking opportunity, give examples of past speaking opportunities that were a success and testimonials from conference or speech attendees and even other speakers.

Fireside Chats

Finally, one of the most informal type of speaking engagements you can find. There’s no stage, there’s no conference putting it on, it’s probably not organized by a business. Why in the world would you agree to giving a talk in those circumstances? Well, in the long run, any opportunity to speak, practice your talk, and get your valuable message and ideas out there is a good opportunity.

Fireside chats, first of all, are not actually all by a fire. It’s just the type of talk that is inspired by those intimate gatherings we’ve all had around a campfire before. They are informal, conversational interviews typically conducted with a high-profile guest speaker or expert from around the world. They are casual and intimate and offer a good opportunity for candid discussions rather than formal presentations. They can be great opportunities to try some ideas out before taking it to a keynote, workshop, or seminar.

Some conferences, corporate events, and webinars will feature fireside chats in their program, so look out for those. Podcasts are also a similar format and while they may not be giving you live audience that you want or need to practice with, they can still provide a chance to get your talk out there to more listeners who may benefit, including event planners and decision makers that might hire you down the road.

Conclusion

In this guide, we’ve delved into the diverse world of speaking engagements. We’ve explored the main categories of keynotes, workshops, and seminars, along with loads of subcategories within those and more. Understanding the unique features and audience expectations of each type of speaking engagement is crucial for any aspiring speaker. Each format offers distinct opportunities to connect with audiences and deliver impactful messages.

Continuous learning and adapting to different speaking formats are essential for success on stage. Embrace the variety and remain open to refining your approach based on the setting and the audience. Building a diverse speaking portfolio will show your versatility and also increase your chances of securing that next event and expanding your reach.

Now is the time to take some serious action. Start exploring and pitching different types of speaking engagements to find what resonates best with your style and expertise. There is a niche for you and your unique talk. Whether you’re just starting our as a speaker or you’re looking to diversify your speaking opportunities, the key is just to begin. Take the first step today and unlock the potential of your speaking career!

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