If you’ve read our post, “How much does a public speaker make?” you might have noticed that one of the most lucrative paid public speaking opportunities is speaking for companies and at corporate conferences. But how do you get a speaking gig with a Fortune 500 company or another corporate client?
Because of their larger budgets, for-profit companies like those on the Fortune 500 list are typically the most lucrative places to speak. The average speaking fee for corporate clients can range from $5000-$50,000 depending on the experience and relevance of your expertise to the audience.
Public speakers who pursue the corporate route can charge $20K or more for their speaking engagements. They are able to do this because they understand that a keynote speaker at an event can have a significant impact on the success of that event. In addition, most corporations are large organizations with deep pockets; they can afford to pay more than smaller organizations for a public speaker. Finally, many corporations hire public speakers multiple times; so if one is happy with a speaker’s performance at one of their events, they are likely to book that speaker again in the future.
So how do you do it? How can you get a speaking gig with a Fortune 500 company? For the answer to this question, we’ve drafted 4 steps to acquire speaking gigs with a Fortune 500 company! Read on to learn more.
Step 1: Pick your topic and audience
Now, if you could just talk to the ideal audience—people who are interested in your topic, have a need for it, and are ready to pay you for it—what would you share? What do they need to know or understand? Look at these things from the point of view of your potential customers or clients. What questions do they have that you could help them solve?
Suppose you have a gardening business. You could talk about:
- The benefits of having a garden
- How to choose the right plants for your garden
- How to care for your plants
- The different types of gardens you can have
- The history of gardening
- The importance of bees in the garden
- What to do with a garden when you move
- How to start a garden from scratch
Now, if you’re going to be speaking to a Fortune 500 company, you’re probably not going to be speaking about gardening. You might be speaking about sales
- How to increase sales
- How to close more sales
- How to improve customer satisfaction
- How to increase customer loyalty
- How to upsell and cross-sell
- How to increase product awareness
Whatever you choose to speak on, make sure that you have a topic that 1) you are an expert on, 2) people want to hear, and 3) you can speak well on.
Step 2: Cement your expertise
You don’t need a lengthy pedigree or fancy degree to be considered an expert—but you do need to put in the time and effort to become one. You’ll need to do your research, gain some experience, and find your niche so you can establish yourself as THE go-to person for that particular topic. With hard work and dedication, anyone can become an expert!
If you want to be taken seriously as an expert, you need to have some experience under your belt. This doesn’t mean you need to have climbed Mount Everest or started your own company—but it does mean you should have some stories and examples to share that will help illustrate your point. The more experience you have, the more credible you will be in the eyes of your audience.
(Want to learn more about becoming an expert? Check out this post on 6 steps to become an expert in your field.)
How to Find Your Niche as an Expert
Establishing yourself as an expert in a specific field can be difficult, but it’s important to focus on a niche so you can really hone in on what sets you apart from all the other experts out there. Once you find your niche, focus on becoming the go-to person for that particular topic.
Niching down can make all the difference. That’s what Jeff Rose, a certified financial planner and regular contributor to Forbes, learned after years of writing about personal finance. In an interview with The Speaker Lab Podcast, Rose opened up about how he eventually found his niche by focusing on life insurance—and how it led to more opportunities than he ever could have imagined.
According to Rose, when you’re just starting out, it can be tempting to try to cover as many topics as possible in hopes of reaching a wider audience. But as Rose learned, that approach rarely works.
Instead, by developing a niche within personal finance, Rose was able to hone his message and better connect with his target audience. As he explained on the podcast, “When I started getting more specific with my content strategy and my blog posts and the topics that I was talking about, is when I started seeing an increase in traffic and also conversions.”
Once you’ve settled on a niche, it’s important to stay focused. That doesn’t mean you can never write about other topics. But when you do branch out, make sure it’s still relevant to your overall area of expertise. Suppose you’re a financial planner who specializes in retirement planning. Writing about investment strategies for newbies would still be on-brand. But if you start writing about celebrity gossip, your audience will likely get confused (and maybe even a little disappointed).
Step 3: Market yourself
Take a step back now and put yourself in an event planner’s shoes. Your Fortune 500 employer is looking to you to hire someone for their next company retreat.
As an event planner, you’d probably start by thinking of some speakers you’ve seen before—those who you’d like to see again or those who were particularly impressive. That’s because if you’ve already seen a speaker, you know whether he or she is good. And if you liked that person and thought he or she was amazing, you’re going to hire them!
So how can you get in front of that event planner? What marketing strategies can you use?
One strategy you can use to get on the event planner’s screen is good media relations. Jeff Rose, certified financial planner and Forbes contributor, suggests that the best way to start speaking on your area of expertise is to have a solid personal website.
A website is the most common way for clients to find and research you. An actual website on a domain you own is much better than just a Facebook page or LinkedIn profile.
Rose started his blog and posted client case studies and showcases of different projects he had worked on over the years. He also bolstered his blog posts with Youtube videos, podcast episodes, and a social media presence.
Even after you’ve built a site and posted some initial material, don’t expect to receive major publicity immediately – it may take years of consistently churning out posts to see substantial returns. But networking can help speed up this process.
One way to give yourself a megaphone for greater reach is to connect with journalists and media that are in your area of expertise using the free site HARO (Help A Reporter Out). With you fresh in their mind, a response to their request for a quote can be more likely than if they found you themselves online later down the road.
To respond to a reporter, “give anything and everything in the kitchen sink,” Rose recommends. By sifting through requests and choosing those that best satisfy your niche criteria and give you exposure, you can build a reputation as the standout voice in your field.
If you can leverage your brand to pop up on Google and social media, you are much more likely to land in the event planner’s lap as a potential speaker!
Step 4: Build relationships and scale your speaker business
When looking for companies or corporate conferences to speak at, one tip is to act like you might when dating. You don’t want to send a long email proposing marriage right away. Start by introducing yourself and expressing your interest in speaking at their event. Then provide some information about yourself and why you would be a good fit for the conference. Be sure to keep your email short and to the point so that it’s easy for the decision-maker to read.
Case study: cold email to event organizer
Here’s one example of a SHORT email asking about the conference. Something they can answer with a short reply.
I noticed your “Association of Beautiful Brewing Baristas” conference is coming up in a few months in Seattle. I have a presentation about helping your baristas go from Tall to Venti that I think would be a great fit for your conference!
Just curious: have you have started taking proposals for workshop presenters yet?
Notice what I did in this email…
- I did some basic homework to see when and where the conference is. Don’t email them asking when the conference is when it’s posted all over their site.
- I didn’t pitch why I would be the perfect speaker…I just offered an idea of what I might be able to speak about. You may be thinking…”But Grant…I don’t have a talk about helping baristas go from Tall to Venti?” Well, they haven’t booked you yet, so you don’t need it! One of the best ways to sell a talk is to presell it. If they say they want you to present on that topic, then you can get to work. Of course, if you throw out a one-line topic of a possible presentation, it should be something you can actually present on 🙂
- It was short and easy to reply to. No long rambling email with an unclear reason for why the email was sent in the first place.
- I concluded with a clear question that could be answered with a simple yes or no. Easy for the recipient.
- I included my speaking website at the bottom. I didn’t tell them to go to the site. If they’re interested, they’ll go anyway. When someone new follows you on Twitter, what do you do? You read their bio and if they sound interesting, you’ll go to their link! You don’t need the bio to tell you to go to the link.
You can find past speakers at this conference or company, and reach out to them for more information. You might ask for an introduction to the event organizer. Find out who is in charge of making decisions about the conference. You want to learn as much as you can about them so that you can build a relationship with them.
Building relationships is key to becoming successful. This is not an overnight process. It takes time to develop relationships with people who can help you achieve your goal of getting a speaking gig with a Fortune 500 company. Don’t rush that process. Just take your time and be patient. The most successful people in the world took the time to build relationships that helped them achieve their goals.
So you’ve learned how to start finding paid speaking gigs at Fortune 500 companies. Want to go deeper? Learn how Wolf Millstone went from a sales job to six figures as a public speaker in 12 months in our podcast here on how to go from the corporate world to the speaking stage.
If you’d like to learn more about paid speaking opportunities, check out this post on how to find paid speaking opportunities in any industry. Happy speaking!