There’s no simple method for how to set and meet goals for your speaking business. It’s a multi-faceted challenge that requires a lot of upfront work when you launch your speaking career and consistent effort for years to come. Today we’re getting real about the step-by-step of setting and meeting goals. (We’ve previously published a blog about two fantastic paradigms for goal-setting here.) We’ll start with the metrics you should establish for your annual goals with some tips for self-reflection to decide those metrics (which will be different for every speaker). Then we’ll go through how to set up a speaking pipeline that helps you hit those metrics. Finally, we’ll cover your marketing and branding, which propel you toward your long-term goals that help you achieve your speaker vision.
We can’t tell you exactly which goals to set because only you can figure that out. What we can do is give you non-negotiable categories within which to set concrete short-term goals as well as general directions for your marketing strategy with an eye toward particular long-term goals. And that’s exactly what you’ll find in today’s piece. If you’ve been hesitating to take the leap into speaking because you don’t quite know how to set and meet goals for your speaking business, keep reading and get ready to take notes!
1. Establish your metrics.
If you’ve been hanging around our blog or podcast for any amount of time, you know we’re all about systems. Passion, energy, great stage presence, a fantastic website…all of these are great, but they don’t accomplish the meat and potatoes of a speaking business. Things like booking gigs, earning income, and maintaining momentum so you don’t suddenly find your bank account and calendar empty at the same time require systemized structures that you regularly follow. If there is any secret key to how to set and meet goals for your speaking business, it’s systems.
One of the most important speaking systems is establishing and keeping track of key metrics. By metrics we mean numerical data that ultimately determines your income and the long-term health of your business. There are five essential metrics that you should consistently stay on top of of as a speaker:
- Gigs per month. Identify your yearly revenue goal and work backwards to how many times you want to speak per year based on your speaking fee.
- Revenue per gig. If you’re not sure how much you can or should make per gig, check out our totally free speaker free calculator. Treat this metric as an average. It’s very unlikely that you’ll bring in exactly the same dollar amount for every speaking engagement. If you take a few gigs that fall below your average, have a plan for taking on a few higher-paying gigs or increasing your gigs per month.
- Prospective gigs in the pipeline. After the hustle of prospecting at the start of your business, eventually you reach a point where you know the minimum number of potential clients you have to juggle at one time to keep hitting your business goals. If you drop below this number, it’s time to put more effort into marketing, networking, or outreach.
- Gigs booked from gigs. As you track your prospects, connect new leads to their sources. Soon, you’ll see which speaking engagements have led to referrals or allowed you to meet a new client in the audience.
- Percentages that are repeat customers. Some events don’t want the same keynote speaker year after year. Seek the planners who organize multiple events per year, hire both keynote and workshop leaders, and plan big conferences years in advance. Making strong client connections that lead to repeat gigs might take years. But it will be so, so worth it when you no longer have to spend time prospecting for new leads!
Metrics are essentially a roadmap to setting the right goals. Tracking them carefully gives you a great deal of useful information on which to base your decision-making. Based on your desired income and how often you want to speak or travel, you can work backwards to a business plan and financial forecast. These metrics also act as warning signals–if a number drops too low, it’s time to ramp up operations in one or another area of your business. You can read our in-depth coverage of these five metrics here.
Remember–there’s no “right” number for any of these metrics. Some speakers who run thriving businesses are content with speaking every month. Others are giddy with excitement when they think of traveling the world and book multiple gigs per week. Regardless, to meet the goals of your metrics, you need–you guessed it–another system. That system is your pipeline.
2. Create a pipeline that helps you reach your goal metrics.
Your speaking pipeline is the repeatable process you follow for booking gigs. You create and track a system of stages through which decision-makers move from lead to client. There are three fundamentals of a successful speaking pipeline:
- Use a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) that will remind you of next steps. If you’re still a newbie speaker, you’re probably tracking your leads with an excel spreadsheet. While excel can get you pretty far, it’s in your interest to shift over to a software that can automate certain tasks and remind you of others as soon as possible. If you’re relying on your own memory alongside a spreadsheet, it’s all too easy to forget a followup email to an ongoing contact when you’re inundated with new leads. A CRM takes over the work of your memory and lets you focus on promoting your speaker business.
- Have a methodology of contact stages that you always follow. Stages of communication with decision-makers might include “need to call,” “waiting on contract,” “follow up if no response in two weeks” etc. As you refine your communication methods take note of which tactics (e.g. well-timed follow-ups)make a difference winning over clients. Outline a repeatable methodology and input as much as you can into your CRM. When you connect with a potential client for the first time, immediately put them into the appropriate stage of the pipeline. Even if you haven’t reached out to someone yet, have an established stage where you can input anybody who might be a source of speaking engagements someday.
- Have a consistent work ethic for your pipeline. Managing your pipeline will be the “grunt work” that takes up the most time during the early days of your speaking business. A solid pipeline might still take 90 days before you reap the rewards of systematizing all these takes. Especially when you’re reaching out to cold or lukewarm connections, the percentage of prospective gigs that turn into booked gigs might be pretty low at first. But as you establish client relationships and see what works, you will be able to finalize a pipeline that sets you up for success.
It might feel like we’re getting a little bit into the weeds here. Pipelines, CRMs, and contact stages aren’t exactly the most glamorous parts of the business. All the same, this is a game-changer that should implement if you haven’t already. Many aspiring speakers crash and burn because they don’t have a good pipeline. You can set yourself apart with a pipeline that goes hand in hand with your essential metrics. To better understand the pipeline fundamentals, our TSL alum and coach Erick Rheam covers them in more detail here. In fact, Erick has a whole series about the power of pipelines on the TSL show– start with this episode.
The best part of a pipeline? Eventually, you will earn enough income through speaking that you can scale your business and outsource certain tasks. If your pipeline is so systematized it’s self-explanatory, somebody else can take over the “grunt work.” Then you can pour all your time into what you do best: speaking. And you’ll find yourself with more time to work toward your longer-term goals, like writing a book.
3. Market yourself.
So you’ve established metrics with specific monthly and yearly goals in mind. You’ve set up a pipeline for moving contacts from lead to client. But you’re new to this whole speaking thing, and you don’t have a rolodex of event planners on your desk. So how do you go about finding them? Well, the gigs won’t just come to you. And after a while, using Google (or ChatGPT) This is where a marketing strategy comes in.
Marketing yourself is integral both to getting booked and paid to speak and those fun long-term goals. Yes–while hitting your annual metrics will help you put food on the table, it’s important to keep the more abstract goals in mind. That’s why it’s so vital to create your mission and your vision early on in your speaking career! While making money is great, making an impact is even better. As you come up with long-term goals aligned with your mission, you can start focusing on events that correlate to your goals. And to lock down those events, you have to market yourself. Marketing for speakers ultimately comes down to branding.
Your personal brand is the most important vehicle for your impact. As a speaker, you’re a salesperson. And the product you’re selling is you. The more people know about you and your message, the further your impact will reach. Eventually, the clients will start coming to you. It might take year or two of sending emails, attending networking events, and telling everybody you’re a speaker, but it will happen. That’s why you want to establish a personal brand that attracts the right kind of clients.
There’s no “right” direction to take your personal brand–as long as you pick a lane that aligns with your values and your goals You could be a YouTube vlogger with raving fans. A thought leader who writes for an avid readership. A podcaster whose listeners tell all their friends about you. Do your market research, get clear on your niche, and stay true to yourself. The person you are at the coffee shop, family holidays, and on the internet has to line up with who you are on stage.
This brings us to a final word of advice regarding speaking goals of any kind. Don’t copy someone else. Role models are valuable and important within the speaking industry. Other speakers, especially those who are just a few years ahead of you in their career, provide incredible inspiration and mentorship. But you should never set a goal just because another speaker accomplished it. Rather, learn from the careers of other speakers to see what you can do that nobody has done before. The most successful speakers are those who fill a gap in the market. Doing what somebody else already does saturates the market and fails to differentiate your personal brand. We’ll say it again: don’t copy other speakers!
If you’re not meeting the goals you set after putting these steps into place, that’s ok! Anything from a life event to a new interest to a professional opportunity can radically alter what you originally planned to do as a speaker. If you find yourself falling short again and again, reevaluate both your strategy and the goals themselves. A good first step is to check your goals against the SMART framework (which we elaborate on here). If you constantly find yourself frustrated by less-than-actionable goals, you might have to go back and adapt your vision into something that’s more attainable while remaining aligned with your mission.
Still struggling with how to set and meet goals for your speaking business? Our fantastic coaches are here to help. Visit thespeakerlab.com/apply to get the tailored guidance you need to become a successful speaker.