Actionable ways to find paid speaking opportunities in any industry
By the end of this article, you’ll have actionable ways to find paid speaking opportunities in any industry that will help you get the ball rolling. I get this question a lot from speakers.
They want to find paid speaking gigs but don’t know how or where to start.
If you do the work listed here, you’ll have opportunities and contacts filling up your inbox and calendar that you might have to start saying no, or raising your prices.
Good problem to have…
So without further ado, here’s a list of ways to find paid speaking opportunities in any industry.
1. BE SPECIFIC
Most speakers ‘want paid speaking gigs,’ but aren’t very specific with what type of gigs, venues or the audience they want to speak to.
Do you want a small venue with highly engaged people?
Do you want to speak at conferences? Non-profits? Local or global?
Do you want to speak to business professionals? Colleges? Churches?
The list is endless.
Narrow down your focus. Once you do that, finding paid speaking opportunities becomes that much easier.
When you say, “I want paid speaking gigs,” I immediately think, “Ok, what industry? What type of event? How much experience do you have? What do you want to talk about?”
I’m overwhelmed with questions.
If you’re more specific and say, “I want to speak at a local networking event. I want to speak at TEDx. I want to speak at a gardening club.”
I know exactly what you’re asking and I know how to help you. Vague and general is not flattering and doesn’t serve you.
Plus, no one knows how to help you or refer you. Humans are natural problem solvers and when you say, “I want to speak at TEDx.” I immediately know someone I can put you in contact with.
When you say, “I want to speak.” I think, “Oh that’s nice. Good luck with that.”
Be specific. Get clear — finding gigs will become much simpler when you are. Now, let me show you how.
2. GOOGLE IT
The #1 search engine in the world. Use it. As a new or seasoned speaker, you’ll want to search realistic places and events you’d like to speak at before you go shooting for the stars.
Wanting to “share the stage” with Oprah is a great goal, but let’s be realistic for a second.
Think local, state and regionally, first.
There are two ways you can search:
If you follow speakers and events on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, your newsfeed should be flooded with events or people to Google.
If you’re not following industry leaders and influencers, it’s time to get on the social media bandwagon for business.
Social media isn’t only for funny cat videos and photos of the family anymore. It’s a marketing haven for business owners and speakers that want to grow and find an audience.
I’ll talk more about social media later.
For example, if you live in Tennessee and you’re a dentist you could search: “Tennessee Dentist Conference”
Notice the big, national conferences are at the top. Don’t go all hot-dog straight away my little grasshopper. Scroll down a bit and look for the smaller, local conferences that would love to have someone from their own backyard give a great talk.
And you want to know the secret to Google, scroll all the way to the bottom and you’ll see “Searches related to Tennessee Dentist Conference.”
This part is gold!
You’ll find all the related keywords that you’ll need to continue your search in the Tennessee area. Once you have what you need from local cities, expand your search to state and region.
Now, say you’re a Christian or faith-based speaker. A simple Google search for “Top Christian Conferences” will lead you to pages full of events in the U.S.
What if you’re in healthcare? Knitting? Youth athletics? Parks and Recreation? The same rules apply. Search for conferences in any industry. Google knows everything. 🙂
PRO TIP: Just list the events for now. Don’t jump ahead and start crafting emails to the event coordinators or to the hiring professionals. Stay focused and search like crazy.
Start a Google Doc or Google Sheet with links, dates and contact information.
Do this process over and over again until you have 20, 40, 100 events that you’d like to be a speaker at.
Taking focused, targeted action is what will set you apart!
3. MAKE A LIST
Make this list in Google doc or Google Sheets with links, dates and contact information for each event.
You’re going to create your own speaking opportunities by doing this. I don’t think waiting around for someone to contact you is a strategic way to build your speaking business.
You have to go get what you want and it starts with a list.
Once you know the events, you can see when they’re taking speaker applications (typically months in advance) you can begin reaching out and getting interest from coordinators.
Repeat this process until you have a list of dream events and realistic events that are in your niche.
Next up, contact the event coordinators.
4. CONTACT COORDINATORS
Now that you have your list of specific event and contact information, it’s time to reach out.
“But Grant, what do I say?” Easy. Start with value.
If you know someone from their organization or if you attended their event in the past, say that. Tell them how their event or conference has impacted your life and how it’s made a difference.
PRO TIP: Be specific and take the time to customize this for the person or event you’re reaching out to. Yes, this is time-consuming, but this is the work that will set you apart and make you stand out.
Don’t copy and paste a generic template to every one of the conferences you listed. That’s the fastest way to get deleted and to never hear back from anyone.
Again, you’re building a relationship don’t pitch on the first meeting.
What to do instead:
- Inquire about the event.
- Keep it short.
- Ask specific, intelligent questions that can be answered quickly.
For example, you could ask, “When will you be taking speaker applications for the upcoming XYZ event?”
Be respectful of people’s time. Don’t go into your story and how you got into speaking.
Provide 3-4 sentences on who you are, what you speak about and how you can help their audience with your message.
Follow up a few days later.
If no reply, wait another week and follow up again.
If no answer, wait until the event is a little closer and try again.
Ultimately, you should be reaching out 3-6 months in advance. Some events book out longer — some shorter. This is why you’re contacting decision makers with plenty of notice. It’s important to be prepared.
5. USE HASHTAGS
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and yes, even LinkedIn are all platforms that use hashtags.
Here are a few hashtags I used and found a slew of events and people to search.
You can even search for specific conferences by location. For example, I searched #HawaiiConference on Facebook and got this…
Once you start searching hashtags and getting on a roll your newsfeed (on every platform) will be flooded with events and people you can connect with.
Your mindset around “finding paid gigs” will be completely changed.
You won’t need to “find” them because you created a system on social and Google that brings the events to you.
Eventually, you won’t be able to keep up with all events being held, but what you will have is a plan and strategy for how to get paid speaking gigs and fast.
If you’re a social media hater, finding gigs will be harder for you. You have to change your mindset around social. It’s an asset for making connections and reaching people from all over the world if done correctly.
Once you begin to embrace social, and you get paid gigs regularly, you’re entire focus will change. You’ll see it as an opportunity, not as a hindrance to normal life.
Social media marketing is growing businesses and helping speakers secure a lifestyle they never dreamed of. This is an exciting time to be alive. Take advantage of the opportunities and learn how to use hashtags to find paid speaking gigs.
6. LEARN FROM OTHER SPEAKERS
Social media stalking is totally legal. Well, kinda. I don’t mean creepy stalking that will get you arrested, I’m talking about social stalking people’s profiles and websites.
If they are searching for paid speaking opportunities, find an influencer in your niche and start following them. See where they’re speaking and hanging out.
…like on social, not literally following them around. I don’t want anyone to end up behind bars.
A professional speaker will most likely have a list of events that they will be speaking at in the upcoming months. You can check out their events and reach out to the coordinators.
You can learn so much about people and what they do from their social media profiles, pages, and groups that it is so easy to find speaking opportunities if you try.
The internet, social media and hashtags are a valuable asset to you. Use them and take action. Your calendar will be filling up quickly.
7. ATTEND CONFERENCES
When you attend the conferences and events you want to speak at, you’ll get to know the conference organizers, the audience and decision makers. Once you start hanging with the right crowd, you’ll be able to reach out on social media and mingle with them virtually.
When you can be ‘top of mind’ without being annoying or pushy, you’ll be remembered for when they choose the next round of speakers.
PRO TIP: During live events be sure to take selfies and lots of photos of the event. When the staff and administration come home they will search the hashtag and see your smiling face freely promoting the event and saying nice things.
And unless they hired a professional photographer they may not have had time to take photos and see what the attendees were doing. Be that person that provides value and you’ll be remembered for years to come.
After the event, send an email about your experience.
***Remember, keep it short and sweet.***
They will love hearing from you as it’s fresh in their minds. Provide a testimonial for them to use on their site for next year.
8. VIRTUAL RESOURCES
When event planners are searching for speakers they use GigSalad. GigSalad is the fast and easy way to browse, contact, and hire the entertainers and services you need to make any event a success.
How it works:
This is a good way for you to get your feet wet in the speaking industry especially if you’re new and don’t have a ton of experience yet. GigSalad.com would be a good way to get started.
Similar to GigSalad is Thumbtack.
Additional resources to learn about third party sites.
Episode 52: Should You Use Third Party Sites for Bookings?
Deliver like a boss!
When you speak well and deliver a message that resonates with the audience, people want to hire you. Speaking at live events and crushing it on stage leads to more speaking gigs.
Plain and simple.
This is why speaking is a relationship business. You speak, you ‘work the room’ afterward, you meet influencers and decision makers that want to hire you for their event.
It happens every single day and it’s the best way to build your referrals.
When you can back up a good reputation with a stellar talk, your inbox will be full of paid speaking opportunities.
I’ve been booked for many events because someone saw me speak somewhere. I know several people who won’t book a speaker unless they, or someone they really trust, has seen them speak live.
The best way to find paid speaking opportunities is to show up and do a great job.
Let’s talk about some practical/tangible steps you can take.
A lot of it will depend on the type of event you’re speaking at and who is in the audience.
Early in my career speaking, I was talking to a lot of high school students. They obviously are not the people hiring speakers so I had to reach out to the school administrators.
PRO TIP: You never know who is in the audience. Just because high schoolers aren’t hiring you doesn’t mean someone else in the audience can’t.
For example, the wife of a National Director heard me speak and hired me. Once I was speaking at high school and the daughter of the State Director was in audience — they hired me too.
So how do you strategically get paid speaking gigs by referrals?
1. Tell People You’re a Speaker
As weird as it seems, there’s a lot of people in the audience that may not realize you’re a professional speaker. They think you’re just some random dude/dudette that they decided to have speak.
They don’t even realize you’re a speaker. You have to make that connection for them.
Directly and Indirectly
- Indirectly — when I was speaking recently at XYZ company. Using stories/case studies/examples of clients or speaking engagements you’ve had.
- Directly — at the end of your talk, “if you’re interested in having me come speak to your company or at your next event, let me know…”
2. Build an Email List
The best thing you can do is get people on your email list so you have the power and control to reach out to them. This way you can follow up with them instead of waiting for them to follow up with you.
I prefer the proactive approach rather than waiting by the phone for someone to call. Old school, passive approach if you ask me.
Looking for more ways to build your email list?
Check out this episode with Bryan Harris from Video Fruit.
Episode 28: How Speakers Can Grow An Email List, with Bryan Harris
I don’t want to dig deep into list building here. List building is an entire post on its own.
For now, know that list building is the most effective way to build your list of referrals and speaking opportunities.
3. Business Card
This is old fashioned but it works well for speakers. Once people are on your list, then you can begin nurturing that relationship through email. The goal is to stay top of mind with your subscribers.
4. Ask for Referrals
After the event, assuming it went well, ask the event coordinator that booked you if they can make other introductions. You might want to consider including that as part of your contract/agreement.
It’s a way to get more value if you take a discount on your fee.
Keep a long-term perspective. Many of the referrals I get come months and often years later.
For example, yesterday I got a booking request for an event. On our booking form, we ask how they heard about me. Their reply? “I saw you speak 3 years ago at a conference.”
Again, you never know who’s in the audience. That’s why again, I’d stress that your best marketing is doing a great job. That’s what people will remember.
Additional content on building a referral based speaking business.
Episode 30: How to Get Referrals When Speaking
Episode 23:. How to Network with Other Speakers
Episode 121: How to Get Repeat Clients and Referrals, with John Spence
If you’re looking for paid speaking opportunities in your area, try hotel chains. I searched LasVegas.com and it gave me options to Search multiple ways for events.
You can also plug in date ranges, search by hotel and event types to narrow your search by category niche.
There are so many options when it comes to finding events that you could literally spend hours searching for people or events to reach out to. This is exactly how you should be spending your time!
It takes time and effort, but in the end, you’ll be booked solid and have a list of places and contact that you should be reaching out to often.
11. GOOGLE ALERTS
You can set up Google Alerts for new content that’s released online. Anytime someone post on Google with those keywords, you’ll get an email.
You can set up alerts for keywords such as “Health Care Conference.” Once you get set this up (it takes 2 seconds) your inbox will be boomin’ with speaking opportunities.
PRO TIP: You might want to set up a separate email account for just Google Alerts. Your inbox might be overwhelming to look at if it’s getting daily emails with opportunities.
If you’re serious about being a paid speaker and creating opportunities for yourself, this requires massive action.
Most people will make the list and leave it for days, months or even years and never take action on that.
You are not one of those people. Take action. I want to hear all about your success.
You ARE someone that will do the search, make the list, and reach out to coordinators.