This post could be the most useful post for helping you book paid speaking engagements and the most dangerous.
What do I mean?
It’s useful because you’re going to learn tons of ways to get paid to speak.
It’s dangerous because information overload causes a lack of implementation.
You don’t want to read this looking for something game-changing, you want to read this with the mindset that you’re going to master at least one of these.
‘Focus’ is what books you gigs. So if you take one ‘technique’ and master it, you’ll end up having to turn down speaking gigs instead of accepting anything that comes your way because you’re desperate for the money.
There are essentially two ways to get paid speaking gigs:
- You go to them
- They come to you
In the beginning of your speaking business, you almost always have to go to them because you don’t have video footage, etc. Once you start getting momentum, you can have them come to you. Either way, we’re going to go over all of the techniques for getting on stages.
1. Cold Calling
Yea yea you heard of this before. But if you’re not contacting 100 people a day, you’re not doing it right.
Cold Calling isn’t just about contacting someone and saying “Hey hire me to speak.” It’s about mastering the ability to sell on the phone.
First, you have to make sure you’re calling the right person.
You can buy a list of meeting planners so you know you’re talking to the right people or you can look for events online (go here for a directory of events) and then contact people in charge of the events.
And when you do get that person on the phone, you have to be 100% clear on what to say. More importantly, you have to be clear on what they get from hiring you.
When they ask you, “What do you speak about?” What do you say? Do you know how to describe yourself as a speaker?
Most speakers say something ‘cute’ like “I change people’s lives.” But a meeting planner has absolutely no idea what the heck that means. They’re just thinking… “Uh, ok, so are you a motivational speaker or what?”
And what happens when they hire you? Are you a really funny speaker and the audience dies with laughter? Do you combine hula-hooping with your speaking to make it fun? Are you interactive? What happens when they hire you?
When you’re on the phone, it all comes down to your tone of voice. They’re picturing you inside their head and if you sound boring on the phone then they will think you’re boring on stage.
And what will you do when they don’t answer the phone? When will you call them back? How will you put that into your schedule so you make sure you’re calling them back? What voice-mail will you leave?
If you use this technique, make sure you master it.
Pros & Cons
-Phone calls are more personal
-Takes more time because you need to call back people who don’t answer
-Slow process because you have to make a ton of calls (70-100/day)
2. Email Inquiries
Sending an email is similar to making a cold call…but don’t treat them the same.
When you send emails, you have to make sure the email doesn’t look like something you just copy & paste. But…you want to use email templates because the emails you send will be very similar.
The first email you send will ask who’s in charge of hiring speakers. The second email will sell your services as a speaker.
And once again, you need to master this process if this is how you want to get booked as a speaker.
You might be thinking…
“Master the process of sending emails? I know how to send a damn email!”
Ok ok…don’t get your panties in a bundle…geez!
What I mean is that you need to speed up the process as much as possible and tweak your emails to be as efficient as possible.
Use email templates so you don’t have to copy/paste and write out the entire email. Use their name in the email when you find one so it doesn’t look like spam. And tweak what you’re saying the email so you get them to respond.
Pros & Cons:
-You can send more emails than make phone calls
-Slow process for getting booked
-No need to worry about when to follow up if they don’t answer because the email is in their inbox
3. Direct Mail
A lot of speakers have used direct mail marketing to get speaking gigs. And like all marketing, it works if you do it right and if you do it wrong, you lose a lot of money.
The key to a good direct mail campaign is in the list and copywriting.
The list is the most important because if you get a bad list and have the worlds greatest copywriter create something for you, then it will fail. So you have to make sure you’re sending your information to the right people.
You can go to infousa.com for a list of people.
Once you find your list of meeting planners, then it’s just a matter of creating a good mailing piece that will attract them to hire you.
More often than not, you won’t get responses from your first mailing and that’s why you need to keep sending it.
Postcards are the cheapest and people don’t have to open anything. So if they see a headline like “Meeting Planners LOVE This Speaker!” Then they’re thinking… “Oh, I’m a meeting planner…what speaker are they talking about?” And then they will read the rest of the postcard.
If you don’t know much about copywriting then I suggest you get a couple of books from Amazon. The Robert Collier Letter Book is really good…and Dan Kennedy’s Ultimate Sales Letter is really good.
Whatever you do, don’t half-ass your direct mail campaign or it will cost you. Don’t just think, “If I send them a postcard then they’re going to hire me.” No…instead…make sure everything in your direct mail campaign is top-notch. From the design to the copywriting.
Pros & Cons:
-Faster way to get booked
-Costs more money (especially if you do it wrong) and you have to send multiple times
-You don’t know if they’re looking for a speaker right now or not
4. Facebook Ads
Awhile ago, I thought to myself…
“Man, you look good with yo bad self. But how can I do a direct mail campaign without doing a direct mail campaign?”
And the solution was Facebook Ads.
Facebook Ads lets you get really specific when it comes to targeting people. In fact, you can upload a specific list of people and tell Facebook that you only want your ad to show up for them. This is some powerful stuff.
You’re working at XYZ Company and you’re in charge of the awards banquet. The banquet is coming up and you’re looking for a keynote speaker.
You get on Facebook and BAM…you see an add with your picture that says, “[insert your name]…don’t you think this speaker would be good for the awards banquet?”
Yea…you can do that with Facebook. And when they click the ad, it goes to your website (hopefully you have a good speaker website).\
That’s something you can do to get REALLY targeted.
But if you just want to target meeting planners in general…you can create an ad that shows up to people who like a specific group on Facebook (aka…a meeting planner group).
With some imagination, the things you can do with Facebook Ads is actually kind of scary…but it will get you booked because it’s VERY targeted.
Pros & Cons:
-Get speaking gigs faster
-If you do it wrong, you waste money
-It can be highly targeted to people who hire speakers
-You need to learn how to correctly use Facebook Ads
-Need a great website to send them to
5. LinkedIn Ads
You can do something similar with LinkedIn as you could with Facebook.
You can target meeting planners and you’re more likely to get booked.
Now you might be thinking that LinkedIn is better because it’s more business related…but hold on Curious George.
Facebook allows you to get so targeted that it’s scary. LinkedIn allows you to target people but it’s not nearly as good.
But if you chose this route, make sure you do it right. Ads are all about the targeting and the copywriting. If you target the right people with the right message then they will click on your ad. Once that happens, your speaker website does the rest.
Pros & Cons:
-Not as targeted as Facebook
-People don’t hang out on LinkedIn for long
6. Speaker Bureaus
Having someone else book gigs for you…what more could you want? I mean…if a speaker bureau books just 10 gigs at $10,000 for you then you’ve made six figures. And speaker bureaus get contacted all the time. Livin’ the dream.
But hold on a second their buddy…
Speaker bureaus aren’t meant to replace your marketing, it’s meant to compliment it.
If you expect other people to book gigs for you…whether that’s a speaker bureau or an agent, etc…then you’re in for a wake-up call. And that wake-up call will be…no speaking gigs.
Nobody should be more invested in your speaking business than you. Nobody should be working harder to get gigs than you. And if you think a speaker bureau is going to do all the marketing for you then you won’t have gigs.
Speaker bureaus work with speakers who are currently getting booked. Meaning…once you don’t need a bureau, that’s when you can work with them.
But when you do get some bureaus, you should let them make as much money off you as possible. Some speakers are scared that they’re charging $10,000 and the bureau is saying $25,000 to a client. If they are, and you get booked…good for the bureau.
Don’t get made at a bureau because you asked for a low price.
And any gigs you get as a result of the one the bureau booked for you, hand it off to the bureau.
Pros & Cons:
-You can book a ton of gigs
-They don’t work with beginning speakers
-Once they like you, you get several bookings
7. Google Adwords
Google Adwords is a beast.
If you do it right, it works like crazy. If you do it wrong, you lose a whole lot of money.
When I tried it the first time, my $500 got sucked up instantly. I might as well have torn up $500. That’s what happens when you do this wrong.
But if you do it right, you can have one of the best lead generation machines out there.
The reason Google Adwords is so good is because of the state of mind someone’s in when they’re searching.
A person who goes to Google and types in “Las Vegas Motivational Speaker” is someone who’s ready to hire…right now. They’re actively researching speakers, watching videos, and they have an event in mind.
So if your ad shows up and they love your website, you will get booked.
With direct mail, cold calling, etc…they’re not actively looking for a speaker. So even if a meeting planner likes you, they might not have an event in mind to hire you for. And because of your bad timing, you might not get booked.
But with Adwords, you always have good timing.
If you decide to go this route then you better do your research. Read several books on it and test it out. Know the rules of the game before playing it.
You will probably lose money the first time you do it…no doubt about that. But the only way to get good at it is to do it.
Some key tips:
-pick really good keywords (keywords like ‘motivational speaker’ are $7 a click so your budget will get sucked up quick…pick better keywords)
-do your research…use ispionage.com to see what works for other speakers
-create several ads and test to see which is better
-make your campaigns VERY specific
To get an idea of what this would cost you…if you spend $3,000 a month then you will get around 100-150 highly targeted clicks to your website. That’s not a lot of people, but the quality of people is really high compared to other methods.
Pros & Cons:
-People are actively looking to hire speakers
-Costs a lot of money…especially if you do it wrong
-Makes you a lot of money…if you do it right
-It becomes a ‘gig booking machine’ if you get it right
If you show up as ‘number one’ in the search engines then your website will get more clicks and that means you’re more likely to get hired as a speaker…when someone is searching for speakers like you.
But it does require time and you have to keep up with how things are changing in the SEO industry.
SEO is a skill in itself. You have to see what works and realize when it’s not working because Google keeps changing things up.
But be careful…
SEO is not a business model.
There are a few people who do SEO for a living but they’re doing it 24/7. That’s how they spend all their day. It’s not a business model, it’s a tactic.
If you go this route then it’s best to hire someone who’s good at SEO rather than doing it yourself or you risk being consumed by it.
Pros & Cons:
-If you rank number one in Google, you get more clicks to your site
-Sucks up ALL of your time
-SEO keeps changing (what works today might not work tomorrow)
9. Sponsor An Event
If you have the money, you can sponsor an event that has multiple speakers and tell them that in exchange for you sponsoring the event, you also want 45 minutes on stage.
There are multiple reasons for doing this…
When you’re starting out, you need footage of you speaking on stage. And the faster you get this footage, the faster you’ll be able to do video marketing to get higher paying gigs. So by sponsoring an event and being one of the speakers, you get to record and use that recording for your marketing materials.
You might be asking…
What if they don’t let you record?
Well…you don’t sponsor the event.
Here’s the thing…when you sponsor the event, it’s your money and you make the rules. If they won’t give you 45 minutes on stage and they won’t let you record it, then go find another event.
Another reason to sponsor an event is to make money on the backend, selling products.
Several speakers have sponsored big-time events with thousands of people. And they tell the person in charge that they have to be one of the speakers. Once they’re on stage, they sell their product and make a ton of money.
Some speakers might think, “Oh, I’m not paying to be on stage.”
But speakers who make money don’t focus on how much it costs, they focus on how much they make.
Pros & Cons:
-You might have to spend a chunk of change to be a sponsor
-You get footage and a guaranteed spot on stage
-You get booked a lot faster…since you’re paying for it
10. Get Your Fee Sponsored
Ok…so you can do the sponsoring, or you can have a sponsor pay for your speaking fee.
Imagine you want to go to high schools and give inspirational talks. But imagine your fee is $15,000.
Most high schools won’t pay you full fee. So what if you went to a credit card company and asked them to sponsor a tour for you? The company pays for your fee to each of these high schools and as a result, you let everyone in the audience know about the credit card company.
Now you might be thinking…
Why would a credit card company sponsor my speaking fee?
Well…credit card companies like to get people when they’re young. And they have a high customer lifetime value…which means…they can spend a good amount of money to acquire a customer and your speaking fee is chump change. If they can pay $15,000 to get in front of hundreds of students all at once, then it’s a no brainier.
The sponsorship method is where you find a target audience to speak to, and then you find a business that would be interested in reaching that target audience. You then approach the business and tell them how you’re going to be in front of their perfect audience…and they’re more likely to sponsor your fee.
This is also a great way to book speaking events when someone calls you and says, “We don’t have the money.” You can ask them what their budget is and then tell them that you can find a sponsor to pay for the rest. Wham bam thank you ma’am!
Pros & Cons:
-You get your full speaking fee no matter what
-Finding sponsors isn’t as easy as it sounds
11. Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing is basically everything you do to get clients to come to you.
This could be…having a great blog (Seth Godin)…writing a great book (Mark Victor Hansen)…to creating your own YouTube show (Grant Cardone).
When you approach people to hire you to speak, they have no idea who you are. So you have to be the one doing all the convincing.
But when people see your YouTube channel…like Grant Cardone…and they see you talking about sales all the time, they love the information, and then they’re about to have an event…Who do you think they’re going to contact?
It’s important that if you do this type of inbound marketing then you need to pick one thing and focus on it.
You can’t write a blog, have a YouTube channel, write 20 books, etc.
You have to focus on which one you’re going to really work on.
John Maxwell focused on books. I don’t know how many books he has (probably a million or so) but it worked. He didn’t focus on writing blogs and doing YouTube marketing, Twitter marketing, etc…he just said… “I’m going to write a gazillion books.” And now he’s one of the top leadership speakers out there.
If you try to do everything then you end up ‘dabbling’ and getting nothing done.
Pros & Cons:
-Speaking gigs come to you
-If you don’t focus on one thing, you just waste your time
-You need to create insanely great content (especially nowadays)
-You’re spending 80% of your time on the content marketing rather than speaking on stage
12. YouTube Ads
YouTube is sexy for speakers.
What’s the one thing people want when they hire a speaker? That’s right…hot dogs. Just kidding. They want to see video footage.
How else could you know if a speaker is good? You have to see video footage of the speaker in action.
Now imagine this…
Someone is searching for a leadership speaker…lets say…John Maxwell…and your video demo pops up. They keep searching for leadership speakers for their upcoming event and your video keeps showing up.
They’re probably going to click on it and watch your video. And just like Google Adwords, they’re in the right state of mind because they’re actively looking for a speaker.
YouTube Ads can be effective, but like any advertising platform, you have to make sure you’re doing it right or you’re going to waste your money.
The good thing is that very few speakers are using YouTube Ads because speakers are lazy and want to stick to the old methods.
Pros & Cons:
-You’re visible at the moment they’re looking for speakers
-Costs a good amount of money
-You need to learn how to do it (some people just don’t like learning new things)
-Video is the ultimate marketing advantage of any speaker
13. Social Media
Every heard of Gary Vaynerchuck?
He dominates on Twitter and he originally built his wine business from using YouTube videos.
Gary is visible because he mastered the art of using social media.
I don’t think Gary used it because he wanted to be a speaker. He used it to build his businesses and he just does speaking on the side. But Gary is the perfect example of how to build your speaking business with social media…the right way.
Yea yea…everyone uses social media, but very speakers use it for the sole purpose of getting speaking gigs.
If you’re going to use social media as your main focus then you have to really use it. Each social network has to be used differently instead of just posting the same stuff everywhere.
You have to use tools like Hootsuite to check your analytics and really run it like a business instead of just posting to post something.
Twitter is good for speakers because a lot of speaker bureaus and meeting planners hang out on Twitter. So instead of following celebrities, you want to follow these bureaus and meeting planners. See what they’re posting, reply to their posts, interact with them. And they will probably look at your profile, see a link to your site, and click on it.
Pros & Cons:
-It’s free but…
-It takes up a lot of time
-It can easily become a distraction instead of a lead generation tool
If there’s one area that you MUST focus on then it’s this (and the next) area.
Most of your speaking gigs will come from someone having seen you speak.
The key is…
Do you know how to take full advantage of it?
Most speakers might ask for a referral and that’s it. They don’t take full advantage of their speaking gig. They just get on stage, speak, maybe (just maybe) ask for a referral, and that’s it.
But, since you’re a more business-savvy speaker, you need to have a referral engine. You need to have a plan for how you get referrals.
Before you even step on the stage…before you even get to the event…you want to set expectations for the person who hired you. You want to tell them that you get most of your events from referrals so if they like your presentation, then you would be happy if they could refer you to people.
This is just the start. You say this only to frame their mind and to get them thinking about it. And then at the event, you have your entire referral system ready to go.
The basics is that you need to do more than just say, “Hey can you refer me to 3 people.”
Pros & Cons:
-Best way to get paid speaking gigs
-Most gigs come from someone seeing you
-You have to do more than just ask
-Doesn’t cost money