With more conferences and events than ever before, the need for professional speaking has increased significantly over the past decade. Additionally, the web and social media makes it easier for speakers to promote themselves.
Regardless of where you're at in your speaking career, an ambitious newcomer or a wizened vet of the speaking circuit, there are a few tried and true methods to promote yourself and pick up more, and better, speaking gigs.
Identify Your Niche
There's currently no shortage of aspiring speakers. Successful speakers know that they have to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack in order to get the gigs they want.
How do you determine your niche?
Look at your past experiences.
What got you here will get you there. Here are some examples:
Former marketing executive - Business, Marketing
Real estate agent - Communication, Sales
Small business owner - Business, Management
Athletic coach - Team Building, Sports Teams
HR Specialist - Communication
Computer Programmer or IT - Innovation, Futurist
What sets you apart?
Some meeting planners have a specific type of person in mind beyond professional experience. You can push further into your niche by providing a unique perspective.
Maybe you're a female IT professional that can speak to gender inequality in the workplace.
Perhaps you're a successful business owner who is also disabled vet who can inspire others to overcome their own obstacles.
These kinds of perspectives and unique voices are highly valued in a competitive space where
What are you passionate about?
Some speaking niches don't require work experience, just passion. There's no better way to support your cause than becoming a proud evangelist.
Non-profits and other organizations are always looking for great stories and even better storytellers. If you have a pet project or work in an area that needs more awareness, speak up. Hit the circuit and spread the word.
Find Your Hook
Once you've identified your niche you need to continue to differentiate yourself.
Why should planners hire you over 10 other capable speakers? How will the audience remember you after you leave the stage?
Here are a few examples of speakers with a unique hook in their personal branding:
Lt. Col. (Ret.) Rob “Waldo” Waldman - "Your Wingman"
Lt. Col. (Ret.) Waldman is a decorated fighter pilot who went on to business and sales success after leaving the Air Force. His tagline and bestselling book "Never Fly Alone" underscores his focus on building relationships.
Michael Rogers - The Practical Futurist
With a background in physics, creative writing, finance, and management, Michael Rogers has had considerable success in journalism and media focusing on technology and its impact. His "Practical Futurist" moniker succinctly boils his brand into an easy-to-remember name.
"Relentless" Ritchie Contartesi
A former college football player with a string of personal successes, "Relentless" Ritchie Contartesi gets his nickname from the sheer determination he seems to possess. This personal drive and ambition is what Ritchie uses to inspire others.
One of the first things an event planner is going to look for is whether or not you know what you're talking about. After that they want to know if you can communicate that knowledge effectively.
Write a Book
What do some of the biggest names in speaking have in common? A best-selling book.
A book by no means guarantees success, but it certainly doesn't hurt. If you're at the point in your career where you can look back and share your wisdom, find a good editor and put your pen to paper.
Don't let the lack of decades of experience prevent you from writing. If you have a unique perspective or approach to your niche, write it down to share with others.
Don't expect to live off the royalties. You're probably not writing the next '7 Habits of Highly Effective People', but you are establishing yourself as someone who knows what they're talking about and who puts in the time and effort to make things happen.
Start a Blog
Admittedly, starting off by writing a book is a daunting task. Why not tackle something easier?
Blogging on your website, or something like Medium, is a great way to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise.
Best of all, blogging can lay the foundational ideas for that future bestseller.
Shoot Some Videos
If writing isn't your speed, consider putting those thoughts into videos.
Packaging up previous speaking footage is an easy way to create content. Freshen things up with some sit-down interview-style interspersed.
If you're a spur-of-the-moment person, live video is simple and does not require the same amount of polish. Set a time and go live with a Q&A session or give your hot take on current trends.
You don't have to do this alone. If you're something of an extrovert find others to partner with. Co-contribute to other speakers' blogs. Hop on a webinar with others in your niche. Contribute to Facebook Groups or other places online where you can freely share knowledge.
Remember, the idea is to prove to event planners that you are the expert you say you are.
Referrals & Word of Mouth
One of the most powerful tools in a speaker's arsenal is the testimonial. You have already established your knowledge and expertise. Having someone vouch for you, a client, peer, or agent, establishes your credibility.
Seek to get quotes and testimonials from every single event. Put these on your website, in your ads, in your email signature…basically anywhere you can. As a speaker you'll sink or swim by the quality and quantity of testimonials.
Thinking beyond clients, other speakers are a great source of referrals and word of mouth marketing. Make friends with others in the industry. If they can't make an event or if the topic doesn't line up with their expertise, maybe they'll put in a good word for you.
Now that you've finished developing your brand and creating a little buzz, it's time to really put yourself out there. With a little money, you can promote your website, content, and videos to get in front of new audiences.
Paid Search & Google Ads
What do people do when they need to find something? They search for it.
Planners are no different. If they need a keynote speaker or workshop leader and don't already have someone in mind, chances are they're headed to Google.
Running ads on search engines like Google and Bing allows you target people by exactly what they search for. If a planner is looking for a leadership speaker, they may well search for "leadership keynote speakers". If you already know your niches you can build campaigns based around your strengths.
Channels like Facebook and LinkedIn are perfect for getting your content (blog posts, videos, etc.) in front of the right audience. Advanced targeting allows you to pinpoint meeting planners and other interested audiences.
Use social media to offer a peek into what makes you tick. Here are some ideas for content to share:
Personal Quotes - anybody can quote Tony Robbins. Come up with a few quotes of your own and send them to a graphic designer to create shareable images.
Behind-the-Scenes - Show off your travels, your work space, your hobbies. Things that give planners a glimpse into your personality. Bonus points: promote your gig (planners love that).
Memes - Just don't overdo it, okay?
Remember those videos you made earlier? YouTube Ads can take them 0-100 real quick.
There are a few benefits to using YouTube Ads to promote your videos.
It's really cheap. It's very possible to get views for one cent (or less).
You learn what messaging works. Chop up your presentations and run clips as ads. Did that one joke bomb? Let's find out.
You can use YouTube viewers as a targeting option in Google Ads. Prime your audience with videos and then serve them follow-up ads through Google search or display network.
Each of these advertising channels allows you the ability to use retargeting. That is, serving ads to previous site visitors. Although you'll need to keep tabs on ad frequency (you don't want to become annoying), retargeting is an effective way to stay top of mind.
Professional speaking is rewarding, but it's not without challenges. Use these ideas to help develop your personal brand and spread the word that you're ready, willing, and capable to speak.