How to Find and Land Speaking Opportunities

I am often asked how to find speaking opportunities so I gathered all of my information, ideas, and strategies and shared them on a recent episode of my show #SocialPRLIVE on Facebook. Get ready to take some notes, below is both the recording of the live stream and an overview of the content if you prefer to read. Warning… there is a bit of background noise and the video blurs in a few spots… there was no school and a houseful of kids… so yes this is my circus and those are my monkeys.

You’ll Need a Few Things Before Booking Speaking Opportunities

Before you begin to look for places to speak, be sure you have all of the pieces in place, are ready to make quick decisions, and are prepared to pitch and say yes to amazing speaking opportunities. Here is a list of what you will need:

  • Something to talk about – yes you need a topic and to know the format of your talk. Is it a workshop, a panel discussion, a keynote?
  • A presentation, perhaps a handout if appropriate for your presentation.
  • If you have never spoken from a stage start with small local events. When I was getting started, I volunteered to do social media training for an entrepreneurial training program. I was able to refine my talk, get comfortable speaking in front of people and help people that were just getting started which was fun.
  • Podcasts are also a great place to get started because it is usually on the phone or computer and the audience comes later.
  • This may sound silly, but host yourself on video using Zoom or Skype, watch it and critique your performance, keep perfecting your talk.
  • A media kit or speaker one sheet and a media/speaking page on your website.
  • Create a system to keep track of it all. It can be as simple as a spreadsheet or a CRM system like Zoho CRM. A few more options are Nimble and Hubspot, which both have free or inexpensive options.
  • You will need a speaker contract – here are a few templates from the public area of the National Speaker’s Association’s (NSA) website.
  • Joining an organization like NSA or Toastmasters could be helpful too and provide a community of speakers for support and learning.

Where Are These Speaking Opportunities?

Once you have your speaking assets ready to go, it’s time to start finding places to speak and they are everywhere. Below are a few suggestions on where to look.

Tools

  • Agent – Agent is a freehand-curated database of 1,000+ local, national, and international events where you can find events to speak at. The database includes contact information for the event as well as a built-in workflow to get booked. It is a powerful tool to have at your fingertips.
  • SpeakerHub – SpeakerHub is a website where you can create a free speaker profile, upload media content, videos of your speeches, add references to create a robust representation of your speaking experience. You can also embed your speaker profile card on your website or conference page. It’s a great place to do research on other speakers, events, and topics for your own talks. Event organizers and agencies also use the site to book speakers. There are both free and paid plans.
  • Directory of Associations – The Directory of Associations has listings of over 35,000 local, regional, national and international Associations. It is totally free and easy to use.

Strategies

Google It

There are a ton of round-up articles online written by people that have taken the time to research the best events, perhaps even attended or spoken at them. Running a few Google searches will result in lists of events with details you may not find on the event website. A few examples when searching [fill in the blanks]:

  • Best [marketing] events for 2019
  • The Ultimate [business] events in New York City 2019
  • [Dental Association] Conference Directory 2019
  • Directory of Events [in California]
  • How to land a [TED Talk]

Once you have events or directories you want to keep an eye on, set up alerts so the information comes to you via email. Two free services that I use are: Google Alerts and Talkwalker Alerts. Talkwalker searches across searches engines and on social media so will often provide better results, they also have one of my favorite blogs.

Event Web Page Research

Event web pages are a wealth of information. Read through the web pages for the events you want to attend or speak at, but look through a different lens. This is one of the best strategies for finding events that are a good fit all around, plus there is so much more, here are a few items I look for:

  • Event Hashtag – most events have a dedicated hashtag, track the hashtag in a social media management tool or through a Google or Talkwaker Alert (see above) to see who is talking about the event. Get into the conversation and connect with the event community well before the date of the event. There may be an opportunity plans meet-ups or even to host a small side event for your new friends or co-speakers. It is also a good feeling to walk into an event knowing a few people, especially if you will be speaking.
  • Speakers – look at their topics, talks, websites, social media, and their other speaking engagements and media/podcast interviews – all of this information is intelligence that may be useful for growing your presence. See if you have common connections or simply reach out and say hello.
  • Hosts and Event Planners – get to know these people, it is very likely that they are connected to multiple events and other people that plan events and book speakers.
  • Media – the media typically do not love attending events, if they are covering an event they have an interest, figure out what that is and how might you be able to contribute to their coverage. It is also an opportunity to meet journalists and reporters in person.
  • Vendors and Sponsors – are investing in the event because they want to connect with the community around the event – is there any alignment between you and the event sponsors? Look at their website and social media, see what they are up to and where you might be able to begin a relationship.
  • Audience – this is a targeted group of people, social media is a powerful tool, but meeting in person is better. begin relationships at the event, whether you are attending or speaking, that you can continue on social media.
  • Missed Opportunity – did you find the event right after it happened? No worries – get on the roster for next year.

Event Venues

When attending an event look at the other events that are happening at the same time as well as upcoming events. There is a possibility to meet people from another event.  You can do this online too, first identify some of the venues where the events you would like to speak at are held and look on their website for future or past events.

Connect with Event Planners

Connect with event planners, the people who book events. Scour Event Planning Magazines, websites, and social media and look for opportunities and respectful ways to connect with people in the events industry.

There are a few hashtags to follow on social media which might help too: #eventprofs #meetingprofs #meetingstoday #keynotespeaker.

Social Media

Social media and looking for speaking opportunities go hand in hand. It will take a bit of work, but it’s worth the effort. There are a few pieces to this too:

  • Look through your own website and social media are you showing yourself as a speaker? Are you sharing information about your talks, your craft, your book or podcast if you have one, your media/podcast interviews? If not, start sharing, but do it in a creative way, don’t say “hey check me out I’m on stage.” Instead tell a story, what was your talk about? How does your topic make an impact? Is there an interesting story about how you got started or one of your clients or attendees? Do you have testimonials from clients or events where you have spoken in the past? Are you sharing video or audio so people can actually hear you?
  • Start with social listening first. Find the people you want to meet around the events and listen to what they are saying before you dive in. Identify where you fit? How can you add value to the community? What do you want them to know about you?
  • Once you have figured out this is is a good community for you to be part of, pop into a few conversations. Never sell yourself of your products and services, show up and say hi. Get to know people and allow them to get to know you too. People will be curious and check you out if you have prepared your online assets, they will get to know you better through your content and trust and credibility will grow organically.
  • The social media management tool I use is Smarterqueue click through if you would like to try it for free for 30 days.

Facebook

On Facebook watch for event posts and who engages those posts. Is there anyone you know? Do you like the conversations people are having around the posts? Both Facebook and Eventbrite, if the event links through, will show similar events you may find more events that you are interested in by following the breadcrumbs. Search for events in Facebook Groups, Facebook Live, and Facebook Watch.

Twitter and Instagram

Although Twitter and Instagram are very different platforms, the strategies I am sharing here are similar… it’s all about tracking hashtags and social media handles for the community, speakers, hosts, sponsors, etc.

Look on Twitter to see if there is a Twitter List for the event, if there is not… offer to set one up with all of the players. This is a great relationship builder and makes it easy for the community to stay connected and share each other’s content.

Track hashtags for the event, the industry, the speakers, and a few specific hashtags for the event planning industry: #eventprofs #meetingprofs #meetingstoday #keynotespeaker.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a bit different, here you should leverage Advanced Search and search for titles like meeting planner, event planner, and if you are looking to speak within a corporation the titles of the people that would hire you it may be someone in HR or at a management level is a specific department such as IT or Financial Services. The search results can include people, groups, jobs, companies, and alumni. All are useful for research and once you narrow down your search results you can actually save the search and have the results emailed to you on a weekly basis. The Basic version of LinkedIn allows three saved searches, the plaid plans allow for more.

On LinkedIn look at profiles, company pages, groups and to see if you have common connections. Outside of LinkedIn check out the people and companies you are interested in learning more about via their websites, social media, etc.

Do NOT private message people you don’t know or just connected with and go for the ask. A better approach is to get to know them through Twitter which is a more open platform, ask for an introduction through a common connection, or reach out via email.

Keeping Track of Communications

We have gone through a lot of moving parts and as you start poking around you will find more, I will not lie this process can quickly become overwhelming. Create a simple system for keeping track of all of the information you are taking in. It can be a simple spreadsheet or a CRM, but make note of the event details, contact information, social handles, hashtags, web links, people, topics, track your connection efforts, and write out your comments and thoughts.

You never know… a no today may mean not now, by having a record of your communication allows you to recall a previous interaction in an email or phone call helps move things along.

Do your homework… before pitching take a look at what they are talking about on social, look at their website, do a google search…

Connect the Dots

Connecting the dots is often where you will find opportunity and people forget about this part. As you are gathering look at some of the information collectively.

Don’t create silos with this new avenue of business you are creating, connect it to what you already have. Use this as an opportunity to tie together content, strategies, relationships, or ideas. Think about how things connect to each other to create something bigger and perhaps includes some of your existing content or an established strategy in your business.

Also, think about relationships, who else can you bring along into this new community?

What else can you learn by following the breadcrumbs?

How can you move these new relationships offline? Can you move the conversation along to a phone call or Zoom session?

Conclusion

As with any of this work, it is about building relationships by listening first, saying hi, being helpful, and building trust with consistency and generosity. Our jobs as content creators is to create an experience that makes the audience and Google want to come back for more.

Always be one step ahead…

Donna Cravotta

PS – The video in this post is part of a 13 part series featured on my weekly Facebook Live show #SocialPRLIVE. Check them out.

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