Public speaking can do wonders for one's career in terms of positioning as a thought leader within your industry and having exposure to countless executives in the audience which is advantageous for anyone that's looking to grow a business or advance in their career.
However, the journey to becoming a public speaker isn't one that comes overnight. Like anything else, it requires years of hard work, mastery of a topic, and a lot of patience.
Sure, it's easy to watch well-known speakers like Gary Vaynerchuk or Tony Robbins take a stage and think to yourself "Oh, I can do that!" But the reality is that these individuals have invested years in speaking on those stages.
Having spoken at over 30 industry events and conferences such as SXSW and Social Media Marketing World in the past two years, I am often asked by aspiring speakers in my social network how to get speaking engagements.
Below is a breakdown of what it takes to become a public speaker in 2017:
1. Able to Teach and Drive ROI
Conference and event organizers aren't looking for just someone who can come in and recite a blog post that they read online or provide vague, general content (a "theory").
Instead, they are looking for subject matter experts or thought leaders on a particular topic or platform (i.e. social media, SEO, email marketing, etc.) who have performed the work previously and are able to teach an audience how to do it themselves in order to drive ROI for their business.
Conference organizers are hypersensitive to the fact that attendees often pay upwards of $1,000 or more to hear from seasoned experts, which is why you should not bother applying to speak at an event if you haven't performed the work that you intend on speaking about. Ask yourself, what makes you qualified to speak on a particular subject matter?
2. Gain Experience in Your Community
Before speaking in front of thousands, I spoke at events at technical colleges in my community to a dozen or fewer individuals. Sure, it's not as sexy as headlining a stage at a major industry event but it's where you really need to start to gain experience speaking in front of professionals who can easily spot the difference between someone who knows their subject matter and fluff.
My advice to anyone reading is to get started with your local Chamber of Commerce and industry events within your community or host a small meet-up where you can speak about a topic.
3. Volunteer at Industry Conferences
If you want to get on the radar of the decision makers who organize top-tier events in your industry, be sure to volunteer your time at these events. As a volunteer, you will get a free conference badge which will give you access to everyone attending, including speakers, and may even present you with an opportunity to speak--sort of.
Almost every conference that I have spoken at in the last two years has track leaders who introduce every session and speaker. What better way than to get your name in front of conference attendees and time on the microphone than by being a track leader? Events like Social Media Marketing World often will have up-and-coming speakers start off by being a tracker leader at their event before moving onto panels or solo sessions.
4. Email Event Organizers
Anytime someone asks me how do I get speaking engagements I let them know, in short, I email to conference organizers. You don't need an agent or virtual assistant to do this for you. Simply identify a dozen or so industry events that you want to speak at over the next year and send an email to the committee or individual responsible for selecting speakers (which is often posted on their website) and make your pitch.
My advice is to write an email or submission which clearly states who you are, what you'd like to speak about, why you're the best person to speak on this topic, and examples of where you've spoken before.
5. Gather Testimonials and Speaking Examples
Having testimonials and examples of your work on stage is a key to success for any speaker. Throughout 2016, as I applied to speak on bigger stages, I was often asked for speaking examples so I invested in having a freelance videographer record a couple of my talks. You can find help on the Thumbtack app or find out in advance if the event you're speaking at is equipped to record your talk.
Most importantly, have a website which showcases your work including testimonials from prior speaking engagements where you can send prospective organizers to.
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