Posted Date: August 10, 2013

Paid speaking: where do I start?

I had a conversation with a business friend about getting paid to speak, and on the phone he wondered aloud, “Where do I start?”

Good question.

He already bought Speaking on the Side, which in my humble view is the best place to start. There are lots of other places to begin this journey, though, and I want to highlight a few of them here:

sweaty runner
1) Go for a run. Not a bad place to get started! I just got back from a half-hour run around my neighborhood. It was sticky, humid, and exhausting. But I thought of some great ideas along the way, including this blog.

2) Speak for free. Yes, you heard correctly. There is nothing like offering up some gratis gigs to get your speaking juices flowing. As Susan Levin of Speakers Community likes to point out, sometimes free gigs are where the money is. You never know who’s going to be in the audience. Sometimes, it’s a person who will hire you.

3) Put up your speaking website. It’s 2013. If you don’t have a website, you’re not “real.” In the book, I list at least nine ways to make a speaking website. Really, this doesn’t have to take more than an hour of your time. You’ll thank me, though, when a meeting planner surprises you with: “What’s your website?”

4) Catalog your expertise. What do you know a lot about? It doesn’t have to be “traditional” knowledge, like designing websites or corporate takeovers or knitting. Have you ever been laid off by 3 different publishing companies? Accumulated more than 1,000,000 frequent-flyer miles? Helped a grandmother rebuild her home after a hurricane? All those experiences translate into amazing stories, which can form the basis of a great presentation.

5) Write an article. And send it to the “communications director” or the “executive director” at five trade associations that sound interesting. (Here is a list with tons of trade associations.) At the end of the article, which should be informative but not too detailed, list your name and your speaking website and describe yourself as a consultant, speaker, and problem solver in industry X. Chances are, after they run the article in their newsletter, one of those trade groups will ask about your speaking fee.

2 thoughts on “Paid speaking: where do I start?

  1. Dave "The Shef" Sheffield

    Speaking for free is one of the greatest ways that speakers can fill their calendar with paid speaking dates…provided that they know how to position themselves.

    Here are 3 reasons why everyone (unless your calendar is totally full with full fee dates)should speak for free.

    1. It builds momentum. The most depressing place a speaker can be is inside of their head. Get out and do something. Momentum beats motivation…every time!

    2. People who attend civic club type of organizations are usually “go getter” types who can potentially book you.

    3. It provides an opportunity for you to build your video, testimonials, and photos. All of which you can use for promoting your speaking business.

  2. jeff Post author

    I’ll confirm your #2 Shef – a couple years ago I did a gig that wasn’t free but did pay quite a bit less than what I normally ask for. (It was also in Las Vegas, so that was kind of fun.) It was a meeting for distributors of a product. I did the gig, won $120 playing blackjack, and about 7 months later, got called by one of the distributors who attended. They loved my presentation and booked me to give the same exact one at their annual customer meeting about an hour away from my house. You make your own luck, don’t you? I should have played more blackjack …


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