How to Land Your First Speaking Gig, and Second

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Landing a speaking gig is great PR.

When you step on the stage, you’re automatically positioned as the authority of your topic. And unlike when you are at the mercy of a reporter, because you are speaking you have complete control of how you present your story.

The audience, big or small, is locked into hearing what you say. They can’t blindly scroll past it or delete before reading. And more than all of this, the audience gets to connect with you on a more personal level.

Being invited to speak at a conference is a PR no-brainer, an absolute must and a big boost for your brand. But you can’t wait around and cross your fingers, you have to actually go out and find your own opportunities.

Here are five tips to land your first speaking gig.

#1 Find Your Audience and Go There

You already know who your best customers are, now you just need to figure out where they are. Look for the conferences they attend, the networking groups they belong to, and contact the organizers to apply.

For me, my audience is small business owners, creative entrepreneurs, freelancers, and makers. I look for places that already have those kinds of people as an audience.

For example, I apply to speak at a lot of coworking spaces because I know that most people that work in these spaces are the right audience for me to find new clients and valuable connections.

#2 Have a Clear Topic and Elevator Pitch

When you apply to be a speaker, make sure you have one specific topic to pitch and can explain why it is valuable for their audience. Sometimes, it’s okay to have two topics for the organizer to choose from.

What you definitely want to avoid is ambiguity. Be clear on what you have to offer. You don’t want to introduce yourself through email and then have the other person figure out what you are speaking on. This will lead either to your pitch being ignored or to being asked to speak on a subject you’re not necessarily comfortable with. Yikes.

Once you do have your topic pinned down, prepare your elevator pitch with the title of your presentation, three to four things that will be covered and what the audience can expect to get out of it.

#3 Include Actionable Steps in Your Talk

One day I might write a whole post on this because it is one of my biggest pet peeves.

Once you land your first speaking gig, the most important thing for you to do is provide real information to your audience. People are coming to learn from you and so you should provide them with insight and a game plan to act on it.

Far too often, people don’t want to give away their industry secrets and this bothers me. You should have more expertise and experience than can be given away in one talk. The audience has set aside time to learn, not to hear you speak. And when they pay for their ticket it is even more important that you share and teach.

If you’re not sure how to put your topic into actionable steps, try giving the audience a starting and ending place. For example, I have four steps for getting media attention that I outline in my presentations. Actionable steps give your audience a framework to understand and follow your advice. They know when they’ve began, and when they’ve achieved the goal.

#4 Small Audiences Can Be Your Best Friend

It is totally normal to not start out like a rock star. Even rock stars didn’t start out as stars, they were just rockers.

When you are starting out, learn to love a small audience and don’t get discouraged if just a few people show up.

I find that a lot of times, small audiences make the best workshops. I’m able to really connect with the audience and a lot of times those people become my biggest advocates and tell their friends.

In the long run, these will be the people who will go out of their way to write you a recommendation or testimonial that can land you the next and bigger speaking gig.

#5 Just Start Reaching Out

Don’t worry about having a perfect presentation, you never will. Getting out there and doing your presentation is the best way to get feedback and see what works and what doesn’t. I try to tweak my presentation accordingly. For example, if I am getting the same questions at my workshops, then I make a point to cover that in my next presentation because it is obviously something I am missing.

Your presentation will improve the more you present it, so it is in your interest to get started now.

Remember, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, and you won’t secure any speaking opportunities if you don’t start reaching out. Find the conferences and events you want to speak at and ask.