Public speaking is a great way to gain exposure for your brand and a reputation for expertise in your field. Speaking engagements allow you to demonstrate transparency and vulnerability—two key components of building a brand that consumers are eager to engage with—and help you show off the core solutions your business has to offer.
The pandemic may have slowed in-person conferences and presentations, but it’s likely a temporary effect—and there are plenty of virtual opportunities out there right now. We asked 10 members of Young Entrepreneur Council for their advice on finding speaking engagements to build up your brand. Here are their recommendations for tracking down the best opportunities for you.
1. Leverage your existing contacts.
Build your way up and use the contacts you have, no matter how small you think they are. When people pitch themselves as speakers or contributors they often undersell themselves and also underestimate the market. There are many organizations and sites out there, but many only think about the big players. There are many opportunities in the middle tier of publications and organizations. Build your way up. Speak at your alma matter or a local industry-relevant organization, or be a guest on an up-and-coming podcast. It’s really about consistency and getting the reps—once you start speaking, you’ll find more opportunities will arise. – Jason Khoo, Zupo
2. Use speaker-matching platforms.
SpeakerFlow Intel Engine is the best tool for finding speaking gigs that I’ve ever seen. It’s a subscription tool that uses a search overlay to let you find the right decision-makers, conferences, corporate events, etc. My best piece of advice for getting more speaking gigs is to be amazing. Make it worth your audience’s time, and you’ll quickly begin getting referrals and repeat engagements. I started speaking for business development reasons when I was running my first company, and I began getting so many requests to speak that I left my company to speak full time. Now, 85% of my business is either from referrals or inbound inquiries. – Brittany Hodak, Keynote Speaker
3. Explore social media channels.
Slack channels and LinkedIn channels are incredible places for finding events to pitch. I have had a lot of success as a speaker, and my engagements are only getting bigger. We started at Digital Summits and have grown and grown because we always had a member of our team pitching. Additionally, we’ve kept an eye out for new and innovative places for our people to pitch new ideas in the field. Another thing that helps me secure placements at these events is that I write books that accompany me onstage and off for signing. This adds to your credibility on the stage and offers another way to connect to your audience after the talk—and generate more business. – Matthew Capala, Alphametic
4. Participate in trade shows.
Most industries organize trade shows to display new products or technologies. This creates a great opportunity for brands to showcase their unique features and for brand owners to show their expertise. Depending on the level of engagement and public-speaking skills, one can position themselves as an expert in that particular niche. Most people shy away from displaying their skills in front of their fellow players and other industry experts, but one should realize the effectiveness and importance of these trade shows. This is not only the most cost-effective method of boosting your brand, but it’s also the quickest way to increase your presence. – Kelly Richardson, Infobrandz
5. First build up your online following.
A great way to make your case for being a speaker at a large event is to have a large following already. You can do this by consistently creating blog posts, YouTube videos and podcast material for your audience. Your follower base will act as proof that you are a thought leader and can give you leverage—i.e., you can show large events that your participation will bring your audience to the platform. So start by building your reputation online through social media and blogging. Boost your following and you should see a positive response from event groups. – Blair Williams, MemberPress
6. Engage with the community you want to reach.
Consider what media you personally consume. If you are anything like your customer base, chances are they are present on the same platforms and outlets as you. Review what you know, and then start researching how you can get onto these platforms. Become engaged in the community and connect with people who have already spoken on the stages you envision yourself on. And don’t discredit virtual events. They are not going anywhere, and in fact, they may be a better way to get your foot in the door when it comes to speaking publicly. – Matthew Podolsky, Florida Law Advisers, P.A.
7. Join your local chamber of commerce.
For local speaking events, join your chamber of commerce and stay up to date on engagements and opportunities. Your best option is going to be setting up and maintaining a presence online and through networking with like-minded individuals and other business leaders. As you build an audience and followers, your social media platforms can even provide opportunities for virtual speaking events. As you position yourself as a thought leader, chances to speak may come to you. – Blair Thomas, eMerchantBroker
8. Think outside your niche.
Sometimes a good speaking engagement to attend won’t always be directly related to your industry or niche. If you find an event or seminar that’s only tangentially related, you can make a big impact by offering a unique perspective to the attendees. For example, you can build a non-tech-related brand at a tech-oriented conference by discussing specific issues your industry faces. This can engage the audience by motivating them to imagine tech-related solutions to these issues. – Bryce Welker, Beat The CPA
9. Conduct and share original research.
Original research content is highly underestimated. That’s because it is far easier to rewrite something to get quick attention or even reach viral status. Consider this: Would you rather have 10,000 random people listen to your speech or one person who is someone like Elon Musk or Oprah? The same applies to speaking events. You want to establish yourself as an authority in the field, but you also want to reach the upper floors—the hidden rooms the hotel doesn’t show to the common guest or the dinner table where nobody introduces themselves but someone instead throws a blueprint of a prototype onto the table and asks about silicon carbide. – Joey Bertschler, uniworld.io
10. Create great content that people want to hear.
Although I could certainly say that sponsorships and networking organizations are great ways to find speaking opportunities, the best piece of advice I have is to provide content someone really wants to listen to. If you aren’t providing value during your talk, you’re just wasting everyone’s time and falsely building your brand. The best speakers don’t get booked repeatedly just because they have an “in” somewhere; they get booked repeatedly because people want to hear what they have to say. Be the expert and own the space. If you can provide some unique and helpful information that is true to yourself and your brand, and that isn’t a simple rephrase of well-known basics, you’ll have people asking you for more. – James Behmke, Behmke Innovation Group LLC
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