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Be a Guest Speaker

Promote your business by speaking at conferences.

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Q: I'd like to speak at conferences. How should I promote myself?

A: First, speak to lots of smaller groups before you appear in front of larger audiences. Last month's column, "Introduction to Public Speaking," offered tips on how to plan your first few presentations. Once you're comfortable in front of 100 or more people, it's time to hit the conference circuit. You need to know that at many conferences, competition is keen-even among speakers who are willing to appear for free. Receiving a fee for a speaking engagement, with all expenses paid, is even more difficult to negotiate.

If you're willing to do aggressive marketing, here are some tips that will get you on your way:

Write articles for publications that are read by people to whom you want to speak. Include lots of how-to advice. At the end of each article, include an identifier paragraph: "Susan Smith is a financial planner who speaks on the topic of how to teach children about money. Contact her at (phone number) or at (your e-mail address.)"

Send an e-mail message to everyone in your address book. Tell them you're looking for speaking engagements. Explain what you speak about and describe your ideal audience. Ask them to keep you in mind or to pass your name along to someone who might need your services.

Target an organization you'd like to speak to, then visit its Web site. If the group needs speakers, there's a good chance a "call for proposals" or more information about upcoming seminars and workshops will be at the site.

Every time you speak to a group and they like you, ask the meeting planner to write a testimonial letter on his or her letterhead. Photocopy the letters and send them to other meeting planners who might be interested in you.

Ask meeting planners who liked your presentation to refer you to other meeting planners they know. This is by far the most effective way to book more speaking engagements.

Create what is known as a "one-sheet." On one sheet of paper (and don't run over to the back), explain who you are and include your positioning statement at the top. For example, the positioning statement on my one-sheet reads: "Joan Stewart works with organizations that want to use the media to establish their credibility, enhance their reputation and position themselves as the employers of choice." For a copy of my one-sheet, e-mail me your name and address at

Your one-sheet should also include the topics you speak on and a short summary paragraph about each one, stressing what the audience will learn. Include your photo and contact information. If you have them, include testimonials from people who have heard you speak. You can print these one-sheets directly from your computer, then mail or fax them when a meeting planner tells you to send them something about you. Or you can have them reproduced at a local print shop.

Once you have several free speaking engagements under your belt, try to negotiate a fee for your next engagements. Check out the National Speakers Association Web site at for tips on how to do this.

Joan Stewart, a media relations consultant and professional speaker and trainer, works with companies that want to use the media to establish their expertise, enhance their credibility and position themselves as the employer of choice. She also publishes The Publicity Hound, a bimonthly print newsletter featuring "tips, tricks and tools for free (or really cheap) publicity," as well as tips booklets on how to find and keep valuable employees. Visit

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.