3 Steps to Getting Paid Speaking Engagements The co-author of 'Networking Like a Pro' explains how to develop this rewarding and life-enhancing skill.
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So, you're looking to get paid to speak as part of both a personal and business growth strategy, but have no idea how to get started? As someone who's been a paid speaker since 2001, I'm pleased to share that the process is actually not as hard as you might think. As a matter of fact, if you're a service professional with a good message and entertaining delivery, then getting a handful (or more) paid gigs a year is more than doable.
A few steps you'll need to take in order to move forward:
1. Get Super-Clear About Topic Titles
This sounds like the easiest step, but can actually be tricky. Why? Because when you're doing free gigs, organizers don't typically ask many questions regarding what you're going to talk about. They likely already know who you are (you might have worked with them or with someone they know), and are thrilled that you're going to make them look good in front of their group. But a paid speaking gig is the professional equivalent of going from the minors to the majors (and that implies no disrespect: I still do the odd free engagement).
Just like going from the Birmingham Barons to a starting position for the Yankees is a quantum leap, so is this. And it's not because you're playing a different game (speaking is still speaking), but once you're getting paid, conference organizers usually have a different set of expectations.
Suitable preparation begins by having an indelibly clear title — one that succinctly and engagingly articulates the topic, as well as what you will provide an audience. Personally, I'm a "how-to" man when it comes to titles, such as:
"How to Overachieve Without Over-Committing"
"How to Lead So Others Will Follow"
"How to Talk So Others Will Listen"
Titles that include phrases like "communication skills" or "leadership skills," by contrast, might sound a lot less appealing to an organizer looking at 20 other folks for a paid speaking gig.
2. Provide Video of You Speaking
One small positive ramification of Covid is that this step isn't nearly as hard as it used to be, as most of the presentations over the better part of the past 24 months have been virtual. If that's all you have, so be it, but in a perfect world, you'll also have footage of you out on stage, in the real world, which offers organizers and meeting planners a better feel for your style. It's been my additional experience that these professionals actually prefer two videos — one of an entire presentation ("full reel") and another with perhaps two minutes of highlights, professionally edited and maybe even with a music track.
If you don't have something quite so refined on offer, that's fine, but you have to supply something that people can look at.
3. Get Clear on the Types of Events You Want
A common misconception I've run into is that approaching corporations is the only way to get paid to speak. These gigs can be lucrative, certainly, but don't sleep on other paid options like trade associations, schools, non-profits and business conferences. So, find an avenue (or two) that works for you, then get into action finding good opportunities.
There are a few additional actions you'll want to take along the way, such as setting up a website and developing a lead pipeline for potential paid gigs, but these early steps will get you on the road to success.