5 Steps to Landing Your First Paid Speaking Engagement Breaking into the public-speaking industry can be a mystery, but this article can demystify it and help you land your first paid speaking engagement.

By Ashley Kirkwood

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Have you ever wanted to get paid to speak? Do you desire to share your expertise with crowds of people to encourage and educate them? I remember when I first learned professional speaking was a profession. I was in high school, and I met a speaker at a high school rally. I went up to him after the rally and asked him what he did for a living. He explained that he was paid to speak at schools around the country. I was floored. Like, I can really get paid to speak! From that day, I was determined to be a paid professional speaker. Now, I am a speaker and lawyer and have been paid to speak by colleges and corporations around the country. After having success landing large speaking contracts, I launched my own speaking coaching company. The number one question I am asked by new clients is how they can start in this billion-dollar industry. In this article, I will detail the five steps to land your first paid speaking engagement.

1. Select a topic that clients want to buy

Your topic matters, and it needs to be one that clients are willing to buy. This means you need to explain what you speak about using the same language your clients will use. Many new speakers like to choose topics that are passion-driven, but when your goal is to be paid to speak, your topic needs to be determined by two things: your expertise and and your market. You have to choose a topic that clients are buying.

Go to speaker bureau websites and look at the topics available. Often, on such websites, you can sort by topics. Those big topics are generally popular topics that clients are searching for right now. So, first, select your topic.

2. Select an audience that can pay you

Now that you have a topic, you need an audience. There are several audiences, but to keep it simple here are a few that hire speakers: colleges, corporations, and associations. There are many more, but we are keeping it simple here. So, select a general audience, then, based on your topic, you will want to narrow down that audience. For instance, if you select corporations, you can then further narrow your selection by the size of the company and industry. The purpose of this is to narrow it down so you can develop a list of potential clients!

3. Develop your hot list of potential clients

Once you determine your audience generally, develop a list of the job titles of the person that could potentially hire you and all the synonyms of those job titles. For instance, if you speak on corporate compliance training, you may target Directors of Human Resources. You will need to find the synonyms for that job title as well. For example, Director of People, VP of Human Resources, etc. Then, you will want to find those people on LinkedIn and connect with them. Ideally, you will make a list of 100 prospects to reach out to. Now, you can search for their emails using various chrome extensions, etc. but I feel that the safest way to prospect is to reach out via LinkedIn direct message. I will provide a sample message you can send in step four!

4. Develop your pitch

After selecting your topic, and then selecting your audience, you should develop your pitch. What will you sell? Keynotes for large events? Workshops? Pre-recorded presentations? You have to know what you will sell as well as what you will say to start the conversation with a potential client. Here is a sample pitch:

"Hey Sara! Noticed you work in human resources at COMPANYX. I help companies increase the productivity of their employees by providing workshops on the power of focused effort! I would love to chat with you about how we helped other companies in your industry implement our solutions to get results. I am hosting a roundtable on this topic (for free) to share some tips that may help you! It's next Wednesday and you can register here. Are you available next Wednesday at noon?"

Note that I invited Sara to a roundtable instead of a sales call. Why? I want to show Sarah the strength of my presentation before asking her to hire me directly. It also allows me to practice my material. Now, this is a great strategy if you are new or experienced. This is what I call the invite method. You can host an event and invite several potential clients to one short virtual event to gain interest in your speaking services. During the roundtable all you would do is introduce yourself, your experience, offer one tip that they can implement that is in alignment with your expertise, and explain how you work with clients! Then, after the session, invite attendees to book an interest call with you to determine if you are a good fit! Now, you can invite Sarah to have a call with you on the first email, but this strategy helps you get more buy-in from her if she attends and books a call with you after seeing how great you are at what you do!

5. Send the pitch and follow up

Now the moment you've been waiting for; It's time to pitch. Here's a hard truth about being a professional speaker. In the beginning, it's more of a sales job than a speaking job. You will need to pitch a fair amount of clients before you land your first paid speaking engagement. It may take less if, instead of pitching cold contacts, you pitch people you know, like former colleagues, classmates and friends. When I first started speaking, I pitched 300 colleges per week. Refining the sales process, repositioning and developing proprietary methodologies that help companies get results helped grow my speaking practice.

Ashley Kirkwood

Head Speaker & Trainer at Speak Your Way To Cash®

Ashley Kirkwood is an intellectual property attorney, speaker, host of the Speak Your Way To Cash podcast and author of Speak Your Way to Cash: How to Start at the Top of the Speaking Market Instead of Working Your Way up From the Bottom!

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