How To Become A Paid Public Speaker
The idea of speaking on a topic you’re passionate about, facing an audience of enrapt listeners, is naturally appealing. Couple it with a paycheck and you’re looking at a world-class opportunity—with some hefty competition. Here’s how to start and set yourself apart.
1. Strategically establish yourself as the expert
When watching a speech, you quickly gather that the speaker knows this topic a lot better than the average Joe. As wildly self-evident as that sounds, you have to be incredibly intentional and strategic when you set about cultivating that impression, not just to your audience members, but in the minds of the events planners who would prospectively book you. If you want to become a paid public speaker, be prepared to show people the credentials that prove you are a bona fide expert on the subject matter.
How to demonstrate that you are the expert in your field:
- academic degrees and accreditations
- years of relevant business experience
- published books
- past media interviews
- a strong personal brand
- a web presence crafted specifically to depict you as the expert
No one is going to hire you for a free speaking engagement, let alone a high-profile one, if you’re just a run-of-the-mill professional with a healthy interest in the topic. You have to stand apart on account of your achievements, passion, knowledge, and subject-matter authority. Writing a business book on your area of expertise is one of the single-most powerful ways to establish yourself as the Authority in your field. In the eyes of meeting planners, those who “wrote the book on it,” are hard to beat.
2. Consider speaking for free to build your highlight reel
To land paid speaking engagements, it is a huge credit to your case when you have a polished highlight reel of past speeches, showing just what a rock star you are on stage. But, you can’t build that reel until you start landing speaking engagements. It’s a “chicken-or-the-egg” situation. Depending on your stature and professional connections, you may consider starting off with a handful of free speaking engagements to build your portfolio, reaching out to event organizers yourself, if necessary. Even if you are an expert with 30 years of business experience on the topic you wish to speak on, that doesn’t prove to organizers that you can hold your own on stage. If you already have a few professionally shot speaking gigs in your portfolio, you are one step ahead of the game.
Not too keen on the idea of speaking for free? A published book under your belt is an easy way to sidestep the “free public speaker for hire” phase. It is a lot easier to command a speaking fee when the event organizers know they are getting a bona fide author to speak at their event. A book also gives you a fast-and-easy reason to do interviews, promote yourself, and build a following—at which point you become objectively more valuable to organizers.
Essentially, the more established you are, the more you can ask per speaking engagement. To do that, you have to consciously make an effort to become a celebrity in your field; book authorship is the quickest route to celebrity and credibility.
3. Obtain representation (Get an agent)
Just as actors hire agents to be the middleman with film studios, speakers should secure representation with a reputable agency. An agent has a leg up on finding engagements that would be a good fit for you. They have established connections with meeting planners and event organizing committees. They communicate with them and negotiate speaking fees on your behalf. There are a number of agencies focusing specifically on speakers; these are called Speaker Bureaus. When event organizers are looking to hire a public speaker and don’t have someone in particular in mind, Speaker Bureaus are usually the first place they scour. Hybrid agencies also exist, which represent speakers among other types of talent.
Wondering how to secure representation when you don’t have a robust portfolio? Established speaker Mitch Joel writes, “It’s easy for a speaker to get representation if they are a celebrity (and yes, even a micro-celebrity), a best-selling author, or someone with an incredible story (climbed Everest a few times? If you can tell your story in a compelling way, speaker representation can be pretty easy to get).” Joel serves to highlight the unfair advantage from published authors benefit when they seek out paid speaking engagements.
At Advantage|ForbesBooks, we facilitate the process of book publication. We turn business owners into business authors. Taking less than 24 hours of your time, we ghostwrite, design, and distribute a business book—stamped with your name on the cover, brimming with your personal insights—the quality of which rivals the books found on the front tables of Barnes & Noble—guaranteed. To learn more about publishing your very own business book with Advantage|ForbesBooks, contact us today.