This year I set the stretch goal of giving 5 public talks. And that means this year I kind of became an expert at how to get speaking engagements.
Original photo by Nathan Dumlao
Now, I would like to state for the record that public speaking isn’t for everyone. And if you’re the type of person who has a mild heart attack at the thought of this, it’s totally cool for you to not follow any of this advice.
Oddly enough, I’m an introvert who loves public speaking. (I suspect it’s because it’s not an actual energy exchange to just talk at people.) And I’ve done some talks in the past, but I really wanted to up my game this year. In fact, I’m planning on maybe even doing more than 5 talks this year. I did Launch Bloggers back in February, and I’ve already got the other 4 lined up.
Just a note: If you’re interested in seeing me speak, you can attend Pecha Kucha OKC on May 8, Books in Bloom Literary Festival on May 19, Ignite OKC on May 30, or Megaphone Summit on August 9-11.
If you’re interested in attending Megaphone Summit, here’s a video all about why I love it, and how you can purchase a ticket and get an invitation to the #CheerstoStorytelling Happy Hour!
If you want to buy a ticket to Megaphone Summit this August 9-11, click here to read how you can attend the #CheerstoStorytelling Happy Hour and tell them Marisa Mohi sent you.
Also, check out this post about Megaphone Summit 2016 and what I learned.
So if you’re interested to know how to get speaking engagements, check out my tips and tricks for building the necessary authority to talk on any given topic, and how to get booked!
How to Get Speaking Engagements
001: Have an active platform.
You know that Keanu Reeves sad baseball movie where the kids die and he says he’s astounded by the team’s ability to show up? He’s not wrong about how important that is.
Showing up consistently online or in a place where it makes logical sense for you to do so is key to getting noticed. It’s also how you build up your authority. I have a lot of blog posts on the topics that I speak about, and it shows conference organizers that I know what I’m talking about.
But more than that — I show up regularly. Nobody cares if you published a blog post once. Nobody cares if you published 100 blog posts. (I would argue that nobody cares about your blog in general. Not in a bad way, I’m just saying this is kind of how it feels to be a blogger in this, the year of our lord, 2019.)
But there are some occasions when people do care, and that’s when they’re booking you to speak. They want to know that you’re going to be speaking on a topic that you’re passionate about, and that you have relevant information to share. If you haven’t posted in 2 years, know that is basically a millennia in internet years. So you have to keep your platform active to show you actually know what’s up.
If you need to take a moment and refresh your online platform, check out these good blogging habits and how to create an editorial calendar.
002: See if the conferences you plan to attend have a call for speakers.
This is definitely the easiest way to get a speaking gig. If you already attend a certain number of conferences per year, then you can check their websites and see if they have put out a call for speakers.
Sometimes this is listed on the website itself, or you may need to sign up for the newsletter.
Also, it’s worth noting that you really need to plan ahead for this. Most conferences book speakers 3-10 months in advance. So, if you know you’re heading to conference in a couple of weeks, it’s way too late to apply to speak.
(Though, if you have a presentation already prepared, it might be a good idea to reach out and see if the organizers had anyone cancel. You might be able to get in, and kind of save the day.)
I also recommend meeting some of the conference organizers, or getting to know the group that puts it on. You want to be a name with a face, because that makes it easier for people to remember you, and eventually recommend you.
003: Look for local groups in your area that regularly feature speakers.
Maybe you’re looking for something a little more low-key when it comes to a speaking engagement. Conferences can be intimidating, and if they put you in a room that holds 500 people on your first speaking gig, that can be stressful.
But there are a lot of smaller, local groups that feature monthly speakers. I know folks who swear by Toastmasters, though I’ve never been to any of their events, so I can’t say for sure. There is also Creative Mornings, a group for creative professionals that features a speaker once a month.
While you probably won’t get to speak the first time you attend either of those things, it’s a good way to watch some people speak publicly, and then throw your hat in the ring. They’re also both great ways to network.
004: Let people know that you’re available for it.
If you’re operating on the assumption that “if you build it, they will come,” you’re not only wrong, but you’re modeling your life on the second best Kevin Costner baseball movie.
(A lot of baseball movie references in this blog post…Let’s see if I can work in a Major League reference before the end, eh?)
People who are looking for speakers tend to stay within their immediate network. They don’t want to have to look too hard to find people for their events, and if they already know someone else can do it, they aren’t going to ever find you.
Instead, you have to make sure that you’re inviting people to look at what you have to offer. And you have to put it out into the universe.
In this case, the universe is the internet.
Want to speak at a conference? Do an Instagram post all about it. Want to give a talk for a local business? Tweet it. Want to get more opportunities? Post about it on the internet. I’m all over LinkedIn currently, just sharing all the speaking engagements that I’m doing so people can see what I do.
I can’t guarantee opportunities will come a-running, but you’ve put it out there. Now they come to you in their own time.
005: Network like a mofo.
Well, here’s the cold, hard truth, my friends. You don’t get anywhere without networking. Every job I’ve literally had I’ve gotten because I knew someone who worked at that company. The same goes for speaking events.
Remember when I said to meet the folks who put on the conference? Do that. But also meet all the other speakers. Get to know local businesses in your area that might hire you. Meet locals who do a lot of speaking events.
And when you get tired of meeting people in real life, get on that internet. Start following and interacting with speakers you like. Follow and interact with the conferences you want to speak at.
I have to say, for an introvert, I’m insanely well-networked, and it’s made all the difference. And for those of you who feel like networking is cheating, I beg to differ. You’re still doing it yourself. It’s like that scene in Major League where Pedro Cerrano has two strikes and says “Fuck you, Jobu. I do it myself.”
(Admittedly, that’s not a perfect analogy. But I managed to get a Major League reference in before the end of this post.)
Do You Need a Speaker?
Are you looking for a speaker who can talk about writing, time management, work-life balance for creatives, or storytelling? Well, then let me introduce myself! I’d love to speak at your next conference or event. Shoot me an email at Heyo@MarisaMohi.com if you’d like to discuss it further.
Oh, and hey! Let me know in the comments how to get speaking engagements. What’s worked best for you?
I have a grand total of 8 posts on my blog right now (one that published today) so you know my ass won’t be speaking anywhere anytime soon! Well, maybe from my balcony but no one listens. Whatevs. Right now I’m just looking at rebuilding my platform. That social media detox has me writing like a mofo lately and I am totally here for that. Currently at 2 posts a week just to get back in the habit in the again. Getting there!
I love that! It’s great to see you getting after it. And it makes me think that I probably need a social media detox…
I’ve got a number of colleagues who are basically introverts who actually find the speaking part of our job (I’m clergy) easier than some of the other parts. One said it’s because there is a natural distance between a speaker and audience, which sounds kind of like the energy exchange description you mention. Another said she feels like she switches on her “preacher mode” when speaking, the same way she puts on her robe and stole.
Interesting ideas; they don’t really apply in a job where speaking is part of the role but I if I didn’t have have that job they look like they would be helpful.
There is definitely a distance between the speaker and the audience! And speaking is part of my job as a teacher, but I’ve really enjoyed using these methods to find audiences that actually listen instead of playing with their phones the whole time. (Some is my students are great at paying attention, I should admit. However most of them are great at SnapChat.)
I would seem to have some of the same people in my pews as are in your classroom.
Hahaha! In this day and age, can we even compete with smart phones?
This is so useful, you don’t know how helped me, thanks a lot for sharing these tips. It is a really guide.