If you're a new speaker who's been struggling to get gigs and trying to learn the ropes, more than likely you've been having a hard time figuring out where to start, whom to ask for when you make a call or whom you need to send that email to.
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In my experience as a professional speaker, I've learned several tips and tricks along the way. Earlier in my career, one of my mentors, and a Hall Of Fame speaker, Dr. Willie Jolley, told me that I needed to start charging $1,000 per event. I couldn't believe it, but I implemented his advice immediately and closed a deal the very next week with a local college for $1,000. One major key to becoming a successful speaker is to be confident and believe in the value you bring to the table.
I'm happy to say that today my fee has gone from $1,000 to more than $10,000, all as a result of implementing the tips below. Following these tips will help you not only get more gigs but make a great first impression and have event and meeting planners reaching back out to you!
Take advantage of every opportunity.
In the beginning, you will have to speak for free a few times, to get your feet wet. But, as you build a following and a presence, what you once did for free will eventually turn into a fee as more people begin to notice you.
Always take advantage of every opportunity because you never know who will be in the audience and who will actually want to hire you for a future event. The process many times can be longer than others, but be patient, stay the course, keep making connections and keep moving the needle forward, adding tremendous value every chance you get.
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When you're reaching out to potential prospects, it's OK to be different. It's also OK to let them know what makes you stand out, but also make sure you let them know how you plan on using your uniqueness to benefit their audience. At the end of the day, that's what matters most -- not you, not the event planner, but the audience. Be sure to have a unique point of view. Have the ability to command and hold the attention of the audience. You might be surprised; sometimes a newcomer can have a greater impact on an audience than the headliner, by sharing an interesting and unique story or perspective. Many times it's about seeing a fresh face, with a fresh voice, and providing fresh content. Whatever it is, be sure to stand out.
Make it about them and not about you.
When you're sending an email or making a phone call, try not to use the word "I." You shouldn't approach an opportunity thinking it's about you. Make it more about your prospects and their event and how you can help add value to "their audience." Most event planners are looking for speakers who are experts in the industry, can help fix a problem or issue, or who have a different perspective. If you can do all three, then you will more than likely be a good fit for the gig.
Related: How This Entrepreneur Went From Confused College Drop-Out to World-Class Public Speaker
Do your research.
When reaching out, lead with something about the organization or the audience it serves. Event planners are usually very impressed by the speakers who go the extra mile to do their homework and research.
Being able to deliver and personalize your presentation to the audience not only makes the event planner look good but also makes you look good. It shows everyone that you took the time to include and learn the language the audience is use to. By doing so, win the stage as well as the audience. It makes your content much more powerful and engaging and can be the deciding factor on whether you get invited back or referred.
Send a high-quality video.
Having a three- to five-minute video clip of your keynote or of you speaking that shows the viewers the value you will be adding to their event is a huge asset. Sizzle reels are great to highlight your different speeches, but most event planners are looking for a good solid few minutes of you doing your thing. If they like what they see in a few minutes, then they can only imagine what you can deliver in an hour presentation.
Whatever type of video clip you send, be sure to "hook" viewers right from the beginning. If you can do that, you can begin to reel them in to start a conversation. Make sure you also put your video on all your social media platforms, as most event planners will check your social media presence before they respond.
Related: 6 Things You Need to Do to Become a Paid Public Speaker
Know whom to reach out to.
You're probably thinking, This sounds great, but whom do I reach out to when contacting different places?
If you're trying to connect with event planners, you can either go to the event web page directly and get their contact info there or connect with them via LinkedIn and send them a message. If you're trying to connect with a corporation, you'll usually need to reach out to someone in the HR department (in some instances, you can talk with a sales or marketing manager as well). You can schedule a call or send the person an email. If you're looking to reach out to a college or university, you'll want to connect with the director of student services or campus life departments.
Remember, whichever route you decide to take, make it all about them and their events, not about you.
There you have it. Practical nuggets you can use and implement immediately to start booking more gigs and really begin to build a profitable and sustainable speaking career.
Cheers! Go get'em!