I’m not going to lie and tell you that becoming a highly-coveted keynote speaker is easy. It’s not. It requires a lot of effort and introspection. But obviously it can be done—including by you!
And, it’s never too early to start. With keynote speaking, one must almost always start small. Each talk serves as a stepping stone to that big-paying, highly-visible gig.
Here’s how to get started marketing yourself as a speaker.
First, figure out who you want to talk to.
Don’t assume that everyone wants to hear what you have to say. You need to figure out who can benefit most from your expertise and then get to know them.
Learn what they read, what groups they belong to, what they celebrate, what they do, and most importantly, what events they attend. Make a list of top conferences coming up over the next year to year-and-a-half.
Then, get plugged in by joining groups and engaging on social media. This helps you make connections and lays the groundwork for marketing what you have to offer through these channels.
Then, figure out what you want to say.
Come up with an elevator pitch of what you want to talk about. Ask yourself what your big idea is. Why is it important? Why is it important NOW? And don’t be afraid to get emotional. Think about how your talk will make your audiences feel.
Prepare for speaker applications and pitches by coming up with a paragraph description of your talk along with an outline. Have a list of your past talks handy along with speaker videos. (It’s a good idea to start recording all your talks so that you have an arsenal to choose from when proving what a compelling speaker you are.)
A speaker reel is a strong tool when applying for speaking gigs. This reel often includes a montage of your talks that exhibits your energy and connection with audiences. It also includes a long segment of a talk to show your consistency.
Many applications ask for customized videos—e.g., a four-minute spot of you outlining your talk. Don’t stress about this being highly-produced. Just ensure the visual and audio background is not distracting.
When putting together all these materials, always remember who you are speaking to and why they should care about what you’re saying.
Finally, get out there.
Now, you’re ready to pitch yourself. In addition to online applications, many events have meeting planners in charge of bringing in speakers. Find them and reach out.
Write a short pitch that includes a few sentences of what you would like to talk about, why their audience needs to hear it, a short description of your experience, and a link for more information. Try to create a sense of urgency when appropriate—make your message timely or limit your availability.
Email, then follow up a few days later with a phone call. Then email and call again.
After you start landing gigs, keep the momentum going. Attach your message to new trends, fears, or events.
Remember. With public speaking, once you get going, you’re on a roll.
Whitney is the public relations director at WI. She started her career in communications as a TV news anchor/reporter in Virginia and Tennessee before switching to public relations. Whitney earned her bachelors in government at Georgetown University, and masters in PR from the University of Tennessee. She enjoys spending time with her family in Knoxville, TN, and running competitively.