When it comes to your career, your business, and even your author goals, learning how to become a speaker at events might be on your mind.
After all, thousands of people go to events to hear from authorities on topics they’re interested in learning more about. In order to place yourself as that authority, speaking at these events is important.
Over the past couple years, I’ve spoken at over 40 events on the topic of writing and publishing a book successfully.
This had brought in over 7-figures for my business, not to mention all the people who are now aware of me, what I do, and Self-Publishing School as a whole.
We recently launched a new product here called PR & Speaking for Authors on this very topic, with even more information. But in this post, I’m going to unveil our own process for becoming a speaker at events.
Here’s how to become a speaker at events:
- Finding events to speak at through networking
- Finding events to speak at cold research
- Reaching out to networked events
- Cold event outreach – with templates
- Follow Up
- Your first call with event coordinators
- Call recap email
- Confirming the event!
How to Get Paid to Speak at Events
This might be a hard pill to swallow but the truth is that if you want to get paid to speak at events, you have to have experience, a message worth the price tag, and authority.
Usually, people pay to speak at events when they first start. Sometimes you pay to “sponsor” the event, which you then get to speak at.
Until you become someone who has a platform and can bring more people to the event. In most cases, being able to show extreme authority in your field can also benefit getting paid to speak at events.
And for authority, we always recommend at a minimum, publishing a book. Being a published author is like having an immediate “authority” stamp on your forehead.
Here are other ways you can get paid to speak at events:
- Publish that book 😉
- Grow your platform
- Build a resumé of high-quality events you’ve spoken at
- Network with people who can vouche for you
How to Become a Speaker at Events: Our Foolproof Methods
I’m basically handing you our playbook for booking stages and becoming a speaker at events. Most of this was formulated by my Head of Business Development, Pedro Mattos.
He’s been largely responsible for this process and booking speaking events that have generated over $1.5 Million in sales for our business.
You’ll see a couple different types of steps for becoming a speaker at stages. These are separated by “networked” steps as well as “cold”.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar, networked steps involve getting speaking gigs from people you’ve met and connected you to the right people whereas cold research and outreach are the opposite, where you find the information and reach out without having any prior connection to the event or coordinator.
Both are really important, though networking will usually get you the most bang for your buck down the road. When you’re starting out, cold outreach will be your most lucrative, since you likely don’t know many people in the event business…yet 🙂
#1 – Finding events to speak at through networking
Say you’re in a position where you’ve been able to connect with people who are in the event business. By that, I mean they either work at events, throw them, or speak at them regularly.
These people can also be a past or current client, colleague, or strategic partner or someone’s event you’ve already spoken at.
Here are some people you can get in touch with in the “event business”:
- Think customers
- raving fans
- mastermind groups
- past stages
- social networks
- board members
- associations you’re a part of
- professional clubs
- online groups or forums
- experts you know
We recommend listing some names you can think of and putting those all in one place where you can track the progress of this before actually reaching out.
Organization is KEY for becoming a speaker at events. You’d be surprised how many opportunities can fall by the wayside without organized outreach and follow up, which we’ll cover.
For Self-Publishing School, we use Asana’s “Board” structure, as you can see below:
This way, it’s super organized. You know exactly who is in what stage so you know which steps you need to take next to become a speaker at their event.
You can also create something similar in a spreadsheet if you don’t want to use other software. Either way, make your list, label each step, and keep track!
#2 – Finding events via cold research
This is where the majority of you will likely fall if you’re just getting into the speaking world. You’ll do “cold” work when you don’t have any prior connections to people who work at the event, the event itself, or speakers.
Most of this requires good, old-fashioned online research, and we have a few tips for that.
Here are the top places to look:
- National Organization Document (See Gold Mining Folder of the Google Drive)
- Google: Determine our Search Criteria
- Types and Names of Stages
- Niches & Industries
- Example: |Chiropractic| conferences| in San Diego|
- Market Place Lists
- Social media
- You can use some of these hashtags to find posts: conference, event, keynotes, speakers, motivationalspeaker, meetingplanners, associationevents, eventplanner, organization
- Associations: you can find some here
- Online conference directories:
- Google alerts: set up a Google alert for certain keywords that pipe right into your email inbox
This will take some work. It’s not an instant result. That said, it’s worth it and you’ll likely make some connections within your niche that allows for other opportunities as well.
Keep track of these events and contact information in a spreadsheet or task organization software like Asana.
#3 – Outreach for networked events
You should have two lists at this point, one for people you know/of and another for cold outreaches. Once you’ve got that research down, start with the people know you, since these are usually the best chances of becoming a speaker at events.
When getting in touch with these people, there are certain methods that work better than others.
Reach out via channels in this particular order until you get a response:
- Text (ideally voice memo)
- In-person meeting
- Facebook messenger
- Direct mail via a hand-written letter
Here’s an example of a message Pedro sent out about an event.
We like to follow a specific formula for outreaches that we’ve figured out gets the most responses.
Here are a few things to remember for this:
- Mention how you know them
- Don’t ask for a referral, instead ask where they are going (and give a reason for your ask)!
- BONUS: End by asking for their address and sending a gift
#4 – Cold outreach to speak at events
Your cold outreach will be a little different than messaging those you already know. While a little more of an uphill battle, there are a few ways you can put yourself ahead of others.
Knowing event planners main problems can help you craft your outreach to get attention.
Here are their 3 main problems:
- They need to fill their event (aka sell tickets)
- They need to provide amazing content that solves a problem for their audience
- They need to cover their overhead / make revenue from the event through means other than ticket sales (sponsorship revenue, back-end sales revenue, etc)
With that stuff in mind, you need to at least mention and cover one of those needs in your first outreach, specifically how you can solve that problem.
Remember that with an initial outreach, you are not selling the event planner on having you on their stage. You’re selling them on getting on the phone with you for a 15-minute call.
Here are all of the components I would cover in the initial email:
- Direct subject line that talks about the opportunity of you and them working together. Ex: Partnership Opportunity
- In the first line two lines, explain who you are and why they should care (hit on one of the 3 pain points above)
- In the next line, explain why you believe that would be a good fit for their stage, and what your ideal scenario would look like.
- End with a CTA to book a short 15-minute call or an opened ended question asking if they have completely filled their speaking slots (this really works)
- Add a PS. with a link to something that proves your credibility (if you have a book, this should always be linked in your signature to begin with)
#5 Following up with initial outreaches
Follow-ups are arguably even more important than anything else. If you don’t bake this into your system, you’ll lose out on a lot of opportunity.
Our philosophy is “the money is in the follow up”.
If you are not getting a response, it’s probably one of three reasons:
- Your message is not relevant for them right now
- You are not talking to the right person
- You are not using the right medium (Facebook vs. email vs. text)
With that said, it is important to address all three of those points in your follow up – which means:
- Reach out to different people in the organization and ask to be directed to the correct person
- Change your ask, subject line, etc
- Try multiple mediums until someone replies (but don’t annoy them, spread out your contacts over some time to give them a chance to look at your messages)
#6 – Navigating your first call with event coordinators
We’ll cover two things in this point: how to schedule your first call and how to execute it to book the event.
How to Schedule Your First Call
If and when someone replies to your initial outreach positively, you’ll want to get on an actual phone (or video chat) call with them as soon as you can to close the deal while you’re fresh in their mind.
Your initial outreach should have included something about hopping on a quick call to chat details (since that was the purpose of it). Now when they respond, try to make that call happen in the next 48 hours to increase your chances of booking the event.
From here, you’ll include a link to a calendar where they can book, or you’ll confirm the time and send out a detailed calendar invite.
You’ll see an example of a Google invite below:
What to do While on Your First Call
The goal of this call is to familiarize yourself with the meeting planners and get a better understanding of their goals, challenges, and really anything you could help solve.
The second purpose is to get some logistics around stages and offer a solution that includes you speaking at or “sponsoring” their event.
Here’s an “outline” of what you should be shooting for during this conversion:
Step 1 – Introduction and rapport
- Ask where they’re from
- Introduce everyone on the call and provide:
- Context for who you are and what you’re doing
- How what you do relates to them and their event
Step 2 – Give context and figure out their goals
- “It’s so great to connect, and I really appreciate you taking the time to hop on this call. I know we don’t have a ton of time scheduled and I want to be respectful of yours, so to give you some context…”[give context around the call, sample below]
- Provide them with some more details about your mission, passion, and overall purpose, as well as why you want to grow our event connections and speaking resumé
- End this bit with: “So with that said, I’d love it if you could give a quick overview of the top projects / goals you’re working towards over the next few months, and we can see if there’s a way we can help.”
Step 3 – Let them know what you’re working on and why you’re building partnerships
- Give an overview of a few projects we have in the works that lend themselves to partnership opportunities
- Your goals
- Start off with a content sponsorship pitch “I think one easy win to start this relationship off is to start with a sponsorship. I’m sure you’re always looking for new sponsors, we’d love to see what would make sense”
- Go with an assumptive / “this-is-a-no-brainer-and-the-obvious-next-step” tone and you’ll pretty much get a 100% conversion on this
- Then ask them what it would look like to have you do a 45-60 minute presentation on your speech topic
- Finally, if it’s a fit and they have a decent-sized list (10k+ for bigger platforms, smaller if you’re just starting out), pitch an affiliate webinar:
- “Last thing that I think could be really cool for your audience and this relationship, is I’d love to do a live training around [your niche topic/speech]. We’ll set it all up, your audience gets access to some great content, and the best part to you is you get $x for any person you send to the training who becomes a student. Is that something we could get on the calendar in the next couple of months?”
The idea with these steps is to move through the conversation seamlessly and in a way that makes sense to them.
As with any professional call, don’t interrupt or ignore questions, etc. You want to have a cordial conversation that’s upbeat, fun, and makes them want to be around you, which will help with their decision to include you in their speaker lineup.
#7 – First call recap email
Yes, even your call needs a recap email. This helps to clear up any confusion and have a physical reference for both of you for what needs to happen next.
Ideally, this recap email should be sent to ALL relevant parties less than 3 hours after the call takes place.
It should recap EVERYTHING that was discussed, and specifically note dates, percentages (for discounts), specific next steps, and the names of people responsible for those steps.
If additional intros need to be made (content teams, for example), include everyone on the recap email, and indicate that the introductions will be made in a separate thread.
Be hyper-specific here. It might feel unnecessary or OCD. It almost certainly won’t come across that way.
Here’s an example of a solid recap email:
#8 – Confirming the event!
Now, don’t just go taking any event you can. It’s tempting but remember, you’re also vetting the event owners, their mission, and ensuring it aligns with what you’re doing.
BUT, if the event checks all of your boxes and meets all the requirements you set up for yourself, here’s what you’ll do next:
- Email the meeting planner confirming that you will be attending the stage
- Send an email to connecting anyone within your business (if there’s more than you) to the event planner
- Add the event to your personal calendar so you don’t forget
- Move this event over in your planning / tracking software or spreadsheet
- Transfer all known information, contracts, etc into the task you have in order to have all the info in a single place.
That’s how you become a speaker at events! It seems complicated, but this process isn’t as simple as sending one email.
We’ve nailed down this process and our Head of Business Development swears by it. Let us know how it works for you!