Keller Media Blog

getyourfirstpaidBy Wendy Keller, Literary Agent and Professional Speaker

Are You Ready?

The most common question beginning speakers ask me is, “How do I get someone to hire me to speak?”

Honestly, the answer to that question is pretty simple: Promote Yourself.

The very idea of having to promote yourself is one that makes most new speakers’ knees shake, not standing in front of a room of 20, 200 or even 2,000 people. Maybe the real greatest fear of mankind is ” Fear of promoting myself as a public speaker“?

In the beginning of your adventure as a speaker, you will find it almost impossible to get a bureau agent to promote you and work on your behalf, because they work on commission and you are as yet of no proven economic value.  Read on! There’s hope!

That means you have to approach meeting planners – the people with the power to hire you – all on your lonesome.  SURPRISE! It’s easier than you think when you know.

Here’s the situation:  A meeting planner’s job is to bring in the “best” person for the event being held.  Realistically, “best” might mean, “We have $5,000 to spend on a speaker.  Who is the best in this price category?”

If you’ve been reading my series, you know that I teach new and emerging speakers the “3 Ps” of Professional Speaking“:

  • Preparation* (so you are sure your message will appeal)
  • Packaging* (‘cuz you gotta look the part)
  • Promotion (what we’re talking about in this post)

*Click on the words above to see the related LinkedIn articles

What will make YOU the best investment in the eyes of the meeting planner?

Let’s say you are prepared and packaged as well as can be. You’re ready to get booked – make money – in 90 days. It’s totally doable!  Do you have the guts to follow this plan?

How to find people who want to hire you:

1. Look Locally.  Are there companies, colleges, associations or their branches, or other groups that meet within driving distance of you?  Many of these will be eager to have you come to speak – for free – in return for exposure to their membership and maybe a chicken dinner.  Their members may include people with the power to recommend you or hire you for other events. Most speakers start on “the rubber chicken circuit”…because it pays off.

Don’t knock it til you try it! It will give you a good chance to practice.  A few of these completed and you will have a much better idea of how this all works together.

2. Leverage Connections. Chances are, you’re known in your field.  If there are events coming up where you have a contact – or know somebody who might know somebody who can put in a good word for you – pursue this relentlessly.  It’s an easy way to get started.  If you are speaking for a group that will have more than 50 attendees, it is fair to ask to be paid.  Normally, half of your fee to “hold the date” is customary.

3. Dial for Dollars. I know I’m a freak, but I love cold calling!  I started my current business by cold calling. I had learned it in endless telemarketing boiler rooms as a teenager. (Yes! I called you during dinner back when it was legal!)

If you don’t love cold calling as much as I do, here’s a trick: Set up an imaginary character.  Give yourself a name and a personality.  I’m pretty good with accents, so I used to call on my own behalf as “Elizabeth” – complete with a faux British accent. Only one person ever busted me for my fake accent!  Even without one, when “someone else” you are pretending to be is calling, you may find it is a whole lot more fun and easier to pick up that phone and pitch yourself.  (Really!)  You won’t take rejection personally.

To begin, select 15 people you want to to have pay you to speak. Write out a pitch script and practice it at least 10 times standing in front of a mirror, smiling like a psycho.

Pick up the phone.  Dial the number.  Leave a clever message or deliver your pitch with charm. Pause for a response.

It’s that easy. Call 3 people per day every business day for a week.  That’s 15.  Then do it again the next week. And the next.

Those who have the chutzpah to pull this off will be surprised to discover…it works. Within 90 days, you should have your first paid booking!

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