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So you want to get paid to speak as part of both a personal and business growth strategy, but have no idea how to get started? As someone who has been a paid speaker since 2001, I’m happy to share that the process isn’t actually as hard as you might think. If you’re a service professional with a good message and entertaining delivery, getting a handful (or more) of paid gigs a year is more than doable.
A few steps to take to proceed:
1. Get super clear information on topic titles
This sounds like the easiest step, but can actually be tricky. Why? Because when you are doing free gigs, organizers usually don’t ask a lot of questions about what you’re going to be talking about. They probably already know who you are (maybe you’ve worked with them or someone they know), and love that you make them look good in front of their group. But one paid speaking engagement is the professional equivalent of going from the minors to the majors (and that doesn’t imply disrespect: I still do the occasional free engagement).
Related: 3 easy ways to get paid for speaking engagements
Just as moving from the Birmingham Barons to a starting position for the Yankees is a giant leap forward, so is it. And it’s not because you’re playing a different game (speak is still speak), but once you get paid, conference organizers usually have different expectations.
A suitable preparation starts with an indelibly clear title – one that succinctly and captivatingly articulates the topic as well as what you will offer an audience. Personally, I’m a “how-to” guy when it comes to titles, such as:
“How to perform better without committing too much”
“How to Lead So Others Will Follow”
“How to Talk So Others Will Listen”
On the other hand, titles with phrases like “communication skills” or “leadership skills” may sound a lot less appealing to an organizer looking at 20 other people for a paid gig as a speaker.
Related: 3 steps to book your first paid speaking engagement
2. Provide a video of you speaking
One small positive ramification from Covid is that this move isn’t nearly as difficult as it used to be, as most of the presentations have been virtual for most of the past 24 months. If that’s all you’ve got, so be it, but in a perfect world you also have images of yourself on stage, in the real world, which gives organizers and meeting planners a better sense of your style. It’s my additional experience that these professionals actually prefer two videos – one of an entire presentation (“full reel”) and another with maybe two minutes of highlights, professionally edited and maybe even with a music track.
If you don’t have anything so sophisticated to offer, that’s fine, but you to have to deliver something for people to look at.
Related: The 5 things you need to know before pursuing paid speaking
3. Get clarity on the types of events you want
A common misconception I’ve come across is that approaching companies is the only way to get paid to speak. These gigs can certainly be lucrative, but don’t sleep on other paid options such as trade associations, schools, non-profits, and business conferences. So find a path (or two) that works for you and then act to find good opportunities.
There are a few additional actions you’ll want to take along the way, such as setting up a website and developing a lead pipeline for potential paid gigs, but these first steps will get you on the road to success.