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Build Your Brand to Get Paid Speaking Gigs

This guest post is by Valerie Khoo from www.ValerieKhoo.com

This article is the third of a three-part series on how to build your brand through your blog and get paid for your creative output and expertise. The first two parts were about How to build your brand to get paid to write for magazines and How to build your brand to get a book deal.

Jon Bon Jovi feels it all the time. The cheers, the applause. That feeling that you have an audience right in the palm of your hand while you’re on stage. The confidence that you’re taking them on the highs and lows of a journey with you.

Jon Bon Jovi does it through music. But when you’re speaking to a crowd of captivated listeners, you’re doing it through storytelling. And you’re getting paid for it.

If your blog has given you the opportunity to develop expertise in an area—whether that’s parenting, travel, wine or simply the art of blogging—it might be time to explore the world of paid speaking engagements.

Okay, chances are that you won’t be able to draw a crowd quite as big as Jon can. But even if you only do one or two speaking engagements each month, you might be able to generate more revenue from this than all the effort you put into trying to secure some banner advertising or sponsored posts.

So how do you go from being a humble blogger to rock star speaker?

1. Tell people you’re “open for business”

It sounds so simple, but this one thing can make a big difference. People aren’t going to know that you offer your services as a paid speaker unless you actually tell them. Mention it on your blog and customise your bio so it’s clear that you do this.

A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to get paid as speaker. I knew I had a wealth of information I wanted to share but no idea how to approach event organisers to offer my services—particularly as I had no track record as a speaker at the time.

Then I had a chat with Catriona Pollard from Public Relations Sydney, who successfully secures speaking engagements for many of her clients. She simply said to me: “You need a ‘speaker’s bio’ on your blog.”

A speaker’s bio is much like your regular bio except that it also features testimonials from people who have heard you speak, outlines your topics, and showcases your expertise in those subjects. You can check mine out here.

At the same time, I had to order some new business cards. Author and business coach William de Ora from Quantum Publications told me: “Put the words ‘keynote speaker’ on your card.” I felt this was a bold move at the time but I gave it a go.

Within a month of following the advice from both Catriona, I had secured my first paid speaking gig. And I’ve been doing them ever since.

2. Ensure your blog showcases your expertise

If you want to speak about the political unrest in the Middle East, then that’s what you should blog about. If you want to speak about how to raise children, make sure your posts cover these issues. If you want to talk about why Klingon is linguistically superior to Elvish, then your posts should debate the relative merits of both.

This is because you need to position yourself as an expert in your chosen field if you want to get paid to speak. Don’t worry, it’s not vital to have a Masters in Political Science or a PhD in Tolkien to get a speaking gig (although, sometimes, this can’t hurt). But you do need to show that you’re smarter than the average bear on your chosen topic. Your blog is the perfect showcase for this.

3. Identify your speaking topics

Identity two or three specific topics that you can confidently and passionately talk about.

Bad: I can talk about issues surrounding raising children.

Good: My core keynote presentations include:
“How to raise a teenager with depression”
“Successful co-parenting after divorce”

Basically, if someone is looking for a speaker, you want to plant a seed in their minds with a clear topic. Otherwise you end up spending a lot of time discussing a wide range of topics, then have to research and prepare presentations which may be just outside your core area of expertise.

Make sure you feature these keynote topics in your speaker’s bio and ensure that you also create blog posts that point to them.

4. Move from freemium to premium

I suggest cutting your teeth with smaller crowds first such as your local chambers or commerce, service clubs, or community organisations, so that you can hone your presentation and get over any nerves.

These groups may not have the budget to pay you. However, it may be worth doing a few free speaking engagements if you’re just getting started. Think of the “free” gigs as your beta test: you’ll see which jokes they laugh at and which fall flat, you’ll know the bits where the audience is on the edge of their seats, and the sections where they’re bored out of their brains.

While you might want to get cash coming in straight away, trust me, you want to know that you’re delivering a stellar presentation before you insist on being paid. Once you’re confident, then start targeting events and conferences that pay speakers.

If you can get someone to video you in action, put together a “showreel” and embed this video on your blog so you can showcase your talents.

5. Find a speakers’ agency and presentation coach

If you want to get serious about this speaking caper, I suggest two things.

Register with a speakers’ agency

A professional agency (which obviously takes a commission from your speaking fee) may already have established relationships with conference and event organisers, which is great if you don’t have any. But it depends on what industry you’re in and what you are speaking about. I’ve actually secured more paid gigs through my blog than through my agency.

Invest in a presentations coach

I thought I was a decent speaker—and then I invested in a presentations coach. She transformed the experience for me. Learning tips and tricks from a professional speaking coach helped me eliminate nerves, cut down my preparation time and gave me the tools I needed to really engage my audiences. I can’t recommend this enough.

Start talking!

Speaking on stage is not everyone’s cup of tea. But if you want to get paid to talk about what you love—or just want to channel Jon Bon Jovi—your blog might help you do just that.

Have you landed any speaking gigs through your blog? Tell us how—and how it went—in the comments.

Valerie Khoo is founder of www.SydneyWritersCentre.com.au which offers online courses in magazine writing. She blogs at www.ValerieKhoo.com and is author of the new book Power Stories: The 8 Stories You MUST Tell to Build an Epic Businesswww.PowerStoriesBook.com.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the tips! This is exactly what I want to do and I’m excited to read this. I had my first speaking engagement this weekend in Las Vegas and it was amazing. I was terrified, but when I got in front of my audience, it was easy. I received lots of compliments and now I’m planning a YouTube video series to capitalize on the attention.

    Thanks again.

    Kimberly

    • Valerie Khoo says:

      Great to hear that it went well Kimberly. If you plan on doing more, I really do also recommend considering a presentations coach. One of the best investments I’ve ever made :)

  2. Thora Bott says:

    Yes, I think speaking in front of a group of people is very stressful. I guess practice makes perfect, so you should give a speech at every chance that you can.

    • Valerie Khoo says:

      Even a two-minute speech – like an introduction at a networking event – is a great start. When I first time doing them, my heart would palpitate and I would go all red! But now you can stick me in front of 500 people for an hour and I’m fine.

  3. CaAtherine says:

    Many thanks for the great advice. For the past year I’ve been ‘cutting my teeth’ in ‘freemium’ mode. Now its time to take it up a notch. Your advice about adding keynote to my business card is fantastic – thanks Valerie.

  4. Wow! I really like the fact that you brought a second part of brand building. I really enjoy it and hey… thanks a lot for the tips. keep posting!

  5. I completely agree to the fact that speaking on stage especially in parties. I could recommend speaking in small gatherings in order to build your brand! I appreciate for this update.

  6. Arbaz Khan says:

    This is one great article.
    I really liked the first point to tell people you are open for business.
    It can get a little tricky here if you are not doing it right and can make people around you feel that you are quite desperate to get work. That should be done with proper care or it will leave a very bad impression.

  7. Your blog helps you get speaking engagements, and speaking engagements will help grow your blog. The relationship is reciprocal.

    Great advice. While I was reading, I’d think of something, and then a few lines later, there it was. I think you covered all the bases.

  8. Saskia Bader says:

    I would love to do this because I enjoy talking on stage as I did with my poetry and short stories quite a few times, but I have no clue about starting to get engagements about blogging (the topic of my blog). It seems difficult to find local groups to get started in my case because I live in Germany but I blog about my topic in English, so local people may not read my blog in the first place.
    Thank you for this interesting article.

  9. Chad Miller says:

    Valerie, this is great advice.
    Growing up, I always knew that I’d perform in front of 40,000 plus… only I expected to be throwing and hitting baseballs. Now, I hope to build a platform that will allow me to speak to an audience of 40,000.
    Your outline is another great tool to help me make that happen.