17 Ways to Find Speaking Engagements to Further Your Brand

Audience Conference

What’s your best piece of advice for finding great speaking engagements?

The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

1. Get Organizers’ Attention Through the Mail

“Everyone sends links to their speaker page or YouTube videos. If everyone does it, it just makes you look like everyone else. To grab the attention of someone at an event or an association, send them something that blows them away in the mail. Mail a DVD of your top keynote, a few postcards with testimonials, a copy of your book and a sales letter on why they should hire you.”

Greg Rollett, Ambitious Media Group

2. Don’t Necessarily Pitch the Biggest Events

“It’s not always the biggest events where you’ll find the right audience for you. Think of which events your target audience is most likely to be found in, and pitch those events for speaking opportunities. You may find that it will be a lot easier for you to get a speaking engagement at those events, and it will also be more productive for your purposes.”

Ayelet Noff, Blonde 2.0

3. Use Meetup.com

“I use Meetup.com to find speaking engagements in my area. There are tons of technical meetups that bring like-minded people together and provide them with opportunities to talk about vision, trends, companies, challenges and achievements. Most of them are free and frequent. They also work as a “hangout time” after a long day, or take place over breakfast or lunch.”

Piyush Jain, SIMpalm

4. Create a Speaker’s Packet

“We have a customized speaker’s packet, which is a great tool to set expectations and show that you are a true professional. But we also send a new packet once the deal has been signed that eliminates guess work on all stages of the process — contract to speech arrangements to payment. People are always impressed when I send it. It saves us all time and makes it a more pleasant experience.”

Suzanne Smith, Social Impact Architects

5. Apply on the Event’s Website

“The first step to getting a job is to apply. I’ve gotten to be a speaker at some of the most prestigious events in the world by simply going to the site and applying to be a speaker. If you know the event organizer, it’s an added bonus where you can get in a lot easier.”

John Rampton, Calendar 

6. Nurture Your Network

“Some of my highest-value speaking opportunities have arisen at the last minute when someone dropped out of an event and a colleague or acquaintance asked me to pinch hit. As with all else in business, it always comes back to your network. Invest time and energy into your professional relationships and make sure people know that you’re a knowledgeable go-to expert with a strong speaking background.”

Heather Schwarz-Lopes, EarlyShares

7. Get Referred

“The best way to get speaking engagements is knowing the organizer personally. If you do not know the owner, then find a mutual friend who does and get an introduction. Event organizers are under pressure to find speakers, so the personal introduction can make all the difference, especially if you’re already a known expert in your field.”

Thomas SmaleFE International

8. Deliver a Great Talk Every Time

“Here’s what I’ve learned from speaking at 200+ conferences and events: Watch the greatest speakers and learn from them. Deliver a great talk every time. Follow up with the event organizer. Ask for testimonials after your talks. Get recordings of your talks and post them on YouTube. Build a personal website with your reviews, testimonials and content.”

Chris Goward, WiderFunnel

9. Organize Events

“Organize a few of your own events to get your name out there. It’s a great way to build your brand and connect with other event organizers. That will put you in a position to get more potential speaking engagements.”

Ben LangMapme

10. Look for a Place You Can Shine

“Going through the normal channels puts you up against all the regular suspects, but there are plenty of ways to stand apart if you know where to look. There are sites popping up like innovationwomen.com that are working on behalf of its members to increase exposure.”

Tammy Leigh KahnConstant Contact

11. Participate in Associations, Clubs and/or Nonprofits

“Joining an association gives you a direct way to arrange speaking engagement opportunities for yourself. For example, I joined the Harvard Business School Alumni Association of Orange County a few years ago and became a board director. My participation gave me the opportunity to speak and present at different HBSAOC events, such as the internationally-recognized Harvard New Venture Competition.”

Jason Thanh La, Merchant Service Group, LLC & K5 Ventures

12. Contact a Conference Organizer

“Just reach out and contact the conference organizer. Just like you, they have a job to do and usually need to fill a bunch of break out rooms with panelists. You can make their work easier by researching the conference and pitching yourself as a thought leader with respect to whatever theme they are focused on.”

Christopher Kelly, Convene

13. Put Together a Speaker’s Page

“Create a page for yourself on your company or personal site with a speaker’s bio, headshot, and topics that you’d be comfortable speaking on. Include a contact form where people can reach out to you and demos of past speaking engagements. You can then use your speaker’s page to reach out to organizations and schools when you’re pitching yourself as a speaker.”

Mattan GriffelOne Month

14. Hire a PR Firm

“There are a lot of ways to get a speaking engagement other than hiring a PR firm, but those strategies will not yield the same result. PR firms will save you time and help you secure elite speaking opportunities that you are unlikely to get on your own. In addition, PR firms can secure paid speaking gigs and help get you quoted as an expert in major publications.”

Obinna Ekezie, Wakanow.com

15. Build a Following

“A prerequisite to finding great speaking engagements is to be perceived as a subject matter expert in your field. While there are multiple ways to do this, most of which are tied at the hip, one way to achieve it is by creating an avid following through a high-quality blog. The key, however, is to consistently publish and promote actionable content that is specific to your field.”

Vishal Shah, NoPaperForms

16. Apply With a Specific Topic in Mind

“They key to earning an invitation to top speaking engagements is to apply with a great topic in mind. Spend considerable time looking at the conference agenda for the most relevant topic related to your area of expertise. Once you identify a topic, write an outline and submit it to the conference organizer, including format (solo or panel). If panel, make sure to include proposed speakers.”

Kristopher Jones, LSEO.com

17. Go Local

“Instead of trying to find your way into huge, famous conferences and events, tap into your local market and become a brand ambassador at events near you and where your company is based. It is much more likely that you will be able to speak (and involve your branding with the event) at a smaller, more specified conference in your state, and they will appreciate local entrepreneurs sharing advice.”

Miles Jennings, Recruiter.com