#BuildYrBrand 6: Getting Out on the Speaking Circuit

And we’re back! Hope you had some time over the holidays to relax and rest your mind. I find that I often have great ideas or come up with solutions to things I’m wrestling with when I put them out of my mind and think about something else.

We’re back on track today with our Build Your Brand series. Today, I interview my friend Carla Rieger, about how you can get out on the speaking circuit. Carla’s been a professional speaker for more than 20 years, and she’s worked as a speaker’s agent as well, so she knows her stuff! She often works with and coaches folks who are wanting to get started on the speaking circuit.

Becoming a speaker is an amazing way to build your personal brand. It literally gets you out there, in front of hundreds or maybe thousands of people. They get to experience you in all your glory–they get to learn from your knowledge, hook into your passion, and appreciate your expertise.
But how do you get to be a rockstar speaker? I asked Carla.


RC: First of all, is this a chicken-and-egg situation? Do I need to have a personal brand before I can have a speaking career? Or can my speaking career build my personal brand?


CR: Good question. The process of becoming a speaker usually first involves identifying your personal brand. Many new speakers make the mistake of saying they can speak on anything. It’s very hard to get established that way. Meeting planners need to feel you are an expert and that you are sharing information that will solve a problem their audience has, or that helps them move closer to an important goal. One way to establish your expertise is to have a strong personal brand.


RC: What are the first things I need to do if I want to start a speaking career?


CR: Pick a specific expertise and a niched audience. Again, many people make the mistake of thinking they could talk on anything to anyone, because they like to talk! However, it has to be something people want to listen to. I like to help people find that sweet spot.


This is the overlap between your passion, your credibility, your experience, and what the marketplace needs. 


Passion without a market means you could end up in trouble financially. Serving a hungry market with a topic you are indifferent to, can mean you don’t have the emotional sustainability be successful. The more niched you can be at the beginning the better. It’s easier to launch yourself as an expert on Linked in for Mortgage Brokers than it is to be a marketing expert for self-employed people. Even though you could probably help self-employed people with many aspects of marketing, you need to get people in the door with a specific expertise and then you can introduce them to your other offerings. The other reason to niche in a certain community is because people will refer you to others in the community. For most small business owners 80-90% of their business comes from referrals. Seek to speak at all the main events within a certain industry and your marketing becomes much easier.


Carla Rieger


RC: What tools do I need to market my workshops or keynotes?




    • A website with keywords such as “keynote speaker” “workshops” “your industry/community” “your expertise”.
    • Hire someone on www.fiverr.com for five dollars to do a keyword search to find out how people search for experts like you.
    • Ensure there is a tab on your website that says “Speaking & Training” and another one that says “Workshops”. The Speaking & Training tab is what meeting planners will click on. This will give you the opportunity to speak and do workshops at events that other people have produced. “Workshops” usually denotes public seminars that you are producing. Producing your own events is far more costly and time-consuming than speaking at other people’s events, so doing the latter is a much better place to get started.
    • On your speaking and training tab it very much helps to have a video of you speaking. Meeting planners want to know that you have experience and can hold an audience’s attention. It allows them to see if your style would be a good match for their audience. If you don’t have a video, produce your own seminar and hire a videographer.


RC: How do I find gigs? Should I try to find local gigs through people I know? Or should I apply for conferences? Is there some kind of database I can look at that lists these kinds of gigs?


CR: It depends on your topic and audience. For example, if you help newly retired people find a purpose for the next phase of their life you might try speaking at a local or national chapter of CARP (Canadian Association of Retired People), and Meet Ups for people over 55. Look through their websites and see if they have had speakers like you in the past. Contact the conference coordinator or Meet up organizer and ask when they start looking at speakers and what kind of speakers they are looking for. Call them on the phone rather than e-mail because you can get a better understanding of how they operate. Once you understand what they are looking for you can make a proposal that fits their criteria. Avoid sending your speaking topic out cold to people. It will be a waste of your time. If you are a Facebook marketing expert for Financial Planners, you could also go into Google and type “financial planning+ conference+list”. Then you will get a list of local, national and international conferences in that industry. Another thing you can do is type “[your industry]+call for proposals”. Call for proposals are for people to submit to speak for free at a certain industry or academic event. If you want to be a paid speaker you would need to contact the program coordinator for the conference. Often, industry events only pay for the keynote speakers. They expect the breakout speakers to be content experts within their industry who would attend the conference anyway and are looking for more business— therefore they don’t pay them. It’s excellent advertising for the speaker.


RC: Once I get a gig, how can maximize the coverage via social media?


CR: Connect personally with the social media person for the conference and ensure they have your twitter handle and other social media links. Ask how they plan to cover the event and make suggestions such as inviting audience members and organizers to tweet about your session. I have also seen speakers put their twitter handle on a slide and invite audience members to answer a fun question on twitter about your topic.


RC: Should I have a book/products to sell? I understand some people do speaking gigs for free, and make their money in the back end through books or courses.


CR: Given the popularity of free webinars and videos these days, paid speaking is on the decline. The people who get paid to speak are the ones who are expert at community building and audience interaction. These are things you cannot get on a webinar. Certain industries and conferences still expect to pay good motivational speakers who are funny, entertaining, offer a practical message and inspire delegates to interact. If your expertise is something you could find on a webinar, it very much helps to have products to sell. That way you don’t mind speaking for free because you will make money on the backend. You won’t be able to make much money selling a book, even if you self publish. These days books are just glorified business cards that add credibility to your expertise. If you are looking to make a living as an expert who speaks it helps to upsell a more in-depth program. This can be done live, such as a three day workshop in your city. Or it can be done online, such as an eight week membership site with streaming videos and PDF downloads. You can also upsell coaching and consulting as a way to take the material deeper and to turn your speaking engagements into income. There is a percentage of almost every audience that will want to go more in depth with your material, and offering them a way to do that is very beneficial to both you and them.


Thanks, Carla!!


I recently downloaded an mp3 of one of Carla’s workshops called How to Get Out on the Speaking Circuit, and it’s great! Here’s the link so you can listen.
For more info on Carla and what she does, visit her website, www.carlarieger.com.




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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

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