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Five Tips to Help You Land Your First Speaking Gig


One of the speaker sessions at BWENY 2011

In just over two weeks, I’ll be speaking at Marywood University about using social media after graduation (in addition to blogging here, I also run a career advice blog at After Graduation). It’s officially my first paid speaking gig, and I couldn’t be more excited! Speaking gigs are a great way to both build your brand and make some money with your blog. So how did I land a speaking engagement and how can you do the same? Here are five tips you can use to start speaking about your niche:

1. Look outside conferences and other events.

Of course we love receiving your speaker applications here at BlogWorld and other events (SXSW, BlogHer, etc.) are also great for people hoping to speak. However, for every one open session organizers are trying to fill, there are dozens or even hundreds of speakers who apply. Instead, think about other places where groups of people gather and would be interested in what you have to teach. For example, I’m speaking to a college class. You could speak at high schools, churches or religious meetings, events outside the social media industry, women’s groups, businesses, and more.

2. Don’t wait for people to come to you.

You’re going to be sitting at home waiting by the phone for a long time if you’re waiting for people to approach you about speaking. Yes, it happens, especially if you have speaker page on your blog. If you’ve never been a speaker before, though, you have to go out and actively find opportunities to speak, not just wait for people to contact you. I was proactive about contacting Marywood’s professors to land my first gig.

3. Have an “in” where you’d like to speak.

When you’re unproven as a speaker, it helps to have an in wherever you want to speak. My sister is a student at Marywood and I’ve also had interns at this school, so it just made sense. The professor who is allowing me to speak to her class knows me, so even though I don’t have prior experience, she’s willing to give me a chance. I can use this opportunity to record my talk, which will help in getting future gigs, even when I don’t have an in. Who do you know? Maybe your best friend’s company would benefit from a short session with you. Maybe your mom is the president of a business organization that is looking for speakers at their monthly meetings. Maybe your spouse is part of an alumni group who would love to hear you speak.

4. Be relevant.

If you blog about real estate but are looking for a speak about how to use Twitter, there’s going to be a disconnect for event organizers. Now, you might be more than capable of speaking about Twitter, and you might even be the best person to talk about Twitter, but unless you have some social proof in this area, it’s going to be a difficult sell. For your first speaking gig, try to find an opportunity that is extremely relevant and closely related to your experiences. I run a blog about career advice for 20-somethings and work for a new media conference. I’m speaking about new media to a group of students. That isn’t a coincidence.

5. Lower your expectations a little.

Sure, we all want to be keynoters for events in our industry, but you need to work up to that. You probably aren’t going to get paid $10,000 and speak to a room of thousands of people your first time. You may have to volunteer as a speaker and you may have a very small audience. That’s okay. You’re building a speaking resume so you can get paid more and speak to larger groups next time. Dream big…but start small.

Have you spoken to groups before? Tell us about your first gig and leave some tips for people who’ve not yet landed any speaking gigs!


  • Ramon_DeLeon

    I Love it…..Congratulations! #RamonWOW Tweeted you some other tips

  • Meta2012

    Hard working & Good Posting, Every one can learn something. Best Regards,CEO of http://www.makemakingmoney.net

  • mtlpreneur

    @julianap16 Thx for the RT – appreciate it

  • Online University

    SchoolandUniversity.com help me find a School,University and College.http://www.schoolanduniversity.com

  • AndrewPitchford

    @bernidymet good job you’re up to 301 then 😛

  • Kerwin

    Nice post Allison.  You are very correct indeed.  Also, there are some conferences that are smaller who are always looking for speakers.  When one attends other conferences its good to network as someone you meet may be looking for the material on which you are an expert.
    Congrats on the new gig.

  • Marjorie R. Asturias

    I just came across this post while doing some researching in preparation for my speaker proposal for NMX 2014, so please forgive my rather late response! 😉

    I actually had great success landing speaking gigs once I joined a couple of local Chambers of Commerce. These organizations are built specifically to support their members’ respective businesses, so once you’ve established yourself as a committed and engaging member, you can volunteer to host a workshop or seminar for the general membership. They’re always hungry for quality speakers with content useful to their audience of business owners and entrepreneurs, i.e., exactly the kind of audience many of you are looking for. These are typically not paid gigs, but they’re great additions to your speaker portfolio.

    Also, many Chambers organize business conferences and expos, which may provide additional opportunities for speaking and workshop engagements.

    Thanks for a great article!

    Marjorie R. Asturias

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