How to Schedule Speaking Engagements

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One of the most effective ways for authors to directly reach out to readers (and sell books to them) is through speaking engagements.  For some authors, this is their main means of moving significant quantities of their books.  For others, it is a way of not only generating book sales, but it is also a means of generating additional income through speaking fees.  Whether you are looking for speaking engagements as a way of promoting your book and selling books through back-of-the-room sales afterward, or you are striving to become a paid-for-play speaker, one of the most difficult questions for the beginning speaker is:  how do I get started?

For folks like Sarah Palin and Bill Clinton, it's easy.  They are already household names, and they demand (and get) hundreds of thousands of dollars for their speaking events.  For those who are not famous, at least not yet, they have to start somewhere.  That usually means speaking to local civic groups like Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Chambers of Commerce, VFW, American Legion, book clubs, writing groups, etc. 

To start with, you might consider forgoing a speaking fee and making a book signing after the speaking engagement part of your agreement.  Once you become more well-known and you are in demand, then you can start charging for your speaking engagements, AND holding a book signing during back-of-the-room sales at the end of the event.  Here are a few tips to get you started on the path to public speaking events:

1.  Work your contacts.  Are you a member of any groups or organizations?  Does your college have an alumni association?  Start working your own contacts.  These are the people who already know you.  Even if they don't have an immediate need for a speaker, they may be able to give you some leads.

2.  Work the phones.  Call your local Chamber of Commerce.  Call your local convention and visitors bureau.  Call your local Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions clubs.  They are almost always looking for guest speakers.  Even if you have a publicist, make these calls yourself.  The decision-makers who schedule guest speakers want to hear directly from the author, not a go-between.  Nobody can speak more passionately about your book or your speech topics than you. 

3.  Work on your flyer.  Try designing a decent one-sheet flyer that you can mail out to any organization that might have a need for a guest speaker.  Include a good author photo, a picture of your book cover, and a bullet-point list of your topics and why you would make a good guest speaker.  Don't make it read like a resume.  Concentrate on how you can help the organizations, not your past experiences (although you should have a very brief author bio).  Include some testimonials from anyone who has booked you as a speaker in the past.  You can see some examples of one-sheets here.

4.  Ask for referrals.  When you do a speaking engagement, always make sure you mention at the end of your talk that you are available for other speaking engagements.  You never know who is sitting in the audience.  Make some one-sheets available at your book signing table.  One speaking engagement could lead to others. 

5.  Create your own speaking event.  Book a room at a local community center or local public library and schedule your own speaking event/book signing.  It will give you a chance to practice and showcase your speaking skills, and could lead to other events.  An event of this type will require a lot of pre-promotion to get people in the door, so make sure you have something to offer that would attract people to your event.  If the first event is successful, you may be able to branch out to other venues around the area.  Before you know it, people have heard of you and they will seek out out as a guest speaker (always have business cards and contact info available at your speaking engagements).

6.  Join a Speakers Bureau.  You may have a local speakers bureau at the convention and visitors bureau or chamber.  Try to get listed on them, and you'll have prospects come to you.  This is most effective after you have already developed a reputation as a speaker.  Speakers bureaus usually take a percentage of your speaking fee for sending speaking engagements your way.  There are also online speakers bureaus (such as Speaker Leads, which is FREE for Tate Publishing authors) where you can be listed.

4 comments:

Marja said...

Thanks Terry for this very helpful information. You inspired me all over again!

Andrew Brooks said...

Great advice, don't forget to add yourself to Speaker Wiki as well. http://speakerwiki.org

Anonymous said...

What is the standard percentage a Speaker Bureau takes from a speaking engagement? Thanks!
Jackiep@impressionspr.net

Watch ME Achieve said...

Nice article. I'm embarking on a career in motivational speaking and your blog has helped me to get started.

 

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