How To Market Yourself As A Speaker

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Many people say they would like to do more public speaking. Many people bill themselves as Public Speakers. Many people would like to be represented by a speaker’s bureau. Here are some thoughts to consider first…

Let me start off with some context: I am represented by two speaking bureaus (Speaker’s Spotlight and Greater Talent Network). I give about 70 presentations a year. I also sit on the organizing committee for many events and I am frequently called upon to help groups choose speakers. Basically, I am often involved on both sides of the speaking business.

Now, to the challenge for speakers and wannabe-speakers: it’s easy to say, "so and so can speak," but just because someone can speak (or wants to, or has done so in the past) it does not necessarily mean that they can present and hold an audience through an entire session or even as part of a panel discussion. Some of the best entrepreneurs and businesspeople with the most amazing success stories can be great communicators but terrible presenters. Speaking in public is an art form that takes time, preparation, practice and experience to master. A desire to do it is simply not enough (but, it is a great starting point).

The truth is that people wanting to speak need to amp up their skills in this space (both in presenting and marketing themselves).

I’ve seen people read from paper nervously, fumble through their slides, lean on podiums, have their hands stuffed into their pockets, mumble, and – in general – be totally unprepared. When organizers are putting up money and selling tickets, gender, diversity, etc… goes out the window if the content (re: presenters) don’t knock it out of the park and deliver value to the paying customers.

Here’s the good news…

Very few people are actually amazing at presenting – leaving tons of room for those interested to train, practice, film yourself, post it on YouTube and get your presentation skills in front of those organizers.

Here’s the bad news…

Most people who say that they are willing to be speakers (and even those who claim to be speakers) don’t have much information about their speaking on their Blogs, websites, etc… So, even if people now know you would like to speak, how would they be able to find you and then see what you speak about it? Everything changed for me in speaking the minute we (Twist Image) set-up a speaker’s page (Tara Hunt has a great one too).

Here’s what you need on a speaking page:

  • a bio that is about your speaking.
  • a clear statement about the topics you cover (i.e. Digital Marketing, Personal Branding and Social Media).
  • a list of topics (with catchy titles) and what the attendee will learn with an abstract about each session.
  • a video demo of you live and in action.
  • pictures of you speaking live – again, in action.
  • testimonials from organizations that the potential client can relate to.
  • a list of companies/organization you have previously spoken for.

Like anything else, people can’t buy from you unless they know you’re alive. They’re not going to figure it out on their own.

The trick is to make it simple. More importantly, give conference organizers something they can go back to their organizing committee with, so that they are all on the same page. When I am on the other side of the coin (organizing committee), and I don’t see this type of content from a speaker, it concerns me because I wonder to myself, "how professional can this person be if they have no testimonials or a video sample of them doing what they say they can do?" It would almost be like not having a portfolio section on your corporate website if you’re an advertising agency.

The truth is that you don’t have to be the most amazing speaker, but you do have to be professional, prepared and able to hold an audience by keeping them interested (even if you’re just sitting on a panel discussion). If you can’t prove that you can do this on a simple webpage, do you really think a conference organizer is going to roll the dice on you?

In the end, it’s about letting people know that you are a speaker (or interested in taking part in a panel) in the first place and having the content to back up your desire to speak.

If you do all of the above and the speaking opportunities are not coming in, you should definitely try working with a public speaking coach or joining your local Toastmasters. This way you’ll be able to better work out why the requests are not streaming in (it usually has to do with either the content, presentation skills or a combination of the two).

At the very least, check out these three books:

  1. Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds.
  2. Give Your Speech, Change The World by Nick Morgan.
  3. Slide-ology by Nancy Duarte.

(this post was inspired by this conversation: One Degree – Why Aren’t You On The Roster?).


  1. What a great article, thanks for sharing Mitch. Couple of quick points,
    Joining your local toastmasters club is one of the best ways to gain confidence speaking in front of a group of people and gives you a positive venue to practice the art of public speaking – highly recommended.
    Don’t waste anymore time, get a copy of Presentation Zen now! You won’t be sorry – this book should be mandatory reading for anyone who wants to improve their presentations and stand out from everyone else who are busy torturing their audience with bullet after bullet, clip-art and animated slide changes.

  2. As someone who makes a living speaking professionally, I endorse everything you say Mitch. In addition to the books you’ve recommended, I’d like to add one more – The Wealthy Speaker by Jane Atkinson is by far, one of the best primers I have ever read for someone who actually wants to speak for a living. I am often approached by people who would like to do what I do, and invariably I always recommend Jane’s book. Keep in mind, this is not a book for those who just want to gain confidence speaking in public; for that I recommend Toastmasters as well. This is for those who want to take the next step and make speaking their livelihood.

  3. I couldn’t agree more, Mitch. Speaking is an art and it takes more than just saying that you are a speaker. The speaker’s I admire are those that combine storytelling, visuals and interactivity. I live from speaking, but never stop learning from those who are really good performers. Recently, I also upgraded my online presence to better market my speaking activity – personal online branding makes a big difference. At I tried to show what my speaking is all about.

  4. Thank you for substantive post and for influencing my next business investment. Though I’ve been speaking for years and am a member of NSA, I have resisted the huge investment that comes with a quality video demo. I have plenty of “crude” footage, but none of it upholds my brand. It’s high time I stop relying on current audience members for next my “gig” and start marketing directly to those who hire speakers.

  5. Thanks for your article. Right on. As the owner of Speaker Services and a marketing strategist for professionals and authors the points you bring up are so true.
    I really wish that “the experts” would invest in training & not just shoot from the hip.
    Good speakers are made, not born.
    We do Speakers Bootcamp and 3 camera video demos plus lots of other goodies.
    Susan Levin. Speaker Services

  6. Mitch,
    Excellent and very helpful post. I’ve been fortunate to be able to speak from one end of the country (US) to the other over the last year. I’ve really been thinking about stepping up my game.
    Thanks for the kick in the pants.

  7. Mitch, great info.
    The elements you list for a good speaker web page are now the “price of entry”. A static page listing topics and linking to a few videos will receive one visit. A page that presents all the latest content (videos, blogs, tweets, pictures, papers, etc…) from that speaker turns them from a speaker who speaks for 90 minutes to energize a crowd into an expert that can educate/motivate/etc.. an audience over a longer period of time.
    Speakers should be looking for ways to connect with their audiences BETWEEN in-person appearances. Not only will that bring in additional revenue and provide more value, but it will keep them front of mind for the next time that organization needs an in-person speaker.
    Speaker Interactive ( is one company that provides a service to bureaus and even individual speakers to do all the logistics and technology to help make speakers interactive (online).

  8. Great blog and comments.
    I’ve worked with Eric and Eliot at and they are excellent resources for anyone looking to improve their speaking skills. I used them to work with a sales team and the results were fantastic.
    Six pixels of separation at work again!

  9. Well Mitch, you are the first person that told it like it was and did not put any sugar coating on it. I am planning on joining my local Toastmasters and also find a way to get video and audio of me speaking so that I can add it to my site. Thanks!

  10. I think Serendipity must have got me to this blog.
    I have not read any of the books mentioned above , but I could write one myself on the topic of how to market a speaker.
    I ran a speaker’s bureau in my spare time for 15 years and then I left the business after 9/11 because of the changes in airline travel industry.
    I’ve met speakers that speak on the topic of customer service that don’t bother to return calls. Do you think I ever booked them? Nope
    People think that just because they can talk that they can speak.
    They figure just because the barriers to entry are low that they can easily succeed.
    Nothing could be further from the truth.
    There are many great authors that are awful speakers and vice versa.
    Do you have any idea how long you have to impress me with your speaking skills?
    Less than ten seconds.
    Think for a moment. How long does it take you to form a judgement when you watch performers on a T.V. talent show?
    If they are bad then they will instantly get buzzed right off the stage.
    Being a talent judge is painful when you have to tell people they just aren’t good enough.
    Many speakers have very BIG EGO’s and their EGO’s are not their amigos.
    It normally takes a speaker seven long years before they have enough clients to justify speaking as a primary source of income.
    This time frame could be compressed down to a year.
    You would need hire an experienced speaking coach and you would have to invest 80 to 100 thousand dollars into your speaking career.
    You could recover their investment in under a year.
    Everything in life has a cost.
    You will either have to invest time, money or a combination of both to succeed.
    If you go to Toast Masters then you are investing time to develop the speaking skills.
    They are a great organization to learn how to speak in public.
    Speaking is a lot like real estate, ten percent of the agents make 90 percent of all the money and so it is with the professional speaking industry.
    There were a lot of keynote speakers that commanded a $5,000 keynote fee back in the 20th century. They often performed around 120 speaking engagements a year.
    Most of the speakers I represented made between $250k to $500k a year from speaking and selling books and consulting services. I made 25% of their speaking fees.
    You have to treat professional speaking like a real business if you want to be taken seriously by a speakers bureau.
    You also have to be good at creating and maintaining business relationships.
    That means turning over leads to the speakers bureau.
    If I didn’t get two or three leads after a booking then I would never book that speaker again.
    They would lose a lot of long term business for a short term gain.
    I only worked with professional speakers and I checked them out thoroughly.
    I screened them for character flaws because I would not risk my reputation with my clients on someone that wasn’t a professional.
    It tends to ruin a business relationship when a speaker unexpectedly bills the event planner for escort services and alcohol as an entertainment expense.
    It’s a lot of fun negotiating withcustom agents that are holding a speaker captive at the border because they said they were giving a seminar instead of saying they were attending a seminar.
    Do you know who makes out like a bandit when that happens?
    It’s the I.R.S. agencies.
    One last piece of advice.
    Find something that you are passionate about and become an expert on that “BUSINESS” topic. People only want to hire experts. An expert is a person that has facts on the tip of their tongue and they have all their ducks in a row.
    Then go entertain them and they will love you.
    Good Luck

  11. Great article. I would add one thing: when possible issue a press release about your upcoming speaking gig and put it on a wire. Press releases with your name in the title will eventually rank on search engines for your name. This will make your speaking “history” stick around.

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