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Guide to getting started on the speaking circuit

If an important part of your PR is to showcase your knowledge and expertise in front of a business audience, then speaking engagements can be an important part of your PR program. Consider speaking at events run by industry associations that represent target businesses; trade shows that attract them (but you may need to purchase a stand), chambers of commerce, and networking events. If you are a B2C business, expos may be a good avenue, but you will very likely be asked to buy a stand before you are considered as a speaker, unless you have a strong public profile.

Large blue-chip organisations regularly run events for their own clients and look externally for speakers. These are also worth pitching to. Speaker bureaus are another a good avenue, but you must already have a strong public profile to be considered by them.

Do you seek payment?
Normally, the stronger your public profile and the more experience you have as a speaker in front of large audiences, the more likely you are to receive some payment. Decide what’s most important to you: to get in front of your target audience with your own message, or to be paid to speak about a prescribed topic to an audience that are not potential customers.

When an opportunity without payment arises, the event organiser will usually allow you to market yourself more obviously at the event in return for donating your time – in the form of flyers placed on seats, book sales, logo placement and even a couple of promotional lines in your presentation. Often this kind of PR can be more beneficial for a business than payment.

How you can get started
There are a few things that any event organiser or speaker bureau will ask for when you, or your PR consultant, approach them as a potential speaker:

  • a good bio outlining your qualifications and experience in your industry
  • 3-5 speaking topics
  • testimonials from individuals who have heard you speak
  • video footage of you speaking at a previous event
  • your fees (for speaker bureaus only)
  • your own book (even if self published) will help open doors.

Four tips to secure a speaking engagement:

  1. Know who your target market is. To maximise results for your business, it is important to know your target audience.
  2. Source organisations and associations that hold events for this particular target market. Look for industry associations, organisations, networking groups and event organisers that create events targeting this same audience.
  3. Know what you want to speak about. Offer the event organisers three topics that you can speak about. If you are serious about these events bringing you leads, then make sure your speaking topics relate to your business service offerings. You are then positioning yourself as an expert in this service.
  4. Structure your presentation. It is a good idea to back up your talk with a PPT presentation or visuals, to create more interest and illustrate your points. Allow 10 minutes for questions or a forum, if the event will allow it.