Getting booked as a speaker is a dream come true many times!
As someone who has both been booked (and paid) as well as booked (and paid) speakers, I’ve found a few trends among the gigs that I land as a speaker, as well as the speakers who land gigs with me (And trends among the speakers I toss in the “Never gonna happen” pile!)!
For the first time, I’m sharing that insight publicly!
Here’s 6 things to do if you want to get paid as a speaker.
#1: Add The Producer/Coordinator Email Address to Your Address Book
Adding a contact to an email address book means that their email will actually hit the inbox rather than get caught in a spam or promotions folder. The last thing a speaker wants to do is miss an offer from a booking producer because it got caught in a spam filter because the producer will move on to the next person on their list.
(To clarify, do not add them to a mailing list without permission. It reeks of disrespect, and a speaker who's so desperate to build their list that they have to add people who didn't ask to be there.)
Inside the Producer’s Mind:
As the producer of my event, I know I only have so many slots available. Every single person I book needs to bring something spectacular to the stage to ensure the event is a success. My success as an event producer and ticket sales for future events relies on it. If someone shows me that they are disorganized, disengaged, dishonest or a mess in general during the review process, I’m not going to be comfortable risking putting that on stage. There’s a saying I live by: “When someone shows you who they are the first time, believe them.”
This also helps a producer be confident that you're going to make their life easier because there is too much going on leading up to an event to worry about having to chase down and babysit speakers to collect arrival info, powerpoints, handouts, etc! If a produer has to chase a speaker down during the booking phase, it's easy to assume we'll have to do the same leading up the event, and no one likes dealing with that!
To Sum Up: Add the event producer/administrator’s contact info to your address book! It saves you from an accidental association that doesn’t reflect who you truly are!
#2: Be Open and Specific With Your Content
It’s remarkable how often I’ve interviewed speakers who become cagey and secretive about their content. Recently, a speaker attempted to joke that if I wanted to know their proprietary three step process I had to hire them to speak at my event.
It was an instant discard for me.
While I understand the desire to protect proprietary content. I’ve also learned that many speakers bring great content, but what sets the good apart from the great is spectacular delivery. They’ve dedicated time to elevating their craft and they know that even if I were to possess the content myself, I wouldn’t be able to deliver it on par. Therefore, they don’t mind sharing what they will talk about because they want me to get a glimpse of who they will be onstage.
I’m not looking for a speaker to give me their entire speech or all the nuances and details. I am looking to thoroughly understand what content is being presented for a few key reasons:
- It’s my responsibility to ensure that the content of ALL the speakers works together. I’ve failed to thoroughly review in the past and ended up with speakers who duplicated content. It was not well received by the audience.
- It’s my responsibility to understand the content so I can market it and entice my audience to attend! This means I also want to protect their super secret surprise so it will delight my audience!
- It’s also my responsibility to ensure the content is new and fresh, and delivered in a way that my audience will thoroughly enjoy. If the speaker must protect their content, it makes me question the speaker’s presentation skills if they are relying solely on their content to close the deal.
f I don’t get excited about the content during the interview, I’m not likely to be excited about putting that speaker in front of my audience! Content is great. Delivery is everything. I need to know that the content is solid because if content is all the speaker brings to the table, I will be worried about the delivery being subpar.
The other half of this point is to be specific.
Don’t be afraid to be the premier expert on one specific key concept. Believe it or not, it’s actually easier for me to fit a specific perspective on a topic into the program. When a speaker assures me that they can talk about “Whatever you need me to….” It usually backfires because, since they can cover whatever content I don’t have covered by other speakers, it makes them the last person to fit into the agenda. This means I almost always run out of speaker spots before fitting them in.
True, speakers who specifically focus on identified niches get skipped over when they aren’t a fit for the event (For example - I recently had someone who specifically spoke to the Boomer generation about how to communicate and understand Millennials and Gen Y - which wasn’t a fit for the Grow Retreat which tends to target 30-55 year olds). But that individual will get picked up for the events that are a fit because they are specific to the need. The speaker who can cover anything, will rarely fit anywhere.
#3: Truly Show Up
This is rather rudimentary.
Unfortunately, in my time interviewing speakers, there have been a disproportionate amount of speakers who have not even shown up to the initial call, or shown up but clearly been multi-tasking and not prioritizing our conversation.
“But Steph! Speakers are busy!”
True! So are event organizers. And I’m the one who’s potentially going to agree to part with thousands of dollars for a speaker fee. I’m not interested in spending the whole interview staring up your nose because you’re driving, or watching you text on your phone.
In a throw-back to my favorite quote (“When someone shows you who they truly are, believe them”), a speaker who doesn’t show up or doesn’t seem focused makes me wonder if they will act the same way at the event.
As an event organizer, my event matters to me. I want to get the feeling that it matters to you too!
If you want to go a step further and really stand out, move on to #4.
#4: Check out the Event Website in Advance
This one is all about impressing the event producer and showing them you care.
If you check out their website before the initial call and come into the call with informed questions about the event, you’re much more likely to get booked! It makes a world of difference when I hear that a speaker has looked at my website and understands the kind of speaker I want to put in front of my attendees.
One of the best interviews I ever had was over in 20 minutes and the speaker had an offer in their inbox by the end of the day because he showed up to the call telling me specific aspects of the event that he’d fallen in love with. One of the easiest ways for me to determine whether a speaker cares about this event is whether they’ve taken time to understand what makes the event unique.
Our annual theme is always broadly announced on The Grow Retreat website but not everyone is that obvious about their theme. However! If you can find the theme the producer is using for their event, it’s a huge asset because you can tweak your pitch to expressly address how your content fits the theme!
If your presentation is all about psychology, but the event’s theme is connection, angle the pitch to the producer about how psychology helps increase connection and how you can thread the theme through your presentation.
Knowing the event shows the producer that you’re the right person to make that theme memorable!
#5: Be Honest & Up Front About Pricing
For obvious reasons, misleading an event producer about price is rarely going to work in the speaker’s favor. I can’t imagine many people who get excited about starting a business relationship with someone who started the relationship with a lie. It makes every other promise into something suspicious.
Beyond that! It creates an awkward situation all around.
Recently, one speaker had input one rate into the speaker application form on our website, then during the call informed me that the rate was actually 500% higher. Obviously I was taken aback. No significant amount of time had passed since filling out the form and it didn’t appear to be a typo since it was entered two different ways. Unfortunately, at that point, I had only the amount of budget left to fit the original amount listed on the speaker form which meant that the interview ended up being a waste of time both for the speaker and myself.
It felt like a shady attempt by the speaker’s agent to get the speaker an interview without regard to the importance of my time, or the speaker’s value. I felt lied to and frustrated. It was not a positive experience.
A Quick Tip:
If you want to be flexible with your budget in order to book a gig, that’s entirely different and you can still be up-front and honest! The script I usually recommend aligns something like: “I typically receive between $__k and $__k for speaking but I’m open to negotiations or in-kind trades to work with budgets.”
#6: Remember Who Matters Most: The Audience!
A good friend of mine said it best once: “Divas need not apply!”
It’s easy to tell when a speaker has lost sight of the fact that the most important person in the room is not standing onstage. The most important person in the room is sitting in the seat in front of the stage. Without them, I don’t get to do what I do, and my speakers don’t either. Everything revolves around finding content and delivery that makes sense and makes a difference for the audience.
It is up to us to understand them, to appreciate them, and to help them see themselves as powerfully as they truly are!
Want to be the star at our events?
Don’t be the speaker.
Sit in the audience. Be an attendee.
About the Author:
Stephanie Scheller is a TED speaker, a two-time best-selling author and the founder of Grow Disrupt. In just under a decade, Stephanie has been behind the scenes with more than 2500 small businesses. She has worked in groups and one-on-one to create total business transformation & help business owners live the life they got into business to create!