As an entrepreneur, there are a lot of benefits to speaking engagements. Whether you're looking to boost brand awareness for your company, land big-time clients or simply network with like-minded individuals in your industry, public speaking gigs, oftentimes, are a great way to accomplish these goals.
But here's the deal: far too many entrepreneurs are landing public speaking gigs for all the wrong reasons. Instead of seeking out speaking engagements to benefit their business, many entrepreneurs do so simply to fluff up their ego. In the age of Instagram entrepreneurs, rented Lamborghinis, and "hustle life" hashtags, it's cool to speak in front of crowds.
This mindset puts your colleagues and the members of the audience at the back of the line when they should be your top priority. In addition, many speaking gigs out there just aren't worth your time or energy in the first place.
All that being said, there is a way to do public speaking "right." I've had the privilege of speaking at conferences and being on podcasts of all sizes, from the top in the industry to those just getting started. Some have been a complete waste of time while others have been invaluable to my company, and it's certainly not based only on size.
On that note, here's how to select and land worthwhile speaking engagements.
1. Zero in on speaking engagements that are outside of your industry.
If you want to increase the chances of leaving a conference with deals or leads for your business, then you've got to eliminate your competition by design. To do this, target speaking engagements outside your industry. For instance, if you're a marketing specialist, instead of attending conferences with a bazillion and a half other marketers, try to land engagements at a conference for lawyers, doctors, brewmasters, or something else entirely.
By doing this, you'll be the lone wolf marketing expert at the conference, and you'll more than likely be bombarded with questions, business cards, and email addresses after giving your talk. It's much easier for a bulldog to stand out in a sea of cats than in a dog pound.
2. Do it for social proofing.
Let's be honest: images of you speaking to crowds of people never hurt when it comes to establishing your credibility in the eyes of potential clients. Social proofing is one of the most effective ways of building trust between your brand and prospective customers and clients. Remember this when assessing and measuring the value of public speaking engagements -- it's almost never about immediate payout.
That being said, taking every speaking gig just to have pictures that'll spice up your Instagram account is both a rat race and a slippery slope. After you reach your quota of social proofing needed to land bigger and better clients, then take only the gigs that position your business better in the marketplace.
3. Do it for the networking.
No matter what industry you're involved with, connecting with movers and shakers in your space is crucial to your longevity. With the lifespan of businesses being shorter than ever, you never know who you'll rub shoulders with again in the future. Because of this, think of speaking engagements as an easy way to connect with other people in your industry. By being on stage, you'll automatically have the audience's trust and respect, making striking up conversation with attendees pretty easy.
In a previous article I wrote for Inc.com, I walked readers through how to land their first paid speaking gig. Here's the Sparknotes version:
- Create content on free platforms to establish credibility. This can be on Medium, YouTube, Twitter, or wherever you feel best fits your particular niche.
- Be the person who reaches out first. Far too many entrepreneurs and working professionals think every person speaking on stage was contacted by the conference coordinators to speak. Often, it's the other way around. Because of this, be proactive in your conference outreach.
- Create your "elevator pitch" email template. Be sure to include a lot of examples of your previous work, client satisfaction, and relevant facts and figures. Proof is key to a solid elevator pitch email.
- Using the criteria laid out in this article, compile a list of conferences you'd benefit from speaking at. I always recommend the list being at least 25 conferences.
- Send it out.
The cold hard truth is many speaking engagements are a complete waste of time for entrepreneurs. It's also true that far too many entrepreneurs are taking speaking gigs to puff up their ego as opposed to taking them for strategic reasons. By following the formula laid out in this article, you'll be on the right track to conducting speaking engagements the "right way." Best of luck.