How to Get Speaking Engagements:
Secrets from the Journey to the Stage
Imagine stepping out on the stage to be greeted by hundreds, even thousands, of leaders and up and coming change makers. For a second imagine knowing that your message is truly making a difference, actually seeing it in the faces of those in the crowd and hearing it in the thanks they give you when it’s time to step off the stage. Now, imagine speaking right before someone you’ve looked up to for years because of their brilliant methods and strategies, and knowing you are on the same stage now because you have proven the expertise you have in the field.
Imagine sharing your message in a way that ideal clients literally run to the stage door ready to see how they can work with you. Honestly, that seemed like a very possible dream for several years… and now, it’s real.
That is exactly how it felt at the Conversations Conference last year and several stages since then. As we head into this year’s Conversations Conference, I’m filled with gratitude and anticipation.
So this week, I’m going to share a few of the secrets from the journey to the stage, and helpful things I’ve learned along the way so that you can do the same. This session is packed with super-secret strategies that I’ve previously only shared with clients.
Speaking at the Conversations Conference
I recently pre-recorded my talk for this year’s edition of ManyChat’s Conversations Conference that is going virtual. It was at a studio and was socially distanced, all that jazz. I’m getting to do that with a few other upcoming conferences that I can’t talk about yet, but I can’t wait to share about them when I can!
Last year, I spoke at ManyChat’s Conversations Conference for the first time. First of all, I was wearing the most amazing pants I’d ever seen, so I already felt like a rock star. But when I stepped onto the stage, it was a room full of people who loved digital marketing and were so pumped about what I was going to be talking about. That was legitimately the goal. It was one of those moments that I couldn’t believe was actually happening. Once I stepped off the stage, I was attacked by people who had so many questions and were interested in working with us after hearing what I had to say.
Reflecting on this moment inspired me to put together some secrets from behind the scenes of my journey to getting on a goal-setting stage. No matter what niche you’re in, there are stages, both virtually and in real life, where you can be featured in front of the people you’d love to work with.
#1: Claiming Your Speaker Power
You have to put it out to the universe that you are ready for more speaking engagements. If you are hiding under a rock energetically, it won’t happen for you. So claim out loud for yourself that you want to be a speaker. You can also claim your power as a speaker by showing up on video as a way of communicating this to other people.
#2: Discovering the Stages
Do you know where you actually might want to be featured? This was a struggle for me at first. I didn’t know where I could go even to be featured in the first place. A good first step is to identify who your ideal audience is. For me, I could speak at the e-Women Network, all female entrepreneurs. While I serve entrepreneurs, I could feature my content in front of digital marketers, social media managers, bot builders. That’s where ManyChat comes into play. I also could speak in front of business owners. That’s where Social Media Marketing World, my first big speaking engagement, came into play.
You want to be more specific when it comes to describing your ideal client. Say “moms” or “female business owners” instead of “all females.” I remember networking at a conference once where we were all sharing our ideal clients, and someone said, “Anyone with skin.” How do you recommend people? Everyone has skin. It’s hard to determine the specific person to connect someone with when their target audience is that broad.
You want to do some research. Take your niche and search “events for female business owners,” “podcasts for female business owners,” “virtual events for female business owners,” etc. Start compiling a list of what you find. You could also use the hive mind of social media to ask for events in your niche. Talk to previous clients of yours and see if they have attended any events or listened to any podcasts, they think you would be perfect for!
#3: Jumping in the Pool & Connecting
If we use Social Media Marketing World as an example of the first big stage I spoke on, I didn’t go straight to thinking they were going to invite me to speak. I attended the event first. I connected with people there. Jumping in the pool means that you recognize what it is their community needs, connecting to the people in those communities.
Once you’ve made the list somewhere, go play with those people. Join their Facebook groups. Follow their business page and click that “See First” button so you always see their stuff in your News Feed. Provide value to their community. All of these things add up. Someone recently said that they love that I talk about how social interest compounds.
The Quesadilla of Awesome comes into play here. If you are able to connect as a human being in real life outside of your objective of booking more speaking engagements, it will be a more powerful relationship, and the return will be more powerful in the long term.
#4: Find the Missing Pieces
If you notice that people are asking a certain type of question that you can solve, do it. Make it happen. If you notice that when you are looking at a group’s website and notice a certain type of content they speak to, that is a great place to realize how you can fit in and solve something in that zone. It’s all about finding their gaps within the zone they serve. So it would not be proposing to a social media marketing conference to do a talk on direct mail; that’s not within their zone.
A client of mine who I connected to Social Media Marketing World proposed a talk to them that was way different than what they actually offer. It was something she thought the people needed, but they didn’t agree with her. So make sure when you find those missing pieces and that you are clear on solving a problem for not just the conference attendees, but also the conference organizers.
#5: Offer Boldly
There is nothing worse than knowing you would be perfect for an opportunity but letting your fear get in the way of you getting that opportunity. Then someone else had the courage to step up and say, “I’d love to do this.” They didn’t ask you probably because the other person offered it.
For the ManyChat conference last year, I found a missing piece. I noticed they weren’t doing very much to highlight their speakers. Because I had been connecting, they were looking for more ways to bring people to the conference. I said, “I’m happy to hop on a call and share with you some Facebook Live strategies to solve this.” We hopped on a free consult about how to use live video. We discovered there was an awesome opportunity to do a series of shows where they brought their speakers on every week for 10 weeks before the actual conference. One person on the team thought it was a great idea but wasn’t sure who they could get to host it. What did I do? I offered boldly. I said that I would host it if they were interested.
If you’re doing video, that’s a service you can offer to these conferences. The more you can drive traffic to the conference, the better. I offered to use our system to host this show. What did this do? First of all, I was live on their page every week for 10 weeks before the conference. By the time I hit the stage, people knew who I was for the most part as a result.
Also, the other thing that happened was I was able to meet and have an hour-long conversation with the other speakers because I was interviewing them as a peer for ManyChat on the ManyChat business page. That would not have happened had I not offered boldly. How can you offer boldly to let someone know how you can support them?
#6: Celebrate Mini Wins
Here’s the thing. I had offered boldly the year before, and they told me no. I was super bummed. I had done all of the things: jumped in the pool, connected; became a moderator in the Facebook group, offering to maintain it; found the missing pieces; and for some reason was not asked to speak. I could have said, “I volunteered all this time” and been bitter about it. But I didn’t.
What I did do instead was kind of crazy. I booked another speaking engagement at the same time as the ManyChat conference. The conference was in Austin, and the other conference that I spoke at was in Minnesota. I actually bought a ticket to the ManyChat conference and attended for less than 24 hours before speaking at Rachel Peterson’s event. All I was able to attend was the check-in the night before, thanking the team for how awesome they were, taking some pictures with Kelley, and flew to Minnesota that night.
What was funny was Cat Howell was speaking at both conferences. When I got to Minnesota, Cat was there, too. I was not the only one to attend both! Yeah, it cost money to fly to Austin and make those connections, but I value those connections, and they clearly paid off ten-fold. You have to realize you have to invest your time and money to take your business to the next level.
By showing up and connecting and celebrating I was a moderator in the Facebook group, rather than being bitter I wasn’t speaking, huge difference in energy and results. Keep celebrating those mini wins.
#7: Say Yes – Show Up – Serve
Let’s think about Social Media Marketing World again. The first year I went, I was purely an attendee. Right before the actual conference, I got an email that said, “We are putting together a Social Media Marketer choir. Last year, we did this and it was super fun. We realize there are loads of social media managers who like to sing.” I thought it was crazy. I was a professional musical theater performer for about 20 years and a vocal coach, and I am still a singer today. I was honestly nervous about it, but I said yes and joined. I showed up. Once I got there to participate in the choir, I served. I have an expertise in singing, so I helped people.
There are opportunities like this in your niche, too. Some conferences have prayer meetings or yoga sessions. If you have some sort of external expertise, you can use that as a way to volunteer and get to know the conference organizers.
The next year, Phil Mershon, who puts on the Social Media Marketing World conference, messaged me and said, “I’m getting a group of the singers together to discuss other ways we could make the conference more interactive. Would you want to meet up with us?” It was in San Diego; I drove an hour and a half. At that dinner, I shared all sorts of ideas to make the conference more engaging.
From there, we came up with this idea to do a networking spoof. It was a mix between The Wizard of Oz and networking at an event. Amy Landino showed up as Dorothy as the opening keynote at Social Media Marketing World. My friends wrote these new lyrics, and Amy went through and met all of these different people, including me, who played an evil networker. It was all bad examples of how to network, performed through song. This allowed me to connect because I showed up and served. Every year since then, we create a musical spoof at the beginning of the conference; this past year, I played a Mrs. Hannigan-type character in an Annie spoof.
When speaker applications opened, I attended a session on how to apply to be a speaker because I was claiming my speaking power. That next year, I applied, and they said no. It was okay; it wasn’t what they needed at that point. The following year, I applied again and was accepted to give a talk on bots. The following year, they asked me to speak about video.
My point in all of this is that it really is a journey. You don’t all of a sudden overnight have these speaking gigs booked. It is a nuanced experience where you are showing up, connecting, and serving. Having the perspective of knowing you can help people is key.
Want to find out how you can create your own luck? Check out our post with special Guest Gay Hendricks!
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