How to Find the Right Speaking Engagements to Speak At!

So, you want to get your message out in the world but need to find the right audience that will book you?

If you do a little Googling around most people will say “find a niche (audience) and speak only to that group in the beginning.” In my humble opinion that is hands down the worst advice you can give someone who is trying to get their message out there. Problem is, most speakers can address many various audiences and if they niche down too early, they restrict finding their speaking voice and turn down potential speaking opportunities.

Yes, there is a time to niche, but there are only certain speakers that should utilize that approach. By far, finding the right group to speak at is one of the most misunderstood challenges when someone is starting out their speaking career, or when an experienced speaker is going into a new space. Due to this confusion, I wrote out a series of steps that have helped me get booked and effectively reach thousands of people spanning dozens of countries.

These steps can serve as a launch paid in helping you reach thousands of more people than you originally anticipated!

Step 1: Understand the Problem Your Message Solves

You got a message great, but what problem does it solve?

The biggest hurdle that most speakers struggle with, including myself, is thinking only about their core message rather than why it’s so important for the world to hear!  Many experienced speakers experience a paradigm shift where they realize that their talk is all about the audience, not them (that took me around 100 keynotes to get that through my thick skull). The audience is listening to your talk because the audience is looking to improve some area of their life and your message needs to solve that problem. (Note: for comedians and motivational speakers that problem is the event planner looking to provide a memorable experience for attendees or providing a fun session in between dry content.)

keynote speech, finding speaking engagement example

For instance, here are a few actual examples of people who reached out to TrinityFix. Note, all these inquiries focus on their message but not necessarily what problem they are trying to solve.

Example 1: I survived a traumatizing experience that makes me want to share the importance of having a strong family unit. I want to speak to working mothers.

While family is extremely important, what fundamental problem does this solve for attendees? The quick answer is ‘spending more time with family.’

And who would benefit from this talk? Any busy professional, think lawyers, truck drivers, construction workers, and a dozen other industries Though there is a major problem…you need to translate that into the language of the event planner and solve the problem- spending more time with family.

Most attendees who would listen to that talk would be probably thinking:

“Yeah, family is important but how do I spend more time with my family?”

The how is the keyword here and the message needs to address that point.

Continuing with this example, a sample talk can go something like this:

  • Opening message- emphasizing the importance of a family unit (core message).
  • Practical tips on how to build a strong family unit (how).

A title for this talk could be A Busy Professionals Guide to Building a Strong Family Unit. By doing so, you have effectively presented your message and solved an important problem for the audience. Here are some basic steps to do the same for your message:

  1. Find the problem that the message solves.
  2. Find the types of people who have that problem.
  3. Address the how to solve that problem.

Example 2: I want to spread my message about the importance of diversity and culture in my community showing that differences are a strength.

This example does not need as much massaging as the first. Most people when approaching an event planner will probably state the importance of their message, but it needs a bit more positioning to really click with the agenda of an event planner. Let’s go through the three steps we just learned:

  1. Find the problem that the message solves.

Creating an inclusive workplace. Harnessing the power of a diverse workforce.

  • Find the types of people who have that problem.    

Any industry that is struggling with diversity.

  • Address the how to solve that problem

Different types of management, coaching, and leading styles promote an inclusive workplace.

Now that we have addressed these steps, the talk can be positioning as A Modern Leaders Guide to Creating an Inclusive Workforce. Note, the problem being addresses which are leaders making an inclusive workplace, and this talk solves that problem by providing a guide.

Step 2: What Kind of Speaker You Are (and I don’t mean motivational vs leadership)

There are many kinds of speakers in the speaking world, but for this example, I will split the speaking industry into two parts: back-end speakers, and front-end speakers.

Back-end speakers

  • Demographic: Consultants, coaches, founders, or executives.
  • Fee Range: Usually speak for free, low fees, or pay-to-play (they pay the event planner to get on stage).
  • Fee Types: Make most of their money after they have done the talk by having people hiring them for their services.
  • Presentation size: breakout, round table, and occasionally general sessions.

Front-end speakers

  • Demographic: Usually thought leaders, entertainers, industry-leading executives.
  • Fee Range: free to paid.
  • Fee Types: They make money during the talk, and usually not after (though sometimes they can if they offer coaching).
  • Presentation size: General session and occasionally breakout sessions.

The reason why you should care about these types is that a back-end speaker has a lot more specific content than a front-end speaker. Front-end speakers tend to have broader topics as they can address a larger scale audience- leading to larger fees. Hence, if you are a coach, and most of your money comes from coaching clients, it’s better to have a more specific presentation than a broader one for the group, and don’t be surprised if you aren’t booked for a general session.

Less experienced speakers who are front-end speakers usually start with breakout sessions each time improving their content to eventually working their way up to paid general sessions (keynotes). Hence, when reaching out or applying for speaking at an event, understanding the type of speaker you will help with whether you should do a breakout or general sessions. In addition, back-end speakers will need to niche more and speak with fewer industries than front-end speakers.

Step 3: Understanding the Technicality of Your Content

The more specific you are in your content, the fewer audiences you can address. If you speak on low-level content (highly detail-oriented actionable content), more likely you are hired for your services, than if you spoke about high-level content.

Let’s say you are a marketing expert who wants to get your message out to the world. Here are some different examples of how they can change the technicality of their content and what industries they can speak at. Note that the same person with the chops to do the first talk can do the others- it’s all about positioning:

Dental Office Backlinking Strategies to Go from Unknown to Known in Google in 90 Days

  • Industries: 1
  • Type: Breakout Session
  • Technical Level: Low Level Detail

Why? Because in a dental event, there will be only a few people who will understand Search Engine Optimization and inbound marketing enough to full comprehend the presentation.

Dental Office 15 Marketing Strategies That You Never Heard of To Get More Visits

  • Industries: 1
  • Type: General or Breakout Session
  • Technical Level: Medium Level Detail

Why? Because this is a higher level more of marketing and most attendees will be able to understand this information.

15 Marketing Strategies That You Never Heard of to Get More Clients

  • Industries: 30+
  • Type: General or Breakout Session
  • Technical Level: High Level Detail

Why? Many industries have issues with getting clients, in fact, it’s one of the most popular topics and the heartbeat of many businesses.

By a simple change of content, this imaginary speaker goes from a breakout speaker at one type of industry to a general session speaker at various events by simply repositioning their content. The best part about this technique is the core message stays the same.

Step 4: Copy the Pros

If you still feel a bit lost at this point-don’t sweat it- as there are a couple of shortcuts to speed up the process of finding the right groups to speak to. Basically, I call this copying the pros. Here are the steps:

  1. Find 5-10 speakers that speak on a similar message to you. (You can google different speaker bureaus and the topics that are covered there).
  2. Check out their program pages (speeches they have).
  3. Is there a pattern that there talks have or keywords that you would like to include in your own talk?
  4. Find where they are getting booked- check out their social media specifically Twitter and Instagram and see what events are tagging them. Usually, a lot of attendees from events will tag the speak and have a comment regarding their presentation.

By doing this, you can see through tried-and-true examples of speakers who speak on something similar to you, what talks get them booked and who is booking them. Fortunately, from the content earlier you will have a solid understanding of ‘why’ these speakers are being hired for what they do.

Step 5: Don’t Panic if You Get Hired into a New Industry

Personally, I have been hired into dozens of industries for my core message, but I didn’t need to be an expert in the field- only the problem that I was solving. If you are in this situation where you are reaching out to, or are hired to speak at an industry you are not very familiar with, here are a few things to help:

  1. Read 5-10 articles about the industry
  2. Watch YouTube videos about what that demographic does for work day-to-day.
  3. Talk to the event planners and try to understand their work, from their shoes.
  4. Focus on the problem you are solving and don’t pretend you are an expert in their field. They will know, but if you use examples from their field of how your solution works, they will be sold as you as a presenter.

As you get a better grasp of your content and what problems you solve, eventually you will be speaking to different audiences and groups of people that you never thought possible! How can I say that so confidently? Because I did the same for myself, I eat my own dog food as they say in the software engineering world. By implementing this strategy, I was able to take my unique message and address all sorts of industries and groups speaking the message from underground utility workers to people who sell furniture, to people who direct planes taking off. I wholeheartedly believe the same can happen for you if you follow these steps.

It’s a matter of understanding what problem you are solving and the industry needs that problem solved. The world needs to hear your message and now you have a strategy to finding who wants to hear it!