Note: This list of ways to find speaking opportunities was originally published in 2012, however it has been updated over time, with more resources and links. Today, it’s the most popular page on the Famous in Your Field website. Best of luck and enjoy!
The sure-fire way to accelerate your reputation as an expert and boost your business box office is to speak.
From short talks to panel discussions and auditorium-filled formal presentations, public speaking catapults you from relative unknown to business superstar.
Stumped as to where to find these business-building opportunities? Here are
17 21+ ways to find speaking engagements.
I’ll get you warmed up with a few from the quick-and-easy list:
1. Local service clubs
Every city, big or small has organizations or clubs – think Kiwanis, Lions Club, Chamber of Commerce, and Rotary – that meet regularly. These members need content to fill their weekly or monthly meetings. Help them out by out by connecting with the programming chair and offering to speak on your specialty.
Ask your friends, neighbors and colleagues who participate to connect you with these service groups.
2. Colleges and universities
Look around you. Chances are, you live near a university, college, state school, technical school, or some other educational institution. Team up with a professor or department head to hold a forum a subject relevant to you and the educator’s interest group. Invite people from the community to attend as well.
3. Business networking groups
These lead exchange or facilitated networking groups are designed to be a tightly knit group of individuals from diverse businesses who meet regularly for the purpose of bringing business opportunities to the other members. Popular groups are Le Tip, Business Networking International (BNI), and Local Business Network (LBN). Join your preferred group and let the members know that you’re interested in speaking opportunities.
4. Special interest clubs
Photography fanatic? Mother of a preschooler? Coder with mad skills? No matter what your interest or circumstance, there’s a group for it. And if you can share information on a topic that’s relevant to its members, they’ll welcome you as a speaker.
5. Local business publications
Most metropolitan areas have a magazine or newspaper devoted to area business news. Here in southeast Michigan, we have the Business Review and Crain’s Detroit Business. Check out the periodical’s Events page (in print or online), then contact the organizations listing presentations and pitch them for speaking.
6. Your clients
No need to get all fancy and overlook one of your most highly qualified sources! Ask your clients what groups they belong to and whether they accept outside speakers.
7. Other professionals who speak
Look around at your colleagues, competitors, and other professionals who target the same audience you do. Check their websites and LinkedIn profiles to see where they’ve spoken.
Then, you can contact those same organizations and pitch yourself, too.
The smartest move of all is to collaborate with a like-minded few speakers to share opportunities and refer each other. Together, you’ll score so many more!
And do you want more? You got it! You can also find speaking opportunities right from the comfort of your own laptop:
10. Facebook Events
Each of these sites provides tools for like-minded people to organize gatherings around shared interests. Visit the online site and search for meetings or events by topic and geographic location. (With LinkedIn and Facebook, events might be in-person or virtual.) Attend one or two to see if it’s a good fit for your speaking topics.
This site offers an “up-to-date listing of events, teleseminars & training being hosted by the most influential thought leaders in Information Marketing today.” If you sell online programs and information products, this is your site!
12. Online conference directories
AllConferences.com, Lanyrd, Plancast, Conferensum and Conferize are online directories, just for conferences. Sign up for these services, customize your profile and wait for events to be delivered straight to your inbox.
Using AllConferences.com, I searched for events in my home state, Michigan, and got 132 events. You can refine your search by date, location, industry, keyword or venue.
You can use EventsinAmerica.com to “find events, trade shows, meetings, conferences and conventions in America’s Top Trade Show & Conference Directory.”
Lanyrd.com, for example, suggests events for you based on those attended by people you follow on social media and keywords in your profiles.
Your favorite publications will often list industry events, listed either in the glossy pages, or on the magazine’s website. Here are a few from business, social media and tech outlets:
Think of some of the vendors you use in your business or that your target audience might use. Those providers sometimes sponsor events for their users!
Email marketing and sales platform, Infusionsoft has held its small business user conference, ICON, for nine years running.
Hubspot, a marketing automation software, lists internet marketing events where the company’s professionals will/have spoken. (And there are at least 75 on this page alone!):
15. Online Tools
Online tools let you perform searches across social media, blogs, videos, images and more. You can also limit your search by specific timeframes, which makes it easier to manage.
Just Google it! Search for events in your industry.
“Call for Speakers” AND “[Your topic]” “Call for Presenters” AND “[Your topic]” “Call for Speakers” AND “[Industry]”
17. Set up alerts
Set up alerts for speaking opportunities and keep a steady stream flowing your way. Here are three tools to create alerts:
18. Speaker Directories
Speaker directories are matchmaking services that list speakers for a fee. Meeting planners sometimes go to these directories looking for a speaker on a certain topic.
Here are two to check out:
And don’t overlook free speaking opportunities! Whether you’re speaking to make your name known or as a lead generation tool, speaking for free can pay off, big time. (Who got hired for a mid-5-figure contract after speaking for free at an industry conference? That’s right, c’est moi.)
19. Toastmasters International
A non-profit club, devoted to helping its members improve their public speaking skills in a supportive environment, Toastmasters also has its own speaking bureau.
Ready to go big with your message? Here are two ideas to reach potentially large audiences:
20. Trade associations
Got a topic that an entire industry needs to hear? With more than 17,000 national, regional and state trade associations in the US, associations are fertile ground for speaking opportunities.
Locate the educational or programming contact, send them an email with a link to a short demo video and then follow up. These associations are always looking for dynamic speakers to wow their members.
Columbia Books, Inc. (www.columbiabooks.com) is a great resource. It offers several directories, in print or electronic formats.
- The National & Professional Trade Association Directory lists national conventions, meetings, and trade show dates for over 7,700 trade and professional associations with an annual report published each February.
- The site also offers a Directory of Association Meeting Planners and Directory of Corporate Meeting Planners. Score!
21. Big companies
Does your speaking topic have a commercial application? Become a corporate speaker! You may be able to get a corporate headquarters or local branch of a company to let you speak during lunch, after hours, or at a business meeting. Plus, being associated with a recognizable brand name adds to your business cred.
Here’s a link to directories of leaders in business, non-profit, legal, government and more:
While you’re speaking, ask your audience for other suggestions. At the right time (usually at the end, after you’ve wowed the group with value), you can say something like, “As you can tell, I am really passionate about what I do. If you know of a group who could benefit please let me know about them and let the group know about me.”
Your fame boosting assignment:
Pick one or two of these ideas to get more speaking opportunities and go after them. Make contact, ask if the group accepts outside speakers and present your credentials and your proposed topic. There’s a whole world of people who need to hear what you’ve got to say!