3 Straightforward Ways to Get Paid for Speaking Engagements

August 5, 2021 6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As someone who has been speaking and coaching for a living since 2001, one of the very first questions I get is, “Where can I find paid speaking engagements?”

In other words, people know that others get paid to speak on a regular basis, and they feel (usually correctly), that they could do the same. But the question becomes, where can I find these paid speaking gigs and start moving forward?

That’s a great question and one that I talk to clients about a lot. So here are three ways that I personally use to get paid speaking engagements.

1. Engage your network

This is always my first step when coaching others, since its free and maximizes the relationships you already have.  Now, the only tricky part here is that you have a pretty good idea as to where — exactly — you want to speak. Because contrary to what people might think, there are plenty of categories or venues to get paid speaking engagements: corporations, conferences, business Expos and nonprofits among them, just to name a few. And you need to pick one or two areas where you want to jump into. For me personally, I’m a conference- and business-expo man. You might like corporations and nonprofits, and that’s totally fine. Just pick one or two, then engage your network.

Related: How to Polish Your Public Speaking

For example, you could approach a contact by saying, “Hey Sally, I’m really getting serious about hitting the speaking circuit over the next few months, and I wanted to know if you knew of any business expos or even annual conferences that bring in speakers for their group?”

She’ll probably ask about your topic, so be prepared to explain that real quick, but afterwards, she might be able to point you in the right direction. It might be a conference she recently attended, or a corporation that she works for or maybe a business expo or networking event she’s got on her calendar. Regardless, you’d be surprised how a little preperation and a few calls can get you headed in the right direction.

2. Set up some Google alerts

Now this is a little more sophisticated then just engaging your network, but can absolutely work and is an idea I got from Benji Bruce.

So like I said before, I’m an annual conference man, which means I’m all about trade associations, nonprofits and even corporations that have annual conferences for their membership and employees where there are keynote speakers as well as breakout group-speaking opportunities.Program and conference ahairs are always looking for good speakers to fill those slots. And that, my good friend, translates into those folks putting out a call for speakers on their organization website, which means that all we have to do is find it. 

So, what I do is set up a little alert and ask Dr. Google to let me know when those opportunities come up. (Translation: I set up a Google Alert based on the keywords like “conference,” “annual conference  and “call for speakers.”) And from there, I get a nice little email that tells me all of the times those words were mentioned over the past day or week (I’m a weekly digest man myself, but to each his own). And then I just follow up on that list.

Now some of these “leads” are better than others, Meaning that some will be in different parts of the world where I’m not really to keen in speaking. But it does give me a broad cross section of options, and most of the time I find at least something I can legitimately work with.

3. Referrals from previous speaking engagements

Now this only works if you’re already speaking a little bit or as I like to say, have a little “street cred” on the circuit. And don’t worry if you’ve only been doing free speaking engagements up to now either; that’s perfectly fine as well. 

So assuming that’s the case, what you want to do is during your next presentation make it a point to let it be known that you’re “always on the lookout for additional speaking opportunities, so if anyone in the audience knows of a conference, company or event that brings in people like myself, I sure would appreciate it if you could let me know at the end of my workshop today.”  In a perfect world, I like working that into the actual presentation itself.

Also, after the presentation (assuming you did a good job, which…of course), during your follow up call with the program  or conference Chair (pro tip: Always re-engage those folks after the fact), see if they have any other contacts /ideas on additional speaking openings. I’m actually surprised more people don’t do this, because it works like a charm. And of the three options I discuss here, this definitely has been the most successful for me, simply by the fact that I’m already there with the very people who attend conferences and make decisions on who they want to bring in to speak.

But like I said, I understand that this is a little bit of a “chicken and the egg” quandary, since before you can employ this properly, you actually have to have a speaking engagement that you’re already at.

Related: How to Grow Your Business With Public Speaking

Bottom Line: Getting paid speaking engagements really isn’t that hard if you know where to look and how to ask.  And I can absolutely understand how it can feel overwhelming if you’re not sure how to get started.

But here’s the the thing I tell my clients all the time: Someone with similar experience, credentials and work history is getting paid to speak every single day.  As a matter of fact, several someones are getting paid right now, so why can’t that “someone” be you?

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