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First Time Speaker: 4 Tips to Build Your Speaking Career

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August 26,2015


By Penny C. Sansevieri, Adjunct Instructor NYU & CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc.


If you’ve wanted to build your speaking career, but aren’t sure where to start, you’re not alone. Most entrepreneurs and authors I work with who aren’t doing speaking engagements are not always sure where to start, either. Do you start by pitching yourself to a speaker’s bureau? Do you put a speaker page on your website and hope for the best?

Well, yes and no. Yes, you need a speaker page, but no, don’t just wait around and hope for the best. Many folks do this with, as you can imagine, dismal results. So first off, let’s look at what you need in your speaker toolkit, before you get out and pitch yourself.


Your Website: Let’s start with the basics, you need a professional website. Though you don’t have to spend a fortune, there are no cutting corners here. If you want to be taken seriously as a speaker, you need a website that reflects that. Forgo too much personal stuff on your site unless it’s part of your brand, otherwise keep it professional and error free. Yes, this means having someone check it for typos, preferably by an editor who is used to looking for that kind of thing. Next up, be sure you have a speaker page clearly marked on your site – so in the navigation bar if you can. If not, have a call out on your home page “Hire me to speak” or something similar. Don’t make it hard for someone to find out whether they can hire you or not. If they have to do a lot of work to find more info on you, they may move on to another speaker.


Speaker Topics: This is where it gets tricky, because most speaker topics I look at aren’t great. The topics are more statement driven and less benefit driven. They don’t scream unique or “here’s what you’ll get.” And believe me this makes a huge difference. Not sure what or how to start with this? Go onto conference sites where you aspire to speak and see what other presenters are speaking on, and how their topics are structured. Then, go to their websites and check out their speaker pages. Your topics should be as unique as theirs. I recommend starting with three topics and building or subtracting from ones that you know aren’t popular or don’t seem to get a lot of requests. Believe me when I say that the speaker topic can make all the difference! When I started offering the: How to Sell Books by the Truckload session, my speaking events went from ten in one year to twenty-five. A sharp, focused, benefit driven title is often the key to getting more bookings.


Speaker One Sheet: This is an info sheet about you, your background and your speaker topics. I’ve seen some speakers have these done by a designer while others have just put together a simple Word doc. Do you absolutely have to have one? No, but as you build your speaking career you may want to. You can also list prior events you’ve spoken at, blurbs from attendees, etc. It’ll also include a list of topics you present on and maybe a few bullets points on audience benefits (which every conference will want to know). It’s a great opportunity to really showcase your speaking ability!


Video: A speaker video isn’t something you’ll have right out of the gate, but I highly encourage you to consider creating one. Some speaker videos are professionally done and that’s great – with snippets of prior speaking events you’ve done. If you are going to be pitching yourself to speaker’s bureaus, they will definitely want a professional video of you. However, if you are pitching yourself, snippets of you speaking is sufficient. You can put these on YouTube and send them a simple link for viewing. If you need a video and don’t have one, consider working with a production company to set up a mock presentation. They can bring in an “audience”, rent a room and have you do a session that will mirror an actual presentation you may do.


Now that we have identified a few tools to help you season your speaking skills, next week we’ll discuss different venues to explore in order to have you speaking in front of your target audience faster in an article titled, "First Time Speaker: Tips to Build Your Speaking Platform."


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Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. Follow on Twitter @Bookgal.


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