In the following Q&A format, Simma reveals some of her tried and tested methods for successfully marketing and growing her speaking business.
What is my first step?
Pick a topic- don’t just say you’ll speak on anything. Unless you are a famous celebrity, most people won’t be interested in hearing you speak on anything. Anything is a wide range from fixing broken sinks, to how to make a million dollars in one day.
How do I pick a topic?
It depends on your reason for speaking. If you want to make money, you need to pick a topic that will sell. Investigate the market, and determine how your topic relates to specific audiences. If you don’t care about money, but simply love to speak, pick a topic that interests you and don’t worry if there is an audience or not. It can be something as simple as How to Pick the Best Kind of Cardboard Boxes for Moving. If you want to speak on a topic you love and make money make sure there is a market for your topic and pursue that market. Talk to other speakers (but make sure you talk to more than one), read business publications to check out current topics, and call targeted organizations to determine relevant issues. In any case you need to make sure you speak on a topic that you know.
How do I become an expert?
Read trade magazines, books, information from the internet and interview people who have information. Read publications that are current. If you speak about music, and you tell people to go out and buy 45RPM records, chances are you are out of date.
How do I get jobs?
Make a list of everyone you know and any organization you have ever been affiliated with. Contact the people and groups on your list and ask for referrals and suggestions of places to speak. Describe your topic and how it can benefit listeners. Ask organizations if you can speak at their meetings. Before you actually speak, record yourself. If you can stand listening to yourself and don’t fall asleep while you listen you are ready to have an audience. Contact the service clubs like Rotary, and any trade or professional organizations and offer to speak for them.
What if they have no money to pay me?
In the beginning you may have to speak for free, but don’t worry because many of these organizations will give you a rubber chicken lunch or dinner and that’s one meal you don’t have to pay for. The purpose of speaking anywhere and for free is to sharpen your speaking skills, get your name out and practice new material. That way if you are in need of a lot of practice or some people are bored they can’t ask for their money back.
How do I ask for money?
You can find out if they have money by asking if they have a budget to pay speakers or an honorarium. If they offer you more money than you expect, don’t let them know it. Just be happy you got it. Talk to other speakers about fees and how to get comfortable charging what you are worth.
How do I set my rates?
Again talk to other speakers to help you determine your fee. Whatever you do, don’t suggest to the client that they should pay you what they think you deserve after they have listened to you.
What kind of marketing materials do I need, and how much should I spend?
Business cards and a presentation kit are essentials and a video is always helpful if you are doing keynotes. It needs to be a video of you speaking. A video of your testimonial at your last birthday party will not work. Once you know what you are doing, you need a website. Don’t have one that is always under construction, or one that has fancy gadgets on it that takes an hour to load. No one is that interested in you that they can wait.
Tips for marketing when you have no budget
Get published. Write and submit magazine articles (on your speaking topic). People read magazines and you will get good exposure.
Volunteer on committees for organizations where you want exposure (you will get more exposure if you volunteer to MC an event, facilitate a meeting, or work on PR as opposed to volunteering to get supplies and appetizers at Costco.)
When you are marketing yourself, include any references to:
Magazine articles by you (especially if they are on your topic), and people read them
Places where you are quoted
On-line publications with your contact info
How do I get a video if I have no money?
Offer to speak at a college or corporation that has an audio-visual department in exchange for being videotaped. Make sure the person behind the camera actually knows how to use it, and tapes you in your finest moments.