I’ve been hosting women’s events since 2006.
I started doing the math about how many events I’ve hosted and how many speakers I’ve hosted…
Celebration #1: I did math and that is a big deal in my world (this girl took the minimum amount of math possible to still graduate from high school and college.)
Celebration #2: I’ve hosted over 75 live events (doesn’t include any virtual events) and hosted over 100 speakers over the years.
I know events. I know what makes a speaker stand out. I’ve looked through hundreds of speaker applications and speaker pages.
Here’s the list of the big top 10 to get the gigs:
1. Be who you are on AND off stage.
I’ve seen it all at live events. Nothing surprises me anymore.
I’ve seen speakers have meltdowns moments before they go on stage because they are deep in a visibility breakthrough. I’ve seen speakers refuse to honor their contract and only speak for 30 minutes instead of the full 60 minutes that they have been paid for.
I’ve also seen speakers go out of their way to be accommodating and real and genuine (Lisa Nichols, Andrrea Hess, Alexis Logan and MANY others fit that category.)
I had a speaker once cuss out one of my staff members because we didn’t have her favorite kind of tea in the green room. Seriously…<insert eye roll here.>
2. Pay your split.
If you are doing a revenue share of your sales, pay the percentage to the event host without them having to even ask, let alone ask twice.
A client of mine is experiencing this first hand. She held an event and had speakers who sold products. Their contract states they give a percentage of their sales to the event host. She is STILL waiting for the money. It’s super lame, and it happens. It’s happened to me.
I’ve had speakers give me a check BEFORE they even leave the event and THAT is a class act. (Sean Smith is one of those awesome fellas.)
3. Be gracious.
Live events can be tricky. People may walk out of your session – for all you know they had an emergency…but it’s not the event host’s fault. Attendees may not buy from you. Lots of stuff happens at live events that attendees never see.
As a speaker, be gracious. It will get you referrals and the event team will bend over backwards when they can to accommodate you.
I had a lower attendance at one of my events and while I was worried about it, it was what it was. I clearly and honestly communicated this to my speakers and worked with each of them to do what it took to make sure they got their ROI, as much as I could control anyway. A couple of my speakers were pretty upset about it. One of them made $28,000 from private coaching from people I directly referred to their program. They were still upset.
You know the speakers who got the biggest return on their investment and made the most connections? The speakers who completely trusted that their perfect people were in the room and they showed up 100%. They made money, connected with JVs, got rave testimonials and got referrals by me and my attendees.
Funny how that works…
4. Customize your approach.
Speaker sheets are great. (Speaker sheet is the 1-2 page speaker summary that you send to event promoters.) Please don’t send your generic speaker sheet to an event promoter if the content isn’t a 100% match for your topic. Customize your talk title and bullet points so it applies to the audience you are speaking to.
You don’t need to create a customized presentation for every speaker, in fact I recommend having 1-2 signature talks that you give. The “guts” of your talk is the practically the same, but be willing to customize the title to fit the event and audience you want to speak to. Taking the time to do that will get you noticed! A speaker who does this REALLY well is Chad Hymas, who spoke at one of my Ignite Your Spark conferences.
Chad is a paralyzed…Chad travels weekly around the globe to speak to audiences. Chad has his pick of where he speaks and when, he’s a high-demand international speaker. When he sent me the bullet points of his presentation to my event, I was amazed…he tied his talk in with the event theme of “Speak Your Truth.” He (and his team) took the time to research my event and customized his talk for that specific audience. It was just one of the reasons he got a standing ovation.
He was also a speaker who gave a percentage of his book sales to a young woman in the audience who was also in a wheelchair. He’s just that kind of guy.
(hmmm, you think that may have something to do with why he’s a highly booked speaker all over the world?)
5. Pace yourself and don’t throw up on people. 🙂
I couldn’t resist putting this clip from the classic movie “Goonies.” Don’t be Chunk…
When you inquire about speaking at events, don’t send all of your information in the “Hi, I’m ______ email and I’d like to speak at your event.” It’s about a relationship and connection.
Vomiting all over the event host or event team with your topics, list of demands for the kind of tea you like (see tip #1) and how you want the room set up, is not appropriate for the first email.
The first point of contact should be asking if they are still looking for speakers and what details they need for you to apply to be a speaker. Then take it from there.
6. Ask the right questions.
When speakers would contact me, the question that always got my attention was “What can I do for your event and your audience?” or “How can I best serve your attendees?”
Other questions I recommend asking:
Is the event free or what is the ticket price for an attendee? (Converting attendees who pay for a FREE event will not convert as well as attendees who pay for an event.)
One thing this industry has done is train people to attend an event for a $97 or $197 deposit and then when they arrive at the event, they get the deposit back. Yet people are surprised when the events have turned out to be sales pitch after sales pitch…
Is it a first-year event? If not, how many years have they done it and what are the numbers from past event?
How many other speakers are there? What is each speaker offering (free or paid)? How many other sponsors?
At what point in the event will you be speaking?
I’m speaking at event where I’m the last breakout session of the day…so my offer isn’t going to be a paid offer. The attendees will have already been “sold” to all day, my strategy is to give killer value and give one of my intro programs for free along with an application to speak with me in person about their business…do you see why I’m doing that? (I know my conversion rate from strategy sessions + I know the audience. These are two things that you need to know when you sell anything, even sell something that is free.)
How long can you speak?
Is your topic exclusive or will there be other speakers who have similar topics? (If so, you will want to customize your presentation so you stand out.)
7. Engage with the audience.
You will get a much higher ROI on your time and money investment if you actually hang out at the event. Show up early, get a feel for the crowd and pay attention to the vibe of the event.
Your next client could be from having lunch with attendees, or attending someone else’s breakout session and striking up a conversation with someone you are sitting next to.
If you try to be untouchable, you will be and that doesn’t usually create a whole lot of money in your bank account.
8. Have a good follow-up strategy.
You can make a lot of money from a small audience. It’s all about your follow up.
Get leads from your presentation and nurture those leads to have a conversation with you. It’s that simple.
Your biggest money will likely come AFTER you speak – it’s in your follow up.
9. Do what you say you’re going to do. (Hold the event host to their word also.)
If you are contracted to speak for 60 minutes, speak for 60 minutes. Not a minute more and not a minute less.
If you agreed to promote the event, promote the event. No excuses.
Live events rarely run exactly on time. But if the event is running over time, that doesn’t mean your speaking time gets cut short. It means you get to work with the event host to create a win/win.
10. Stand for something.
There are a lot of speakers out there. Will people remember what you said? Will they remember your name? Your stories? Your message? Will they remember what you stand for? WILL THEY REMEMBER THAT YOU TOOK A STAND WITH THEM ON SOMETHING THAT ACTUALLY MATTERED? Did you believe in them? Your audience feels all of this.
“Be less nicey-nicey and be a little more spicey-spicey.” This is something I told one of my clients who went from NEVER speaking to speaking over 25 times in 2013.
Does this mean you have to cuss from stage and shock your audience? Or give people a pony show with fireworks? No way! Be authentically you but don’t be so vanilla that you are forgettable. If you are quirky and funny, be that. If you are serious and calm, be that, but BE INTERESTING and genuinely INTERESTED.
Your own vulnerable stories will connect you faster to your audience than any formula, inspirational quotes or cool PowerPoint. Be willing to get real with people and they will remember you in a positive way.
If you have a message to share, share it. You don’t serve the world by being the world’s best kept secret.