Becoming a successful professional speaker is heavily dependent on how well you market yourself. As you grow your new business, the majority of your time should be spent on marketing efforts. It is of course very important that you have selected the right market to target your services towards, and that you have a highly polished presentation style. Yet the main distinguishing characteristic separating truly successful speakers from those who only achieve modest success is their self-promotional marketing ability.
Once you have identified and begun targeting your services to your ideal market, it may be necessary to build visibility by offering free presentations. It’s important that you tailor your program to a tightly focused set of topics and themes so that you can begin gaining credibility within your chosen niche. The overarching goal at this early stage is to position yourself as an expert in very specific subject areas.
Speak For Free
In the beginning, an effective strategy for gaining exposure is speaking for free. The eventual goal is to build up a solid file of testimonial letters that you can later use for your marketing efforts. From that point forward, you will be able to contact organizations that are relevant in your field and show them testimonials from known competitors within their industry. Your testimonials will help build perceived value and prestige, and will contribute to your ‘expert status’ positioning.
Create And Sell Products
Most speakers sustain themselves (at least in part) by selling products that they have created. These can be sold at presentations that they give, through publications their products may appear in, and on the internet. Products that you create can range from CDs of your presentations, informational booklets, as well as writing and publishing a book. Many speakers also develop digital products that are made available through their website. An important fact to keep in mind is that although a book may not generate large amounts of revenue in and of itself, the added credibility and ‘expert status’ value that it brings to a speaker is of tremendous worth in terms of self promotion.
Setting Your Fees
While you are still becoming established, you won’t be able to charge high fees. Look for other speakers with similar areas of expertise and experience levels and set your fee structure accordingly. Remember that it’s much better to charge less than you are worth and have a meeting or event planner feel that they hired you for a bargain, than to be perceived as charging too much. Although you shouldn’t let meeting planners talk you down in price, it is important that you always strive to give added value to your presentations. Whether that means offering a sampling of your products or giving a discount on future guaranteed bookings, it is essential that your clients come away feeling that you have gone the extra mile to provide a high quality service. When should you raise your fees? Wait until such time that you have more work than you can handle, or it is clearly evident that your offerings are in high demand. Then and only then should you consider increasing your fee.
Working with a speakers bureau can greatly increase your annual bookings, as well as your income. However, until you have raised your profile and gained experience and a good reputation, most speakers bureaus will pass on representing you. Many successful speakers advise waiting at least six to eight years before soliciting a bureau for representation. In the meantime, build up your clientele portfolio, create your products, refine your website, and continue developing your ‘expert status’ and you’ll be well on your way to success as a thriving professional speaker.