As a successful entrepreneur, you already know the value of talking to other people. Remember when you first thought about becoming an entrepreneur and starting a business? You talked it over — with your best friend, your mom, husband, wife or partner. You needed that sounding board to help determine the business’ viability.

Today, you have a thriving business, after persuading all those stakeholders to take part in your venture, buy your product, believe in you.

In other words — you’re already a pretty good speaker. You verbalized your business dream and it became a reality. Speaking propelled the early stages of your success, and it can help with the next step.

Where are you going? Maybe it is time to achieve that next step for your enterprise, getting your message out there — to amplify your visibility and give your brand a boost.

A surefire way to promote yourself and business, is to get out there and talk about it. Events are attended by audiences with a vested interest in the subject you will be speaking about: a concentrated audience of people in the same field as you who will all be interested in what you have to say. Additionally, if you speak to 50 people in the audience and they each have only one conversation about who they saw speaking, that’s 100 people you’ve reached. Knock it out of the park and the chances are they will tell more than one, and with social media and video streaming the audience is far greater than the sum of the people sitting in the room.

And when you do take the decision to speak publicly, it won’t just be you and your SME that will benefit.

Are you tired of seeing the same kind of speaker or panel at every event you go to, sitting up there on stage wheeling out the same dusty talking points? You know that you could do it better.

It’s not your imagination, and it has a name — you have noticed the phenomenon of the “manel.”

Conferences have a visible gender problem, and apart from your presence being a refreshing relief to your audience, the whole female workforce will benefit from you taking the stage. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2018 report on the Global Gender Gap, parity shifted into reverse in 2017, and if things don’t change it will take 217 YEARS to end disparities in the pay and employment opportunities of men and women.

It’s true. You probably can do better than a lot of the speakers out there. Be that change.

But how to get on stage? It takes preparation, guidance, and a catch-22 – practice. The more speaking opportunities you accept the better you’ll become at speaking. It’s like learning anything – riding a bike, swimming, reading. And you have a great track record so far (remember that bank manager you persuaded?)

The sticking point is getting over the next hurdles – the hows.

How do I:

  • find an opportunity?
  • find the right one for me?
  • settle upon the right topic?
  • prepare?
  • write a speech?
  • get compensated?

Here is a list of steps that will lead you to your first  — or should we say next — speaking opportunity.

1. Maximize your Online Profile

It is safe to say that you have some sort of online presence. Whether it is on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, or your own website, you should maximize these and use them to your advantage. If you are trying to target a specific industry, tailor your online profiles to demonstrate that: what do you do, what can you talk about, what’s your story? Make sure all your online channels are consistent.

Additionally, you can:

  • Connect with other women entrepreneurs in your area. They may be wanting to make the same move as you and could be a great resource!
  • Follow industry or topic specific organizations and associations. These are often the people organizing big conferences and looking for speakers.
  • Research popular speakers in the chosen industry – what are they doing that you can be doing?

Event organizers looking for speakers sometimes have to go through an exhaustive list of potential candidates. If you give them all the information in one place, you’re making their job easier, and raising your chances of getting picked.

2. Settle on your topic(s), and write your notes

This comes even before you apply for any speaker roles because it will give you the confidence to speak to what you can actually speak about, and the more you think about it the more ideas you will have. Stick to what you know, like, and feel comfortable speaking about. Don’t assume anyone else already knows it, and even if they know some of it, you bring your own twist of experience.

Every sector has an expert with a book out, or a Ted talk, or that one person that the networks always bring in to talk about that subject. Don’t try to be them — be yourself — the experience you bring to the subject is yours alone, and if you believe in what you’re speaking about all the better, because enthusiasm is contagious.

3. Video yourself!

A written description in an application, no matter how well written, can’t completely communicate who you are as a speaker, or how you speak. A sample video of you speaking is a KEY tool for event managers. It doesn’t have to be a long or fancy video, but a quick 5 minute video will help show event managers how you speak.

Today most of us have the basic tools on our smartphones. Have a friend in the front row of your next presentation with your phone, or set up a tripod and let it roll. Even if you don’t have a huge audience, or any at all — just demonstrate your passion for what you do on film, it will go a long way to getting you the opportunity to speak.

[Innovation Women is here for you in this department. During the pandemic we partnered with AnswerStage to offer our speakers the opportunity to make their own speaker videos. We offer our members the chance to create these videos as part of their annual membership. Subscribe to our newsletter to find out more.]


4. Types of speaking opportunities

It is a good plan to start small. There are different levels of opportunities, all leading up to the daunting vision of you up in front of 500 people as a keynote. No need to sorry about that now. How about getting started as a panel member? A fireside chat? A question and answer session? Or maybe being the moderator or an emcee?

5. Start locally – who do you know?

Where do you think you could start your public speaking journey?

There are 92,000 professional and business organizations in the US alone which are all easily accessible through web searches. You already know which of these organizations relate to your area of expertise, and you also know that many of them run conferences – remember those flyers or emails you receive asking you to attend? Why not ask to speak instead?

Other opportunities can be found at service clubs, chambers of commerce, colleges, universities and schools, corporations and vendor events. There are increasing opportunities to speak out there – 79% of brands say they will execute pre events and programs, and the event industry is expected to grow by 44% from 2010 to 2020. Obviously the pandemic had a huge impact on the industry but the online and virtual events picked up a lot of the slack when it came to events. And, in-person events are back. There is a hunger for that in-person connection.

6. Submit a Killer Speaker Proposal

Some conferences will ask for a proposal on a specific topic. When writing this, pay attention to the requirements and characteristics of the event, without losing sight of your expertise. Often event managers will provide specific instructions, right down to a word limit!

Understanding the size and level of the audience and tone of the conference are also important. Remember that you will be one of many submitting a proposal. Make sure it is unique and consistent with the needs of the audience. Many people focus too much on what they want to say and forget to communicate what the audience and the event managers (the gatekeepers) want to hear.

7. Go get ‘em!

Want to kick off your speaking career? Join Innovation Women today and take advantage of all of our resources to help you get started!

4.8 based on 10 reviews