Approaching the Podium: The Path To Public Speaking

One of the best ways for a Solopreneur consultant to demonstrate and validate your bona fides as an expert in your chosen field is to get in front of an audience and deliver a talk to peers and prospects. As we all know, billable hours and referrals are built on confidence and trust and one must do everything possible to encourage and sustain their growth. If you would like to get on the speaker’s circuit but have not yet done so, begin by acquiring some public speaking experience and as you do, think about topics that you can address as an expert.

Teaching is a wonderful place to start building a public speaking career and you will be (modestly) paid as you do. Absolute beginners are advised to research adult learning centers to explore opportunities to teach workshops that you develop.

As your teaching skills become more proficient, browse the catalogues of community colleges and four-year institutions and contact department heads to inquire about teaching for a semester. BTW, the workshop that you proposed and taught at the adult learning center represents curriculum development and in the education sector, that is a plus. You could be asked to expand your workshop into a semester-long course.

Appearing on panels is another effective way to launch a speaking career. Speaking on a panel lets conference organizers see you in front of an audience. Do a good job as a panelist and you may be invited to moderate a panel and eventually, you will be positioned to inquire about speaking opportunities for yourself.

If you have presented a webinar, or took a leading role in a podcast or video, you are already on your way to becoming a public speaker. If you haven’t already done so, upload the files to your website and social media accounts, so that conference organizers can see and hear you in action.

Before you reach out to conference organizers, consider carefully the topics that you can address with authority and the best audience groups for your information. If you approach organizations where you are not known, it will be very important to help them understand where your topics and their audience preferences intersect. Create a one page document for each of your talk titles. You would also be wise to list your talk titles on your website and your LinkedIn or Facebook page. Larger organizations may request that you send a few of your Power Point slides for review.

Speaking of Power Point, if you are fortunate enough to land a speaking gig that gets you in front of potential clients, if your budget allows, hire a graphics specialist to customize slides for you. It will be in your interest to present high-quality slides that represent you and your brand well. While you’re at it, ask your graphics person to embed your photo into your “one sheet” talk info, so it can be used by you and the conference organizers to promote your talk.

Finally, be aware that the vast majority of speaking engagements are considered opportunities for exposure and are unpaid, but that should not discourage you from selectively and tactfully asking for an honorarium. If you speak in a location that is more than an hour away, or where the parking cost is high, ask if expenses related to getting you to the venue will be covered. If you must take a hotel room, ask if the program organizers will reimburse the cost.

Generally speaking, lining up teaching or speaking engagements is a long-term project, since schedules and course catalogues are determined far in advance. Consider it something useful to do when business is slow.

Thanks for reading,