It’s every aspiring speakers goal to get paid to speak on stage. There is nothing like the feeling of knowing how good you are as a speaker, but you aren’t getting booked for speeches. The road to professional speaking is a humbling one. There is nothing that breaks your heart more to a new speaker than a company reaching out to request you to speak and at the end they say “we can’t pay you”.
Getting paid is the ultimate goal for a speaker, but there is value in a free speech. What I’ve found in my professional speaking journey is that there is value in EVERY speech that you give. You may ask yourself how is there value in a “free” speech? The first piece of advice that I’d give to any speaker is not to turn down a free speech. Here are a few pointers on how to add value to a free speech.
Believe it or not, as a new speaker you don’t have to accept every offer you get to speak. You may be flattered that organizations are reaching out to you to speak, but you must ensure that the organization fits your message. The speech I gave in September was for a local company offering rehabilitation services to veterans and civilians. The services include mental health counseling, addiction and substance abuse counseling, and veteran PTSD counseling.
All of these services are directly related to me and my speaking topics. I want to be seen as a subject matter expert in these fields - a person that people trust to deliver a message to individuals suffering from addiction and going through mental health rehabilitation. This message is also near and dear to my heart so not getting paid doesn’t sting as much (even though you don’t want to make a career out of speaking for free). Accepting a free event can work to your benefit if you know how to properly market and network yourself for the event.
So, you may have heard how hard it is to make a profit when you are a new business. About how you will spend thousands of dollars before breaking even, then making a profit. The marketing portion of a speech will hurt your pockets a little, but it will help you establish credibility at your speech. At my most recent event I wanted to give the audience something tangible to walk away with. This not only gives the audience a great message to take home, your audience has material to take home as well.
I went to my local UPS store to order my business cards for this speech. One thing that is great about the UPS store is that you can create your own designs. Also, something that I absolutely LOVE about the UPS store is they allow you to feel the paper your card will be made out of. I’ve ordered cards online in the past and I was surprised when I received my business cards and they were as thick as cardboard.
If you go to any professional business card website you can be overwhelmed by the options. Look at all the options: premium paper, full color cards, grayscale, glossy cards, matte finish, etc, etc. You want your cards to look good, but you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on marketing at an event when you aren’t getting paid. I like to get the most basic business card that I can find: black and white and a nice material that allows me to write on the back of the card.
I like to write on the back of all my business cards. This allows me to leave a personal message for the audience that I am passing them out to. My basic message is where we met, including the date and the event. Lastly, I write something memorable like a joke we may have shared or a promise to follow up after the event. If you have ever been to any speaking event you end up with about 100 business cards from people you surely have forgotten by the end of the day. If you are speaking at any event, (but especially one where you aren’t getting paid) ALWAYS leave the door open so people can reach out to you with a paid speaking event in the future.
At my more recent free event, I asked someone in the audience to snap a few pictures of me while giving my speech. I didn’t want to ask to record the entire speech because who wants to hold a phone for a stranger for 20 - 30 minutes? My event was great, the stage was awesome, and the person in the audience got some pretty good pictures for me. The pictures were professional material (I took a selfie of me in front of the banner for the event), and I have no video of me speaking, but I have enough to put online for potential organizations to see that I have experience speaking in a particular market.
Something that I got at my event that an expert told me I desperately needed was a video testimonial. I have testimonials on my page from people who heard me speak. However, as a new speaker people can criticize you by saying that you just took a picture of someone online and used a general quote and called it a testimonial on your page. Getting video testimonials are great after working a free speaking event because they can add value to your business.