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How to Be Invited to Speak at Conferences

Speaking at conferences and events is a powerful step toward getting your ideas and expertise into the marketplace. And yet, most people have no idea how to get considered for the speaking roster. If you have a message you’d like to share, here’s a few keys to getting your name in the hat as a potential speaker:

1) Volunteer behind the scenes.   My very first speaking opportunity was an event where I volunteered to work behind the scenes. When one of the workshop speakers missed his flight, they were desperate to fill the slot. To a great extent, just because I was there, I got the nod. Had I not been working the event, they would have never asked me, and who knows how long it would have been before my speaking career would have started?

2) Become an “expert.”   Early in my career, I had the opportunity to travel to a number of Third World countries to film documentary footage. After those trips, I had enormous experience in the challenges of shooting internationally – particularly in difficult situations. So I started writing magazine articles and talks on what producers needed to consider before a production outside the United States. Before long, a media conference asked me to share on the subject and I was off and running.

3) Plan ahead.   I get called from people a week before conferences asking if they can speak. But conference schedules and speakers are decided 6 months to a year out. Get in line early, and start talking to conference leaders way ahead of the date.

4) You don’t need an agent.   There are some excellent agencies that represent public speakers, but many of the top speakers don’t use them. If you can get represented, then great. But it’s not a requirement. It’s more important that you be known in your area of expertise, and make contact with conference planners. When it comes to conferences, networking matters.

5) Finally – become a great speaker. If you can’t capture the audience’s attention, you won’t get a second shot. Here’s a few resources to help:

The Scorre Conference – This is Ken Davis and Michael Hyatt’s event, and it’s great training for public speaking.

Give Your Speech, Change the World – My friend Tim Sanders recommended this book and it’s fantastic.

Anything by Nancy Duarte – Nancy co-founded “Duarte” – an innovative agency designed to help their clients communicate ideas. She’s written some amazing books on how to give compelling presentations, and I’m a huge fan.

Step out there.  Make some connections and start speaking.  People need to hear your ideas.

Are there other good ways you’ve discovered to help get on the stage of conferences and workshops?

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  1. Anyone interested in public or conference speaking-listent to the expert Phil Cooke. He will always give the best professional advice there is!

  2. Hey thanks Phil! I’m going to pick up those books you pitched. Somewhere down inside I know I could and should be doing this.

  3. Nancy, I’m a worship leader at a large church in Chicago subs. I’d love to sing for women’s conferences as I have a huge passion for women’s ministry. But, run into the same obstacles as many speakers do who don’t have agents/labels. Any suggestions?

  4. Thanks for these tips, Phil. I’d put speaking well (#5) and having a compelling topic (#2) at the top of the list. With them, you might get invited to speak without volunteering first 🙂

    By joining the right Toastmasters club, you get the opportunity to practice while receiving valuable feedback to hone your delivery and topic.

    Attendee-run conferences like a Podcamp can be other places to speak (depending on your topic).

  5. I agree w/ Promod Sharma that joining the right Toastmasters club can help you sharpen you speaking skills, too. I’ve been a member for four years now and it’s been invaluable. I also like your idea, Phil, of volunteering. My wife got her dream job by doing an unpaid internship. Always love to hear your thoughts, Mr. One Big Thing.

  6. Phil – thanks for mentioning the SCORRE Conference! 🙂 I agree with everything you said here, especially this line – “you don’t need an agent”. Great post….really good, solid information.

  7. I noticed Michael Hyatt’s post on Twitter about this. I’m glad I decided to click on the link and check this out. As a new speaker, I love learning from other believers who have more experience in this area. Thank you, Phil. I look forward to learning more about you and following what God is doing in your life. Many Blessings, Danielle

  8. Thank you!! I have about 15 speaking engagements per year but they are all smaller groups (mostly women). I’ve been looking and praying for opportunities to do bigger events. I’ve found that many of them ask for video, which I currently do not have. That’s one recommendation I would make. Thank you for these tips!

    1. Excellent. I’m glad it helps. Video has become a big issue with conferences – especially to introduce the speakers. Plus, a promo video that showcases your ability is a powerful tool to get more opportunities.
      Thanks for contributing!

  9. Phil I had an opportunity to see you at the Born 2 Win conference in Jacksonville last year. Great insight. I’m definitely looking to increase my speaking opportunities and fees. Any insight you could give me would be greatly appreciated.

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