Marketing Pro Tip: Why Booking Speaking Gigs is the Best Thing You Can Do to Build Your Brand

Erika Pryor
Jan 24 · 12 min read

Speaking whether in person or virtually is one of the best ways to position yourself as a thought leader, demonstrate your authority and effectively. build your personal brand.

Building and maintaining a personal brand in today’s unpredictable job market is essential. The pandemic has taught us a tremendous amount about the ways the labor market and economic landscape can change overnight. COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation in every industry, drove remote work, made career pivots an absolute necessity, and inspired many more to launch side hustles to generate new income streams. The evolving labor market and economic landscape help bring into focus these stats now more than ever.

According to Career Advice Online:

The average person will change careers 5–7 times during their working life.

30% of the workforce will now change careers or jobs every 12 months.

By the age of 42 you may already have had about ten jobs.

Whether you decided to make a career change because the job market in your industry is extremely competitive and COVID has exacerbated an already challenging situation, or rather you were looking to make a career change to increase your potential, the statistics on career pivots by workers to new industries, roles and functions is a reality many now find themselves facing.

Of course, many workers also switch jobs for reasons other than earning more money and pandemic necessity. Indeed reports that when asked about reasons for job switching, 49% of respondents selected reasons unrelated to salary, including:

  • Upward mobility (14.5%)
  • Escaping a toxic work culture or bad boss (14.5%)
  • Flexibility (9.1%)
  • Exploring a new industry (6.4%)
  • Easier commute (4.5%)

In addition to completely disrupting life as we know, the pandemic has helped normalize fluid career and job change as well as the necessity for multiple streams of income. As the stats reveal, 30% of the workforce will change careers or jobs every 12 months. Once upon a time and as late as 2019, Millennials were identified and even villianized for their willingness to change jobs or careers every 12–18 months, frequently citing low engagement as the culprit.

A 2019 Gallup report on the millennial generation revealed that “21% of millennials say they’ve changed jobs within the past year, which is more than three times the number of non-millennials who report the same.” Further more, Millennials were frequently. villanized for creating $30.5 billion annually costs in turnover to the U.S. economy.

I’m thrilled to see this conversation has been put on the back burner in favor of recognizing the value career changers bring to a new industry, role or function. Now is the time for unemployed, employed and underemployed workers to learn and apply personal branding strategies. Utilizing personal branding gives you an arsenal of best practices and tools you can leverage to demonstrate your dynamic professional history, diverse knowledge and transferable experiences to position yourself as the thought leader and authority figure your are on in preparation for your next big opportunity.

The unpredictability of the economy, a rapidly changing labor market, coupled with the understanding that being a traditional W2 are all great reasons to maintain a strong personal brand. One of the most efficient and productive ways to demonstrate your expertise and being put some content behind your brand is by booking speaking gigs.

In addition to demonstrating what you know, there are a number of reasons why and how speaking gigs are a valuable strategy to build your personal brand, here are a few to consider.

You get to define your story: For people facing a career pivot, regardless of the circumstances, this is sometimes a very intimidating hurdle to overcome. I get questions a lot from career changers concerned about answering the interview question “So, why are you making such a big change or switch?” This is not a question to run away from, but rather to embrace because now you have the opportunity to define your story.

Whether your change was voluntary or involuntary this is your opportunity to develop a narrative that makes sense, is authentic and helps you position yourself well. Of course, COVID could have been the reason you lost your job or your role was eliminated, but if you’re making a career change to something new that you believe suites you better, tap into that want and desire. Speak from that space to define your story on your terms.

You can create a presence: As a former public speaking and communication college professor, I realize I’m not always an unbiased party about public speaking. However, I do experience pubic speaking fears myself depending on the context and content.

And you are not alone. Orai reports “people of all ages and occupations struggle with public speaking — 77% of the US population feels some level of anxiety with public speaking.” Among the “48 Fear of Public Speaking Statistics You Should Know About,” there’s good news. Nearly 90% of the anxiety we experience regarding public speaking is due to lack of preparation. This means you can combat 90% of your anxiety through diligent and detailed preparation. That also means use 90% of the time you’ve allocated to prepare developing your script, speaking points, and practicing your presence as a speaker. You may never love or enjoy public speaking, and you don’t have to it, you just have to be good at it.

You can amplify your publishing work: I recently discussed the strategy of publishing as much as possible to build your personal brand and position yourself as a thought leader. So, if you are publishing whether on your own channels like Medium, LinkedIn or a blog, or collaborating with others to publish on their party channels, speaking is an excellent strategy to amplify your publishing work.

Whether you speak briefly using short zoom produced video clips or your create longer webinars, you can always say more verbally and nonverbally in the time it takes people to read your published work. You can add personal stories and examples that felt too long for your written work. Importantly, people can get to know you from you and in your own words. That my friend is power!

Although you may be like 77% of people responding to this survey, with lack luster enthusiasm about public speaking, you’re still reading. I will take that as a sign you are somewhat persuaded that booking speaking gigs has some advantages to helping you build your personal brand, increase employment engagements and cultivate new professional opportunities. Now that you are warming up to the idea, let’s jump into ways you can go about booking speaking gigs.

Whether you are creating your own speaking platform or utilizing the platforms of other thought leaders, meetup groups or organizations, doing so is a sure fire way to establish yourself as a thought leader, demonstrate your expertise, as well as show off your ability to engage an audience. Three ways to go about getting yourself out there speaking and presenting more include:

Self-Booked Speaking Opportunities. This strategy is first because it is absolutely the lowest hanging fruit and easiest place for you to start. Book your own speaking gigs. You know your schedule, you know what you want to speak on. To get started, pick a day on and time on the calendar. Name your event. Begin marketing. And then begin preparing by developing your speaking topic. You could use this opportunity to try out a new speaking topic or to focus on developing your stage presence. This strategy really works and people really will show up.

You may consider offering your virtual speaking gigs free of cost and move into a monetization model based on your traction, or you can consider monetizing them right away. That’s your decision to make based on your goals. Both strategies work depending on where you are in the personal branding journey.

I book speaking gigs for myself. I schedule them strategically during the course of the year for a number of different purposes. Most importantly these speaking events add value to you and connection my awesome supporters. My most recent self-booked speaking gig served the same purpose while also helping me figure out what the hell I was doing!

In preparation for the launch of my Learning Community “Manifesting New Opportunities Through Personal Branding,” on Ingomu learning mobile app, coaches were charged with delivering a recording of their first session and submitting it for inclusion with the app launch. I love to be part of something new, so I was motivated to have my learning community part of the initial launch. Now for some this might already sound like too much, but I’m still onboard because I like to be first. Once I learned the guardrails for the assignment and started preparing to create my recorded learning community session, I got a little freaked.

The guardrails of the assignment — and if you’ve worked in a startup environment this should sound familiar — produce a no less than 45 minute and no more than 60 minute webinar created for viewing on a mobile device within an app not yet fully baked. Position yourself as the star of your webinar and learning community which is discussion-based. Depending on screen size of a users mobile device, they may not adequately be able to engage a slide deck. The final interesting twist to submitting this recording is: assume you will have an audience which you cannot see, so it’s more like a Facebook Live than a traditional Zoom meeting. You will have spotlight capabilities like Streamyard.

The best approach for me to deliver a 45–60 minute recording I’m going to feel good about meant I needed to do a rehearsal session and practice this public speaking engagement before I do the final recording to send to Ingomu. So, now that I understand the assignment and I booked my speaking gig. I managed the logistics: Schedule a day and time. Invite a few close friends. Do an open call on LinkedIn. Set up the zoom, Send out the link.

I didn’t have a long timeline to deliver the video if I wanted to be part of the initial launch, about seven days total to prepare for the presentation, execute and deliver. I needed to begin preparing. I had about five days to prepare for the rehearsal and another two days to deliver the final recording.

In order to maximize this speaking gig for myself, I requested that attendees offer feedback so that I can improve to create a great first recording. Consider this a completely legitimate request to make for yourself as well. People are typically willing to provide feedback and when you invite them to do so, they feel invested in your success. There’s nothing better for your manifestations than others speaking them with you and supporting you on your journey.

For the time, attention and feedback of attendees, I wanted to ensure I delivered high value content, great energy and interactivity alongside action steps that can be implemented today creating a brand experience attendees will want to replicate again and again.

I begin preparing — which is where I always spend the majority of my time. Everybody’s preparation time can look very different depending on your experience and comfort with public speaking. When I was in graduate school, I remember seeing other teaching assistant’s speaking notes. Some would rip pages from the public speaking Instructor’s Manual to utilize as speaking notes, while others would have a single sheet of paper with “Ethos, Logos, Pathos” to use as a speaking prompt for the day.

So, the range of what and how you prepare can vary. I’m somewhere in the middle. I usually create an agenda in outline form so I can adequately pace myself and keep the flow of movement from topic to topic fluid. And I usually take notes on colored paper for presentations with black pen or black felt tip marker. I typically present in a discussion-based format rather than from slide decks or powerpoint presentations. However, driving a 45 minute discussion on manifesting and personal branding was something I hadn’t done for awhile, so I was looking forward to that rehearsal session.

Although the Zoom meeting would facilitate video and visual engagement, the actual Ingsomu app supports audio and a community newsfeed. So, there were plenty of things to think through in order to make the rehearsal a productive brand building experience. To skip ahead, I did the warm up session, received great feedback and later recorded a pretty good “first take” webinar. However, I should note, I was pretty nervous before my rehearsal and even before my official recording. And I’m glad I was. That meant I was still in it to win it.

Also important from this example is that you too can book your own speaking gigs. You can leverage the opportunity as rehearsal like I did, as top of funnel activities like many online entrepreneurs and tech companies, as a job search activity and a revenue generating venture. The ways booking speaking gigs can boost your brand are amazing and you don’t have to wait to be asked, you can be empowered to book yourself, speak on what you’re passionate and knowledge and bring value to your growing following community. So, what’s stopping you?

Guerrilla Speaking Opportunities. Unlike self-booked speaking events, which are the absolute lowest hanging fruit, guerrilla speaking opportunities are the next best option to book speaking engagements by leveraging your network. Keep in mind, you can’t expect anyone in your network to just “give” you a speaking opportunity, but your network may be willing to listen and connect you with the right people. That’s valuable. Take the opportunity and run with it. Be prepared to offer these speaking gigs free of cost.

In preparation for your outreach, you’ll want to identify 2–3 titles for your proposed speaking gigs and brief descriptions so you have something to work with. Try to come up with presentation titles that are both attention grabbing and intentional about what they can expect from your presentation. Now it’s time to develop a targeted list from your network of guerrilla speaking gigs. A few places to start.

Pitch people in your network that manage meetup groups, on leadership boards, community groups and committees. Many of these types of groups offer public-facing and closed programs and events. Review their events calendars to get a sense of the topics discussed to develop a targeted outreach list. These groups may create their programming agenda early in the year, but continue to fill out each activity event-by-event.

Reach out to event organizers of virtual or live events previously attended. Since March last year we have all attended way more virtual events than we ever thought we would. The good news here is you can be a speaker or presenter at one of those virtual events you enjoyed. Develop a targeted list and connect with those event organizers to know when they will release a call for speakers, what the event theme is, or how you can become a presenter. A good event organizer worth their salt will have a list or database of speakers as well as a email list for event updates.

Connect with your local and or regional chamber of commerce. Local chambers of commerce and other business or entrepreneur support organizations can be a great way for you to develop your brand and authority. Now depending on your domain of expertise this — like any all of these recommendations — may not be the right audience for you, but if it is, you can both build your brand, grow your following and convert customers. Approaching chambers is a great strategy because members pay and the organization wants to find ways to add value to its members.

Inquire with membership organizations. Whether you are a member of the organization, it’s in your industry or the industry you want to transition to, membership organizations are great options for booking speaking gigs for some of the same reasons chambers are. Membership organizations are typically pretty niche or narrowly defined pitching yourself here requires a good level of alignment. You should be prepared to answer the question, “How will our members benefit from what you will share?” Thinking through this first will help you develop a better pitch to present in your outreach email.

Pitch podcasts that align with your brand about interview opportunities. If you haven’t already launched a podcast it’s probably something you’re thinking about… and why not. Podcasts whether video, audio or both are an excellent way to demonstrate your expertise, drive a conversation and create a platform for other influencers join your conversation. There are lots of ways to imagine a podcast and the production process and one of the best ways to get insights on the diversity of options here is to connect with podcasters and pitch yourself as an interviewee or guest cohost.

Don’t forget: Content creators need content, and the less work you have to do to source or generate it — the better. So send out those outreach emails and see what happens.

Commissioned Speaking Opportunities. Booking commissioned speaking gigs is the top tier hanging fruit and this means you are compensated for your time and expertise. Not every commissioned speaking gig is going to be “big money.” My first commissioned speaking gig was while I was a graduate student, my brother asked me to speak at some event at his community college. He said I would be paid. I received an honorarium of $300.00. To me it meant I had distinguished myself as a thought leader and there was a dollar value I could attach to my time. Additionally, I could now say I was a commissioned speaker and feel empowered to request a speakers fee.

There are plenty of ways to find commissioned speaking gigs. You can begin with a search of the Googles and job search boards you frequent adding to the search bar “call for speakers” to unearth some results. You can also research national or international membership conferences and industry-specific national and international conferences.

Anticipate with commissioned speaking gigs there will be a vetting process. You should be prepared for the vetting process by having a speakers bio, headshot, alongside previous speaking gig titles and brief descriptions. You may also need to submit a brief video explaining why you’re a great speaker or talking through a concept from your presentation. These videos are also intended to showcase your speaking style and stage presence. So, put in the effort.

EPiC Career Network

Helping you manifest personal growth professional success one branding tip at a time.

Erika Pryor

Written by

Founder, CMO @ EPiC Creative + Design, Culturally-informed Storyteller, Startup Evangelist, Community Builder. Dr. Mom.

EPiC Career Network

Career Connections, a publication of EPiC Career Network offers creatives, innovators and disruptors job seeking support, personal branding insights, tips on tech tools, and strategies to help you manifest meaningful personal and growth opportunities.

Erika Pryor

Written by

Founder, CMO @ EPiC Creative + Design, Culturally-informed Storyteller, Startup Evangelist, Community Builder. Dr. Mom.

EPiC Career Network

Career Connections, a publication of EPiC Career Network offers creatives, innovators and disruptors job seeking support, personal branding insights, tips on tech tools, and strategies to help you manifest meaningful personal and growth opportunities.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store