Today I’m going to share with you the speaking gigs that will grow your business.
This will ensure that you don’t waste time on speaking gigs that aren’t necessarily going to take your business forward, and instead, you know where to focus your energy and attention.
I’m going to share with you the number one type of speaking gig that grows my business AND gets me the most income. Every. Single. Time.
Let’s dive on in!
As a speaker and someone who loves teaching people, I looooove being able to jump on stage and be a speaker.
I am someone who adores the opportunity to present something, hold space in a room, and be on stage.
I love, love, LOVE speaking!
For a lot of people when they’re building their business, they see speaking as one of the most important avenues to business growth – being seen as an expert, developing their teachings and all sorts of different parts of their business growth.
But not all speaking gigs are created equal.
What I wanted to do was run through some of the most common speaking opportunities that you’ll get when you’re creating a business, as well as some of the most common speaking opportunities that you may have been told you should be chasing as well.
I want to go through and dissect them a little in relation to how well they are going to grow your business, and the impact that they are going to have on your income as well as other factors in your business growth.
Before we start, I want to just give the caveat that I’m not saying you shouldn’t do some of these speaking gigs, I’m just saying, don’t overestimate the impact it’s going to have on your business.
Yes, there are going to be exceptions to the rule. And yes, there are some times some speaking opportunities that I would say aren’t necessarily that sexy end up being amazing opportunities for your business because the stars align, or the organiser was a particularly savvy person, or it just happened to be the perfect audience for you and you were totally in the zone.
I 100% believe that the more you practice speaking and the more speaking events that you do, the more you’re going to be able to grow your business. But I do want to alert you to the fact that not all speaking gigs are created equal, and not all speaking gigs are as sexy as the people teaching you how to get those speaking gigs might make them out to be.
Now let’s dive into the different speaking gigs I want to talk about today!
1. Free summits
These are multi-speaker online events that are free for attendees. They’re generally organised by one person who’s the main person, and then they invite a bunch of speakers to come and be part of that process.
In most cases, in a free summit, the speakers are not paid and are also encouraged (often even required) to promote that summit as a speaker.
The summit speaker model has been touted over the years quite prolifically.
I see waves of it being really exciting and encouraged and then people say summits are dead and no one wants to sign up to them… and then they’re saying that they’re amazing again.
Very similar to most marketing strategies, they go through phases of being quite popular versus being less popular.
The first thing I want to say is that if you are thinking about organising summits as part of your business growth, beware. It is a lot of work. The speakers don’t get as many registrants as you think that they will, and the quality of lead that you get from a free summit is very low.
When I run my free summit (I run the Heart-Centred Business Summit – although I haven’t run it in a couple of years), I get 1,000 to 2,000 people registered for that summit. I could probably get up to about 6,000 people with really good ad investment.
Those people are generally the highest unsubscribers from my list within the first 90 days.
That comes down to a range of factors:
1. They didn’t sign up to my summit to hear from me necessarily, they might have signed up to hear from another speaker (which is totally valid and I’m not begrudging people from unsubscribing – I’d rather they unsubscribe if they’re not really interested in my stuff).
2. People come in for an eclectic range of topics and reasons, and it’s not necessarily your topic or area of expertise.
3. People will sometimes sign up for a summit and not realise the work that would be involved in watching all of the summit, or maybe you don’t give them access to the recordings for long enough, so they figure that they’re never going to watch it and they unsubscribe.
There are a lot of reasons why it’s a low-quality lead that will come in if you’re organising the summit, and it is also a tonne of work. It is so much work to put on a summit and coordinate all of those different speakers, as well as coordinate all of the attendees.
Whenever we run the summit, my customer service inbox blows up because people don’t necessarily read the detail in the email, they don’t read the instructions properly, they haven’t got that email (even though in our system it says they have and they’ve opened it), so we need to do a lot of resending, a lot of explaining, and my customer service workload goes through the roof whenever I do a free summit.
It doesn’t matter how well organised or how prepared we are, there are always going to be people who get stuck or can’t find something or need help.
So free summits are a lot of work, and the quality of lead that comes in when you organise the summit is not necessarily that great.
That being said, there are definitely exceptions.
The last thing I want to say about the quality of lead when it comes to free summits is that the type of people who sign up for free summits generally are people who have lots of time, but not a lot of money to invest.
Again, that can mean it can be a little tricky to get that conversion (if you’re going to use that summit as a lead generation strategy for your business) because there’s not necessarily as much focus on investing to get to the outcome.
People are very wary of signing up to summits these days. The people who aren’t wary of signing up to summits are generally very new at this, and so that can sometimes be in your favour, but in a lot of cases, it can be at the detriment of this doing its job in your business.
If you think running a summit is a great strategy to get your business off the ground and grow your audience, it definitely has its downfalls.
The second thing I want to talk about is if you are invited to be a speaker at a free summit, and you’re told that they’re expecting to have thousands of people registered, know that that’s not always the case.
I recently was part of a summit where they said that they expected to get between 5,000 and 10,000 people registered… there were less than 500 people who joined the Facebook community for the summit. The final number of how many people were registered for that summit was never released to me, but I have a feeling it was around 500 to maybe 1,000 people. That’s it.
They never have the audiences that they say that they’re going to have, the conversion rate is very low, and the signup rate is very low.
When I presented at that free summit, the number of people who actually attended was about 25… only 25 people! If I had just run a webinar of that same topic area with my own audience and a little bit of promo, I could have had 500 to 1,000 people in the room and I would have been the only speaker at that point in time.
Beware of free summits, they aren’t necessarily a great strategy.
Also, just a little side note here because I’ve seen it happen a few times, I just want to make it abundantly clear that when you sign up for a summit, unless they make you check a box or give you the information on the page that says you will be added to every speakers’ mailing list, they are not allowed to add you to every speakers’ mailing list.
That has happened to me a few times when I’ve signed up for a free summit.
I’ve signed up for the summit and I’ve ended up on 25 people’s mailing lists and got 25 onboarding sequences in the space of a week and it was like a competition to see who could send me more. It was so much work to unsubscribe from everything, and I was absolutely blown away by that.
I can’t believe how many times it’s happened to me.
You can’t give people’s email addresses to all your speakers in a summit. That’s not a thing. People need to opt into mailing lists one at a time. That is the rule.
So free summit speaking gigs – I don’t rate it, don’t love it. Again, I’m not saying to never do it. If you need to practice something, if that person’s audience just so happens to be your perfect audience, and you want to practice a presentation, or maybe there are some other reasons why you want to do it, do it.
As I said, I participated in a summit just recently, and I probably participate in like one or two summits a year.
Every time I do it, I think to myself how I shouldn’t do that again.
It’s usually a matter of if I love the person who’s running it, or I get excited by who the other speakers are, then I do it.
There’s something powerful about knowing that you’ve shared the virtual stage with these amazing people. I totally get that. I definitely jump into summits probably more than I should. Even two a year is probably more than I should. But I understand the desire, and I understand the drivers.
I’m just saying, don’t pin all your hopes on the summit basket – use it as part of the rest of your business strategy, and don’t let it derail you from your own specific marketing strategy as well.
That’s the first kind of speaking gig – free summits.
2. Other people’s stages for paid events
Some examples of this would be:
- Being a speaker at a conference – either online or in-person
- Doing a joint webinar with someone – either online or an in-person workshop
- Being a guest speaker in someone’s paid program or Facebook group
Anything where you’re jumping onto someone else’s stage.
These have a range of benefits and things to be mindful of, and I would say I could do a whole conversation about being on other people’s stages for paid events because there are so many different options. You’ve got in-person events or online, you’ve got events where the attendees have paid and others where the attendees haven’t paid, and so on.
In this instance, I’m talking about where you’re not paid as a speaker.
If you’re not being paid as a speaker, you need to be really mindful about what impact this speaking gig is going to have on your business.
There’s an opportunity cost to you creating and presenting that presentation. There’s an opportunity cost if you’re promoting that person’s event. That is valuable real estate in your online presence and in your marketing that could have been dedicated to promoting your own thing.
We want to be really mindful about that.
Again, there are times where it DOES make a lot of sense to jump onto someone else’s stage.
I have a client who’s been asked by the peak body in her industry to present a monthly workshop every month of the year, and in return, they’ll promote her, she’s allowed to promote other free resources or trainings that she’s going to be doing, and they have a ginormous audience of every single one of her ideal clients in the country.
That’s definitely an opportunity that you would want to say yes to (even if it is for free) because their audience is exactly your ideal client and you get the opportunity to recruit those people into your own audience through that speaking gig.
There are, of course, going to be some really great benefits to that.
There’s a big difference between that, and speaking for free as a guest presenter in someone’s membership that they’re charging their members to be part of.
A lot of people come to me in the Take Off program or in VIP sessions and tell me about an unpaid speaking gig that they’ve been offered to deliver to a membership program, and they’re tempted to take it because it’s their ideal audience.
But the reality of it is that they’re already getting help in that space through that membership. You’re not going to go into that membership and present as a guest presenter and then try to poach those people into your membership. They’re not going to have both of those memberships at the same time, so therefore, that’s not a lead generation strategy for your business.
It’s not an active lead generation strategy at all.
In fact, you’re jumping in and trying to steal people from someone who they’re already learning from, and that’s completely out of congruence for me.
Just be mindful of what the:
- Audience is… and the REAL audience size, not the potential audience size
- Benefits are for your business in terms of lead generation, audience growth or potential sales
- Other benefits could be to your business
Again, maybe you want to practice a presentation, maybe you want to start becoming known in this space and you want to have a go at sharing with a much warmer audience who are more likely to be paying attention, and you know that they’re going to show up. If that’s the case then go for it.
There are definitely other benefits to it, but it’s not necessarily a strong business growth strategy unless it’s a really large audience.
3. Paid speaking gigs
The way to turn being a guest in someone’s membership where there’s no return on investment for you in terms of potential sales moving forward (or it’s very unlikely) into a paid speaking gig, is to be upfront with the person and say that you’re happy to do it, and then tell them your speaker fee to do that.
I have done that in a lot of people’s programs and memberships. I have a specific rate that I charge if they want to be able to do that. That speaker rate also comes with a suite of benefits for the person who’s paying it (I’ll share to my audience that I’m a guest trainer in that program, I’ll do a promo of that person’s membership, if they have an affiliate program, I’ll do an affiliate launch with them in some cases).
There are lots and lots of other ways that you can make it helpful for your business.
If you can be paid well for that speaking opportunity, and that makes sense for you financially, then great! That’s definitely going to be income for your business, and also think of the confidence that it gives you to be able to state your speaking rate and exactly what that entails.
It creates that opportunity to be able to say you’ve done it before, you can put it in your ‘as seen in’ and all those sorts of things (remembering that that’s not why people sign up to work with you, but I know people love to put in all of that evidence that they’re experts).
There are definitely some great opportunities for paid gigs. And it grows your business in other ways, as well as giving you the income.
I in particular loovvve doing paid speaking gigs in-person on a stage. They light me up, I’m really good at connecting with that audience, and I love being paid to do it.
I don’t like to sell from the stage, I would rather be paid as a speaker and not sell from the stage, but then also, when I speak on stage, a lot of those people end up following me and tagging me on Instagram, and I get great photos, I make great connections, and some of those people might turn into paying clients.
For me, I love a well-paid gig on stage.
I’m 50/50 on paid gigs online, especially with everything that’s happened with COVID. Of course, that’s probably going to be more prominent as the speaking opportunities that come my way, but that’s totally cool.
4. Guesting on other people’s podcasts/YouTube channels/social media channels
This can be a really great one, especially when you’re first in startup, as a way of being able to access different audiences, and practice being a speaker and answering questions.
Often, that is also a way that you get content extracted out of you in different ways because you’re being interviewed and asked questions, and you’re speaking off the cuff.
What I find for me is when I do those guest interviews or guest opportunities, I end up explaining things in a slightly different way, or someone asks a really great follow up question, and I can capture that and incorporate that into my messaging and into my content as well.
Whenever I do one of those bloggie interviewee podcast episodes, I am so excited and I tag the person on Instagram, they tag me back, we share each other’s stories, and so on.
There are lots of reach growth opportunities in that space as well if you do it really well.
But I also just find I put the dots together slightly differently or I’m asked questions in a slightly different way, and it’s really epic practice for talking about my work, talking about my concepts and my models in slightly different ways for some widely different audiences, and practising those.
I would say that other than where I’ve done my own speaking opportunities, that is my second most favourite because it’s generally for a larger audience, it’s great practice, I get to talk about my work in different ways, I get to focus on slightly different topics each time, and it’s just so conversational and I think I really shine in that space.
That works really well for me.
If you also love a good conversation, you love a good giggle or being interviewed and you find that much easier than presenting a straight presentation, then guest opportunities can be really amazing.
Here’s a hot tip to get those guest interviews: Start running your own first.
I get people all the time who send me messages straight up saying that I should have them on my podcast. And do you think I sign those people up just like that? Most of the time no (unless they’re quite famous or I already know them).
The people who I get on my podcast as guests are generally people who:
- I follow online and I reached out to them inviting them to be on my podcast
- Have invited me to be on theirs
- I’ve met somewhere else
When it comes to getting those guests opportunities, I would not recommend doing the whole cold pitch thing or hiring someone to cold pitch for you. I would create relationships, invite others, and create the space.
Create the thing that you most want.
If you want to be invited onto a podcast, create a podcast and invite others onto it. That reciprocation happens a lot. And also, you then have the opportunity to showcase your skills and your strengths as a speaker and build your audience, and then others will ask you as well to be on their podcast.
Make it really clear that you’re available for speaking gigs.
(By the way, if anyone would like to have me on their podcast, I’m available for speaking gigs, just get in touch😁.)
5. Your own speaking gigs
This is the one that will grow your business more than any other.
This is the one magical speaking gig that out trumps them all – it will make the most money, it will grow your audience the fastest, it will help you develop your business, marketing and models the most effectively, and it will create the most connection with your audience.
That is the best possible speaking gig you could get.
You don’t have to wait to be chosen, you don’t have to wait and rely on someone else to grow the audience or fill the room – YOU are the main event.
You’re not riding anyone else’s coattails – you are the person that people come to see.
There are lots and lots of ways that you can create speaking opportunities for yourself, and I HIGHLY encourage you to do them from day one in your business.
- Start a podcast
- Start a YouTube channel
- Do a regular Facebook Live
- Do a regular Instagram Live
- Start hosting rooms on Clubhouse (I don’t really love that platform, but it’s definitely an option)
You could totally create regular spoken content for your audience really, really easily.
Don’t underestimate the power of free content and YOU speaking in particular.
I know people who do amazing things on YouTube, and they just have their face on the camera at the start, and then they’re talking over slides for the rest of it.
They’re basically presenting a miniature webinar every single week on their YouTube channel, or they do that on their Facebook page.
Go out there and start showing up!
My number one caveat when it comes to that kind of free strategy (ie. podcasts, YouTube channel, Facebook Lives or Instagram Live – whatever it might be) is to pick one channel that you’re going to really nail consistently.
Don’t decide that you’re going to do a podcast AND a Youtube channel AND several other things. You’ll just spread yourself thin and never really show up consistently anywhere.
Instead, just start with something that feels really easy and doable for you, and then nail it and scale it.
Pick the thing, and own the thing.
If a podcast is your thing, do it. If a YouTube channel is your thing, do it.
Do whatever you feel is your thing, then nail that and scale that first.
That’s the early part of your client attraction process kind of speaking gigs – your reach speaking gigs. That is all of that free and ungated content – people don’t have to sign up to get it, they don’t have to give you their email address, it’s all out there on the internet, they can go and find it and you show up consistently in their feed with that particular content.
I loooooove that for you. Let’s get that happening.
Then we also have gated speaking gigs content.
That could be running a webinar where people have to sign up and give you their email address, running a free challenge, running a summit (don’t love it that much), running a conference (that could be a paid conference), and so on.
Don’t feel like you need to put other people on stage in order for you to be allowed to have the stage. That’s the number one reason why I see people running summits and conferences and running these big group events.
It’s the same as when I see some people jump into these multi-author book things (that’s a whole other conversation).
Even when they’re really beautiful multi-author books, a lot of the time, the number one reason why people jump into those is fear because they think that a book that they write on their own is not going to sell and they’re not going to do as well.
Already you’re in a space of lack and fear not, a space of abundance. And that’s not where you want to create something from. (Let’s not jump into that conversation.)
But I just want to say, you don’t have to invite people on to do interviews with you in order to have a podcast. You can do solo shows.
In fact, I recommend three solo shows for every interview. Even if it is an interview-style podcast.
Three solos for every interview is the maximum ratio of interviews to do.
In regards to gated content, webinars are amazing. I always say that if I had to start my business from scratch tomorrow, I’d run a webinar every two or three weeks. That would be my core strategy. I would just run webinar after webinar after webinar.
You get better at presenting, you get better at the sales pitch, you get better at promoting it, you get better at the email sequences, you’re growing your audience as you go, it’s got short term cash flow, positive benefits, and it’s got long term audience growth benefits.
There are so many reasons to love webinars.
If you’re on the fence about running webinars, I highly recommend checking out Episode 156: Why webinars are the best lead magnets
Then, of course, there are the paid gigs that you create for yourself.
Whether that be an in-person event (ie. a workshop, running a day retreat, running a big retreat, etc.), organising your own conference, a three-day event that people can come to, a networking event, and so on.
There are just so many different ways that you can create paid in-person events.
You can also do paid online events.
There are lots of different ways that you can create epic events and speaking gigs for yourself.
The best return on investment for me are my own speaking gigs. Regardless of whether that is my podcast, webinars, speaking tours, or any of those sorts of things, that is what has definitely grown my business the best and the fastest.
There you have my take on five different types of speaking gigs and which ones are best at growing your business.
I would LOVE for us to continue this conversation over in the Heart-Centred Soul-Driven Entrepreneurs Facebook group.
Come on over into that group, use #podcastaha, let me know you’ve been reading episode number 270, ask a question or share a lightbulb moment, and let’s keep talking about this because I want you to be seen as a go-to speaker in your industry and there are so many ways that you could be making that happen today.
Until next time, I cannot WAIT to see you SHINE.