Have you ever found yourself with a bit of a dry patch when it comes to speaking bookings?
It happens from time to time with speakers, especially if you don’t yet have a particularly high profile among event planners.
Many speakers rely heavily on referrals, and in fact run a thriving business that way, but sometimes you need a bit more to ensure that your calendar remains as booked as you’d like it.
You need consistency, and part of that comes from having a consistent process for finding and booking future engagements. If you find yourself with calendar gaps, here are four actions you could take today to help fill up your schedule:
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#1. Assess your overall business practices
Most professional speakers love to get onto the stage and engage an audience. But many are not as comfortable with the “business” side of their profession. It takes much more than speaking savvy to succeed, and it’s relatively common for people to have areas of their business that they struggle with.
If your gigs tend to be inconsistent, it’s a good time to sit down and really assess what your overall business practices are. Is there anything missing, or inconsistently done that could be contributing to the drought?
There are a couple of issues that we commonly see:
- Not having a good system in place to track and follow-up with contacts
- Relying on remembering, or doing things manually.
As a speaker, you meet hundreds, perhaps thousands of people throughout the year. Anyone may be a potential lead, or contact to connect you with those who hire speakers. The trick is to ensure that you follow up with people – not so often that you become annoying, but regularly enough that they still know who you are.
Do you have a good CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system in place? If not, this is one action that you can take right now. It makes a world of difference to your contact and customer follow-up if you have a system in place that makes it easy. No more spreadsheets, rolodexes or shoeboxes full of business cards! (You can sign up for a free trial of KarmaCRM here).
Secondly, look at any essential part of your prospecting or contact management process and see what you can do to ensure there is a robust system around it. For example, there may be things you can automate, or delegate to an assistant to ensure that they happen. When you rely too heavily on remembering or doing things manually, it’s easy to let things slip when you get busy!A CRM is an essential tool for a professional speaker to follow-up with Click To Tweet
#2. Be very specific about what you want
“When people will not weed their own minds, they are apt to be overrun by nettles.”– Horace Walpole.
Sometimes it’s all in how you frame your search for more speaking gigs. For example, you might be asking yourself, “how do I book more engagements?” This is a very general question. When your question is wide open like that, it’s easy for your mind to be “overrun by nettles!”
It’s time to get very specific about what it is that you’re looking for. More business bookings? More college bookings? More big events? You can get even more specific than that – what type of businesses, colleges or events? Who specifically would you like to speak for?
Keep a list of “ideal” clients and ask yourself, “how do I get booked by (client)?” This sort of clarity helps to drive more targeted action.
As soon as you become clear on who you’d like to target, you find ways to make that happen. You research their website, you look for contact names, or you look through your current connections to see if anyone is already connected to them.
This is something you could get started on right now – write down 10-20 places, names or events and work from there.
#3. Have a prospecting habit
This action fits right in with those business practices we talked about assessing earlier. The most successful professional speakers tend to have solid routines for their business practices, including prospecting for new clients.
Do you have a prospecting habit? If not, this is one thing to add into your routine right now.
For many professional speakers, this means having a set period every week where they do nothing but look for new prospects. If you’re used to devoting Tuesday mornings (or whatever your schedule is), you soon find that the habit keeps you with a healthy prospect pipeline.
Another advantage of doing this is that it’s an efficient way of working. Productivity experts often speak of the advantages of “chunking” like-tasks, so that you don’t lose efficiency through task-switching. Basically, if you’re building in prospecting time, you allow yourself to get onto a roll, making the most of the time spent on that activity.
In a nutshell, consistent prospecting can lead to more consistent speaking gigs. You’ve got to be out there to get the job!
#4. Go where the meeting planners are
There are speaking opportunities almost anywhere you might care to look, if you know what to look for. One key point comes back to knowing who’s hiring you. You know which audience/s you want to target, but who is it that actually books you for the gig? These are the people you want to be tight with.
Assess your places and methods of finding people – if your gigs are inconsistent, are you really hanging out where the event managers and speaker bookers are? A mistake that speakers sometimes make is to spend a lot of time engaging with the audience they want to speak to, but not necessarily the people who put them in front of that audience.
Here are a few tips about where to find the meeting planners:
- Pay attention to events that pop up on Facebook, in other social feeds or in articles that you read. Can you find names associated with organizing those events?
- Read meeting planning magazines. These tend to be full of events, company names, and meeting planner names among the many articles. For example look at; BizBash, MeetingsNet, Smart Meetings, Meetings and Conventions, or Special Events.
- Look for relevant hashtags. On social media channels such as Twitter where hashtags are used, you can find a lot of potentially useful connections just by searching those hashtags. You’ll need to do some research to find whatever is in current use, but here are some which reveal results in a recent search: #conference, #eventprofs, #meetingprofs, #eventmarketing. Connect with event planners and create your own Twitter list to work from. Pay attention also to whoever Twitter recommends you follow once you have followed a known event planner – it will usually recommend similar profiles. Use a similar strategy on Instagram to find relevant hashtags.
- Find events, groups and meeting planners on LinkedIn. This is usually a simple matter of using the search function. Groups can be a great way to get your name out, if you’re contributing in a valuable way to them. Just look for groups that are active and constructive, rather than those that seem to just involve “buy my stuff” people.
Of course, an important part of the process after doing any of these things is to make sure you put the new contacts into your CRM and follow up with them. Don’t add them to autoresponders or generally be spammy, but do set reminders for yourself to make contact.
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Creating a consistent pipeline of speaking engagements means having a consistent process for finding them. You might get a lot of work through referrals, but this is your business – don’t allow yourself to become complacent over prospecting yourself!
Understand exactly what it is you are looking for, be consistent about following up, and make sure you’re finding and targeting the people who actually make the bookings. These are all exercises you could sit down and do right now. All the best for future bookings!