5-Step Roadmap to Generating Agency Business with a Speaking Career

By Jason Swenk on December 4, 2022

Would you like to build authority with a speaking career? Want to generate new agency business from a stage, unsure how to get speaking engagements? As an agency owner, speaking can be lucrative when you’re speaking at the right events and to the right audience. However, there are some things you should be clear on before you begin. Today’s guest has been a public speaker for over a decade and now prepares others for the speaking life. He shares a few tips on how to start your journey to build a successful speaking career.

Grant Baldwin has been in the speaking industry for most of his career. He now runs a speaker coaching company called Speaker Lab, where he teaches people how to find and book paid speaking engagements. After being a full-time speaker for ten years, he was frequently asked what it takes to make it as a speaker. So he decided to start teaching the ins and outs of finding and booking speaking gigs.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • The five steps to building a speaking career.
  • Knowing where to find your audience.
  • Strategies to get noticed by event planners.
  • Money is not the only way to get your value back.


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5-Step Roadmap to Build a Successful Speaking Career

Booking speaking engagements is a great way to build your personal brand. It’s also a great way to build your agency’s brand and attract more clients. Grant teaches the Speaker Success Roadmap which goes through the five S.P.E.A.K steps to help you build your speaking career:

S – select a problem to solve: This is a good first step for any type of future speaker. You should be able to answer: Who do I speak to? What problem am I solving for that audience? Many agency owners make the mistake of wanting to cast the net as far and wide as possible. People who do this tend to say they speak to “people” and have a message for everyone. The more clear and focused you are, the easier it is to find and book gigs.

It may seem counterintuitive but focus on being really good at one thing. Doing this makes it easier to book gigs on a consistent basis. You may think big agency personalities like Gary Vaynerchuck tend to speak to everyone, but it hasn’t always been like that. Gary actually started off talking to wine people. That’s how he started building his brand. Once you get start building your brand, you can branch out to broader audiences.

P- prepare your talk: This step is about being very clear about the solution you’re providing to the audience’s needs. What are you doing to provide this solution? Will it be through webinars, seminars, or maybe keynotes? They all work; it’s just about being clear on the means of delivery that works best in your case, for your audience.

E – establish yourself as the expert: Two key marketing assets all speakers need are a website and a demo video. Your demo video is like a movie trailer, a short video (2-3 minutes) that sparks people’s interest. This video helps event planners get a sense of your style and whether or not you’ll fit with their audience.

A – acquire paid speaking gigs: This is the part you want to fast-forward to. A common mistake speakers make at this point is doing nothing. They have the first three steps so they figure now they just sit and wait. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work like that. You need to have a system and a process in place to actively reach out to at least five events and generate momentum.

K – know when to scale: A lot of people interested in speaking are also interested in writing or consulting. Of course, it is possible to do all these things, but Grant argues not all at once. It is up to each person to figure out how speaking fits into their overall plans and goals.

Building Your Speaking Brand by Knowing Where to Find Your Audience

In his case, Grant has a website for his agency and a different one to promote his speaking brand. Both websites point to each other and serve two different purposes. If a potential client wants to learn how to get more speaking gigs, they’re directed to Speak Lab. If they want to hire Grant as a speaker, they’re directed to his personal page.

However, once you know who your audience is and have a website, you can’t just post the link on social media and wait for clients to come. When you’re clear about who you’re speaking to, it’s easier to find events where you could potentially speak.

Where does your audience gather? If you’re running a digital agency, you probably already have an idea of the types of events, gatherings, and associations they are attending. Once that’s clear, it’s a matter of reaching out to the event planner and conferences and starting a conversation about why you’re a good fit for their audience. It’s not about convincing them to hire a speaker; they were already going to do that. It’s more about presenting yourself as the best option.

Like with agency clients, you may reach out and find the planner is not hiring at the moment. Nonetheless, reaching out and starting a conversation is a good strategy and requires discipline and commitment.

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How to Make Contact and Standout from Other Speakers

According to Grant, you can focus on events you’ve personally attended before. In this case, you may already know the event planner or can get an introduction if you know another speaker at the event. Speaking is very much a momentum business; the more you speak the more gigs you’ll continue to book. Initially, it may feel like you’re pushing a boulder uphill. But if you plant enough seeds, you’ll see some results.

Simple strategies like sending an email can be perfectly effective too. Grant has booked many events by cold emailing people. However, if you’re sending a 90-paragraph email about how awesome you are, no one will read it. The goal of an email is to get a reply — keep it short and simple. That is the type of email most likely to get a reply.

Of course, short and simple doesn’t mean vague. Instead of asking “are you hiring speakers?” you can ask for more detailed information. Mention you came across a conference they’re having and were curious to know when they’ll start reviewing speakers for it.

How to stand out: What if you get a reply saying the review process won’t start for another two months? Then that’s an opportunity to ask if it’s ok to reach out again in two months. They’ll say yes because they don’t actually expect you to do it. Very few would. So when you actually reach back, you’ll be showing them what it’s like to work with you and giving them reasons to consider you.

Why You Shouldn’t Speak for Free

Speaking for free is okay, as long as you know why we’re doing it. Some speakers may think they’re doing it from the goodness of their hearts and someday they’ll get the return. Speakers are not running a non-profit, they’re running a business and they should treat it as such. As a speaker, you are providing something of value and it’s important to receive something of value in return.

This value may or may not be in the form of a check. For example as an agency owner, speaking at the right event might land you three new clients. This is worth more than what the event would have paid you.

Grant has even offered to speak at an event for free or at a discount on the condition that the event planner introduces him to other event planners. Getting introductions that can lead to other gigs is valuable to him.

Will Speaking be an Important Part of Your Business?

Agency owners looking to build a speaking career should be clear about the role they want it to have in their lives and their agency. There are speakers who do hundreds of gigs per year and others who do three. Both are fine. Just try to figure out which one works for your lifestyle and your agency.

Speaking can be a very lucrative way to grow an agency, and it should be treated like it. Try to treat it like a serious part of your business plan if you’re expecting it to bring great results for your agency.

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