How to convert FREE speeches into a PAID speaking business
Speaking for "FREE" = waiving fee = pro bono.
This is how most speakers get started ... and also how most continually grow and funnel their speaking business.
Even the current full-time professionals speak pro bono for certain groups. I do.
But when I do discount or waive my fee, I know how to monetize the heck out of it so it has a high likelihood of leading to future speaking business. In this post, I'm going to share with you tips on how to do just that!
... but first, you must accept and embrace the fact that knowing how to monetize a pro bono speech is solid business strategy.
1. convert into or express in the form of value
2. earn benefit from (an asset, business, etc.).
Monetize isn't a 4-letter word that should make you feel greedy and cringe.
It's actually an 8-letter word that you must understand how to leverage if you desire a successful speaking business.
So regardless whether or not you are getting PAID for a speech, there are numerous strategies you can proactively initiate to ensure you receive value and benefit that will help ensure you're building your speaking business.
And whether you are just starting out in your speaking or you are already fairly established, these tips below will ensure you monetize your next speech at the max.
Besides, speakers who are early establishing their speaking business won't have everything needed when they first start off ... so they learn how to monetize a speech to get them what IS needed.
"We all start the same ... the difference is how we finish."
Below are my top tips helping you monetize your next speech - whether it's pro bono or not!
1. Realize a speech is a speaker's absolute best marketing
Over 80%+ of my speaking comes from people who have seen me speak or heard about me from someone who did. It's rare that a meeting planner or event organizer will inquire with me about speaking if I don't have testimonials and referrals that back up my presentation content and delivery.
2. Spin-off inquiries and referrals
In short, every speech should help you build your future speaking business. As long as your speech went well you should get spin-off inquiries and referrals. If you're not getting referrals and inquiries after a speech, then the speech needs work. See Module 2 in my book, PAID to $PEAK for tips on how to outline a dynamic, engaging speech and a copy of my Speaker Storyboard outline.
3. Stage-time experience
There is no better way to improve your speaking than presenting in front of live, human bodies - not a mirror or your paper outline or a tree in your backyard. You will absolutely gain the most and best confidence and learn your greatest lessons in a live setting with people who can provide you with constructive feedback. If you don't already have a supportive group to practice with, I encourage you to check out Speaking Professionally Toastmasters. I started this group recently and we meet monthly to help speakers continually improve their delivery and practice content.
4. Every audience is a client - whether full fee PAID, discounted or pro bono
Whether you get PAID to SPEAK or not, that organization is now a client and you should add them to your client list on your website, speaker packet, demo video, etc. The only two people who know your speaking fee are you and the person asking you to speak. It doesn't matter whether you were PAID or not.
(BONUS speaker tip: Make sure your contract -- even if it's pro bono -- outlines a confidentiality clause that your speaking fee agreement is not to be shared. I have sample contracts in my book, PAID to SPEAK, as well as proposals, invoices and contracts inside "The Vault.")
Where do you think testimonials come from? ... from people hearing you speak! It doesn't matter whether you were PAID or not. What matters is an outstanding testimonial. Nine times out of ten you'll need to ask for testimonials in a clever fashion (in tip #10 below you'll read how I accomplish this), and having them is gold. Check out testimonials on my website here for ideas on testimonials. And you should be obtaining testimonials from both meeting planners booking you AND the audience.
6. Demo video samples
My best demo video segments are from pro bono audiences when I just slapped a camera somewhere in the room to collect footage. In fact, 80%+ of all my demo video footage comes from free speaking engagements!!
90% of my speaking clips have come speeches where I used my own camera from the back and/or front of the room on a tripod. And when I first started speaking, ALL my videos were from pro bono speeches. You can still accomplish this with virtual speeches as well. Record yourself and record your virtual session. This is what a meeting planner will want, and need, to see to hire you for a $3,500+ speaking engagement.
Folks, if you're serious about speaking and don't have video, the only way to get video is to speak. Don't go into a studio and record yourself speaking to a camera if you don't have live audience video supplementing it. You don't need demo video to get started in speaking, but you need video to get PAID at levels you can pay the bills. Unless it's a unique situation, a meeting planner is not going to pay you $2,500 - $5,000 - $10,000+ to speak if they can't see you speak on video. It doesn't matter what your website and speaker packet looks like if they can't watch you on video.
7. Action photos
Similar to video in tip #6 above, action photos of you speaking in front of a live or virtual audience are gold. I see speakers with headshots or photos of them speaking but there is no audience in the background. A meeting planner will rule this type of speaker OUT because there is no audience. They want to be confident in bringing you IN!
8. Building your list
Every time you present, there are opportunities to build a contact list for future presentations. Strategies to accomplish this are through evaluations, text to subscribe, email newsletters, opt-in giveaways on your website, collecting business cards, etc.
When I speak, I prefer just names and email addresses so I can connect with them on LinkedIn and add them to my email newsletter. I have a short evaluation card that is handed to each audience and I also inform them that my slide deck and videos shared during the presentation are already free downloads on my website here (try it out). Also, when they visit my website, my opt-in pop up message collects their email.
9. Share new content
Similar to stage-time experience, every time you present, you should try something new. Perhaps it's a new content puzzle piece, a new delivery technique, or just a new angle of a common story. The best way to keep your "speaking saw" sharp is by constantly practicing new content. I do this in every speech. Every single speech I am doing something different.
10. Receive constructive feedback
And similar to building your list, #8, you should be collecting feedback every time you speak in some way. It will often lead to testimonials, referrals and building your list as well. Whether I'm presenting a one-hour keynote, a 1/2 day leadership training, or a full day retreat, I always provide my own evaluation. I only ask a few simple questions - and you can view samples in my book, PAID to SPEAK. The feedback I receive is invaluable for me to be aware what worked well and what might need to be tweaked for the future in some way. The audience's feedback is paramount. How I felt my presentation went doesn't mean anything if I don't know how the audience felt.
Was 10 tips enough? Feeling overwhelmed?
Don't get frustrated or overwhelmed. There's a lot to think about ... and take action on.
What I've shared with you is actually just a short list of ideas to benefit from a speech - whether PAID or not.
Whatever you do, just keep speaking. Speak for FREE until you get the FEE! And as you're speaking pro bono and applying these 10 tips, you'll be monetizing that speech and building your speaking business like never before.
Stay passionate about your story, your message, and your WHY for speaking. You'll get there. Contact me if I can help. See below.
Desire to become a professional speaker?
Not getting the speaking business you had hoped for?
Contact me to schedule your free speaker consultation!
In addition to my own speaking business, I have a passion for helping and coaching speakers develop their own. Whether it's in crafting a speech, identifying target groups who can pay, and/or how to get the speaking gig itself, I can help. I've keynoted over 1,150 presentations in practically every industry you can imagine. My book, PAID to SPEAK, outlines a proven model for speakers. If you are serious about becoming a professional speaker, contact me for a free consultation. I don't want you to flounder like I did and be frustrated. If you're not a subscriber to these speaker articles, submit your email today!
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