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(I've done this 100+ times!) What to do when submitting Call for Speakers, Call for Programs and RFPs 🔥

First off, Call For Programs = Call for Speakers = Request For Proposals (RFPs). These are all the same.

Sometimes these are PAID, and sometimes they are not. If you are submitting your presentation(s) as a breakout session, do not expect to be PAID unless you are presenting several at the same event. Even then do not expect much payment. The keynotes typically are PAID ... and PAID well!

** IMPORTANT: presenting breakout sessions are ways to land the PAID keynote in the future! It's a long-game approach that works and you have to be committed to it. Even breakouts, when delivered well and you have systems in place for lead generation capture with your audience, should lead to spin-off speaking business!

So yes, if you want to get PAID to $PEAK and you do not have a busy speaking calendar already, then you need to be submitting Call for Programs!

Second, I've served on the planning committees for dozens of conferences and submitted a few hundred Call for Speakers forms. This is how I got started speaking to college audiences over 20 years ago. In fact, I'd invest $1,500-2,000 just to attend a conference and speak 2-3 times presenting breakout sessions. (hotel, airfare, ground transport ++ ... it adds up quickly.) However, if I'm presenting 2-3 times at a conference where students attended to FIND speakers to HIRE at their campus, then wouldn't it make sense for me to do whatever it takes to speak at that event? Of course. Just one (1) speaking engagement more than pays for my investment to attend that conference ... plus, the investment is a business expense anyways. It's marketing.

I've made lots of expensive mistakes so I know what it takes to get selected to speak at conferences where meeting planners and organizers HIRE speakers.

The best and only way to START earning PAID speaking engagements is to first develop an outstanding presentation. The speech itself is what matters because it's the product, not the speaker delivering it. The speaker is only the messenger.

Speech development is the focus for Module 2 inside my book PAID to $PEAK where I walk you through my process for how to develop, describe, outline and deliver presentations. When you submit Call for Programs, you'll need to have Module 2 content ready.

Then, once you outline the program (i.e. presentation), then you script it out and 'Storyboard' it to maximize audience engagement and impact when delivering it onsite. (See Module 2 for examples!)

Once you have your speech outlined and scripted, then memorize it, practice it, practice it in front of groups like Speaking Professionally Toastmasters, get feedback, refine, practice again, get feedback again, further refine and polish further until you feel ready to outreach.

(Presenting at Toastmasters clubs and other 'free' local networking groups - even Rotary - is a great way to find practice and feedback opportunities. This is why I'm honored to be part of Speaking Professionally Toastmasters. I've also been involved with numerous other Toastmasters groups in the past and highly encourage ALL speakers to continually practice to refine, improve and grow. )

How do you know when you're ready to present that program to other audiences outside of Toastmasters and other smaller networking clubs? Because people tell you it's good enough. You feel it too. You just know when you're ready.

This is also why coaching is so important. You want to be sure you're getting the right feedback from people (or someone) who knows what it takes to get booked and find PAID speaking engagements. Practice does NOT make perfect if you're not practicing the right way and building bad habits.

Once a speaker has a great program and feels ready, the key is presenting that program to the right target audience and associations which it is most relevant for. And if you have read and are familiar with my PAID to $PEAK process, then you know Module 3 inside PAID to $PEAK is all about how to select the right, premier association within a target industry.

One of the best ways to GROW your speaking business is to present your program at chapter meetings and conferences for a premier association within your target industry.

Why? ... because those chapter leaders and conference organizers are ALWAYS seeking speakers for their meetings and events!

This is why submitting a Call for Programs or an RFP (Request For Proposal) is so crucial.

But if you don't have a target association that is verified, you're going to struggle finding speaking opportunities whether PAID or not. So it might behoove you for us to chat OR for you to learn more inside my book or online course, PAID to $PEAK.

Finally, below are some tips for submitting RFPs and Call for Speakers ...

  1. Whether you are submitting for a monthly chapter meeting, state conference or national conference, none of this is a 'One Size Fits All' approach. Each event is unique but many of the same principles apply.

  2. Study their chapter website and/or conference website first to determine their speaker selection process and mark down deadline dates, point of contacts, etc. Follow directions :)

  3. Study their website to find out if they have a theme or messaging for the year ahead from their Board or current President. Write down buzzwords as well. If so, align your presentation title and description so your presentation title seems like the perfect fit. Not sure how to write a great presentation title, description or tailor your program for their theme? Read Module 2 and/or schedule a chat with me.

  4. Especially at conferences, it's very likely that 150+ speakers will be applying for 15-20 speaking slots. Most speakers will not take the time to align with theme which is why you should ... and why you will have a better chance of getting selected! Common sense isn't so common.

  5. Know that a planning team will likely be selecting all speakers - whether breakout sessions or keynotes.

  6. Expect to submit a title, description, learning outcomes and bio at minimum. These are basics. Again, see Module 2 inside my book PAID to $PEAK where I walk you through how to do this very effectively. And for it to be selected, it has to be good and relevant for that audience/industry. Tailor your title, description and outcomes so that your program seems like a perfect fit.

  7. Especially at conferences, expect your speech to be a breakout session where attendees choose between 4-5 different sessions. What will make your session STAND OUT to be the one they attend? If your session is the packed room, and you deliver it phenomenally, that's going to help you tremendously get asked (and PAID!) the following year to deliver the keynote speech!

  8. Timeframe of your breakout speech will likely be 45 - 60 minutes.

  9. Your program description should be no longer than 150 words. Usually they will limit your submission on a website so have a version <100 words ready! I recommend a longer version < 150 words as well if they provide more space. Not sure how to write a program description? See inside Module 2 of PAID to $PEAK!

  10. Learning outcomes are also called learning objectives. These are what participants will learn, discover and be apply to apply by attending your session. Again, see inside Module 2!

  11. Don't just submit one program, submit 3-4. That way they folks selecting speakers see that you have multiple presentations and topics. When they ask you to present multiple presentations, your fee goes UP and you have a much better chance of monetizing that speaking opportunity. Or perhaps (for example at a local chapter meeting of your target association) they are only selecting one of your programs and see you have a nice 'menu' of topics, they'll tell you which one they'd like. You're more marketable as a speaker when you have different topic options.

  12. Other elements in a submission could include them asking for your website, sample demo video, social media links (I recommend LinkedIn), testimonials, references and other groups you have spoken. If you don't have these items, it's OK but you want to speak pro bono in order to get them!

  13. Read this blog which outlines why you speak for free in order to get the fee later!

  14. Once you submit, notify the meeting planner or person listed for selecting speakers. Simply thank them for their volunteerism service to the organization and let them know you submitted and are excited to be involved with their event. Let them know you can present multiple programs the same day and let them know you prefer the keynote opportunity followed up by a breakout session or two (2)! I've done this numerous times and transformed my Call for Programs submission into a PAID keynote!

  15. Expect to follow up with them. They likely are a volunteer in that organization/association and have a full time job.

  16. Keep a file of your submission. For other conferences, you can replicate what you just did! Work smarter not harder friends.

What if I never hear back?

You should hear back. Most planning teams are fairly organized and they have a schedule listed on their website when they will inform selected speakers. If you have not heard back, reach out to them 1-2 weeks after their deadline date and/or after submitting.

What if I get denied?

It's OK. Learn from it. Sometimes you get feedback and sometimes you don't. Ask for it. Even if they tell you that you won't get feedback, ask for it. It'll show them you care.

Also, send me a copy of your submission and I'll be able to provide feedback for you from both a meeting planner perspective and a speaker.

Study the presentations that were selected! The programs selected will tell you so much.

Make a calendar reminder to follow up with them AFTER their event! Congratulate them on a well-executed event and remind them you could be available for the following year!

I've served on the planning committees for dozens of conferences AND submitted a few hundred myself! Usually presentations were denied because they were not tailored for the audience and/or theme. They just seemed basic vanilla. It was obvious the speaker did not invest much time in their submission.

For me to review your submission, you'll just need to schedule a 1:1 coaching session - click here - OR let me dive deeper with you in my Call for Speakers coaching which is a 3 different 45-minute sessions to help you develop the right program that you can mirror for several different events!

If we do not ever speak 1:1, I encourage you let my PAID to $PEAK book and new Online Course be your guide and resource. I share everything I know about speaking inside of it.

What if I get selected?

AWESOME & Congratulations!! I wrote a blog just for you, titled, "Speaking at a Conference? Tips to ensure Spin-Off business!"'--- click here to read and study.

Do they pay?

Again, it depends; remember this is not a one-size fits all approach. Another reason why it's important to submit multiple presentations (see above) AND follow up with them.

On numerous occasions, probably 10+ over the past 5 years in my own speaking, where I submit multiple programs and follow up, via email with a link to my demo video, they have replied back that they'd like for me to submit my presentation AND do the keynote speech! This is why following up is crucial.

I keep getting denied though. This isn't worth it!
  1. Uh, yes it is!! Something just needs attention. Let me help.

  2. Start local at the chapter level. Most groups have monthly and/or quarterly meetings where they are LOOKING for speakers!! See Module 3 inside PAID to $PEAK where I walk you through how to do this.

  3. Improve your speech submission. Something needs work. Again, reach out to me. If your car wasn't running properly, wouldn't you take it to a mechanic who has expertise knowing what to do?

  4. Reflect whether or not you are positioning your submission with value and relevancy to their industry and organization.

I am presenting but not getting any business from it!! This isn't worth it!

Uh, yes it is!! Don't tell yourself that.

Again, something just needs attention. Let me help. If you are speaking, you should be getting referrals and spin-off business. Something needs attention either in your presentation content, delivery and/or your lead generation capture with your audience. How are you capturing their emails and contact information? How are you following up?

If you don't have someone helping you and you are serious and committed to learning what it takes, reach out to explore how I can help.

Earn greatness today! Onward and upward!


Want to speak professionally, part-time or full-time?

Not getting PAID speaking engagements?

I've been honored to present for over 1,000,000 people through 1,150+ audiences in all 50 states and several countries. Whether I'm on a stage or in a training room with professionals or students, I absolutely LOVE motivating and inspiring people for higher performance. And in addition to my own speaking business, I have a passion for helping and coaching speakers learn how to catapult their speaking whether part-time or full-time. My book, PAID to SPEAK, outlines a proven model for speakers and is now an online course as well! Click here for online course info!

If you are serious about becoming a professional speaker, explore my coaching and mentorship options. I don't want you to flounder like I did and be frustrated.


Other PAID to SPEAK blog posts ... 
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