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Speaking at a conference? Here are some tips to ensure spin-off business and referrals follow! 🔥

Presenting breakout sessions at conferences is how I initially built and launched my speaking business.

For these 10 reasons that I wrote about in a prior post, speaking at conferences is a top strategy for any speaker.

Highly, highly encourage you to click that link above to read the post.

I also wrote another post on how to get selected to present at conferences you should read here. Unless a conference organizer is inquiring with you to speak, you will need to submit an RFP or Call for Speakers Proposal. In that post above, I share insights and tips to help ensure you get selected!

So assuming you have been selected to speak at a conference as a breakout presenter, your focus must be on not only delivering an exceptional presentation, but also one that will generate spin-off speaking inquiries and referrals to land future speaking business.

While many of these tips are applicable for keynote presenters (i.e. main stage speakers), my focus with this post to is to help breakout presenters know what it takes to get PAID speaking engagements.

Breakout presenters are not the same as keynote presenters. If this does not make sense, see inside PAID to $PEAK. In short, keynote speakers are on the main stage where everyone is in attendance. Breakout presenters are typically one of several breakouts with smaller audiences held during the same time. Depending on the size of the conference, you could have 3-5+ different breakout sessions going on during the same time.

Although not the focus of this post, when I keynote I offer to present 1-2 additional breakout sessions. This is Option #2 and #3 of my speaker proposals and helps me not only get the PAID speaking engagement, but also make more $$$. See inside Module 4 of PAID to $PEAK and this specific blog for how I set speaking fee especially when presenting at conferences.

As I write about throughout Module 4 of PAID to $PEAK, if the first one is FREE, the second has the FEE!

So how do you approach presenting, whether PAID or not, to ensure that you will receive speaking inquiries (PAID!) afterward?

Below are several tips and insights I've learned over the years which I hope you find helpful.

Yup, it's quite a few and I have even more I could share ... so buckle up and get your coffee or cocktail ready. Plan on taking some notes and let me know what questions you may have.

I outline this process in Module 3 of PAID to $PEAK where I presented for just ONE conference and had a $100,000 speaking business the year after.
  1. Arrive as early as possible. Stay as late as possible. I recently presented a workshop at 4pm on Tuesday. I arrived Monday for the 2pm opening general session so I could be a 'participant' in the conference and hear what I could use to be helpful in my speech the following day. When I checked in at registration, even the conference planner was impressed. "We've never had a speaker do this" were her exact words.

  2. When you arrive onsite, find the person responsible for selecting you. Be sure to say hello and thank them. Invite them to your session.

  3. Use the conference to network like a champ. Everyone you meet is a potential future client. Connect with them via LinkedIn and send an email.

  4. Unless they know you are a speaker, they will assume you a professional in the day-to-day workings similar to them. "So who do you work for?" or "What's your title?" will be a common question you should be prepared to answer.

  5. When you tell them you are a speaker, expect their next question to be, "Oh, so what will you be speaking on?" or "Which presentation is yours?" Be prepared to answer without any ah's and uhm's. This is when you inspire and intrigue them to attend!

  6. Invite everyone you meet to attend your session. Consider making a special business card or some type of printed note to give them with your session title, time and location.

  7. Attend as many sessions as you can to learn as much as possible about the association and specifically the hot topics and trends addressed. I watch other breakouts and keynotes to take notes on what I would NOT have known otherwise. I sit in the back of the room like a fly on the wall taking notes.

  8. When you watch the keynote speaker, study everything about them - how they were introduced, how they started their presentation, how they engaged their audience throughout, how they made people laugh, their presentation slides (if applicable), their overall delivery, how they addressed Q&A (if applicable), how they planted seeds for future business, how they strategically offered something to build their opt-in subscriber list (Module 5!), how they closed, etc.

  9. When you watch other breakout presenters, sit in the back of the room. Try to watch 2-3 during just one breakout session so you get a good scope of variety. Yes, this means leaving a room very quietly which is why you want to be in the back of the room. Study the breakout presenters as much as the keynoters.

  10. Know that many of the breakout presenters are there for the same reason you are - to 'earn' speaking business!

  11. When you check in at registration, be the most polite and happiest person in the world. The person checking you in is likely a volunteer on the conference planning team OR the meeting organizer themselves who selected you.

  12. Check out your room as soon as possible. Build a visual for how to you will present. You also want to scope out what technology is or isn't there. I can't count how many times I had a screen, projector and sound system when I was told I would not ... and vice versa!

  13. ATTIRE ... wear something that makes you stand OUT. After your speech you want people to find you.

  14. If you have arrived early enough to attend several sessions, then incorporate something in your speech that lets them know that. If anything, add some extra lingo or phrasing that you would not have known otherwise.

  15. Deliver an EXCEPTIONAL SPEECH. The quality of your speech is most important over everything else. A mediocre speech will never get referred. Module 2 of PAID to $PEAK outlines how I outline my speech and 'storyboard' it to ensure it has an engaging, powerful heartbeat for my audience.

  16. Bring your own technology equipment as backup and to set yourself UP for success. I cannot count how many times I have been told my room would have a projector, a remote clicker, etc. yet it didn't. See this blog post where I show you what's inside my tech bag! I carry this bag with me to all presentations ensuring I have what I need.

  17. Play music as people enter your breakout room. Music is scientifically proven to raise the energy level and our human physiology. I recommend a playlist embedded IN your PowerPoint that you can control with your remote slide advancer. This requires a sound system is provided for you though. If no sound system is provided, use a bluetooth or wireless speaker and connect through your phone. Again, see this blog post where I show you what's inside my tech bag!

  18. If you do use music when folks enter, make sure there is no foul language because the song I thought I was playing (Uptown Funk) was NOT the clean version. Ouch. People complained before I ever started speaking. Also, be sure your phone is on airplane mode so ONLY the music plays and not your text messages or phone ringing. I made this mistake as well.

  19. Have a printed introduction with you. Find out if someone will be introducing you. If no one is introducing you, then find someone to introduce you on your own. This could be the first person who walks in your breakout room or someone you already met prior that you ask in advance. Give them a copy of your book or something special to thank them.

  20. Know that an introduction is not the same as a bio. Be sure you have an engaging (printed!) introduction with you!

  21. Plant seeds for future speaking business throughout your speech. Let them know you speak professionally and will travel. When I first started speaking to college students, I would frequently have students ask me afterwards if I traveled to speak at campuses too. Initially I would think, "Ugh, of course silly!" but then I realized I was doing a horrible job of letting my audience know DURING my program that I travel to speak wherever I'm asked to speak. I have tips and strategies for doing this now --- a different blog post!

  22. Have something you GIVE in order to RECEIVE their email. This is how you build your list.

  23. Have a Pop-up Opt-in on your website where what you give away is automated. If you do not have an opt-in already, or a website for that matter, you are missing out on incredible list-building strategies which is an incredible strategy for PAID speaking engagements down the road. See Module 5 inside PAID to $PEAK where I walk you through how to do this with samples! Having new subscribers and people wanting whatever you are giving away is akin to people waiting in line after your speech to talk with you. They want more! If you don't have opt-in's during and after your speech, something needs to be worked on in both your speech and your delivery, respectfully.

  24. If you are presenting more than one presentation, be sure your presentations do not have overlapping content. When I first started speaking, I presented 3 presentations at a conference and used my same Price is Right signature story in all of them. Naïve me didn't think ahead that if my first speech was good, I'd have them return for my other program(s). I got dinged on the sessions evaluations.

  25. Know there will be a session evaluation on you. It very likely will be the same evaluation used for all breakouts. Study the evaluation early as soon as you're onsite and be sure that your presentation is structured to maximize a TOP evaluation score!

  26. Use your own evaluation as well! Have a print version (see inside Module 4 of PAID to $PEAK for a simple sample) and also use Talkadot! (I'll need to write a separate blog just about this!)

  27. END ON TIME ... and by "on time" I mean 5 minutes early! There will likely be a session in your same room afterward or a break. Especially at conferences, stay on schedule. Professional speakers end on time. A speaker who talks too long will irritate not just the meeting planner/organizer, but also everyone else checking their watches/phones. I've seen great speakers present too long and ruin the likelihood and their 'likeness' for future speaking leads. They annoyed the audience.

  28. To help you end on time, bring your own clock and position it in front of you so you end on time.

  29. Not many people waiting in line to talk with you afterward? Ouch. It's OK, but know that your speech needs work. You may have been excited and hopeful delivering it, but it just didn't connect and wasn't outlined the way it should have been in content, delivery or both. This is when you need to reach out to a speaker coach to get some feedback. Click here if you'd like to schedule a session with me.

  30. Be visible after your speech ... tell your audience where you will be and wear something that helps you stand OUT. At some conferences, I wear converse shoes as one strategy. I also never leave the conference location until I absolutely have to. People who didn't have time to talk with me just after my speech (hopefully because they saw a long line of other people!) will be happy to see me sticking around later ... and that will be business potential.

  31. If you have a book, give out some books during your presentation. Tell folks you will sign them afterward which spurs people to come speak with you. Specifically, I say, "If you'd like your book autographed to double the value, just come see me afterward in the lobby." I say this a few times during my speech when I give the books out. People not only laugh when I say it, but they know how to find me too ... and they know I have a book.

  32. When people do talk with you after a speech, be sure to ask them what they enjoyed most and/or what connected most with them. You'll learn a lot by their response. Whatever themes arise should tell you something about you and your speech. In Module 5 I share a sample evaluation I give people who approach me. My simple evaluation asks easy questions and also for their email address if they'd like a free copy of my book and/or my presentation slide deck.

  33. Offer a PDF copy of your slide deck. In order for them to receive it, guess what they have to do? Yup ... provide you with their email address!! See #31 above for the same reason to have a short, easy 1/2 page evaluation that is printed. This is where they write their email so you know who to send your slide deck to. (Note: make sure it is a PDF rather than the raw slide deck file.) Some folks will just give you their business card, but try to give them an eval first because it asks a few more questions ... strategic!

  34. Follow up with every single person you meet within the next several hours, not days. This is key. Especially at conferences, attendees are meeting lots of people, seeing lots of speakers and their own work is building up back at home. So you need to follow up with them when they are onsite AND the following week to ensure they received whatever it is that your promised to send them.

  35. Connect with everyone you meet via LinkedIn and send them an email message sharing how nice it was to meet them and something else you connected with them about. Don't be salesy though. Be kind and authentic.

A few tips to highlight below ...

I block out 3 hours minimum after every presentation just for follow up!
Deliver an EXCEPTIONAL SPEECH. The quality of your speech is most important over everything else. A mediocre speech will not get referred.
Not many people waiting in line to talk with you afterward? Ouch. It's OK, but know that your speech needs work. This is when you need to reach out to a speaker coach to get some feedback. Click here if you'd like to schedule a session with me.

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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