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  • Pam Terry

How to Become a Keynote Speaker

Updated: Mar 21



Being a keynote speaker might drum up all sorts of fear or excitement depending on your experience and/or motivation. Let’s say that you do want to become a keynote speaker because it excites you and you want to be hired to do so. How do you get there?


To clarify, a keynote speaker would be someone who gets 45 minutes to “entertain the troops.” You are hired to be that special speaker who is supposed to wow the audience with your brilliance and delivery. So what does it take to get hired and to deliver?


Based on my experience as a keynote speaker, I can tell you what has got me there: honing my craft as a speaker, picking a niche (for me, public speaking training), and becoming known (marketing). Let’s look at each of these individually.


Honing Your Speaking Skills


The first place to start developing your speaking skills is to have valuable content. Create content that makes a difference in people’s lives. Speaking is not about the presenter. It’s about the audience and what they will get out of it!  


Therefore, you need to make your presentation all about them. You need to learn what they want to know and then you can work on how to deliver it.


Storytelling is a powerful way to get a point across. If you have stories that you can tell, you’ll be able to transport your audience to that point in time. Storytelling can engage your audience.


Effective delivery includes knowing your topic so you can give it without notes, preparing an outline so that you can stay focused, practicing it so that you build your confidence and invigorate your passion, and using techniques that engage your audience so that they get the most out of it.


For a free copy of my eBook on “How to Easily Create an Award Winning Presentation,” go here.


Picking a Niche

To be noticed, you need to set yourself apart from the crowd of speakers. For example, if your niche is peak performance, you could market yourself to the HR associations to speak on how to increase employee or manager productivity through peak performance training. You would be more interesting as a keynote than someone who can speak on “self-development.”


Research the industry that you are interested in reaching. Learn everything you can about your industry audience. Offer to write guest articles/blogs. Join any groups where your target market is and develop relationships within the industry. You’ll learn a tremendous amount from the people you meet in your chosen industry. Whatever your niche, all of your marketing materials should align with it which brings us to the second essential step for becoming a keynote speaker.


Becoming Known

This is the fun part to me. With all that the Internet has to offer, it’s incredibly easy to become known, yet it can be incredibly overwhelming, right? The key is that you need to let your target market know that you are the expert in your field so that when you apply to speak at their conference, they know you are a proven expert in their industry.


Initial steps for becoming known include:

  1. Having a speaker website with a blog. Make sure it looks professional and is updated every 2-3 years or more often.

  2. Create a speaker one-sheet that builds your brand for the industry you are targeting.

  3. Start speaking by doing your own workshops, webinars, and virtual events on your topic. This will build your community (followers), your brand, and your confidence. People will begin to ask you to speak at their events.

  4. Blog about tips and solutions that offer real value. Post your blog title and link to select groups on Facebook, LinkedIn (you can also publish your article directly on LinkedIn), and Twitter. You can add others if you have the means to do so such as Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube. Social media is your “broadcast channel.” Use it. This will further cement your brand and expand your reach.

  5. Find out the names of the meeting planners in your industry and join the groups they are in on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google Plus and post in those groups. Comment and engage with any of their posts. This can lead to developing a connection to them on those sites. Follow them on Twitter and subscribe to their channel on YouTube.

Advanced steps for setting yourself apart include:

  1. Be a published author. If you don’t have a book published, then publish your own eBook as a start and decide on the book that you will be publishing. Then get it published. In the meantime, you can say that you are the author of the “forthcoming book, XYZ.”

  2. Get quoted by the media.  Either hire a publicist or contact the media yourself to offer your expertise for an article. When someone puts your name in the Google search engine to learn about you, you want your book and your quotes from the media to show up.

  3. Have at least one video of your presentation style and brilliance on your website. This could be just you speaking to the camera. It doesn’t have to be to a live audience although that would be great too.

  4. Plan ahead and be patient.  Large conferences are usually planned 6 months to a year in advance.  Plus, there may be several layers of approval.  If you’re an unknown, you still have a chance because you can be a new voice and perhaps a fresh perspective.

  5. Be sure you can sustain high energy without much or any audience energy if you want to be featured on a webinar or virtual event. Either way, being hired for a live conference or an online conference requires that you are visible online and that you offer interesting conversations on your blog and through social media sites.

  6. Have some strong references.  Ask the meeting coordinators where you have spoken if they would be a reference for you. List past speaking engagements on your website or on your speaker one sheet. When you apply to speak at a conference, be sure to list references.

  7. Follow-up with permission. When you approach a meeting planner or program advisor about speaking at their conference, ask them a couple of things. One, what is their preferred form of contact, phone or email? Then, find out if it would be ok to follow up with them in two weeks or what would be an acceptable time. Find out what their process is for getting approved. You are developing a relationship with them so you want to ensure you stay in their good graces. You don’t want to appear as being obnoxious. If you do, you won’t be hired.

  8. If there’s an online application, be sure and complete it. Don’t go around their process to get hired. You want to show that you are a team player. If you don’t hear back after a few days, it’s ok to send a follow-up email. If there’s still no response, it’s ok to follow up with a phone call in case your email went to spam. If you get their voice mail, be sure and leave a brief, but detailed message that includes your email address.

  9. Use proper email etiquette.  Don’t include a return receipt; those are annoying. Get to the point in your email. Be short and concise. Be courteous and positive. Say thank you.

  10. Become a member of their organization and get an exhibit booth at the conference. You will gain tremendous exposure this way. At the very least, attend their conference. If you do get a booth, offer complimentary consultations to interested prospects.

What tips do you have for becoming a keynote speaker?







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