How to Use Public Speaking to Create an In-Demand Agency


What if your prospective clients were “pre-sold” on hiring your agency? What if instead of having to sell clients on hiring your agency, your sales process could instead focus on getting started?

You can use public speaking to get these biz dev outcomes ... if you approach speaking strategically. This is true whether you’re a new speaker or a long-time speaker.

Creating a Speaking Plan to Get More Opportunities

Creating -- and implementing -- a speaking plan will help you build momentum. Ultimately, this helps you get results faster.

Momentum comes down to getting gigs and giving talks at smaller places, along with building your speaking content and marketing materials so you’re ready as you approach bigger opportunities. It also means building “social proof,” which will help you get hired by people you don’t know already.

As with most things in marketing, building your agency via public speaking is less about “what to do" and more about “what to do next?”

13 Tips for Creating a Speaking Engagement Plan

Here’s where I recommend focusing over the next 3-12months. Copy the following list into your own document or other tracking system so you can customize the speaking plan to your specific situation.

Some of the following items will happen in series, while others will happen in parallel.

1) Write an “advance retrospective” about your speaking.

This is your narrative about where you’ll be as a speaker -- and an agency leader -- in the future. It will also help you make strategic decisions over the coming months since you know where you’re going.

2) Block-out “heads down” time in your calendar for doing your speaking work.

Speaking takes time, so you need to prioritize making it happen.

3) Develop titles and blurbs for your highest-potential topics.

You’ll use these in pitching the talks -- to people you know and to people you don’t know. Consider topics where you co-present a client case study with your client. Organizers like case studies, especially if you can position it as a “tell all” presentation. Having the client on-stage with you gives things extra credibility.

4) Flesh out your highest-potential talk as an outline.

I suggest deferring the full slide assembly until someone’s confirmed a venue since that immediacy helps motivate you to finish the slides.

5) Give your first talk in lower-profile venues.

The goal is to get practice -- to see how people respond so you can revise things. It’s like big-name comedians testing work in small clubs.

6) Build social proof through testimonials, a list of venues where you’ve spoken, and your “talks per year” count.

This helps you get bigger opportunities. This is the thing (outside of speaking itself) that will make the biggest impact, since it helps you graduate from speaking for people you know to people who’ve never heard of you before.

7) Build a list of places to pitch.

Once you adopt an “I’m a speaker” mindset, you’ll start seeing venues everywhere. You’ll want to track them in a CRM or other system so you can follow up without missing deadlines.

8) Make a list of people you currently know who could hire you -- or introduce you to people who could hire you -- for an event.

Event size doesn’t matter, initially. The goal is to get practice, test your talks, and up your “talks per year” count. Especially early on, it’s also much easier to get hired by someone who knows and trusts you, versus coming in as a cold pitch.

9) Track active and potential speaking opportunities in your CRM.

They’re just like any other sales lead in that you want to be strategic and you need to follow up at appropriate times.

10) Build marketing materials to support non-referral opportunities (where you’re cold-pitching).

Don’t let a lack of marketing materials stop you from pitching at the beginning. If the organizer is someone you know, you don’t need marketing materials beforehand.

11) Start gathering video footage of your talks.

This helps for the future since higher-end (and even medium-level) events want video to see that you’ll be a good speaker. Put them on a dedicated external hard drive, so you have the footage in one place.

12) Say “yes” to random opportunities along the way.

Success leads to more success. Some random things are going to come up. Take advantage of them. This includes things like serving on or moderating a panel.

13) As you move forward, keep an eye on potential book ideas.

Having a book will help you get more speaking engagements. It builds credibility and gives you a way to make additional revenue. A book can be a big project, but it’s easier if you’re open to ideas along the way.

Remember to customize this list to your situation. The more you “own” it, the easier it’ll be to work through it.

This post is an excerpt from The In-Demand Marketing Agency: How to Use Public Speaking to Become an Agency of Choice (2015) by Karl Sakas, available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. The 102-page book includes advice on how to get speaking gigs, an interview with Mike Lieberman on how Square 2 Marketing gets a third of its leads from speaking, and free templates that will save you 20-50 hours of work.