Public Speaking Coach Michelle Mazur Optin

Why You’re REALLY Not Landing Speaking Gigs

Landing Speaking GigsOnce a week at Communication Rebel Headquarters, we get an email that goes a little like this:

“Dear Michelle:

Love your blog. I’m not looking for a speaker coach, but I need help landing speaking gigs. Can you help promote me as a speaker? You can check out my speaking here: (not a real url)

All the best,

Anonymous Speaking Peep”

No, I don’t do speaker promotion.

But I’m always curious to check out the speaker’s webpage. Invariable there is a clip of them speaking. I click with great anticipation, and 30-seconds later I know exactly why they are not booking gigs.

Their presentation sucks.

Your presentation is your best marketing. It must be remarkable. Audience changing. Value laden. Grabs the audience by the seat of its pants from word one and doesn’t let up until you’ve uttered your last word.

If your presentation doesn’t do that, you don’t have a marketing problem. You have a presentation problem.

Until your presentation is the best-in-class, results-oriented speech that your audience needs and meeting planners will pay for, you’ll always struggle to land speaking gigs.

But how do you know?  Here are the tell-tale signs that you’ve got a presentation problem. Keep reading.

Sign #1: Does your speaker video hook me in 10-seconds or less?

Step into the mind of a busy meeting planner. She received 100 applications for 10 speaking spots at a conference. You  made the first cut. Huzzah!

Now she wants to see you in action. She clicks play on the video and the first words she hears are:

“Can you hear me? I can’t see you, so I don’t know.”


“Thank you so much for having me. I’m so thrilled to be here. I’m Bob (and then introduces himself at length)”

Tell me…does she stay on the website or immediately click away? What would you do?

Chances are that she clicks away and the application ends up in the circular file. Do you blame her?

Now  contrast this with Sally Hogshead’s video.

She walks on stage and says:

“Good Morning. Raise your hand if you like to win.”

Hmm. I like to win. I’m going to listen more because she has already grabbed me.

Those opening words make all the difference between keeping the audience engaged or chasing meeting planners away.

Another great example is Amanda Palmer’s TED talk. Love her or hate her (I’m on the lover side), she hooks you from the moment she walks on stage. She sets down a milk crate, steps on it, wraps herself in cloth, holds out a flower and says NOTHING.

Does she make you want to know what happens next? Feeling compelled to watch that whole TED talk now?

Good! If your video is not doing that and you’re not delivering that in every speech, you’ve got a presentation problem.

Sign #2: You’re not landing more speaking gigs every time you speak

The best indicator of a successful presentation is booking more speaking gigs. Giving your presentation is the best marketing you’ve got. It beats videos, sending application into cattle calls for speakers, your speakers one-sheet, or anything else you have in your arsenal.

If you’re speaking semi-regularly, whether for paid or for free, you should be landing other speaking gigs.

A surprising number of speakers I chat with are getting out there and speaking, but they are not seeing results they crave from their efforts.

This tells me one of two things. Your message doesn’t matter to the audience OR you’re delivering a “good job” presentation. Remember “good job” is the enemy of remarkable presentations.

One of my long-time clients, Markus Koch, sent this email to his presentation designer and me after a recent speaking gig.

“I am happy to report: Speech was received very well. My opening line: “If you guys want to feel comfortable the next half hour, go watch a movie. I am getting paid in order to challenge you and get a debate going”! The result: I am invited to join the Investors Conference in Poland next year, together with the country’s President and Prime Minister. :)

Every time Markus speaks and books another speaking gig he earns a 5 time ROI on his investment in working with me. Plus, his speech rocked and he’s challenging the conversation around finance.

This is from a long-time reader of this very blog, Cherie Herring:

“Like a thirsty sponge, I always read every one of your posts and soak in every presentation tip you give. As a result, I was able to present my sessions with complete confidence and lots of pizzazz!! Not bragging, but I hit a home-run and booked three more presentations afterwards. My school paid my way to TX this time, from now on, others will pay me to come.

You should be getting these kinds of results every time you speak. If you’re not, then come on over and talk to me about how we can make this happen for you.

Sign #3: Is your BIG IDEA MIA?

Once upon a time when I received the “I’m not landing speaking gigs” email, I went to the speakers website and found that they only had the word SPEAKING on the page with a professional headshot.

What the what? How is that helpful to anyone?

More often, I go to the website and see that the speakers present on “Leadership” or “Media” or “Marketing” or sometimes all 3.

This tells me nothing. I have no clue what the speaker actually talks about or what’s in it for the audience.

In order to land speaking gigs, you must position your presentation. A remarkable presentation is unlike any other presentation that is out there.

You can’t be replaced by another speaker: only YOU could give that presentation. When I see broad topics like “leadership” or “social media,” I know I can find another speaker who speaks on those exact topics and probably for less money than you.

You  must position yourself as a category of one otherwise you’ll drown in the sea of sameness.

Sally Hogshead is the best-in-class example of a speaker who has excelled at positioning her presentation.

When I worked with Sally to become a Certified Fascination Advantage Advisor she asked me a simple question.  “Do you know how I command $35,000 per speaking gig? Do you know why meeting planners move the dates of a conference just so they can book me?”

I had no idea, but I desperately wanted to find out.

“No one can deliver what I do. I’m a category of one.”

Go to her website and this is how she positions her ideas:

Hogshead quote

You’ll notice that she states that she’s the ONLY speaker that speaks on fascination. If you want to know how to be more fascinating, she’s the only one you can book.

What’s your BIG IDEA?  The idea that positions you as the only one who can give your speech? To figure that out, you must understand what conversation your presentation is a part of.

Once you know that, uncover how your ideas challenge and add to that conversation.

Sign #4: Are your testimonials vague?

“He’s a rockstar.”

“So inspiring.”


Ugh. Could these testimonials be more vague? They could apply to any speaker. In fact, I’ve seen testimonials like these on multiple websites.

Testimonials that are not specific tell the meeting planner nothing,  and they become less than meaningless when they aren’t attributed to someone. If I wanted to hire a rock star, I’d hire David Bowie.

While you want testimonials to speak to your ability to hold the audience’s attention, testimonials should also speak to the change you create for your audience.

Testimonials should be unique to YOU and your talk. When you ask for testimonials be very specific about what you want a testimonial for.

Here’s an example of a great testimonial from keynote speaker, Scott Stratten, of UnMarketing.

Scott Stratten Testimonial;


From the testimonial you know that PepsiCo had a major aha moment about switching their marketing from broadcasting their message to engaging people. That’s worth the price of admission, but they go on to say how funny and entertaining Stratten is. Boo-yah! That’s a money-making testimonial.

You see, booking a speaking gig is not just about paying you and your travel expenses. It’s about making it worth the time of the people attending; those same people who could be making the company money instead of hearing you speak.

Let’s say you’re Tom for PepsiCo putting on this event. You’ve got 200 senior leaders attending and the average hourly rate for each person is $150. That’s $30,000 the company is losing in wages while watching your speak.

Scott Stratten is worth that price (and decidedly more: I’ve seen him in action).

Your testimonials need to show that the value you presentation creates is worth more than those wages plus your speaking fee.

If you’re struggling to land  speaking gigs, take an honest look at your speaking and ask:

  • Does my speaking video grab the viewers attention in 10-seconds or less?
  • Am I landing more speaking gigs every time I give a presentation?
  • Is the BIG IDEA of my presentation focused on the value that only I can create?
  • Are my testimonials specific and focus on the change I create for my audience?
  • Am I the best-in-class in my industry?

If you’ve answered no to one or more of these questions, you don’t have a marketing/promotion problem, you’ve got a presentation problem.

If you’re ready to get that problem solved, book more speaking gigs, and position yourself in a category of one, apply for a complimentary Breakthrough Session with me. We’ll focus on your presentation problem and create a plan to solve it.

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