As a professional speaker, networking is one of your primary ways to find leads.
It’s how deals are made, lifelong contracts are kept, and speakers are made into icons. Okay, maybe the last one is a bit dramatic, but only to underscore the point: better networking equals more paid speaking opportunities.
And with Influence happening this weekend, there’s no better time to talk about how to find paid speaking opportunities at events and conferences than by up-leveling your networking efforts.
Events and conferences like Influence can be incredibly valuable to the career of a pro speaker — but have you stopped to think about how to best leverage each event’s value? If you do, it's more likely you’ll reap all the benefits available by attending.
You only get what you put in, and today’s blog will help you get ahead with the strong foundation you need to open the door to more paid speaking opportunities. You’ll find three big considerations to keep in mind, along with specific steps you can take to help you maximize your networking efforts at Influence and beyond!
Go in With a Giving Mindset
Networking often gets a bad rap because it’s viewed as very transactional. That’s why you want to go in with a giving mindset, and make sure you’re genuine in your interactions.
Make every conversation a two-way street by asking questions, and always be on the lookout for ways to help others. This makes each interaction more valuable to everyone. You don’t want to go into every event, conference or after-party with an obvious agenda or just a self-centered focus — most people will be able to sniff that out a mile away. It will be more difficult to make real connections and all other actions might seem disingenuous.
Instead, ask questions about what the other person is looking for or needs from the event or conference. We recommend you are prepared with a list of questions to ask. Try to establish questions or angles that you yourself find interesting.
Here are some ideas for questions to ask:
- Why did you get into public speaking (or the industry you are in now)?
- What's been your biggest career struggle?
- What do you love about what you do?
- Why did you come to Influence (or other event)? What are you looking to get out of your experience?
Even if the connections you make aren’t directly connected to a speaking opportunity, by seeking to add value and create mutually beneficial relationships, you’ll be far more likely to get referrals or additional connections for paid speaking opportunities.
Demonstrate Your Interest
When talking to someone of interest, taking notes makes you look engaged and interested in what the other person is saying.
Use your Notes App on your phone, or bring a small notebook and pen with you. Try to find something interesting or memorable about every person you talk to. Casually mention that you’re taking notes by saying something like, “Oh wow, that’s interesting. Do you mind if I jot that down?” This will bring them into what you’re doing and will also ensure your actions aren’t being misunderstood. For example, you’re using a Notes App on your phone and don’t want to come across as if you’re texting someone else and disinterested in the current conversation.
If you write interesting tidbits down, along with any important details such as their job or career goals, you’ll be able to more easily follow up about any relevant opportunities. Plus, it’s a fantastic way to remember all the highlights from your event.
Here's a tip: if people are handing out business cards, you can also write notes on the back of them which is a great way to keep your thoughts and people organized.
Follow up the Right Way
A quick conversation at an event is a great way to meet connections, but your odds of building a relationship with a client or mentor are extremely low if you don’t follow up. The event or conference you attend is the catalyst to finding more paid speaking opportunities. It’s the spark. Afterward is when you do the work to begin building a relationship.
So, sometime following the event, schedule time on your calendar to sit down and follow up with each person you met or were interested to learn more about. Make a list of those people and check your notes to refresh your memory about the interesting fact about them, or how you think you can help one another.
Then, when you send out your email, or make your phone call, you can give your communications a little customized twist. Mention that you were the person who found “such and such” about them interesting, or another interesting dynamic that connected you two.
If it feels appropriate in the initial follow up communications, you can then bring up the problem or challenge they may have mentioned and how you can help. Or, you can suggest a collaboration on a project or whatever else was discussed previously.
This will help jog their memory and will make your communications feel more personal, genuine and purpose-ful. And with purpose, comes action.
Finding paid speaking opportunities through networking isn’t an instantaneous process. When done right, it can turbo-charge your career, but only if you approach it as such. You need a certain kind of mentality if you truly want to maximize your success: be considerate and genuinely interested in other people and how you can help them. That will help you form the strong, initial bonds you need to drive sustainable growth.
With these tips, you can help to make sure that any events or conferences you attend will fuel your success and help you discover and secure more paid speaking opportunities.