51 Ways to Find and Book Speaking Engagements (+Downloadable PDF)
by Princess Clemente
Note: This post is huge, coming in at almost 3000 words. In it, you'll learn the secret to finding and booking speaking engagements easily. Discover 51 ways to find your next speaking gig, many of which take only minutes to implement. To download the PDF version, click here

“How do I find speaking gigs?” 

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably asked this question multiple times.

Well it was this exact question I repeatedly asking myself that led me to create this massive list. But I want to be very clear with you - this is not JUST a list.

It’s a strategy.

You see, while I was trying to ask myself how to find speaking gigs, I was left with one very clear answer:

You find speaking gigs by finding the people who can hire you to speak.

If you’ve read one thing on here, I hope that was it.

Because while there are websites designed specifically to help you find speaking engagements, and directories to find events (some of which are listed here), unless you’re set on finding and contacting the person who will hire you, you will never actually be able to book the speaking engagement.

(That’s why the title of this list is “51 Ways to Find and Book Speaking Engagements”)

One more thing: If you’re serious about finding and booking speaking engagements, schedule out a couple hours in a single day to look for the events and to create a contact list (I like to use an excel sheet), and then commit to contacting everyone on your list the next day.

Why? Because it’s much more efficient, goal-oriented, and your sanity will thank you.

(NOTE: Please do not, by any means, make a list of people’s contact information and input them into your automated mailing lists such as MailChimp or ConstantContact. This is SPAM. You must personally contact each person whether it’s by e-mail or phone. Besides, sending some generic spam-y message to someone you don’t know too well isn’t a very good start to building a relationship with them. :D)

So, if you’re all set and understand that our strategy is to find people who can hire you to speak, let’s get started!

1. First, prepare yourself.
In order to find people who can hire you, you must first know where they are (not in a creepy stalker-ish way). These people will most likely be event planners, meeting planners, business owners, executives, or anyone who has the leverage to refer you to someone who can hire you as a speaker. A majority of this list is learning to search for events to find these people. Once you find a specific event you would like to speak at, you can then find out from the contact person about speaking opportunities. 

Find specific events to speak at through:

2. Local Events
Local events are a great avenue for speaking gigs. It can be convenient for event planners (might not have to pay the speaker travel or hotel fees) as well as convenient for you.

You can find local (or nonlocal) events at websites like eventbrite.com. Even if you find an event that has passed, but you think you’d make a great fit, you can still contact the event planner to see if they are accepting speakers for next year.

Remember, growth in the speaking industry takes time. If you’ve heard about “building relationships” this is the industry where you’ll hear that phrase over and over again because it’s absolutely true. Just because they say “no” one year, doesn’t mean they won’t keep you in mind for other events or for following years.

3. Facebook 
One of the best things about Facebook is that you can easily find who the event planner is or at least the organization hosting the event.

My favorite way to use Facebook when searching for speaking gigs is the search tool.

Type into the search bar what you are looking for such as specific hashtags like “#conference”.

Using the “Top” tab and the filters on the side, you can search for posts in a specific area, and posts that have used the hashtag recently and in past years. You can also search for posts made by your friends and groups to increase your chances of building a good relationship with key contacts.

You can also search specific words or phrases relevant to your industry and using the “Pages”, “Groups”, and/or “Events” tabs, you can find communities and events that might be looking for speakers.

For example, I searched “Social Justice” in the search bar, went under the events tab, and found a ton of social justice related events. The first event on the list was coming up next week near me, and happened to be a “Social Justice Speaker Series”.

When I clicked on the event, Facebook shows who the event is hosted by. In this case, it was an organization. When I clicked on the organization’s name, I am directed to their Facebook page, which has all their information including number, e-mail, and even address if I ever wanted to go in person.

4. Twitter
Search for relevant hashtags to find events in your industry. Search for the accounts of event professionals (#eventprofs or #eventpros) to follow meeting planners, conference planners, event planners, etc. (i.e. people who might hire speakers!) Follow other speakers to find out what events they have spoken at.

5. Instagram
You’ll have to be a bit more patient when using Instagram because you’ll have to sift through posts from all over the world when searching for a hashtag, but you’ll most likely get so many results, that you’re bound to get a hit.

Here’s what happened when I searched #conference and searched for a total of 15 seconds...

a. First I found this post:

b. Then I found the conference's Instagram page.

c. After a few clicks, I found their website and eventually their registration page. Look what else I found...

Jackpot!

6. LinkedIn
You can use LinkedIn to look for event planners, meeting planners, and people with similar titles. (Remember, you’re looking for people that can hire you). I use the advanced search to narrow my search down to people who I am connected with or have a similar connection. You can do this by checking the box that says “1st connection” and “2nd connection”. This makes developing a relationship with them much easier.

7. Hotels
You can check out hotels in your area to see their calendar of events. Maybe you’ll get lucky and be there when there’s a conference. If you’re feeling real lucky, you can check out the registration area, meet the event planners, and see if they’re accepting speakers. (Notice how I said to find out if they’re accepting speakers? Your goal is to just find out this information, and know who the key contacts are. You’re not trying to sell them your workshop/talk on the spot.) But don’t hang around for too long. They’ve got lots of things to do!

8. Convention Centers/Conference Centers
Some convention centers post their event schedules online. Bingo!

9. The Library
I never realized how much the library had to offer until I actually looked at their bulletin boards. Libraries, especially those in urban cities, have a ton of events such as workshops, discussions, and other community events.

I walked to my local library last week and took a picture of all the events that might be of interest. I came back home with about five pictures of flyers that had contact information. You can also attend the free workshops and groups and use it to network.

10. Google Search
This is pretty clear cut. Use it to search for events near you, speakers similar to you or in your industry. You can use GoogleAlerts to send you a message to your inbox pertaining to certain search queries.

11. Craigslist
I don’t use this too often to look for speaking gigs, but sometimes people post local community events that might need speakers. 

Just by searching “workshops” and sifting through the results for “all days” I was able to quickly come across a women’s empowerment brunch, which had guest speakers and contact information.

12. EventsinAmerica.com, 13. Allconferences.com, 14. Lanyrd.com
These popular websites are all places you can go to find events. EventsinAmerica.com is “North America’s Top Trade Show & Conference Directory”; Allconferences.com is a global conference directory; and Lanyrd.com is considered the “social conference directory”. I haven’t had much experience with these websites, but feel free to use them.

15. Local newspapers, 16. Business publications, and business magazines
You can subscribe to business publications or magazines (or check them out at a local bookstore or library) to find contacts and events. Keep an eye out for mentions of events or guest speakers in your local newspapers!

17. Special events during the year
Are there special events during the year that might be specific to your industry? For example, if your primary audience is high school students, do you know what events your local high schools host that bring in guest speakers? Or maybe you’re a diversity speaker targeting Hispanic college student groups. Do you know that they may be looking for speakers during Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15th - Oct. 15th? If you find out when and why you’re needed, you’re putting yourself in a good position!

18. Local colleges and universities
If your target market includes college students, many colleges and universities have a page dedicated to their student organizations, usually under their campus activities. Find the student clubs that might be interested in hiring you (many student groups have a budget for speakers). Searching for the Student Activities Board or Student Government Association can also be helpful. E-mails of the organization’s president or board members are usually listed.

You can also check out the university calendar for events such as conferences that you might be interested in attending and speaking. The hosting group is usually listed.

Network in your industry: 

19. Network at conferences/work events
If you encounter someone at a networking event or professional conference who might have the power or the connections to bring you in as a speaker for their organization, let them know you’re available to speak! (If you’re currently working for an organization, just make sure your work’s policies allow you to do so. Some work contracts might prohibit you from using your company’s materials for your own profit, for example.)

20. Trade associations, trade shows, and fairs
Joining trade associations and attending trade shows and fairs are great ways to find out about events in your industry and network with people in your profession. Here is a good list of trade associations.

21. Meetup.com
You won’t directly find and book a speaking gig here, but it’s a great place to network with other individuals in your field, especially if you’re in a more specific niche.

Use services:

22. GigSalad.com, 23. eSpeakers.com, 24. Speakermatch.com, 25. Work with an agent
These services can be very useful especially if your work is highly sought after and well-received. It can also be more useful if you have had previous speaking engagements as it will be more likely that event planners hire you (these services usually require that you publicly show your speaker profile, along with any testimonials or reviews). Do note that services like this where you rely on a third party to help you find and book engagements receive a commission for each engagement that they help you book.

Utilize memberships: 

26. NACA (National Association for Campus Activities), 27. APCA (Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities) 
These are two associations that you might want to consider becoming a member of if you’re targeting colleges and universities. Both associations feature live showcases and fairs at their regional or national conferences. Only members can apply for showcases and booths, where they display an example of their performance or talk. Below are their membership rates:

28. NSA (National Speakers Association)
The National Speakers Association has been around since 1973, providing speakers with resources and the community that will help them grow. Membership fees for aspiring speakers, established speakers, and students are below:

Contact more people that might be interested in having you speak: 

Below are more people or groups you can contact that could increase your chances of finding and booking a speaking engagement.

29. Campus Activities
As mentioned before, campus activities at colleges and universities is a great marketplace for speakers and entertainers. Because most of their contact information is public, it’s pretty easy to make a list of contacts. You can even outsource the work to someone on Fiverr or Upwork.

30. Your Workplace
This might not be the best place to get a paid speaking engagement, but it’s a great place to start and practice your speaking skills. Find out if there are any events or trainings that you can utilize.

31. Your Alma Mater
Utilize an existing relationship by getting in touch with your Alumni department or student organizations from your alma mater.

32. Your High School
Working with students? Get in touch with your high school and see what opportunities are available.

33. Ask for referrals.
Ask people in your circles who are connected to your target audiences for referrals.

34. Service Clubs including Lions Club, 35. Rotary Meetings 36. Chamber of Commerce, etc.
Service clubs such as Rotary International often bring in a guest speaker from the community. While most of these speaking engagements are short and at no cost to the organization, you are often speaking with other business owners and prominent leaders in the community with whom you can network.

37. Your past and current clients
You can seek referrals from past and current clients. Just check through your sent e-mails and scroll through all your past contacts and make a list of potential leads.

38. Special interest clubs
Do you know of any special interest clubs or groups in your community who might find value in bringing you in as a speaker?

39. Find how your speaking can relate to different audiences or industries.
Often times the value of the information you provide can be valuable for a variety of audiences. For example, if you’re a motivational speaker speaking about health and fitness and your usual audience consists of stay-at-home moms, can your program be applied to women in the corporate world? Figuring this out has a lot to do with figuring out the impact and benefits of your program. 

40. Ask family
You can tap into your family members' social and professional circles to help you find speaking gigs.

Tap into the success of other speakers: 

41. Google speakers in your industry. 42. Campuspeak.com and other speaker bureaus
Find speakers in your industry by searching for them on Google or social media. Hopefully you can find a list of upcoming events or past events on their website or social media profile. This will let you know the places that hired the speaker. Sometimes, especially on speaker bureaus, their fees or fee range is listed, which will let you know what the organization most likely paid the speaker. Now you know how much you can charge that specific organization if they ask for your fee or you can get an idea of what speakers similar to you charge.

Set up an automated system: 

Check out these tools that you can set-up to help you to keep an eye out for possible speaking opportunities:

43. Google Alerts, 44. Talkwalker, 45. Mention, 46.  IFTTT

47. E-mail Signature
Set-up your e-mail signature to let people know that you’re available for speaking engagements or to direct people to your website. I suggest you talk about the result or benefit of your speaking rather than just saying “Hire me to speak”. Also include a call-to-action. Here’s an example:

“P.S. Want to learn how to 5x your business team’s efficiency without them losing their sanity? Ask me about my interactive group workshop.”

48. Utilize your social media profiles
Post a link to your website or the same statement you used in your e-mail signature in your about me sections of your social media profiles.

Start your own event:

While these are not really a way to find and book a speaking engagement, they are ways to take matters into your own hands and help grow your speaking business nonetheless. Hosting a talk, discussion, or workshop can help increase your visibility, strengthen your authority and expertise, help you network, and lead to more speaking engagements.

49. Host an event at your library.
Usually, if you host an event at your library, the event must be free to the public. Use these events as a way to build your mailing list, network with community members, practice your speaking, and ask for feedback.

50. Impacthub.com
I’ve never joined ImpactHub, but I hear it’s a great place to collaborate with other like-minded individuals. They host programs and events for members and is geared towards social enterprise projects. As a member, you get discounts to using their spaces for events and meetings.

51. eVenues.com
This is a directory for venues for any type of event that you'd like to host.

If you’re a skim-and-scroll-to-the-bottom kind of person, here’s the conclusion:
Step #1: Find events.
Step #2: Find the people who can hire you or help you get hired. 
Step #3: Contact those people.

Stay tuned for our future blog post on exactly what to say when trying to book a speaking gig without sounding sales-y or desperate. 

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PS: Want your own printable PDF version of the list? Get your copy here

About The Author: Princess Clemente


Princess Clemente is the creator of The Speaker Toolbox. She is known as the 'Kickass Marketer for Speakers' and specializes in creating marketing pieces and resources for professional speakers. She is also the co-founder of Student Speakers, LLC. 
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