Q: How do I go about landing speaking engagements to share my expertise?

A: Speaking engagements alone may hone your skills but may not support the goals of your business or career, so let’s think “strategically beneficial speaking engagements.”

First, to get the attention of organizations, clearly define how your unique background represents valuable expertise, and what groups need speakers that offer that value. Then you need proven skills.

Most keynote speakers started early and practiced presenting on topics to much smaller groups. Build your skills and reputation as a good speaker in associations or through community service. This may also validate your expertise, but primarily offers the chance to hone your stage presence and cite places you have spoken when event organizers ask.

According to Anna Stinson, director of programing for the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, “Our members rely on me to screen speakers and assure a great experience, so the track record of experts we bring in really matters.”

One pitfall for nascent speakers — aiming for prominent venues without that history of speaking. If you haven’t been speaking to smaller groups for years, first look to the smaller organizations in the space. Perhaps a local chapter of an association has a special interest group. The audience may be small, but the feedback and visibility provide a start. You might also offer to be a guest lecturer for university faculty who teach in your subject area.

Also, consider offering yourself to the larger organizations as a panelist. This allows a “safe” test-drive for the organization of your ability to present, and also associates you with other leaders in your area of focus.

From a direct promotion standpoint, define your “expertise” in the context of the audiences that may value it, and define the contents of presentations you can make. Event organizers don’t have time or knowledge to develop an opportunity for your presentation — give them a list of timely and important topics.

Generating opportunities can be time-intensive work, but a strategically considered plan will lead to more opportunities, making the time worthwhile.


Mike Porter is the faculty director of the MS programs in Health Care Communication and Health Care Innovation at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.