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Want to Book More Speaking Engagements? Don’t Make These Mistakes

Posted by Tyler Samani-Sprunk on March 5, 2019
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The beauty of public speaking is that it quickly positions you as an expert in your field.

Sharing your insights and experiences is a great way to show that you and your organization are the authority on a topic. Add a few real-world examples, and you will become someone people look up to, whose opinion they seek out. Audiences will want to hear what you have to say, scribbling notes as quickly as you speak! 

For many executives, speaking opportunities are one of the first things they look for to build thought leadership in their industry. Thankfully, there are many resources to help you get started.The Ultimate Guide to Thought LeadershipHowever, knowing what not to do is just as important.  

Avoid these mistakes, and you’ll be well on your way to booking speaking engagements of your own.

Speaking Mistake #1: Lacking topical focus and overall strategy

Many businesses have tried to be everything to everyone—and have failed. The same philosophy applies to speaking. If you try to relate to every audience on every topic, you won’t be seen as an expert on any.  

Start with the strategy: figure out your target audience.

  • What’s important to them?
  • What level of understanding do they already have on the topic?
  • What examples may be beneficial to share?
  • What burning questions do they have?

Once you’ve done proper research and background work on your audience, you can start to determine what your key message will be.

When it comes to WHAT you will speak on, this will likely be one broad category, not multiple. You won’t be the expert on marketing and leadership. Or team motivation and innovation in software.

Be strategic and focused in your speaking efforts, and you’ll start to see the results (in both sales and speaking opportunities).

Practical tips to avoid this mistake:

  • Determine your audience. Who do you want to reach?
  • Do your research. What does that audience want to know?
  • Write out presentation ideas that fit under your broader topic.

Speaking Mistake #2: Talking about something you’re not an expert in

This seems like a no-brainer, and yet a big mistake many people make in speaking is trying to talk about a topic they have no real-life experience in.

Sure, a member of our content team could speak on a topic like software development (something they know very little about, technically) even though they could research the topic to learn about it.

The problem here is that people quickly see that you lack both knowledge and passion on the topic. Passion and expertise are critical when it comes to delivering a presentation that stands out (and gets you invited to speak at other events!)


Along with this, it’s critical to share real-life experiences. Your “war stories” and day-to-day experiences are what make you relatable and believable. They paint you as a person the audience should listen to.

In order to convey your thought leadership and build your credibility, you need to show that you’ve been where your audience has been, felt their pain—and come out on the other side.  

Practical tips to avoid this mistake:

  • Talk about something you’re passionate about. If you’re not excited, the audience won’t be either.
  • Fill your talk with real-life examples and practical tips
  • Use your experiences to demonstrate that you know your topic

Speaking Mistake #3: Assuming you’re a good speaker

You might be one of the best speakers in your industry. But don’t make assumptions.

To truly stand out as a speaker, you need to analyze your content, delivery, and feedback. If you study the habits of some of the most well-known thought leaders, you’ll find that many of them have one thing in common—they practice.

Practice makes perfect

Steve Jobs was known for having a powerful stage presence and seemingly effortless delivery. But if you study his life, you’ll discover he spent countless hours preparing, rehearsing, rewriting, and performing.

If you simply assume you’re a good speaker, this prevents you from preparing well and clouds your judgment (just in case you aren’t as great as you think).

Recording your presentations and watching yourself is a great (and humbling) exercise. We encourage you to give it a try as you’ll often find habits or mannerisms that you need to work on!

Practical tips to avoid this mistake:

  • Practice, practice, practice
  • Join a group like Toastmasters and present on a regular basis
  • Hire a speaking coach
  • If you present at work, ask a few trusted coworkers for feedback
  • Record your presentations and analyze your performance regularly

Speaking Mistake #4: Thinking you’re too good for small gigs

It's hard to get big speaking engagements if you haven't done any.

Odds are, you’ll probably start with a few smaller workshops or conferences before they’re begging you to headline the big ones. But that’s ok!

Use smaller engagements to practice your speaking. Work on focusing your message and getting feedback on your presentation. Take time after you speak to ask people in the audience what they found valuable in your presentation—and what could have improved. These insights will help you refine your presentation so you can provide better value to future listeners.


Turns out, if you speak (and do it well), the requests will start coming. So, don’t be afraid to start small and use each engagement as a stepping stone to build your message and your skills. 

Speaking Mistake #5: Having no online presence

If someone is considering you as a speaker or presenter at their event, it’s important that your online experience matches what you have to offer!

Every speaker needs to have a website where potential booking groups or outside companies can learn more about you, your expertise, and what you have to offer. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it DOES need to showcase who you are, past events, and the experiences that qualify you to come and speak to their audience. It should show the proof that you have speaking experience and have done it successfully (even at small events).

Curious what to include on your personal website? Check out The Building Blocks of a Thought Leader’s Website (examples included).

Bonus tip: We’ve talked to a number of organizations who admit that they won’t even entertain you as a speaker if you don’t have a video on your website of YOU speaking! Speaking is a very impactful experience. Potential audiences need to see what it’s like for you to be onstage, engaging with attendees, and delivering a powerful message.

Speaking Proof

Speaking Mistake #6: Showing no proof that you actually speak

As you look to expand and start speaking at larger conferences, it’s a mistake not to show the experience that you’ve gained at the smaller events. Plus, it never hurts to show what you can do!

If an event coordinator makes their way to your website and doesn’t see any evidence that you’ve spoken anywhere in the past, that’s a red flag! (again….see bonus tip in mistake #5)

Every speaker should showcase proof such as:

  • Social proof
  • Testimonials
  • A demo video or speaker reel of footage from speaking events
  • Links to additional interviews such as PR or being a guest on a podcast

Compiling this information and sharing it on your website can help you build your online speaking presence as you look to land those bigger gigs.  

Practical tips to avoid this mistake:

  • If you spoke at a workshop or conference, ask them for a review to share on your website
  • Capture a video of your speaking in action, whether that’s to a group of ten or fifty. This can help build a speaker video to show on your website.
  • Embed attendees’ tweets that reference something you said while you were speaking at a conference  

Speaking Mistake #7: Not hustling

If getting speaking engagements happened with no effort, everyone would do it.

It takes effort, persistence, and consistency. Once you know your strategy and have everything prepared to start the speaking journey, you gotta start hustling.

Identify groups, conferences, or associations who might be interested in having you come present to their audiences. Do this enough, do it well, deliver a great presentation—and the speaking requests will start coming to you.


Practical tips to avoid this mistake:

  • Make a list of local groups you could speak to
  • Reach out to larger events once you have all your assets ready
  • Don’t let rejection stop you. Use it to motivate you!

Need a way to organize your potential opportunities? Get a copy of the speaking engagement opportunity planner.



If you want to get more speaking engagements, take a step back and focus on the message that you’re sharing. Hone in on your target audience and the topics you’re passionate about. Then create your online presence, speaker reel, and testimonials. And start small but start somewhere. The more you speak, even at smaller events, the more you’ll grow.

We look forward to seeing your name headlining a big event real soon!

Thought Leadership Guide

Posted in Event Marketing, Networking, Public Relations, Thought Leadership