Tag Archives: #speakingbusiness


I launched my business in September 2005. In my blog, How I Landed My First Paid Speaking Gig and You Can Too I shared with you that, even before I launched my speaking business, I had landed my first paid speaking engagement.

But what happens after the first gig? How do you continue to grow your speaking business?

I’m a believer that one speaking engagement should lead to another. And there is evidence that, when you give a dynamic presentation that meets the needs of your client, you’ll be booked again and again.

However, even when some buzz is created after you speak, there may not be an immediate need for your services.

So what do you do in the meantime when you have a relevant message that solves a problem, but your phone isn’t ringing?

Some people recommend cold calling. This is, undoubtedly, an excellent way of creating awareness around your brand and the solution you provide for an organization. However, for me, when I first started my business, cold calling was not an option.

I hated cold calling, and I still do.

I’m uncomfortable picking up the phone, calling an organization and praying that, eventually, I’ll get to talk to someone who will talk to me. This doesn’t mean it’s not an effective way to grow your business. In fact, I help my clients who choose to cold call, craft a message that helps them to connect and communicate what the do and the value they bring in such a way that gets them to the decision-maker. But it’s just not the way I have been able to work with over 100 organizations across nine industries and have a repeat client base of 95 percent.

So how did I sign my next contract?

Here’s what happened.

It’s September 2005. I just launched my business. I am at an event and recognize the president of a local university. My immediate thought was: “Aha! A potential client. I can help them. I should go and introduce myself.” The more I thought about the possibilities, the more pumped I became.

Suddenly, it hit me. I have to talk to him. What should I say? What will make him want to hire me? Of course, when the leader of one of the largest employment organizations is in the room, I’m not the only one wanting his attention. It seemed everyone in the room is vying for his time.

I battled so long within myself until the announcer said, “Please begin to make your way to your seats. The program will start in two minutes.” Has that ever happened to you? You talk yourself in and out and in and out again, of taking action?

Before my conscious thought caught up with my movement, I made a mad dash toward the front of the room and found myself standing in front of him.

All I can remember is feeling anxiety, talking fast, selling hard and trying to put my business card in his hand.

Can you relate? Clearly, that’s not what I would recommend to my clients today.

To my utter amazement, he interrupted me and said, “I know who you are. I’m familiar with your work. You just wrote a book. Our students NEED your help. Please set an appointment with our Provost. He’ll be expecting your call.” While stepping on his last few words, the announcer came over the intercom, “The program is about to begin.”

I smiled and said, “Thank you.”

Still feeling the residue of anxiety—along with a renewed sense of excitement that they “need” me—I confidently, but hurriedly made my way to my seat. I couldn’t believe what just happened. That moment led to an $8,000 contract a few months later and six consecutive contracts in six years. Plus, my first book There Is More Inside: Personal Essentials to Living a Power-Packed Life was designated their freshman must-read for two years.

I didn’t know that answering the call in that moment would be so pivotal in my personal growth and business success.

Whether you want to build a speaking business, land a promotion on your job or score a media interview, here’s what I know for sure:

Build Your Brand. A well-built brand creates buzz. Buzz increases awareness and awareness is a touch point. A touch point comes in many forms. For example, a conversation among two or more people and your name comes up, an interview on a local television show or an article in the newspaper or a promotion about your upcoming book signing. And, of course, social media has given us the opportunity to connect with hundreds of thousands of people. Every touch point gives you a chance to be relevant and to climb to the top of your audience’s mind.

Small Steps; Big Opportunities. The challenge I faced back then, and sometimes now, is taking the step. Yes, today each step I take involves less risk of rejection because people are more likely to have a positive response to proven success, but the point is this: I still have to take the step. Wherever you are on your journey, you have to take the step. I don’t know how the president of the university knew who I was back then, and I still don’t. But I know this: never underestimate the work you are doing and who it is reaching.

Follow up. This isn’t just about landing a new client or developing an important business relationship at work—it’s about the credibility of your brand. Do you do what you say you will? Let’s say I assumed the president was just blowing me off, but didn’t want to appear rude so I decided not to follow-up. Think about what I would have lost. What about you? How many people have you meant, promised you were follow-up with them, but haven’t? I have to constantly remind clients and employees alike—stop making assumptions about others and what they will or will not do.

Be honorable in your commitment—this will force them to tell you what they really want from you. And, yes, sometimes they may want you to stop calling them, but don’t be disheartened. Knowing their true desires is important. Surely you want to invest your time, talents and abilities in people and organizations that want them and will value you, right?

© 2018 S. Renee Smith-Larry. All rights reserved. S. Renee helps professionals around the world increase their income and influence by becoming more likable, marketable and credible. As a nationally recognized self-esteem, branding and communications expert, speaker and coach, she also is the bestselling author of: 5 Steps to Assertiveness: How to Communicate with Confidence and Get What You Want, The Bridge to Your Brand, Our Hearts Wonder, There Is More Inside and Co-Author of Self-Esteem for Dummies. For coaching or booking information call 888-588-0423 or visit www.srenee.com.


How I Landed My First Paid Speaking Gig and You Can Too

It was 2005 and I knew I was being called to be a speaker. In fact, I had known for about 7 years that I would be a speaker. Nope! I didn’t have all the details. I didn’t know where to start, who I needed to talk to or exactly what I needed to do to get started, but I did know two things: I wanted to change the workplace and I wanted to see people succeed.

I was in the midst of writing my first book There Is More Inside: Personal Essentials to Living A Power-Packed Life. As I recall, I didn’t even have a website, yet. It was Summer 2005 and a friend asked me for a favor: “Will you come and speak to a group of HR (human resources) professionals? I’m responsible for booking speakers and I need a speaker for an upcoming meeting.”

Without intentionally exerting any energy, my heart rate increased and I had so many thoughts running through my mind that they disrupted my normal thought pattern. Have you ever had that happen to you? You’re so surprised by an opportunity that you don’t know what to think, do or if you are even capable of meeting the expectation? At that time, I wasn’t a proven speaker and I certainly wasn’t ready to step on stage in such short notice.

With a healthy balance of doubt and curiosity, I said, “Sure. What do you want me to talk about?”

“Anything,” he responded.

“Anything?” I thought.

For what felt like days, I debated within myself: “What should I talk about? Who will be there? How do I decide what to talk about?”

My first book was about discovering who you are and finding the confidence and courage to be personally accountable for creating what you want. That just didn’t seem to be a great topic for a group of policy-following HR professionals. Although I wasn’t going to get paid and didn’t have the experience to know how to process what I could possibly get out of this gig, at the very least, I wanted the audience to like my presentation—and like me. It wasn’t just me, right? Don’t you want to be liked and appreciated?

I decided to be true to myself. I spoke on the topic, “How to Find Your Passion.”

It turned out that I was completely wrong about HR professionals. Everyone started buzzing about the content. After the applause had ended, a line started forming. People were saying how inspired they were by the content and how much this message was needed in the workplace.

At the time, unbeknownst to me, the head of HR for the State of Delaware was in the room. He approached me and said, “Great speech. I have two statewide conferences coming up for support staff. There will be about 300 people at event. I’d like for you to address how to present with confidence. How much will it cost to book you for both conferences?”

“Wow!” I thought. “They must really mean what they are saying,” Do you ever feel like people are just appeasing you? You know, they don’t want you to feel bad so they tell you how great you are, but never take your follow-up call. Well, despite the buzz I didn’t absorb it as honest feedback.

For me, in this context, the truth to admiration and appreciation is the answer to this question: “Are you going to hire me to speak for your organization?” 

After that offer, I felt a surge of confidence in the chatter so I calmly asked, “When are the conferences? How long do you want me to speak?” He gave me the dates and said 45 minutes each. Without hesitation I said, “I have to check my calendar, but thirty-five hundred ($3,500) per conference.”

He shockingly said, “3500 per conference! You’re not worth $3,500.” Without knowing how to demonstrate my value, I responded with a smile, “You may not be willing to pay me 3500, but I’m worth 3500.”

Clearly, wanting me to keynote his conferences, he retorted, “I can pay you $1,000 per conference for 45 minutes.” It didn’t take me long to make that decision. I had just spoken for 30 minutes and got paid $0. He’s offering me $1,000 for 45 minutes, plus I quickly assessed that if I revved up my efforts, I could have my book done before the conference.

I boldly asked, “I have a book coming out around that time. “Can I sale it after I speak?” He enthusiastically said, “Yes!” I had just negotiated my first speaking contract and gave birth to my full-time speaking career.  

From coaching over 300 speakers in the last five years, many of them spend years investing their time and money speaking for free or for minimum compensation. My philosophy is this: be careful of setting a standard of devaluing your mission and message. Over time, not only will you be speaking for free, you’ll start to question yourself and the value you bring. This can severely impact your self-esteem.

The lessons I share with upcoming speakers is this:

·     Be Yourself. Many speakers, authors and other professionals, including employees struggle with knowing and really believing in themselves and their message. Do your homework and just present your message; don’t try to prove that your message is right or how great you are.

·     Be Honest With Yourself. Recognize that if you are not being booked, you may need a coach to help you develop your brand, speech and speaking abilities. Your presentation has to be so good that you are memorable!

·     Brand Your Business. I’ve discovered that for most of my clients, there is an internal battle of wanting to craft and communicate an authentic, valuable message and trying to figure out what’s most popular in the marketplace. Don’t bounce around trying to be everything to everyone; believe in and evolve with your message as the market and workplace changes.

·     Be Dynamic. Give your audience a compelling reason to want to hear you speak again. You have to work on your presence, presentation and performance. Be magnetic, innovative and energizing. When you do, someone in the audience will ask, “Are you available to speak at my event?”

© 2018 S. Renee Smith-Larry All rights reserved. S. Renee helps professionals around the world increase their income and influence by becoming more likable, marketable and credible. As a nationally recognized self-esteem, branding and communications expert, speaker and coach, she also is the bestselling author of 5 Steps to Assertiveness: How to Communicate with Confidence and Get What You WantThe Bridge to Your BrandOur Hearts Wonder, There Is More Inside and Co-Author of Self-Esteem for Dummies. For booking information call 888-588-0423 or visit www.srenee.com.