Scaling Up as a Keynote Speaker

December 28, 2023

Terry Stanton PR Manager

Written by
Terry Stanton


As a keynote speaker, you can make change happen. For the audience, you offer valuable insights based on your hard-earned experience and extensive knowledge base. For your business and personal brand, each speech you deliver elevates your visibility and increases your authority.

But scaling up as a keynote speaker and becoming a sought-after presenter doesn’t just happen. There are steps you must take that involve more than just developing your speaking skills. This article offers a 7-step guide that can help you move your speaking career forward and establish yourself as an in-demand speaker.

Here are the 7 steps to scaling up as a keynote speaker:

  1. Define your topic
  2. Know who you’re talking to
  3. Create a signature style
  4. Build a speaking portfolio
  5. Actively network to find opportunities
  6. Determine your fees
  7. Follow up and ask for feedback

Step 1: What Are You Speaking About?

The obvious place to start on your journey to becoming a keynote speaker is identifying what you want to talk about. Most likely you have developed expertise in a certain area and have spent years honing your skills and growing your knowledge base.

Before you get on a stage, you should hone in on what issues you want to address with the limited amount of time you have. You may have the ability to talk about a wide variety of topics, but it’s important to focus on core topics. Find your niche. Now narrow it down. Doing this until you get to the core essence of your message will help lead you to the next step, finding your audience.

Step 2: Who Are You Talking To?

Once you know what your core message is, you need to understand who you’re talking to. Who can benefit from your message and appreciate your expertise? Having a very clear idea about your topic and your niche will help you identify groups that can benefit from your presentation.

As you hone your niche, identify target industries, company sizes and geographic locations. Becoming a proverbial big fish in a small pond is a good way to build your speaking resume. Seek local service or community groups for opportunities. Starting small and local gives you the opportunity to establish your style, hone your message, and discover what resonates best with your audience.

Step 3: Create Signature Presentations and Programs

Getting early experience at the local level gives you the room to develop your style. Once you’ve settled on what makes your presentations uniquely yours and have received feedback that proves that it works with audiences, stick with it.

Create keynotes and workshops centered around your topics. Start with 15-20 minute guest speaking presentations and work your way up to a 45-60 minute keynote. Once you’ve developed a following, you can expand that into workshops.

Keep in mind that while people are coming (and possibly paying) to see you, you are actually serving your audience. Think about the purpose of your presentation and what they need. You want your audience to not just engage with you during your presentation, but to learn something. Giving them practical tips and tools that they can use when they leave will help you become memorable.

At this point, you should have a style that is distinctive to you. For example, people have come to learn that a Tony Robbins workshop will be physical, emotional and high-energy. Oprah connects with her audiences on an emotional level with quiet empathy. What do you want people to expect from you?

You may decide to develop a humorous presentation that reduces stress with laughter. If you have a lot of information to deliver, you may decide to use PowerPoint presentations to share a content-rich speech. Or if you’ve overcome incredible obstacles, your presentation could be based on your personal journey, using images of your story to captivate your audience. Make sure your presentation has takeaways that people can put into action.

Step 4: Build Your Speaking Portfolio

Like any skill, the more you do it, the better you become. For speakers, that means you need to get on the stage, usually at the local level first. Get the word out that you are available to speak at local venues like community service organization luncheons, workshops or industry-specific conferences.

Small, local engagements are great opportunities to practice your presentation and polish your content. Remember, to get more prominent engagements, you need proof that you have the right message and presentation skills. Record yourself at each event and study yourself to see where you can improve. You can also hire professionals who can offer constructive feedback and provide training to improve your presentation skills.

Now post your best work on your website. Ideally, you will want up to five clips that show your style, energy level, and presentation skills. Include other assets like a fact sheet with your contact information and website, and high-resolution professional headshots.

Step 5: Network and Build Relationships

Once you have your assets in place, it’s time to network. State your goals on social media platforms like LinkedIn to spread the word that you’re available for speaking engagements. Position yourself as a thought leader by regularly sharing high-value content that you’ve written for your website or other publications. Post videos of your speaking engagements to offer viewers an idea of your speaking style.

Additionally, you’ll want to join professional organizations tied to your topic and target audience. If possible, attend conferences in order to connect with event planners and others who may look for speakers for their own events.

Step 6: Set Your Speaking Fees Strategically

Once you get some experience under your belt, you’ll want to build your portfolio and make it available on your website or social channels. When you begin to see an uptick in followers or start receiving requests to speak, you can consider setting fees for appearances. While you will want to offer your services for free at the beginning, don’t wait too long before putting a price tag on your services.

As demand increases, you can slowly increase your rates. You may wish to add more value by offering meet-and-greet opportunities, a book signing, or a workshop that elevates your message.

Step 7: Follow Up and Request Feedback

After you’ve delivered your presentation, you‘ll want to do a follow up. Besides thanking the event planner, you can ask for feedback. You can offer resources like a complimentary copy of your book, if you’ve written one, or a copy of your presentation. Also, check in with the meeting planners periodically to see if they can use your services again.

If as part of your speaking agreement you were provided an attendee list, email the list as quickly as possible after the event, or even before if the list was provided to you ahead of time. If the event made the attendee list available to all speakers, timing will be key – you want to reach out as quickly as possible before they are overwhelmed by other follow-ups. Additionally, if you have access to the event’s mailing list, you can email attendees asking for feedback and offering your services to them as well.

Scaling up as a keynote speaker takes enormous patience and perseverance. Being a great presenter is not enough. You must prove that you offer both substance and style. This is done through your history of thought leadership and proven excellence in your field. This doesn’t happen overnight, but charting a course early means you can make your dream of earning income as a paid speaker a reality.

Learn more about becoming a speaker and leveling up your Authority in our Authority Hub.

Terry Stanton PR Manager

Terry Stanton

PR Campaign Manager

For Terry, it’s all about the message, and with an award-winning career that includes broadcasting, video production, digital marketing, and public relations, that’s not surprising. She began as a TV anchor and reporter, then moved into corpor...

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