How Do I Become a Paid Public Keynote Speaker?

It is more and more common these days to see people obtaining public speaking jobs. There are the informational sessions where speakers are trying to sell you information, and there is also the famed $20,000 speaking gigs and TED talks. How does someone get a paid speaking gig? It is not as hard as it seems; it takes effort and persistence, and there are some easy tips for lining up speaking gigs.


  • Establish credibility. It is not enough to claim to be an expert, you have to sound like one. Identify your audience, be it an industry, a group of organizations you want to speak for, or subject matter. Jim Harper from the Cato Institute said that if you, “…go to the events that interest you, and pretend like you know what you are talking about, pretty soon people will believe you! That’s what I did.”

  • Put Yourself Out There. Speak for free in places where there will be people who can hire you for a fee. When a person is starting out, it becomes a matter of exposure. Check your local Kiwanis, Lions Club, Chamber of Commerce or Rotary Clubs.

Look for three events you feel qualified to speak at and introduce yourself! Find a topic that fits their event with a specific title and description. Give a brief paragraph on why you are qualified to speak. Make it an easy choice for them to select you (so study up on their event).  Ignite and Pecha Kucha events happen regularly, and those are great opportunities to cut your teeth. If academics are more your speed, H-Net regularly updates its Calls for Papers.


  • Speaker Directories. There are websites that list speaking opportunities for a fee. Speaker Services and Speaker Zone are two great resources to check out.

  • Network, network, network! Smile when you deliver your speech when appropriate, audiences always respond better to smiles. Vocal coach Jessica Poepsel says, “Even when on the phone, people sound better when they smile. I always tell my voice actors to smile when giving lines.”

Ask for referrals at the end, right from your platform. Keynote speaker Rich Fettke says this when he speaks to groups, “As you can tell, I am really passionate about what I do. If you know of a group who could benefit from this message, please hand me a business card afterwards.”


Make sure to invite prospective clients to future events so they can see you in action.

  • Create a Web Site! With a web site, clients should have a one-stop location where they can decide if you are perfect for their event. Include downloadable one-sheet brochures, testimonials, program descriptions, media coverage (if any), results gained for other clients, and your speaker video.
  • Join Organizations where people can hire you or can refer you to others. Review these memberships annually to make sure the fees are worth it.


With these tips, the jump from speaking for free and speaking for fee can be a less daunting prospect! Patience and persistence is key, here. Don’t give up if your first few attempts don’t give you the greatest results.