As with marketing your writing, the key to successful marketing of your services as a speaker is matching your material with an audience's needs. This takes some research and legwork, of course. But it can pay off by raising your profile, which in turn makes you more attractive to agents and editors.
Of course, the reverse is also true. Building your visibility by getting your articles published can lead to requests for speeches and other personal appearances, requests for other articles, and maybe even interest from a book publisher. Once you get on the publishing and speaking ride, success in one area often leads to demand in the other.
In the past, book publishers have shown the most interest in authors who also are accomplished public speakers. But magazine publishers love having their regular contributors do speaking engagements, too; it's a good way to attract potential new subscribers, or to boost sales for a particular issue. If you're giving a conference or seminar to people who fit the magazine's target readership profile, the magazine may work out a way to provide copies to attendees in hopes of getting new subscribers.
Magazine editors have come to covet authors with strong platforms as much as book editors do. With subscriber bases declining and competition with other media continually on the rise, magazine editors and publishers are always looking for ways to boost their own profiles, even if it's a one-shot deal. Stephen King's name on the cover of a magazine for an article he contributed might not generate new subscribers, but it will boost that issue's sales considerably. King fans who are not particularly interested in the publication will buy it just for his article, thus boosting that month's revenues.
A speech doesn't have to be a major event. It can be as simple as a presentation to a Boy Scout troop or as extravagant as a keynote address to a state or national convention. When you're just beginning, though, it's best to aim at smaller targets and smaller audiences. The more experience you gain with these events, the more confident you'll be when it's time to address a larger crowd.
So what do you talk about to these smaller groups? Your regular profession is a good place to start. Schools and youth organizations often have career days or fairs and are always looking for people to discuss the basics of their jobs, what it takes to prepare for a career in a specific field, and so on. Many civic, business, and social organizations also offer special lunch programs, with guest speakers, for their members. A ten- or fifteen-minute speech usually is ample for these kinds of engagements.
Another advantage to this route is that it helps you build contacts and expand your network. This in turn can lead to more speaking engagements, which helps raise your profile, and that helps convince publishing professionals that you're a viable candidate for getting your work in print. Besides, public speaking opens up a whole range of possible article ideas. You can combine your own experience with expert information about such things as stage fright, answering awkward questions, preparation, and proper attire to craft compelling essays or articles for all kinds of magazine markets. If you get proficient enough, you might even get a good book idea out of your experience.
Book authors especially can benefit from getting on the lecture circuit. Studies indicate that as many as three of every ten conference attendees will buy the speaker's book at the event — a great way to boost sales while solidifying your platform for future projects.
Other Kinds of Speaking
There are other ways to reach audiences with the spoken word. Check out your local radio and television stations and see if they accept commentary from the public. Some television stations permit viewers to respond to editorials, for example, or to submit their own. Some radio stations do the same, and some, especially those with an all-news or all-talk format, encourage listeners to submit essays on a variety of topics — sort of the oral equivalent of the letter to the editor or guest editorial.
Investigate locally produced talk shows, too. If you've built a reputation in your community as an expert on a particular topic, you might be able to land a spot as a guest on one of these local shows. One way to approach these opportunities is to call or e-mail the host or producer with a suggestion for covering your topic.