In a discussion group for speakers, someone recently asked the question:
What has helped you the MOST at booking speaking gigs?
Now, you may be reading this post as an author thinking to yourself I don’t have to book speaking gigs! but every author appearance you make, whether it’s at a conference, in a bookstore, with a book discussion group, etc. is, in its own way, a speaking gig whether you’re getting paid to do it or not.
It took me a while to ease into a system of booking speaking gigs that worked for me and was repeatable with my clients.
Here’s the response that I gave to the question.
This may sound like a silly response, but I mean it in all seriousness… I come across all sorts of opportunities, and for a long time, I pursued them by the seat of my pants.
When I stepped back, set up a CRM, added all the conferences I was interested in (including their dates and locations), reached out to organizers to find out when submissions opened, noted that info in the CRM, set tasks in the CRM to remind me to make contact, created templates for the gist of what I wanted to say (that would, of course, be customized to the individual I was sending it to), etc. Things really became much easier.
Every month, I could go into the CRM, see who I needed to reach out to, etc. I knew what my process was for approaching conferences I wanted to speak at, and I followed it. Having a tool and a process made all the difference in the world AND allowed me to delegate the outreach when I was so inclined.
So, what’s a CRM you might ask?
A CRM is a Customer Relationship Manager system.
There are plenty of them out there. Some are online. Some are software you use on your computer. There are apps as well.
Some are free. Others are premium.
They all offer different features, so it’s important to figure out exactly what you want the system to do for you.
Personally, I use Zoho CRM.
It’s free for up to 10 users on your account. You can customize it to collect your leads the way you want, and it integrates nicely with other applications.
I can define templates for reaching out to my “leads” (in this case, event organizers, association contacts, bookstore owners, discussion group leaders, podcast hosts, etc.).
So, once the CRM is configured the way I want it, here’s what I do.
For each conference I’m interested in pursuing, I create a “lead.” Here’s what my customized blank lead page looks like.
I capture as much information as I can about the conference. When I first start, it may be minimal information. For example, for the example below, I couldn’t readily find an email address, but I did locate the phone number. So I recorded that.
As long as I have some kind of contact information (or a form), it’s a good start for a lead.
I always use the Description field to capture something from the conference description, whether it’s a mission statement, promo copy, etc. That way I have a quick reminder as to the focus of the conference and what it considers important.
The saved record also has other information I can capture further down the page. So, if you scroll down you see this.
My next step is to add any notes I want to make regarding what I’ve found out about the conference, and what I think might be a good offer for the event planner. This saves me having to try to remember what I’d planned to do with this particular conference later on.
After that, I create a new task.
For this particular conference, I found it too late to bother the event organizer for this year’s conference. It’s later this week!
As a courtesy, I don’t want to contact them next week either. They need a chance to recover from all that’s gone into this year’s conference first.
But I can guarantee you, within the next two months, they’ll already be starting to think next year’s conference if this is an annual event. So, that’s an ideal time for me to reach out and ask about next year’s submission guidelines.
Therefore, I set a task for myself to follow up on this lead.
At that time, I’ll come back into this record and send an email, using one of my pre-defined templates, to request information on their conference submission guidelines. Since the message is already written, I only have to customize minor portions of it to make it applicable to this particular conference. So, the outreach only takes a few minutes.
I’ll update this lead record with new information as I get it, so that it becomes as comprehensive and robust as possible, making future outreach that much easier.
When I find out the submission requirements for the event, I’ll set another task for myself, with the appropriate due date, and come back here to send another templated email that contains my proposed talk topic and a link to my speakers one-sheet and audio samples. I’ll also include one or two endorsements from other event planners I’ve worked with recently.
Using a CRM in this way allows me to create a repeatable process that I can hand off to a virtual assistant or tackle quickly one at a time as time allows. Each month, I can go in, look at the outreach I’d planned to do that month, and do it quickly right from within the system.
When it comes to sending emails to my contacts for speaking engagements, I prefer to do it directly from Zoho so that the outreach is recorded there. However, any responses I receive will come directly into my normal email client. So I don’t have to worry about missing anything.
Having a tool and process in place is essential for being proactive about booking speaking engagements and author appearances. It ensures that you do the right thing at the right time with a minimal amount of effort. It can’t get any easier!