I was talking to a conference planner not long ago, pitching some of the Speaker Sponsor speakers, and he told me that if a speaker was any good they wouldn’t need to market themselves or get anyone to do it for them. Really? Well, I guess if you’re Hillary Clinton or Tony Robbins, you can basically just sit back and let the speaking jobs come to you, but for most speakers I strongly believe you need to get out and let people know who you are and what you do through speaker marketing.

Apparently, every speaker I talked to agreed, though everyone markets in a different way. Here are some of their responses to the question on speaker marketing and how they do it:


For sure speakers have to market themselves! Especially when you’re new to speaking on your own, without the exposure that comes from a corporate position or your book publisher, you’re unlikely to be “found” by conference or meeting planners. I’ve been speaking since I was in my 20s, when I began sponsoring marketing workshops in 1979 while finishing my MBA and writing a book on small business marketing. In that era before webinars, before Skype, before audio-conferencing (and before significant continuing education budget cuts at employers), it seemed easier to market yourself. Today, people have less time for events and less money for workshop registration or travel, and there’s more competition online from free or low-cost webinars.

Besides speaking myself, I do publicity for a book publisher, and through that, help place authors as speakers. My experience is that conference planners go for physically attractive and dynamic speakers who market well—even if those speakers are presenting nothing but hype. The key seems to be “upbeat.” It’s the “change your life [husband/child/business] in six easy steps” quick-fix approach that seems to sell. Those of us who are realistic and want to provide practical how-to’s that involve more work than daydreams must market MUCH harder. It is also very hard for us to distinguish ourselves from those who are using speeches only to promote their businesses or books. You can’t use negative selling, the “I guarantee you, I’m not one of those who will get up and say ‘Hire me, hire me.’”

And obviously, if you have a book published by a recognized publisher, or if you have a well-respected self-published book, you should be out making bookstore and library appearances and that should bring you to the attention of meeting planners. (I self-published regional job-search guides for more than a decade starting in 1990 and that led to paid speaking gigs, although usually for employers or colleges rather than conferences.)

Linda Carlson



A Seattle marketing consultant, and a speaker on marketing communications, publishing and regional history, Linda Carlson is the author of more than a dozen books.


Just as in the book world, it’s not enough to leave all the marketing to your publisher–so as a speaker, you cannot rely only on bureaus and agencies. They have hundreds of speakers in their roster, and they 1) get paid on percentage and 2) know people respond better to famous speakers, so they will push their a-list. The commission on a $25K speaker is a lot nicer than for a $5K one, and people have heard of the presenter already. From their point of view, it’s not really any more work, and pays five times better. Then they have their backup list for when the meeting planner says “too expensive. Who else have you got?”

But even though I’ve been speaking as part of my business for about 30 years, and get terrific feedback from audiences, I wouldn’t feel comfortable charging $25K. It just doesn’t feel right to me. My rate is $10,000.



Green marketing and business ethics success expert Shel Horowitz has been blogging on the intersections of ethics, politics, media, marketing, and sustainability since 2004.


I agree with you totally! Speakers and professionals who market their creative services and expertise definitely should market themselves – to both promote and increase their status in their particular field and be an active contributor and influencer in their community. A marketing and PR plan might include:

– Writing articles and posting on LinkedIn publishing and other target market blogs to establish credibility and pique interest

– An active role in social media

– connecting with target market and other groups via Twitter, LinkedIn utilizing the 80/20 rule

– Building a following and promoting speaking engagements, books and workshops via an email list, FB marketing, snail mail, etc

– Creating Google HangOuts or webinars to share knowledge and build a community

– Attending/sponsoring events where target audiences may gather, especially before launching a new program or learning opportunity – Being a part of a circle of influencers and panels, etc.

– Giving back to promote a cause

These are just a few ways that speakers and experts can become more visible to increase their visibility and help them stand out from a crowd. If you had a choice to pick between two speakers with equal credentials, would you pick one who was ‘out there’ involved on social media sharing their message, or one who had more of a low profile?

Robin Samora, Founder and CEO


PR, Promotions & Branding Creating Fresh and Engaging Campaigns that Get You Noticed


While there are speakers who are represented by bureaus, the majority do market themselves. Many of them exist on referral business, but they still have to keep “top of mind” presence even to the people who love them. Marketing is a part of everyone’s business. Why does Coca-Cola keep marketing if no one thinks of them first? Of course they do. Plus there are always new markets appearing and new needs. With all the messages out there, you have to stay in front of your target audience. I vote for marketing oneself 100%!

— Dr. Gayle Carson CSP CMC Author of Best Selling “Big Ideas for your Business,” “Winning Ways,” and “How to Be an S.O.B–A Spunky Old Broad Who Kicks Butt.”


One Response to “Do Speakers Need to Market Themselves?”

  1. Robin Samora says:

    Great article, Julie and thanks for including my contribution. I think it’s important for speakers to remember that the content they created over the years as an industry expert is worth its weight in gold as far as self-marketing. It can be used in snippets or in bigger pieces as part of a Social PR campaign, white papers, ebooks, interviews and — let’s not forget training and products. If you set the intention to be a thought leader and share your information, speaking is wonderful opportunity to reach a room — but thousands more can find out about you if you invest in taking the time and your message to the marketplace. You are your brand wherever you go!

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