When I started out as a public speaker, I had to hustle to find gigs. I sent cold emails, reached out to old friends and former colleagues, and submitted proposal after proposal to conferences.
But today, 90% of my speaking opportunities come from people who reach out to me first. And one of the best ways I've learned to make that transition is by using LinkedIn strategically. Even if you have your own website, your LinkedIn profile will often rank higher in search results when event organizers start doing their research. Here's how to make sure they find you.
In case you don't know this already, LinkedIn lets you remove the job title that automatically populates in your headline field so you can replace it with your own wording. And if you're trying to land more speaking gigs, simply inserting "public speaker" in your headline performs a little double duty.
First, it optimizes your profile to turn up in search results for "public speaker" both on LinkedIn itself as well as on Google. Second, if someone is searching for a speaker who's an expert in your subject area (more on this momentarily), all they'll see in LinkedIn search results are each person’s name, photo, and headline. If they see your subject-area credentials and "public speaker" in your headline, you'll probably jump to the top of their list.
Keywords associated with the topic you're trying to become an expert speaker in should be sprinkled throughout your LinkedIn profile. After all, event organizers want to bring in subject-matter experts, not just people with speaking chops, so everything from your summary to your job descriptions should include keywords they might be using in a search.
To know how and where to insert the right keywords, think specifically about what people who are searching want: If you were the organizer for the ideal event you're gunning to speak at, how would you search for you? Chances are there are many different types of opportunities you'd like to be considered for that all touch on your expertise. So don't hesitate to include broader topics in your headline. If you’re an expert on Instagram and Snapchat, for instance, you might want to use "social media" in your headline and then dive into more specific keywords in your summary and job descriptions.
Too often left blank, the "Summary" section is where you can make the case that you are indeed an expert in your field. This section should be written in the first person, because people like to connect with actual people. Aim for a conversational tone here, not something formal that you’d put on a resume.
This is where you need to be a little bit of a storyteller: How did you get where you are today? Were you a "mathlete" in high school who grew up to invent a proprietary algorithm? Did you have your first short story published at age 14, and now you’re an successful editor?
Here’s the thing about hiring a speaker: Event organizers want someone with an interesting story to share. If you can tell a compelling story in your summary, they might not even read any further before reaching out to you.
If you create a separate job listing for "public speaker," you give yourself some space to speak directly about your public speaking experience. You might want to include information on how many keynotes you’ve delivered, the typical size of your audience, and any accolades you’ve earned. This is also another great place to list your topics and get in those keywords.
Get in the habit of letting organizers know after you speak that you will be sending them a recommendation request through LinkedIn. When you send the request, you’ll be able to specify which position the recommendation will fall under, and you can select the "public speaker" position you've created. Now, when people view that section of your profile, they’ll have your recommendations front and center.
If you have a speaking reel, include that under your summary so people can access it immediately after reading your story. You can also place full-length speaking videos here. The point is to let them sample a little so they know they’re getting a great speaker.
In addition, if you have any speaking engagements that were tied to specific jobs, you can include videos under those individual job descriptions, too.
LinkedIn Publisher is now available to all users, so take advantage of it. You can publish either original posts here or republish (with permission) any blogs you’ve written on other sites.
The value of LinkedIn Publisher is tough to understate. Blog posts you write here will show up second on your profile—between your headline box and your summary section. Assuming you write about topics you speak about (and you should), this will further establish you as an expert in your field.
If you don’t get permission to republish—no sweat: You can still feature posts and articles you’ve written on other sites through the "Add Media" option under each position when you’re in the editor.
Getting your LinkedIn profile optimized to position yourself as a speaker can take a little time, but that investment will pay off when it starts running on autopilot and you’re getting invites for speaking gigs while you sleep.