How to Build Referrals and Become a Nationally Known Speaker

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This post is a special Make a Referral Week guest post featuring education on the subject of referrals and word of mouth marketing and making 1000 referrals to 1000 small businesses – check it out at Make a Referral Week 2010

Have a Presence

The first step in becoming a paid speaker is to position yourself so that you can provide value. Your product is what you say, so if you communicate intelligent things online you are on the right track. Twitter, blogs, online video and podcasts are great platforms to express your message to the world. This gives potential clients an excellent place to get a free sneak preview of what you can provide. Video works great because the audience actually feels like they get to know you.

Your website should say exactly what you stand for and what you can provide for an audience, it should scream “John Jantsch is awesome!” but not “I am so awesome! I’m god’s greatest gift to earth!” Nobody likes someone who over hypes him/herself. The proof is in the pudding, so let your work speak for itself; that’s why content in the form of text, video or audio works so well.

It is incredible how many referrals you can attract by simply having a presence. Online, all people need to do is make a quick introduction on Twitter and potential clients will start checking out your content. Referrals are so powerful because they are often done by trusted friends–when a friend directs someone to quality content of yours, it doubles the impact.

Build your Bio

Your bio should solidify your credibility. If it’s not up to par yet, check out these 59 Ways to Grow Your Credibility. Bio’s need to be short and to the point. Oftentimes they are read for your introduction so don’t just rattle off all your fancy degrees and awards, make it sound like you are a real person. Adding humor is a major bonus, as most intros are incredibly bland and boring. Your bio is just as important as a resume and if you aren’t comfortable writing your own bio, have a friend write it for you.

Adding in your biggest press mentions is critical in growing that credibility. As soon as your potential client or audience hears “Whoa he’s been in BusinessWeek?”, they start to pay attention.

Have a Speaking Tab on your website

Here is where your bio, headshot, testimonials, speaking resume, highlight reel and description of your value driven talk go. This should be very obviously placed on your site and linked with your about page. Now, when people find your site and want to learn more about you, they’ll automatically know you are a speaker and learn more than they ever wanted to know about you.

Don’t forget to include your email address or booking agent’s contact information so they can get in contact with you.

Oftentimes referrals in the speaking industry come from people who say “I just heard John Janstch speak, he was awesome”. They might not actually know John well enough to put you in contact with him, so you’ll have to be found on Google. Reaching your homepage or your speaking tab is what will get the referral in the door. You might not ever hear where the referral was generated, so make sure you make it as easy as possible for them to find you.

Have a hook

If you ever wanted to get paid to speak again, you’ll need to have a point to your talk. Reel them in early with some thought provoking ideas, maybe a joke or exercise to get everyone involved. Your first minute of your talk is where the audience passes judgment so get them on your team early and let them know what they are going to get out of your performance because they are probably already wondering “why am I here.”

Your talk should do two things: 1. Teach the audience something 2. Tell your story in a way your audience can relate.

How do conversations spark in the world of speaking referrals? “Matt Wilson used this awesome example about G-String businesses 2 minutes into his talk.” If people don’t remember what you talked about it, they won’t spread the word for you. Have something that hooks them in and keeps them thinking about it days after the talk. The 1-2 week period is when most word of mouth referrals will happen.

Start Small

Don’t expect to get paid right off the bat if you’ve never spoken anywhere before, so start off small. Local high schools, colleges and organizations are always looking for some inspiration. Call them and get your foot in the door. Search and call the president of these groups, they are always looking for a way to fill meetings. If you have something to teach others, schedule a seminar with a local library or chamber of commerce. Not only is it a great way to build your resume, but it’s also a fantastic way to network. Have plenty of business cards on hand.

It is in your community where you are going to start to form relationships that lead to referrals. Small business referrals start by having your go-to accountant, lawyer, real estate broker, etc. and drive them business. If they saw you speak at the Chamber of Commerce, why wouldn’t they want to bring you in to the local Toastmasters group?

Ask to get paid

Josh Shipp of says, “How did I make the leap from non-paid to paid? Watch: I asked to be paid. At first $500. Then $1,000. Then $2,500. Now $5,000.
If you’re good at what you do, you’ll find the more you charge the more demand you’re in and the better clients you’ll get. You get what you charge for.”

Referrals come by truly helping other people. If you deliver on content, inspire them and give them value to take home, then people will not only be happy to pay you, but happy to refer you to others.

Build Testimonials

Your speaking resume, should include links to any press from the event. This provides instant credibility to say you rocked out on the big stage. Testimonials are literally referrals in written or video form. They are recommendations that you can use anywhere. When you put them online they have the power for millions to view which grows trust with every one of your potential clients.

Collect videos from your talks as people are walking out or come up to you after and favorite every nice thing people say about me on Twitter and link it up!

Creating a highlight reel builds both social proof and your expertise, by showing a mix of positive reactions in a live setting and clips of you on stage. The people who speak positively are literally making their referral to the whole world.

Have an Agent or Bureau

If you are looking for more speaker referrals, it helps if you are paying someone a referral fee to connect you with more engagements. Bureaus and agents typically work on a percentage basis of everything they book for you, leaving very little risk or upfront investment on your part. These are the people with connections to shop you around, so why not give them a referral fee?

Start Hustling

Want to do it on your own? It’s time to roll up your sleeves and get people to refer you. Start asking people who compliment you who they know; these people often know tons of people in their industry that would also benefit from hearing your talk. Ask them who they know and be upfront about it. You just helped them by delivering massive value with a great performance and you are looking to help more people in your niche. If they refer you to someone else and you are a rock star, it’ll be huge benefit to them too!

Referrals all come down to over delivering with your service and wow-ing your audience enough to start some chatter. Word of mouth really works!

Matt Wilson is co-founder of urging people to drop the 9-5 and get passionate about something. Follow him on Twitter @MattWilsontv as the Gen-Y spokesperson looking to help every young entrepreneur on the planet.


make a referral week, Matt Wilson, speaking

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