One organization that needs speakers almost every week, for 20-30 minute presentations, is Rotary International. Rotary is a service organization with more than 1.2 members world wide. You won’t get paid to speak, but you will get great experience and you may make contacts that result in paid engagements.
When I was just starting out, I spoke to 7 Rotary Clubs in one month, polished my content and even ended up with a paid engagement because someone who was in the audience needed a speaker for a non-profit event a couple of months later.
So, how can you get booked to speak at a Rotary meeting?
1. If you know a Rotarian, let them know you would like to speak one of their weekly meetings. Ask whom you should contact.
2. Find Rotary clubs in your area online. Although, you may have to make initial contact via a “contact us” form, the person you want to look for is the “program chair.” Timing does matter. I found out the hard way that May and June are not good months to contact clubs, as their new club officers take office July 1. But, even so, when I contacted 28 clubs via email in mid-May I received replies back from 13, 7 of which I was able to book for presentations in September. You may see a club that is a “Rotaract” club. “Rotaract” clubs are for members 18-30.
3. Set up a chart, if you are going to be contacting more than two or three clubs. I used an Excel spreadsheet and had columns with the following information: date of contact, contact name/email, club website. You can set up additional columns for those clubs that you set up dates with: President’s name, Program Chair name and the date/time of the presentation, location, etc. I also color-coded the rows. If I set up a presentation, the row was green.
4. Write an email offer to present. Here is the one I wrote:
I am contacting you regarding offering to speak at your Rotary Club this fall/winter. I do a few free programs as part of my overall marketing plan.
I am a local author and speaker on communication topics. My book, Small Talk Big Results: Chit Chat Your Way to Success! was published last year.
I have 2 talks that I would suggest for your club:
- Beyond Bullet Points: Business Storytelling (short workshop)
- Communication Tips from Tots: What I Learned from My Children (inspirational talk)
Whom should I contact about getting on the schedule for Sept-December, 2011?
I will touch base with you after Memorial Day, if I don’t hear from you.
(note: I encouraged clubs to choose “business storytelling” when they got back with me, and that’s what they all did choose)
And now for the little tips that make a difference:
-Confirm via email a few days in advance. Confirm time and location. I had two clubs that met in different locations the week I spoke.
-Prepare everything a day or two prior to the meeting (have a checklist):
–Visit the club website and read up on their service projects or any other interesting tidbit that you might incorporate into your presentation
–Print out a map to the location (even if you use GPS)
–Have your contact’s phone number with you, just in case you get lost or stuck in traffic.
–Always bring your introduction, even if you emailed it ahead of time. If your name is even a little bit difficult, write it out phonetically. Above my last name (Windingland), I wrote “Win-deen-land.”
–Bring your presentation notes and any props you plan to use
–Bring business cards
–Bring extra copies of hand-outs/promotional materials.
–Bring pens if you want them to write. Not everybody has a pen.
–Don’t plan on using PowerPoint, unless you are bringing your own equipment. Some clubs may have a projector and screen, but many don’t. Check ahead.
–No hard selling, but if you have a product available for sale after your talk, bring change (or a credit card reader like Square). Don’t expect to sell much.
Come at least 15 minutes early to meet and greet the Rotarians and guests (they will feel more connected with you and you might get some more tidbits to use in your presentation). You might not have time to eat. Don’t bother. You risk staining your clothes or getting food in your teeth.
Confirm the time you need to finish and do not go even 1 minute over!
It’s a nice gesture to put a dollar in their “Happy Bucks” collection. Be prepared to say something you are happy about.
Plan on speaking 20-30 minutes, typically 20 with time for questions. My presentation was interactive, so I didn’t have a Q&A time.
Don’t do individual, reflective activities at the end. People might take the opportunity to leave early.
If you have an inexpensive product that you can give away, have a drawing to collect business cards, if you feel the crowd is appropriate (At a couple of meetings, the members were largely retired, so I didn’t do a drawing. I just gave away a couple of copies of my book for use in one of their programs). If you do get cards, you can follow up with LinkedIn invitations to connect. If someone connects with you and speaks highly of your presentation, you can ask for a LinkedIn recommendation.
If you want to speak more and eventually speak for a fee, start out by speaking for free at your local Rotary clubs.