Keeping the Lights On: Self-Promotion for Speakers

non-salesy marketing self-promotion strategies speaker marketing speaker self-promotion speaking business growth speaking engagement tactics

Inflation is high, energy costs are soaring, the cost of living continues to go up.  Let’s look at how we can keep the lights on and bring in some money to get us through the winter.


But before we dive into that I’d like to tell you about a great book I’ve been reading,  which I highly recommend, it’s by David C. Baker – Secret Tradecraft of Elite Advisors, and in it he shares a “Time to Starve calculation’.  The calculation adds the following:

  • Cash in the bank
  • Savings
  • Accounts Receivable (invoiced work)
  • Work in progress (work completed not yet billed)
  • Sales (work you are more than 80% sure of getting)


You then take that total and divide it by your average monthly expenses and that gives you a Time to Starve, i.e., how long it will take you to run out of money.  I don't know what that ideal figure should be, but we all have a number that makes us comfortable.  If when you’ve made your calculation, you don’t like the number you are left with you might want to read on.


The quickest way to increase your Time to Starve number is to do more business while reducing your costs.  To do the former means self-promotion. I know I can already feel you getting ‘the ick’ and thinking please don’t make me promote myself (‘the ick’ - I’m so down with the kids).  Stay with me, I’m going to make it less painful for you.


Promoting yourself can often feel like walking a tightrope. Lean too much on the modest side, and you risk fading into the background. Tip too far towards bravado, and you might come off as the dreaded 'salesy' speaker. So, how do you strike that perfect balance? Let's look at some genteel strategies that are unobtrusive yet impossible to ignore.


1: Organic Conversations


Imagine you're at a garden party. You wouldn't barge in with a megaphone announcing your achievements. Instead, you'd engage in the natural ebb and flow of conversation, weaving in mentions of your work subtly. Apply this to your online interactions. Comment on relevant posts, share insights, and let the conversation lead to your expertise without forcing it.  Let me stress the ‘let the conversation lead to your expertise part’, I recently had someone actively promote his services in a comment on one of my posts, it didn't add value or get any interaction, it was too pushy.  Don’t be that person.


2: Do a Max Bygraves and tell a story


I know, most of you are far too young or too international to have any idea who the entertainer Max Bygraves was, but he used to start his act with “I want to tell you a story”. There's nothing quite like a good yarn to draw people in so do a Max. Share stories of your speaking engagements, the challenges you've helped clients overcome, or the standing ovation you modestly didn't expect. It's not bragging if it's a narrative that educates or entertains.


3: The Humblebrag


Continuing with the theme of bragging, or rather the humblebrag which is a nifty little trick—it's sharing your success in a way that acknowledges your gratitude or surprise. For instance, "I'm so honoured to have been chosen to speak at [Event] among so many talented individuals." It's a way of saying, 'I'm doing well' without saying, 'Look at me.'  I’m sure you’ve seen it done a few times on LinkedIn.


4: The Halo Effect


Align yourself with other respected professionals or causes. When you're seen in the company of excellence, their halo gives you a shine. Collaborate on a webinar, contribute to a joint article, or support a charity event. It's promotion by association, and it's splendidly effective.  One very clever speaker when taking his speaking international interviewed his competitors and more successful speakers on his podcast.  When clients Googled his competitors, his name came up on the list.  Could you do something similar?


5: The Soft Sell (not the band, different spelling)


Sometimes, the soft sell can be as simple as a P.S. in your newsletter: "P.S. I've got a few slots open for speaking engagements this autumn—let's chat." It's there, it's visible, but it's not a hard pitch. It's the equivalent of leaving your business card at the end of a meeting—non-intrusive but clear.  Wonder where you might have seen that before, hint, scroll down 😊


6: Show, Don't Tell


Use your social media platforms to show yourself in action. A picture of you on stage, a snippet of a speech, or a behind-the-scenes look at your preparation process. It's visual proof of your expertise without a single 'salesy' word needed.


7: Educate Your Audience


Offer value in the form of tips, insights, or industry news. When you educate, you promote your expertise indirectly. It's like teaching someone to fish rather than selling them a fish—you become the go-to angler.  🧐 Did you recognise that this is one of my favourite strategies?


8: Use Testimonials


Let others sing your praises. Share testimonials and feedback from past clients. It's not you saying how brilliant you are; it's someone else, which is always more palatable.


9: The Exclusive Offer


Create an offer that feels exclusive, like a limited-time book deal, a new signature speech launch price for the first 3 clients to book, a loyalty programme for regular repeat bookings. It's a way of promoting your services without the hard sell.


Promoting yourself as a speaker doesn't have to be a cringe-worthy icky affair. The more you do the easier it gets and once you have more business coming in, the less you need to worry about the rising cost of keeping living. 


Good luck, I’m off to turn up the thermostat.



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