As the Retreats Director at a large Christian camp, I was responsible to hire speakers for over 20 events per year. I get inquiries almost daily from people who’d like to be among them. I imagine now I’ll get even more.
This week I received an inquiry from a youth pastor at a growing church that attends some of our retreats. He expressed his interest in speaking and offered his availability. That wasn’t so unusual. What was unusual: when I gave him a shot list of things I require from potential speakers, he jumped in to motion to provide what I had asked for. Almost no one ever does.
If you want to get hired to speak, by me, or at any other camp, retreat or conference, here are a few things to do before you make contact.
- Google yourself. If you’re not on the first page of results, or if there are results that shed a negative light on you, fix it. There are a number of great (free) tools to engage that will help you create an online profile that shows up high in search results. I have found my page at www.about.me/misterericwoods to be very effective as a centralized place to direct web traffic which will connect people to my blog, business website, and various social media connections.
- Get references. If I’ve never met you or never heard you speak, it’s unlikely I’ll take your word that you’re a “great speaker with lots of experience at camps and conferences.” If you are, though, be sure to have written references from others who have hired you to speak at events similar to what I’m hosting… and who were happy about their decision. These should not be your mother, your pastor, or kids from your youth group. If you can get a reference from someone else I have hired in the past, that will surely get my attention. EJ Swanson, who is new to our speaking lineup this year, does a great job with references from people I respect on the Testimonies page of his website. (http://www.ejswanson.org/p/testimonies)
- Prepare a statement of faith. You can’t possibly expect me to discern entirely from your tweets and status updates whether you will be a good fit for our organization in terms of what you believe and what you communicate. Of course, I’ll be sure to scan your tweets and statuses, but I’ll also want to know that you have thought through what you believe and can put it into writing. This should be no more than one page; I’m not looking for your entire dissertation.
- Make a video of yourself speaking. One of the things I will ask for is a video of you speaking live before a similar audience, of similar size, to the event I’m hosting. If you’ve only ever spoken in front of 30 youth group kids or at your home church, it’s going to be hard for me to gauge how you’ll do in front of a thousand middle school students. If all you have is audio, that’s better than nothing, but it doesn’t do as good a job at communicating your charisma, stage presence and audience engagement. Even a video recorded on a cell phone is better than no video.
- Learn about my camp and retreats. You should already know what kinds of events I host, who the audiences are, and the kinds of speakers I normally hire. This information is readily available on my camp’s website. There, you can find links to some of the other speakers I work with, and get a sense as to whether you are ready to reach out to me. If you contact me before you’re ready, I may not look again for a long time. It may make sense to wait a year and get a few more events under your belt, and record a great video, before you send me an email.
Once you’ve done all those things, it’s time to reach out. Tomorrow I’ll give you some tips on staying out of my “booking” folder and actually getting a reply.
Is there anything else you’re doing to get your speaking career rolling?