Speaker Positioning for Associations: 3 Keys to Success



Since the mid-1990s, I have been presenting the topic, “Sell Your Speaking to Associations through the Back Door” at the annual convention of the National Speakers Association (NSA), at NSA chapter meetings, at international speaking associations, and at my own intensive retreats. The noticeable red flag that I most frequently see that stands in the way of speaker success is positioning. Your brand is a piece of your marketplace positioning strategy which is important, however too little time is spent by speakers in positioning themselves in such a way that trade associations and professional societies can buy their services. If they cannot fit you into one of their speaker slot niches or categories, you most likely will not get hired.


Sell to the market, and not your ego

The decision makers that are selecting speakers for their meetings are looking for the value they believe their members need…not your passion! Sometimes the happy coincidence is that they are both one in the same…but not frequently. Associations are looking for both hard and soft skills for their members but not “How Needlepoint Makes You Happy” or other random topics. The topics most desired are traditional to running a successful business or practice…perhaps from a new window? They are not looking for “Chess for Beginners.” You must sell to what the market wants, regardless of your feelings of what they SHOULD want.


Consistency of topic

Nobody is an expert on 10 topics…perhaps a couple? One is always better. When your website offers 10 different topics, you are perceived as a handyman style trainer. Those are the persons that are only getting $500 for a speech…which is okay if that’s your thing. The content experts and thought leaders that have positioned themselves well are the ones getting $5,000 to $10,000, or more, for their speeches. You need to decide on which you are, stick to it, and drive it as part of your positioning. Additionally, be careful of positioning one speech as pro-something and another as anti-the same thing. You must drive your unique expertise in one direction.


Clarity of topic

I once told an attendee at one of my intensives that her topic, “Helping Loved Ones Pass” would not likely sell at many associations. After digging into her material, it was obvious to me that she was really speaking about productivity…which is quite popular with association decision makers. It’s not that you cannot share what you are passionate about but you have to wrap it in a package that sells. Productivity, leadership, marketing, sales, teambuilding, customer service, HR, generational issues, etc. are solid topics for association meetings. You simply have to wrap your brilliance in the common topics so the association decision makers know which “pigeon hole” to insert you into. Do that and they can easily book you for an upcoming meeting!

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