Why You Aren’t Getting Booked as a Speaker

The following two tabs change content below.
Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson is an award-winning storyteller, author, and comedian who teaches you how to harness the power of your story to connect, engage, and get results. In this blog, Kelly focuses on the business of professional speaking. Kelly’s post day is Friday. If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

Latest posts by Kelly Swanson (see all)

Why You Aren't Getting Booked as a Speaker - by Kelly Swanson, Motivational Speaker and Coach

Problems Getting Booked as a Speaker?

I just don’t understand why nobody is calling me?

Why is she making that fee and I’m not?

How do I get the bureau’s attention?

Giving a Speech is EASY. Getting the job is HARD.

There is a general consensus in the speaking industry, that giving the speech is much easier than getting the booking. It’s true. As keynote speakers, we often come into the business with no idea how to sell and market ourselves.  And even when we do figure it out, it’s still hard to get those prime keynote slots in a conference.

Word-of-mouth is really the way speakers get booked.

Yes, it’s true.  Most clients are looking for the speaker they have heard before, or someone that client trusts who has heard the speaker before.

So what does this mean for the speaker?

It means your best marketing is what you do on that platform. So maybe you should spend as much time on your product (the speech) or even MORE time on the product, than you do on begging people to buy the product. Because here’s the big disconnect that I see.

Wait–let me tell you a story instead.

It explains it better.

That Speaker Who Doesn’t Know What They’re Saying Behind His Back

The speaking business is a really big business–not this small intimate “circuit” where everybody knows everybody, and if you can just get here you have it  made.   But it’s still small enough that when people talk, we hear. It’s still small enough for speakers to get a reputation. It’s small enough that we’re only a couple of people away from someone who can give us the scoop on another speaker.

Last week I got the scoop on a speaker.  Or better to say, I got the opinion of a bureau (an agent for speakers) who had booked the speaker enough to get an educated opinion on that speaker’s performance from consistent client feedback and watching that speaker live.

The bureau’s take on this speaker?  “He’s a mediocre speaker who has a few good moments.”


A mediocre speaker with a few good moments is a speaker who is going to have a hard time getting jobs.

And here’s the real insight for me–I KNOW that speaker. That speaker is my friend. And I have heard that speaker complain because he’s not getting booked enough. I’ve heard that speaker say, “I raised my fee because I’m that good.”  I’ve heard that speaker say, “If HE can be charging that, so can I.”  I heard that speaker say, “My audiences love me. I get standing ovations.”


“He’s a mediocre speaker who has a good few moments.”

What We See Is Not Always What They See

This was a big learning lesson for me.  That I am probably not as good as I think I am.

And even if I am, there is room for better.

And I’m not the best one to determine how good I am.

So How Do We Know How Good We Are?

You’re probably not going to like this answer, but if you’re good you’re getting booked.  Okay, so they can’t book you if they don’t know you’re here. And it is word-of-mouth that drives this train. And it does take a while for you to build a reputation and plant enough seeds for them to sprout. And sometimes speakers who aren’t that good still get the job because they were better at selling it, or were the only one that client knew about.


The truth still remains. At the end of the day, if you’re good, you’ll get booked.  If you’re good, people will pass your name around and tell others about you and bring you back.

So if you’re not getting booked–not getting booked enough–not getting asked back–and you’ve been trying this more than five years–then you need to take a good hard look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are as good as you think.

Good News about Getting Booked

Now don’t crawl in a corner and cry. I haven’t insulted your character or your hair. I’ve simply pointed out that maybe your product needs some work.

And here’s my belief:

Yes, talent can’t be bought. But every speaker can become better with a better script, and a better technique.  It is attainable. And it’s something we should always be striving for.

Just as musicians never stop practicing. Just as Michael Jackson never stopped crafting every single moment to make it even better. Just as Broadway shows never stop rehearsing.

We should never settle at good-enough. Good-enough doesn’t get you booked.

I had a coaching client tell me:

“Kelly, I already thought I was a great speaker with a great speech. I would never have said that I needed help with my speech. But you took it and showed me what it could become. You showed me all this stuff I’d never seen before. I fought it, but I tried it anyway. And it brought down the house. I already got rave reviews on my speeches, but you took me to a different place and a different level.”

Why You Aren't Getting Booked as a Speaker by Kelly Swanson, motivational speaker
This is not a commercial for my coaching–unless you need it–it’s a commercial for finding someone to help you see what you can’t see. It could make all the difference in whether you make six figures or two.

Kelly Swanson
You. Your Story. Make an Impact.

Give us your thoughts!


  • There is so much good advice here that can cross over into anything you are doing for public consumption:

    1. “… you need to take a good hard look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are as good as you think.”

    2. “… We should never settle at good enough. Good enough doesn’t get you …”

    3. “… maybe you should spend as much time on your product … than you do on begging people to buy the product…”

    4. “… word-of-mouth that drives this train…”

    Brilliant advise for EVERYONE for any dream.