How to Get Gigs: 17 Strategies for Keynote Speakers, Magicians, Entertainers, Comedians, and Variety Artists Who Want to Get Booked

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Are you a professional (or semi-professional) speaker or entertainer? If you are ready to get booked more often, for more money, you’ll appreciate these 17 “C” based secrets for getting booked.

See Related: 10 Ways You Can Make Virtual Meetings More Interactive

  1. The purpose of your performance or presentation is to win CLIENTS.

    You want repeat bookings. This will happen when you build a book of business. This is a key point. If you are a speaker, understand that you are in the speaking business. If you are an entertainer, you may put on a show, but you run a show business. Treat your career like a career. Whether you are delivering an hour of laughter to attendees or a serious keynote message, remember that you are in the service business. Think beyond a one-time speech or performance.  Get clients and serve them well.  Handle your marketing and sales efforts like a pro.  Treat your customers, i.e. meeting and event planners, with great respect. Focus on how you can bring tangible value to their audiences. You will get booked again and again when you make your clients look good.

  2. Dominate a single CATEGORY.

    Choose a lane. It’s best to go an inch wide and a mile deep. In terms of positioning yourself, there are only 3 categories to choose from.
    *Price (Low fees. Nothing wrong with this category: Example: Wal-Mart)
    *Personalization (Fees and services depend on the client’s budget. Example: Nordstrom)
    *Premier (Fee is dictated by demand for your famous brand. Example: Apple)
    The marketplace for live events currently pays the most for: celebrities, bestselling authors, keynote speakers, emcees, after-dinner speakers/entertainers, workshop presenters, strolling entertainers. Don’t think only about what you do, give some thought to who you serve. Find the segment of bookers who need what you have to offer. Be a specialist, not a generalist. Clients are really buying your special expertise–and the results you bring to their people.

  3. You must have a COMPELLING demo video.

    This may be the most vital tip of all. Without a powerful video that showcases what you do, a terrible thing happens in your career: nothing. Use this S.H.A.R.E sequence to create your two to four-minute long promotional video:

    • Strong opening.
      You have about 10 seconds to wow viewers!
    • How you help them.
      This is the main part of your demo clip. Show them what you actually do, not just fast cuts or video highlights. Show them an actual excerpt of your act or keynote speech.
    • Audience reactions.
      Clients want to see how their group will respond to you. When you shoot your demo video, go for a two-camera shoot. Have one video locked on you. Have a second shooter with a hand-held camera capturing the reactions of attendees.
    • Right for their group.
      The main thing here showcasing how you look and where you work best. Show yourself in the setting where you want to get booked. Example: Don’t video tape yourself in a comedy club if you are seeking corporate gigs. If you want to work as a keynote entertainer, you want to be seen dressed in corporate attire and performing in a ballroom or conference room venue.
    • Endorsements
      The end of your promo video is a good place for one or two short and punchy testimonials. What bookers want to see is proof that you delight people just like them! Capture the endorsements of happy customers and/or delighted audience members. “We loved her program. She made our meeting a big hit!
  4. CREATE a positioning statement

    This is how you quickly state your value proposition, i.e. the difference you make for meeting and event coordinators and their organizations. What is your UPA (Unique Performance Appeal)? How do you help people make important changes or improve their productivity? Are you a comedic cancer survivor? What makes you remarkable? Here is an example of a positioning statement: Adam Christing works with organizations who want to experience how the magic of laughter can open doors and hearts in business and in life. Your positioning statement should be on your website and in all of your marketing materials. Keep this in mind: A positioning statement is not a clever catch phrase like, “You’ve tried the rest, now try the best.” What you want to convey is what makes you valuable to bookers and the reason why you are the perfect fit for their conference, special event, annual meeting, gala, sales convention, or fundraiser.

  5. CONNECT with bookers

    Develop relationships with people who can book you! Meet them in person. Take them to lunch…and then listen up. If you can’t meet in person, the next best things are phone calls, facetime, personal notes, personalized emails, pertinent texts, and finally social media. Remember 4 words: Business is just relationships. Who do you know who can book your show or speech? You may be surprised to discover that your LinkedIn network is full of leaders and event organizers who can benefit from your inspiring performance or motivational speaking. Warning; The problem with relying on just social media is that people think it replaces one-on-one conversations. It does not. You must engage in person or on the phone with bookers if you want to get booked. Yes, social media is awesome. Just make sure that your social media activities reflect your positioning statement as a speaker, comedian, magician, juggler, mentalist, or workshop leader.

Bonus: Corporate Entertainers and Speakers to Make You Look Good

  1. Stay in CONSTANT contact with past bookers.

    Deepen relationships with people who have already booked you. It is much harder to win a new client than it is to maintain a friendship with a past client. Test: Do you know the name of your client’s significant other? You will notice an important pattern as you grow in this profession. The closer your business relationships become, the more bookings you will get. People like to do business with men and women they know and trust. So, invest the time to  get to know the decision-makers in your booking category. Join associations like Meeting Planners International and the National Speakers Association. Network with people in person. Reminder: You want more than one-off gigs. you want to build  long-term business partnerships. The ideal situation is when clients look to you as a trusted advisor and not a mere “vendor.” “Bonus tip: A good CRM will help you manage your contacts, but please, please, do not think of your clients as merely contacts. Become friends with your clients. Super successful speakers and comedians realize that they are in the relationship business.

  2. COMEDY pays.

    You don’t have to become a stand-up comic to share your unique sense of humor. Look for ways to tap into the laughter factor. Most meeting and event planners agree:Funny is money. Here’s why: Nothing brings an audience together like the magical power of humor. As Mother Teresa once said, “A smile is the shortest distance between two people.” Look for ways to increase your “LPMs” in your speech or comedy routine. LPMs = Laughs Per Minute. Even the clients who say they are booking you for serious content are also wanting you to connect with their attendees. Comedy connects. Add jokes, funny quotes, humorous slides, funny video clips, and humorous stories into your stage presentation. As Marlene Morris, a legendary event coordinator in Dallas Texas used to say: “Honey, it’s laughter that we’re after.”

  3. CONSTRUCT a platform.

    Your platform is what you stand on as a speaker. But your platform is not just the stage in front of the audience. You have another platform; it is the springboard for your success as a speaker or entertainer. Answer this question and you can catapult your career: Where do you get your credibility? WHY should a meeting planner or event producer trust you to dazzle their attendees? Are you a YouTube star? Did you start a non-profit org? Do you have a major social media following? Have you authored a bestselling book? Do you host a popular podcast? Are you an expert on technology or change in the work place? Your platform is the basis—your credibility factor—that supports everything you do. Heads up: Your college degree is probably not the key to your platform. Education is important, but what bookers are seeking is your expertise.

  4. CHARGE more!

    When it comes to setting your rates: “Look ‘em in the eye, and quote ‘em high.”  You can always come down on your fee, but you can’t always go up. This does not mean that you should over-charge for your comedy act, variety show, or keynote address. If you are not bringing major value to clients, do not expect them to pay top dollar. But it is important to know that your pricing is part of your positioning as a presenter. If you are working with outside speaker’s bureaus, you will want to set an across-the-board consistent fee structure (commissionable to agents). This way you will not under or over-price yourself in the meetings marketplace. One of the biggest mistakes entertainers and speakers make is under-valuing what they offer. As Steve Martin said in the film The Three Amigos, “No dough…No show!”
    Extra tip: Request a reservation deposit before the event date to lock the meeting into your schedule. What clients are paying for is not only your unique performance or message, but also a particular date on your in-demand speaking schedule.

  5. CONCENTRATE on giving ONE presentation as often as possible.

    Don’t continually change your act or rewrite your speech, just change your audience! The “real work” is getting the work. And, the more you work the better you’ll get. There is a story about the great vaudeville master magician Harry Thurston. A young amateur magician told Thurston, “Mr. Thurston, I know more than 100 magic tricks.” Thurston, replied: “That is wonderful, I know only eight.” Thurston understood that greatness comes from perfecting one presentation. There’s an old saying. “The difference between a professional performer and an amateur is this: An amateur presents new material to the same old audience. A pro presents the same old material to new audiences.”

  6. COLLABORATE with people who can help you succeed.

    Work with successful bureaus, agents, and meeting planners. Network with influencers. Ask yourself: Who do I know who already has a relationship with people who can book me? Even “sole proprietors” are never in business alone.  It’s a fact: Your network determines your net worth. To succeed as a professional comedian, magician, ventriloquist, or speaker you must grow your network of influencers. Here’s something to remember: Do favors, before asking for favors. A great book on the subject of giving first is: Giftology by John Ruhlin.  This book makes a strong case for the power of sending your clients personalized and memorable gift . This reinforces the synergy and value of your business partnerships. Always be asking: How can I contribute to the lives and careers of people who are helping me reach my goals?

  7. CHAMPION yourself.

    Most comedians, entertainers, and speakers spend their time getting ready to get ready to get ready. Don’t wait to be called great. Stake a claim for yourself. Toot your own horn. Focus on what you do best. Do more of that. Listen to your happy clients—find out why they love you. No gigs? No problem.  Rent a room, club, or theater and pack the house yourself! Learn a lesson from the most famous athlete of the 20th century, boxing great Muhammed Ali who said, “I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.”  God helps those who hype themselves. You can hire a publicist, but understand that no one will be as committed to your success are you are. Are you committed to do what it takes to make it as a professional master of ceremonies, clean comedian, or motivational speaker?

  8. Use a CRM to manage your booking business.

    CRM = Customer Relationship Management system like Salesforce or Pipeline Deals. A CRM allows you to track your bookings, your client’s spending patterns, and all of your biz data on the cloud. Remember that the purpose of a “gig” is to get and retain a client relationship. A good CRM will give you the ability to keep vital information about your customers, and just as importantly, keep in constant touch with them. Use your CRM to note birthdays, anniversaries, pet names, booking preferences, event budgets, and much more. Always stay in constant contact with people who are giving you work. Get it?

  9. CONTENT is king.

    Author and speaker booking expert Lois Creamer says, “Speakers are actually in the the intellectual property business.” What Lois means is you are compensated for the value of your content. This is one advantage an engaging speaker has over a straight entertainer. The difference between a comedian and a speaker is this: a speaker has an extra zero at the end of her check. Make sure you share valuable “takeaway” content on stage, on your website, and via your social media. Contribute to your clients and their people. Become an expert speaker or “edu-tainer.” Suggestion: Turn your website blogs into books. You can benefit your bookers—and yourself—by offering your expertise, insights, story, wisdom, and life lessons in book and audio form. Here is a tremendous insight: The word “authority” has the word “author” as it’s root. Always think of yourself as a content creator. You are a thought leader sharing transformational information and experience with your bookers and attendees.

  10. Use simple CONTRACTS.

    Create a simple one-page agreement that spells out the Who? What? Where? When? of doing business with you. What is the name of your client? Who is the organization? Where is the venue? You get the idea. Never give a speech or a performance without first establishing an agreement in writing.If you don’t yet have a template for a written contract, ask a pro if you can see and model hers or his. Avoid having too much legalize in your paperwork. Some of the biggest deals you will ever land come down to a clear understanding about what is being delivered and how you are pricing it. Of course, this does not mean you should avoid other key details in your agreements. Your contract should be crystal clear about who is responsible for what, who pays for travel/lodging, the terms of payment, your cancellation policy, and all of the other factors that matter to your client and to you.

  11. COPY effective marketing.

    It’s true: “Success leaves clues.” What is working for other speakers and entertainers? Can you learn lessons from a Google direct mail postcard? Can you model a Super Bowl commercial? Ask yourself, Who is doing what I want to do and how are they attracting bookers? You can model the marketing pieces of other funny entertainers and motivational speakers. Don’t worry. There is plenty of work– for anybody who is willing to put in the work. Share your success secrets with other presenters. Bonus tip: You can maximize your marketing efforts by highlighting the benefits you bring, not just your bio. People don’t care that much about where you went to school. What they want to see is how you will help their group. Think in terms of “Here’s what you get when you book me…” Then, deliver the results!

  12. COMPEL people to book you now.

    How can you create authentic urgency? Can you give valid explanations for why event coordinators will want to book you today? Give bookers (legitimate) reasons to hire you right away. Examples: Offer special VIP gifts for the first five clients who reserve your summer dates. When two clients want you on the same date, it creates tremendous scarcity because there is only one of you. Time kills all deals. When you are a good fit with a meeting planner, close the deal. Announce that your fees are about to go up next year, “so book today.”. It benefits the certified meeting planner to lock you in before your rates increase.

Extra Bonus Tip: Here are 8 types of bookers. This list could be much longer. Google the bookers you want to learn more about/connect with:
Here are 8 great categories:  association executives, corporate meeting planners, speaker’s bureau owners, destination/incentive management directors, non-profit and gala organizers, venue bookers (like comedy clubs), activities directors at schools and colleges, and church pastors. The list goes on!

When you are serious about getting gigs, implement the steps outlines above. You will enjoy getting paid for your presentations. And more importantly, you will inspire and entertain happy audiences.

Keep Reading: 10 Tips for Making Your Online Meeting a Hit with Humor

Adam Christing has been hired more than 4,000 times as a keynote comedian, after-dinner speaker, magician, and master of ceremonies. He is the founder of Clean Comedians®.