A quick Google search will demonstrate that there are many people who aspire to be motivational speakers. Some target specific markets while others are generalists and look for opportunities across the spectrum. While the field is crowded, it is not impossible to book yourself if you approach the task in a creative way.
As a motivational speaker, the product you are selling is you -- your voice, your style and your content. Your prospective clients will need to have a taste of what you deliver before they make a decision to book you. If you give pro bono presentations to local civic groups, a member may refer you to a meeting planner in his organization but that person will still want to preview your content. Therefore, your marketing material must include demo clips which you can post on your professional website, Youtube and on a demo DVD.
To find prospects, begin with organizations that have a connection to the topic you address. Bear in mind that businesses will book speakers on a shorter cycle than associations, which may contract speakers a year ahead. The larger the organization, the farther into the future they book. Visit your local library or a college library and browse through the directories that are in the reference section. The National Trade and Professional Association Directory and the Encyclopedia of Associations have thousands of trade and executive contacts.
Many people feel uncomfortable promoting themselves, but there is no reason to harbor that sentiment. Meeting planners are bombarded with speakers looking for bookings, and you must think proactively to separate yourself from the rest. Position yourself to be seen as the expert that you are. Write articles for trade magazines, your local newspaper and the Internet. Send clippings to your prospects. Join your local chamber of commerce and other business associations, and be active in all groups that you join. Consider writing a newsletter to send to prospective and current clients. If you keep your name in front of them, they will be more likely to book you when you call them.
Prospect relentlessly. When you call an association or business, inquire who is their meeting planner. When you get to speak with that person, you need to ask who their previous speakers have been. This will tell you if you have the right content and are at the right level. If they only hire celebrities, you may be out of luck, but if their previous speakers are your contemporaries, then you are in the running. You need to know how the booking decision is made (one person or committee) and who else is involved in the decision besides the person you are speaking with. Keep in touch. Other things equal, the last person who speaks with the meeting planner has the best chance of booking the gig. You do not want to call and find that the organization booked a speaker the previous week.
Thomas Metcalf has worked as an economist, stockbroker and technology salesman. A writer since 1997, he has written a monthly column for "Life Association News," authored several books and contributed to national publications such as the History Channel's "HISTORY Magazine." Metcalf holds a master's degree in economics from Tufts University.