How Therapists Can Land More Speaking Gigs


Greetings fellow clinician! If you are interested in branching out into public speaking, or you want to increase your paid speaking gigs, I am glad you are here.

The following is a list of my most tried and true tips for landing more speaking opportunities. They fall into three categories: Free Local Presentations, Annual Conferences, Corporate Speaking.

Let's jump into each category so that by the end of this blog you leave feeling excited and encouraged to put these tips to use and land some speaking gigs of your own!

1. Free Local Presentations

Securing free local presentations is really not all that hard, you just need a formula! The most important first step is to compile a list of organizations and contacts in your area that would include:

  • Community Colleges
  • Universities
  • Hospitals
  • Spas
  • Yoga Studios
  • Special Interest Groups
  • Non Profit Agencies
  • Libraries
  • Churches
  • Senior Citizens
  • Schools
  • Women's Groups
  • Bridal Salons

Remember, as you compile your list, you may be surprised at the contacts you end up having in each category.

The next part of your formula is to focus on 2-3 different topics that you are an expert in and really enjoy speaking on. Those topics could include:

  • Communication
  • Boundaries
  • Domestic Violence
  • Teens
  • Addiction
  • Parenting
  • Grief
  • Depression
  • Sex
  • Anxiety
  • Relationships

Then, go ahead and outline specifics on your 2-3 topics. You can look at my speakers page here to get an idea of how that is done.

The next part of your formula is to put together a flyer, email introduction, and/or brief description of your talk and why this would be of benefit to the organization. Include your bio and your photo on the flyer. Also, include a testimonial or two.

Finally, make a call and/or send an email to the person in charge of hiring or securing speakers. This is typically not the CEO or Executive Director. Politely introduce yourself and see if you can meet the person in charge of coordinating speakers, or meet for coffee, or bring by your information and introduce yourself with your bio (and a little chocolate never hurts either!).

Follow up within two weeks. DO NOT BE PUSHY. Simply treat that person the way you would like to be treated.

2. Annual Conferences

As you gain experience locally, you may want to expand your horizons and start looking into speaking at annual conferences around the country. One smart way of doing this is to join the organizations that you feel best support you as a professional.

For example, as a Marriage and Family Therapist and Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, I am a member of several organizations including:

  • CAMFT (The California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists)
  • IITAP (The International Institute of Trauma and Addiction Professionals).
  • SASH (The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health). 

I have spoken numerous times nationally at various conferences around the country, and have been hired (and paid well) as the keynote annual workshop presenter for CAMFT organizations, a professional women's organization, and corporate workshops. I have also facilitated on line paid workshops as well.

The best way to secure speaking at one of these events is to find out when the organization announces a request for submissions and then submit based on the criteria they list. Then all of the submissions will be peer reviewed. The selected work/presenter will then be invited to speak at the conference. Each organization has a particular way they want you to submit and a deadline to submit by.

Remember: These gigs can be somewhat competitive so know what their theme is for that year's conference and then tailor your talk to dovetail into that theme. Additionally, having a warm introduction by a colleague that is connected to the organization is sometimes helpful.

For annual chapter workshop training/speakers (6-8 hour all day training) these are also paid gigs. It is up to you to decide what your fee is. When figuring out your fee, remember to include your travel expenses and time away from your office. Also, be sure to deduct Uncle Sam's cut as well. If you do not know how to structure a speaker's fee or are unclear on how to organize your information for submission, then either contact a colleague who does, or hire a coach for a session or two to help you.

Unless you are the key note or annual presenter at one of the big conferences, it is unlikely you will be paid for this. However, many speakers benefit by a reduced conference fee, and/or by receiving testimonials, sharing their books or resources, and connecting with other colleagues. It is also a great chance to practice and network on a larger scale. And to meet potential referral sources. And it is usually a tax write off as well (the travel or conference expenses).

For private or specialized conferences (under 75 attendees), it is perfectly fine and expected to request a speakers fee, especially if they are charging more than $1,000 per attendee and asking for you to support and market the event. Just remember to get your fee in writing at the front end of these smaller events. Though we therapists tend to be a trusting bunch, it is best not to rely on words alone.

Even though I am a fairly seasoned speaker, therapist, and even though I encourage all of my coaching clients to get things in writing, I did not take my own advise a while back. Though this is vulnerable to share, please learn from my mistake so that you do not repeat this:

I was invited to be a guest speaker at a conference and unfortunately, what had been verbally agreed upon up front months before, did not translate into the eventual contract which was sent 2 weeks before the event. Thus, I invested several months of support and marketing for this event, prepared my rear end off to give a great presentation on the topic I had been asked to present, gave hours and hours of my coaching time for free, only to find out 2 weeks prior that there would not be a fee unless I agreed to come and support the entire 3 days of the conference vs. my presentation. Because I had clinical clients scheduled on the other days, I could not make that happen on such short notice. And, I was not willing to disappoint the attendees and back out. So, with a lump of betrayal in my throat, I signed the contract. Then, I took a deep breath, and decided to give a presentation that would have been worthy of the fee that was never to be. I held my head up high and did just that.

To add insult to injury, the following week when the attendees posted their appreciation for my support on social media and asked for my coaching information, I was privately told that I was not allowed to share my information even though I had invested a great deal of my time without expectation of payment for many months prior to the event. It was, to say the least, a very hurtful and confusing experience. But it was an experience I learned a great deal from.

Every single speaker has a nightmare story, and you will have yours. The best thing to do is operate from a place of ethics and to do your very best to rise above. Use the challenges as gas in your tank to keep propelling you forward.

Important Note: Read the fine print on your speaker's contract. Some organizations will ask for rights to your original information, intellectual property, exercises, materials and so forth to use as they wish. You can absolutely negotiate a contract before signing.

3. Corporate or Large Scale Public Speaking

Here are some key tips to securing paid corporate gigs or large scale public speaking:

A). If you have a colleague with whom you are friendly who knows the person organizing the event, ask for a warm introduction to the person in charge of the event. It is best to ask for this introduction through someone you have a relationship with vs. just cold contacting a person and asking for a favor.

B) Contact the human resources or event coordinator.

C) Publish a book which will brand you as an expert, and then get that in front of organizations who would benefit by your expertise and information. You can do this via email, podcast, social media, gifting the book, etc.

One of my first paid speaking gigs a few years back was teaching at an annual conference for therapists on the topic of how to provide clinical care for partners of sex addicts. I landed that event because, 1. This is my area of specialization as a therapist. Besides being a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I am also a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist and Supervisor, and I am the founder of Growth Counseling Services, which provides treatment and recovery for sex and porn addicts and their partners, and 2. I co-authored the #1 Amazon book for partners of sex and porn addicts, called, "Facing Heartbreak: Steps to Recovery for Partner's of Sex Addicts", and 3. I had (and have) spoken on this topic at annual conferences around the country several times for free, and 4. I had received great feedback from the organizations that asked me to speak.  All of this lent credibility to my work and helped secure the paid gig.

D) Create products or materials that not only help an industry you are presenting to, but also brand you as an expert on that topic. For example, I have an expertise in creating multiple income streams. Part of my active income is supporting other clinicians in creating leveraged and passive income. And, part of my passive income is from my clinical therapy forms packets, e-books, and group materials. You can take a look at what I am referring to here on the Therapist Toolbox Page if you like. This helps establish you as an expert.

E) Rather than target massive corporations, instead look into creating industry associations. For example, particular industries to focus on could be: law, social services, police and first responders, hospitals, human resources, financial institutions, the beauty and fitness industry, and so forth. 

For example: Divorce mediation is a growing industry. Do you work with couples who are moving through divorce into co-parenting? If so, do you have information that would benefit this industry? Yes? Then reach out and let them know!

You may think that you must be an expert within a particular industry, but that is not really true. Instead, have a good basic understanding of the industry and how you can support them. Then focus on what information you could present that would be helpful to the work they are doing. The attendees who work in their industry day in and day out will appreciate a fresh point of view and some new perspectives and tools, vs. the same ol' same ol'.

For example, you can talk about topics to help their industry, and or figure out what topics they want to learn more about. Do they need to learn tools to help staff communicate better, or do they need support in understanding human behavior, personalities, or even social media? If so, refine and tailor your information in order to fit their particular industry need.

Here is a little tip: When you focus on industry associations these are the organizations that actually budget in order to hire annual speakers at their conferences. The industries leadership and human resources are always on the hunt for new information and interesting speakers.

Why Hire You?

In order for a local organization, annual conference, private conference or group, or specialized industry to select and/or pay you as their speaker you need to have an interesting and compelling topic that will support their conference attendees, an area of expertise, and some evidence to back that up, prior experience, and recommendations. 

What kind of evidence? Minimally you will want:

  • A speakers page on your website that outlines what you offer as well as your experience/bio
  • Your book or e-book, e-product information
  • Testimonials sharing how other organizations and attendees benefited from your speaking or presentation (this is why we always want to make sure we have feedback surveys at the end of any of our presentations with comments).
  • A short video they can watch, or a podcast they can listen to in order to get a sense of your speaking style.
  • Many corporations and organizations will want a letter of recommendation or two as well.
  • A Media or Press Kit.

You may also want to consider creating a separate website or speaker's landing page for this information. Be sure this page includes your bio, book or products. For example, when I am asked to speak on Creating Multiple Income Streams, I always include information on my Amazon book, as well as my e-book, "The Creative Clinician: Exercises and Activities for Clients and Group Therapy" and my other clinical forms and materials packets to support my expertise on this topic.

The "Warm Introduction"

While all of these tips have worked well for me and are fantastic ideas toward opening doors for more paid speaking, nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, beats knowing a person within the organization or industry who can connect you. The best way to do this is to compile a list of people with whom you already have a relationship (note: please do not cold call people and ask favors, this is a big turn off for most).

This list might include:

  • A former boss or co-worker with whom you are still in touch
  • A friend or family member with whom you have a good relationship
  • A friend's husband or wife who you respect
  • A friend with influence in his or her community
  • A colleague who is already doing corporate gigs and you have a nice relationship with this person
  • The guy or gal you work out with at the gym and enjoy chatting with
  • A colleague in your professional organization with whom you interact with fairly regularly

Think carefully about your contacts, the companies that they work for, and what information you could present that would benefit their team of professionals. Look at what is trending with corporate America in the media. What are the buzz words? What part of this fits in with who you are as a speaker, your expertise, and the theme of their conference, and their professional culture?

Next, find out when their annual conference is scheduled, then craft your "elevator pitch", ask for a warm introduction or a meeting. Introduce yourself and submit your proposal. You never know! You may be selected as their key note speaker, or as a paid workshop presenter.

Re-imagine your thoughts on public speaking

What I mean by this is to think about other ways you can present yourself publicly and gain experience vs. standing on a stage.

Here are some ideas:

  1. Podcasts
  2. Radio Interviews
  3. TV Interviews
  4. You Tube Video Presentations
  5. Webinars
  6. Virtual Talks

Some of these listed would be paid (webinars for example), and some would not but could easily pave the way to more paid speaking gigs and other media opportunities, and or clients.

The most unusual public speaking gig (unpaid as it was a service to domestic abuse survivors) was at a local martial arts dojo. I discussed safety measures and resources directly after a self defense class that I participated in along with the other attendees. I was in bare feet and a martial arts gi (uniform) and stood inside of a big matted ring. Though the topic was serious, it was empowering and fun for the women! There were about 50 women in attendance, it was an hour of my time, and as a result, I gained more visibility and respect in the community during a time when I had just opened up a counseling office in the area.

The main thing to remember when spreading your speakers wings is to honor who you are as a speaker, to practice on a smaller scale, and to develop your own authentic style and voice, and to get your information organized and prepared.

Everyone starts somewhere, and if I can do it, anyone can! You may find this blog post on reducing your fear of speaking in public to be of further support.

If this information has encouraged and inspired you, then speak out loud and proud in the comments below. Introduce yourself and share about your speaking journey or goals!
Kindly and in support,
Mari A. Lee, LMFT, CSAT-S
The Counselor's Coach