Tips for Speaking at Rotary Clubs to Grow Your Speaking Business

“The more you speak, the more you speak” is a maxim I’ve heard from several professional speakers.

I decided to put it to the test this month, booking myself to speak at 7 Rotary Clubs, one Lunch and Learn Seminar for a local business college and one paid engagement.  Of course, the idea is that speaking to an audience is also marketing yourself as a speaker to that audience.  Ideally, your presentation will wow the audience and some of them will think of you when they are looking for a speaker for their organization.   Plus, it’s a great opportunity to try out and tweak material.

I have already received and booked a paid engagement as a result of one of the free presentations.    Additionally, I have also sold a few of my books after the meetings, although I didn’t push the book much.  Here’s what I’ve learned about speaking at Rotary clubs:

  • Find Rotary Clubs in your area.  Although you may have to make initial contact via a “contact us” form, the person you want to look for is the “program chair.”  I found out the hard way that May and June are not good months to contact clubs, as their new club officers take office July 1.  I had contacted 28 clubs via email in mid-May and received replies back from 13, 7 of which I was able to book for presentations in September.  You may see a club  that is a  “Rotaract” club. “Rotaract” clubs are for members 18-30.
  •  Set up a chart, if you are going to be contacting more than two or three clubs.  I used an Excel spreadsheet and had columns with the following information:  date of contact, contact name/email, club website.  You can set up additional columns for those clubs that you set up dates with:  President’s name, Program Chair name and the date/time of the presentation, location, etc.  I also color-coded the rows.  If I set up a presentation, the row was green.
  • Write an email offer to present. Here is the one I wrote:

I am contacting you regarding offering to speak at your Rotary Club this fall/winter.  I do a few free programs as part of my overall marketing plan.

I am a local author and speaker on communication topics.  My book, Small Talk Big Results: Chit Chat Your Way to Success! was published last year.

I have 2 talks that I would suggest for your club:

  • Beyond Bullet Points: Business Storytelling (short workshop)
  • Communication Tips from Tots:  What I Learned from My Children  (inspirational talk)

Whom should I contact about getting on the schedule for Sept-December, 2011?

I will touch base with you after Memorial Day, if I don’t hear from you.


Diane Windingland

(note:  I encouraged clubs to choose “business storytelling” and that’s what they all did choose)

And now for the little tips that make a difference:

    • Confirm via email a few days in advance. Confirm time and location.  I had two clubs that met in different locations the week I spoke.
    • Prepare everything a day or two prior to the meeting (have a checklist):

–Visit the club website and read up on their service projects or any other interesting tidbit that you might incorporate into your presentation.
–Print out a map to the location (even if you use GPS)
–Have your contact’s phone number with you, just in case you get lost or stuck in traffic.
–Always bring your introduction, even if you emailed it ahead of time.  If your name is even a little bit difficult, write it out phonetically.  Above my last name (Windingland), I    wrote “Win-dean-land.”
–Bring your presentation notes and any props you plan to use
–Bring business cards
–Bring extra copies of hand-outs/promotional materials.
–Bring pens if you want them to write.  Not everybody has a pen.
–Don’t plan on using PowerPoint, unless you are bringing your own equipment.
–No hard selling, but if you have a product available for sale after your talk,  bring change.  Don’t expect to sell much.

  •  Come at least 15 minutes early to meet and greet the Rotarians and guests (they will feel more connected with you and you might get some more tidbits to use in your presentation).  You might not have time to eat.  Don’t bother.  You risk staining your clothes or getting food in your teeth.
  • Confirm the time you need to finish and do not go even 1 minute over!
  • It’s a nice gesture to put a dollar in their “Happy Bucks” collection.  Be prepared to say something you are happy about.
  • Plan on speaking 20-30 minutes, typically 20 with time for questions.  My presentation was interactive, so I didn’t have a Q&A time.
  • Don’t do individual, reflective activities at the end.  People might take the opportunity to leave early.
  • If you have an inexpensive product that you can give away, have a drawing to collect business cards, if you feel the crowd is appropriate (At a couple of meetings, the members were largely retired, so I didn’t do a drawing.  I just gave away a couple of copies of my book for use in one of their programs).  If you do get cards, you can follow up with LinkedIn invitations to connect.  If someone connects with you and speaks highly of your presentation, you can ask for a LinkedIn recommendation.

If you want to speak more and eventually speak for fee, start out by speaking for free at your local Rotary clubs.


About Diane Windingland
I speak for organizations that want their people to have better, more profitable conversations.

19 Responses to Tips for Speaking at Rotary Clubs to Grow Your Speaking Business

  1. Excellent advice Diane! Your willingness to share is greatly appreciated especially the detail.

  2. Yes, at some point in the near future I plan on doing so. You’re a great inspiration!

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  4. Your step-by-step approach is great, Diane. Thanks! I definitely plan to refer to this post as I seek more speaking engagements.

  5. Cam says:

    I can not get any clubs to even acknowledge me…any advice?

    • Cam–If you are contacting clubs this time of year, you will not get a good response because their club year starts July 1, with new officers. You may have better luck in August. Also, as I don’t know specifically what you are doing in your approach, I can’t really give much more tailored advice.

  6. marcjrubin says:

    You hit the nail! I’ve been trying to figure out how to get in touch with those civic clubs to start and grow my business in an untapped market. Thanks for the article – just what I’ve been looking for.

  7. Milly Dawson says:

    Thank you for this detailed and sensible advice. I value your suggestions greatly.

  8. Sam says:

    Thanks for this post, Diane.

    Would you recommend a speaker keep their e-mail pitch to these clubs more casual, with simply the couple paragraphs pertaining to the bio and speech topic? Or would it seem too “slick” and “sales-like” to include common features a professional speaker may have, like attaching a one-sheet, etc.?

    Also, should one follow up with a phone call whenever possible? Do you believe it’s preferable that the actual speaker author the e-mail and make the call, or would it create a better perception to have an assistant do so?

    Pardon the multiple questions. Any thoughts at all are greatly appreciated!

    • Sam–Nobody likes to read really long emails, so I would keep the email fairly short. I also would avoid attaching anything, unless prior interest was expressed. Many people don’t like to open attachments from people they don’t know. However, if you have a link to your one sheet, you could include the link.

      Follow up is a good idea, if you can get a phone number. If I could have hired an assistant to do all this work, I would have, and it would have had nothing to do with creating a better perception and everything to do with off-loading a task that an assistant could do.

  9. Oscar savarino says:

    Hi Diane

    My name is Oscar Savarino , I am italian and I’ve been living in England for about 20 years now. Thinking about changing career I have joined Toastmaster three years ago with good results under the speaking skills point of view. Also I managed to organise a motivational seminar together with another Toasty. So this year I decided to go public by giving free speeches and I have approached the local Rotary by writing four lines about me and the topic which was about the purpose of every single individual towards society today. They replied saying that that wasn’t really of any interest to them and suggested to direct my efforts toward a more young audience and I’d like to know what might have gone wrong in this occasion. Was it the topic?

    Many thanks for taking the time.

    • Oscar–It is hard to say if it was the topic. Rotary club topics can vary by region. It is helpful to find out what have been the topics of presentations in the past. I’m guessing that your topic may have sounded like a motivational talk for teens or young adults. Rotary members tend to be older.

  10. Brian says:

    Even today this works great. Timing is everything, if the club is in the election process or planning process for the holidays you will miss out because if timing your approach is off, know if your timing is off, you are OFF.

  11. Thank you so much for this! And especially for the sample email – helps a TON!! 😀

  12. Syltoya Sterling says:

    Thank you for sharing this!

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