Your Ultimate Guide to Contingency Speaking

contingency speaker

One of the little known ways to increase the number of speaking gigs you land is to make yourself available as a contingency speaker. In fact, becoming a contingency speaker can be incredibly lucrative

But what is a contingency speaker, and how do you land these specific speaking opportunities? 

What is a Contingency Speaker? 

In short, a contingency speaker acts as a backup for an event planner in the event of an emergency. It could be that the booked speaker is a no-show or cancels at the last minute. Alternatively, it could be that the booked speaker suffers an emergency. 

Whatever the case may be, a contingency speaker is the person an event planner calls in their hour of need to fill in at the last minute. 

Now you might think this is a very rare occurrence, but it happens a lot more than you think. Remember, many seasoned speakers will be pitching multiple events, so they might hold one booking as a backup in case their target event fails to materialise. If they do manage to land the speaking gig they are looking for, they then cancel their “reserve” option, opening up a spot for you. 

How to Position Yourself as A Contingency Speaker 

Obviously, if you get called upon to fill in at the last minute, you need to be prepared to deliver a speech worthy of the occasion. So let’s briefly walk through the steps you need to take to position yourself as a reliable contingency speaker.

contingency speaker

#1: Hone Several Speeches That Are Ready to Go 24/7

The best contingency speakers have a range of topics that can all be delivered at a moment’s notice. Thus, the first step for you is to learn several speeches that you know like the back of the hand, so when the call comes in, you are ready to deliver.

One speech routine is not enough. Why? Well firstly you might be put on standby for the same event each year, they certainly don’t want to hear the same speech twice. Secondly, you narrow your audience right down by only having one or two ready-to-go speech topics. By developing 5-6 speeches within your specific niche, you can appeal to a much broader spectrum of events. 

#2: Let the World Know That You Are Available as a Contingency Speaker 

It’s no good having a range of excellent speeches ready to go if no event planners know that you are available on a contingency basis. Thus, you need to let everyone know. The best place to start is by updating your marketing materials. Make sure you update your speaker website and, in particular, your planner page

Next, update your speaker one-sheet to ensure that all events you are pitching understand that you are also available as a short notice backup. Make sure to include multiple contact methods to reassure the event planner that they can get a hold of you should a crisis strike.   

Finally, you need to tell everyone who could possibly benefit from your contingency speaking services. While you should mention it during your efforts to land conventional speaking gigs, it’s worth reaching out to event planners you’ve interacted with in the past to let them know this is a service you offer. 

I would recommend that you do this at least twice so that it sticks in the event planner’s mind that you are there should the need arise. You could even try a few quirky direct mail strategies to grab their attention.  

#3: Go Through a Practice Drill 

Preparing for a conventional speaking gig can be nerve-wracking enough, but having everything ready to go with as little as 24 hours’ notice is a far scarier prospect on paper. Therefore, it’s best to run through a practice drill to ensure that you are comfortable speaking at such short notice.  

Simulate as much as you can, such as receiving the phone calls, sitting down to briefly run over the speech notes, and eventually getting up on stage (even if that’s in your living room) to give your speech. 

Obviously, simulate everything within reason. I don’t expect you to drive to a potential venue and familiarize yourself with everything to make it less daunting for when the real thing happens. That would be a nice bonus and nothing more. Plus, you need to learn how to navigate unfamiliar venues anyway (always arrive in plenty of time!). 

Contingency Speaking Is Not for Everyone, But it’s Lucrative for Those Who Master It 

While contingency speaking isn’t for everyone, if you’re not daunted by having less than 24 hours’ notice to deliver one of your signature speeches, then this could become a very healthy sideline income in addition to your conventional paid speaking opportunities. 

If you want to learn more about contingency speaking, you can join our free Facebook Group – Grow Your Speaking Biz to receive plenty of valuable hints and tips from successful contingency speakers. 

Here’s to a successful venture into the world of contingency speaking!