Tips and tricks for getting paid keynotesFeatured

I fell into public speaking. I was a freshman in college in the Inland Northwest where there was and still is a large need to positively reflect on and represent the journeys of students of color. When I arrived it was hard to find stories of other Black, brown and indigenous students who were thriving on campus. Even so, I didn’t think much about my college advisor asking if I would be willing to talk to high school students, then at the scholarship dinner, and again at a recruiting event. The big request came in my sophomore year. I was asked to introduce President Obama in January 2015. Meeting the president and just being in the room for this momentous occasion was a whole new experience. You can watch the video - that girl on stage was the most radical and self-confident version of myself I had known up to that point. A year later, I wrote a blog post about a tech experience I had with bias in computer vision. I talked about the need for awareness about cultural bias and how it was affecting Black women in tech. Someone in New York read this piece and it turned out to be a conference organizer for Capital One’s Humanity.AI conference. They were holding it in San Francisco and they invited me to be apart of it as a keynote speaker. This was my first technical speech and only my second time visiting San Francisco. The people I met in that room spurred my next speech a month later in front of over 2,000 people in Washington, DC. I have since learned that the space for speaking about these types of topics, bias, culture, and AI is huge. But I want to explain some of the key factors that allowed me to start this journey. Publishing content was the first step. Whether it was using my social media accounts or writing that first blog article, key stakeholders needed to be able to get ahold of the information and align it with their goals. Several of my school mentors had followed me on Twitter during my freshman year and I was posting all sorts of stuff back then about my experiences and how I was excited to be an engineering student. My blog article got picked up by a diversity website and was spread further till it reached the Capital One team and many others. Networking with conference organizers at the conference is not a bad idea. I have found that I get my next conference or keynote opportunity from meeting other people at the conference who are putting on their own conference. Or when conferences repurpose their live content (e.g. articles, videos and images) a couple weeks later, I will get a few requests from people finding the content through web searches. Talking about your values is IMPORTANT. I speak with passion about cultural bias in AI and I have taken time to work on this topic outside of conferences and keynotes. My conference requests don’t come in a predictable manner. I might have three at the end of the year or several over a period of six months. The key is that they come organically because the requests are based on content already out there. I prefer this to applying to speak at conferences because I want to go to conferences that are aligned with my message. This year has seen a major milestone for me. I flew to Budapest for my first in person talk on an international stage. My encouragement to anyone looking to start keynote speaking is that the conference market is changing and the organizers I have been contacted by are interested in a change from the established go-to speakers. These conference stages are not always the most influential but they provide a chance for exposure to new audiences and practicing the tips I mentioned above. Share you content first and then expect to be asked on a stage. And always, without batting an eye, ask for the money you are worth. Courtesy of the White HousePhoto Credit: Peter Bumbarger
Wow this is incredible and very inspiring! Thanks for sharing. These are great actionable tips for a future keynote speaker like myself!
So fantastic! Thank you for sharing all of these amazing tips and your wonderful and inspiring story.
This is so inspiring, Camille!! I’d love to read the post that piqued CapOne’s interest. Could you share a link to that - or another? So happy to hear your perspective and voice on cultural bias in AI is turning heads and finding the platform it deserves. So so so important. F yeah.
What is also key is your message is important and new! And people realize they need to hear it.
Camille, you're a huge inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing these badass tips! I'm wondering if you're opening to sharing any tips or steps on how to properly price paid speaking gigs? Workshop vs. talk, charging by hour vs. per person or half day vs. full day rates, etc.
Very insightful and actionable. This year I am working on getting paid speaking engagements in the USA and Canada. I completed my doctorate in 2018 and my focus was strategies that black women use to obtain VC funding for tech companies and I am ready to share my knowledge. I spent 2019 moving full time into entrepreneurship and working with accelerators and creating programs of my own in the Caribbean.
Thanks for putting this piece together, Camil. I find it very insightful and hope to write more about my work and sharing more knowledge about what I do and know across my social media platforms. This year has been tagged 'SPEAKING ENGAGEMENT' year for me and I hope to strategically position myself for such