Most consultant websites show a lot of speaking subjects and it implies that a speaking client would contact them and pick from the list. I don't have a lot of topics to talk about so how do I get started?
Don't presume that a long list of topics means a person has a variety of topics on which to speak. I know a lot of consultants who have a few stock speeches or seminars and can adapt them to various industries and circumstances. You might be surprised at how a basic "leadership" speech can be tweaked into a dozen talks for different industries or aspects of leadership.
This does not imply that there is something shady about the approach. A client wants a talk to be specific to the needs of the audience, not necessarily built from scratch. If there are fundamental principles of quality, performance and innovation that you have created and applied to a particular topic, how you dress it up to provide high value is your call. The "list" of various speaking topics most usefully helps a client think through on what they want to hear, a starting point for your customization. You don't necessarily have to have given that specific speech before.
One approach to create a "portfolio" of topics is to create a speech about one topic you know well, applied in a situation you also know well. Create and practice that one talk until you can do it in your sleep, in various length versions (e.g., 15, 30, 60 minutes). Have it available to give on a moment's notice (keep flash drive with slide deck or note cards in your briefcase). Let people know (without being obnoxious) that they might be interested in your work on this topic (which you know so well that you can give an impromptu talk anytime).Tip:
Rather than creating a portfolio of speaking topics, focus on this one "core" speaking topic. You will be able to adapt it to client needs on the fly by combining you comfort with your core topic with the needs of the client at hand. Each time you do one of these talks you add to your portfolio. Start small in your comfort zone and expand as you create opportunities. © 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA