Public Speaker Motivational Speaker Professional Speaker
How do you become a Public Speaker?
The thought of becoming a Professional Public Speaker or Motivational Speaker is very appealing to many people!
You might have experienced a Motivational Speaker who successfully moved you to take action in your career, business or life, or perhaps thought to yourself … “I could do that!”
Perhaps it’s the allure of adoring crowds, international travel and presenting onstage at exotic locations? Perhaps it’s the money, I mean really, getting paid to travel and talk!
Or perhaps your motivation is to change peoples lives, promote a cause or spread an important message.
Having been involved in the Professional Speaking Industry for over 25 years, I’ve given hundreds of presentations and met hundreds of hopeful Public Speakers both young and old. Via my current work, I’ve also seen thousands of Professional Speakers give presentations and I understand many of the challenges they faced getting to that point.
In this article I’m going to give you …
1 – A quick overview of the Professional Speaking Industry and hopefully point you at some information and areas you haven’t considered
2 – Outline some of the many challenges you have to overcome to make a success in the business
3 – Outline a brief “Speakers Journey Roadmap” plus an alternative approach that most of you would not have considered.
The Professional Speaking Industry Overview
One of the interesting things I notice after 25 years of making my entire living being up on stage in front of audiences is that most people have quite a limited view of what the Speaking Industry is all about.
And this includes those people wanting to become a Speaker. It’s a classic case of “you don’t even know what you don’t know.”
For instance if I tell people I’m a Professional Speaker, most people instantly assume I’m a Motivational Speaker. You know, a version of Tony Robbins or a Brian Tracy. Or perhaps if they know my background in the entertainment industry, they might hazard a guess that I’m an After Dinner Speaker. These two are probably the most recognised “roles” in the Speaking Business.
But the reality is some what different.
You see, the Professional Speaking Industry is a “House of Many Rooms.” There are a myriad of different niches and different modes of delivery.
Yes, the After Dinner Speaker and Motivational Speaker are the high profile ones, but there are just as many speakers making a great living as …
Trade Show Presenters
Online Information Providers
and of course Masters of Ceremony.
They are all Professional Speakers, using their talents to Sell, to Motivate, to Inspire and to build a business, be it their own or someone else’s.
Challenges of becoming a Professional Speaker
In many ways, the major challenges of becoming a Professional Speaker are overcoming the “Chicken & Egg” situation. Let me explain …
Getting Stage Time
Malcolm Gladwin, in his outstanding book Outliers, explained his theory of the 10,000 Hour Challenge. To become excellent at anything you just have to put the hours in. To work at it and constantly improve. He cites, among many examples The Beatles, serving their time in the night clubs of Hamburg, grinding out the long hours of music every night and learning the skills of song writing by day.
To get good as a Speaker, you also need to get those hours of experience. But its also hard to get booked without that experience.
Getting Comfortable and Confident Onstage
This is a bit like learning to ride a bike or learning to swim!
You can read all you like about how to do either of those activities or watch as many videos as you can find, but the simple answer once again is that you simply have to do it to learn it.
It’s the same with stage presence and overcoming nerves.
Finding Your Style & Niche
Once again, the successful speakers you see, all have their own style and have usually concentrated on just one niche area. But to get there, they have probably explored many different ones, honing in slowly on what works for them and what people want to hear. A successful speaker isn’t just born, he or she has developed through those hours on stage.
Getting promotional Material
To get professional work as an Speaker these days, you really need some good video footage of you up on stage presenting in front of live audiences. Bookers want to get a feel for what you look and sound like. But how do you get that footage without the bookings?
Getting Known by Bureaus, Bookers and Agents
Once again, you need to be Onstage to allow those Bureaus and Possible clients to see you.
So, now we know a bit more about the Industry and some of the Callenges, what are some solutions. Is there a clear or suggested Roadmap to becoming a Professional Speaker?
Here are some guideline plus an alternative strategy that directly deals with the Chicken & Egg challenges outlined before.
The Speakers Journey
# Spend some time on some serious study before you boldly proclaim yourself as a “Professional Speaker”
First impressions are important and especially for Speaker Bureau and Corporate Bookers. If you are not 100% comfortable, credible and focused in your particular niche it will show and you don’t often get a second chance.
It’s also difficult, though not impossible, to regain credibility if you suddenly switch from being an expert in one field, to being an expert in a completely different one, if you find you are just not getting traction in your first chosen area .
# Reading List
There are many books on the Speaking Industry. Here are two of my current favourites –
Money Talks – Alan Weiss. Terrific speaker who will challenge your perceptions and assumptions about the industry. I’ve seen Alan speak on a couple of occasions and his sometimes contrarian advice is gold. Check it out on Amazon
The Wealthy Speaker – Jane Atkinson. This comes as a book / audio book / workbook, but you can buy it in different combos. Jane worked first as a Speaker Agent and Bureau Manager representing many top level speakers before becoming a speakers business coach. An excellent step by step approach.
Check it out on Amazon
My bookshelves are full of many other titles from experts such as Burt Dubin, Dottie & Lilly Walters, Matt Church and more, but these first two are a great place to start.
# Three Questions about Your Topic
Were you passionate about this topic BEFORE you decided to speak about it?
Do you have serious experience in the field? E.g if you are going to speak about Leadership in the corporate world, have you actually ever led a team in this environment?
Do you walk the talk 24/7? Are you a living and breathing example of what you speak on?
# Try Toast Masters
If you are an absolute beginner and really just want to get better at Speaking before possibly transitioning into Paid Speaking, you may want to get involved with Toastmasters International. The worldwide organisation has groups in most cities and it really will allow you to get stage time.
There is some criticism, that I tend to agree with, that they turn out speakers who all speak in the same style & manner, using the same framework, but I think the benefits are strong.
# Join your National Association of Professional Speakers
The Global Speakers Federation is a framework of independent speaking organizations around the globe and is the ideal next step on the Speakers Journey. You can find details of your countries main professional group here and details of events meetings etc.
The focus here is more on the Professional side, getting paid work and building a business.
Strongly suggest you attend an event or two and get a feel for the community. Yes, it’s going to cost you a bit but well worth it. If you like what you see and the people that you meet, join up.
And if you do join, here’s another secret … get involved. Join the committee, volunteer to help on the front desk at meetings etc. It’s the quickest way to establish yourself within any group and the rewards can be immense. I served as membership officer for many years at my local chapter and made many very valuable friends on the committee who have helped my career in many different ways.
# Speaker Bureaus
My comment about Speaker Bureaus is … “they don’t need you until you don’t need them.”
They may seem like a short cut to success and the thrill of being listed on a Bureau site next to famous celebrities and business leaders is undeniably great, but they can also be very hard nuts to crack for some people and somewhat fickle partners at times.
Too many up and coming speakers spend way too much time chasing the bureaus with little or no result. And, like getting a business card printed and proclaiming yourself a Professional Speaker, the same applies to entering the Bureau business. It’s pretty easy to start the business, it’s harder to get traction and keep it going. I seem to get approached at least once a month by a new start up Bureau with a shiny website and big plans.
My advice, focus on creating your own clients, your own reputation and your own status within your niche. Once this is happening , at some point the Bureaus will come knocking, as their own bank of clients will be asking for you by name and then it’s the perfect moment to form strong relationships and take your fees to the next level.
The MC Business
A great alternative approach to getting work onstage, honing your skills and building a presence within the industry is to focus on MC work.
For many, being a great MC is firm stepping stone towards working in other areas of the Speaking Industry.
For other more established speakers, it can become a nice second professional service they can offer to their clients
And for some of us, it’s a lucrative full time career.
Working as an MC has taken me all over the world, to paid assignments in the USA, South Africa, New Zealand, Cambodia and of course every nook and cranny of Australia where I am now based.
It helps you overcome all the challenges we outlined before and importantly puts you in front of many Bureaus, Bookers and possible Clients.
I’ll give you an example.
Many years ago I was helping a Trade Show exhibitor out by doing some small things at their convention stand at a resort. The Gala Dinner for hundreds of delegates was that night and during the afternoon the main organiser of the event asked if I could help them out by introducing the guest entertainer during the dinner. The main conference MC hadn’t being going very well and they wanted a change.
Sure I said, it was just 5 mins and I got to attend the fancy dinner. But because of that, I then started working for that big client on numerous other huge events both as the MC, delivering Keynotes and Entertaining. And many of these were around the world! That is the power of being a the MC up there in front of people.
Yes, it was a fortuitous moment of good luck, I was in the right place at the right time, but as the famous quote by the Roman philosopher Seneca goes
“Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity”
If you would like to explore the possibilities of working as an MC then I strongly encourage you to download our free Professional MC’s Roadmap via the image below.
It will take you Step by Step through 21 activities you should do!
(And you don’t even need to provide an email to download the Roadmap.)
Start Creating your own Opportunities Right Now.