Written by Wendy Keller
So you’ve got something to say to the world? Great! Now how do you find a way to get people to pay to listen to you?
Professional speakers like Zig Ziglar, Dale Carnegie, Anthony Robbins, Brian Tracy, the late Jim Rohn, Jack Canfield and others blasted themselves into the stratosphere using the same techniques this article will teach you. That and a lot, lot, lot of elbow grease, a half-pound (make that three tons) of luck and a consistent focus on the goal ahead got them to where they are today.
More than 7,500 people have been trained in how to become professional speakers through my work. Most now use paid public speaking to generate all or part of their income. While many speakers get paid $15,000 or more for just one 45 minute talk, according to research by the National Speakers Association, even the “average” speaker gets between $1,000-$3,000 per engagement and does it about 20 times a year. Peanuts? Not at all! That adds up to an extra $60,000!
So how do you get in on the action?
First, you’ve got to have something to say that people need or want to hear. While the story of how your granny moved from Wisconsin to LA in the 1900s might be compelling to you, not many people are going to pay you to hear you tell it. (In fact, your friends might pay you something to NOT hear it!) Of course, if Granny ended up being Cary Grant’s mother, then that might be interesting, but even that isn’t going to get you a whole lot of paid bookings.
A more practical idea might be to look at what sort of topic you might develop that is of interest to businesses. Sales, negotiation, customer service, marketing, management, leadership, finance, and so on – these are evergreen topics. Businesses will always buy them, and it’s the businesses that spend the money on speakers. (And here all along you thought it was the Ladies’ Auxiliary Luncheon who wanted to see slides from your trip to Peru?)
Topics like relationships, love, better sex, weight loss, making money in real estate and so on tend to get relegated to what are called “public programs.” That is, unless you’ve got a popular book to go along with it, most of the speaking you do will be at events that you sponsor, market and manage yourself OR at public events focused on topics like yours. Read: lose your shirt and your undies too, unless you REALLY know what you’re doing as a marketer.
Step One: nailing down a commercially viable topic .
Determine if there’s a need for your topic. You’d be amazed at how many times a month people call our speakers bureau (bureaus book speakers into paid engagements) and say, “Hey! I want to be a speaker. I’ve had such an interesting life. My cousin said I’d make a fortune. When can I start?” Umm, well, that’s not the way it works.
Step Two is finding out what else is in your market, what the other speakers/trainers are saying and what you’ve got to add that’s better. Get some real research about the need for your topic, and customize it to suit. Read the Wall Street Journal and other prominent business publications. Gather ideas, facts and stats. Talk to people you think will want to hire you. Listen to their answers!
When you have a good idea what your market needs and how you can truly and authentically deliver it with integrity, test market yourself. Make calls and give away for free SIX speeches. Test your skills (Step Three!) and audience response in front of Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis, Chambers of Commerce – anywhere they’ll let you talk to real people who represent your target market.
Now that you have content that you’ve refined in front of a live audience, you’re ready to prepare your marketing materials. Put together a high quality speaker’s package, including a website, demo of you presenting, thorough benefits description of your content and testimonials from your first six free events. Market it to your target people – people who can hire you to come in and deliver it. Write articles on the topic, get yourself media, consider writing a book on the topic, develop handouts, back of room products to sell and package any consulting services you might hope to offer.
These are the steps that get you from wishing to cashing the check as a professional speaker. You can do it!