Written by Wendy Keller
So you’ve got a message you want to spread and you’ve got the moxie it takes to stand in front of a room of strangers and talk. Now what?
Some people want to become professional speakers because they want an exciting new career. Others have a burning topic they just have to share with the world – it’s their mission or their passion. Some business people realize what giving speeches could do to attract new customers. What’s your motivation? Your answer to that question will determine how you should best go about becoming a paid public speaker.
The first step is to know what you want to say and who you want to address.
A business-related message like customer service, sales or management will always sell better than “Caring for Your New Puppy” or “Why You Should Contribute To My Favorite Charity.” Corporations and associations hire the most professional speakers, work with more speakers bureaus (we’re the ones who get paid engagements for speakers) and generally pay more than any other type of venue. There’s a gray area in the “How I Overcome __________” motivational/inspirational speeches.
A lot of that depends on what you overcame and how astonishing your achievements have been since so doing, as well as how well you market yourself. Every week for the last 20+ years, people have called our speakers’ bureau to ask how they can get paid to speak on “How I Overcame Depression” or another mental illness. These aren’t typically money-making topics–important though they may be in the larger picture.
If your idea is or could be adapted to a corporate or association audience, your next step is to actually write out the entire speech. Even if you’re a great off-the-cuff speaker, you need to have a clearly organized, optimized presentation. I’ve trained more than 7,500 beginning speakers on how to get started and I firmly believe the best way to begin writing a speech is to outline it on slides in PowerPoint, even if you won’t use PowerPoint to deliver your speech. The slide sorter function allows you to move around the speech pieces so they flow more smoothly, and to add details, artwork, tips, quotes and so on as you build up the speech in each section.
Practice it aloud in front of a mirror. Fix, edit, improve, and do it again –at least six times. Now incorporate all your notes and ideas. You’ll be pretty close to having a decent speech now.
Once you’ve got a solid speech, you’ve finally got a product to sell. The next step is marketing – and that would take 100 pages to explain. For now, just call around to your local community groups – Kiwanis, Rotary, Elks — and see if you can practice it again – another six times – in front of them for free.
Practicing and editing a speech in the beginning is the proven difference between someone who will go on to be a very successful, well-paid professional speaker and someone who will always be stuck doing the cheap or free speaking engagements. Make your speech as perfect as you can and you’re on your way. Good luck!