Speaking publicly may be intimidating to most people, but the truth is…becoming a successful public speaker, in any industry, can offer major incentives— both professionally and financially. We came across this not-too-recent article on Forbes shares “12 Steps To Your First Paid Speaking Engagement” and we think there’s a lot to learn from it.
Public speaking is something even the most extroverted of personalities often shy away from. However, becoming a successful public speaker, in any industry, can offer major incentives— both professionally and financially.
The potential exposure you can receive from public speaking can expand your audience, increase your authority level and your impact.
Through honing your expertise and comfort level in public situations; and putting in more than a bit of effort; you can becoming a successful professional turning a profit.
While it’s been quite a while since my first big paid gig, the 12 steps I used to get there are timeless in their approach and have led to me speak all over the world. Follow these strategies to successfully start your journey to becoming a paid speaker.
1. What (Subject) Matters Most
The basis for every good speaking engagement is unquestionably the subject matter. While a good speaker can make even the most drab topics engaging and entertaining, why not start yourself off on steadier ground with a subject you’re comfortable with and knowledgeable of.
So— what’s your area of expertise? What does your knowledge base include that others would want to be clued in on? Think about these questions and see what you come up with. Consider how you can package this knowledge in a sellable well.
2. Talk It Out (Loud)
While you may be able to captivate the attention of a dinner table full of friends and family, that doesn’t mean you can walk onstage in front of an audience and feel comfortable or relaxed— two absolute necessities for doing this job well.
You need to flex that muscle in order to grow it, so join a local public speaking group in your area, like a Toastmasters chapter, where you can put your skills to work with like-minded individuals who can provide you with thoughtful and objective criticism for improvement.
If you can’t find an organization to practice your speaking with, take a course at a nearby community college on presenting or public speaking.
No one will ever pay you a dime to speak on their stage if you act like the new kid introducing themselves at the front of the class on their first day of school— so strengthen those stage muscles whenever and wherever possible.
Acting and improv classes are another great option; they’re fantastic for learning how to be quick on your feet and spontaneous within your presentation. And if you’ve got a road trip coming up, listen to “The Art of Public Speaking,” by Dale Carnegie. He may have wrote this book for a turn-of-the-century crowd, but much a lot of his advice rings true despite the century that’s passed since its publishing.
3. Practice Makes Perfect
Once you’ve earned some stage time to practice, reach out to local organizations; like your Chamber of Commerce, rotary clubs, local businesses or associations affiliated with your industry. Find out what their needs are in terms of upcoming events and potential openings for speakers.
Preface your conversation with a little bit about yourself; remember that when you’re selling yourself as a speaker, you’re part of the product.
The only way you can end up at the point where major players are calling you to speak at their next conference is to put the leg work in, so expect to chatter your way through some unpaid hours when starting out. But even those unpaid gigs can be turned profitable if you leverage them correctly (I’m getting to that).
4. Tell Us A Story
When presenting you’ll always have a variety of points that will be up to you to connect in a cohesive and engaging way, and this is without a doubt the most difficult aspect of speaking professionally at any level.
As a speaker, you need to sew the connective thread through your content, and the way you accomplish this is through storytelling.
Your presentation content should be something you know inside and out, so finding a way to connect it to you personally through story shouldn’t be too far fetched. The more authentic your storytelling, the more your message with resonate with your audience.
Try highlighting a struggle you’ve faced that was resolved through the content of your speech and express that story. This real life context you’ll be providing to your viewers will create empathy and connection, which can be hard to create outside of a one-on-one interaction.
5. Document It
Every speech you do should be recorded. If you’ve got the funds to hire someone, then by all means do so but if that’s not possible— grab a friend and a phone and ask them to record you!
If all else fails, you can even use one of those phone holders that suction cups to the windshield of your car— just stick it to a wall near the stage with a decent view and hit record!
But it’s not just you you want to get footage of. The experience of your audience is what matters most, and before you have a big name to rely on to get you hired— your testimonial content is all you’ve got!
After every event, make it a goal to stop at least three audience members. Ask them about their experiences on film and finish off your mini-interview by asking if they would recommend you or your content to others. Ideally, they’ll say yes and you’ll have a growing collection of testimonials to send to potential clients.
Why is recording everything so important? You want to do this for two reasons…
1- Social Proof
2- Footage for a demo reel
The more variety in your footage, the better your reel will look to prospective clients. Then, you can use the pieces of footage you have that are going into your demo reel to post socially to your profiles. These posts will help you grow your reputation as a speaker.
Remember when I said that you can still leverage those unpaid speaking gigs to help earn you paid opportunities? This is how; by utilizing the footage of you speaking to boost your reputation in the field and better market yourself.
6. Add It To Your Repertoire
Update your profile information, especially on LinkedIn, to include your skills as an accomplished speaker. Any event you do, make it known!
List the titles of the events on your page and connect with individuals who were at your talk. Message them and ask for their opinion on the experience; then ask those who enjoyed themselves (which will ideally be all of them) to write a review of their experience on your profile.
Testimonial content may be best in video but it’s fantastic in any format, so a long list of recommendations on your LinkedIn profile will work wonders when prospective clients are researching your skill.
7. When They Search, Be There
There are a plethora of sites online that work as speaker databases, so organizations looking for speakers can search through by content or topic to find the perfect speakers for their event; like this one or thisone.
While many of these sites cost a fee to utilize, almost all have a bottom tier, free option— and that’s all you need.
You may be thinking, ‘If I want to take this seriously, shouldn’t I get a better plan?’ But the idea isn’t necessarily to get you hired off of one of these sites, but to have your name pop up in as many different places as possible when a potential client searches your name.
You shouldn’t start spending money on services such as these until you’re making a decent rate for your speaking— you can do enough of the job on your own.
8. Press On with Press Releases
While they’re considered one of the least sexy things a human can write, press releases are something you’ll need to start familiarizing yourself with if you want to earn an income from speaking.
When it comes to writing your press releases, you can use an agency to ensure you’re always using all the necessary information, reaching the right eyes and highlighting the best events or you can grab a friend with a strong hold of the English language mock one up for you.
Your press releases should state who you are, where you’ll be speaking and why; as well as promotions for any other upcoming events and your contact information. You’ll also be able to leverage your testimonial content here, by using transcriptions from your testimonial videos within your press release.
Send your press releases to all the publications in your area, as well as any associations or businesses your content might pertain to.
9. Create Your Hit List
When you’ve got a strong understanding of your niche and target audience, it’s time to curate your hit list.
This will serve as your collection of target events and contacts to reach out to. Put pen to paper, but— you’re not quite ready to call them yet so stick that list on the fridge for the time being.
10. Design & Direct
Now that you’ve got tons of footage from past events along with testimonial videos and posts, you’re going to put it together in a way that helps differentiate and elevate you as a potential hire in your very own Demo Reel.
Your demo reel is like a digital portfolio that should show anyone watching it exactly who you are as a speaker; form style to tone; the content they can expect from you, as well as what they can expect to walk away having learned from you if they were to see you speak.
Once you’ve created your demo reel, have others review it to get their honest opinion. You want to be sure your reel expresses YOU, so see what your friends and family think. Then— tweak accordingly.
11. Make Calls & Create Contacts
Now it’s time to take that hit list and start making calls to the names and numbers you’ve been ruminating over during every trip to and from the fridge.
Be conversational when calling your contacts and introduce yourself. Let them know who you are and what your objective is; then let them know you’ll be sending something their way for review.
While there’s always the ever-simple email with a link to your demo video, there’s something to be said for holding something physical in your hands. That’s why I opt for video books when sending my reel to potential clients, and I highly suggest you do as well. It’s a unique way to stand out in an extremely competitive market.
You can also create an ebook to send using one of the many sites online that offer the service; I like Vimeo’s version best.
12. Determine Your Budget
While the drama of having your own demo reel cut together staring you in a montage of speaker-glory may inflate your head for a moment, remember you’re still trying to prove your worth with your first handful of paid gigs. Be reasonable when considering your pricing after you’ve put your free work in.
When calling to discuss budget, it’s best to start the conversation by making sure they received your demo and another other promotional materials. Then, ask what their budget is for a speaker while expressing your interest.
The more you speak, the more you’ll be able to charge for the things you say because inevitable— you’ll get better as your speeches progress. While that’s no secret hack or breakthrough strategy, it’s what works.
The road to becoming a paid speaker requires plenty of dedication, but the rush of captivating a room full of people with nothing but yourself and your knowledge is something that quite quickly becomes a passion, making the mountain of work it requires seem far more effortless.
Follow these 12 steps, document every bit of your process, be confident and you’ll quickly become a successful speaker, earning revenue with wisdom and wit.