Hints for Emerging Speakers

I’m frequently asked for tips on how to delve into the world of public speaking.  Here are a few ideas for those interested…

First and foremost, know yourself, know your voice, know your audience. Answering the following questions should help:

  • Knowing your unique message is key.  What do you talk about?  What is your unique expertise?
  • Who else is speaking on this? Look at their stuff and see how you fit and what makes you different among the current voices.
  • Who needs your voice?  Knowing your target audience is vital in order to go after them. Be specific here i.e. target not just “teenagers” but “teens looking for work.”

Getting Invited — The key to growing a speaking career is receiving more and more invitations.  Sounds obvious right? But how do you go about doing this? Word of mouth advocacy is always supreme. Are there any key contacts of influence that can recommend you to others? Associations are great springboards too, because speaking for one locale opens up doors for other regions.  What associations align best with your topics and expertise?

Meeting and Event Planners Associations can lead you to professionals in your area who book speakers. Do some research online and find out who plans meetings in places where you have relationships and can make a call or two to connect with those looking for speakers.

Your Website — You’ll need a simple website with clips of yourself speaking.  This is vital, or at least a landing page where interested people can go and watch you in action, even a page that links to YouTube videos can work.  You don’t need this right off the bat, but sooner rather than later it will bring legitimacy to who you are as a speaker.  A few lines of endorsement from influencers on this same page are also ideal.  Include a few (less is more) titles of messages with brief descriptions on each.  Mention what the takeaways are, what the audience will learn and how they’ll benefit by listening to you. No time to be bashful or humble here, tell it like it is and convince someone whose inquiring that you are indeed the speaker for them.

Pricing — You don’t need to have a pricing list published, especially early-on since just booking the events is key. I typically ask an organization, “What is your speaker’s budget for this event?” that way I can decide if I want to share my typical charge or work with them on a range that fits their needs.  Over time you can hold stronger to your pricing, but again, in the beginning you want any and all experience you can get, paid or unpaid.

The best education in all of this comes from trial and error, while also looking all over the web to see who is already successful in the niche you want. Look at other speaker’s websites, their materials, how much they charge and how they articulate their requirements. Review the list of their clients or places they’ve spoken.  I’m constantly learning myself, adding tools and techniques to grow in this area.

Some of my most valuable mentoring has come from spontaneous conversations in the moment, or watching TED Talks, or hearing about a speaker who just spoke somewhere, then finding out more about who they are and how they got that invitation.  Keep in mind that while a conversation with an expert helps, it’s really self-directed learning and inquiry online that makes for the best education about how to venture into the arenas of speaking (literally)!

Lastly, nothing trumps for speaking content more than experience, along with real-life stories you can share with your audience.  Learn your own stories well, telling them in a way that focuses on others.  The sky’s the limit on ways to do this (blogging, writing, practicing in front of the mirror) and those who are best, work continuously on becoming more excellent.  Sometimes you hit it and other times you don’t, but regardless, getting this dream in motion is a great place to start.  At the same time be patient, because speaking as a paid career happens over time.

Someone in this world needs your voice.  So muster up your confidence and start speaking!

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