Why talk about becoming a professional speaker in a blog dedicated to writing books?
Because after finding a problem to solve, researching the problem and then providing an answer in a book, the author is well on his/her way to becoming an expert if the amount of experience behind the author does not already grant the him/her the title of “expert”. A professional speaker is an expert who speaks to audiences-usually in exchange for a fee. So if that non-fiction author is serious about sharing their message with those who need it, they cannot limit this effort to the book. (And this opinion has absolutely nothing to do with my history as a public speaking instructor.)
The following list tells you exactly where to go to learn more about becoming a professional speaker who can reach even more people with your message.
1. Join Toastmasters International
This international organization is not about helping you become a professional speaker, but it is all about helping you become a better public speaker. They have been doing this since 1924, so it is safe to say that they have become proficient at helping people become better speakers. Toastmasters has local groups around the world that will allow you to practice your speaking skills in front of a group of people you feel comfortable with.
Toastmasters has a series of ten self-paced presentations known as the “Competent Communication Manual” that members are challenged to complete. They also host competitions to allow you to really flex your developing speaking skills. The greatest benefit of this program is that you get immediate feedback and recommendations for improvement from a local support group-this is a key benefit that many other programs try to imitate, but fail to provide the same non-competitive spirit as the Toastmasters groups.
New members are asked to pay a one time fee of $20, and the 6 month membership dues are only $36. Learn more at Toastmasters.org. (If you prefer a more compact introduction to public speaking, Dale Carneige offers an online course for $299 as well as live training events that cost a little more.)
2. Find a Public Speaking Mentor and Support Community that Is Related to Your Speaking Goals
Toastmasters International is a great place to start, but it is not a community designed to cultivate public speaking professionals. Now that you have had experience getting up in front of a crowd, you will want to find a mentor who can help you learn to make a career out of speaking.
You may want to start “where you are” by finding professional speaking groups in Google Plus communities, LinkedIn Groups or even in your local area through Meetup.com. I recommend doing a search for “(insert your industry name) professional speakers.” A mentor does not necessarily have to be someone you can sit down and have lunch with, but this should be someone who is-or has been-where you want to go. If they have information that you can read, listen to, or watch to learn their strategy, then they can be your mentor.
On your search for a mentor, I recommend that you check out World Champions’ Edge. I am not an affiliate for them, and I do not know them personally, but this is a group of five acclaimed public speakers who have come together to coach the rest of us how to do what they do. The four gentlemen in the group have earned rare recognition as Toastmaster International’s “World Champions of Public Speaking.” The lady of the group is a former president of the National Speakers Association. It is very difficult to not be impressed by this collection. Read the free articles on their website for career building tips and learn more about their $29.95/month support program at WorldChampionsEdgeNet.com.
3. Incorporate “Professional Speaking” into Your Platform
Most professional speakers will tell you that there is no such thing as a “public speaking circuit” and that Speaker Bureaus are nice to have but are not necessary to get gigs. The way most speakers get gigs is through referrals from those who have heard them speak, met them in person, saw their interview or read their book, blogs, newsletters or article.
Your platform is usually based on a website-which ideally hosts your blog. After you have established a blog, you can generate traffic to the blog by writing guest posts on other blogs and writing articles for online article directories and offline magazines. You may also decide to write a newsletter, but it would be easier and more effective to use an email marketing company like MailChimp or Aweber to turn your blog posts into emails that you can send to a list of people who opt in to receive your messages-this is an e-newsletter. If you keep reading my posts long enough and put it to use, you will definitely end up with a book at some point. And the content in your books will seep into your speeches. When enough people hear your presentations and begin recommending you, you will get even more gigs and sell even more books. All this to say that people find you because of your platform, and when you build your platform and actively promote it, people will find you and ask you to speak.
I highly recommend reading Michael Hyatt’s book to learn more about how to begin this process.
4. Build Your Experience with Free Speaking Gigs
No one can really tell you how to build an amazing presentation that maximizes all of your unique talents while you communicate your message to audiences. People can give you tips to help you get there, but you will have to learn this by speaking in public. Just do it!
You can start by finding local associations, businesses or even colleges that will allow you to speak to their members, employees or students. The key is to find the organizations where your people-the people who have the problem your message solves-are likely to hang out.
It is in your best interest to do a great job at these events so that you will get great referrals. You can promote these events with newspaper mentions and flyers. And when you book these free events, it would be ideal if you can get your host to agree to let you sell your books “in the back of the room.”
5. Join National Speakers Association (NSA)
This is the most respected speakers association in the industry. They host several conferences a year, they offer books, articles and online webinars to teach you more about public speaking, and-most importantly-they offer resources to help you promote your public speaking gigs.
This organization is one of the best ways for you to get connected and stay connected to the professional speaking community.
Because you are still building up to the status of a professional speaker, you would join NSA as an “Aspiring Speaker” in their “Academy for Professional Speaking.” After an initial investment of a $175 initiation fee, you would have a $49/month investment to stay in the academy. Learn more on their website.
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Some may wonder why I listed NSA last on the list since they are such a critical part of a professional speaker’s career. My answer is simple: not everyone has the interest or lifestyle that makes professional speaking a viable option for spreading their message, so the four steps that precede this step are designed to help authors determine whether or not public speaking really works for them. For example, if you notice that travel creates conflict in your home or professional life, then maybe you would do better as a webinar host then a traveling professional speaker. But if you jump right into NSA and consume all their information and tips on how to make money as a speaker, you may get so distracted by the “opportunity” before you that you don’t have the chance to truly appreciate your reality.
If after following the steps above you decide that you like the way things are going and that you want to continue the path to becoming a professional speaker-go for it! But if it doesn’t look right for you, don’t worry. There are several other options.
Here is a quick question I would love to read your reaction to in the comments below:
Question: Who is your favorite public speaker, and what do you like about him/her?
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, i only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Image attribution in order of appearance:
- By Official GDC (Flickr: GDC 2011 3/2 (day 2)) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
- By Slowking4 (Own work) [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia Commons