Do you dream about getting paid to stand up in front of a room of people and share your message? If so, you may be wondering, “How do I get there?” Here are seven steps that can help catapult your speaking career.
Believe you can do it and be willing to do what it takes. It’s really that simple. When I started speaking, I didn’t know where it would lead, and it took a few years before I was ready to get paid. But I was willing to get out there and try and try and try…until it worked!
Find a mentor. I got started when I stumbled on a book, “World Class Speaking,” by my now longtime mentor, Craig Valentine. The book changed my life, and 15 years later, I still rely on Craig as my mentor, coach, and friend.
Use a system that teaches you how to structure and deliver presentations. The truth is, people will know right away if you’re good or not, right? It’s not like most things where you can claim to be good, and then behind the scenes people get to check you out. Speaking is as visible as it gets. That’s why it’s critical you know how to put together your message in a way that will resonate with your audience- -you’ve got to be able to grab AND keep their attention for the entire presentation.
This may sound counterintuitive, but even if you don’t think you’re ready, you need to get (unpaid) speaking gigs. Getting out there is the only way you will find your voice and your topic to see what resonates with audiences. Speaking in front of people will help you gain confidence as you develop your skills.
Practice. You must practice, and I don’t mean run through your presentation a few times in front of a mirror. Practice means learning how to write amazing presentations. Great presenters have a structure for writing that makes the presentation super dynamic and engaging. Once you get the script down, you have to practice it to the point where it’s internalized so it doesn’t sound canned or memorized. Practice so much that I could shake you out of deep sleep and say, “What’s point number two of your keynote?” And you could tell me!
Find a coach. If you want to make an impact on the lives of others and be compensated for it, you will need a coach – or multiple coaches. I have my own coaches who help me at different times depending on what I’m working on. Find someone who will tell you the truth. You’re too close to your own stuff, so find someone who knows what to look for (not family or friends).
You gotta network. Networking is really the key to continually getting booked to speak. Build relationships with people in your community and people in your niche. Ask them to connect you with groups that would be interested in hearing your message. Becoming a professional speaker is not for the faint of heart – you need to put yourself out there.
It’s important to note that 99.9% of speakers—myself included- – start out for free. So, unless you’re already famous in your niche, don’t expect to get paid out the gate. The time you put in doing free gigs is what will eventually enable you to get paid. You cut your chops with unpaid gigs and then once you’re good enough you’ll start to get paid. When I started my speaking career in 2009, I spoke for free for a year and a half. I spoke everywhere and to everyone I could in my home city. It was a great training ground, plus it gave me what I call the “velocity of visibility”, which is when people who you don’t know, know you because they’ve seen you speak or heard about you from others who have seen you speak. Doing unpaid gigs in your niche or community is the most leveraged way to network for paid gigs and other business.
Public speaking is exciting and scary. I was terrified when I started, but that didn’t stop me, and it shouldn’t stop you either. You can do this, and I hope one day I’ll be watching from the audience cheering you on.
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