How to get started as a speaker

Ever had the desire to become a professional speaker? I do. I’m still putting together the pieces, but what I’ve learned could help you in your quest to become a speaker. A full discussion of this topic is beyond the scope of one blog post, but I can offer some suggestions to get you started.

To help in my journey, I purchased Darren LaCroix’s “Get Paid To Speak Next Week” program. Using DVDs and a workbook, Darren shows you how to become a professional speaker from the ground up. The following is from that course.

First, ask yourself: “What do I enjoy doing? What am I really passionate about?” It could be a particular hobby, professional matter or social cause. There is an audience for just about every topic imaginable. It’s better to focus on something you know and love, than to try and force yourself to speak about a topic that just doesn’t resonate with you.

Early on in the program you are instructed to list your assets; that is, experiences. Go all the way back. What jobs or hobbies have you had? Don’t hold back. You never know when a skill or story from your past could be useful in one of your presentations. In my case, I listed:

– Paper route
– Restaurant work, various positions
– Retailing: a clerk with a department store
– Newspaper ad sales
– Insurance agent
– Temp technical writer
– Account exec for ad agencies
– Freelance marketing writer; presenter
– Past chairman and president of organizations

As for hobbies, those include amateur radio, camping, biking, traveling, and hunting, among others.

With this exercise, we’re trying to ferret out material for presentations, but also show you that even a supposedly mundane past can be fertile grounds for becoming a professional speaker.

How to become a better speaker

Do you find public speaking a terrifying experience? Don’t feel bad. Public speaking is one of the most feared activities, according to surveys (even ahead of dying). If so, consider joining Toastmasters. Not only will you get over your fears, but you will become a better speaker overall. Dues are very reasonable, and the meetings occur in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. I was a Toastmaster for 5-1/2 years, and can attest to the value of the program.

Now that  you have some fundamentals under your belt, you need to get out and speak. One of the best opportunities can be found at service clubs. Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions clubs need presenters regularly. Contact clubs in your area.

As for topics, that will depend partly on the audience and on your interest and experiences. The clubs like variety, so feel free to talk about hobbies or other non-business topics. I have spoken on various aspects of amateur radio. My Rotary club has been entertained by a ping pong master and trumpet player. Lighter topics are nice, as they balance the more serious subjects often discussed.

Other avenues to help you get noticed as a budding professional speaker include chambers of commerce meetings, trade or business association meetings (for seminars or workshops), and local trade or business colleges. I have offered seminars to adult ed and business classes at area colleges. The key is to get out and get noticed, even if it’s a free gig. Business and civic groups are great because you are introduced to decision makers who may hire or recommend you.

Contact your state’s chapter of the National Speaking Association. They may offer a training program for budding professional speakers. (The Wisconsin chapter does.)

Develop a plan to speak at least two times per month somewhere. Eventually you will be offered to present for a fee. At that point, you have become a professional speaker. Will you do this full time or part-time? Good question. But at least you’re in the position to make the call.

If you enjoyed this column, could you do me a favor? Please share it by using the buttons below. And, feel free to comment on your experiences as a speaker or presenter.

For additional tips to help you become a better speaker, see Overcome fear of public speaking with proper strategy and  Some tips for effective presentations.

Tom Fuszard, content writer, blog writing, pr writing, web copy



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