Free To Fee: How To Move Into The World Of Professional Speaking.
If you have that burning desire to share with others what is inside you, professional speaking is for you. If you know you have valuable content that can help others, you should be on stage. If your audience thinks differently, feels differently or behaves differently at the conclusion of your presentation, you have done your job as a speaker. You've made a difference in their lives. If you have a solid work ethic, want to learn every day, and have a positive, can-do attitude, you will do well in this business. This article is an excerpt from the book, Free To Fee: How To Move Into The World Of Professional Speaking, by Dr. Michael Soon Lee, CSP and Bill Cole, MS, MA, published by Albert-Brownson Publishing in June 2017.
Free To Fee
How To Move Into The World Of
Bill Cole, MS, MA
Founder and CEO
William B. Cole Consultants
Silicon Valley, California
If you have a passion for speaking, can deliver on stage, are committed to continuous improvement, and can learn the business, the speaking industry can bring you untold joy and rewards. You can change people's lives.
Perhaps you are already a reasonably accomplished speaker, but you rarely get paid to speak. Maybe you're a local speaker who only gets trinkets, mugs, plaques and handshakes after each speech. You might be a speaker who has evolved into being awarded small "honorariums" that barely pay your travel and other speech preparation expenses. You could be a "part-time professional speaker" who is not speaking very often, and who still has a "day job". You might even be a full-time professional speaker-writer-consultant who speaks very little.
Why do you want to be a professional speaker? Fame? Money? Travel? To help others? To spread your message? Are you naturally entertaining? Can you persuade people? Are you a talented teacher? If you have a desire to be in front of audiences where you can help improve their lives, there is a place in the speaking world for you. You don't need to be a Hollywood-style entertainer, a brilliant humorist, or an engaging storyteller to succeed in this business. Of course all those skills help! All you really need is the deep passion to be a change agent and to learn the speaking skills and business skills that will assist you in being effective with varying groups of people.
If you have that burning desire to share with others what is inside you, professional speaking is for you. If you know you have valuable content that can help others, you should be on stage. If your audience thinks differently, feels differently or behaves differently at the conclusion of your presentation, you have done your job as a speaker. You've made a difference in their lives. If you have a solid work ethic, want to learn every day, and have a positive, can-do attitude, you will do well in this business.
While it does take hard work and is less glamorous than it seems on the surface, there are many enjoyable aspects to the profession. Otherwise I, and many others wouldn't keep doing it. A professional speaker will get to see parts of the U.S. and the world other people may not get to visit. If you plan it right you can stay a couple of extra days in a nice place and play tourist. Another big attraction to professional speaking is meeting interesting people from all over the country and around the world. This way you can learn how other people live and make new friends. A very important part of professional speaking is enjoying meeting the challenge of providing creative solutions to unique problems through a keynote or seminar.
Of course there is the ego gratification of being able to motivate and connect with audiences. There is little satisfaction comparable to being able to hold a large audience in the palm of your hand and give them a unique benefit like no one else can. Lastly, the money can be a satisfying reward for the long hours, extensive travel and intense research required in professional speaking. The reason that speakers are often paid in the top one percent of people in this country is based on the unique value we provide.
Hard Work, Big Rewards
Professional speaking is a lot more rigorous than most casual observers think. Most people are only aware of the time a speaker is presenting at a program. After all, it doesn't seem so hard to get up and talk and get paid huge sums of money. Little do they know!
First, there's the travel. It's funny, but speakers are usually not perceived to be very highly valued until they leave their home state, which means to be successful you will probably have to travel a great deal. Next, there's the constant research to keep topics current or to locate new hot subjects for programs. Finally, there's the continuous marketing that must be conducted to keep a speaker booked. With good planning and a bit of luck, you can see the world and meet some of the most interesting people in it.
The Ladder Of Success
You should speak as often as you can even though it may be for little money or even for free. You make your own luck and the more people you speak to the more likely you are to be hired. These people can also give you valuable feedback about your presentation skills and program content. As a speaker becomes more popular he must continuously look for ways to improve and add value to his programs. By eating with participants during lunch or dinner a speaker can often get priceless information about changes taking place in companies and industries.
Very few speakers begin as keynoters. That's because the pressure is greater there, the competition is greater and the skills required to grab and hold and entertain an audience are more sophisticated. For most speakers, it takes many years of diligent work to transition into keynoting. Most speakers begin as seminar leaders or workshop speakers.
I am often asked, "Are keynoters the stars of the professional speaking world? Trainers don't think so! Actually, it does seem that keynoters gather a larger share of the glory, particularly at conventions, but trainers and workshop and seminar speakers can be famous in their own ways, in their own markets. Keynoters are usually paid more per speech and speak to larger audiences than any other type of speaker. So for those reasons, I would have to say that it is generally seen that keynote speakers are "at the top" of the profession.
Speaking skills apply to every type of speaking situation, but keynoting is different from the others. A keynoter usually requires a very strong ego, and is someone who loves the spotlight. However, there are well-known and successful keynoters who are actually rather shy "in real life". Generally, keynoters are more extroverted and love being on stage. The staging skills are different for keynotes and the speaking technique is different. Each of these styles has unique skills that are required to be successful. For example, a workshop leader needs to be able to interact with the audience, and to orchestrate their interaction with each other. A facilitator must have great listening and people skills and be able to limit their ego involvement in the proceedings.
Misconceptions About Professional Speaking
Many new speakers believe the professional speaking business is easy and that they'll immediately zoom right to the top. Little do they know about all the hard work that successful speakers must do to sustain their level of achievement. Many newer speakers are surprised to learn how long it takes to develop a signature speech. Others are surprised at the variety of skills required to start and maintain a professional speaking business. They see a professional speaker on stage and think that's what its all aboutóthe glory. The biggest hidden part is probably the constant marketing and travel. As the saying goes, we're not in the speaking business. We're in the marketing of speaking business.
People can make money many different ways in this industry. Probably most professional speakers have done a little bit of everything along the way until they find what they like, and what they are good at. There is public speaking, speaking for corporations, for associations, for non-profits, for the academic market, for governmental entities and more. Each market has its own price structure. Professional speakers do well in all these venues.
Recently someone at one of my programs asked, "Can an educator become a professional speaker"? Yes, in fact teaching is an ideal launching profession for this business. Think of it. As a teacher or professor you are up in front of a classroom, on your feet, speaking often. You are a content expert, teaching people about a subject matter area in which you are an expert. This is how professional speaking is as well. Many professional speakers are former teachers. Some still teach at colleges and in other venues. Professional speakers have come from all walks of life, and from all educational backgrounds. There are no limits as to who can become a professional speaker. That is the beauty of this industry. The only limit is your talent, drive and creativity.
I know professional speakers who have limited educational backgrounds, but who have tremendous life experiences that audiences want to hear about. They have no degrees in teaching or education. Of course, every speech we give has elements of teaching in it. If you are a trainer, you are teaching more than you would be if you were a keynoter. Keynoting is more about entertaining, with some educational content.
Is Professional Speaking your Calling?
A good test to see if it is for you is to ask yourself the question, "If I was not paid to speak, would I still speak?". If the answer YES! comes from deep within you, then you know you need to be a professional speaker. You see this business as more of a calling or a mission you are on. You view it as your destiny to change lives. You know that, even though this business calls for hard work, you are gladly dedicated to that hard work. You see it as a joy, and you're excited about the legacy that you'll leave to your audiences.
This is an excerpt from the book, Free To Fee: How To Move Into The World Of Professional Speaking, by Dr. Michael Soon Lee, CSP and Bill Cole, MS, MA, published by Albert-Brownson Publishing in June 2017. Available at Amazon
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