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Ten Steps to Becoming a Professional Speaker: Part I
by Chris King

So you want to be a “Pro.” You’ve been giving presentations for some time now, and you are one of those fortunate people who enjoy speaking to groups. You’ve had good feedback, and many compliments, so you are thinking about becoming a professional speaker. You’ve heard also that they make lots of money and get to travel the world. So what steps should you take?

Get good! Even though you have been speaking for awhile and receiving compliments, you should try to speak three times a week — free or otherwise — to get really good. There is more competition nowadays in the speaking profession than there has ever been. Join a Toastmasters International group. You will get a chance to speak once a week here. Volunteer to present at a conference — either a Toastmasters’ District, Regional or International Conference or at one of your other organizations’ or associations’ conferences. This will give you great exposure and the growth experience of preparation. Another place to test your topics and interaction with people is through continuing education classes. Offer your services at a local school or college. The listing in the brochure will get your name out and also test how popular the subject you are offering will be.

Join the National Speakers Association (N.S.A.). This is the Professional group for speakers. Visit their website at to check out the credentials needed to become a member. There are chapters across the nation to which you can belong on an associate basis. This organization is the perfect place to find a mentor, to learn the ins and outs of professional speaking, and how to market yourself. Remember that setting professional standards is key to becoming a professional.

Make decisions and develop a strategic game plan. Do you want to speak full or part time. (note: there are many who would tell you not to quit your day job too quickly. It took Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, and other greats at least seven years to become fulltime professional speakers.) Do you prefer giving workshops, seminars, or keynotes? If you don’t know the difference, you are not ready yet. I prefer workshops, because I feel that the participants tend to make more changes than those who attend an all day seminar without hands-on experience or a motivational keynote which pumps them up for only a couple of days. Do you want to consider working for a Seminar Company like CareerTrack or SkillPath? They set the dates, but you will have a lot of traveling and repetition of the same program. Do you want to become a regional, national or international speaker? All have their advantages and disadvantages. Attend many presentations and talk to the presenters. For an all day seminar or workshop, you might take the speaker to lunch. It will be worth what you learn in return.

Develop a salable speech. There are many questions to ask yourself: What is my passion? How am I unique? What advantages and special talents do I have that I can put to use when presenting? What results do I want from those who hear me present? Why would I be hired instead of someone else? How can I truly customize my presentation for a particular group? What value added content will I give? To be successful, we must find a need and fill it. Be sure to limit your number of topics. If you advertise a huge number there will be doubts about how well you do so many.

Develop as a speaker. There are three stages that speakers go through. The beginning speaker is concerned with what he or she is going to say. And whether or not they remembered to say what they planned to. (Remember, that no one in the audience knows what you planned to say or forgot to say.) The average speaker who is past the beginning stage is concerned with how he or she is doing. What does the audience think of me and my performance? And the seasoned speaker is most concerned about the audience. What are they getting from this presentation? What difference will it make in their lives. When, as speakers, we focus our attention on the audience, we are on our way to becoming strong professional speakers. We fill the needs of others. We establish the reputation for helping and caring. Our attitude is upbeat. We walk our talk!

Remember that you must determine how you want to be KNOWN and then become KNOWN that way. In the words of speaker John Crudele, “Audiences don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Inform the mind and you may change a mind, but touch the heart and you may change a life.”

Watch for more steps to becoming a professional speaker in the next article!

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