Words have creative power. They can inspire hope and devastate dreams. They can bring people together and create divide. They can even heal countries and start wars. Words are seeds, an expression of ideas, that can cultivate a life for the betterment – or detriment – of an individual, community, or nation.
Great speakers have tremendous influence. Motivational speakers, teachers, politicians, pastors, and many media talent, all talk for a living. They affect one’s way of thinking through the effective communication of their ideas. Hopefully, they will be responsible and deliver content that is truthful, relevant and constructive along the way.
If you dream of being paid to speak, then consider the following:
WHY do you want to speak?
Many of the greatest speakers documented in history were either angry individuals or inspired by a vision of something better. These are not mutually exclusive, as oftentimes, anger produces vision. Think of iconic leaders like Ronald Reagan (“Tear Down This Wall”), Dr. Martin Luther King (“I Have a Dream”), and Michelle Obama (2016 DNC – “When They Go Low, We Go High”). These people spoke from a passion, an underlying anger and/or vision, that fueled their voice and shaped their content.
- What frustrates you?
- What inspires you?
WHAT is your message?
In simple terms, a “platform” is anything you stand on that elevates you. Some people view and rely on their status as a public figure or with a business or corporation as their platform. However, your real platform is your ideas, translated into substantive and transformative messaging. For example, I am reminded that Jesus did not own a business, hold a public office, nor was he a cohort of the religious elite. He was a carpenter by trade. His profound teachings, a message of restoring a (heavenly) kingdom government and culture to mankind, elevated him – and his message still endures today.
- What is your expertise?
- Does your message solve a problem?
- Is your content clear, well-developed and practical?
WHO is your audience?
You will not be all things to all people. To get the most impact from your message – to make it stick – it is best to narrow your audience.
- Who benefits the most from your message?
- In which demographic does your message have the most momentum?
WHERE do you start?
Start where you are. Take advantage of opportunities to speak to groups on your job, at school, and in your community organizations. This will allow you to practice sharing your content in safe places and receive constructive feedback.
- Join speaker groups, such as the National Speakers Association, that provide development tools, best practices and access to other speakers to help refine and mobilize your public speaking business. Follow these groups on social media.
- Find a mentor who has been where you want to go – don’t view that person as your competition. What differentiates you will be your unique story and insight, told in your unique voice, embodied by your unique presence. Your uniqueness has no competition.
HOW do you monetize?
Once you establish yourself as an expert in your space, there will be different ways to make money as a speaker – coaching, consulting, teaching, training, keynoting, facilitating meetings, producing audiobooks, hosting podcasts and virtual summits, etc.
- Be willing to speak for free in the beginning. You’ve got to build relationships, sow seeds, and allow people to experience you and your message. As your brand grows, your demand will increase – and so will your honorariums.
- Push your content digitally (website, blogs, webinars, social media).
- Provide your audience with a tool they can use. Don’t just speak; leave something behind for their continued edification, or for goodwill, so they’ll remember you.
WHEN do you pursue it full-time?
The timing is really up to you. Many speakers lead businesses or have other jobs; speaking is a side gig. However, once you can sustain yourself through honorariums, royalties, and other income – or, if you have savings – then invest a full-faith effort to build your speaking business.
- Have a good team to help you build your brand. A marketing strategist can help with conceptualizing your brand and clarifying your value proposition. If you don’t have time to regularly post social media content, then contract with someone who does. A proofreader and photographer are essential.
- Consider working with a speaker management agency that specializes in finding, booking and managing speaking engagements.