Being a professional speaker, trainer, coach and consultant on a full-time basis is both rewarding and challenging at the same time. It is rewarding because you get to do what most people only dream of doing, standing on stages worldwide sharing your thoughts, ideas and concepts. As a result, you get the chance to meet people from all walks of life, backgrounds, cultures, etc. In the picture on the left I am speaking to 3000 Verizon employees. You also have a sense of fulfillment in knowing that your life is being used in a way to shape ideologies that impact in my case, school. workforce development and campus and individual outcomes. Many lives have been touched in my world and I am grateful.
As exciting as it is to speak for a living however, there is another side of this equation that people don’t think about fully before jumping in–the business side. When you become a professional speaker, you are a business owner that has to work his or her business everyday. I have been in this field for 17 years and have seen thousands of people churn and burn. Many people come in excited and enthused but immediately realize that though you have been told that you are an amazing speaker, full of talent and skills–struggle to succeed and achieve the dream they aspire to achieve. I am keeping it real my friends, if you do not have business acumen, do not jump into this field blindly. Just like any other business you have to be disciplined, work smart everyday, market your services and be tenacious in your pursuits to help others via the gift of speaking. I am writing this article because on a daily basis, I get calls and e-mails from people saying that they are the next Les Brown, Zig Ziglar, etc. I tell them from the onset, that Les and Zig are successful not only because they are (were in the case of Zig) great speakers only, they both are great businessmen. I have interacted with both of them at our association NSA’s (National Speakers Association) annual conferences so I know this firsthand. This is how I learned the business of speaking.
If you are interested in becoming a professional speaker, trainer, etc and want to sustain your business for years to come. I offer the following suggestions:
1. Realize that you are in a business-Even if you are home-based, act like you are going to work everyday and plan activities designed to advance your business. Marketing, PR, branding and financial management should be a part of your weekly activities. Networking with other speakers, going to conventions, joining speaker and niche market associations and if you can afford it, hiring a business coach are all critical keys to success as a speaker. You have to put the time in and press daily or your dream will fade away in this field. I have seen it happen more times than you could imagine.
2. Be an expert-Back when Zig Ziglar first started it was easier to break in because there were only a handful of speakers in the marketplace. It was kind of like being a kid in candy store because they did not have a lot of competition. Today, there are millions of people who call themselves speakers. Many do not speak at all but have profiles and social media pages saying that they do:-) A person who speaks for a living-speaks for a living. This is what they do and they commit time and energy to the craft. It is not a spare time hobby for them. If you have gained expertise via education or work experience, this qualifies you to speak on the subject. Organizations, companies and academia want to hear from people who know what they are talking about. They want insight from people who can help them advance their causes. The worst thing you can do is say you are an expert, and your speeches prove otherwise. It can be a death sentence in this industry. The word spreads fast.
3. Find an accountability partner or group-Speaking can be a lonely field if you do it all by yourself. People form mastermind groups or accountability groups to help them enhance their business–and most importantly, stay the course. I have found that this was one of my own shortcomings and have worked to improve in this area. It is easy to isolate yourself as a speaker or trainer but establishing accountability with others helps you to succeed as a speaker.
4. Write Articles-Once you identify your niche market make sure to target trade journals and newsletters, online and off, to write articles. I have gotten quite a bit of business over the years by writing for my industry’s trade journals and newsletters. It keeps your name out there and provides a powerful third party endorsement of your work. Write, and write often. Make sure to put in the info line that you are a speaker, trainer, coach, etc. so that people are aware that you are more than just a writer.
In conclusion speaking can be a powerful career. I must say at the end of this article, many people speak part-time and have chosen not to go full-time. This is OK, but the aforementioned information should still be considered. I know of many college professors, business owners, doctors, attorneys, school leaders and teachers who have made this a part-time effort. If you chose this path, still operate in excellence. As a speaker, you have to be on top of your game, focused and knowledgeable. You must also be extremely diligent in your business operations.
For those who are beginning the journey or in pursuit, I hope this info helps. I wrote it for based upon the number of inquiries I get, many people are interested in this field. It is fun, rewarding and fulfilling, but it does take hard work– just like success in any other field.
Please feel free to contact me at the office 302-834-1040 or visit our coaching page if you are interested and would like additional information about becoming a professional speaker. I can help! Only serious inquires please:-)