So You Want to Be a Professional Speaker?

Last spring I attended the Professional Communicators Summit in Nashville, Tennessee. The conference is designed to assist leaders in either starting a professional speaking career or taking it to the next level. This is a fantastic resource, and one I want to encourage you to make plans now to attend. The next conference is March 18-20, 2010.

A Microphone on a Stage Where a Speaker Is About to Make a Presentation

As someone who does a fair amount of speaking myself, I was confident I could benefit personally from the Summit. However, I also thought I could use this information with many of the authors I publish as the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. I was right on both counts.

The conference is sponsored by Ken Davis. In case you are not familiar with Ken, he is a very popular Christian speaker and comedian. He has had a significant, wide-reaching career. He is also a student of speaking and, especially, the business of speaking. He has distilled everything he has learned in 30 years of professional speaking and used it to take hundreds of other speakers to the next level.

Over the course of three days, we learned four things:

  1. How to discover our assets as a speaker. We took an inventory of our talents and gifts. We looked at our status and platform. We reviewed our own proprietary information and expertise. We even considered how we could convert our weaknesses into strengths. This was hugely eye-opening. I discovered that I had much more to work with than I originally thought.
  2. How to design our products. Our “product” is all about how we package and sell our assets. We began with the question, “What product am I really promoting, selling, or delivering to your buyers? We then discussed four kinds of products:
    • A presentation at someone else’s event
    • Our own events, like seminars or conferences
    • Resources, like books, DVDs, CDs, etc.
    • Services, like consulting, coaching, counseling, etc.
  3. How to market our products. We discussed what marketing is and four steps to building a perception about our products. It was especially helpful to learn about the kinds of things that damage perception. We also discussed what meeting planners are looking for, how to develop effective promotional materials, and the pluses and minuses of speakers bureaus and booking agents.
  4. How to determine our value. Frankly, this was one of the most helpful segments. We discussed why we should charge for our services, how much we should charge, and an extremely helpful pricing concept called “high bar/low bar.” Ken even role-played a fee negotiation with one of the other instructors that demonstrated how natural this conversation can be and to do it in a way that is comfortable for both parties.

Ken was not the only instructor at the event. He had a team of dynamic communicators. I was also privileged to lead a session on “How Professional Speakers Can Get Published.” I will also be speaking at this next event.

If you have been thinking about “going pro” by either starting a speaking career or taking your existing career to the next level, this is the conference for you. This is the only conference of this type that I am aware of. It is both motivational and practical. You will leave pumped up about the possibilities for your career, with concrete tools that you can put to work immediately.

Note: this is a sponsored post.

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  • human3rror

    this is awesome! i'm printing this out, thanks mike!

  • @mamapigeon

    This sounds like the perfect resource for me! I'll be sure to register.

  • Joseph Cole

    I consider myself a professional speaker. I am a pastor who preaches about 36 Sundays out of the year, teaches theology and leadership classes and speaks in other ministry venues. Would this Summit be useful to me in your opinion?

    • Michael Hyatt

      If you want to figure out how to transition to speaking outside your church, this is a must-attend seminar. It is not about speaking per se; it is about the business of speaking.

  • Mac Lake

    Thanks for sharing this resource Mike

  • JasonWert

    I have often thought about being a professional speaker. Between the 20 years in broadcasting, the improv comedy and theater productions I've done over the years I thought I'd have a decent basis to begin in the field. The Lord just hasn't opened a door for me to do it.

    The conference looks extremely interesting…I just wish it wasn't $1,000 to attend. :( Then again…it's March so perhaps the Lord will work a surprise for me between now and then! :)

    • Michael Hyatt

      Trust me: it's worth every penny. Consider it an investment in your career. It will save you years of mistakes.

      • deanaohara

        Jason I am both a speaker and a comic as well. I started out serving in my small church and now I travel through out the state. I agree Michael and thank you for sharing this. I was at the Summit this past Spring, and the value is worth far more than they charge. It was even worth the airfare, car rental, and hotel. (I live in Oklahoma) I'm new on the professional end of speaking, but not new as a speaker. I almost talked myself out of going because I thought I was too new. My attendance at the Summit was in obedience to God and he has blessed that beyond measure. I could not soak the information up fast enough, and I am using most of that today as I go out and speak more and more. This was much needed rocket fuel and the dividends have been amazing.

        Dynamic Communicators Workshop is my next stop in October and I know it will be worth far more than what we are paying.

      • JasonWert

        Oh, it's not that I wouldn't consider it worth it…I just don't have $1,000 to spend right now. However, God's faithful and He will make a way if He wants me there. :)

  • Melissa

    Thanks for the info on the conference and the great tips you included in the post. As I step out to do what I DO NOT WANT to do but God is calling me to do anyway, He keeps bringing me to posts like yours to confirm I am on the right path. Thanks again

  • John Gallagher

    Michael, I have thought about a supplemental career as a Professional speaker before and felt that I may not have had enough to offer; however, I did speak to over 300 engineering students on two different occasions about 4 years ago and got many thanks from those students. Potentially life-changing stuff, but did not pursue it further…I am going to investigate this Forum. Thanks for sharing.

  • Julie Gillies

    I attended the She Speaks conference this summer and shook off a lot of fear. Their speaker evaluation groups force reluctant speakers (which I was at the time) to face their fears. Thanks to that training, I recently stood before my congregation and shared my traumatic testimony. As a direct result, I received 2 invitations to speak.

    I'd love to be more effectively equipped; Ken Davis' conference sounds meaty and practical. I've never heard of it–thanks for so much for passing along the info!

    • Michael Hyatt

      This is unlike any other conference. It doesn't focus on speaking per se, but the business of speaking. It's fantastic!

  • Bianca

    Hi! I checked the dates but the Tennessee date isn’t listed. Is it full?

    • Michael Hyatt

      The Tennessee date is the only date listed. Click here. Follow the registration link.

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  • KarlaAkins

    Awesome! I will definitely be checking out this resource. I love speaking/teaching!

  • Rachel H. Evans

    Thanks so much for sharing this. I'm a first-time author with my book coming out in June of 2010 – a memoir entitled "Evolving in Monkey Town." (Zondervan) I'd really l like to break into the speaking circuit, as I've always enjoyed and excelled at public speaking. I just have no idea where to start! (How much to charge? How to get invited to conferences? How to stand out? How to connect with my target audience?) Nashville's just a three-hour drive for me…so this may be a good option. Thanks.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Based on what you have described, this is TOTALLY the conference for you.

  • klreed189

    I regularly think about doing some kind of speaking to the masses. I am definitely not a professional speaker, I am 23 and eager to do something. The hardest part for me is to stay patient and realize that the guys that are speaking at the conferences and seminars have been speaking for a long time and have been quiet and learning for a long time.
    But I would love to go to this conference and start learning now. I want to be prepared for what God has in store for me.
    Thanks for the resource.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I think the "assets" section of the course would be helpful to you. It will help you see that some of your perceived weaknesses are actually assets, rightly understoor.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I think the "assets" section of the course would be helpful to you. It will help you see that some of your perceived weaknesses are actually assets, rightly understood.

  • @goodwordediting

    Thanks for this! I'm sharing it with Laity Lodge (we have a product of our own conferences) so I'm thinking a summit like this could be really helpful for our directors. They are public speakers themselves, but more importantly, they work with some incredible public speakers that we bring in, to help them understand the unique context of Laity Lodge.

  • Tanna

    Michael, Thank you so much for this timely information. I am terrified of public speaking but God keeps putting the opportunities in front of me. I want to speak I just need the extra push in that direction. It's nice to see an event like this here in Nashville. Out of my budget but if it is meant to happen it will. I just came back from speaking to children in a classroom and found your post in my reader. Baby steps.

    • Michael Hyatt

      You might also check Ken's Dynamic Communicators Workshop. It's for people who want to learn how to be better communicators. This seminar, on the other hand, is more about the business of speaking. Both are important. It just depends on where you are in your career.

  • Lana Vaughan

    Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend the next summit as I will be speaking at the Go Deeper Still Women's Conference at Mt Hermon that weekend.

  • Strong Father


    Thanks for the heads up. I listen to many speakers and I do not think I am better but many times I am different. A conference about the business of speaking will help me tremendously. I presently speak to over 10,000 dads per year and we are looking for our next level of audience. I look forward to being in your session.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Awesome, see you there!

  • richard Dahlstrom

    I love the thought of learning how to market the speaking element. I teach at conferences and in Bible Colleges but have always been hesitant to market myself. As a new author, I'm now learning that marketing, if the message we're sharing is life giving, is nothing more than letting one's light shine – a command we've been given from Jesus! Thanks for the heads up about the conference. I'll hope to see you in March

    • Michael Hyatt

      I had the same problem. I just felt uncomfortable charging anything. I'm afraid I got taken advantage of a lot. After attending the seminar, I learned how to ask for a fee and feel totally comfortable doing it. Very much worthwhile!

  • Mary DeMuth

    Finding my value in terms of speaking has been a difficult/interesting process, and so important as I evolve as a speaker. This year I charged more, particularly because I could see that I wasn't charging the going rate for someone in my career stage. But I did it for another reason too.

    I have three kids (2 teens, 1 preteen). If something is going to take me away from them, it needs to pay well (like help pay for looming college expenses). What's been interesting is that I'm still getting requests for my higher rates.

    • Mary DeMuth

      Oddly, I just read an interesting post about creating speaking fees for authors. Find it here:

      • Michael Hyatt

        This is an interesting article. Ken and his team take a completely different approach. Once you hear it, it completely makes sense. If all I got out of the seminar was the pricing strategies, it would have been worth the price. It was invaluable.

  • Michele Miller

    This looks great, Michael. I've been looking around for a conference that will help me add a "boost" to my presentations. I really like the well-rounded curriculum. Would be great to see you there.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Michele, I have heard you speak, and you are great. This would just help you on the business side. I loved it!

  • davidbmclaughlin

    Ken Davis is a genius and a good man. I have followed and studied him for years. I used to want to be him (before I wanted to be myself). I had the pleasure of meeting him about 10 years ago. Highly recommend the workshop.


  • Daniel Decker

    Looks like a stellar event – initiative. Certainly needed! What you said in a reply above nails this post: "It is not about speaking per se; it is about the business of speaking." Seeing it as a business is so critical. When someone looks at it as a biz, they look at it strategically and they leverage opportunities. The result is not just increased revenue but also increased influence… since the two often go hand in hand. (I know firsthand, having worked with a number of speakers at all levels of the game).

  • Audley

    Thanks Michael.

    In my conversation with other speakers, determining value is always a challenge, especially new ones.

  • Paul

    I would suggest you read this book, "Speaking for Millions". You can get it for FREE by going to It's one of the 5 books that the author gives away. And take note, these ebooks are great for speakers to have.

    Furthermore, check out his site, to sign up to receive his FREE 52 week MASTERS course on Speaking.

    Here's my personal testimony. The author and my mentor, Fred Gleeck, has been speaking professionally for more than 25 years. He also teaches others (like me) how to make REAL money as a speaker.

    Do not hold back! You can be the BEST you can possibly be. I trust Fred's system, and it sure did a GREAT job for me! He helped me, and so will he help you.

    Cheers to your success!

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  • Ssnlive

    A new network for professional speakers and those aspiring.