Recently, my daughter Mary mentioned that she would like to begin speaking professionally. As an accomplished businesswoman and popular blogger, she was routinely on stage, but she was ready to turn pro. She asked for my help.
As an amateur-turned-pro myself, I sat down and deconstructed how I got started. I emailed her a simple, step-by-step plan. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it really applies to anyone who wants to get started as a professional speaker.
First, let’s review the benefits. Public speaking is a tremendous way to:
- discover what resonates and why,
- build your personal brand,
- promote your products, and
- monetize your content.
Most important, it is one of the best ways I know to influence people: to expose them to new ideas, motivate them to take action, and creative transformational experiences.
But how do you get started? The truth is launching a speaking business is easier than you might think—especially if you already have a blog. Here are the seven steps I shared with Mary:
- Determine your message. What will you speak about? Some people have a vague idea about speaking professionally, but they don’t have a clear message—or set of messages—yet.
If you’re already communicating through your blog, check your stats and see what is resonating with your audience. The intersection between what you’re passionate about and what’s popular with your readers is probably your sweet spot.
Mine your assets. It’s hard to sell something that doesn’t exist. Once you’ve landed on your message, gather the relevant assets you have (these could be posts you’ve written, for instance, or research you’ve already done).
Now transform these assets into new presentation packages you can market. They could be keynotes, workshops, whatever the needs of your potential customer might be. It’s best to have a small suite of focused topics you can tailor for any situation.
Warning: resist the urge to speak on anything anyone wants. Instead, offer a limited menu of topics based on your passion and expertise.
Set up a speaking page. Now that you have your product, you need to sell it. A speaking page is a simple but powerful sales tool. It’s a great way to raise your visibility, promote your products, and develop credibility with your audience.
Determine your booking process. So you’ve got a product, and you’re raising interest. Now what? I’d recommend you require interested parties to fill out a simple online form. Here’s the one I use.
This helps you understand what kind of event your prospective customer is planning, and it sets the stage for negotiating your fee.
Create a fee schedule. What’s your price tag? You’ll want to do some research to determine the range that makes the most sense. You can always negotiate or give a discount, but it does a good job of establishing your value.
For negotiating, my friend Ken Davis recommends what he calls the High Bar/Low Bar method. It’s an effective method I’ve used for years. He details it here in this transcript. I also recommend his Launch Conference, which is all about the business of public speaking. There’s one coming up April 4-7 in Orlando.
I maintain my fee schedule on my blog because it retains my branding and looks official. But I recommend keeping this on a password-protected page. I only share mine with serious inquirers.
Develop a written contract. Speaking is usually more complicated than just agreeing on a fee and showing up. For instance:
- how will they pay your fee?
- which of your expenses will they cover?
- can you sell your products at the back of the room?
- will you allow them to record your presentation?
- to whom may they distribute it?
- what presentation equipment will you need?
- What if they cancel? Will you still get paid?
There are lots of questions that need to be answered in advance. That’s why I won’t speak without a contract that spells it all out. You can find several examples online. Just customize one to suit your needs.
Provide promotional resources. Your clients are going to want to promote your presentation. What will they use? Make it easy for them and control your brand by supplying them with promotional materials.
I maintain a page on my site for this purpose. I send it to event planners in advance of my appearance. It includes my current bio, speaking introduction, and various approved photos they can use.
If you’ve been thinking about starting a public speaking career or moving from amateur to pro, these steps will get you moving in the right direction. You don’t need to get it perfect before you get started. (That’s impossible.) You can fine-tune things once you’re in motion.