So… You Think You’d Like to Start Speaking Professionally
Here’s a 6-Step Quick Start Guide to Starting Your Career As a Professional Speaker
David, a 59 year old divisional vice president with one of the largest and most renowned financial service providers in the world, is working harder and longer hours than ever before in his career. He travels extensively, is heavily scheduled, and earns an annual salary over $500K.
David finds himself at what is most probably his professional peak. He is well invested, fully insured, able to fund college educations for his children and is in relatively good health, albeit stress-related minor health challenges.
Barely making time for his favorite pastime of golf, he longs for a way to share his expertise without the management responsibilities that come with his job. His company takes full advantage of his expertise and his natural talent to train others in the company. Occasionally, he’s asked to speak to a professional association.
David and I spent some time talking at a gathering of friends. We discussed ideas in which he could utilize his knowledge base in new and stimulating ways without having to work for the firm including interviewing his favorite authors about their philosophies of success building practices and then producing a series of CDs based on those interviews. David left the gathering a little more confident that he could have another career path of speaking full time.
It does not matter if you’re a top producer in a commissioned sales business such as insurance or real estate or if you’re a corporate leader who’s ready to challenge yourself beyond the bounds of your organization or you’re an entrepreneur leading the field…
These SEVEN STEPS will help you think more seriously about making a transition to professional speaking:
- Identify your core competencies. What are the things that you do that have taken you to the top of your profession either in your geographical area or in your organization nationwide? Write a list and make it as long as you can. You can edit it later.
- Create a list of facts about yourself that have distinguished your expertise and brought recognition to you and your organization. As an example, here is a list of facts I gathered in 2005 about Mark Victor Hansen so that I could utilize those in securing more speaking engagements for him:
- Has addressed 3 million people in 38 countries since 1978
- Bestselling author of 3 books: Chicken Soup for the Soul, Power of Focus, One Minute Millionaire
- #1 bestselling living author of a non-fiction series
- Created billion dollar brand with Chicken Soup for the Soul
- Only author in 2003 with two bestselling books on BusinessWeek Best-Seller List at same time (One Minute Millionaire & The Power of Focus)
- USA TODAY (March 2004) named five Chicken Soup for the Soul titles among the top 100 books from the first ten years of the USA TODAY Bestselling books list.
- Famous author Harvey Mackay said, “If you only real one book this year, read The Power of Focus.”
- Recipient of the Book of the Year Award by the American Booksellers Association – voted on by over 20,000 bookstores who nominate titles that are the “hidden treasures in the adult and children’s book categories
- Recipient of the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans which honors American leaders who have succeeded in the face of adversity and who personify the virtues and principles inherent in the success stories written by nineteenth century American author Horatio Alger, Jr.
- Inducted into 2004 Sales & Marketing Executives International, Inc.’s Sales and Marketing Hall of Fame – The Ambassador of Free Enterprise award.
- Named 1999 Humanitarian of the Year by the National Conference for Community and Justice (formerly the National Conference of Christians and Jews
- 2004 recipient of the Dove Award - Visionary Philanthropist for Youth Award by Covenant House California
- Compose a list of the major turning points in your life. What experiences did you have that helped you form who you are today? What childhood experiences did you have that demonstrated your tenacity, your positive attitude, your ability to help others communicate more effectively, your ability to turn a negative experience into one that benefited you? Being able to tell stories about yourself, your childhood experiences, handling crises, overcoming obstacles – those are defining experiences to which you can refer in building your signature speech.
- Write a unique selling proposition about yourself. Make it two sentences which say, in short, “I am… I do...”When others ask what you do, avoid saying, “I’m a speaker.” How uninteresting is that? Plus, their next question will be, “What do you speak about?”Why not say…“I am a management expert for personal bankers. I am an equity specialist for organizations who seek staff development training to produce highly qualified individuals regarding ongoing reforms in the banking industry.” Now, there’s an opening for building a relationship.
- Identify your target market. What industry will most benefit from your time and talents? What organization, either a company or an association, boot camp or public rally with multiple speakers, would benefit from your expertise? When you read about current events in trade journals, magazines and newspapers, think about how your expertise could create solutions for those organizations. Beyond speaking to these organizations, you’ll have a natural outlet for your products and services.
- Collect third party endorsements. List the names of business professionals who believe in you and your expertise… those who are your champions in the field. This may be one sentence from an individual or an entire thank you letter from someone. These people will be the ones who can verify your talent and your ability to teach others what you know effectively. If you’re a top producer in real estate, this may be your broker, the regional director in your company or a real estate professional who has used your sales strategies and increased their own production. The two primary reasons that organizations will begin to hire you are facts and third party endorsements. I have seen top producers have an additional significant income from speaking part time because they only had their personal production and third party endorsements to secure paid speaking engagements.
- Formulate your signature speech. Imagine that you have 45 minutes to teach others what you know. What would be the most important elements to cover? What principles have served you over the years? Oprah Winfrey has special page in every O magazine entitled, What I Know for Sure. What do you know for sure?
Going through the process of answering these questions is fun and productive. It is the beginning after which Internet technology can maximize your outreach, attract and position you within your target market for speaking in public. You may be among the new breed of professional speakers that comes from passion and purpose for which professional speaking is a natural evolution.
©2009 Mary McKay Productions, Inc.