About three times a week I get an email from someone asking for my advice on getting started as a public speaker. Here are a few tips to get you going.They say that people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death. But this is temporary – once you get going, speaking to groups gets easy, and then it gets fun. Nowadays, public speaking is one of my very favorite things to do. People used to say about Bill Clinton, “He never saw a podium he didn’t like,” and you may turn out that way too. You just have to spend a little energy to get your public speaking started!
The first thing, and a step that too many would-be public speakers overlook, is to pick a topic area that plays to both your subject-matter expertise and the public’s interest. So, in my case, when I started making speeches around 1992 or 1993, I was interested in lofty topics concerning the workplace and HR leadership. Well, too bad for me – more people wanted to know how to find a job. That’s okay, because I know tons about that topic. So my first several (many) presentations to groups stuck to the job-search-tips arena. Once I built a respectable speaking resume, I got to move on to other topics (and I still talk about job search all the time, especially the online aspects of it).
You won’t get paid for your first several speaking gigs, or let’s say I’ll be surprised and happy for you if you do. You’re building credibility that will eventually allow you to command a hefty speaking fee. You start out by putting together a speaker’s bio that includes your areas of expertise, the topic(s) you can speak on, and your photo and contact info. It’s pretty simple. Then, you get on the phone to local associations, Chambers of Commerce, and universities, pitching yourself as a speaker for an upcoming event. It’s not hard to get those first gigs. Bring a friend with you to each one, a friend who commits to give you feedback on the presentation to make your next outing even better. Little by little (or maybe very quickly) you’ll become comfortable speaking and get really good at it.
Public speaking is a big part of my job now. I speak all over the world and have even addressed the UN, with people listening to me via simultaneous translation to many languages (not a great way to deliver jokes, mind you). You can do the same thing, which could be great for your business and lucrative in its own right. But speaking engagements give you more than a speaker’s fee, and new contacts. Each time you present your ideas, you’ll find new insights and connections that will inform your business-view and worldview in unexpected ways. Leave a comment below and share your own public-speaking experiences – thanks!