Public speaking is one of the general public’s greatest fears, sometimes even more than death and taxes! Despite the fear, the professional public speaking industry continues to grow. Professional speakers can easily earn six figures in annual income, and some of today’s top business speakers charge a minimum of $50,000 per engagement.
There will always be a need for strong communicators who can inspire and motivate an audience. If you dream of being a paid public speaker, it’s important to get the right training -- both on and offstage. To build a successful and sustainable business requires more than just great on a microphone, it takes smart strategy and diligent execution to run the business side of things.
What Makes Great Speakers Great
What makes great speakers stand out? Is it their oratory skills? Their personality? Their humor? Every speaker has his or her own style, but there’s actually one simple thing that keeps the best speakers in demand: the ability to influence an audience so they take at least one step towards positive change in their life.
To do this requires connection with an audience. Genuine connection with an audience requires more than just great content, it requires great delivery. In his book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, our very own John C. Maxwell explains, “Tone, inflection, timing, volume, pacing — everything you do with your voice communicates something and has the potential to help you connect to or disconnect from others when you speak.”
The good news is that these communication skills are exactly that: skills. They can be learned, developed, honed, and (dare we say) perfected. The key is to gain an understanding of how human beings connect with and consume information. While the delivery styles can vary by speaker, the principles of communication remain the same because the public at large consumes information in predictable ways.
Roddy Galbraith, internationally acclaimed speaker and the instructor of the Maxwell Method of Speaking within our John Maxwell Team program shares how he has helped thousands of people overcome their fears of speaking:
Let’s dive into some more of Roddy’s wisdom and look at 7 surefire ways to get started as a paid public speaker.
The basic foundation for any successful speaker is that they have a story to tell. If you want to be able to connect with others, you need to know the point to your story, the purpose or objective, and how you hope to influence your audience. It is important to specify or identify your topic, genre, or area of expertise early on.
What are you good at?
What have you spent 10,000 hours doing that you could share with others?
What have you been through that has brought you to where you are or where you intend to go?
How can you best meet your audience’s needs?
The secret to world-class presentations are personal stories, and that’s because speaking is less about teaching or telling and more about connecting and influencing. One of the core modules in the John Maxwell Team program is How to Write A Winning Personal Story. A personal story is perhaps the biggest competitive advantage you have a speaker, because no one else has your story.
Once you know what you have to say, you’ve got to get good at saying it. You might be surprised to know that even the most experienced and well-paid professional speakers rehearse their speeches -- even ones they’ve delivered multiple times.
Confidence is preparation. When opportunity knocks, it’s too late to prepare. You’re either ready for the moment, or you’re not. The stage is one place you especially don’t want to “fake it ‘til you make it.” An audience will know right away whether or not you’re prepared.
“When opportunity knocks, it’s too late to prepare.” - John C. Maxwell
Learning to speak more effectively is a process. There will be bumps and falls along the way, just like a child who is learning to ride a bike. Sure, there are some people who have a “natural talent” for speaking but the majority of people need training wheels. The more opportunity you give yourself to learn and the more you put into practice what you’ve learned, the quicker the process will be.
Posture, tone, presence, and movement are just a few of the non-verbal cues involved in being an effective public speaker. Moreover, with the advent of camera phones and social media, it’s important that you work on your delivery because you never know who will be recording your talk. The days of having just one or two cameras in the back of the room being manned by the A/V team are over. Now everyone has a camera in the palm of their hand, so it’s that much more important that you “get good”.
Get Quality Training
To become a successful paid speaker, you’ve got to get the knowledge and tools necessary to get good first. Investing in your growth as a speaker and influencer is just like any other venture in life, you must keep moving forward into growth.
“If you’re not growing, you’re not moving forward.”
- Paul Martinelli, Internationally acclaimed speaker, trainer and mentor
Finding a quality program that is both credible and chock-full of expertise to aid in your growth as a reputable speaker is paramount. It’s also a great way to get connected to other people in the professional speaking industry.
The John Maxwell Team has trained over 24,000 speakers, trainers and coaches worldwide, and uses a rigorous curriculum to ensure that anyone who joins the certification program has all the tools necessary to increase their influence, impact, and income.
Once you have committed to a program, commit to and focus on just one program so you can take those principles and apply your own perspective and stories. Then, practice, practice, practice! Only after you have put in the time and effort will you be able to determine whether or not a certain tool or technique is or isn’t working. If a certain program or the way you are applying it isn’t working, try another approach before you invest in another program altogether.
Remember, there is a time for winning and a time for learning. If you are only focused on being the best, you might lose out on an opportunity to become better. Have the courage to grow by learning.
No matter how good we are at saying what we have to say, we will never truly be great without a measure of confidence. Our results are a reflection of our own awareness of our potential and our ability to carry out that potential. Paul Martinelli, president of the John Maxwell Team, often says, “You never outperform your own self-image.”
Paul knows a thing or two about self-image. A high school dropout from a poor, working-class family in Pittsburgh, Paul’s future didn’t look so bright. He admits that early on, he believed life was lived by default and not by design. Everything changed when he started to get serious about personal development, see his own self worth, and create new beliefs. This intentional path of growth helped him overcome a severe stuttering disability, gain confidence, and rise from a janitor to a multi-millionaire entrepreneur who has now shared the stage with the likes of Seth Godin, Les Brown, and John Maxwell.
A person’s belief system drives their behavior. These belief systems are programmed into us in one of two ways – either by a sudden emotional impact wherein we immediately assign the belief, or through continued affirmation by repetition. This is why it’s so important to have a quality coach during your development as a speaker. It’s hard to see your own potential, but it’s even harder to see your blind spots and self-limiting beliefs.
Never aim to impress an audience. Rather, be focused on how you can help them. Author and speaker Donald Miller often says, “Be the guide, not the hero.” Be intentional in the framing of your message as well as how you want to present yourself to others. Your goal is to have a conversation with the audience. One way to do this: instead of panning your eyes across the entire audience and pacing back and forth, focus on a few people, taking a few seconds to look right in their eyes. You never want to be speaking at them, you want to be speaking with them.
A fantastic message can be destroyed in delivery, so being audience-focused is one of the hallmarks of our Speaking track at the John Maxwell Team. There’s no way to predict what kind of audience you’ll be speaking to at any given time, and it will be nearly impossible to completely avoid naysayers. It’s important for you to learn how to convey both approachability and confidence at the same time -- if you can do this, you can speak effectively in nearly any environment.
Get Business Savvy
To be in business as a speaker, you need to start thinking like a business person. There’s so much more to being a professional speaker than just the 30 minutes or so that you spend on stage.
Do you have clear business goals?
Do you have a marketing plan?
Do you know how to get leads and speaking inquiries?
Are you using the right kind of speaker proposal and contract?
Do you know how much you should charge for your services?
How do you negotiate on travel costs for food, airfare, and hotels?
Have you built a suite of information products you can sell at speaking engagements?
If you’re just getting started on the journey to paid public speaking, the reality is that you’ll need to wear several hats as you build your business. None of the points above have anything to do with your talent as a speaker, but they have everything to do with your business acumen. You probably won’t have an assistant or agent from the outset, so it’s important for you to have good, experienced guidance on these kinds of business matters. Otherwise, your professional speaking career might be over before it even begins.
On a recent podcast interview, John Maxwell was asked about the #1 obstacle people face when setting out to become a professional speaker, coach, or trainer. He said, “Many times, we want our answers before we take action. What I tell people is to just jump in, dive into the stream and then we're going to help them.”
One of the terrific things about the John Maxwell Team is that we have several lanes of learning: Speaking, Coaching, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, and Marketing -- and our members are exposed to all these lanes when they join our program. As you’re there meeting people, listening to new faculty members, and getting incredibly helpful information, things will begin to resonate with you. True progress works like this: take the action, make the decision, and then the answer comes.
A Short Outline of the
Maxwell Method of Speaking Curriculum:
If you want to become a paid professional speaker, it’s important that you understand and embody these 7 sure fire ways to get started.
The John Maxwell Team has trained over 24,000 speakers worldwide, and we use a comprehensive curriculum to ensure that you have all the tools necessary to increase their influence, impact, and income. Here’s a sneak peek of a few of the topics we cover in our Speaking lane:
What Makes Speaking Unique
How The Mind And Creative Process Works – So You Know How To Ethically Influence Your Audience To Higher Levels Of Performance
The Six Contexts Of Professional Speaking
The Speaker’s Journey: Those Who Rise To the Top Are Those Who Can Stand Up and Speak Well
How To Build Rapport and Credibility
The Seven Levels of Awareness for Speaking Success
How To Structure Your Presentation
How to Write a Winning Personal Story
And much, much more
Now that you’ve learned the seven ways to get started, you’re one step closer to becoming a speaker. Whether you’re looking to make a career pivot into speaking, or are already a speaker and want better clients, bigger opportunities, and more impact, the John Maxwell Team can help bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
Why not schedule a free call with one of our Program Coordinators to see if our program is a good fit? Sign up for a call and we’ll even give you three complimentary bonuses:
Marketing genius Seth Godin’s talk at our recent International Maxwell Certification (IMC) -- This talk is not available to the public; it’s only available here.
Dr. Robert Cialdini
Dr. Robert Cialdini’s full teaching on “The Six Principles of Persuasion” (a must-listen for any coach or communicator)
Nick Vujicic or Les Brown
Your choice between a session from world-renowned speaker Nick Vujicic on “Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn” or from globally-recognized speaker Les Brown on “Finding Your Power Voice”