How To Become A Public Speaker: Tips to Get Started And Grow Your Speaking Career
Did you know that anyone can learn how to become a professional speaker?
I’ve spoken in 75 countries around the world over the past 40+ years. And I’ve been translated into different languages by 50 professional interpreters.
But believe it or not, there was a time when I didn’t know how to speak to large crowds. In fact, I used to be nervous when I spoke to the smallest of groups!
You wouldn’t know that today. And that’s because I learned how to become a public speaker. I worked hard to perfect the art of public speaking; I got the experience I needed to feel confident as a public speaker and to speak around the world.
Now I’m ready to pass the reins to you and teach you how to become a motivational speaker or a public speaker who can earn profits for any event. Let’s get started.
How To Start Your Public Speaking Career
Breaking into professional public speaking might seem like a daunting task. But by following a few key strategies, you can both start and sustain your public speaking business.
Here’s how to become a public speaker.
1. Define Your Area Of Expertise
What are you good at? What are you passionate about? What unique perspective do you have to offer? These are the questions you need to answer to figure out so you can zero in on what you’ll talk about as a motivational speaker.
For example, maybe you studied marketing in school. That would give you the knowledge and expertise needed to speak about marketing.
If you want to niche down even further, think about other areas where you have experience. Maybe you’ve worked in the fitness industry — could you speak about marketing for gyms and fitness brands?
Give it a shot! If that topic ends up being too narrow, you can always broaden the lens later.
2. Identify Your Target Audience
Once you figure out what you want to say, you’ll be able to pinpoint who would benefit from hearing your speech. What age are the people who need to hear your message? What’s their career? Where do they live?
Defining your target audience will also help you determine what examples you should use to communicate your points most effectively. And when you know your audience, you’ll also be able to figure out where to find them — such as a marketing conference or another industry event.
3. Gain Public Speaking Skills
Knowing what to say in your speech is important. But knowing how to communicate effectively is essential, too.
Invest some serious time and energy into improving your public speaking skills. Learning from talented public speakers is always beneficial because those speakers have firsthand experience to share.
You might consider taking public speaking classes, too. A course is an excellent way to improve your communication skills and help overcome any nerves you might be feeling. This is an important step in developing your unique public speaking voice.
However you decide to brush up on these skills, don’t forget to practice, practice, practice! This is the best way to ensure your public speaking skills will grab your audience’s attention.
4. Learn The Art Of Speech Writing
Now that you know who your audience is and have established strong public speaking skills, it’s time to perfect the art of writing your speech so you can wow your crowd.
You can generally think of speeches as having three sections — the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. Start with a strong introduction. You might choose to start your speech by thanking the people who organized the event, quoting well-known industry leaders, asking a question, telling a story, or doing something else entirely.
Once you’ve covered all of your key points, it’s time to end your speech with a bang. Again, there are several ways you can go here based on your particular speech and the audience you’re giving it to. It’s always a good idea to summarize your key points and include a call to action.
Whatever that looks like for you, make sure to leave your audience with something to remember. This will make your speeches effective as you learn how to become a public speaker.
5. Create A Professional Presence Online
When it comes to becoming a motivational speaker, a strong online presence is essential. As soon as people receive your pitch, they’re going to open their computer and check you out online. So give them something good to find!
Make sure you have a nice website that showcases your personal brand and clearly explains what you do. You’ll also want to be active on multiple social media platforms, such as Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and TikTok.
If you really want to prove the value you have to bring, start creating content that showcases your expertise or even your public speaking skills. Educational blog posts or videos are a great way to show that you know what you’re talking about. Producing high-quality content for the web can sway people into deciding to work with you.
Those blog posts and videos serve as tangible proof that you’re one of the best motivational speakers out there, helping you along the way as you work toward becoming a public speaker.
How To Book Your First Public Speaking Gig
Booking your first speaking gig can seem like a difficult task. But, the good news? Once you get this one under your belt, you’ll feel much more confident and capable of moving forward.
For your first speaking engagement, you might need to be willing to speak for free or at a reduced cost. But as you gain experience with subsequent engagements, your rate can (and should) rise. Here are a few key tips for that all-important first gig.
Avoid Cold Calling
Cold calling is a waste of time when you’re just starting out. Strangers aren’t going to hire you, especially if you don’t have any experience yet. It’s more important to focus on building your network and creating personal connections with people who might hire you in the future. Plus you will be much more nervous speaking to people during a cold call, versus the connections you make.
Simply talking about your new career as a public speaker can be hugely helpful both now and down the road. You never know who has connections and who might need a speaker. Share with your friends, family, and coworkers that you’re looking for a speaking gig.
You can also attend industry-specific events to focus on networking. And if you take a public speaking course, connecting with the teacher and your fellow students is a smart idea, too.
Start With Local Events
Chances are, there are dozens of speaking opportunities available in your town or the surrounding area. Local events might not seem glamorous or exciting. But they’ll help you gain the credibility you need to slowly grow your career.
Try looking for local events or conferences and pitching your speaking services to them. You won’t be able to jump into nationwide events right away. But if you start building now with small local venues, you’ll be able to speak at larger and larger events over time as you learn how to become a public speaker.
Attend Networking Engagements
Meeting new people in person opens up huge opportunities for collaboration. How can you find these opportunities as you learn how to become a motivational speaker?
Run a quick Google search for “networking events near me” and see what comes up. You can also ask around in industry Facebook or LinkedIn groups to see what sort of events your peers frequent.
Sites such as Eventbrite have helpful search functions where you can find even more events in your area.
After you find an event to attend, remember to follow up with anyone you spoke to. This is a good way to sustain the relationship and potentially get motivational speaking engagements down the road.
Have Realistic Expectations
You might have to reach out to multiple places regarding a speaking engagement before you get a yes. And that’s okay! Don’t lose your motivation. Have perseverance and keep pursuing speaking gigs, contacting anyone who seems like a good fit.
It’s also important to keep in mind that your first speaking engagement might not be a paid engagement. And that’s okay, too.
You may have to speak for free several times before you land a paid gig. Remember, doing small, unpaid engagements is okay for now because these small engagements will lead to more opportunities down the road.
You’re building the blocks of your speaking career, and once you nail down your first speaking gig, things will get easier and easier from then on.
How To Make A Career As A Public Speaker
Once you gain confidence after a few successful speaking engagements under your belt, you’ll find more and more doors opening up. The key is to keep seeking out opportunities, doing the best job you can, and then asking what comes next. Don’t stay stagnant — the best motivational speakers always keep moving forward!
Learn How To Negotiate Your Speaking Fee
The process of negotiating your speaking fee might seem intimidating. Here’s what I suggest. First, do some research; talk to other talented public speakers to figure out what they earn. This can help you fix a specific number in your mind.
Don’t accept the first number you’re offered for a motivational speaking gig. Ask for some time to think it over. Most people actually have a range in mind when they offer you a certain fee. Whereas they probably want to pay you the lowest amount in that range, however, your goal is to get the highest!
Use a technique called bracketing to ask for a rate that’s slightly higher, requesting a rate that’s between 110% and 130% of the amount you’re offered. This increases the chance you’ll get paid the amount you want.
Never Stop Promoting Your Speaking Services
If you want to become a successful motivational speaker, you aren’t going to automatically achieve that goal overnight. It’s essential to continue strategically marketing yourself — just like you would do for any other business.
What does that look like? Networking and word-of-mouth referrals will continue to play a huge part long term. Social media is very effective, too.
And remember to create a professionally-designed website where you can direct your social media followers so they can learn more about the public speaking services you offer.
Master The Art Of Selling From The Stage
To learn how to become a motivational speaker, you need to know how to promote yourself. Your self-promotion should be relevant to the event, your audience, and what you’re talking about. Whatever you’re promoting should also be something that brings real value to your audience.
For example, if you wrote a book that your audience would like, take a copy up on stage with you and find a moment to show it to the audience. If you’ve created a tool that solves a problem you’re talking about in your speech, mention that tool. At the end of your speech, briefly talk about your company and tell people how they can get in touch with you.
These are a few ways you can promote yourself and boost your overall income without coming across as someone who’s only interested in making a sale.
Find Ways To Monetize After The Speech
To come home with as much revenue as possible, think past the event itself (such as a Ted Talk) and find ways to monetize after your speech. How can you upsell your audience? Find ways to bring more value to your audience, and you’ll walk away with more money.
For example, if you have permission from the event organizers, maybe you can sell a recording of the event. Motivational speakers on YouTube are also popular; try uploading your speech there.
You might also want to create a workbook or course that gives audience members strategies they can use as they put your advice into practice. In addition, consider diving deeper and offering a workshop or some type of extended training based on the topic of your speech.
Continue Improving Your Public Speaking Skills
Always keep improving your skills and learning new techniques. There will never be a time when you’ve learned everything there is to know about how to become a motivational speaker. You can always learn more! Focusing on continued education is the best thing you can do for your career.
Unlock the power of persuasion and master the art of public speaking with my exclusive 5-Minute Speech Formula. Start captivating your audience today.
Editor’s Note: This post was updated for 2023 to include additional advice on how to book speaking engagements, how to negotiate a public speaking fee, and how to make money as a professional speaker.
About Brian Tracy — Brian is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today. He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement. Brian's goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and Youtube.