13 Things I’ve Learned During My Public Speaking Career

Do you have a passion for public speaking? Do you want to get your message out to people and companies but aren’t sure where to start?

I’ve had a wonderful speaking career that has spanned for over 30 years. I’m going to tell you about how I became a public speaker, and give you some tips I’ve learned along the way to help you do the same.

An enormous number of professional speakers start off the same way:

They start off speaking in their organization or in their company or sometimes will be asked to talk on their subject to a small group of people within their industry. They put together some notes and share what they know.

When people respond positively, the speaker will suddenly realize that they really enjoyed it too.  And that is one of the main reasons people want to get into speaking.

Keep reading and let me give you some tips I learned on the road to becoming a motivational speaker:

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1) You Have to Really Want a Public Speaking Career

My friend Bill Gove who used to be one of the top speakers in America would be approached by people all the time telling him they wanted to be speakers.

He would ask the question, “Why?”

Often they would tell him they wanted to be famous, or make a lot of money and be a star on the stage.

He pointed out that these were not good enough reasons.  Just to want to make money and have fame were not good enough reasons.

The reason why successful people are successful in speaking is because they have a burning message that they want to share, that people can really benefit from.

2) How Zig Ziglar Started Speaking

Zig Ziglar, who is one of the great and legendary motivational speakers, used to say that he gave 3,000 talks before he was paid for the first one.

I worked with Zig for years, traveling and speaking together.  I finally found out that what he meant was that he started off in sales and then trained salespeople for a decade or more.

Every morning he would give a little sales talk to his people.  He would tell little stories and give little motivational and sales tidbits, and that was his beginning.

This could be your beginning . . .

3) Don’t Agree to Speak on a Subject That’s Completely Out of Your Experience

Every subject I ever agreed to speak on was within my experience.

When they asked me to speak on leadership, I had been a sales manager in large organizations. I had hired, fired, trained and deployed and worked with people for years.  I knew the subject because I had been a thought leader. When they asked me to speak on sales and on time management, I had already studied these subjects for years.

How can you apply this to yourself?

What are you experienced in? Become a specialist in one area of your expertise and capitalize on speaking to groups who are interested in your specialty.

4) Speaking Requires You to Care About Your Subject

You’ve got to care about the subject, and care about how the subject can have a positive influence on other people.

When you truly care about your subject you will develop confidence and your effectiveness in delivery will increase.

5) Stay Current and Up to Date

I was at a conference just a little while ago and someone said that I was the most current person they had ever spoken to.

He told me this:

“Everything you say is current to within the last 30 days, and sometimes as recent as seven or even two days.”

This, by the way, is really key to surviving and thriving in the world of professional speaking and training.


6) 80% of All Speakers Are Also Trainers

Here’s another point:

About 80% of all speakers are actually trainers.

If you’re going to be a trainer, one of the most important things that you should read is a book by Robert Mager on training.

He was the genius of professional training.

Basically he teaches what is called the Mager Method.  I learned it as a young person, and once you learn it you’ll never be the same.  You won’t have to go back to it again; it becomes automatic, like riding a bicycle.

What Mager says is that you:

  1. Identify with your client what behaviors and results you want people to get as a result of going through your training program.
  2. Then you decide what behaviors they will have to engage in to get those results.
  3. Next you identify their current level of knowledge and skills and behaviors, by speaking to the managers and sometimes even those who will be in the training.

If you practice this method you will be able to train as well as speak. This will help make businesses and others more likely to book you to speak.

7) Give 300 Talks As Hard and as Fast as You Can

I remember one of the first experiences I had was being invited to speak to a large group after someone had heard me speak.  At the end of the talk, which was about 60 minutes, the organizer came up and gave me an envelope.  He said “Thank you very much.  I really appreciate you being here.”  I walked away and opened the envelope and there was a $500 check.

Holy smokes!

I had been willing to do the talk for free on the off chance that people in the audience would come to my seminar.  I still remember how impressed I was with $500.

So what will happen if things go well is that people will approach you and offer to pay you.  The rule in professional speaking they say is, if you want to start from scratch, go out and give three hundred talks.

Resolve to give 300 free talks, and do them as hard and as fast as you can.

How in the world is it possible to give 300 talks?

Where do you give 300 talks?

Well, there are between two and three million meetings a year in the U.S. alone . . .

These are Rotary meetings, Lion’s Club meetings, non-profit association meetings, automobile club meetings, and every other kind of business organization meeting.

And every single one of these groups is looking for a speaker for their next meeting.

Below is a video about how I began speaking in Germany and overseas. Now I have spoken in over 69 countries.

8) What is the PTBS or “Problem To Be Solved?”

Every single speech is an opportunity to solve a problem that the listeners have.

As always, clarity is the critical word here.  You’ve got to be clear about what problem your speech is going to solve, and what answers it’s going to give.

How is it going to help people?

Even a motivational speech is intended to help people, motivate them, help them focus, and to channel their energies. 

9) Never Turn Down a Talk

Remember that 95% of speaking is finding an audience.  So you have to find an organization that already has an audience.  Somebody is already putting meetings together.

Getting people together in a room is the hardest thing you’ll ever do in your whole life.

Most speakers have no capacity whatsoever to get people into a room.  They have to find someone else who can get the people into the room, somewhere, somehow, and any size of group.

Keep reading and I’ll tell you exactly where you can find those people . . .

10) In the Beginning, Focus on One Single Subject

So you have a specialty and you decide you want to speak . . .

At the beginning, you specialize and always focus on a single subject.

If someone asks what your subject is you say, “I show leaders how to get the very best out of each person that reports to them.” 

“Great.  All of our managers would like to hear that.” 

Here’s an important point:

When you talk about your speech, always talk in terms of the transformation, change, or outcome that will occur when people listen to your talk.  You never talk about the material in your talk, you talk about the outcome.

When you do this, you will be able to book many more speeches than if you solely talk about your material.

11) What Is Your Specialty?

What are you good at? What do you love? You can speak about anything you want as long as you are passionate about it and you specialize in it. I began speaking in business, sales, and leadership because that was my specialty.

What are you great at?

You need to be passionate about your subject for all the lessons in your public speaking classes to pay off. Without passion, you’ll lose your audience quickly.

12) Develop Multiple Ways to Make Money Speaking

When you deliver a speech, making money from speaking is only one of the ways that you can create revenue from speaking. You can even speak for free and offer a variety of products that you have created—whether it be books or audio programs to sell.

You can place order forms on people’s seats and let people know that they can fill out the forms and have your product delivered to them in a timely manner.

13) Be Humble and Grateful

Because within that business audience could be somebody who could break your career wide open.

It happened to me when I gave that talk at a low cost to Caterpillar.  There was one person in that audience that got me into IBM and that broke open my whole speaking business.

If it can happen to me, I promise it can happen to you!

Do you want to become a digital leader and build a strong online presence? Download my free virtual public speaking tips now! 



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.

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