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So You Want to be a Professional Speaker?

By March 23, 20206 Comments

10 Strategies to Become a Professional Speaker

Being a professional speaker might be the coolest job on earth!


For many it’s not a job, it’s a calling. Sounds weird, yet it’s true for many.


Often as the opening keynote speaker at corporate or association events, I am approached by audience members wanting a career as a speaker (love that). If I have done my job well, I have made it look super easy.


If you are interested in being a professional speaker here are several ideas to help you and you might also like to watch a video we created for you with even more details (that was recorded MANY years ago).


Join National Speakers Association (NSA) – this professional body made up of experts who speak, has local chapters, free resources, international affiliations and annual conferences. Find out more on this website.


Download the Voices of Experience App (VOE) – go back and listen to the 2013 editions, the year chaired by Theo Androus, that was my favorite year filled with business-oriented interviews with a diverse range of guests. See more of an interview we did together that was so much fun and filled with ideas for anyone running a business.


Download Speaker Magazine – you’ll receive a monthly edition when you become a member and the digital version is available online. Great articles with strategies on the art and business of speaking.


Record yourself – on your iPhone and also on video. Always record video footage you might be able to use later for a speaker showreel (sometimes called a sizzle reel, is a compilation of video footage showing you and your audience interactions, and showcasing your expertise). Get audience shots, audience testimonials, a variety of stages, close ups and long distance shots to provide variety to your show reel.


Study masters – I have been blessed to be mentored by the greats that include Matt Church, Mark Sanborn, Connie Podesta, Scott McKain, Mark Scharenbroich, Michael Port, Lou Heckler… the list is long. Check out each one of these brilliant speakers, they truly are exceptional at what they do. I am a huge fan of speakers including Jay Baer, Tamsen Webster, Tami Evans, Erin Gargan King, and Judson Laipply for how they show up in the world and share their expertise.


Read well – highly recommended books include Steal the Show (I also love the podcast by the same name) and also Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port, Thought Leadership and also Sell Your Thoughts by Matt Church, Million Dollar Consulting and also Value-Based Fees by Alan Weiss. The authors are thought leaders in their fields and these are my fave books for this profession. The newest book to join this list is the valuable resource by Speaker, Podcaster and my friend Grant Baldwin called The Successful Speaker.


Listen and learn – a few great podcasts you will enjoy in this industry include Standing Ovation by Jay Baer, Speaker Lab by Grant Baldwin, The FreeNoter by Tom and Tamsen Webster and Mike Drop Moment by Mike Ganino.


Listen intently to others and then trust your gut – you will hear so much advice, wisdom and expertise from other professional speakers, all shared with the best of intentions for you. Make sure you filter it all and determine what is best for you.


Don’t buy everything – take 24 hours to decide before buying a book, a course, webinar… whatever it is. One of my many mistakes early in my career was wasting many dollars and hours on anything that was recommended to me, don’t do it. Save your money. Do your due diligence.


Invest in yourself – this profession is easy to get into … and hard to stay in. Invest time and dollars to seek out the best coaches, the best resources and the best use of your time.  Remember start with the free resources, watch videos, study diligently and then determine where you can best direct your investment and attention.


So where do you start?


Start where you are. Join a local meeting of NSA, download free apps, read magazines, buy books, listen to podcasts, and watch other speakers – this is one of the most incredible industries you will ever be part of.


Speakers are all about service and some of the most generous, committed people I have met in this industry, and we hope that’s your experience too.


Good luck with your speaking journey.


  • Gordon Hill says:

    Successful professional speakers flock together. My list of speaking buddies includes Rosita Perez, Bill Gove, Bob Murphey, Lou Heckler, Patricia Fripp, Carl Hurley and more. The best of it, however, was at NSA Central Florida Chapter meetings and NSA Conventions/Workshops.

    • Neen James says:

      Wow that’s such an impressive list Gordon, some of the true greats are on your list!

      • Gordon Hill says:

        Neen, In the eighties and nineties NSA was great. When I say they were my speaking buddies I mean we knew each other and had time for anyone who asked. Much of what I tell others about becoming a better speaker is a direct transfer from those days.

  • brightonwest says:

    Thanks Neen – I especially like the 24 hour waiting period before buying another book or course!

  • Angela Prestil says:

    Great advice as always, Neen! The advice to listen to others then trust your gut hits home for me. In considering this as a path for many years, I’ve got lots of tapes playing in my head. NSA is indeed a great resource and is a helpful guide as well.

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