Stephen Covey urges us to “Begin with the end in mind.”
Let’s take a moment. Sit back, take a deep breathe and visualize where you want to be as a speaker.
What does success as a speaker look like for you?
Do you have that image in your head?
Where are you standing? Who are you looking out at? What’s happening?
Many of my clients see themselves on stage or in the front of a room, staring out at people who are giving them a standing ovation and buzzing about the message they just heard.
Others see themselves standing in the center of the red dot on the TED stage.
While others see themselves in a small room creating intimate experiences in workshops.
Whatever your vision of success as a speaker is, it’s going to take embarking on a journey to become a speaker to get there.
But do you know what that journey is going to look like?
You need a roadmap of how you’re going to get from sitting behind your comfy computer to that end you have in mind.
Luckily, there’s a predictable path to success as a speaker that you can embark on.
But here’s the thing: you can’t skip steps (and you most definitely cannot skip step 3) and arrive at your final destination.
Here’s your map – step by step – of how to become speaker who is paid to speak.
Step #1: Decide to be a speaker
The first stop in your journey is to DECIDE to be a speaker and get clear on WHY you want to speak.
Becoming a speaker takes determination, tenacity, and hard work. There’s going to be days when you’ll feel like giving up because you’ll get rejected or worse yet you won’t hear anything at all.
At times like those, you’ll need to lean on your why for starting this crazy adventure.
What’s your why for speaking?
Get clear on your why, write it on a post-it note, stick it where you can see it everyday, and strap in for the next step of your adventure
Once you said “Hell yes I want to be speaker,” you’re ready to take the next action to make it happen.
Action step: Say “Yes, I’m ready to be a speaker” and then write down your why for speaking on a post-it note and put it where you can see it.
Step 2: Decide on your audience and topic
You’ve made the decision to be a speaker and now it’s time to make your most important decision as a speaker.
The second stop on your speaking journey is deciding on your audience and topic.
The people who struggle the most with landing speaking gigs struggle because they haven’t picked an audience or their topic is not aligned with what the audience needs from them.
You’re an expert on many, many, many things. But only one of those areas is your most valuable topic.
To figure out where your MVT (most valuable topic) lies visit the place where your expertise intersects with one of your audience’s challenges.
Once you’ve nailed your topic and your audience, you can go to the most important step as a speaker (and the one most people want to skip until they “land a gig.”
Action step: Decide on your MVT. If you need help deciding, check out episode 15 of the Rebel Speaker podcast which takes you through my process of discovering your MVT.
Step #3: Write your remarkable speech
Nilofer Merchant says: “No one will pay you to practice your speech.”
But so many times, I get emails from people who tell me they are struggling to book paid speaking gigs.” My questions to them is always “How’s your speech?”
Most tell me that they are waiting to write their speech until they land a gig.
Except that is not how this speaking journey works. Nilofer is right. No one wants to book an untested, unproven product. Bringing a speaker in is putting a reputation on the line. If the speaker is an unknown quantity the person booking the gig is taking a huge risk.
Your speech is the best marketing tool you have for your business.
When you’ve got a remarkable speech that you’ve built like a product for your business, it’s easier to pitch yourself for speaking gigs. And it’s easier to market your speaking.
Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. And do not work on your marketing if you don’t have a speech that you know will attract you gigs and get you paid.
Action step: Read How to Write a Speech that Gets Your Paid to Speak and then make a project plan to make that speech happen.
Stop #4: Pitch yourself and create your speaker marketing
The fourth leg of that journey is now that you have nailed down your message you can start pitching yourself and working on your speaker marketing.
It’s tempting to skip step #3 and hop right over to this step isn’t? Working on marketing seems like the first thing you want to do after deciding on your topic. But don’t. You’re marketing will be clearer, easier, and better if you know you’ve got a great product (your speech to market).
Seriously, if you don’t have a speech, don’t worry about pitching and marketing yourself.
Stop #5: Polish your stage skills
The fifth part of the journey is taking that remarkable speech you've crafted and start perfecting the delivery.
Honestly, I think you can and should do step 4 and 5 at the same time because once you have a message it's so much easier to market yourself and polish your delivery and create an experience on stage for your audience.
You can’t polish your stage skills on your own. You need a feedback plan for how you’re going to improve the delivery of your speech.
Action step: Get a feedback posse together to improve your stage skills. Also, Michael Port’s book Steal the Show has some excellent pointers for delivery skills.
Once you’ve made the decision to speak, decided on the right audience, and created that remarkable speech, you’ll be unstoppable.
Once you’ve practiced and refined your remarkable speech, pitched yourself, and become a marketing maven there is no doubt that your initial visualization – no matter what it was – will become a reality
So, tell me, where are you on your speaking journey? I’d love to know in the comments section.