Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Becoming a Paid Public Speaker

I came across this Carol Roth article in Entrepreneur: “8 Master Tips on How to Get Paid for Public Speaking”, published May 08, 2017 and I wish to share with those who are really gung-ho about public speaking. 


Before you get to go pro at anything, you need to spend some time as an amateur. 

As Gene Marks, President of The Marks Group PC, advises, “Speak a lot for free”. 

I have actually spoken hundreds of times at Toastmasters meetings. To be exact, todate, I have already delivered 621 project speeches from both the basic and advanced Toastmasters’ manuals in my ten years as a Toastmaster. 

Now, that’s a lot of speaking practice I've done and these are mostly 5-7 minute speeches. And I’m not even counting the other types of speeches that I regularly did too, whether Table Topics speeches, contest speeches, invocations and the others. 

Oh btw, they were all done freely and for free. 

After all, it is worth noting that there is an infinite number of slots that exist for free talks and not so much for paid talks. 


Speaking for free gets you warmed up, but if you are going to make the leap to getting paid, you need to take it seriously. 

Michael Port, the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Steal the Show and Co-Founder of, says, "Professional speaking is a craft like acting, directing, producing or writing. The only difference is that, as a professional speaker, you must master all of those disciplines”. 

He adds: “You are the writer, the director, the actor and the producer. You are creating and performing a one-person show. Just having expertise in a subject isn't enough anymore. Audiences and meeting planners expect an extraordinary experience”. 

From my Toastmasters experience, this means that whilst public speakers are not expected to sing and/or dance (thank god!) – they must educate and enlighten and at the same time, energize and entertain. And of course, inspire. 

Ramon Ray, who has been a paid public speaker for about 20 years, travelling around the world and speaking to groups of dozens, hundreds and thousands of people, gives a reminder: “You must be an amazing speaker”. 

He maintains: “There are many speakers, but to get paid and asked to come back again and again, you must be highly engaging, highly informative, connect with your audience and just be darn good”. 


As you hone your craft and work through your material, think about how you’re adding value to your audience. 

Phil Gerbyshak, a social selling and technology trainer with, suggests: “As you transition from free speaker to for fee speaker, focus on what is the new ‘added value’ you have that you can now charge for. Perhaps you have a ‘formula’ or a ‘system’ or a ‘program.’ Give it a name, and be specific in who it benefits”.


Before anyone will hire you, they want to know how you speak and what you speak about. 

Catherine Morgan, a career transition expert and speaker, says, “Not only does having the right web presence as a speaker help you get found when an organization is searching for an expert speaker on a certain subject, but once they find you, they want to see you working your magic. They hire you to keep an audience engaged, and need to see that you can hold an audience's attention". 

Gerbyshak echoed Morgan’s sentiments, emphasizing that you need to devote time to your speaker demo video, also known as a ‘sizzle reel’. 

“The difference between a free speaker and a for fee speaker”, Gerbyshak says, “is how good they are on this video. More and more people expect they can ‘try you before they buy you’ by playing your video for themselves, for the committee who makes the hiring decision, and even in front of a sampling of your audience. I've been hired on my sizzle reel alone, as what you see is what you get”. 

Sigh, I really need to start thinking about this! More importantly, to get it done. 


If you become a good speaker with lots of speaking experience, you may eventually get representation – but that doesn’t happen overnight. 

That’s why you need to do outreach and do the work. Reach back to organizations where you spoke for free previously to see if they have other events with budgets. 

Watch organizations that have meetings regularly and solicit them for future meetings. Also, make your brand and your speaking experience known across social media. 

Ray says, “I'm very active on social media and use lots of video. I have two audiences; my tribe and community of people who follow the ‘Ramon Ray brand’ and then those who pay me to speak – they lurk around and definitely see my videos”. 

Another area to start doing. 


As you transition from free to paid, be more than willing to take a modest fee. 

Barry Moltz, an active small business speaker, says, “Speakers speak. Whatever stage you are at in your paid speaking career, set your fee so you can get hired at least two to three times a month. This profession takes a lot of practice in front of live audiences. There is no substitute!” 


As you work on your paid speaking career, knowing the time it takes to book gigs is critical. 

As Scott Stratten, one of the most sought-after keynote speakers and President of UnMarketing Inc. puts it, "It takes time. Some committees can take a year to pick a speaker and some take a week. Also, it takes time to build stage momentum and credibility”. 

In other words, be patient, don’t just plunge headlong into it. 


Getting paid your value as a speaker may be even more difficult than transitioning to becoming a paid speaker. 

This means that you need to know how to negotiate and often get creative, realizing that cash payment isn’t the only type of payment of value. 

As Gerbyshak says, “Be creative with your fee, especially as you're starting out. Finding out what else they [your clients] have of value, or what else is in their budget, before turning down a no-fee gig is critically important. If you need a sizzle reel, a conference that is willing to give you the raw footage of you on their main stage may be well worth waiving your fee for. Sometimes a no-fee gig has money for training but not for speakers, or they can buy books for everyone in the audience or something else of value”. 

A very useful list of eight invaluable pointers. I’m starting to learn the ropes on how to be a paid public speaker.

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