The 5 Things You Must Know Before You Pursue Paid Speaking

Save yourself from frustration and embarrassment with these simple tips.

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By Wendy Keller

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Maybe you've given a few talks and they've gone well. The audience has been engaged and complimentary. Or maybe you've been speaking in corporate or other environments and not getting paid (much) for all your efforts. Perhaps you watch Tony Robbins or Les Brown or Gary Vaynerchuk and say, "I could do that!"

OK. Roll up your sleeves. Here are 5 things you must know before you go after paid speaking as a career move. (To get a whole lot more than five, click here).

1. The vast majority of the money is in corporate speaking.

If you can prove to a company that your topic will help their employees boost their bottom line, be happier, decrease turnover, make them more productive, cope with change, get along better, whatever - you're in the right ballpark.

2. There's a lot of competition for those high paying corporate "gigs".

To get the engagement, you will need to look like an A-lister, even before you are one. Window dressing is important with this crowd. Your content, your website, and how to market and present yourself will be the big determinants of whether or not you even get the chance to show them how good you are on stage. To find out precisely what "you" need to look like, click here.

3. The real paid speakers treat this seriously.

Just speaking "off the cuff" about your subject might be fine for prophets and celebrities, but for paid corporate speaking, your message will nee to be well-toned, well-delivered and properly rehearsed. I watched one of my clients, a former President of the National Speakers Association, deliver an acceptance speech for the Golden Gavel Award, the highest honor Toastmasters can give. To my horror, he dropped his Montblanc pen, with which he was gesturing, right in the middle of it! Oh no! To my astonishment, six months later I saw him giving the same speech somewhere else and guess what? Yes, he dropped the same pen at the same point and made the same joke as he picked it up off the floor! That's practice! That speaker, one of the world's finest, earns $15,000 for a 45 minute keynote. Practice. Makes. Perfect.

4. Test your content, your performance, your jokes and patter before you go after the biggest venues.

Other than looking sloppy online or in person (see point 2), the other big reason speakers flop or fail is because they are wrong about their content. They think they or it are better than they are; they are delivering something audiences have heard a million times already; they are basing their knowledge on things they do not have expertise on; or their research is from a decade ago (and so are their stories and anecdotes!). Fresh content, well delivered in an engaging, entertaining way, is the price of entry. If you're like to find out more about how to develop your content and pre-test it, click here.

5. There is no "set it and forget it" marketing for speakers.

If you are the product, then plan on marketing yourself from the beginning of your speaking career to the last speech you give. (Help with marketing is here.) If you sit politely and wait for the phone to ring, you will fail as a speaker. If you leap into the fray before you are prepared, you will slow down your progress. If you think you can build a website today and ride on it for the next decade, you are sorely mistaken. One of the most successful female corporate speakers in America updates her website every two years! Most speakers are always writing new speeches, new promotional materials, new books even. You will need to - and want to - keep your name under the noses of those precious meeting planners.

Still reading? If the dark side of professional speaking hasn't scared you off, this may be right for you. Whether you plan to speak as a way to attract more customers to your core business or as your business in itself, paid professional speaking can be incredibly lucrative, interesting and downright glamorous.

Sign up for my upcoming free webinar called "How to Get Paid to Give Speeches" for lots more ideas whether you plan to speak for free or for a fee. We'll cover how to prepare a speech, how to successfully approach meeting planners, and how to know what to say to get people excited about what you've got to share.

Wendy Keller

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

CEO and Founder of Keller Media, Inc.

Wendy Keller is an award-winning former journalist, a respected literary agent, an author, speaker, acclaimed book marketing consultant, and branding expert. She is the author of Ultimate Guide to Platform Building (Entrepreneur Press®, 2016) and got her first job as a newspaper reporter as a 16-year-old college freshman. Since then, Wendy worked for PR Newswire; the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain; as managing editor of Dateline magazine; and as associate publisher of Los Angeles’ then-second-largest Spanish language weekly, La Gaceta. She works with authors, speakers and business experts to help them build and promote their brands. She founded Keller Media, Inc. in 1989.

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