SpeakHer 101: How to Become a Professional Speaker

When I’m talking with a woman who has a message to share or expertise to teach, she’s typically held back by one of two things. Some women hesitate because they struggle with the fear of speaking in front of other people and putting themselves out there. The other group isn’t held back by fear but doesn’t yet know how to get started. If you’re ready to go for your pro speaker dream but have no idea how to do it, today’s blog is just for you. Read on for 5 steps to get started as a professional speaker.

Step 1 – Define the problem you solve & your unique voice

All speakers are problem solvers. Whatever your message or area of expertise, take a minute to frame it in terms of the problem you solve when you share the wisdom you’ve learned. Have you lived through a challenging season of life and gained insights that can help others through similar circumstances? Have you worked in an industry and developed specific expertise you can teach or train? What is the problem you can solve for others when they have the opportunity to learn from you?

As you’re defining your problem, ask yourself:

  • Do the people who have this problem recognize that they have it? If they don’t realize it’s there, there’s no draw for them to your message.
  • Are the people who have this problem looking for a solution? Are people googling it? If you see articles or other resources addressing this problem, that’s a good indication it’s something people are looking to solve.
  • Are the people who have this problem willing to pay for a solution? Are there paid resources like books, courses, coaching, etc available for this problem?
  • Are you able to speak to this problem with credibility and authority? Have you learned or earned the expertise to help others along in this area?

With any problem you solve, the differentiator will be your unique voice of expertise. What are your unique experiences, thoughts, insights, approaches in solving this problem? Think about a topic like negotiation. Right now, there are 521 million Google results for “negotiation”. There are over 8,000 negotiation resources available on Amazon. If your expertise is in negotiation, you’ll need to get really clear on your unique approach to the topic and your individual voice around it.

Step 2 – Create your product: your speech

Once you’ve identified the problem you solve and are ready to start marketing the help you can offer, you have to have a product to sell. For professional speakers, that product is your speech or message. While it doesn’t have to be in its final form as you get started with outreach, you’ll need a solid outline of the talk, workshop or presentation you’re promoting.

For example, if this blog post were the outline for a talk I’m pitching to an event planner, I’d describe it something like this, “I teach women who aspire to be professional speakers how to get started, laying out the first steps to paid speaking and how to take them. My presentation walks through defining a problem to solve and finding your unique voice, creating your speaking product to market, developing your speaker brand, finding speaking opportunities and promoting yourself as a professional speaker.”

As you think about the talk or presentation you’ll share, outline with enough detail that you can clearly articulate your one key takeaway and the supporting points that form the teaching structure for your message. In my example above, my one key takeaway is how aspiring speakers can get started. The supporting points are: defining a problem to solve and finding your unique voice, creating your speaking product to market, developing your speaker brand, finding speaking opportunities and promoting yourself as a professional speaker.

Keep in mind that you’ll often be promoting your message to an event planner or producer rather than the audience or person you help. Frame the solution you offer in a way that will appeal to the buyer who isn’t the ultimate user. How does the help you provide to individuals benefit the company or organization who makes the speaker choices? That’s where you’ll want to start when you’re promoting your talk.

Step 3 – Create your speaker brand

When you begin reaching out to event planners and others who could book you as a speaker, you’ll have to have a professional speaker promotional vehicle to share. The quickest place to start for truly brand-new speakers may be a speaker one sheet. Imagine a visual resume for a speaker. In one page, a potential booker can quickly and easily learn who you are, what you speak about, your relevant credentials and speaking experience. You can create something that reflects your personality and individuality as a speaker. A quick Google search will get you lots of examples, and even templates, for creating your speaker one sheet.

As soon as you’re able, you’ll need to start working on your speaker website. When you reach out to an organization, company or event planner, the first thing he or she will do is look you up online. You need an online home base where an event planner can learn more about who you are, your topic, your experience and how to get in touch with you. This post gives you a solid starting point for your website must-haves. As soon as you’re able, you’ll want a speaker demo video. You can read more about demo videos here and here.

The key here: While you have to have an online presence and a professional promo piece, you can start where you are and build from there. Don’t let it be more complicated than it needs to be. In my experience, that’s a sure recipe for not starting at all. If I were an aspiring speaker starting today, I’d first make my own speaker one sheet or have one made affordably on Fiverr or Upwork. Then, I’d create a landing page that’s essentially a web version of that one sheet. Use whatever works for you to create a professional speaker presence quickly and simply. Don’t complicate it. You’ll grow from here.

One of the best ways to grow your speaker brand is to produce content on your topic. There are several benefits to writing articles or blogs, showing up on video and posting on social. Circling back to step 1, the best way I know to find and solidify your unique voice is to use it. To practice creating content around your topic that’s filtered through the one-of-a-kind filter of YOU. Producing content also helps you with step 2. As you write or share around your topic, you are able to see what resonates, what matters, what truly helps your audience in the way you want to. Finally, producing content is a fabulous way to develop credibility and establish expertise in your niche.

Step 4 – Find places to speak

Now that you know what expertise you’ll share, have something to promote and professional speaker materials to share with potential bookers, it’s time to find them. Your best bet is to start where you are, start local. Begin by thinking about where to find the people your message serves. Where do they hang out? What organizations do they belong to? Where do they work or go to school? Where do they go to church?

Make a list of 15-20 potential places to speak from the answers to the above questions. Think about companies, civic organizations, associations, nonprofits, churches, schools, colleges and the entities that support them. Think about your personal network. Who do you know? Who do they know who can connect you to these places? Google “______ conference or event” to find events that feature your topic.

When you start speaking, the “payment” you’ll receive may not be money. And as much as we all like and need to make money, there are actually more valuable takeaways from your first speaking events than cash. Would you agree the best way to get good at anything is by doing the thing you want to get good at doing? In that case, the very best value you can take from speaking at your first few events is having done them. Getting in your reps and learning along the way. Don’t undervalue these opportunities to get yourself out there, flex your speaking muscles and do this speaker thing.

In addition to experience and exposure, free events can pay off big in terms of speaking footage or photos for your website and demo video. Every speaking opportunity can provide a testimonial and referrals if you ask for them. Finally, every speaking opportunity has the potential to lead to more speaking opportunities. Always approach every audience as though there are people in it who will want you to speak at their event. Do this by always delivering your very best talk (the most powerful marketing tool you have), and take every opportunity to network at speaking events.

Step 5 – Make the ask

You have all your tools in place and your list of 15-20 possibilities. Now it’s time to make the ask. It’s funny how something that sounds so small can be such a roadblock for so many of us. But the difference maker you’ll find between speakers who get paid and make a career out of it and others who dream of something they never achieve is this one small thing: they make the ask.

“The future belongs to people who confidently ask for what they want.”

Brian Tracy, master speaker and speaker trainer

Here’s how: Take your list of leads. Do your homework to find the person in charge of booking speakers for their events. Reach out to them and ask. You can reach out via email to introduce yourself, let them know the topic you speak on and ask for the opportunity to speak to their group. Email is a great way to quickly reach out to a number of people. But the phone is your friend and can be the thing that turns a possibility into an opportunity. In today’s digital world, making a personal phone call can help you stand out from others.

Even if you make your initial contact through email, do your best to have a phone conversation with the event planner as quickly as you’re able. Over the phone, you can make a personal connection, show your enthusiasm and energy, share your personality and differentiate yourself from other options. Another way to stand out is to be proactive and move quickly. When you’re reaching out for speaking opportunities, keep a close eye on your email and voicemail. When someone gets back to you, respond promptly and professionally. Show them that you want the gig and that you’re someone they’ll enjoy working with.

Help yourself stay organized by creating a system to track your speaking leads, communication and followup. This is another place where you don’t need to overcomplicate it. A spreadsheet, a notebook, notecards, whatever works for you. You just need a place to track your leads, where they are in your outreach process (the strength of the possibility), details about the event (if there’s a particular opportunity you’re going after) and followup plans. As you get further into the speaking sales process, you’ll likely want to move to an electronic system that can remind you of specific followup opportunities.

You got this!

The path to professional speaking isn’t complicated. It is work, though. The opportunities will alway go to those who dig in and consistently do the work to find and go after them. Are you willing to put in the time and do the work? If you are, there’s nothing stopping you. The only way you fail is if you quit.

P. S. If you have a message that’s burning inside you and the only thing standing in your way is fear, I have the perfect solution for you. I created a mini-course just for women called Speak with Confidence. This 3-module workshop teaches the mindset and skillset you need to overcome your fear and share your message with confidence. Get all the details here so you can get your message to the people who need it.

Want to know more about the path to paid speaking we’ve been talking about? Make sure you have a copy of my free SpeakHer Roadmap. You can grab yours here.

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