It’s easy to develop a career as a public speaker, if you’ve got the celebrity status to back you up. If your last name is Trump, Kennedy, or even Kardashian, chances are that there will be no shortage of people lining up to pay money to have you in their event. So, if you are looking for a career as a public speaker, this article can help you build your public speaking credentials (even if you are a nobody). In some cases, if you have a famous last name, it won’t really matter what you’re talking about – people just want to say that they saw you in person, and chances are, you have a speech writer working on something inspirational for you anyway. But what if you don’t have a famous last name to back you up? What if you didn’t win an Olympic gold medal? What if people don’t know you from another face on the street?
The Two Types of Professional Public Speakers
There are two types of professional public speakers. The first is the famous, name-brand one, who delivers a speech about something you’ve likely already heard him or her say. These speeches are more like events, that can fill stadiums, and attract gawkers, as well as people who are looking for information.
The second kind of public speaker is the relatively unknown speaker, who genuinely has something valuable to say but doesn’t have brand recognition yet. The second speaker is sometimes paid in ‘experience,’ and sometimes, he’s not even taken seriously.
Becoming a public speaker if you are the latter can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. While they don’t have celebrity status, there are five characteristics that these two kinds of speaker share. These commonalities are the building blocks of a successful career in the speaking circuit.
So You Want to Be a PAID and Successful Speaker
1. A Well Developed, almost Magnetic Presence
All successful speakers are confident. They know how to draw the crowd’s attention, and keep it. Even if you aren’t a model, a boxing champion, or a billionaire, you can have all eyes in the room on you.
When you are a public speaker, you ARE the product. You have to know how to market yourself, how to present yourself in the best way possible, and how to keep people riveted.
Believe in what you have to say, and be excited about the information you have to share. Share your experiences, but make it about them, too. Let your audience know how they can benefit from your knowledge. Remember, you are doing them a favor by being up there and by sharing what you know – and when you believe it, you radiate confidence.
2. Representatives of their Industry
Whether you’re the King of Hollywood, the Wolf of Wall Street or the president of your local neighborhood association, one thing is for certain – when you are a public speaker, you’re an expert in your niche. Your goal is to have people listen to what you have to say, and take it seriously enough to take your advice and apply it to their own lives.
Ideally, your speech will better their personal circumstances. The way you can do this is to make it a personal mission to be the absolute best at what you do, no matter what it is. Becoming a local expert will make you a go-to source and a must-hear speaker in their hearts and minds.
3. Don’t Rely on Speaking Gigs Alone
Donald Trump may be a public speaker, but he’s also a real estate mogul and a reality TV star. If Donald Trump doesn’t put all his eggs into one basket, neither should you. Even if your public speaking career is taking off, and you’ve got gigs lined up until early 2016, don’t rest on your laurels.
Keep learning, keep developing your career, and keep moving forward. Develop multiple revenue streams. Maybe you could also teach, offer personal coaching or write a book.
4. Tough Skin
Even comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s been booed off the stage more times than he can count. When you’re a public speaker, you’re in the public eye, which opens you up to criticism. Not everyone is going to agree with all of your ideas 100 percent of the time.
The key is to not take it personally. Smile and let it pass. Take your lumps, stand behind your beliefs, and explain yourself the best you can. Trust that there will be more people benefitting from your work than people who want to tear you down.
Public speakers get to be up on the stage for a reason. They’re creative, they think outside the box, and encourage others to think that way too. You likely have a different way of looking at the world or dealing with everyday problems and situations. Share them – that’s why people want to hear you speak. Remember, the best ideas aren’t the ones that are rehashed over and over again.
Michelle Riklan is president of Riklan Resources and an instructor for The Leader's Institute® in the Northeast region. She is based in Trenton, NJ but she also conducts public speaking classes in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and other Northeast cities.