For some, being invited to speak to an audience, whether it be a presentation or sitting on a panel, is enough of an honour to even consider doing it for a fee. For others, the goal of public speaking is to be rewarded handsomely for the wisdom they are imparting on to their listeners.

So, how do you go from being known as a respected presenter to a fierce leader on the speaking circuit who can command thousands of dollars for one engagement? It’s a little trickier than you might think, but once you make that first booking you are on your way!

Don’t expect to be paid early on

Even Barack Obama had to speak for free at one stage of his career, so before you are raking in big bucks to publicly voice your thoughts and opinions, you are going to have to do it without compensation for a little while first. This is not to say that if money is on the table you should forego payment, but don’t be disheartened if it takes a couple of years of consistent speaking gigs before you score that first paid job.

If you truly want to become a professional speaker, take on as many decent, unpaid speaking engagements as you can reasonably manage without damaging your personal brand, and gather as much evidence of them as you can to develop a package.

Market yourself…but not as a speaker

While it is extremely important to showcase your public speaking abilities to potential bookers by way of photos and videos of you speaking to an audience, it is crucial that you do not ‘quit your day job’ to sell yourself simply as a speaker.

The key reason why you are valuable as a speaker has less to do with the timbre of your voice and more about the words you are saying. There must be a reason why you are looking for paid speaking opportunities, and this must have something to do with that fact that you are an expert in your field or because you are merely the best person you know to present on the topic. Don’t be shy to own that! Just remember that you need to market yourself that way so people know you as the expert in your area who also just so happens to be available to be paid to speak about it.

Target the right people

It seems obvious, but to land the paid gigs, the event organisers actually need to be willing and have the budget to pay a speaker. Typically, paid speaking opportunities come in the form of keynote speeches, MC or hosting jobs or presentations at conferences. Don’t be afraid to put yourself forward for opportunities. One of the best places to begin is at a conference; of which there are dozens happening every day around the country. If you think you’ve got what it takes to deliver a presentation worthy of being paid for – let the organiser know what you can bring to the table. All they can do is decline, right?

It’s a tough slog but it is do-able. Accept unpaid speaking gigs, back up why you are worthy of being paid to speak with some hard evidence and seek out your initial professional speaking engagements and before you know it you will be a regular on the circuit. Cha-ching!

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