I’m often asked how to get started in a professional speaking career. Perhaps you’ve given presentations as part of your job to modest-sized audiences, and gotten a great response. Perhaps you find you love being on stage. Or perhaps you’ve got a burning issue you’re on fire to talk about, spread awareness for, and for which to change the world. These are all good reasons to get started.
First, a caveat. A speaker needs to be seen, in the long run at least, as a thought leader about – well, some thought. The traditional way is to write a book. The digital world has opened up a huge variety of additional paths – but all of them involve giving away some content for free in some form. Maybe you find YouTube most congenial, or a written blog, or Instagram, or any one of many possible permutations, but the world expects you, if you have the passion, to put something out there so that we can all react to it, talk about it, fight it, copy it, and so on. Whatever the case, you need to get buzz going. So if some form of putting out content about your idea is excruciating for you, then you may be in the wrong business.
But let’s say that you’ve figured that out, and you’re gradually becoming the Jedi Master of Something You Think Is Really Cool, and you’re ready to take the next step toward speaking. What can you do while you’re waiting for the first paid invitation to roll in? Following are five ways you can get started on your journey to fame and fortune.
1. Find your own path, but learn from the masters. You are going to find your own way, of course, but while that way is becoming clear, don’t be afraid to study the masters. Bill Clinton modeled himself as a speaker on President Kennedy, even down to the gestures and postures of the thirty-fifth president. It’s easy, thanks to YouTube and TED.com, to study speeches, figure out what makes them great, and internalize the aspects of greatness that work for you. The idea is not to copy, but to dissect and learn from, the greats.
2. Practice every day, even if it’s only to the sands. Writers write, singers sing, and speakers have to speak. If you don’t have a paying audience yet, give free ones. Join Toastmasters, offer free speeches to the Chamber of Commerce, or the local community college, or – if you can’t find anyone who will listen yet – do like Demosthenes, the great Athenian orator, is reputed to have done: stuff your mouth with (clean) pebbles and walk along the beach declaiming as clearly as you can. Demosthenes was reputed to have cured a speech impediment this way. You can at least build your chops.
3. Practice the hard stuff more often than the easy stuff. One tip I always give to my clients in the throes of rehearsal is to practice the speech starting at different spots, in chunks. That’s so that you don’t get too comfortable with the opening and always tired by the time you reach the end of your presentation. It’s a classic energy mistake that new speakers make. Similarly, if there’s some aspect of speaking that makes you uncomfortable, practice that more often rather than less. Do your crunches!
4. Rant and get comfortable with your emotions. Following on the last tip, if you are one of those buttoned-down people who have difficulty revealing their emotions, now’s the time to start practicing. We humans crave emotion like a junkie craves junk, and so you’re going to have to provide it for your audiences-to-come. Begin with a rant – what about your chosen topic really, really gets your goat? Enough to make you pound the table, raise your voice, and make fierce faces? Emotions are the stuff of speaking life, so get your arms around them and make them yours.
5. Focus, or the competition will kill you. New speakers are always tempted to spread their speaking nets very, very wide. I’ve seen (low-life) speaker websites with twelve topics on them. Don’t do it – I know it’s hard to say no when someone asks you to speak on a subject that’s not really in your ken – but it’s an invitation to speak! Resist, focus, and stay on target. Otherwise you’ll spread yourself too thin and your competition will not, and you’ll be the one no one calls.
Here’s hoping you’re the one that everyone calls!
This article was written by Nick Morgan from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.