Professional speaker speaking at a workshop
Some people join Toastmasters to overcome their fear of public speaking. Others simply want a quick fix of speaking skills. Once the goal is accomplished (which might take some three months and others three years or more) the fulfilled Toastmasters member will decide to leave the club. Most, however, stay to evolve their skills over time to see how good they can really become at speaking.

Once in a while, a member will choose another route. That is the path of the professional speaker.

How can you make the transition to paid professional speaking from the Toastmasters club floor? Here is a series of steps for you to follow, which has been followed by literally thousands of professional speakers in just metro Denver alone.

1. Attend Joe Sabah’s “Speaking for Fun and Profit” workshop. Be sure to tell him Marty Dickinson sent you. Joe’s paid workshop will help you hone your speaking platform and message. Equally as important, you will be given an Excel file with contact information for practically every organization in the state of Colorado that will provide you with speaking opportunities. He’ll show you how to sell yourself to them too!

2. Create a speaker one-sheet. You must have a one-sheet so that a meeting or event planner can print something from your website to show to other people on the speaker selection board. Scott Friedman recently spoke at the Toastmasters District 26 conference and is a popular keynote speaker around the world. He started in Joe’s program just like I’m suggesting you attend. One of the first things Joe told him to do was to create a one-sheet. Here is a link to Scott Friedman’s one-sheet as an example.

3. Get Video! People who hire speakers are called meeting planners or event planners. Sure, you have to have a website featuring your speaking topics. But, they won’t give your website 30 seconds if you don’t have video on your website.

Have your first video be of you speaking in front of your Toastmasters club. Request seating to be in a format that looks like there are twice as many people in the room. Do NOT use the u-shape for your seating because it will be too obvious that you’re speaking to a Toastmasters group. Sorry, that’s just not what meeting and event planners are looking for. They want you to prove through video that you are capable of entertaining and educating THEIR audience rather than paying members of a supportive Toastmasters club that will laugh at your every joke and give you standing ovations upon command.

They want real world videos. So, you must create a real world setting for your videos.

4. Video record EVERY speaking gig you get. Give a college kid $50 to come video your speech. Or, draft a friend or relative, but make sure they are capable of taking good video for you. Whatever it takes to record every speaking opportunity, free or paid, so that you can showcase yourself with different outfits so that you can make yourself look like you are in demand, speaking often.

One of Joe’s quotes I love and will always remember is, “Speakers SPEAK!” So, if you’re going to call yourself a professional speaker, you will need to get out there and speak often…every chance that comes your way.

5. Get photos from every speaking gig. Video is not enough. You must cajole someone to walk around the room for you and take 30-50 photos for you so that you can use your speaking photos in your website and social media profiles.

Some photos should be taken from the back of the room to show the room size and the audience size. Some photos should be taken from the front of the room from in back of you speaking to the audience. Here’s a good example showing Denver local Orvel Ray Wilson speaking from stage. [See the 2nd photo in his rotating photos banner at the top of the home page of his speaker website]

6. Create your speaker website. I’ve worked with more than 130 professional speakers to develop their websites and have personally conversed with more than 200 meeting and event planners to find out what they’re looking for in websites. There is a LOT to consider when making your speaker website. For that reason, I will need to make another blog post sometime to feature some of the highlights. For now, remember this: People who hire speakers know within 15 seconds how much (or how little) they can pay you to speak at their event. Figure out how much money you want to get per speaking event and design your website to meet that price.

7. Join National Speakers Association . Joe Sabah (bringing him back into this conversation) founded the Colorado chapter of NSA years ago with his wife, Judy Sabah. Both were instrumental in helping the George Sutton Toastmasters club get chartered along with our own club founder, William Strunk.

NSACO meets once per month from August to April where they fly in a keynote speaker (another NSA member) to teach the audience how to understand the speaking business. Become an Associate member so that you can attend the meetings and then later strive to achieve their “paid speaker” requirements so that you can attain “full member” status.

Every January, NSACO conducts a program intensive called the Speaker College, which I strongly advise any up & coming speaker to attend. This program will jump start your career in the speaking business for sure and will be worth every penny you pay to attend.

8. Find a speaker mentor. For women, probably the best speaker mentor I can think of is Patricia Fripp. Go to Fripp.com and BUY everything she sells. Watch her YouTube videos. Attend her 3-day intensive in Vegas. Study her. Become friends with her. “Fripp” as we call her in NSA, is focused driven, harsh at times, and doggonnit….she’s just right! Best professional speaker I know of that is also in the public eye and willing to help.

9. Hire a speaker coach. This is the painful reality that is always overlooked by new speakers. Figure out a way to save you $2,000 to $5,000 and hire a speaker coach to help craft your presentation. Orvel Ray Wilson I recommend frequently to people because he’s local here in the Denver area.

10. Continue with Toastmasters! I saved this suggestion for last because it’s the most important of all. Far too many people leave Toastmasters too soon thinking all they need to do is speak more in front of groups, paid or otherwise. This is simply not true. Far too many current professional speakers NEED to join Toastmasters because their speaking skills suck!

I’m not saying you should be an active member for the rest of your life. But, Toastmasters is the only place you are completely guaranteed of getting in front of a critical audience once per week. In fact, I would even suggest that new professional speakers should be active participants of two or three Toastmasters clubs…including one advanced Toastmasters club.

Uh oh, I just hear a big sigh….”Two or three Toastmasters clubs???” I just heard you say.

If speaking is your passion, you should WANT to be speaking in front of people every day of the week! So find those other clubs and get speaking! Remember, Joe Sabah’s saying…”Speakers SPEAK.”

When your speaking schedule causes you to be out of town at so many speaking gigs that you’re away more than you are able to attend your club meetings….now THAT is a good reason to resign from your club and not before.

Compete in the Toastmasters contests. Offer to other club areas that YOU will serve as the Test Speaker for the evaluation contest held every fall. OVER-prepare your scheduled manual speeches. Test yourself by filling in for other scheduled speakers who suddenly cannot attend to deliver your speech. There are so many opportunities for an up & coming professional speaker to use in Toastmasters that is just a cryin’ shame when people decide to leave their club to “pursue a professional speaking career” BEFORE the time is right for them to end their Toastmasters membership.

So, there are 10 steps to getting you on the fast track to a speaking career. I’ll have to come in later and tidy up this post but wanted to get my thoughts on paper quick for a member who was asking the question, “How do I get started pursuing a professional speaking career?”

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