How to Start a Public Speaking Career

by Karen S. Johnson; Updated September 26, 2017
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The nice thing about starting a career in public speaking is that you already own the most important asset needed: you. The difficulty is getting the recognition you need so that you can command fees that will let this evolve into a self-supporting career. If you enjoy public speaking, are willing to invest in some additional training, market yourself through networking, free speaking gigs, and other methods, you can be on your way to a public speaking career.

Step 1

Publish a written piece that establishes you as an expert in your field. Ideal places to start are trade journals and print and online newspapers. Note your published work in your resume, and send the resume to prospects for speaking opportunities. Many trade publications, and some smaller community publications, welcome contributing authors to fill their pages. Approach your local newspaper about providing a guest column. Add weight to your request by sending a letter to the editor, clearly demonstrating your expertise.

Step 2
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Join business networking groups. Your chamber of commerce should be at the top of the list. You can list yourself as a public speaker in its member directory, and offer yourself as a speaker -- even unpaid -- for chamber events. If you have the opportunity to sit on committees, take them as your schedule allows. If your area of expertise has a trade association, join it and become as active as possible.

Step 3

Obtain professional training. Toastmasters International is a popular, longstanding speaking organization that builds public speaking skills and confidence. It has an accreditation program that is extremely challenging. Successful completion will enhance your credibility and increase the likelihood of being able to charge more for your speaking engagements. At a minimum, get speaker or media training so you can enhance your natural abilities and learn to handle any situation.

Step 4

Join speakers’ bureaus. Many trade groups, nonprofits, and other causes set up speakers’ bureaus that provide public speakers to their members or event organizers. Speakers are promoted as being available experts in their respective fields of expertise. These opportunities might be paid or unpaid. If your chamber of commerce or trade association doesn’t have one, propose it to them.

Step 5
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Conduct paid seminars or online webinars. Promote them to business and community leaders in your networking groups. Provide an introductory course for free, and then sell additional or advanced seminar classes. For online webinars, offer the first 15 to 20 minutes for free and then set up an online payment system where participants can access additional content for a fee.

Tips

  • Some companies employ speakers to provide pre-packaged training or motivational seminars. Your share of the fee will likely be lower than if you offered the seminar yourself.

    Ask for an audience analysis for each event.

About the Author

Based in Central Texas, Karen S. Johnson is a marketing professional with more than 30 years' experience and specializes in business and equestrian topics. Her articles have appeared in several trade and business publications such as the Houston Chronicle. Johnson also co-authored a series of communications publications for the U.S. Agency for International Development. She holds a Bachelor of Science in speech from UT-Austin.

Photo Credits

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