It may seem glamorous to fly around the world, deliver speeches to adoring fans, and bring in a big paycheck. In reality, the life of a professional speaker is much less glamorous and much more demanding. But even with the long flights and rejection, it can still be incredibly rewarding.
My husband Jacob Morgan worked his last full-time job more than a decade ago. When the boss who had promised him great career opportunities out of college had Jacob running to get him coffee, Jacob left and didn’t look back. He didn’t set out to become a speaker, but instead focused on consulting and working for himself. As he built a personal brand focusing on the future of work, he started getting invited to conferences and his speaking career took off. Today, Jacob is a best-selling author who travels the world to speak at conferences and to top executives. But he says for every one speaking gig, there are 10 that didn’t work out. Jacob responds to speaking requests and negotiates his own contracts, which requires a huge amount of work and time for every speech.
From his years of speaking experience, Jacob offers three pieces of advice to aspiring professional speakers:
- Build credibility. Before you get asked to speak anywhere, you have to build your personal brand. Jacob has a blog, podcast, books, online courses and much more to establish himself as a thought leader. No one will want to hire you to speak if they don’t know who you are and what your message is.
- Deliver an engaging speech. Jacob thinks of speaking as a performance. Aside from delivering useful content, he also wants to connect with the audience, make them laugh and surprise them. There’s a huge difference between someone who just reads their speech and someone who is genuinely interested in the topic and engages the audience.
- Know your worth. One of the biggest mistakes speakers make is not charging what they’re worth and accepting everything that comes their way. When Jacob was starting he took nearly every speaking request, but now he charges what he’s worth and isn’t afraid to walk away from a deal if a group isn’t willing to pay his rate. Know the value you bring and don’t compromise.
Starting a professional speaking career can be full of long flights in coach, uncomfortable hotel beds and paltry paychecks. But building your brand, delivery and experience can create a strong speaking career that opens doors across the globe.
Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker and the author of two books including The Customer Of The Future: 10 Guiding Principles For Winning Tomorrow’s Business. Sign up for her weekly customer experience newsletter here.