Speak Up: How To Make A Career Out Of Public Speaking

December 10, 2012  |  

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If you are an expert in your field, have a passion about a certain issue, or have lived experiences you think you should share, maybe you should consider a gig in public speaking.

On average professional speakers, can earn anywhere from 5,000 to $10,000, depending on the speciality and credentials of the speaker, estimates Learn That. According to the National Speakers Association, speaker fees vary widely depending on the speaker’s popularity, their availability and the event requirements. In general, fees for keynote speeches start around $3,000, with the average national keynote fee typically being $7,500. Celebrity speakers and top business experts can get anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000 and up. “For well-known personalities fees are usually over $50,000. And people such as Bill Cosby, motivational speaker Tony Robbins, Neil Armstrong and Bill Clinton are  over $100,000,” notes speakers booking agency Speakers Platform.

While there are some prominent African-American women on the speaking circuit, Venise Berry, associate professor of African American Studies, Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa, says there is plenty of room for more. “Unfortunately African-American women are often linked to black topics which limits their ability to reach a broader base. Speaking topics should cover a broad range,” she told us in an email.

To get started, however, you may need to do a few speaking engagements for free until you create a demand for your appearance. There are other steps to take to become a professional speaker:

  • Use your life experiences. “The first place to look for what to speak about is your own life. Make a list of the goals you have achieved,”  according to FabJob.com, as reported by AfricanSisters.com. “Of course, it’s even better if you have achieved something extraordinary, such as winning an Olympic medal, publishing a bestselling book, or giving birth to septuplets. But even accomplishments that seem ‘ordinary’ can provide material for speeches.”
  • Find your niche. “Identify one or more topics that you can speak on — areas where your expertise makes a difference,” advises Berry,  who speaks on a range of topics from weight and wellness to racism in the media to novel writing.
  • Understand your target audience. “Depending on your niche, you could define your audience by characteristics such as: age, gender, geographic location, industry, interests, or any other traits that distinguish one group from another. Once you have identified your audience, you can target your efforts directly to that group,” explains FabJob.com.
  • Speech writing 101. Check out a speech writing website for guidance. And if  you can’t write your own speech, you can hire a speech writer and/or a speech coach.
  • Book ’em. “Write and publish articles or books in order to establish yourself as an authority in your subject,” states  Wiki How To Become a Motivational Speaker. Berry, for example, has written several books, including award-winning novels and nonfiction books.
  • Publicity is a must. You will have to publicize yourself and your brand. “As a professional woman you need to develop your brand and build your name in order to establish yourself in whatever industry you are in,” Berry writes. According to FabJob.com, your promotional materials should include a demo tape and an information package, including “a color photograph, a page summarizing your experience and the benefits of your speech, and testimonial (reference) letters from people who have heard you speak.” Contact large, not-for-profit corporations and professional groups says Wiki. And contact speakers’ bureaus, such as BlackExperts.com, which reps Berry. Some, but not all, bureaus charge to list your services. And like agents, they will take a percentage of you speaking fee.

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