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7 reasons why you should give professional speaking a pass. By Peter de Run
What comes to your mind when you think of professional speakers? What are your views and comments about professional speaking as a career? Whatever your answers are, I am almost certain they are not true, for professional speaking is more than just standing up on a platform, speaking, stepping down and receiving a fat payment. In fact speaking in public to earn a living is bona fide hard work, really! Though many think professional speaking is enjoyable, effortless and engenders lots of income, it actually can’t be any further than the truth. Consider the following before you take that leap into the wonderful but exigent world of professional speaking.
1. Sell yourself shamelessly.
When you decide to become a professional speaker, no one will come knocking at your door to ask you to speak, no matter how good you think you are or how good you think others think you are. You are only a little star in a galaxy of stars, lighting up a tiny speck of darkness in this universe! This was one of many mistakes I made when I took my first steps into this career. I had done well in a few speaking engagements and the praises heaped on me got to my head. I actually expected invitations to be flooding in once the word got out that I was a full time speaker but alas, no letters, calls or emails flowed in, not even a trickle. No one had told me that unless I was a very famous speaker (having a ‘proven track record’ is how it’s termed in this business) there will almost certainly be NO invitations or opportunities to speak. Instead, it is all up to you to get those speaking engagements by unashamedly and continuously knocking on doors, sending emails and making hundreds of phone calls to any lead that could have the faintest possibility of hiring you to speak, begging them to let you speak (and many will be accept you to speak but free). I could not do this as I lacked the discipline, failed to handle countless rejections well and was (and still am) very embarrassed to blow my own horn. 7 reasons why you should give professional speaking a pass. By Peter de Run When you decide to become a professional speaker, no one will come knocking at your door to ask you to speak.
If you still do decide to become a professional speaker, work hard at becoming famous, take every opportunity to speak (even though most of them will be for free) and most importantly, DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB YET (another mistake I did)!
2. Work, work, work.
Professional speaking is 10% heaven and 90% hell. You need to be aware as soon as possible that for every hour of glory on stage making presentations, hours of hard work is needed beforehand in the trenches of one’s study room (or wherever else you work to prepare your presentation). For a good presentation or speech, a large chunk of your time will have to be sacrificed. Circling this altar of sacrifice are also the many other demands you must attend to before making a speech: communication via countless calls and emails, preparation of materials (write, type, copy, cut, colour, paste . . . you get the idea), facing and dealing graciously with delays and all sorts of imaginable (and sometime unimaginable) requests from your clients and the countless hours involved in travelling. Even when all this is done, one is not assured that the gods are pleased and you may at the last minute be rescheduled or worse, dropped. Professional speaking is only for the tough! Zig Ziglar is purported to have said that for a 3 hour presentation, a speaker uses the same amount of energy an office worker uses in an eight hour workday! Once at the end of a day-long seminar, the organizer of the seminar sat me down and commented, “You began with a blast, full of enthusiasm and energy but you seemed to be out of steam by the time the evening session began. What’s up?” I was exhausted! I was not ready physically and mentally for the demands made on me each time I stood up to speak. If you still do decide to become a professional speaker, begin today to build up your physical stamina and effective work habits as you will need them everyday. Also, get use to the idea of being busy 24/7 in this career. Begin today to build up your physical stamina and effective work habits as you will need them everyday.
7 reasons why you should give professional speaking a pass. By Peter de Run
3. New under the sun?
Most green speakers actually share old information, information they received from already famous speakers which inspired and transformed their lives. The problem with this is the material shared is already available and worse, it is available from speakers who are famous, who have a monopoly on that information. These speakers have developed materials on the subject you are just seeking to speak on enough to fill a library whereas you have a binder containing 5 pages of paraphrased information from books you read and a little wisdom from your short experience of life. Nobody wants to listen to a young upstart with no more that five speaking engagements under his belt rehash already known facts popularized by a famous speaker! I remember wondering what information I was going to sell as a The world is looking for speakers are experts in their fields, and are able to customize their information to fit the needs of each client. professional speaker and when I looked at all the notes I had and the material I wanted to share, a whirlpool of doubt began to stir in my gut. I realised that all I had was borrowed information from famous speakers which I had recycled! What the world is looking for is speakers are experts in their fields, who really know their stuff and is able to customize their information to fit the intricate needs of each client. Wise old King Solomon once said, “There is nothing new under the sun” and unless what you are offering IS something new under the sun, you are almost certainly doomed to obscurity. If you still do decide to become a professional speaker, begin to build up your knowledge and seek solutions to problems you would like to be actively involved on a daily basis. This would mean in real terms doing a lot of reading and research as well as producing and testing your ideas long before declaring them in public.
4. Living on sunshine and hot air.
This is true: not many are willing to pay (what more, pay big bucks) for your services. I know for a fact that in the city where I live in, there are very, very few companies, agencies or corporate bodies willing to pay more than RM500 for a one day seminar to a speaker that has very little experience, fame or fresh information. Many will unashamedly ask you to speak for free or feign utmost shock when you give them your quote stating they have a small or 7 reasons why you should give professional speaking a pass. By Peter de Run
non-existent budget and therefore would prefer you trim down severely your quote in order to have a chance of being accepted. Pickings are slim especially if you decide to become a motivational speaker. The reasons are two-fold - everybody wants to be a motivational speaker (everyone thinks it looks easy, is inexpensive and requires very little knowledge) and very few people are unmotivated (look at all those people who go to work everyday, slogging it out to eek a living – something’s already motivating them!). It’s a simple case of too much cure, too little sick. What companies that hire speakers are looking for are speakers that are able to give them workable solutions to the problems their company or employees are facing – that’s the bottom-line. Deliver the solution and get accepted and if your solution works, expect a good payout. If not, expect to be booted-out! In short, you will be paid (and sometimes handsomely) if you are a solution speaker. Are you? Do you have tested solutions to problems people and companies are looking for? If you still do decide to become a professional speaker, decide to be a solution speaker and begin to develop solutions to Do you have tested solutions to problems people and companies are looking for? problems companies and people around you are looking for, making sure your solutions do work for then the chances of you getting hired will improve tremendously.
5. A contact is not a contract.
As you begin to speak you will come across people who will eagerly hand you their calling card and say something like this: “You’re great. I really enjoyed your speech. I think my company would love to have you as our speaker.” Don’t let your hopes fly sky high like an unrestrained kite, imagining yourself speaking at that particular company’s annual dinner and receiving the applause of many (as well as a cheque with some zeros on it) because as Kai Rambow, past international director of Toastmasters International once said, “A contact is not a contract”. This was another painful lesson I had to learn as I began to accumulate calling cards and verbal assurances of a speaking slot here and there. I forgot that the person speaking to me many a times was NOT the boss! His or her boss had no idea who I was and was definitely not enamoured with me.
7 reasons why you should give professional speaking a pass. By Peter de Run
To make things worse, most companies would already have made plans for staff training and have already in mind speakers they would want to have. So even if they were interested in me, I would have to wait for my turn (maybe the following year when they decide the speakers for the coming year). Lastly, I realized that no budget has been set apart for me just in case I show up and they would like to have me as a speaker! They would have to budget me in the following year! Realizing this, I now almost never place any hope on gushes from excited participants on how I would be good for their company for I have learnt that rave reviews do not equal paid engagements. If you still do decide to become a professional speaker, take every contact seriously but never pin your hopes on them until the ink on the contract dries. Till then, all your contacts and their verbal offers are just illusions of what may be.
6. It’s not personal, its business.
Professional speaking is not a career, it’s a business. If you decide to take speaking as a career, get this into your head early – you have just started a business and because of the elements involved you have just become an entrepreneur as well. The ability to communicate effectively is important is professional speaking but what is even more necessary is the ability to run a business with an entrepreneurial mindset from day one. Coming from a clergy background I had no idea at all on how to start, what more, to run a business and it cost me dearly. By the time I realized that my choice to be a speaker meant I had decided to become a businessman hit me, I was like the proverbial frog in a container filled with water, being slowly boiled to death unaware. I was heading towards business disaster and it was too late to stop. The same scenario need not be yours if you get this into your head – to be a professional speaker is to be an entrepreneur slash businessperson. Another vital skill you will sorely need to survive in this business is financial skills. Again, with my clergy background where all I had to do was to trust the good Lord to provide, I had no idea what credit and debit meant, no idea how to balance my accounts (accounts was a new word to me) and I had no idea how to respond to all the financial responsibilities that came with the territory (filling in tax returns, renewing company licenses, sending cheques 7 reasons why you should give professional speaking a pass. By Peter de Run I believe one of the best advices I got was: take up a course on accounting and business studies if you ever want to succeed in life.
and invoices . . . you get the drift). I believe one of the best advices I got was: take up a course on accounting and business studies if you ever want to succeed in life. I only wish it was given to me when I first decided to be a speaker and not when I had already made the decision to seek an alternative career. With a better understanding of handling money and the way business is done, I believe a professional speaker will be able to better deal and survive the financial aspects of this business. You will need to plan and track all your sales and marketing efforts, all your financial matters must be accurate and up to date and a running, efficient system must be in place if you ever are going to make it financially in this business. If you still do decide to become a professional speaker, go get a business degree first or else marry someone who has one and make him/her your business consultant!
7. No time left.
A few years into my career as a professional speaker (if it could be categorized as a career), I began to realize that I had to pay a high prize to gain even some level of success in this field – I had to sacrifice most of my time working (selling myself, preparing presentations, speaking, looking for more opportunities – the cycle was endless). I slowly grew to resent this unceasing demand. When you choose to be a professional speaker you have chosen to sacrifice one of man’s most valuable assets – time. You will be required to work all day, everyday, as the demands of the business do not stop but like a flowing river, it just keeps on coming, sometimes in torrents, sometimes in trickles but it never stops flowing. “What about the trips you get to make all over the country (or world) speaking? Wouldn’t that be considered free time to relax?” you may ask. Well, no. On business trips there is no time for you – it’s always meeting someone, going somewhere or getting ready to speak. There is little or no time for you. Also waking up in different homes and hotel rooms in the long run creates a sense of Planned, extended family holidays take the back seat once you begin to travel to give speeches and meet clients
loss, you never know where you really are and you never really belong. This is made worse if you have a loving home which you miss. I discovered that the sense of sadness of being away from home tended to eat away at my happiness reserve. Another thing many new speakers do not realize is that much of the opportunities to speak are during weekends and holidays. This means you have none or little vacation time as all your business 7 reasons why you should give professional speaking a pass. By Peter de Run
takes place at this time. Planned, extended family holidays take the back seat once you begin to travel to give speeches and meet clients. If you still do decide to become a professional speaker, get ready to work long hours and to be away from home often. Some careful planning to make time for family and self will be necessary. In other words, intentionally make time for relaxation and fun (and if you are married, make sure time with the family is given priority). Learn to make the most of your trips – I take time to be a tourist wherever I go and also seek to make new friends and experience the daily life of the people I am speaking to. Here’s a great hint if you may like to do: opt to stay in the home of the organiser (or one of their members/staff) instead of a lonely hotel.
Consider the Cost
The road to success as a professional speaker is hard and long, like the rocky paths that lead up high glorious mountains. You will need years of building up your career before ever having to show anything insignificant. What you will need is a serious case of stick-to-it-is if you were ever to finish first. A career in professional speaking is not much different that an effort to climb Mount Everest (or any other challenging mountain). It is uphill most of the time, where you face unfavourable conditions many times, stumble and fall frequently (at times with much pain or loss), get knocked down by unforeseen elements and after you reach the peak, you realize there are many more peaks awaiting you ahead. Even so, if you love public speaking as much as those crazy mountaineers love mountaineering, then you will find an inner strength to face the challenges and a drive that will propel you upwards to greater heights. Only then should you consider professional speaking as a full-time career option.
(You can contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org) 7 reasons why you should give professional speaking a pass. By Peter de Run