Friday, May 20 2022

As an entrepreneur or business leader, knowing how to speak to an audience is a necessary professional skill. Wouldn’t it be nice if it was also a stable source of income? It can be – if you approach it correctly. This idea comes from Alaina G. Levine, frequent speaker and founder of Quantum Success Solutions, and expression coach.

How much money can you make as a professional speaker? “I know entrepreneurs who make $5,000 a year speaking, and $300,000 a year speaking and everything in between,” she says. “I know people who charge $500 for a speech, or $7,500 for a day, or $20,000 for a speech at a corporate event.”

It all depends on things like your experience, your reputation in your industry (or beyond) and how much time you’re willing to devote to marketing and growing your communications business. It also depends a lot on the audience you are speaking for. Local nonprofit groups may have little or nothing to pay. National trade associations or corporations will likely have bigger pockets and pay significantly more.

The good news is that as an entrepreneur, you already have many of the skills you need to become a successful speaker, because launching a communications business is similar to launching a new product or brand. a new business. If you want to give it a try, here are some tips from Levine.

1. Get them talking about themselves, not you.

If you plan a new product launch, you wouldn’t base it on what you want to sell, but on what your customers want to buy. Yet when it comes to speaking professionally, many smart entrepreneurs still make the mistake of basing their plans on what they feel ready to talk about, not what an audience might need from them. .

“It starts with understanding that if you’re going to get paid to speak, there has to be some kind of transformation that you bring to the audience,” Levine said. “You have to solve a problem for them or advance their agenda, whatever that agenda is.” A big mistake many entrepreneurs make is assuming that because they have an interesting story to tell or knowledge to share, someone will pay them to talk, she adds. “You most likely have something interesting to say, but you have to translate it into a solution for that audience. And that’s the job. That’s the challenge. What are you particularly good at helping people ?”

2. Spend time on market research.

Finding the answer to this question will likely require market research, much like you would if you were to offer a new product or service (which is what you actually do). Levine’s own professional speaking career began after hearing from potential employers that STEM students in the master’s program at the University of Arizona, where she was program manager, were not being hired because they lacked “soft” skills such as communication, networking and leadership. . She started teaching these skills to her students, then realized that many people in STEM professions also needed to learn them. “It’s transformational for this audience because it gets them jobs,” she says.

Early in her speaking career, she also tried to portray herself as a motivational speaker, she says. “That was a mistake. There were a lot of motivational speakers and that wasn’t the core value I could offer.” Learning to identify and market his unique value proposition was the first step in building his speaking business as a source of income.

3. Convenient.

As with anything else, the more you talk, the better off you will be. So if you want to become a professional speaker, Levine suggests starting, as she did, by making lots of free engagements. It takes time on stage to learn how to really engage an audience, she explains, and to polish your message and presentation. “When you’re just starting out as a speaker, you’ll very rarely get paid for those first few encounters. It will take time to build the platform skills and reputation to be able to command those higher fees. It’s also going to take networking.” By speaking for free, Levine says, she developed a network of people who had seen her speak and knew the value she offered, which led to her speaking later.

4. Be an entrepreneur.

Levine advises having your email address and phone number on every page of your website, so an event planner can find them easily. And she recommends answering your phone every time it rings, or they might move on to someone else.

Beyond that, act like an entrepreneur. Years ago, while still working for the University of Arizona, Levine attended a one-day professional development session with a disappointing speaker. “She was awful and she made the audience feel bad,” she says. So she called the event manager and said, “It was an interesting workshop. I would like to submit to be the keynote speaker next time. She asked how much he had paid the speaker and agreed to do so for the same price. “It was my first paid speaking engagement,” she says.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.


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