From Free to Fee!
Pathways to Professionalism
In professional speaking it's said that "success leaves footprints." Over the decades, thousands of Toastmasters have migrated into the professional ranks to earn their livelihood as professional speakers, trainers, facilitators, consultants, coaches or blends of these occupations. World Champions as far back as Cavett Robert (1942), the founder of the National Speakers Association, have made this migration, as have other Toastmasters alumni, and you can too. If you aspire to emulate their success, why not cut years off of your learning curve by heeding their advice? Consider it their way of paying it forward!.
With the communication and leadership skills you've developed in Toastmasters, as well as the confidence and experience you've accrued speaking to different audiences in different environs, you've built a solid core of skills to refine should you pursue a career as a paid speaker. Yet there are many lessons to learn to succeed in the professional ranks, as the assembled Toastmaster voices in this article can attest.
Dananjaya Hettiarachchi: Sees Something In You
2014 WCOPS Dananjaya Hettiarachchi of Sri Lanka, already knew that winning the WCPS wouldn’t be the "be all, end all," at all. "If you want to be a paid speaker, whether or not you win the WCPS, you have to be a domain specialist!" Your market in the business world may or may not know about Toastmasters or the World Championship, or the value you bring as a result of membership. Says Hettiarachchi, "You need to have your brand, your vertical (market) defined, and then ‘'...and by the way, I am the World Champion of Public Speaking (or a DTM or veteran Toastmaste.r'’ Hettiarachchi’s advice, "Find your niche and become expert in your domain!"
Yet finding your niche isn’t enough. "You need to be seen and be heard." Professional speakers know: to speak more, you have to speak more. Hettiarachchi suggests aggressively seeking opportunities to speak: at conferences, conventions, local meetings and special events. Hettiarachchi dedicated a year to this; He delivered free speeches as well as paid ones. "Collect references and testimonials, build evidence of your impact and social proof" of your prowess with every presentation.
Hettiarachchi further advises, "Understand how adult learning works." He invested heavily in learning about adult learning by taking courses, studying the psychology of how content is structured and understood by an audience, and dissected the brilliance of Toastmasters' Golden Gavel winner Les Brown's speech craft, among others.
Rory Vaden: Win, Place and Go Pro
Professional speaker, entrepreneur and author Rory Vaden is living proof that sales experience, drive and a solution orientation are valued even more than winning the World Championship of Public Speaking® in the business world. The 2007 WCOPS runner-up, Rory explains, "Being paid as a professional speaker is much more a reflection of your expertise than your skill at speaking." The outside world admires a great 5-7 minute inspirational speech, but they pay for solutions, outcomes, benefits and ROI — a return on investment. What solutions do you bring to your clients?
Models of Success
"Adjust your perspective on how you make money as a speaker" Vaden advises aspiring pro speakers. The New York Times best-selling author of Take the Stairs continues, "Shift from the idea of 'I get paid a fee to come stand on stage.' " It's more competitive than ever to survive on that check alone." Rory suggests options such as speaking for free while selling products at the back of the room; creating training videos where you speak on camera and promote and sell those videos online. There’s also an option to become a trainer.
"The number one way you can get hired to speak is because someone has seen you speak. It's not because you are a World Champion, have great looks or a TV show. It's because a decision-maker saw you speak" Vaden decrees. To speak better you must speak more! Says Vaden, “You can’t be'‘Kind of good.' Be amazing." That has as much to do with your expertise, as it has to do with your delivery. Rory’s mantra? " It's hard to be nervous when your heart's on service." Focus on your clients' needs, not yours! Vaden, the co-founder of Southwestern Consulting, coaches speakers extensively on making this transition.
Marquessa Pettway: Become A Speakerpreneur
For Distinguished Toastmaster and Certified Speaking Professional Marquesa Pettway of New York City, the path to professional speaking has been filled with teachable moments. In five short years she achieved these notable titles from Toastmasters and the National Speakers Association. In the process, she learned a great deal.
"It is easy to get into the speaking business. But it's very hard to stay in it full time," says Pettway. "To do so, speakers must be speakerpreneurs!" She coined this term to describe how speakers must gain entrepreneurial skills not necessarily taught in the corporate world.
Early on, Pettway paid her dues by joining a seminar company. She didn't focus on the money she was earning ("99 cents an hour!") traveling from town to town, but appreciated the experience of speaking daily, learning to sell other peoples' products in the back of the room and building her confidence.
As her speaking business grew, so did her savvy. She "picked a lane" and became an expert. "Being an expert means that you can solve a problem for people, whether it is helping them find the love of their lives or lose weight or become healthier. You’ve got to be an expert in at least one category to get hired."
But there’s so much more to master. “Speakerpreneurs” can position themselves effectively in the marketplace—partly through social media. After delivering value to an audience with their speech, they are comfortable making an offer from the platform to sell coaching services, products, retreats, boot camps or other packages. It's an art form, and it takes practice. Mostly, says Pettway, "You have to have a mindset of it being a business and not just about giving speeches."
Mark Hunter: Make Your Mark in the Big Game
For 2009 World Champion of Public Speaking (WCPS) Mark Hunter of Australia, credibility and authenticity are keys to success in the professional ranks.
"Credibility is both personal and perceived" explains Hunter. He defines personal credibility as ensuring that you have standing in the topics you choose — that you have solid expertise and knowledge in the area you speak about.
Hunter continues, "Perceived credibility is how audience members see you. It is contextual. Members of the same audience are influenced differently by their view of what you say and how you are say it" Hunter adds, "Protect your personal credibility —it’s in your control!" Have an honest conversation with yourself and those who know you best regarding your primary values. It will increase your capacity to define and protect your credibility."
"Authenticity" according to Hunter, is "the harmony between what is seen by the audience and who we are." He’s seen speakers portray one persona on stage, and another off stage. Audiences detect this contradiction. What effect is a lack of authenticity having on your speaking career? His advice: consciously and actively using different forms of feedback from those who know you as well as strangers to increase your self-awareness and enhance your authenticity.
"I am both a lifelong learner and a reflective learner" states Hunter. He’s shaved years off his learning curve by actively seeking feedback, learning from his mistakes, watching other speakers to affirm or challenge what he does and how he does it. Each of his strategies can also facilitate your skill development in 'going pro.'
Allison M. Shapira: Leading Through Speaking
For Allison M. Shapira, ACS, ALS, leveraging the communication and leadership skills she developed in Toastmasters was natural. The founder and president of Global Public Speaking LLC in Washington DC, she coaches clients in professional speaking.
Being a paid coach, says Shapira, requires passion and purpose. Her advice for finding clients: "Dive in with a relentlessness of purpose! Have courage and a belief in
"Sell the value you bring to others and the benefits that accrue to them through
Shapira's path to coaching speakers has been a fascinating and diverse one, showing that there is no one right path to take. As a college student, she was a vocal performance major—planning for a professional career as an opera singer—but then switched her major to Italian literature. After graduation, Shapira landed a job at the Israeli consulate in Boston and was expected to give speeches on the consulate's behalf. Thus, she joined Boston University’s Toastmasters club.
DTM and Past District Governor Craig Harrison of Lakeview Toastmasters in Oakland CA (2767-57) is a 22-year member of Toastmasters. He is also a 19-year member of the National Sperakers Association and founder of its Storytellers Professional Emphasis Group, Visit www.SpeakAndLeadWithConfidence.com for more speaker and leader resources.
Tips from Craig Harrison DTM, PDG
Congratulations on declaring your intention to become a professional speaker. Whatever you do…DON'T QUIT Toastmasters! Where else can you find the blend of opportunities for stage time, skill development, mentoring, coaching, advanced instruction, a support group and more?
Now that your goals have changed, so too can your strategy for how to experience all the Toastmasters experience has to offer.
Sidebar 2: Speakers Resources
Sooner Here's what every emerging professional speaker needs:
— Craig Harrison DTM, PDG
DTM and Past District Governor Craig Harrison of Lakeview Toastmasters in Oakland CA (2767-57) has roasted and been roasted over his 22 years in Toastmasters. As a professional keynoter and emcee he strives to blend gentle humor with a touch of class to generate good will for all. Visit www.ExpressionsOfExcellence.com for more speaker and leader resources.