I’m fortunate that I have a good balance in the work that I do: I have a Psychology practice where I work one-on-one in therapy and in addition to this, I have grown a professional speaking career. The therapy and speaking certainly compliment one another and I love that they both ensure that I’ll never stop learning! Often I get enquiries from aspiring inspirational speakers who want advice on how to take their speaking to the next level. Here are some tips I like to share:
- Understand your motivation to speak. With any goal or aspiration, you need to first understand the “why” before you get to the “how.” Consider what your message is that you feel you have to share with an audience to make a difference and change people’s lives. Perhaps it’s a lesson you’ve learnt, a theory or skill you have or a story you need to tell. If your “why” comes from an honest, authentic place, then you’re on the right track.
- Consider what makes you unique. There are many inspirational speakers out there, so you need to consider what makes you stand out from the rest. It took me a while to accept that I needed to market myself with what makes me distinctive as a speaker: the combination of my professional knowledge (Clinical Psychologist) and my physical disability. I did not want to make a fuss about having no arms, but I soon learnt that this is what makes me unique! I’m not suggesting that you have an amputation 🙂 but think about what makes you unique and why people need to hear your message!
- Join your local Toastmaster’s Club. Many of the best speakers I know began their journey at Toastmasters. I joined the Ernst & Young Toastmaster’s Club in Cape Town and I learnt many valuable public speaking skills, not only through my own talks, but also by listening to others talk on stage. It’s incredible to see how speakers grow over time! In addition to learning skills, you’ll gain a valuable network and make new friends (one friend even met her fiancé there, but that’s another blog post!).
- Visit your local chapter of the PSASA (Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa) or similar association worldwide. They meet monthly and have excellent presentations in line with growing a speaking business. I belong to the Cape Town Chapter and my professional membership has opened many doors for me, particularly after I was a keynote speaker at their Convention earlier this year.
- Watch as many professional speakers on stage as possible – who better to learn from than professional speakers themselves! There are hundreds of videos online to watch and learn from. In terms of extra resources, I’d recommend that you read The Exceptional Speaker by Alan Stevens and Paul du Toit, both highly regarded in the speaking profession.
- Speak as often as possible. The more you speak, the greater confidence you will gain and you’ll learn what people respond to. Make sure to get feedback from your audience, either through evaluation forms or asking for testimonials from the event organisers. Think about who your target audience is and make contact, offering your talk at their next event or function. It may take a while to be paid to speak, but as you build up testimonials and make an impact on your audiences, people may soon be contacting you to speak.
- Be authentic. The most important advice I’d give aspiring speakers is TO BE YOURSELF. Once you have learnt all the skills of being a speaker, you may need to unlearn some of them! Often the best speakers are the ones who are unpolished without the glitz and glamour – they are real people who know their subject well, they are always learning and have an ability to connect with their audience. They are the same person on and off the stage.
Now go out there and SPEAK!