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Oct
2013

How to Become a Wildly Successful Motivational Speaker

By Linda Larsen - Wednesday, October 09, 2013
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I frequently have people say to me, "I think I'd make a good motivational speaker. How do I go about it?" And since I get this question a LOT, I thought I'd just put all the answers down in a blogpost and then I can direct people here when they are looking for answers. Here you go. 

  1. Have something extremely important to share with people - information SO valuable that you know it will change people's lives for the better.
  2. Write a brilliant, funny, substantive, Pulitzer Prize winning, story-rich one hour speech about it. 
  3. Make certain it is DIFFERENT than the other brilliant speeches out there. Not just better (which is a given) but DIFFERENT. 
  4. Do NOT present it until it is ready (bad press is worse than no press.)
  5. DO, however, present it to professionals in the meetings industry who will critique everything from the content, to your delivery style, to what you are wearing to why you keep saying or doing "x." You NEED to know what is and is not working.
  6. Do NOT rely on your friends to tell you how good your stuff is. They love you, they don't want to hurt your feelings, they want you to like them - and most importantly - unless they are GREAT motivational speakers themselves, they don't actually KNOW what is good and what isn't.
  7. Once it is brilliant, give it away to deserving, appropriate groups for free or a very low fee. You need to know from experience what is working, what isn't, where the laughs are, etc.
  8. Hire a professional videographer to shoot several of these sessions. GREAT quality video with good lighting and sound. Cheap video in a dumpy looking conference rooms works against you.
  9. Hire a professional editor (preferably who knows what meeting planners are looking for) to edit a rough cut for you.
  10. Hire another professional to look at the rough cut and make more suggestions about what should and shouldn't be included. (8, 9 and 10 could be the same person - but they NEED TO KNOW WHAT MEETING PLANNERS ARE LOOKING FOR! This could be a very costly mistake if they don't know what will get you booked.)
  11. Build a VERY professional looking website with all your great video clips, plus photos of you speaking AT actual events (not the posed, "Oh look at how I am pretending to speak" photos.) If you do not have a great website, people will not book you 999 times out of 1000. You are competing with professional speakers who have AMAZING sites. Be prepared. This costs thousands of dollars to do right. AND - it takes a long time. 
  12. Hire a professional to optimize your website.  Allocate another couple of thousand dollars to have someone insure than when people are searching the term "motivational speaker," of the 3,500,000 results that appear (no, I'm not kidding on that number), you will come up at LEAST in the top 10 pages of results listings.  And many people won't search past page 5. I'm on page 4...today. Trust me, tomorrow I may sink like a rock. You have to WORK to stay high on the results listings.
  13. Figure out how to market yourself to meeting planners and speakers' bureaus. And be prepared again - these people don't know you and don't have any track record with you. But they DO have a track record with hundreds of other speakers who are years ahead of you, have made them look like rock stars for recommending them and have made those bureaus and meeting planners lots of money in commissions. 
  14. Go to your local chapter meetings of the National Speakers Association. They are in lots of cities around the U.S. Go to www.nsaspeaker.org to find a chapter near you. They bring in professional speakers who cover every topic you need to know about: Presentation skills, marketing, business tools, technology needs, social media advances, business practices, ethics, etc. 
  15. Go online and visit speaker websites of people who do this for a living and are FANTASTIC! Watch their videos, look at their topics lists, study them. DO NOT copy them, their material or anything they do - just use them as inspiration and as a model for what is effective and working. Check out my website, Linda Larsen, and other exceptionally wonderful speakers like Christine Cashen, Kelly Swanson, Colette Carlson, Tim Gard and Brian Walter and Bill Stainton.
  16. Plan from the very beginning to be the absolute easiest, most well-prepared, hassle-free, likable, content-rich, AMAZING speaker in the business. Never waiver from that commitment.
  17. Don't go into this business to make money. Go into it to provide TREMENDOUS value to everyone who gets to hear you. HUGE value. WAY more than they pay you for. If you make a lot of money as a result - that's great. 
  18. And finally - don't quit your day job. For a while, at least...
Keep in mind that there are a LOT of other things you need to know about how to become a professional speaker - this list is just for you to see if it's something you want to tackle. This is an actual business and should be treated as such. It involves skill, training, practice, continual improvement and lots of money to do it right.  But if you are willing to work really hard, want it badly enough and have a big stash of money at your disposal - then go for it!

Also (and here's the deceptive part) - there probably are some people who became successful in this business who did few, if any, of the above suggestions. Maybe they just stood on a street corner and started talking and got "discovered." But these people are the exceptions.  For most of the incredibly fantastic motivational speakers out there, their success didn't just happen.  They worked very hard to get where they are.

Gotta run. I am speaking in Orlando next week and must call several of the attendees who will be there to find out about their current challenges, issues, industry trends, etc. so that I can tailor my presentation specifically to their needs.  I need to double check with the audio-visual people that my technology requests have been received.  I also need to track down all the associations, speakers bureaus, and large companies in the area so I can call them all and invite representatives from their groups to come hear me speak... And then follow up.  Again...and again...and again...


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