“Alan, how did you transition into becoming a professional speaker?”

I get that question multiple times per week.

Here is exactly what I did:

Step 1: I decided.

Step 2: I acknowledged that becoming a paid/professional speaker has 3 primary pillars; content, delivery, and the actual business of speaking. I made sure to give all 3 my attention.

Step 2a: I met with a few of my mentors in the corporate space to find out their needs and to drill down on what topics and themes they valued most.

Step 2b: I invested in countless books and online courses, as well as in-person seminars and conferences, that taught the mechanics of being a better speaker. I devoured thousands of videos of highly acclaimed speakers, comedians, and performers.

Step 2c: I listened to podcasts, read books, and attended workshops on the business side of speaking. I also reached out to as many professional speakers as I could to learn from them.

Step 3: I curated all of my content into organized buckets; stories, lessons, stats, lists, etc. I then organized these by topics; leadership, teamwork, performance, culture, etc. I used this as an a la carte menu and I assembled the skeleton to my ‘talk’ based on each client/audience.

Step 4: I gave 8-10 free talks before I ever asked for a dime. I simply offered my services for free to anyone I felt had an audience that would benefit from my message. I did these to hone my material and to get in quality reps. I filmed every talk so I could see what worked and what didn’t. I was constantly tweaking (and always will be).

Step 5: I invested in a website, speaker reel, and part-time administrative assistant.

Step 6: I created a spreadsheet of everyone I knew in the space that could potentially be an asset and I brainstormed ways I could add value to them. Then I leaned heavily on personal and professional relationships to get my first wave of initial gigs.  

Step 7: I invested in a variety of coaches to help me improve my content, my delivery, and my business.

Step 8: I have and will continue to repeat (and level up) Steps 1 through 7.

My first official paid corporate gig was in March 2017. So I have two years under my belt.

I’ve learned a ton. I’ve started to find my voice. I’ve accepted that I will always be under construction and that becoming a paid speaker is an ongoing process, not an outcome or a destination.

5 Biggest Lessons I’ve Learned:

  1. You must be willing to invest in yourself – if you won’t invest in yourself, why should others invest in you?
  2. Focus on serving others and adding value –  the money and big name clients will follow if deserved
  3. The only people that matter are the ones in the room – and sometimes that’s only a few people!
  4. Find your tribe – find those that resonate with your style and message and turn away gigs that aren’t a good fit
  5. It’s all a process – use all feedback, regardless of what it is, to move you forward and help you improve.