Motivational speaking is a dream career for many people. You get to travel around the country, stay in nice hotels, and pay for it all with rousing talks to rooms full of listeners who hang onto your every word. That said, this field takes a lifetime of mastery, and becoming a professional is a feat only the most dedicated can achieve.
Are You Right for the Job?
Giving talks for a living isn’t for everybody, and you have to be honest with yourself about whether you have ideas people would pay to hear. Speakers in the field tend to cite a personal passion as the first requisite of the job. Do you have something to say, and is it important enough to hop on a plane and fly across the country to say it? In addition, do you have the energy to entertain crowds all day? If so, you might be right for the job.
Plan Before You Leap
Like any other small business, giving speeches for hire requires a business plan. You need to determine whether to charge admission for your talks and whether you can fill enough rooms to turn a profit. If not, you can always let people in for free and sell copies of your books or tapes afterward. Just be sure to factor in the cost of carting heavy books on the circuit. Do you have a big enough nest egg to survive the months or years of effort required to break into the business? Try writing your plan on paper as if applying for startup financing, and examine it as a loan officer might when looking for weaknesses. Licensing is a concern for certain kinds of talks. Generic “put your mind to it” motivational talks are mostly unregulated in Canada, but you can cross a legal line quickly if you give financial advice without the right credentials. Pep talks about exercise and nutrition are usually fine, but talk to a lawyer before dispensing detailed health advice, since there’s a chance the province in which you’re speaking requires credentials or board certification for that subject. At the very least, you should know where the boundaries lie before sitting down to pen your first talk.
Feedback, Positive and Negative
Don’t forget that you can start your new career before you’ve separated from your old one. Writing an hour-long presentation at home after work only takes willpower, and you have all the time you need to make it great. Try to put your thoughts into words without fussing too much about form, as that comes later. Once you have something written down, try reading it aloud, and revise any obvious errors. Afterward, try reading your presentation to friends, and ask for advice. Professional speakers, such as clergy or teachers, are likely to give you the most useful feedback as well as advice on how to handle a fidgety crowd.
First Steps in the Field
You have passion and a plan, and you’ve honed your product into a tight talk that people need to hear. Now it’s time to step into the light. Start with local and ideally free venues. If you don’t get paid at first, that’s okay; job training and reputation building are more important. If you’ve already practised your talk with teachers and clergy, try asking them for access to the church or school for an assembly. If your subject matter is appropriate for the audience, you may be surprised how eager they are to let you talk to their crowds. Once you’ve demonstrated you can handle a crowd, it’s time to book a venue. How you market yourself is up to you. Just don’t be discouraged by thin crowds at first. If you keep talking, eager listeners are bound to appear. Starting a new career can be nerve-wracking, and this is doubly true for public speaking, but becoming a motivational speaker might end up the most exhilarating ride of your life.