How to Start Your Public Speaking Career

David recently asked,

“Would you be able to share some advice on how I can get started speaking about digital marketing strategy?”

This is a great question with a clear, defined process.

Preparing to Speak Publicly

First, we must have something worth speaking about. A great speaking career begins with a clear, powerful presentation about a topic we have expertise and a unique point of view on. No one wants to hear yet another talk about the best time to tweet. What’s different about our perspective?

Measure your talk by the 3L test. If it doesn’t pass with flying colors, hire a public speaking coach to help you tune your presentation. I recommend Tamsen Webster’s Red Thread workshops for this.

Build a Speaking Video

Once you’ve built an excellent presentation, demonstrate your speaking abilities with video. This can be as simple as recording your talk with a smartphone (with a high quality camera) in a conference room or stage at a local community college. Show that you can speak clearly, lucidly, and powerfully about your topic.

The video capture is vital: you need video evidence of your nascent speaking skills.

Post the video on YouTube. Here’s an example of what it might look like:

Practice Like Crazy

Like all forms of created media, your first talks will be awful. You’ll look back later in life and cringe at how nervous you were. Practice extensively! Practice so much that by the time you hit the stage for the first time as a professional public speaker, you’ve spoken to empty rooms and stuffed animals at least a hundred times.

First Talks

Time to take your show on the road. Look for events locally asking for speakers.Search Google for your industry and the term “call for speakers” or “call for papers” to find events looking for a speaker.

Respond to these events; in the beginning of your speaking career, you will speak for free – even at your expense – to start building your reputation.

I recommend local events to minimize personal expenses until you’ve established your reputation as a speaker.

Have handouts and supporting materials ready so that your talks, even if they’re at the local Rotary club in front of 10 people, are perceived as professional and experienced.

Obvious Tips

  • Always show up. No commitment is optional once you’ve made it.
  • Always be early. Something inevitably goes wrong during sound check.
  • if you must cancel, cancel after finding a replacement.
  • Always promote your talk on your social media channels. Show organizers you’re working to benefit their event.
  • Always thank the conference organizers from the stage.
  • Always thank the conference organizers after the event, both privately and publicly.

Be sure to ask for video of your talk; if the event doesn’t capture video, ask permission to record your own talk.

Collect Testimonials

As you perform, ask your audience to submit questions and followups by Twitter. Collect testimonials via social media.

Post them to your LinkedIn profile for each talk you give:


Speaking Page

You’ve spoken a few times. You’ve earned great reviews. You’ve collected testimonials, videos, and other third party evidence of your skills. I encourage you to set up a special page on your personal professional website exclusively for speaking content, such as topics, testimonials, videos, etc.

Write a clear, powerful biography and take a decent headshot photo of yourself.

These materials make conference organizers’ lives easier; the more you can give up front, the more confidence you’ll instill that you’re a polished, experienced speaker.

Asking for Compensation

At this point, you should start asking for travel and expense reimbursement – your first step towards a paying speaking career.

Establish a business PayPal account, get your taxes in order, and if your speaking career trajectory looks strong, consider establishing an LLC to provide additional legal protection.

Once you start earning money, consult an attorney to develop a speaking contract for additional legal protection.


If you truly enjoy speaking and performing in the public eye, following these steps will speed your journey. Good luck!

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