How to Become A Public Speaker

Table of Contents

Becoming a professional public speaker is an amazing and rewarding professional venture. The best part is, anyone from any career can do it! Public speaking allows you to share a meaningful message. You get to enact transformation for individuals and businesses. And you leave lasting impact on your audiences that ripples into their spheres of influence and beyond. In short, you have the potential to influence hundreds, thousands, and even millions from the stage. But to become a public speaker who is actually successful, you have to carefully plan your business strategy just like any other entrepreneurial venture. That’s why we’ve put together this guide for how to become a public speaker. 

Maybe speaking is your dream full-time  career, or maybe it’s just a rewarding side hustle. Regardless, our aim is to give you a blueprint for getting started on the path to public speaking. This article outlines the path to professional speaking from the first topic idea germinating in your mind to the stage.

1.  Choose your Niche

Choosing a speaking topic may seem like the obvious first step to deciding to become a speaker. However, it’s actually just one piece of the bigger task of choosing your niche. Your niche is the unique spot within the speaking industry that you inhabit. It’s the intersection of what you speak about, who you want to help, and who wants to hire you.

To find your niche, ask yourself some questions. What drives you? How is your speaking business special? What sets you apart from other speakers? Who is your target audience? What do they struggle with? To what questions are they looking for answers? Most importantly, what specific problem do you solve for that audience? The answers to all these questions will lead you straight to your niche. Once you feel comfortable with your niche, then you can focus on refining your topic.

Another way to say it is that your niche lies at the intersection of your interest, industry, and integrity. By “integrity” we mean the experience you actually have–even if that’s not a lot! You can be a great speaker without being the world’s foremost expert, so long as you’re honest about not being the world’s foremost expert. Honesty and authenticity go a long way toward connecting with your audience. Even the most experienced speaker can lose credibility as soon as they let slip that they have been faking something. 

Many speakers are so fired up about their message, they want to speak to everybody. Unfortunately, “speaking to everybody” usually ends up meaning “speaking to nobody.” If you want to learn how to become a public speaker, you have to learn how to narrow your audience. It is much easier to get booked and paid to speak when you have a very specific idea of the audience you serve.

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2. Work on your Assets

Excited to get booked and paid as a public speaker now that you’ve settled on a niche? Well, there are a few ducks to get in a row first. To put your best foot forward, you should go into this venture with well-prepared assets. What we mean by “assets” are your signature talk, a speaker website, demo video, and client proposal materials. Each of these assets are an important piece in the puzzle of how to become a speaker. Without one or another, you may come across as unprofessional and lose speaking opportunities to your competition. 

We don’t want you to look at this section and say “wow, that’s overwhelming, I guess I can’t learn how to become a public speaker after all.” These assets are important, yes! But they don’t have to be perfect or even fancy, especially when you first start public speaking. As you grow and scale your speaking business, you will have many opportunities to return to these assets and improve them. Starting somewhere is better than not starting at all! 

  • Signature talk

You should start working on your your signature talk once you establish your niche and topic. Your marketing and business materials will flow from both your personal brand and the content of your signature talk. It may surprise you to learn that successful public speakers usually write the talk before they get booked and paid to speak, but this is part of the business. When you reach out to potential clients, it’s easier to make a pitch for a pre-existing talk that meets their needs than a vague idea of your speaking talent. 

Of course, you can and should tweak and modify your talk for each audience. If you’re staying within the same niche though, you’ll probably find many audiences to whom the same talk appeals. And as you expand your speaking business and start speaking to more audiences, you can create a “speaker menu” of multiple talks or workshops that revolve around your expertise and your message. 

  • Website

Your speaker website and demo video are the two most important client-facing digital assets. That means that when potential clients investigate your speaking business, they will heavily consider these things before they talk to you. 

We have a whole blog about building your speaker website here. In short, it should include your demo video, bio, and an easy way to get in touch with you. Simplicity is key here–you don’t want to distract from your assets. You can accomplish all of this in a simple one-page website with a contact form at the bottom. If you’re on a budget, you can easily do this yourself from a template and pay no more than the basic domain and hosting fees. Once you expand your clientele and personal brand, you can hire a professional to add whatever bells and whistles you desire. 

  • Bio

Your website is probably the first place you will write a speaker bio for, but it won’t be the last! Your speaker bio is a key asset that will come in handy for proposals, event programs, speaking bureau relationships, and more. Take the time to write a comprehensive bio for your website that highlights your expertise, personality, and mission. We have all the resources you need for writing an amazing speaker bio right here.

  • Demo Video

Your demo video or “sizzle reel” is a 2-3 minute video that includes clips of you speaking, preferably to an audience. An interview style video about your speaking business might be interesting, but that’s not what event planners are looking for. They want real-life footage of you on stage. If you haven’t delivered any paid speaking gigs yet, you can still create an amazing demo video! Consider getting some friends together for a staged rehearsal of your signature talk or undertake some free speaking opportunities within your community. 

There is nothing wrong with using iphone footage and DIY-ing your first demo video. As you get more and more paid gigs, you can update your demo video into a high-quality production. We have a podcast episode outlining the process of creating your demo video here.

  • Proposal materials

When you start interfacing with clients with the contact strategy we outline below, you will need a one sheet and a proposal. Your speaker one sheet is the document that summarizes your speaking business on one page. Your proposal includes all the details of what you offer for a particular client, and your contract seals the deal. Preparing a speaker one sheet and a proposal template that you can easily modify for each client ahead of time will save you a lot of time and effort during the process of getting on the phone and selling your services to an event planner. 

3. Create a Marketing Plan 

At the beginning of your speaking journey, speaking leads will not come to you. You will have to go out and find them–which is what steps 4 and 5 cover. However, having a good marketing plan in place from the very beginning will encourage the leads start coming to you as you expand their business. There are three main avenues for marketing your public speaking business that we’ll cover briefly here. 

  • Word of Mouth

Telling friends and family (and anyone who will listen) is essential when you decide to become a speaker. Many would-be speakers don’t do this right away. They keep their speaking venture a secret, preferring to tell friends, family, and acquaintances once they start to get famous. This is the opposite of how to become a public speaker who gets booked and paid to speak. Your existing network is one of the most important free resources for your marketing strategy. Chances are someone you know knows somebody who hires speakers. Especially when you are trying to get any chance you can in front of an audience for the sake of experience, these personal connections can help propel you to the next stage of your speaking business. 

  • Networking

Building upon the people you connect with via word of mouth marketing, you can start to build a network of speaking and speaking-adjacent connections. We call speaking a “relationships business” for a reason! Forging connections with other speakers or people who may hire speakers will pay off in the long term even if it doesn’t in the short term.

Don’t be afraid of approaching other speakers and soliciting their advice or mentorship! Speakers tend to be supportive rather than competitive because every professional speaker has their own niche and a limited bandwidth for gigs; supporting your endeavor does not negatively affect their own. 

  • Digital Marketing

Finally, like any business in the 21st century, becoming a successful public speaker requires creating a good impression online. Choose one or two avenues to really focus on based on where the event planners and audience members in your niche seem active. It’s much better to have a distinct presence on one social media platform than sporadic activity across several. We also recommend you start building your email list now even if the only subscribers are your spouse and college roommate. That way, when you scale your business and offer other products, you already have a solid fanbase! 

4. Generate Leads

At this point, you’re probably wondering when we’ll start talking about getting booked and paid to speak. The tips we’ve covered so far for how to become a public speaker are all about prep work, not on-the-ground strategy! Well, we’ve arrived. It’s time to start finding leads.

Lead generation means looking up events in your niche, finding the point person, and putting their name and contact information into a spreadsheet, CRM, or other organized database. (We’ll cover reaching out to them next.) Lead generation is one of the key steps of how to become a speaker that while unglamorous, will lay the foundation for a sustainable business. This step is a nonnegotiable. 

Prospecting for leads can be incredibly boring and anything but fun. In fact, you might be tempted to automate or outsource this from the beginning. However, until you are a well-established speaker, we highly encourage you to do 30-60 minutes of lead generation yourself every day. We get it, plodding through Google search results and website directories is anything but fun. But this process is key to figuring out your place in the public speaking industry. Whether you’re giving motivational speeches to college students or research-heavy lectures to academics, seeing for yourself the landscape of events in your industry, who they’re hiring, and who’s doing the hiring is incredibly useful. The trial and error of this process will help you figure out your “ideal client” far more quickly than if someone else is doing the prospecting. 

5. Initiate Contact Strategy 

Once you have input your contacts into your database of choice, it’s time to reach out. Get ready for some disappointment during this phase, because you probably won’t hear back from most of your leads at first. Lead generation and contact strategy don’t ensure immediate returns, but they do ensure exhaustive reach and constant refinement. As you reach out to lead after lead, event planner after event planner, eventually you will start hitting the contacts who are a good fit for your speaking business. Then, you can adapt your strategy to keep researching and finding other leads like them. 

Your initial email should aim to be helpful (not just a sales pitch) alongside expressing interest in speaking at the event and presenting your speaking credentials. If you don’t get a response right away, try again in a week or two, and repeat until you are absolutely certain you are not hearing back. We have a whole podcast episode on the art of following up that you can turn to for more resources on this process. 

If you get an immediate response that you’re not a good fit or they’ve hired someone else, that’s ok! You’ve accomplished an important feat of marketing by putting your name into the periphery of an event planner’s world. They might not be able to hire you now, but what about next year? 

And if you get a positive response? It’s time to schedule a call. 

6. Call your Contacts

While some public speakers do book gigs consistently via email, we tend to harp on the importance of calling your clients in real time. Part of the reason is simple; they are hiring you to speak, so hearing your voice will make it much easier to come to a decision. This “discovery call” allows you and your client to get everything out in the open all at once. Email can result in painfully slow back-and-forth, stretching out your time to locking down the gig.

During the first call, you should communicate the range of topics you speak about, a general idea of your fees, and your availability for the event in question. You get to ask questions too–about the nature of the event, time constraints, technology available, and any other important expectations. This call is a chance for you to make a great first impression and for both sides to get a feel for the viability of a speaker-client relationship. 

During this sensitive phase of client communication, remember to always give the impression that your contact’s event is the most important event on your radar. If you’re burned out from prospecting, don’t let it show. You never know which client is going to be “the one” you’ve been looking for until you give each prospect your best effort. 

7. Proposal and Contract

Once you get a client on the phone and they express interest, it’s time to hammer out the details. Your speaker one sheet helps your client decide if you’re a good fit–this should be included in your early emails. Your proposal is the next step. It should be tailored to the client and clear about your fees, time commitment, and any perks you want included.This is the document that your client will use as the basis for hiring you–including presenting the case for hiring you to any other decision makers.

You might need to negotiate a bit before your proposal is accepted. Maybe your potential client doesn’t have the money to pay for your travel, but will let you make a pitch for your book or other product at the end of your talk. Maybe they don’t have any money, but they have a professional photographer who will provide you some great action shots. Don’t underestimate these free speaking opportunities if you are in the early stages of your career! Once you iron out these wrinkles, you can integrate any updates into your speaking contract. 

While your client might have a contract they want you to sign, it’s always good to have them sign your speaking contract too. After all, learning how to become a public speaker is learning how to run a business. Using a contract template unique to your public speaking business will help with record keeping as you get more and more clients. 

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8. Speak!

So you’ve gotten hired for a speaking engagement. Now what? It’s time to practice, practice, and practice. If you were hired to deliver your signature talk that we discussed above, the bulk of the content is done already. But every audience wants to feel like they are listening to a speech written just for them. Make intentional, deliberate updates that fit your talk to the industry and specific audience you’re speaking to. For example, you could give basically the same speech to a group of CEOs and a group of new hires. But if you use a lot of leadership jargon with the new hires or throw in advice for how to climb the career ladder with the CEOs, your speech will fall flat. 

What are some ways you can tailor your speech to your audience? Geography-specific jokes. Personal stories that relate to something you have in common with your audience. Examples of past clients or projects where you accomplished the transformation your audience wants to achieve. Get creative and try different things!

Your client will expect consistent communication with you leading up to the event about logistics. They will need an event program bio and headshot. You will probably have to send your slides ahead of time, if you use them. And most importantly, get on the same page about technology (adapters, microphones, cables etc.) and bring duplicates or extras of anything you can. Many great speeches have been interrupted and derailed by minor technological disasters. Aim to deliver your speech and make an impact whether or not the lights go out halfway through. 

Try to create a routine of practicing, hyping yourself up, and getting in the zone before you speak. Figure out what creates the optimal environment the day-of and replicate it as much as possible at subsequent speaking engagements. Then get out there and speak!

There’s only so much advice we can give to excel on the stage. We do have some great tips for content and delivery here. Ultimately, you will probably flop a few times. As you get more and more comfortable on stage you will grow more and more confident with each successive speaking gig.


These eight steps cover just about every aspect of how to become a public speaker. Of course, becoming a professional speaker requires a great deal of time, strategy, and trial and error for each step. You might think you have your assets squared up, and then get feedback from a potential client that your website looks unprofessional. Don’t be discouraged by these experiences! Instead, look at them as opportunities to grow and differentiate yourself from the competition by improving. And if you want a clearer roadmap to speaker success, we’re always happy to help. 


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