Breaking in to the keynote speaker industry

Becoming a Keynote Speaker

The first step if you intend to be a motivational speaker will be to initially make a decision. Sounds simple right? The decision may be the easiest part of your journey as you start on a career as an entertainer, trainer or speaker. 

Keynote speakers are not born, they are made. A decision to become a speaker or trainer is very straightforward. In different ways it is liking saying you are contemplating doing the largest cliff jump in to the local lake. However until your feet have left the cliff, you aren’t committed.

The commitment to becoming a keynote speaker is imperative. Canadian speakers work typically in a smaller market than their cousins to the south and it is a competitive market. You must think about why would people pay you to talk to their organization? That answer may become the actual key to your success.

Making the final step count

Surely, if the 1st step is the decision, the final step comes after the decision not to quit the speaking industry. It is not uncommon for speakers to be focusing on the sidelines awaiting the career to take off and it takes many years to arrive at that point. If you knew it would take several years to build your career, might you stick it out? 

Frankly, if we knew the runway to success we may plan for it and stick it out. Usually we expect everything to happen quicker than it does and we quit in year five without knowing that we could have a very successful year if we had hung around for one more year. 

There are so many stories from keynote speakers of people who even had agency representation yet did not create a “career” in speaking for seven or eight years. There are also many stories of speakers making several hundred thousand dollars a years. Are you prepared to wait that long?

The steps to success

One of the first steps is to join your national speaking association which will have regional chapters that can provide a lot of help and support on your way to success. 

The networking you can do at these meetings with other successful keynote speakers is critical for your future direction. You will have the opportunity to hear what is working and of course, what is not. 

The speaking industry is often challenged with organizations who are looking for free speakers. While it may be tempting to drop your fee to court a potential client who really has no budget, you have to remember there is a big difference between a free speaker and a professional speaker. 

Once you have created industry ties and learned the ins and outs of a speaking career, it is time to promote yourself. While the digital side of things is very important and cost effective, nothing beats getting on the road and talking to clients directly. 

At the point where you have a few clients under your belt and have delivered some compelling talks, you can start talking to agents who may be willing to add you to their roster. 

The important point to remember with regard to agency representation is they will typically account for only a small percentage of your overall bookings. Be careful not to rely too much on agency representation and focus on carving out your own success.

In the end, the important take away is that there is no shortcut to success. Stick it out, learn and grow and don’t quit. That will become your story.


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