How to Get Started as a Professional Speaker

If you are thinking of becoming a professional speaker and you want to know where to start, then I offer you the same advice that helped me launch my speaking business many years ago.

The speaking business is not a get rich quick scheme. There are exceptions. If you are a past president of the United States, a recent Olympic Gold Medalist or an airline pilot who just landed your plane on the Hudson River then you can grab some quick and ready cash as a professional speaker. But, beware that your cache might fade quickly.

Here are the four nuggets of advice that I was told and followed to get started into the professional speaking business. My early benefactor of advice and encouragement was Fraser McAllan.

Don’t quit your day job yet

If you still have a job – keep it for awhile. Positive cash flow reduces stress and helps you make better business decisions. Cash on hand makes it easier for you to make the strategic investments in yourself and your business. Starting a new business usually means going through a period or two of negative cash flow. A successful entrepreneur who made the transition from the corporate world gave me similar advice. She said, “When you go solo have enough money in the bank to live for the first year.”

I started and operated my speaking business part time for two years while working at my corporate job. Evenings, weekends and vacations were for building the business. When I left the corporate world my business was generating enough revenue to be viable.

Get good at the craft of speaking

If you want to be a speaker you must learn how to present well. It might be a great insight, story or experience that gets you started. But if you want it to last at some point your paying audiences will expect you to get better.

Public speaking is a skill – not a talent. Don’t rely on talent. Don’t wing it. Learn the principles of presenting, practice your presentations and get coaching. You might take a course or seminar on presentation skills to start.

Toastmasters offers an effective low cost alternative to developing your presentation skills. Toastmasters is the largest and longest running non-profit organization that develops presentation skills for its members.

At some point you will need to work directly with one or more presentation coaches.

Read everything you can find on presentation skills. Watch TV, movies and theatre from the perspective of observing the presentation skills of the actors. Study them from the point of what works and why.

Speak as often as you can

Speak – speak – speak. If you want to be a paid professional speaker you will need to speak a lot – even if it is for free. Why? Two reasons. One, you need the experience and two, people need to see you to appreciate you.

While speaking you might discover that material you thought was wonderful didn’t go over so well with that audience. Don’t throw it out. Instead ask why that didn’t work so well. What might you do to adapt it?

In the beginning you might need to beg for opportunities to speak. Start with the groups that you know or who know you. Volunteer to speak for the associations that you are or have been a member of. It might be the monthly chapter meetings or the annual conference. Accept anything in the beginning. And always deliver your best presentation.

Offer to speak more at your job and in your volunteer work. Get known as “the speaker”. Offer to introduce other speakers, chair a meeting or MC a panel discussion.

There are thousands of associations that meet every month that need a guest speaker. That could be you. For example, Rotary groups meet every week and need a speaker every time. They often invite guest speakers. I spoke to many Rotary groups while developing my speaking business.

Ask for referrals and testimonials from every presentation you deliver.

Become known as an expert

Speakers are a dime a dozen. Lots of people are willing to speak for no money. Some of them are even fairly good at speaking. If you want to make real money as a speaker you must be known as an expert.

Perhaps you already know what that expertise is. Perhaps you need to do some research. If you want to be a professional paid speaker then your expertise must be something that the market is willing to pay for.

And it’s not enough to be an expert. You must be known and valued as an expert by your target market.

There are three strategies to boost your reputation as an expert:

Speak on the topic of your expertise
Write and publish
Appear in the media

You can make these strategies work if you follow a focused system for each. Do all three. Each is important.

That’s the advice I received when I started in the speaking business and I offer it to you here freely.

Good luck in your speaking business.

George Torok
Bestselling Author – Professional Speaker – Radio talk show host

PS: My mentor Peter Urs Bender said, “The speaking business is the easiest business to get into and it is the hardest to survive in.”

PPS: Time management expert and speaking colleague Harold Taylor said, “If you want to be successful in this business, stay in it for 20 years.”

© George Torok, Professional Speaker 905-335-1997

Executive Speech Coach, Business presentation tips from George Torok, the Speech Coach for Executives

Power Presentations Tip 41: Dealing With the Fear of Public Speaking

How to Manage the Fear of Public Speaking

Surveys have shown that the majority of people consistently rank public speaking as their number one fear.

Why do these people fear public speaking more than death? Perhaps it's because they can only die once - but they might have to deliver more than one speech.

This fear has little to do with intelligence, age, wealth or position.

I have worked with owners and CEOs of very successful companies who confessed their uncontrollable fear of public speaking.

The fear manifests itself in many different symptoms. That might include, dry mouth, sweating, shaking, pounding heart, rumbling stomach, nervous ticks, forgetfulness, anxiety and lack of self confidence. By the way a pounding heart is a good thing. It's bad when it stops!

How can you manage this fear?

First, accept the reality that most speakers experience these symptoms some times. I know many professional speakers who have experienced pangs of anxiety while speaking. That includes me. The trick is not to let your audience know.

Second, realize that public speaking is not a talent - it is a skill. That means it must be learned. I have not yet encountered any good naturally talented speakers. On the other hand I have seen many bad naturally talented speakers.

Third, focus on managing the symptoms and get comfortable with the fear. Accept the anxiety as a given. Simply become comfortable with it and welcome it.

It might sound funny but this is all a mind game. So play along. The physical and emotional symptoms that you experience are simply an expression of your mind. You can control what your mind thinks. It will take some conscious mind-over-body effort, but you can do it if you want.

Next steps for you?

Learn the techniques to be a better speaker, Prepare and practice. Focus on your purpose and message and not on your symptoms. Allow yourself to be imperfect. Accept that you are a work in process.

George Torok

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Power Presentations Tip 40: Speaking Without Notes

How to speak without notes

Why would you want to speak without notes? Because you will look more confident and assured about your message. A presenter that keeps checking his notes looks like he didn't prepare or he doesn't know the material well.

Imagine how the audience feels when you read your presentation from sheets of paper, or worse, your PowerPoint slides. Arrgh!

Speaking without notes is something that you do every day. Every time you have a conversation you are speaking without notes. So you know that you can do it.

Let's look at how you can speak without notes while delivering a presentation to an audience.

Naturally, the first thing you must do is to know your topic well.

Here are three techniques that you can use to speak without notes or at least fewer notes.

1. Key Word Notes

The most common technique is to use point form notes. The key words serve to remind you of the sequence and the points that you plan to cover. The presentation is you filling in the blanks between the key words. You can do this because you know your material well and rehearsed well. The challenge is to distil key words down to one piece of paper or index card. Imagine getting a 30 minute presentation summarized in about seven key words.

2. Questions

The second technique is to prepare your presentation as a series of questions that you pose then answer. The questions could be the most common questions about your business. You've heard and answered those questions many times so you can certainly talk about them.

A variation of this technique is to pose questions to your audience. Listen to their responses then add your comments to fill in the gaps. This is also most unpredictable.

Both of these variations on using questions will make your presentation appear more like a conversation. Therefore you will look more confident and knowledgeable.

3. Props

The third technique for speaking without notes is to use props. Lay the props out on a table in the order that you plan to address them. The props could be products, tools and/or toys. The props replace your notes and add the show-and-tell flavor to your presentation.

George Torok
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9 Simple Tips for Better Presentations

Do you want to make your next presentation more effective? Use these nine simple yet powerful presentation tips and techniques to enjoy better results when you speak before an audience.

Effective public speaking is not talent. It is a set of skills and techniques that are learned, practiced and delivered well. Learn the techniques and start practicing for your next successful presentation now. Don’t wait until you are asked to speak. Be ready.


Practice saying nothing. Not gibberish - nothing, as in silence. It is so powerful. Pause before you start, pause after you said something important and pause when you are done. Just say less and get more comfortable with the silences.

Your audience will mirror you. If you frown - so will they. If you want them to smile - you must smile. Laugh and they will laugh with you. There are no ugly audiences - only ugly speakers.

Show Your Hands
Keep your hands where we can see them. We will trust you more. Hiding your hands behind your back will make us wonder, "What is he hiding back there?" Putting them in your pockets might feel good - but you lose power and can appear too casual. Let your hands hang at your side. As you speak and become involved in your speech you will naturally move them. You will look more natural. You will appear more trustworthy.

Look at Your Audience
Look at the audience - not the screen, the back wall, or your notes. Talk to them - look at them - one at a time. Move your eyes from one to another as though you are having many one-on-one conversations.

Nod Your Head
When you ask the audience to respond to your question show that you respect their response. Pause and look around the audience; nod your head in approval or show your delight with a smile. Remember you asked them a question. Show that you really wanted an answer.

Sometimes your audience will laugh when you do not expect it. Pause and let them enjoy it. Smile and show you also have a sense of humor - even if you are not sure why they are laughing.

Appoint an Assistant
When you speak before a group, always have a helper who can fix the lights, help with handouts, and usher latecomers to their seats. When looking for volunteers don't waste time waiting for someone to put up their hand. Appoint your volunteers. Always thank them.

Prepare for your Worst Question
Always be prepared to handle your worst question. You know what it is - the one you dread the most. It might be that you are too expensive, too cheap, too old, too new, too far, too near… Imagine how powerful you will appear when it is posed and you can smile and give the answer you rehearsed.

Edit your Words
Don't offend your audience by using insulting phrases like "obviously" or "everyone knows". If it is not oblivious to them or if they don’t believe that everyone knows then you have either insulted them or alienated them.

You can use these nine simple presentation tips and techniques to deliver more effective presentations today. It will take some practice but you can do it. Make your next presentation a success by paying more attention to the details.

© George Torok helps business leaders deliver million dollar presentations. Get your free presentation tips at Arrange for presentation skills training or presentation coaching by calling 905-335-1997

9 Simple Tips for Better Presentations

Executive Speech Coach, Business presentation tips from George Torok, the Speech Coach for Executives.

Power Presentations Tip 39: Tell Me a Story

Tell me a story. Do you remember saying that to your parents when you were a child? Perhaps children have pleaded with you to tell them a story. It’s not just children who want to hear stories.

The entertainment industry thrives on telling stories. TV, movies and even sports are about telling stories. Notice the big dollars that the celebrities and stars make. Why? Because we crave stories and we reward our story tellers handsomely. Note the success of Oprah, Steven King and James Cameron.

Story telling has been with us since cave men huddled around a flickering campfire. Imagine the challenge of presenting to a group of hungry, frightened and shivering cave dwellers. Story telling entertained, educated and excited people eons ago and it still enthralls us today.

What does that tell you?

When you tell stories in your presentations you will sell more, persuade more effectively and enjoy greater results from your presentations. You’ll also feel better about speaking because story telling is more comforting than giving a speech.

Most of us would rather tell stories than give a speech. Ask someone to choose between telling a story or giving a speech guess what they will pick. While public speaking gets high rating as a fear, story telling does not. If you are nervous about giving a speech work a few stories into your presentation.

Stories in a presentation help you get your message across better Yes, you can and should tell stories in business and sales presentations. One of my clients included stories in his presentation to close a $10 million deal.

I suggest that you follow this simple formula to make stories work for you.

Three elements to an effective story:
Conflict – The conflict grabs our attention. Create the setting. Make it vivid.
Resolution – We need closure even if the closure is based on hope.
Point – Only tell a story to help clarify a point.

It’s best to tell a personal story because:
You lived it so you don’t need to memorize it.
It’s your story so no one else is likely to tell it.
The audience feels privileged when you share a personal experience.

Rehearse and edit the words in your story to include only the details necessary to make your point. Your most difficult task is leaving out some of the details. Your audience doesn’t need all the details to get the point. The story is for the audience not for you.

The story doesn’t need to be funny. If it is that’s a nice bonus.

Like every story teller you are allowed some creative license. It’s best if the story is 100% true. But it is more important that the story be believable. Some true stories are not believable. Don’t waste your time with those unbelievable tales. Sometimes you might alter some small detail to make the story easier to tell or better illustrate your point.

If the story is so painful that you can’t tell it without crying – don’t use it – unless you are speaking at a funeral.

Tell stories to better illustrate your point.

Tell stories to be more memorable.

Tell stories to sell more.

The best public speakers are master story tellers. If you want more success when you present – tell stories.

© George Torok is a masterful story teller and exciting presenter. He helps business leaders deliver million dollar presentations. Claim your free Power Presentation Tips at Arrange Presentation Skills Training for your team. Call direct 905-335-1997

Tell me a story

Executive Speech Coach, Business presentation tips from George Torok, the Speech Coach for Executives

Power Presentations Tip 38: You are the one

You want this?

What is the most important word for you to use in your presentation?

This word is crucial to your success as a presenter. Every time you use this word it grabs the attention of your listeners. The absence of this word will tell your listeners that you are not talking to them. Thus they won't listen as well.

The magic word is "You".

The word "You" connects with your listener. It demonstrates that you are talking to them, with them and about them. Suddenly you will have an interested listener.

You probably know that the sweetest sound for anyone is the sound of their own name. The next best thing is the word "you".

The principle of connecting with someone is that they must believe that you care about them and have something of value for them. Designing your sentences to include the word "you" will force you to think about what's in it for them and present from their point of view. That mind shift will help you be much more engaging and convincing.

What word should you use least of all?

That word is "I". Because every time you say "I" it's clear that you are talking about yourself not your listener. That will tend to be boring and appear egotistical.

I'm not saying that you must not use the word "I". Just use it less and look for every opportunity to turn "I" into "you" or at least "we". "We" is better than "I" but not as effective as "you".

A simple test of your presentation effectiveness is to compare the number of "you's" against the number of "I's". There should be more "you's" than "I's".

Here are three examples:

If you are demonstrating a product, say, "After you press the start button, you can..."

If you are explaining your service, "This is what I will do for you..."

If you are describing an event, "If you had been there, this is what you would have seen..."

Be more engaging, interesting and effective. It depends on you.

George Torok
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