You have likely reached this article on my website for one of two reasons:
1) You heard me speak to your organization and reached out to share your dream of becoming a speaker. Thank you for sharing your dreams and goals with me.
2) We are connected on social media, and you are thinking of exiting healthcare/corporate America/your marriage, and you said, “hey I want to speak professionally; what can I learn from Romie?”
Thank you for reaching out. Congratulations on dreaming a bigger dream for yourself, showing interest in speaking, sharing your story, & wanting to motivate others. Speaking is a TOUGH industry, but so incredibly rewarding.
To be transparent (and give you that real-world picture you are looking for), I am so stretched with my scaling business and travel, and I practice what I preach. Our brain needs boundaries. I have to be intentional about being sure even my family and my team get the time and attention they deserve. I wish I could spend time with every person who sends me an awesome message like this, but I would never be able to serve my customers who have invested in themselves.
1) You are running a business first and foremost. Your speaking success is not just about how you look & sound on stage. You have to be ready to run your own business. You will spend more time on administrative tasks, running operations, supervising a team, marketing, finances than on a stage (or in front of a camera).
2) There is no fantasy-speaking sales agent that is going to arrive and – poof! – book out speaking engagements or a speaking tour for you.
Those of us that have the honor to work with speaker’s bureaus and agents have the following traits:
1) Have a proven track record in the industry,
2) are experts/authorities in our fields, and
3) yes, are still running businesses,
4) still have teams and handle the majority of our speaking bookings ourselves.
3) You don’t get paid to tell your story. You can have a great story, but that is not why you will get hired & paid to speak. You are hired because you have a message, framework, education, the process to share with the audience. Speaking is not about you – it is about what you deliver for your audience.
4) Can you step away from your primary job to speak/travel? You don’t choose the timeslot when you are hired to speak- an event planner has already done that for you. There is a production, and you play a tiny part. If you have a full-time job, medical practice, law firm duties – understand that your daily income from your practice may exceed speaking fees. If you say, “wait, I make more money doing three surgeries in one day than a speaking fee,” really think about why you want to speak.
5) Unless you are a celebrity, influencer, or public figure- you are not going to make 5 or 6 figures when you first start speaking. Most of us (myself included) first started to speak for free or little money in order to hone our skills. Your fees are determined by your message, what you deliver for the company/organization, your credentials, and your skills.
6) Do you have the time and money to sharpen your skills? I was a high school debate and speech team champion. I started practicing speaking when I was young and spoke professionally all throughout my medical career. AND I still pay a lot of money for professional coaches to help me with story-telling, marketing, graphic design of my slide decks, technology, professional hair/makeup artists, and a lot of other costs to keep up my skills and presentations.
7) Are you a road warrior? Sure, you see my social media love for my “travel boyfriend, Delta Airlines” and jokes about running through airports in high-heeled shoes. Travel for business/speaking is different from traveling for a personal vacation. I rarely or never get to enjoy the fancy hotels or resorts where I speak because I am there to work, connect, and give to the audience. The travel industry is still recovering in our pandemic world. This means that flight cancellations, shortage of rental cars, and high hotel room prices are now more commonplace than before. To be at a client site to speak for one to two hours, I am away from home for at least 3 days but typically flying from one city to the next. There are many days when I have more than one meal in the SkyClub, rushing between flights, cities, speaking engagements, and consulting clients. When we run a business like this, we don’t have the luxury to say, “I don’t feel like traveling this week.” Now I have made a sport out of being a road warrior and enjoy the lifestyle. But make sure that your loved ones are as forgiving as my family and dog Rahja. In the last two years, I’m thankful that we have scaled my business model in a way that I’m busy with consulting and building out our tech platform – this means I’ll be seeing less Delta Airlines and focused on finding a real human boyfriend!
8. Virtual presentations are much more than showing up for a zoom call. The pandemic forced me to become my own mini-production team investing thousands of dollars in professional equipment – AND I pay team members to be on the presentations to help with the flow of production. We pay for the professional graphic design of slides…and then for hair/makeup to be done b/c I’m a brain doctor (not a beauty influencer). And in case my Dog Rahja is extra feisty that day, he gets taken to a dog sitter. AND we rent out office space with commercial-grade fiber internet – my contracts state if the internet fails, I don’t get paid.
Oh my goodness, I officially sound like that Punjabi Aunty I have been making fun of all these years on stage! I didn’t want to overwhelm you, but give you that Romie Real talk and information I wish I had when my TEDx talk went viral and I got called to speak professionally.
Thankfully today there are many more resources available to you online and often for free.
RESOURCES TO HELP YOU GET STARTED (OR GET BETTER IF YOU ALREADY SPEAK)
I want to share some awesome sauce resources that have helped countless other speakers and me.
- The National Speakers Association: This is my speaker family, full of generous people who all help each other grow as speakers.
- See if there is a local chapter near you and attend.
- Join the Speaker Academy offered by NSA.
- If there’s not a chapter near you, most speaker academies offer a virtual option now.
- Lois Creamer:
- Her Book “Book More Business” is an essential read for any speaker.
- Her website has many free resources: https://www.bookmorebusiness.com/
- Kelly Swanson works with professional speakers to help them craft their stories and stand out on stage. https://motivationalspeakerkellyswanson.com/
- Heroic Public Speaking is a world-class organization founded by Michael and Amy Port that offers all of the processes you need to deliver a compelling keynote or workshop.
- Read Maureen’s Zappalla’s journey on becoming a professional speaker: https://maureenz.com/how-i-became-a-professional-speaker/
- We love the team at Speakerflow- and they have awesome sauce, free resources: https://speakerflow.com/resources/
- Listen to my latest guest appearance on their podcast: https://speakerflow.com/what-a-true-thought-leadership-business-looks-like/
PODCASTS about professional speaking:
If you are a professional speaker and have additional resources, please leave them in the comments below and I am happy to edit and share in this article.
Note: I am not an affiliate for any of the products or services mentioned above.