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I was kind of a ham growing up, I have to admit.
In fourth grade, I launched my own “weather forecast” by watching The Weather Channel and then using a marker board to draw upcoming storm systems for my classmates. In sixth grade, I won the part of “emcee” at my class talent show and, prowling the auditorium stage, I left the audience of mostly parents and teachers in stitches.
Then, in junior high, I lost the magic. Despite an impassioned speech, I was routed in my campaign for student council president. The council advisor was too embarrassed to tell me exactly how many votes I had gotten, so I had to sneak into his office one day. (I probably should have taken the hint … I had something like 14 votes out of 400.)
When my interest rekindled
It wasn’t until the first few years of my business career when my interest in public speaking was rekindled. I was asked to give a couple free talks at local chambers of commerce and networking groups, with the goal of creating awareness for my employer at the time. I’m sure some of you have done this in the past.
Everything changed in 2004. I was trying to convince a national association to bring me to their annual conference in Memphis. In my book, Speaking on the Side, about getting paid to speak part-time, I tell the whole story. Here’s the nutshell version:
Association Executive: So, we’re trying to find a couple of new speakers, to bring some fresh blood to our national conference, and I thought maybe you would …
Me: OH MY GOSH I WOULD LOVE TO AND I’LL WORK ON MY PRESENTATION NIGHT AND DAY AND I WON’T EVEN STOP FOR A DRINK OF WATER ….
Association Executive: Believe it or not, we are a pretty small organization and we don’t have very large speaker budgets. If we hired you to speak, would $750 plus travel and meals work for you?
Me: (stunned silence)
It was an epiphany. I went to the conference, got paid to speak, and launched a “side hustle” I’ve been managing ever since.
How do you do it?
Well, you’ll need a few things:
- A dose of extroversion. Not everyone enjoys speaking. You have to feel comfortable sharing stories and helping other people in a public setting. Now, speaking is not just for “Type A” schmoozers: I’m actually more of an introvert! But my “hammy” side gets a thrill out of taking the stage, finding my voice, and touching the lives of others.
- A topic. The good news is you can speak about nearly anything and find willing clients. What obstacles have you overcome? What skill is uniquely yours? Here are some actual conference speaking topics that I found on the web:
- Feel the Qi: The Healing Promise of Tai Chi and Qigong
- Talking with Your Parents about Sex & Sexuality
- The Global Aluminum Foil Industry: Challenges for Profitable Growth
Come on, I bet you could come up with at least three better topics while in the shower tomorrow!
- A website. There are loads of tools to make a quick website. You’ll want to include a photo, brief bio, sample speaking topics, and ideally, a video of you in action. (Most meeting planners won’t hire you sight unseen.) How to get a video? Easy – offer to do a free speech for a local group, like a chamber of commerce. Then find a newbie videographer on Craigslist. For a modest fee, he’ll relish the chance to add to his video portfolio. Upload the footage to YouTube and embed in your site.
- The right prospects. Look to large associations, four-year colleges, and corporations for opportunities to speak and get paid. One of the speakers I interviewed for my book said he simply started Googling the names of nearby states and the word “associations.” Then he would call all the “Kansas associations” he found on Google and ask to be considered as an upcoming conference speaker. He won a few gigs that way!
How much you can make
In the US alone, there are hundreds of thousands of speaker slots that need to be filled every year. Many of those pay speaker fees. And while it definitely takes time and credibility to earn larger speaking fees, I can assure you they are out there. Though my first speaking gig netted me $750, I typically earn in the $4,000 – $6,000 range these days. This year, I booked a pair of gigs for $6,500 each. That’s more than a hustle. That’s real cash.
In conclusion: adding a few paid speaking gigs each year to your revenue plan will require work and resources and practice. But when you land and deliver those first few speeches, I promise you will feel amazing. And your budget—already sexy—will look positively stunning.
Win a free copy of “Speaking on the Side”
It’s called Speaking on the Side: The Definitive Guide to Earning Money and Happiness Without Quitting Your Day Job, and runs for about $15 on Amazon.
Want it? Tell us below what topic(s) you’re interested in speaking about, and you’ll automatically be entered to win it. I’ll randomly select a winner sometime over the weekend and hit ya up via email. U.S. and Canada only.
Good luck! Hope y’all got something out of this! :)
Jeff Greene recently self-published his first book, Speaking on the Side: The Definitive Guide to Earning Money and Happiness Without Quitting Your Day Job. You can read free snippets on getting paid to speak, view speaker links from the book, and unlock the Speaking on the Side toolkit by visiting: www.SpeakingOnTheSide.com.
GIVEAWAY OVER: Congrats to “a terrible husband” for winning Jeff’s book!