Getting paid for public speaking
QUESTION: I graduated from university with a degree in psychology two years ago, but I have not found employment in my field at the moment. I have always wanted to become a motivational speaker who is also paid. With everything happening in Jamaica today, we need positive role models who can inspire others to achieve their goals and help them tap into the power of their mind. I know I am good at motivating people, but I need help with the business side. I have a few questions for you re business: I see where you are always speaking at events, do you get paid for this? Do you know of motivational or other speakers who get paid to speak in Jamaica? Should I start a business in motivational speaking? Can such a business be viable? – Marsha-Ann
BUSINESSWISE: You would be surprised at how many university graduates have asked me if and how they could get paid to speak at events.
Some young people believe it is easy to become a professional speaker and that you get paid handsomely for simply talking of the top off your head.
It’s a myth that anybody can be a professional speaker and that it is easy money, a point I’ll get back to after I address your specific issues.
To answer your first two questions, I have been invited to do motivational speeches at several events and I typically am not offered payment for this. However, where I am invited to deliver talks related to my areas of expertise, that may be another matter altogether.
I do know several motivational speakers who get paid for their service locally, across the Caribbean, and elsewhere in the world. However, I am also aware that large corporates that typically hire motivational talent tend to look externally for expertise.
We can’t answer the question of whether you should start a motivational speaking business until we explore the issue of viability.
The most well-established model for earning from professional is a formal speakers’ bureau, which is an entity that provides a cadre of professional speakers who are capable of speaking on many diverse subject areas, facilitating functions, or being keynote or motivational speakers at various events. These types of entities usually have several revenue streams such as annual membership fees for speakers on their database, training and development workshops, and service fees for speaking engagements booked, etc.
The speakers’ bureau model is especially popular in North America and parts of Europe, however it hasn’t yet taken root in the Caribbean. I am not aware of any established local speakers’ bureaus that currently provide these services, however if this is a model you are interested in exploring, you should do a formal industry and competitor analysis to better understand the existing competitive landscape and projected trends.
Even when you have done the analysis of the industry, the only way to estimate viability of the business would be to determine the specific value you need to create for your target groups, then assess whether they would be willing and able to pay for this value, and finally, how often and for how long they would be willing to pay.
I doubt such a model would be viable if you only target Jamaican speakers and local opportunities.
It is likely that you would have to expand the concept to include other Caribbean countries and related diasporas, and even then, the proposed revenue model would need strict validation.
PREPARING AND DELIVERING
Earlier, I made the point that being paid to speak is not as easy one might think. As a speaker, I know the incredible work that goes into preparing and delivering professional presentations.
You have to meet with clients;, understand the objectives they have for your presentation and get relevant background details; learn the demographics of the audience that will be in attendance; conduct research, develop content, and then creatively craft a presentation that will be dynamic, engaging, memorable; and, of course, meet the organiser’s objectives.
In some cases, you have to share a draft with client, make revisions where necessary, practise your delivery, confirm the audio visual equipment and other materials needed, and finally, turn up on the day of the event and execute flawlessly.
In reality, 45 to 60 minutes of presentation time pales in comparison to the hours spent on preparatory work. But even before you get the chance to do that work, there is the matter of demand.
To become a credible speaker who people will actually want to spend money to book, you need to distinguish yourself in a particular field or discipline or have had a transformational life experience/testimony that people want to hear about or which may inspire or enlighten.
Many speakers have authored books, achieved incredible feats, or lead illustrious careers. Ultimately, you may not yet be ready to start a business promoting your own service, however you can explore other ways to capitalise on your passion for impactful public speaking.