I?m a professional keynote speaker, speaking 25 or so times a year across the U.S. and around the world. My subjects are the same subjects I write about on Inc.com and in my books, and on which I consult: customer service, the customer experience, company culture, millennials as customers. Here are 13 or so secrets (or, at least, ?13 things that work for me?) re: having a successful career as a professional keynote speaker.
PART I: MONEY AND PRACTICAL/PERSONAL ADVICE
Don?t speak for free. You don?t become a professional speaker by speaking for free. All that speaking for free will bring you are more opportunities to speak for free. (This cycle is called ?dying from exposure.?) Here?s how I see it: Why should an event pay for the bagel spread in the hallway outside your speech but not pay for the main event: you? They should pay a fair fee to bring you in to speak, and you should offer them excellent value for their money by informing and inspiring the audience at the event.
Do speak for free when preparing new material. When I?m working up something completely new, I often test it out by guest lecturing in the college classroom of a professor friend (and thus giving him the night off). There?s no stress for me, I am free to experiment, and I don?t really deserve to be paid for the opportunity. (Of course, I also would encourage you to speak pro bono if it?s a cause/organization that you believe in and that can?t afford you.)
Always bring a ?leave-behind? for every audience member to learn from at home after the speech. I bring a little card to give out called ?the world according to Micah? featuring 5 of my key points. At every event, before the hall fills up, I go around the room placing one on every seat. (This no doubt sounds like unglamorous work, but for me it beats hanging out being tempted by the pastries, and in larger venues, I do draft someone to help me.)
Even better, get the event organizers to buy a book for each attendee. This is the ultimate leave-behind: your message, in depth, has a chance to go home with every attendee, and for those who actually read it, it may get lodged deeply in their brain. (But don?t have the event buy books in lieu of paying you. You?re getting maybe a dollar a book (depending on your publisher). So while this is great for spreading your message, it?s not going to make you money. So you?re, again, not being a professional (see point 1).
Speak all over the world. It?s a great big world, almost everyone is nice, and they really need to hear what you have to say. (I?m just guessing that last point since I haven?t heard your message, but I stand by the first two.)
Read more at?INC.