A friend asked if he should take a day off work to attend a free “Become a Millionaire Speaker or Coach!” seminar.
No. Don’t quit your day job—even for a day.
I’m sure the session offers hours of true and valuable information, but … a lot of programs like this trade on the idea that “you can make big $ as a speaker.” Yes, people do achieve that, but creating the content, developing the skill, and building an effective marketing program are time-consuming and difficult. If it was easy, everyone would do it.
Consider the following:
- As a speaker and speaker coach, the first questions I usually ask when approached for coaching are: “Are you sure you want to do this and why? Do you understand what it will take?” I work with writers, too. “Yes, I’ll help you create a marvelous book, but you will probably pay me more to do it than you’ll ever make selling books. Are you okay with that?” The “You can be a speaker/author/astronaut” approach appeals to people’s dreams but not to business realities. I have turned away some smart, wonderful people because it wouldn’t have been ethical to accept their money. I can help you become a better leader, help you make engaging presentations, and help you polish your message—but with all my connections and experience, I can’t make you a millionaire speaker. If I had that ability, I’d be flying all over the world making myself a millionaire speaker and spending the rest of my extremely limited time with my family and friends.
- The speaker offering the session describes himself as a “Wealth Coach?” Hmmmm. Do you believe real millionaires spend their time teaching the poor how to be rich?
- A free event is the entrance to a marketing funnel. They don’t spend money on a venue, sound system, staff, travel, and hotel as a gift to you. You will be educated, motivated, inspired … and then asked to buy something. You’ll see bright lights, hear big voices, listen to amazing testimonials, experience pyrotechnics, and meet supportive staff who “recognize your hidden talent,” and present convincing evidence that you have arrived in business paradise. Expect a lot of cheering and shouting of “yes” answers that prime you to say “yes” (despite evidence that this approach is not as effective as is commonly thought) when the SPECIAL OFFER ONLY IF YOU BUY TODAY gets pitched at the end. This is an old formula: “Tell ’em what to do; sell ’em how to do it … and pressure them to get started now while the dopamine buzz is still raging.” If you do buy, you will be assigned a coach (not the guy on stage wearing the shiny suit) who will give you good advice and sound strategies that you will have to be extremely diligent about implementing. When you’re not a hotshot keynoter after the end of a year, it will be your own fault because “you just didn’t make the investment in time and money they told you you’d have to.” Most people bet against their own optimism and lose. In fact, they’re the ones who help the program organizer become a millionaire speaker!
So how do you become a paid speaker?
- Go to Toastmasters at least once a week. Toastmasters is one of the most effective and affordable speaker training programs on the planet. Speak, evaluate, coach, and set the bar as high as you can. Work on your platform skills and test your content in front of a live audience. I’m a member of three chapters, two of which meet weekly. Toastmasters is my speaker gym.
- Join your local chapter of the National Speakers Association (or your country’s equivalent). Show up for monthly meetings and make the pilgrimage to the annual convention. Attend your chapter’s speaking academy. Meet professional speakers who are farther up the ladder than you are, and enjoy the spirit of profound generosity that pervades the organization. Show initiative and constancy, and high-level mentors will be there to help you. Get exposed to top national speakers every month and learn as much from the ones who disappoint as from the ones who inspire you. My international keynoter mentors are not there for me because I’m any kind of bigshot. They’re there because I’ve come to understand their business and they know they can count on me to be there when they want to work on content, talk, or need help with design or technology. Some refer me speaking engagements they can’t take because they know I’ll deliver. I didn’t get that by attending a workshop; I got that by building relationships over years.
- Read books on speaking, influence, leadership, negotiation, and business. Study. Study. Study.
- Study some more.
- Pick your topic and become a world-class expert on it. Write a book or two, start a blog, and establish yourself as the go-to person for your subject. Research and write like you’re creating your own Ph.D. program.
- Join a mastermind group and/or find a coach to help you with content, delivery, and strategy. If you can’t pay, offer services or support in-kind. Do what you’re good at, and get help with the rest. Without my coaches and colleagues, and without my NSA membership, I flat-out would not be in the speaking or coaching business. There’s just too much to learn. Trying to figure it all out on your own would be slow, expensive, frustrating, and probably fruitless.
- If you want to become a coach, that’s also a learnable skill and a valuable role to play, but … these days everyone who has screwed their life up becomes a life coach. Everyone who’s gone broke becomes a business coach. If you’re serious, get some training and certification from the International Coach Federation and learn how real coaching works. Yes, it will cost you time and money. Such is the world of being a professional in a field where universities don’t offer academic degrees in your discipline.
Not everyone can become a successful speaker or coach. Some are not coachable, themselves; they’re unable to accept outside criticism or input. Some are unwilling to invest in the required personal and professional development. Building a new business—speaking, coaching … or gardening —takes time, capital, passion, perseverance, and a community of supporters, mentors, and friends. Unless you’re a hero or celebrity, the path to professional speaking is steep and difficult … but worth every step.
Want to become a millionaire speaker? Get your skills and business plan together, make your first hundred dollars, keep speaking, and keep counting.