Public Speaking: alternate stream of income?

by Rocket Finance

I have never thought of myself as a public speaker. I am the type of person who needs time to come up with thoughts, therefore blogging tends to be a much better medium for me. I don’t ever remember being afraid of public speaking so much as I knew that I struggle to come up with thoughts “on the spot”. This is one reason that my younger brother got into fist fights when we were growing up – he was quick with the lip and I could never think of a come-back.

Other than to pound him.

Therefore I was a little startled recently to find myself the recipient of a speaking honorarium of almost $600 plus hotel and food expenses. The organization probably spent almost $800 to hire me to conduct a couple of workshops at a conference. Total time spent speaking was probably around 3 and a half hours. Needless to say, an hourly rate of over $170 is a nice gig for a guy like me. (Don’t tell them that I would have done it for $20 an hour . . .)

When I took the job, I knew that I would be paid for the work, but I didn’t quite know how big the check would be. As soon as I got in the car to drive home, I called Mrs. Rocket with the good news. I was still a little incredulous that someone thought I was worth that much as a speaker. But then I remembered reading that glossophobia or the fear of speaking in public routinely ranks as people’s number one fear – even ranking ahead of death in some polls.

And that is why public speaking is a topic for Rocket Finance. A person who does a job that not many people can do or are willing to do, can command a higher salary. Morticians and brain surgeons make more money than most of us, and they should. The thing about public speaking is that it requires no special skills. You don’t have to achieve a high level of schooling or possess a comfortability with cadavers. Public speaking is accessible to almost anyone who is willing to step out and take a chance. At the age of 34, I am surprised to suddenly find myself a somewhat capable public speaker. As I reflect on my life, here are some things that contributed to my development, you may pick up a tip or two that can help you to generate income in this area:

  • Learn to speak properly – I remember several teachers throughout my life that emphasized proper grammar. Also, my parents made it a point to model good syntax and pronunciation.
  • Look for opportunities to speak with a script. Read a verse or prayer in church, write out a toast for the next wedding you attend, look for a small part in a play, etc. Using a script removes some of the pressure and allows you learn to relax in front of people. Some of my earliest school memories included the recitation of short, memorized lines for a school program. This helped me to deal with anxiety.
  • Teach a Sunday School class, speak to a Boy Scout Troop or some other group of young kids. Children are forgiving of mistakes and are much less intimidating. This will give you practice in ordering your thoughts – before you stand up before adults.
  • Volunteer to MC a wedding reception. This is a great transition opportunity. You can use a script, most people are not paying attention and you can always just pick out people to embarrass if you have trouble being funny on your own.
  • Progress to a presentation at work.
  • Volunteer to speak for free. Not every gig is a paying opportunity, but it will give you practice and more importantly, any public speaking will showcase your abilities to a wider audience.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak slowly and pause now and then. Nothing communicates nerves more than ah’s, um’s and speaking quickly. You are always speaking faster than you think you are. Don’t talk just to fill space, you will make mistakes that way. This is where I get myself into trouble.
  • Don’t be afraid to mess up. If you are embarrassed – your audience will be uncomfortable. If you are confident, even after a blunder, your audience will laugh with you. Some of the greatest public speaking moments happen when the speaker makes a mistake, acknowledges it and keeps right on going. I have made hundreds of mistakes when public speaking and I have learned how to roll with the punches. I have also learned the biggest cause of mistakes: lack of preparation.
  • Study. It doesn’t matter what. Pick an area that you enjoy and start to read and participate in that field – gardening, sports, sewing, cooking, fishing, golf – every field needs people who can speak in public. Start to attend local gatherings your area of interest and you will soon find opportunities to practice your new skill.
  • Be passionate. Nothing helps a speaker more than being passionate about his subject matter. If you don’t care, why should your audience? Furthermore, if you care strongly about what you have to say, you will forget about your nerves.
  • Keep a watch handy and stick to the time schedule. No one ever complains about a speaker who is brief. Leave your audience wanting more.
  • Have a plan. Think about your words before they come out of your mouth.
  • Just do it. If an opportunity presents itself, seize it! Not all of us can be Ronald Reagan, but you never know if you don’t try.

I doubt that I will ever command an honorarium much larger than the one I received in Wyoming, but the check did cause me to notice an area of my life that I have developed almost unintentionally. Maybe you can develop the ability to speak in public and can start to generate a little extra money.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

(If you become famous, please mention Rocket Finance when you are on T.V.)

  1. 5 Responses to “Public Speaking: alternate stream of income?”

  2. By Jorge Olson on Aug 25, 2008 | Reply

    Great public speaking article.

    I like the bullet points listed.

    I think you will get larger checks! The low end of a keynote speach for 45 minutes is $2,500. For a workshow it is $5,000.


    Jorge Olson

  3. By Lisa Braithwaite on Aug 27, 2008 | Reply

    Great post, Mr. Rocket. Your best tip is “just do it.” People tell me all the time how much they fear and dread public speaking. When I ask them how often they speak, they tell me “never.”

    Well, peeps, you aren’t going to improve or learn to reduce your anxiety if you never make the effort! So yes, you have to actually do it if you want to build skills and confidence!

  4. By Chris Harrison on Aug 28, 2008 | Reply

    One of the most useful things someone wishing to get into public speaking can do is checkout a toastmasters international club.

    Apart from that, the hardest part seems to be getting those free gigs organised – thats where I’m currently stuck!

    Chris Harrison

  5. By BW on Sep 1, 2008 | Reply

    These are all great tips! Another good public speaking idea is to care about your audience. If you are genuinely compassionate towards them, it’s easier to make a winning presentation.

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