Public speaking tips: how to turn presenting into payment

by Lynne Testoni
21 February 2020

As an editor and writer, I have been asked to speak, present and moderate events more times than I can count. At the beginning it was a scary and intimidating idea – who was I to think that I could be up on stage? Who would be interested?

It turns out that many people are interested – and happy to pay good money for my expertise.

Sometimes creatives underestimate the worth of our knowledge – after all, we have spent years researching subjects of all kinds and have communication skills that have been finely honed and developed.

Like most writers and journalists I have had to think on my feet many times and turned unexpected meetings into interview opportunities or story ideas.

We are usually experienced interviewers too, a sadly underrated skill.

Speaking and presenting are opportunities that can sit alongside writing credentials, providing a new and exciting income stream that can command high fees – and allow you to raise your profile in your chosen niche.

How to find opportunities in presenting and public speaking

As always, it tends to come back to developing good networks – particularly any face-to-face connections. Being good on paper is only the beginning. You need to present well and that means dressing up, being well-groomed and charming. If you are the sort of person who tends to swear a lot and hates wearing shoes (or anything besides track pants), this might not be the job for you.

As a presenter, you are expected to be an ambassador for whoever is paying the bill, so you need to present a professional appearance.

LinkedIn is always a good place to mention your presentation skills – and ask for recommendations from colleagues that mention your prowess. Eventbrite is a great source of workshops and conferences in your area. Use the search facility to find events in your niche close to you. You might be surprised to see all the events around your neighbourhood. Don’t necessarily look for gigs for writers or creatives – look for industries that need those people. For instance, I work with a lot of builders and architects, so have found work speaking about creating good website content to those groups.  I have even picked up the odd new client this way.

How to create a Speaker’s Kit

If you are out pitching yourself as a potential speaker, it’s always a good policy to have a professional head shot of yourself if you want to promote yourself as a speaker or moderator. These will be needed for agendas and schedules for conferences, as well as associated marketing material.

A few versions of a bio is also recommended – short, medium and long versions. Some people even do different bios for different niches (I have one for food events listing all my food magazine experience, plus another for design/interiors). You can even create a proper Speaker’s Kit with bio, head shot and relevant speaking experience. Canva has some great templates you can adapt or hire a designer to do a kit for you.

Tips on presenting

Presenting and public speaking are all about practice and confidence. Don’t dumb yourself down or mute your personality – be yourself. If you haven’t had a lot of experience, consider offering yourself as a speaker to local Rotary clubs – they are often looking for good speakers for their weekly meetings. Sometimes it’s good to start with being a moderator or MC. If you do work for corporate clients, talk to them about you hosting or moderating some small events at their annual conference.

There are a few podcasts with tips for speakers – my favourite is How to Own the Room, which has some great practical ideas on delivering good speeches. Ted Talks are always good – try the YouTube channel so you can see the speakers in action too. It’s also a good idea to get comfortable with using PowerPoint. While much maligned, it is still the primary software used by speakers and can be a powerful tool if used for good.

What to charge

Like everything – speakers fees range from tiny to jaw-dropping dollar amounts. If you have a TV profile, expect to command at least $8000 per appearance. If you have published a book, you can add a premium too. For moderating a small roundtable at a corporate event, fees usually start at about $500, but easily climb up to $2000 for a day.

Even at the smaller scale with non-profits, you should be able to claim your travel time and any meals or accommodation, which is a great way of getting started without losing too much money. If you don’t charge a big fee (especially in the beginning), make sure you make it worth your while by including your social tags and website URL as the holding page on the final page of your presentation and in your bio.

If you regularly speak or present, how did you get into it? What are your public speaking tips for those considering trying it?

Lynne Testoni
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