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6 Keys to Becoming a Six Figure Speaker

By Cathleen Fillmore

The speaking field is hugely attractive to a growing number of people who want to either add another income stream or acquire more clients. This is not difficult.

What puzzles me is why so many talented people stop there, why so many are content with relatively modest goals. Why not take it up a notch or two?

I know one speaker, we'll call her Sandra, who's taken it up to the top level and completely blown the roof off the low financial ceiling that many speakers bump their heads on. One of the secrets of her success is that she thoroughly enjoys her work and it shows.

While Sandra specializes in the financial industry, other speakers are drawn toward less lucrative fields. There are markets so parsimonious that only a masochist would willingly walk in and yet there are speakers who absolutely clean up in these tough markets.

What are the common denominators? A strong desire to succeed and boundless energy are two. These highly successful people are unstoppable in their belief in what they do and what they have to offer.

Here are the steps to take if you want to make serious money in this fascinating field:

Begin with a consultation with yourself. Draw three interlinking circles, named passion, brilliance & marketplace. Tie your brilliance, expertise and passion into the marketplace. Rather than ask what the hot topics are, ask yourself what you want to say and then find the fit you're looking for.

1. Positioning

Find your umbrella - Nothing's more important than your positioning.

Find a title for your topic that creates a visual image, then nail the concept down with your subtitle. Don't execute a full blown marketing campaign until you're sure your positioning is as strong as it can possibly be. I see so many speakers going out there without anything exciting to offer.

2. Create a polished one-pager - your essential marketing tool.

You'll need a brief outline of three speeches with benefits to the audience, a client list, testimonials, a bio and a great photo, and you're all set.

Well designed, please. Not on your computer!

3. Get out there! Begin to make a name for yourself.

Define your ideal client and create a database of prospective clients and a system to contact them. Begin with contacts you already have. If you're testing new material, offer to waive your fee in order to get feedback. Just once. If you get great feedback, begin charging. If you don't, it's back to the drawing board. Offer incentives to get prospects to book you now. Educate clients on why they need your services rather than go head to head with your competition for that year-end conference.

4. Keep working your material until you get rave reviews.

Here's your litmus test: Would you go hear you speak? Would those who have hired you in the past book you again? Have you built a strong referral base?

Your aim is, once you've built momentum, to base your business on referrals.

5. Fees

$5,000 is a good mid-level fee.

Make sure that everything – website, business cards, one-sheeter - supports your fee. At the $5,000 mark, you need a demo DVD. At pretty well any fee, you need a DVD. Of course you SAY you're good. The DVD will prove it.

6. Create affiliations

Who can you affiliate with that will help you build your speaking career? What company would sponsor your next speech? Colleagues, suppliers? One speaker asks her introducer to mention that her speech was partially sponsored by a specific company. At the conference trade show, she then goes to the company's trade booth and answers questions for half an hour. It's a great way to boost the speaking income.

There are many more keys to making good money in speaking, of course.

This is a good start. The sky – and beyond – is truly the limit. It all depends on the depth of your message, the leave-behind value you provide for your clients and your imagination.

If you'd like some help with this, I work with speakers so they can ‘put their mouth where the money is’.

Cathleen owns and runs Speakers Gold bureau, leads quarterly seminars and is Event Co-ordinator for the American Chamber of Commerce Canada. She holds an annual talent search for the top amateur speaker and also holds an annual client appreciation speaker showcase. She has a few advanced copies of her latest book, The Six Figure Speaker available. To purchase your copy call 416-532-9886 or E-mail See Cathleen's Sources listing on page 191 of Sources #60 , or online at

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