"I'm going to be a motivational speaker!" I was 28 years old. It was 5am in the morning. I was sitting in the lobby before a spin class and I proclaimed this to one of my fellow spinners. He was a very successful businessman whose opinion I greatly respected. So you can imagine my disappointment when he looked at me, his eyebrows furrowed in doubt, and said, "Don't you have to be successful at something first?"
When it comes to a career in professional speaking, people pay to for success stories. Audiences want to hear from experts who know something, or who have done something, or who can shed light on a new way of thinking. It is easy to look at other speakers and think you don't have what it takes; that since you haven't climbed Mt. Everest or sold a company for a gazillion dollars, then you must not have a message worth sharing. However, with the right approach and a really great speech, you may be more qualified than you think.
Here are three steps to creating a presentation people will actually pay to hear.
Step 1. Take inventory of your unique skills and interests.
The first step in developing a speech people will hire you to deliver is to take a look at your skill set and identify some of your stand out talents. Have you created an awesome social media strategy that gets results? Are you particularly gifted at creating video tutorials? Are you exceptionally good at attracting outstanding talent to come work for your team? Companies are desperate to figure how to solve these problems; don't overlook or underestimate the value of your experience.
I once had a mentor say to me about my particular skill, strategic storytelling, "If you can figure out how to teach people to do what you just know to do naturally... then you really have something." Identifying that skill was the first step in creating a speech people want to hear.
Step 2. Outline and organize your knowledge into 3 main points.
Knowing how to do something is one thing, teaching how to do something is another beast altogether. Just as my mentor said, for those figure out how to teach, great opportunity awaits.
That opportunity begins with a really great outline and clearly organized points. The easiest way to approach this task is to start with a brain dump; jot down everything you know about what you know. Don't judge it, don't worry about it, just get it out of you.
From there, look at your knowledge and identify a clear path to walk your audiences through it in three distinct parts. These parts could be organized in a variety of ways. Chronological: first do this, then do this, lastly do this. You could organize it from broad to narrow: here's why this matters, here is what it is, here is how to do it. The best presentations start with, and stick to, a great outline. This is a nuance many would-be presenters miss.
Finally, when you are actually delivering the speech, repeat this outline back to the audience throughout the presentation so they can keep track of where they are and what they've learned.
Step 3. Start with a great story.
Once all of your content is organized, the last and most critical piece is finding the perfect story to use as an opener. It could be a funny story of the first time you tried to solve this problem and failed (they will relate!), it could be a story from your personal life that illustrates the message you want to deliver.
Starting with a story engages the audience, primes them for learning, endears you to them and most importantly, let's the audience know that this is going to be an enjoyable experience as well as an educational one. One great story is often all you need to set yourself apart.
After that morning in the spin studio lobby when my friend basically told me I wasn't successful enough to be a motivational speaker, I'll admit, I was a little defeated. I put that dream on the back shelf, continued working at my job, and almost abandoned it completely. Fortunately, over time a skill I had developed since childhood suddenly emerged as a desperate need in business.
Today, I travel the country multiple times a week speaking on the power of storytelling, and this was my winning blueprint.