Folks tell me often that they want to get started as public speakers, and they ask how I started my journey.  Since I started my journey as a speaker a couple of years ago without any experience — and you may be in that boat, too — the specific steps I took might be of interest to you.

In the beginning, no one would invite me to speak because I had no track record.  It’s a bit of a “chicken and the egg” situation.  You want to speak, but you can’t because no one has heard you and decided you are worth listening to.  My solution to this dilemma was to host several “lunch and learn” sessions at the board room room of my local bank.  I charged $25 in exchange for an information packed presentation that also included lunch and plenty of useful handouts.

I created meeting notices for the local calendar sections of the media, issued ezines to alert my customers and subscribers about the upcoming workshops, and talked up my sessions at local networking groups to which I belonged.  I wrote press releases to invite interest and created flyers to share with colleagues and prospects.   It was a low budget, grass roots effort that delivered good results.

The first two or three events attracted 50 people who were interested in learning how to win the media relations game.  The better news was that influential program directors from local business networking organization elected to attend to hear what I had to say.  At the close of each session, I asked for written feedback.  I received many compliments about the information I shared and the manner in which I shared it.  Those compliments — complete with the names, websites, and company names of event guests — started laying a foundation of credible support to make it easier for event programming directors to invite me to address their audiences.

I created and posted to my blog and website a speaker profile that included my favorite topics to speak about, along with what audience members said about my presentations.  I even captured a few of my presentations on a digital recorder so it would be easy for decision makers to sample my content before making a decision.  When I was interviewed on the radio, I captured the MP3 files from those interviews, too.   I even posted a “hear Nancy on the radio” button on my website to make it easy for decision makers to tune in and benefit.

Pretty soon, I was receiving invitations to address the eWomenNetwork, local Chamber of Commerce groups, and other professional organizations in my own backyard and beyond.  I accepted those invitations and worked at improving my speaking skills by joining SpeakerMatch and observing other speakers who did a great job delivering their messages.

Today, I get invited to speak or serve on panels about small business buzz marketing and do-it-yourself publicity regularly.  I’ve contributed to webinars, teleseminars, and other virtual conferences and earned favorable reviews in my own hometown, from my colleagues in the Independent Practitioners Alliance of the Public Relations Society of America, and well beyond.  In fact, just last week, I received an email from a teleseminar listener from South Africa who thanked me for inspiring him into do-it-yourself publicity action at long last.  Now, I often get paid to speak, and I always have the option to bring my information products to sell in the back of the room, making each engagement a higher return opportunity for my audience members and for me.

What I love about public speaking is the opportunity I have to share my message with impact and efficiency in a one-to-many manner.   Invariably, people in the audience who want more information, opt-in to receive my Authentic Visibility ezine, subscribe to the RSS feed for my do-it-yourself publicity blog, elect to attend my Publici-Tea™ workshops, purchase the Authentic Visibility information products, or engage my services.   It’s all good.

If you want to be a public speaker, consider the journey I have traveled over the last couple of years and decide if you are game to get started along your own path as a speaker.    And, if you would like to hear me speak this week, I’ll be talking about how to get seen, heard, and celebrated through the power of free publicity for the Women Business Owners over lunch this Thursday, September 25. You can register for this event at this link.  I hope to see you there.