The Art of Public Speaking

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Many of you have been called upon to speak in public at one time or another in your lives.At one end of the spectrum will be: Ladies and gentlemen, please be upstanding and raise your glasses to the adorable couple. At the other end are those who see public speaking as a lucrative business, and the speakers most in demand command considerable fees for their services. 

If you have something to say, then why not consider a career out of public speaking, whether full or part time? Some of the best known public speakers command very high fees, but these are the exception. They are usually well known celebrities from all walks of life, who feature regularly in the media, and whose name alone is a considerable drawing card.

But there’s still room for good speakers, who can make a decent living on the ‘rubber chicken’ circuit, and once established, will be regularly in demand.

It’s hard to imagine in any other walk of life where thirty minutes can make or break a speaker.  A good speech lifts the audience, leaves them wanting more, and sends them off singing your praises.  You’ve earned your fee several times over, and the offers come flooding in!  A bad speech is the kiss of death!

If you have the confidence to stand up in front of an audience and amuse, entertain and inform them in equal measure, then you have the potential to be a good public speaker.  But no matter how confident you may be, or think you may be, a good, even memorable, speech, must follow a clearly defined format. 

Of course it goes without saying that you must have something worth saying, especially in the lucrative world of keynote speaking, and more importantly, something worth listening to if you’re going to command a good fee for your services. After all, your fee will be paid by your audience, directly or indirectly, and they’ll want value for their money.

It also goes without saying that the more specialist your subject, the less demand for it.  Meat and potatoes sell better than caviar, if you follow my drift.  You may be able to command the same fees, but not as often.

So choose a subject of broad appeal.  Motivational keynote speakers are regularly in demand, but because they’re so many of them, it’s difficult to stand out from the crowd.  If you’re going down that route, try and be original, have a different slant from the rest, whether it’s in content, presentation, style, or all three.

Research your market, and check out the competition.  Listen to their speeches, and learn how to do it better, much better, and learn to be the best.  And don’t just listen to their speeches, take time to study the audience, see how they react, what makes them laugh, or cry, or what bores them rigid.

Above all, you must be an expert in your subject.  A paying audience doesn’t want to hear what they already know, no matter how well you score on delivery and style.  If content is lacking, it’s a no win situation.

Your first fee earning speech may be the most important speech of your career, as success in this competitive field depends so much on word of mouth.  Testimonials and letters of commendation are worth their weight in gold in the public speaking business, and chances are your host will check you out.

Finally, as you’re establishing yourself and climbing the stairway to success, don’t be greedy when it comes to negotiating your fee, as you might price yourself out of the market.  Be prepared to start modestly and build.

David Osborne is a successful barrister, voice actor, author, media personality and public performer. In 1991 he hit the headlines nationwide and made legal history when he delivered his final speech to the jury entirely in verse. For this tour de force he was dubbed the Barrister Bard. For more information please visit www.david-osborne.com

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