“How do I do what you do?”
Aspiring speakers ask me this pretty regularly during breaks at EntreLeadership and other speaking events.
They want to know how they can polish their skills and become a professional speaker—with the sound checks, green rooms, big stages, wide screens and hot lights. They want to know how to get there.
My answer is always the same, for speaking or anything else that you want to do.
Start doing it.
Start speaking now to anyone anywhere that will listen. Go to places you don’t want to go, speak to groups that don’t want to be there, and give your all even when no one cares.
In the last five years of professional speaking, I have been to hundreds and hundreds of events and very few have been “impressive.”
I’ve spoken in college auditoriums seated for 1,000 people with only six people spread out in the seats. It turned out that those poor six people were only there because they got extra credit from a finance teacher for showing up.
I’ve spoken to a family reunion where the audience ranged from 4 years old to 84 years old. We all ate refrigerated chicken fingers together for lunch, and they saved me a seat at the kid’s table.
I’ve spoken in more high school cafeterias than I can count, and I’ve spent many Friday nights at different Kentucky county libraries presenting for community events. I know, what is more exciting for a Friday night than a financial presentation at a county library? Nothing, I tell you. Nothing.
I’ve spoken to an audience of exactly three people in a room seated for 100 people. The best part is that, of the three, one lady fell asleep and started snoring loudly. The second one clipped her fingernails, and the last one talked on her cell phone—not texted—talked, out loud, while I was presenting. I couldn’t make this up.
I’ve spoken on the West Coast at night and then taken a red eye to the East Coast and been on stage the next morning at 7 a.m. for sound check, exhausted and with a crick in my neck. I’ve had events that were so bad, they make me cringe just thinking about them.
But all of those, and many more, make up integral parts of my career journey to this point. And the journey is still just getting started.
So if you want to be a professional speaker, or even if you have a different dream that you want to tackle, then you’ve got to start somewhere. Remember these three tips to help to get you get off to the right start on your own journey:
- Start doing it. There’s no such thing as ready. Start speaking, writing or just doing the thing. This can be anywhere for anyone—or in some cases, for no one. Just start doing the thing. It’s in the doing it that you’ll remember why you love it. It’s in the doing that you’ll also gain experience. And from experience, you’ll gain wisdom, confidence, and most importantly, skills.
- Don’t compare. I have a friend that says, “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” It’s easy to compare yourself to others and get discouraged, but don’t forget: There’s room for you too. God didn’t put a calling on your life and dream in your heart for it to collect dust, pushed in the back of your mind and ignored forever. He put it there to fulfill it, so trust Him to do just that.
- Do the work. Anyone who thinks that work travel is glamorous doesn’t travel. It’s early mornings, delayed flights, lost luggage, rushing and sweating, fast food shoved down your throat in a rental car and lonely, lonely hotel room nights. But if you care about what you do, and you care about the impact that you’re making, you’re willing to fly six hours to drive five hours through a national forest in a Tic Tac of a rental car, only to turn right back around and do it again after it’s over. When you care about what you do, you’re willing to do the work—even the unimpressive, really difficult, humbling, and at times embarrassing work.
Being a professional speaker, or accomplishing any life goal, can be incredibly rewarding. But it doesn’t happen overnight and it certainly isn’t all impressive. But when you get there, you never look back. Accomplishing your dreams is always worth the work. Remember, it’s the small things behind the scenes that no one sees that lead to the big things that everyone wants.
(If you would like more encouragement on this topic, the embedded links are other articles and posts to inspire you and encourage you on your journey.)