SOS: Starting Out Speaking Tips For Beginner Speakers

Beth Jones, speaking at Women of Destiny Conference, Bahamas
Beth Jones, speaking at Women of Destiny Conference, Bahamas

Have you always dreamed of speaking on stage, but the dream has never become a reality? Do you want to start speaking publicly, but don’t know how to get started? In my last post, I wrote about when I first started speaking. It wasn’t my idea; I was real shy and terrified to speak in front of even a few people! But God had other plans. 🙂

I’m so glad He did because now I LOVE speaking! It energizes me and makes me happy. My desire is to glorify Jesus and share about God’s love and the great plans He has for women everywhere, to use their gifts for Him and doing what they love.

Recently in a Facebook forum, a fellow peer thanked me for sharing encouragement with other beginner speakers. I’d like to share some here as well.

SOS: Starting Out Speaking Tips for Beginner Speakers

1. Speak whenever and wherever you can. The way you get speaking gigs is to speak, or as Speaker/Author/Success Coach Cheryl Pullins says, “Let them experience you.” Speak at churches, Bible studies, Rotary Clubs, MOPS meetings, workshops, and whatever door opens for you. Tell everyone you know that God put this desire in your heart and that you are now available for speaking and scheduling events. Email family and friends to let them know. Share about your availability at church, your kids’ schools or homeschool co-op, with neighbors, your husband’s co-workers, your best friend, and your in-laws.

Remember if you don’t take yourself seriously, they won’t either. It doesn’t matter if anyone thinks you aren’t “qualified” to speak. God is the one who has called, qualified, and anointed you! The good fruit from your life will be evidence to them after awhile. People can’t ignore the fact that doors are beginning to open for you from God!

2. Pray (being very specific) for speaking gigs. Jesus told His disciples, “You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” (Matthew 21:22, NLT) How can you receive if you aren’t even asking?

Be specific in prayer and ask God for whatever number of speaking opportunities you desire per month or year. If this is really your gift and what God wants for you to do, you’ll get speaking opportunities as you walk in obedience to Him. Every speaking engagement I’ve ever received, they have come to me to ask me to speak! “A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men.”– Proverbs 18:16

3.  Speak for free. Initially you may have to speak for free. Yes, nada. I know, it burns, it burns! That is what I did, and what so many speakers do. Get your pride out of the way and first get some experience and credibility! You aren’t going to be paid the big bucks when you’ve only spoken a couple of times!

In fact, if your motive for speaking is the money, you might reconsider another career or ministry!  Yes, you can have a successful, profitable speaking business. But it takes TIME. And if money is your motive, it’s probably not going to work.

YES, I am a fiercely passionate advocate of Christian Speakers being paid. It makes me bristle when I hear people say that you shouldn’t “charge for your ministry.” Really? So every pastor in America needs to get another full-time job so they can earn a paycheck! Christian Speakers are one of the only professions/ministries I know of, who hear this objection to their pay. This is not just my ministry; it is my home business, my “career,” the way I am helping to bring in income to our family (you know, like the Proverbs 31 woman who bought a vineyard with her earnings!).

If you know a lawyer, doctor, CPA, nurse, preschool teacher or any other number of fields, you wouldn’t expect him or her to go to work and not get paid, would you? Then why is it any different for Christian speakers? This has always made me curious! I believe with all my heart what the Bible says, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” (1 Timothy 5:18)

But when you’re first starting out, you may have to gain experience first before you can start charging. And sometimes, even after you’ve been doing this awhile, there may be situations where you still speak for free or for less than your normal fee, such as an honorarium or love offering.

After you’ve gained credibility and much experience, you have to make a decision about whether you are still willing to speak for free (or less than your fee, an honorarium, or a love offering). As my friend Diane says, “You can’t pick my brain for free because my brain is expensive! I’ve invested a lot of money into this brain, learning new things!” Sometimes the benefits you gain from the opportunity are better than money, such as the opportunity to travel somewhere new, the new audieence you may be reaching (which may mean even MORE speaking opportunities for you in the future), or greater exposure for your business.

4. Ask for testimonials right away after you speak from the church’s women’s ministry leader or the event planner.  That way you are freshly in her mind, and she will remember how well it went. Testimonials help to establish you as a reputable speaker. Canadian Speaker/Author Sheila Wray Gregoire has excellent advice for speakers on her blog, Becoming a Christian Women’s Speaker.

5. Be easy to work with for event planners. Please, please, don’t be a difficult, high-maintenance speaker. If you want to have a successful Speaking Business, you must be professional! Don’t whine about how few attendees are in the audience, the lousy mic or sound equipment, or the food the meeting planner serves you that you just can’t stomach.

Arrive in plenty of time for your speaking presentation, so the event planner isn’t biting her nails, wondering if she’ll have a no-show for her important event. Communicate when needed with the event planner after being hired so she won’t worry (without your boundaries being violated, which is another post!).

Have your bio printed out for her when you arrive, in case she forgot hers. I learned from Speaker Felicia Slattery several years ago that you do not want to start your speech with saying your name, talking about the weather or the building, or any other inane comment or you are going to instantly LOSE your audience. Those first few seconds are crucial to your audience tuning into you. Start and end your presentation with power!

Turn OFF your cell phone at the meeting and have your notes, visual aids or power point, Kleenex, and cold bottled water ready when she introduces you. You don’t want to be totally disorganized, sweating, and fumbling around with your index cards or papers, shouting, “Just a minute! I’ll be up there in a sec! I know I put that quote somewhere!”

Don’t be unreasonable and demanding of event planners, asking her to make 100 copies of your revised handout five minutes before you speak or to asking her to display 75 copies of your book on the back table just minutes before the meeting time so you can make more money there with back-table sales.  Be pleasant and polite to her and the attendees. Remember that interacting with your audience is key to success!

6. Dress for success. Please don’t show up in a short skirt or shorts and flip flops, or something more suitable for night clubbing with your cleavage generously spilling out. You also want to make sure that you don’t wear dated clothing or this can cause the audience to not be able to relate to you, and they won’t take you or your message seriously. Most importantly, be beautiful on the inside, preparing your heart with prayer!

A good rule of thumb for speakers is to dress one notch above the audience. A man wearing a black tux to a men’s retreat? A little much. A chic dress and wedge sandals at  a women’s retreat when the attendees are in jeans or pantsuits? That’s great. Some women are much more comfortable in pants when speaking.

On stage, it’s a good idea to wear more makeup than you usually do because your features tend to “disappear” from a distance. Someone on the back row can’t see your sheer pink lip gloss from where she’s sitting. You’ll look like you have no lips or very thin ones. Learn some tips from a makeup artist, such as outlining your eyes with darker eyeliner or outlining your lips before putting on lipstick or lipgloss. Make sure that at least your eyes and your mouth stand out with some pretty color.

A great tip I learned at Upper Class professional speakers’ training was to make sure my hair didn’t fall into my eyes or face as I looked down at my notes and spoke. Your audience will become distracted if they are thinking, “I really wish she’d get her bangs out of her eyes!” or you are hiding under a lion’s mane of permed hair. Be sure to have good hygiene (shower, bath, brushed teeth with fresh breath, clean hair) and a good hair style and cut.

7. Talk to the attendees before and after your presentation. A mistake I made last year happened when I had to rush off after a speaking event because I was flying out of town the next day. In retrospect, I should’ve stayed for the lunch they had prepared for the meeting and connected heart to heart with the women and the men there, talking to them. I had so much on my mind about my trip that I neglected to be fully present in the moment.

Actually, I love being able to pray with women after I speak to pray for their needs and to give them words of encouragement. This is often when the greatest ministry occurs.

If you seem unfriendly or unapproachable in some way, it could damage your credibility and reputation as a professional paid speaker. Smile, take pics with attendees, ask questions, pray with them, and listen intently to what they have to say. Don’t just try to sell yourself as a speaker or sell your books, but build relationships. You aren’t there just “to be in the limelight.”  You are there to serve God and them. Walk humble. You are there for God’s purpose on a Divine Mission. Make new friends!

These are just a few tips I have for you if you are starting out speaking. I’ll continue with more SOS tips in the week ahead. I’d love to hear your questions or for you to share about your own speaking experiences, both good and bad! Leave your comments below.

  Are you an event planner? Learn more about my Speaking by clicking here.

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