As a Speaker, Which Matters Most? Skill or Strategy?

As a public or professional speaker, there are two things I believe you need to focus on: Speaking Skills and Business Strategies.  And depending what your ultimate ambition is — public or professional, the importance of these two will be weighted one way or the other.

Public Speakers – These are people who have to pay for the right to get up on stage or TV and speak to an audience.  This payment may be something as direct as paying the promoter for the stage time to speak, or joining an association or group that lets them get up and present.  They also may not have to financially pay the promoter or host a dollar amount; sometimes they simply have to pay for their own flight, fuel, or food.  But at the end of the day, they have less money of their own than before they started.  But it doesn’t matter, because they got to speak to a crowd of people, and it’s very rewarding emotionally.

Professional Speakers – These are people who get paid for the privilege/honor to get up on stage or TV and speak to an audience.  This payment ideally is a direct financial reward for their appearance on stage.  And like the example above who may not have to cut a check, these professional speakers may not be actually paid to get on stage by the promoter, but during their presentation they get to sell something which will ultimately leave them with more money in their pocket than before they started.

Many people think they aren’t a professional speaker because they first think of themselves as an entrepreneur or business owner.  Make no mistake; if your ability to speak to the masses will end up in you garnering additional business, regardless of what you think – you are a professional speaker.  So start acting like one.

For public speakers, the importance of speaking skill or business strategy leans in the direction of skill.  About 85% to 15%.  Focus your efforts on your ability to speak clearly, articulate your thoughts, and captivate your audience.  This will make those times when you are on stage more enjoyable to you and your audience.  It will be more emotionally rewarding and there’s a good chance you will be asked to come back, or referred to other organizations to speak.  This is also where most professional speakers start.  It’s where they ‘cut their teeth’ and learn the ins and outs of the art of mass persuasion.

For professional speakers, the importance of speaking skill or business strategy should lean in the direction of strategy.  About 60% to 40%. Specifically in two main areas: sales and marketing.  #1 Marketing your message to your target audience such that they feel compelled to call you over all the other speakers saying roughly the exact same thing that you are.  #2 Selling your products/services.  This includes selling your speech to potential promoters / audience members and then when on stage selling your products/services in the moment.

Far too often, professional speakers nowadays spend 95% of their energy on strategy and 5% on their speaking skill.  The result is a lot of speakers who are technically pretty poor speakers, but exceptional sales people and great manipulators.  In my opinion, these are the modern day snake-oil salesman that ultimately only care about how much money they make on stage, and pay little attention to what happens to the audience member after they leave.

If you really want to become a professional speaker who is respected amongst your piers and promoters, has opportunities coming your way, and can sleep well at night knowing you have your audiences best interest in mind as much as your own personal interests, then make sure you give roughly equal attention to your speaking skills as well as your business strategies.  It may take you a little longer to amass your wealth, but you’ll be glad you did.



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