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Get Paid for Your Expertise: 15 Ways to Become a Motivational Speaker

Executive Summary

Do you want to make speaking your full-time gig? Data shows that 21 percent of people have.

  • Certified Speaking Professional, David Newman, says if you want to learn how to become a motivational speaker, you need to powerfully brand your business, precisely target your audience, and effortlessly connect your most interested prospects.
  • Focused on five core areas - strategy, content creation, marketing, pricing, productivity - Newman describes 15 ways to market, monetize, and maximize your expertise.

As a full-time professional speaker who spent almost a full year “on the other side of the table” booking speakers for 160+ events, I can tell you that there are three key components to motivational speaking success.

  • Powerfully BRAND your speaking business (from your “verbal business card” to your program titles, taglines, brands, and subbrands so you get a focused, consistent, and irresistible package)  
  • Precisely TARGET your most relevant associations, groups, and conferences (so you stop spinning your wheels and build a strong foundation of credibility, repeatability, and referrability that becomes the basis for your “speaker booking machine”)  
  • Effortlessly CONNECT you to your highest-probability prospects (who are eager to hear from you, look forward to your communications, and who consider you a true partner and not a peddler when it comes to solving their urgent, pervasive, and expensive problems)

Here are 15 ways to market, monetize, and maximize your expertise:


  1. Find your topic niche. Topic niche is about your expertise. Topic niche is about what is the slice of the universe, the slice of the encyclopedia of knowledge that you want to be. About what are you the true go-to expert and standout authority?
  2. Define your target market. There are four keys to success for identifying your target market. Do you have access to your target market? Is your topic relevant? Is there a desire for your topic? Can you dollarize your target market’s problem? You need to articulate the financial value that you can deliver (called “dollarizing”) to show your prospects and clients the true cost of their problem and the true value of solving it faster, better, or smarter than they’re doing now.
  3. Secure your identity. Buyers buy boxes. We have to label ourselves incredibly clearly in the marketplace so that clients can buy the box that we’re in. Once you clearly label your category of expertise, only then should you worry about the distinction—then you can fret over your branding, then you can share about how you are faster, smarter, better, and cooler than anyone else who does what you do.

Content Creation

  1. Develop a unique message. Go with what you know. Tie it into an urgent, pervasive, and expensive problem or trend—For example, helping your business clients improve sales is always strong; helping them improve performance and productivity is always strong. Avoid fads or nontransferable expertise. Figure out what your prospects are ALREADY buying and position your speaking and other services into that same category. Market test your new messages/principles/angles informally with your business friends, employees, partners, and trusted advisors. Call or meet with some actual buyers and get their reaction (your industry contacts, clients, former clients, prospects).
  2. Narrow your presentation lens. There’s no such thing as a generic solution to a specific problem. And all of our buyers and audiences have specific problems. If you come across their radar as a “generalist” speaker, expert, or consultant, you’ll immediately be passed over as a commodity. Once you clarify your expertise, make some decisions, and really hone in on EXACTLY whom you want to serve and EXACTLY what problems you solve, you escape the price-driven sale.
  3. Master the short-talk. When you present a short talk, twenty minutes or less, you need to quickly entertain, engage, and motivate your audience. Your goals for a short talk: Make them laugh, make them think, make them act.
  4. Avoid death by PowerPoint. Thinking that PowerPoint must be used in every talk has led to slides being used for the sake of having slides rather than because they enhance the talk. One of the benefits of using or at least trying out some of the popular short-talk formats is that you are forced to focus and refine your ideas down to the essential elements. You should do the same for the content of each and every PowerPoint slide you use.


  1. Build your marketing language bank. This includes every piece of marketing language you use online, offline, orally, and in writing, and that includes: every headline, every sound bite, every proprietary “you-ism,” everything you’re known for saying, your marketing conversations, your sales conversations, what you blog about, your email subject lines, what you livestream about, what’s on your business card, what’s on your speaker one-sheet, what’s on your website, what’s on your social media profiles, what you say when people ask you what you do. All of those things collectively are your marketing language bank. If you don’t nail that language, you’re not going to attract the right kinds of people and you’re going to be stumbling and fumbling and bumbling.
  2. Avoid common speaker website mistakes. Many speakers make it hard for website visitors to access them and their knowledge. Share content through tactics like an email newsletter, which also gives visitors a reason to come back to you in the future if they aren’t interested in your services quite yet. Put your email address and phone number everywhere. Automate your follow up to generate top-of-mind awareness. Make printable PDFs of all your one-sheets, program descriptions, and key documents—simply formatted, bold, clean design—easily accessible so prospects can download hard copies. Use your About page to build your credibility in the space you want to start getting paid to speak within.
  3. Know the answer the question, “Why should I hire you?” To prove in a brief document that you are different and not the same as everyone else, create a “Why Hire You” document. The seven consistent themes that meeting planners, conference producers, and association executives say they want in their speakers are: expertise, currency, relevance, easy to work with, interaction, experience, authenticity.


  1. Don’t be an idiot about your fees. You MUST have a clear and tangible idea of your market value as a speaker. If you are competing with other speakers or other consultants, maybe their fees aren’t quite as visible, but any consultant, any trainer that does any amount of speaking (and does it successfully), will probably have one or more speaker bureau relationships. This means you can put in their name and “speaker fee” into Google and find their fees or fee ranges.
  2. Don’t charge like an amateur. There MUST be a floor to your fee. It’s the “professional speaker minimum wage.” Charge less and you’ll lose business. The base minimum credible speaking fee is $4,500. If your fee is LESS than $4,500, you are positioning yourself as an amateur. Never worry about “pricing yourself out of the market.” Worry about how much you need to raise your speaking fee to price yourself INTO the market where premium clients are looking to hire premium speakers at premium fees


  1. Select a daily mission. When it comes to your success as a speaking-driven professional, you have a million things to do and a hundred priorities. Wouldn’t having a SINGLE mission for the day be great? Well . . . you can. Many important tasks can be done in as little as fifteen minutes and tackling ONE head-on might be exactly what you need to regain that most precious entrepreneurial asset: MOMENTUM.
  2. Revisit your goals, milestones, and metrics. Do this for the day, week, month, and quarter (financial, marketing, sales, operations). If this isn’t done daily, you lose sight of the big picture and get pulled off your game by distractions, trivia, and grunt work.
  3. Recharge your batteries. Just like the airlines say, “secure your own mask before assisting others.” Ramifications if not done daily—entrepreneurial burnout, stress, drinking, drugs, and divorce. Don’t laugh—you could be next.

Adapted with permission from Do It! Speaking, copyright David Newman.

Bring It Home

One of my first jobs out of college was with a presentation design and training agency. Clients came to us with notes, an outline, or a previous presentation and we were tasked with creating slides with a narrative and compelling design aesthetic. One of the biggest lessons I learned through helping others refine their messaging was to focus only on 3 main points in your presentation. If you overwhelm people with information, they will not remember what you talked about. For aspiring speakers who may not have a large budget, it’s vital to perfect your messaging and content design so you can delight audience members and keep them wanting more.

David Newman

David Newman is a Certified Speaking Professional and member of the National Speakers Association Million Dollar Speaker Group. David works with C-suite leaders, top executives, and thought-leading entrepreneurs who want to master speaking as the ultimate marketing tool, personal brand builder, and 1-to-many sales platform.

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