How to begin a speaking career


After decades of coaching executives, CEOs and founders, I have learned that being recognized as a key thought leader is one of the best ways a business leader can help their company.

Heather H Bennett speaking at conference in Chicago Illinois

How to create key thought leadership?

Using a combination of marketing, social media and public relations, the leaders of an organization can establish their expertise among their colleagues to help their company and themselves be top of mind when a customer is ready to invest in their products or services.

How do executives begin speaking?

Public speaking in the forms of keynotes, podcast and other show guest spots, webinars and online courses are a few ways executives can promote their expertise. A CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) recently asked me where to start this process. The keys to success in starting are to speak about what you know, start small and build, be open to unpaid engagements at first and to be generous in sharing your gifts and knowledge.

Below is the list I created.

10 ways to improve your speaking

  1. My go to starting point is always the NSA-IL website and blog Too much good advice to list it all. Join your local National Speakers Association or Toastmasters group to improve and develop your skills.

  • Write a book, then talk about it to and with everyone!
  • Be a podcast guest on a lot of podcasts.  start with and any podcasts your friends or colleagues do.
  • Ask friends and colleagues for introductions to podcasts hosts whose podcast you enjoy or start your own podcast.
  • Ask any organization you belong to if they are looking for speakers… chambers of commerce, alumni groups, business groups. Giving away a few speaking sessions will help you gain video for a pro-speaker reel and photos plus lots of terrific content and a chance to hone your keynote or standard speeches.  Offer to do an online webinar.  Practice makes you look like a pro.  

“It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”
-Mark Twain

  • Create a professional Speaker one page (with rates, descriptions of your topics and a mention that customized speeches or workshops are available by request)
  • Prepare 2-20 and 2-45 of the same two topics, prepare a 45 minute – 1.5 hour lunch and learn workshop and lecture style keynote.

“Grasp the subject, the words will follow.”
-Cato The Elder Quotes

  • Create one page handouts to give away FREE in PDF form to the attendees to keep you top of mind a week after the event. Provide a link for these on your website to increase traffic.
  • Realize that speaker bureaus only hire speakers that are already getting paid a lot per event, so most of the work at first to get jobs is on you.
  • Many conferences ask for speakers to submit abstracts 7-10 months before the conference.  If you get to know those people ahead of time, they can let you know when to submit.  

It is not easy to be a professional speaker.  especially after the pandemic.  Many of my past clients are professional speakers and creating a sustainable business is hard… very much a matter of only the successful getting the work. 

If you focus on topics you have a lot of knowledge in and are passionate about, that wisdom and value will come across during your presentation.  And above all, speak from the heart. People notice when someone loves what they are talking about.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”
-Maya Angelou

Good luck with your next speaking opportunity!

Heather H. Bennett is a marketing strategist, personal brand coach, board director and author of bestseller, Fun and Fulfilling Careers One Question at a Time. Heather lives and works in Chicago, Illinois and is passionate about helping businesses and professionals build strong brands to connect with their target market and reach their personal and professional goals.  

Find Heather via Twitter @creativebrandch & &