Do you like presenting and public speaking? If you do, consider yourself lucky – most people either have a great fear of public speaking or a severe dislike for the job! And yet, public speaking is one of the best ways to quickly advance your career, make a bigger difference by getting your message out into the world in a memorable way, establish yourself as an expert, and position yourself well for lucrative future opportunities (either as a direct result of speaking, or in the form of speaking opportunities themselves).


You changed my way of thinking– now I’m realizing many more possibilities, and it helped me take a HUGE step towards my goals” –


One of my former students wrote me that note, and it is my motivation as I’m writing this post for you. I want to help you think bigger about the enormous world of opportunity and possibility that is waiting for you, as soon as you know it exists.

So, if you’re ready to embrace speaking for career development, here are the top 20 questions you should ask – and answer – in order to maximize the ROI of your efforts. I’m choosing these from among several dozen very popular questions I get asked on a regular basis about my own experience as a speaker, or as part of my course The Speaking Prescription.

Because I hear them again and again, I know they’re on your mind. I broke them down into a few themes – topics, compensation, common mistakes, and industry norms. You can choose any number of resources to get your own answers, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t invite you to join me inside The Speaking Prescription for easy answers! Ok, here we go:


Questions about choosing the best topic for success as a speaker:

  1. Is my speaking topic viable in my industry, or would another audience be a better fit?
  2. What if someone else is already a well known speaker in my topic area?
  3. How do I manage having multiple topics? Is it better to choose just one or have lots of strong options?
  4. How do I get other people interested in my topic if they don’t know anything about it right now?
  5. What is the best way to do market research on whether my topic will actually get me booked?


Questions about compensation and getting paid to speak:

  1. How do I know how much I can charge or should charge, or what they’ve paid for speakers like me in the past?
  2. What if the organizer doesn’t bring up the subject of money – how do I start that conversation?
  3. What if they don’t want to compensate me? Will I lose the opportunity if I ask?
  4. How can I figure out whether I’m even allowed to accept payment for speaking outside of my ‘day job’ or current academic role?
  5. I don’t expect to get paid, but how do I set up a system where I can at least break even for speaking time and travel?


Questions about common mistakes new speakers make:

  1. Do I really need a contract of my own, if the host organization has a standard contract?
  2. Do I have any power to negotiate the terms of the host’s contract? I don’t want to jeopardize my intellectual property.
  3. What do I need to know about AV equipment so I can deliver without any tech glitches or slide snafus?
  4. How do I capture the audience’s interest and keep them engaged the whole time?
  5. What are the biggest ways to unintentionally ruin my presentation?


Questions about speaking for different industries and norms:

  1. How can I find speaking opportunities that are right for my professional goals?
  2. How do I pitch myself and hope to land a speaking opportunity? Is there a way besides cold calls and emails and submission portal websites? (Spoiler – YES!)
  3. Is it different whether I want to speak for nonprofits, academics, business, or education audiences? What’s the best way to figure out opportunities outside of my current industry?
  4. Do I need an agent or speaker’s bureau to get me booked?
  5. Do I need a website or social media presence to be successful as a speaker?


There are plenty more questions you should consider as you pursue professional speaking opportunities – you’re probably starting to think of additional questions right now, having read through this list.


The truth is that successful speakers have mastered two things, not just one. Sure, they are highly polished presenters and are really good at the job of speaking. That’s a given. You can always improve, but there’s a threshold of delivery excellence that’s expected for speakers who get big stage, highly visible, and/or highly paid speaking engagements. The other thing that successful speakers have mastered is the business of speaking. They know that their stage talents are necessary but insufficient to yield a steady stream of great speaking opportunities. That’s why the questions listed above are so important. You’ve probably noticed that they aren’t the typical ‘how to be a great speaker’ type tips – you can find endless resources for that in any internet search. These questions are much more deliberate in focus, and getting them right leads to career boosting stage time regardless of your area of expertise or your industry. For most aspiring speakers, this is the missing piece of the puzzle.


Not to worry – if you’re happy with the number and quality of opportunities that come your way, and you’re happy with your current compensation model (which can come in many different formats along the spectrum of simply protected time at work to a speaker fee check in hand) – keep doing what you’re doing. But if you want to take things up a notch, focus as much (or more) on the business of speaking as you do on practicing and delivering great presentations. It will pay off tremendously (literally!).

Have another question that’s not on this list? Please email me: and let me know what it is! And if you happen to be reading this the week it was published, I welcome you to come on in and join The Speaking Prescription live course – only offered once a year, and starting up in less than a week! This course will show you how to go from unpaid expert (that’s probably you right now) to professional speaker (meaning, you get significant, tangible career gains or payment from your speaking). See you inside!



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