12 Skills Every Professional Speaker Needs
Here are the 12 skills that every successful speaker and motivational speaker needs, and how you can acquire them.
Each skill is available as a 1-hour phone coaching session with me. Your coaching session includes:
- Instruction in the main topic of the session
- Suggested action steps
- An optional follow-up email exchange
The entire set of skills is available for a very special discounted price.
Get the complete set of skills ->
The 12 Skills Are
1. Choose your topics and position yourself for success
2. Make your marketing materials.
3. Design your signature speech
4. Close bookings over the phone
5. Turn free speaking gigs into paid and profitable ones
6. Make your demo video
7. Create your speaker’s website
8. Acquire the traits of the most successful speakers
9. Learn how to set your speaking fee and raise it
10. Generate lots of paid speaking leads and opportunities
11. Leverage out of the marketing
12. Work with speakers bureaus
BONUS Skill: How To Get A Standing Ovation Every Time
Skill #1: Clarify Your Topics & Positioning
The first thing to do, once you’ve decided to become a motivational speaker is to choose your topics.
What will you talk about? Choose things you’re passionate about first, then find out if there is a market and some demand for the thing you want to talk about.
It’s also possible to work your passions into a talk on one of the main topics that is already in demand. Pick one main topic, then two backups. No more than 3 topics, otherwise you can look like a dilettante to prospective clients and Bureaus. It’s important to remember that when you choose your speaking topics, you’re also positioning and ‘branding’ yourself in the industry.
If you get this right, your passion centers will be overlapped with profit centers – that is, areas where the demand is high. You can travel the world, speaking about what you are most passionate about, and get paid very well to do it. When speakers get this wrong, they struggle, sometimes for years. So choose carefully.
- Get help becoming clear on your best 3 speaking topics
- Position yourself and your topics
- Learn which topics are HOT, and which ones always will be in demand
- Learn which topics to avoid at all costs
- Learn which topics will make you 10 times the money
- Get a set of branding phrases to do no-cost effective branding
- How to turn your passion centers into speaking profit centers
Module #2: Create Your Marketing Materials
Creating the right kind of marketing materials is one of the most vital secrets of how to become a motivational speaker.
Flat out, no question about it – the speakers who get the gigs most of the time are the ones with the best marketing materials. It’s not really fair, but it’s the reality.
Constructing them all yourself is quite possibly the biggest mistake speakers make. This High-Paid and High-Gloss Industry makes them look like obvious amateurs. They often struggle to get bookings and they don’t know why, even though they are great presenters and have a message people need to hear.
In the selling of services and products, there are 2 core processes involved:
- Generating leads (Marketing)
- Converting those leads into satisfied customers (Sales)
Your speaker marketing materials are the heart of your conversion process. If they’re not done right, you don’t get many conversions, no matter how many leads or how much ‘traffic’ you create.
However, when you get the marketing materials right, prospective clients look at them and often say “How much is it to hire you for our group?” Just like that.
- Help with the copy and creation of your 1 Sheet
- Help with the copy and creation of your BIO
- Help with the copy and creation of your Topic Descriptions
- Help with the copy for a description of what makes you Unique As A Speaker
- Help with the copy and creation of your Price Sheet
- Learn the right kind of Picture of yourself taken
- Help to create a “Bureau-Friendly” 1 Sheet
Skill #3: Design An Awesome Motivational Speech
Your main speech is what most people will see. It’s the one that needs to be really great.
So choose your one topic, and create an over-the-top speech that is a true reputation maker. This will create a wonderful reputation for you quickly. It will get you more bookings. It will get you on your way.
This 1 presentation should be 1 hour long. You must be prepared to lengthen it a little or shorten it a little on request in case a client needs it.
This signature speech of yours is one of the most powerful tools in your motivational speaker’s toolkit. Focus on it. Create it. Then rehearse and present it over and over until it always gets a great audience response. All top motivational speakers have done this. Later, you can put together a couple more talks. But when you’re just starting out, focus on this one speech.
- Learn a proven formula for an awesome motivational speech
- How to hone a motivational speech to an emotional crescendo
- Help to create your opening, sequencing, and closing
- How to choose the right stories
- How to tell stories in a way that moves people
- How to use quotes, action steps, and emotional triggers
- Learn how to always make your audience feel engaged
- A critique of any videos you have made delivering this speech
- Presentation skills and rehearsal tips and techniques
- The best way to memorize your speech
Skill #4: Get The Gig Over The Phone
The good news about being a motivational speaker is that you don’t have to be great at selling. (unless your topic is selling of course)
All you have to do is have the right language and approach when you talk to prospective clients over the phone. If you can do that, you can close a lot of speeches.
Yet the vast majority of speakers don’t do this well. They have no script, they try and sell, they go on and on about themselves.
On the other hand, once an event planner has seen your impressive marketing materials, they will almost always want to speak to you. It’s a big decision for them. You’re going to be appearing in front of their entire group at their big event.
So if you know what to say, and how to say it, and what NOT to say, then you can close a high percentage of these speaking opportunities.
I asked the #1 speaker on my Bureau’s list of over 3,000 speakers, how he closes 2 out of 3 speaking opportunities I send him. Almost no one else can even come close to this. And he laid it out for me in detail word-for-word. I use it. It works. And I can teach it to you.
- The word for word script that closes speaker bookings over the phone
- The 3 biggest mistakes speakers make on the phone that loses them the gig
- How to know if you’re a good fit for their event and audience
- How to NOT sound like a salesman and yet close booking after booking
- How to get them to pay in full and upfront almost every time.
- Simple ways to close the gig in just 10 minutes over the phone
Skill #5: How To Turn FREE Speaking Gigs Into Profit
One of the most important things you need to do when you’re starting out on how to become a motivational speaker is to give lots of free speeches.
There are several reasons for this. First, it is one of the best ways to hone your main speech and improve your speaking ability in front of LIVE audiences.
Second, it’s a great way to get lots of video clips to put into your demo video.
And finally, as the great motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said “There’s no such thing as a free speech.” What he meant is that every free speech you give is an opportunity for you to make money, if you know how.
Ziglar, in fact, once gave a free speech early on in his career. At that speech was an audience member who owned a company with divisions all over the USA. That audience member booked Ziglar to speak around the country many times, for pay, essentially sending him on tour, and earning him hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not bad for a ‘free’ speech.
- Learn a proven formula for getting lots of free speaking opportunities
- How to appropriately enroll people into your workshops
- How to get almost everyone in an audience onto your email list in minutes
- How to identify your best local target groups
- Groups to avoid and why
- A word for word email script for contacting prospective groups
- Positioning your presentation so you get lots of local bookings
- Help with creating an enrollment form, offer, and call to action
- Other ways to make money from giving free speeches
Skill #6: Plan And Develop Your Demo Video
Here’s something most aspiring motivational speakers don’t know, and many people who call themselves professional speakers still don’t know:
Your Demo Video is The #1 Thing They Will Use To Decide Whether To Book You or Not.
That’s right. So if you have no demo video, on your website, you’re not even in the game. You’re a carpenter without a hammer, a tennis player without a racquet, an accountant without a calculator, a . . . OK, I think you get the idea.
When your demo video is done a certain way, it will cause event planners to feel confident that you would be a good fit for their event. They will want to contact you to validate their first impression, discuss your price and get more details.
The majority of speaker’s demo videos that I see online lack many of these essential elements.
I mentioned earlier that one day I was on over 100 speakers’ websites, watching all their videos. I’ve easily seen over 5,000 speaker’s videos over the years. I know exactly what the best ones look like and what they contain that makes them so effective.
Once you build the right elements into your demo video, it becomes an automated sales machine that convinces people that you are the one they want to book.
- Learn the precise sequence the best speakers use in their demo videos
- How long should your demo video be?
- The right kind of video and the wrong kind. Multiple videos?
- The biggest mistake speakers make on their demo videos
- Where should your demo video be on your website?
- What should be on the front plate, and on the finish plate
- A critique of any video you have, or any demo video you’re working on
- The one secret that will save you thousands of dollars in editing fees
- How to find videographers and what instructions to give them
- How to make a ‘Bureau-Friendly’ demo video
- View correct demo videos and see speaker-video-disasters online
Skill #7: Create Your Motivational Speaker’s Web Site
One of the first things a prospective client is going to see is your website. It’s one of the most critical pieces of your marketing materials.
Your website says a LOT about you.
First, you need to have a website that is dedicated entirely to your public speaking. This is essential. All professional paid public speakers have one of these.
More importantly, in order for someone to consider hiring you and paying you to speak at their event, your speaker’s website must contain a certain set of elements or aspects. Once you know what these aspects are, you can make your website yourself, if you know how to do it, and simply build them in. I’ve seen several speakers do it.
It is preferable however to hire a website designer to do it for you. They will not know the elements that must be on a professional speaker’s website. You must know what they are and insist that they be built into your website.
Most aspiring and professional speakers’ websites are leaving a TON of money on the table because their websites are lacking one or more of these required elements. When all the correct elements are on your website, a person looking for a speaker on one of your topics simply can’t help but want to hire you or at least talk with you about the possibility of booking you.
The right website, done the right way, is that powerful. It becomes a kind of automatic selling machine. If your website is done correctly, then by the time they call you to inquire, the sale is halfway done.
- A list of all the essential elements that should be on a pro speaker’s website
- What MUST be on your speaker’s website and what should never be on it
- Why you should NOT have a calendar on your website
- A complete checklist to give to your webmaster
- View a dozen money-making speaker’s websites to emulate
- Why you should never put your fees on your website and what to do instead
- How to design your website so it generates more actual inquiries
- The most common mistakes speakers make and why they turn off buyers
- What type of site gets you more bookings and why
- How to get a great professional logo for $20
- How to get a great website designed for you for thousands less
- Simple SEO tips that will generate inquiries for years and cost you nothing
Skill #8: Acquire The Traits of The Most Successful Motivational Speakers
If you learn every other skill on this page to the highest level of mastery but don’t obtain these traits, I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t succeed as a professional public speaker. No matter how hard you try. No matter how hard you work. And no matter how gifted you are.
I have NEVER seen a top, successful, high-paid public speaker, and I’ve worked with thousands of them via my Speakers Bureau for more than 16 years, who did not possess this set of traits. In fact, that’s precisely where I discovered and modeled them.
Many speakers are missing some of the essential traits they need in order to be successful, and they don’t know it. So no matter what they do, they don’t seem to succeed. It’s almost like they have set a thermostat on their career, and it won’t go any higher until they acquire certain personality traits.
In many ways, learning what these traits are, and acquiring them, is your fast-track to success as a professional speaker, motivational speaker, or keynote presenter.
If I had to begin my speaking career all over again tomorrow, to demonstrate my knowledge of how to become a motivational speaker, this is one of the very first things I would do. I would wire the essential traits of the best motivational speakers into my habits from the very start.
- The specific set of traits modeled from the best professional speakers
- Which traits are most important and why
- The handful of traits to avoid because they will ruin your career
- The #1 all-important trait you must have as a speaker
- NLP techniques for installing any trait – and making sure it’s ecological to do so
- How to eliminate undesirable traits and habits
- How to express each trait appropriately in various speaker-related contexts
- The superlative traits that only the very best of the best have
Skill #9: How To Set Your Speaking Fees And How To Raise Them
When you’re just starting out as a speaker, it helps a lot to set a fee that you are comfortable with.
Later, as you give more speeches and get better and better responses, it will be time to raise your fee a little bit.
But remember, you must have a speaking fee. Even if you choose to speak for free, you should still have a professional fee, which you are waving in particular circumstances.
Many speakers who are just starting out struggle with setting a price to charge. This is known as your speaking fee.
Many professional speakers struggle with raising their speaking fees. Some try to raise it, then they stop getting inquiries and bookings, so they are forced to lower it again.
There are a key set of insights that will help you set your fees and raise them when you want to.
- How to establish a starting fee you are comfortable with
- How to know when to raise your speaking fee
- How much to raise your fee
- How to feel worthy of a higher fee
- Common mistakes speakers make when they try to raise their speaking fee
- Specific language to use when quoting your speaking fee
- How to be more comfortable when you quote your speaking fee
- How to raise your fee so it works, and people pay it
- How to make over $5,000 per speech every time you get booked
- How to hit the 10k mark
- How to earn OVER 10k per speech on a regular basis
Skill #10: Generate PAID Speaking Leads & Opportunities
Once you have your 1-sheet, bio, topic descriptions, and price sheet, AND you have a website dedicated to your motivational speaking, AND you have a good demo video on that website – then, you’re ready to start bringing traffic to your website.
The good news about getting paid speaking gigs is that you can generate quite a lot of them using NO-cost and LOW-cost methods.
One thing to remember is that you must own the lead generation process. In other words, you must step into it, do it on a weekly basis, keep the ball rolling, and simply consider it to be a required part of what you do.
When you become a professional motivational speaker, one who gets paid to speak, you are required to market your speaking services. And you can’t delegate it to someone else until you first understand how to do it. That’s an important point. We cannot effectively delegate anything we don’t first understand.
I have generated over 100 monthly requests for a speaker using LOW cost and NO cost marketing methods. Then, I automated the whole process. Day in and day out the requests come rolling in. Without placing a single ad. Without joining ANY associations. And without having to spend that much time doing the marketing.
You don’t have to make any cold calls. You don’t have to run ads unless you want to. And you don’t have to beg Speakers Bureaus for gigs. And yet you can generate lots of paid speaking opportunities once you know how.
- Groups, clubs and associations to join
- How to network at the groups and associations you choose
- Proven LOW cost and NO cost lead generation techniques
- How to create a huge list of prospects
- How to get repeat bookings
- Online lead generation methods to get paid speaking gigs
- Offline lead generation methods to get paid speaking gigs
- Using joint ventures to get gigs – one of the best methods
- Finding new niche markets and how to reach them
- How the most successful speakers market themselves
- Tracking and improving your lead generation and enjoying the process
Skill #11: Leverage Out Of The Marketing
Once you know how speaking leads are generated, you can automate the entire process, so that you don’t have to do it.
I recommend that every speaker learn to do this at some point in their career. The reason is that when you can step out of the marketing process, you’ll have more time to give speeches, share your dream, travel, and appear in front of audiences.
By ‘leveraging out of the marketing’ I mean automating it. Make it so that it requires very little time on your part, and get it automatically bringing in lots of requests for you to speak.
You can also leverage out of the negotiation and initial conversation that takes place when someone wants to book you. You can hire an employee or an outsourcer, and train them to do that initial conversation. They can even issue the contract for you. All you do is approve it and sign it. This is a proven way to simply travel the world, giving motivational speeches, with little time spent doing the marketing stuff.
One very important point here: If you choose to outsource the booking conversation, it is vital that you supervise and monitor your employee or direct report. I have talked to speaker’s representatives who were so rude, that I simply decided NEVER to book or work with that speaker ever again.
And the speaker likely didn’t even know that they lost a gig because they were out of the loop of communication. They didn’t know that they lost an entire STREAM of future bookings from my Speakers Bureau, or that their reputation was being ruined by their inept representative. So be very careful when you outsource this. It can make your career or ruin it fast.
- How to select and interview the right employee or outsourcer
- How to train someone to do the booking process correctly
- How to supervise and track them so as to stay in the communication loop
- Exact scripts to use to train them to do the booking process for you
- How to automate your online lead generation
- How to automate your offline lead generation
- The 3 best ways to compensate your booking coordinator
- The 5 best ways to motivate your booking coordinator
- When to step in and do the booking process yourself
Skill #12: How To Work With Speakers Bureaus
Working with Speakers Bureaus is not for beginners. In fact, approaching Speakers Bureaus too soon could be very detrimental to your career.
If you contact a Speakers Bureau too soon, when you’re not ready, you can end up ruining the relationship, and along with it, any possibility of working with that Bureau.
Speakers Bureaus will find you and want to work with you, ONLY after you’re making good money. Why is this? Simple – they work on commission. Bureaus are not paid by the companies who seek them out for their speaker recommendations. They are paid by you, the SPEAKER, out of your speaker’s fee.
Good Bureaus will get you more bookings, more consistent bookings, and often they will get you more money. Many of them handle most of the miscellaneous details so all you have to do is to speak. Speakers Bureaus are not agents, so they don’t manage your career, etc.
So wait until you are making good money on a consistent basis before contacting Speakers Bureaus. Then, the secret is to select a handful of Bureaus, say 5 to 10, and build excellent relationships with them by creating lots of value. They’ll all book you more often. You’ll be on their list of “Go-To” speakers. All Bureaus have a few speakers like this whom they love to work with and love to book. We do.
The average standard commission that Speakers Bureaus charge is 25%. That fee is not taken out of any travel expenses in most all cases, just out of the main speaking fee. This percentage can vary up or down of course depending on the industry and the bureau.
Once you learn to build relationships with 5-10 Speakers Bureaus, they will send you a stream of bookings month in and month out. I know speakers who don’t do any marketing anymore and have no contact information on their website because 5 to10 Speakers Bureaus are sending them constant speaking engagements. They simply travel around the world doing nothing but speaking.
- The essential keys to working with Speakers Bureaus
- Language for approaching Speakers Bureaus
- 3 things that will maintain your relationships with Speakers Bureaus
- The biggest mistakes speakers make with Bureaus
- What kind of Speakers Bureaus to avoid and why
- How to create the ‘Bureau Friendly’ materials all Bureaus want
- How to be irresistible to Speakers Bureaus
- How to work with a dozen Bureaus so you get leads steaming in
BONUS Skill: Get A Standing Ovation Every Time
Yes, I have received 27 standing ovations in a single week.
When you work at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, you are required to give 3 presentations a night, 7 nights a week. That’s 27 presentations in a week.
I created a customized magical presentation designed to get a standing ovation. And it did, every single time.
Early on in my speaking career, I discovered a formula for getting a standing ovation every time.
I have taught this to a few speakers and they regularly email me telling me they got yet another “Standing O”.
Learning how to get a standing ovation is one of the most rewarding things you will ever learn when it comes to discovering how to become a motivational speaker. There is really nothing quite like it. People will flock to you when your talk is over. And they will remember you and your speech for YEARS afterward.
This skill requires that you first:
- Have designed a speech
- Have delivered that speech several times and received a good response
- Are ready to re-structure your speech so it gets a standing ovation every time
- Are willing to design an entirely new speech to get a standing ovation if you have to
Once you start getting a standing ovation every time you speak, your reputation will skyrocket. Your bookings will increase substantially, and you’ll love being a motivational speaker more than ever.
- The precise formula for a motivational speech that gets a “Standing O”
- The set of crescendo factors that make for a standing ovation
- How to design your new standing ovation speech step by step
- Review of any video you have of your current speech
- How to tweak your current speech so it gets a standing ovation
- Special ways to rehearse your standing ovation speech
- How to keep your ego in check – seriously, you’re going to need to
Alexander Van Buren
Alexander is the founder and president of The Alexander Speakers Bureau, a National Speakers Bureau specializing in providing the best speakers, trainers, and sports figures for event planners.
He’s been a professional award-winning presenter for more than 30 years and has received as many as 27 standing ovations in a single week. He’s presented on the cruise ships of the Caribbean, at colleges, high schools, corporations, Hollywood’s famous Magic Castle, conventions, and for audiences on television, radio, and the internet.
Alexander has been a featured presenter for the Stanford Executive Program Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.
Van Buren knows inside information on what it really takes to be a successful public speaker and motivational speaker. He’s seen thousands of speaker’s videos, 1-sheets, and websites and knows what the best and most successful speakers do.
The Alexander Speakers Bureau has regularly received more than 100 requests per month for speakers from clients like Toshiba, Arrow Electronics, The Army Corps of Engineers, Microsoft, Paramount Home Entertainment, Humana, and many more.
Alexander offers special coaching packages to help speakers and trainers get started, and to succeed at sharing their wisdom, message, vision, and gifts with the world.
1. Choose your topics and position
2. Make your marketing materials.
3. Design your signature speech
4. Close over the phone
5. Find free speaking opportunities
6. Make your demo video
7. Create your website
8. Acquire the traits of top speakers
9. How to raise your speaking fee
10. Get opportunities to speak
11. Leverage out of the marketing
12. Work with speakers bureaus
The 10 Keys
1. Choose the right topics
2. Create a good 1 sheet & Bio
3. Create a very good 1-hour speech
4. Create a special kind of website
5. Write your topic descriptions
6. Create a great demo video
7. Draft your price list & bundles
8. Learn how to generate leads
9. Learn how to close bookings
10. Know how to approach and work with speakers bureaus
“Alexander has been a huge help in getting me started the right way. His techniques have already got me significant bookings that have far exceeded my goals. I purchased his coaching package three times in a row because it paid for itself every time I did it.
World Champion Baseball Player & Motivational Speaker
“Alexander’s coaching has been a measurable benefit to me from our very first call. His information is timely, relevant, and in manageable steps that can be implemented to increase your business immediately.”
“Alexander Van Buren gave me a terrific “secret” that only a speaker/bureau insider could know. He’s savvy, easy to work with, and enjoys helping others help themselves. That winning combination can only help YOU!”
“Alexander, I spoke to a group of over 200 people and I truly believe your help with my introduction and closing language was a big part in my being able to bring in over $50,000 in my 45-minute presentation.”
CEO & Business Owner
“I have had the pleasure of having Alex Van Buren as my coach for six months. In that time frame, I have made great strides with the goals that were set for business and pleasure. As a person in sales, my self-confidence has increased tremendously. I also find my ability to effectively speak with clients and prospective clients much simpler and with greater efficiency.
A personal habit that I thought was going to be extremely difficult has been overcome. This change has helped my health tremendously. Alex has made a huge difference in this short time frame, I look forward to accomplishing the rest of my goals very soon.”
“When I first met you I was $17,000 in the red. Within a few years of working with you and your strategies, I am having my first 7 figure year.”
Your coaching has been incredibly valuable.
“If you’re looking for a teacher, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better one than Alexander Van Buren. Great teachers are very rare, and Alexander is one of them! I have been working with him for a year now, and I have been able to change completely. Today, I am much more who I want to be, and can do more than I have ever been able to achieve before.
You can achieve whatever you want to achieve with Alexander.”
“I made $40,000 in the first month from one of the up-sell techniques you taught me. And I’ve added a quarter of a million dollars to my yearly income.
That’s why I’ve come back for more coaching with you!
Dr. Chris Pellow
Pellow Family Chiropractic
“Our group is from all over the world and together we produce a billion dollars a year in revenue for Viacom. You did an amazing problem-solving session on a really tough issue.”
“Toshiba is the world’s 17th largest corporation…thank you for helping to ensure a highly successful national sales meeting.
The combination of unique intrigue, pure entertainment, and meaningful insights into one another, helped us achieve a level of professional bonding like never before.”
Director of Marketing Communications, Toshiba America
“An outstanding training for our managers. They got lots of great ideas they can use.”
“This was one of the best pieces of training we’ve ever had on time management. They were blown away.”
Safelite Auto Glass
“The communication session was . . . WOW!”
CW – TV, Sinclair Broadcasting Corp.
“In the three sessions. . . I was impressed with your knowledge and coaching in time management. Your honest feedback and detailed explanations on being the best that I can be (my work place, personal life and diet) has had an immediate and positive impact.
I changed my diet, and exercise which I never did before, and I can see the results in my daily routine and my energy level. I highly recommend you to anyone who wants to improve their professional or personal life.
Thanks again for teaching me to be a better manager, husband, father, and friend.”
Food & Beverage Activities Manager, Marriott’s Grand Chateau
Sharon F. Reiser, The Stanford Executive Program Graduate School of Business