Professional Speaker

Turning pro is a choice.

It has nothing to do with landing paid speaking gig, being invited to TED or basking in the spotlight in front of thousands.

Before any of those things happen, each speaker must decide to take the leap from amateur to professional.

It’s time to cross the great divide of being a “good job” speaker to creating epic experiences that the audience remembers.

It also means buckling down and doing the work of the pro before there is any payoff.

As I sit in any audience, I know who made the decision to turn pro versus those who are still playing at speakers.

The pros don’t deliver the most polished speech in the world, but they are doing the work to mastering the art. They are building a speech that is an asset to their business. A speech they plan to sell to meeting planners again and again and again.

While the amateurs are following the crowd and falling prey to bad public speaking habits.

Here are the first speaking habits you must break if you decide to go pro as a speaker.

#1. Introductions that don’t immediately grab the audience’s attention

“So. Um. Hi. I’m happy to be here. How are you?”


It’s not like this speaking gig snuck up and surprised you. It’s not like the meeting organizer plucked you out of the audience to speak with zero notice.

Nilofer Merchant invested $1000 developing the opening line (one single line of her TED talk). Opening lines determine if the audience pays attention to you or if you fight to get their attention back throughout the presentation.

Opening line are the first impression the audience has of you. Do you want to be perceived as a professional or amateur in the first moment of your speech?

The pros know that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, so they seek help crafting and testing their opening.

The least you could do is spend time to craft that opening line (it could be fun and easy, let me show you how).

A weak opener sends a signal that you’re not a pro speaker.

#2. What is this speech about?

Have you ever left a presentation, scratched your head, and wondered “That was interesting, but what was the point?”

If I can’t clearly articulate in the speaker’s own words what the speech was about, then the speaker missed a huge opportunity to establish herself as the go-to expert on the topic.

A pro speaker is very clear on how their speech positions their expertise. They think long and hard about what they want the audience to remember.

The audience advocates for your message if you do a great job and are clear on your BIG IDEA.

The BIG IDEA is the one idea of your speech that you want the audience to take to heart, and then take to the street.

Let’s look at TED. TED talks focus on ONE idea that is worth spreading. Not three ideas or five ideas or even seven ideas. ONE IDEA!

Why? Because in 20-minutes, you can develop only one idea. TED knows this. Pros know this.

Stop peppering your presentations with lots of tiny ideas, that’s an amateur move! Focus on the BIG IDEA and watch your message spread.

The pro wants to be know for something. The amateur feels lucky to be on that stage.

#3. Cramming way too much information into your speech

“I’ve got 3 tips for success that I’m going to tell you about today.”

Awesome 3 tips! At the 18-minute mark of a 20-minute speech, the speaker gets the “oh shit” look in her eye because she’s still on tip two and must wrap it up.

The audience misses out on the third tips and the speaker misses out on the opportunity to establish their expertise further. (And point #3 is typically the most delicious of all the points and a shame to miss).

A pro plans out their speech to the minute. An amateur doesn’t know how much time it takes for each of their points and therefore tries to give too much information.

A pro knows that each of the 3 tips could be a whole speech unto itself.

Break the too-much-information habit and craft a speech that’s a bite-sized experience of you and your work.

After all, a pro gives a taste of what’s possible and amateur gives us a buffet of information.

Bonus #4: You’re worried about the public speaking coach in the audience

Before events, I circulate, meet people, and inevitably I’ll end up chatting up the speaker.

At first the conversation flows until they ask me what I do. I tell them. Their face falls and they say “Oh, I’m a bit different than what you’ll be use too.”

First, how do you know what I’m use to? Second, different how? Are you planning on to stand on your head while delivering your speech in Swahili?

Different tends to mean unrehearsed and unpolished (which really isn’t all that different).

A pro’s response: BRING IT! I’ve worked hard on this speech and it’s going to impress the hell out of you.

The pro excitedly tells me about their work with their own speech coach and how much it helped them.

A pro doesn’t give a crap what I do, a pro knows that they worked hard, received help and feedback, and it doesn’t matter who is in the audience.

The amateur makes excuses about the quality. The pro is 100% confident that they nail their speech.

Every time you step on stage, get up in front of the room, or take your seat in the board room, you’re representing your business.

Make the decision to go pro. Break these “good job” public speaking habits. Get coaching, support, and loads of feedback to master the art. When you do, the speaking gigs come, you’ll be known for what you do, and the crowds will clamor for your message.