If you’re an entrepreneur, small business owner, leader of a team or just someone who has a particular passion for something, public speaking can be a great way to raise your profile.

It’s not easy, and for introverts can be an incredibly nerve-wracking thing to do, but everyone is capable of taking to the stage and keeping an entire room of people engaged.

But how do you reach that stage? Here’s a simple guide to making your mark on the speaking circuit.

Start establishing yourself as a thought leader

People want to hear and learn from thought leaders – the people who appear to know an awful lot about a specific topic and who’s opinions are engaging (whether you agree with them or not).

There are lots of things you can do to start establishing yourself as a thought leader, but you need to begin them now – way before you even think about writing your first talk or compiling your first deck of slides.

Develop a specific message

Even if you can confidently speak on a range of topics, you’ll quickly find that the people who book you for talks will want you to focus in on one specific area.

This is why it’s so important to develop a central message in which you excel. You can, of course, divert away from that message during your talk when the moment’s right, but a specific message will make your talk memorable and re-bookable in the eyes of event organisers.

Create a video to showcase your talent

If you’re new to the speaking circuit and don’t have any speaking gigs to your name, film yourself talking to camera for ten minutes or so, and use it as a showcase for your talent.

Even if you’re simply standing in your office, pretend you’re in a room full of people, and give it everything. This video could be the thing that gets you that first speaking gig, after all.

Speak for free – regularly

It takes quite some time before you can even think about getting paid for speaking jobs.

That means you’ll need to be willing to speak for free for quite a while as you build your profile. And that’s fine, because you’ll be gaining an awful lot of free publicity while you’re standing on that stage!

Watch others

Even the best speakers on the planet know they need to continually learn from their peers.

Take time out as regularly as you can to attend events where you can watch other speakers hone their craft. Watch TED talks, and if you can, reach out to speakers you admire on social media and ask questions about their approach.

The more you can learn from others, the more you’ll be able to develop your own style that encapsulates the elements you found inspirational as an audience member.

Seek constructive feedback

Poor feedback isn’t always easy to take, but it’s far more useful than positive feedback when it comes to developing a new skill.

This is particularly the case with speaking, so make sure you proactive seek feedback after every gig.

Ask audience members what they thought, or ask someone close to you who’s likely to be brutally honest to attend and give you feedback.

It won’t always be easy to take, but you’ll learn and grow so much quicker as a speaker if you act on the feedback you receive.

Wrapping up

If you’ve ever sat in the audience during a speaking event and thought “I want to be up there”, you absolutely can be!

The tips above won’t propel you onto speaking stardom immediately, but they’re a great starting point, and the good news is you don’t need anything but determination to get cracking!