Monday, August 11, 2008

So You Want to Speak
by Cherilyn Azubuike

Creating a speaking platform can be a very lucrative and rewarding business, but only for those that are willing to pay the price of perfecting their craft and stay the course.

Warning! Be alert! There are many motivational imposters on the loose. Just because you are able to cite a few quotes, are articulate and have read Napoleon’s Hill “Think and Grow Rich” does not mean that you are qualified to call yourself a motivational speaker or a professional speaker and it often grieves my heart to see people with no professional training, no experiences and no passion or regard for the gift that speaking provides, doing so.

Being able to connect with an audience on any level, being able to transform lives one message at a time with the power of positive and affirming words is not an easy task, but yet the rewards are insurmountable.

So you want to be able to move the masses at the sound of your voice? You say that you have a passion for assisting and elevating people to live large and dream big! Well, I want to give you the nuts and bolts of creating a lucrative speaking platform, one that will be able to sustain you and your household financially rather than as a mere pastime.

1. Know your Why? Why do you want to speak? What are your qualifications? Is it simply to make money? If the why isn’t big enough the dream doesn’t matter. You have to be able to define your why down to the minute details. Why do you feel that people should or would listen to you? Speaking is an art form; it allows the speaker to get into the hearts and the minds of individuals and build them up or tear them down. Imagine being told that your health is at risk and in order to save your life you need an operation. While on the operating table you want a skilled doctor who has successfully performed this procedure many times before, not one who has simply read about how to do the procedure in a medical book.

2. Do the road work: When planning a vacation the least favorite part of the trip is the time spent on the road. The long hours spent driving, making frequent stops and sudden detours are the pits, but once you reach your final destination, you see how critical the road work was. In order to create a speaking platform you must be willing to do the road work, which may consist of, but certainly not limited to, motivating yourself, researching and studying your craft, joining a local Toastmaster’s group in your area, making cold calls, speaking for free and being open and receptive to feedback.

3. Know your flock: Who are you called to? Who is your target audience? You must know everything about your audience before ever meeting them. Who are they? What are their struggles? What are their needs? What do they want? You must know everything there is to know concerning your audience. You are not called to everyone……and trust me not everyone wants to hear what you have to say, but your audience will if you have the know how to connect with them right where they are.

4. Speak for free! This is a biggie! Most beginners think that once they create their website and open up their speaking business that the opportunities and the money will magically start rolling in. Not so! You must be willing to create a name for yourself and that means accepting many opportunities for free. Most speaking bureaus won’t even consider you until you have spoken for free at least 50-100 times.

5. Find a mentor! Who do you know that is exactly where you see for yourself? Contact the individual ask for assistance, ask for advice and then be willing to follow through with the advice given to you. In this business you must be coachable, leadable and trainable.

6. You are here to serve: you must keep at the forefront of your mind that you are a servant. You are here to serve the people who are assigned to you and you must be able to do that passionately and fervently at all times. When you make money your primary goal you’ll see that you will soon be exposed. Speaking and sincerity go hand in hand.

7. Remember that this is a business: Keep your paperwork together. Create files for speaking engagements, keep invoices and other important records. You must conduct business professionally and promptly in order to maintain a long and lucrative career. Keep speaking engagements as scheduled whether paid or not. Integrity and professionalism will keep you on the speaking platform for many years to come.

About Cherilyn

Cherilyn Azubuike is no stranger to expressing her ideas and captivating her audiences by inspiring them to live powerfully and purposefully. Her analytical ability to substantively address issues, including personal development, one on one relationships, effective communication, finding your purpose, self-publishing as well as women and youth topics concerning sexual abuse and domestic violence, has motivated and empowered numerous audiences to make positive and effective change in their lives. She has an unrelenting passion for life and her mission is to assist others in transforming their lives. Cherilyn has been the speaker of choice for foundations, school districts, faith based institutions as well as civic and community organizations.

In July, 2007 she launched her syndicated radio show “Unveiling the Mask” to a listening audience of 1,000,000. Unveiling the Mask Enterprises has now partnered with Blog Talk Radio and has launched her highly acclaimed show on July 1, 2008.

Cherilyn is Author of, Weekly Wisdom: 52 Ways to Live a More Fulfilled Life. Cherilyn’s commentaries have graced the sites and faculties of McCluer Senior High, Sprint PCS, Sisters in the Spirit, and Divine Eloquence magazine as well as her own bi-monthly free newsletter entitled, “Cherilyn’s Corner!”

You can reach Cherilyn through her web-site:
by email at
by phone at: 323-580-4604


Anonymous said...

I understand serving and I understand free speaking. What I do not understand is how to determine the first time to expect fee for services.

K'Rita Simms

LaShaunda said...

Hi Cherilyn,

Waving at you girl.

Good post.

How does one set up their site if free speaking is all they've done?

Anonymous said...

Is there a basic contract a speaker should have?

What items should be standard?

Due to the high cost of traveling are speakers expected to ask for less?

Marliss Stone
Oakland, CA

Jeanette Hill said...

Thank you for the informative and pragmatic tips for launching a speaking career. The information is applicable even for those who may not want to become public speakers per se but may need to hone their skills to speak publicly because of their books, job or community issue. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

How do you know if you have the right speaking coach or if you need one?

Carolyn Chase
Naples, FL

Shelia E. Lipsey said...

Your post was right on target. I want more people to know that I am a speaker. I have spoken for quite some time, however, I stopped after getting a book deal because I've spend so much time writing.
The information you shared can not only be geared toward speaking, but I find many of your tips can be applied toward my writing career. I am going to take your information to heart. I realize more and more that writing and speaking go hand in hand. But how do I find the time to do both successfully?I also enjoyed your website. I pray that you have more and more success.

Anonymous said...

I feel that some of points you have made can apply to anyone looking to start a business even if that business is as a author.
Good article. Thanks for sharing.

Deanne Williams

Anonymous said...

Hi K'Rita,

Good question, thanks for asking. You are ready to set your fee after you have done the road work, which includes speaking for free at many different venues with many different audiences and genders. Just speaking at your church or family reunions 50 times is not enough.

When you have developed several different speeches and have delivered them to various audiences on many platforms then you are ready to set your fee.

What some beginners do is do one or two speeches and then try to charge a large amount and did not deliver a quality performance that meets the amount they asked for.

Please feel free to connect with me if you still have a question, I will keep watch for additional post.

Thank you,

Anonymous said...

Hello Lashaunda,

So nice to hear from you. When setting up your site you set your site up just as you would any other business that you are promoting.

Your site should include who you are, your logo, a bio, a list of your speech topics or the topics you speak on, but not your price.

You want your website to promote professionalism and when others come to your site and see you they should see no signs of free or beginner. When they contact you that is when the price is offered and negotiated. Your site should be set up in a manner that shows you are the expert and are open for business.

There are many beginners that start out turning down offers that could and usually do lead to paying engagements but because the organization asked if they would volunteer their service...they turn down the gig. You never know who is sitting in the audience and if you bring your A-game they will Bring you back again and pay you what you are asking for.

Waving right back at you,my sista!

Anonymous said...

Hello Marliss,

The contract should correspond to the agreement you have per a particular company, organization, etc.

You do want to make sure that your contract does include the basics such as, but not limited to both parties involved, the agreed upon fee, length of the event and accomadations if any.

No, you shouldn't drop your price due to the traveling expense. The negotiations, can be made to cater both parties needs. If for example the company has a budget then you can work out other arrangements or perks that adjusts to their budget.

Much success,
~ Cherilyn

Anonymous said...

Hello Jeanette,

Thank you for the wonderful comment!

Claudia Tynes said...

Your post is definitely on target. In the beginning, I did a lot of freebies (starting in churches). Initially, I did not set fees, but accepted free will offerings. Later on the offers came where clients were willing to pay honorariums which where all inclusive (ie., travel lodging, meals, etc.).

My own downfall is that I have not really put in the time necessary to generate more speaking opportunities.

Anonymous said...

Hi Carolyn,

Excellent question! My recommendation is that everyone especially starting out, needs a speaking coach/mentor.

The first part of the question asked "how do you know if you have the right speaking coach."

* A good speaking coach will stretch you beyond your confront zone.

* Is not just your cheerleader or fan, (i.e. "yes person")but is able to pinpoint your weak areas and express them to you.

* You should be able to see the growth in yourself, since the time you first began your mentorship with the individual.

Hope this helps, if not send me an email and I'll be more than happy to assist.

Best Wishes,

Anonymous said...


Thank you for the wonderful feedback concerning the post and my website. I appreciate you!

Congratulations, on your book deal! You are absolutely correct writing and speaking are twins!

My philosophy is "every author should be a speaker and every speaker should be an author!" The are inseparable!

I'm not sure what type of genre your work falls under, one suggestion is that you book speeches geared towards the information in your book. At booksignings ask if there will be an open forum as to where you can do a presentation...discussing the situations and circumstances that inspired you to write the book.

Contact book clubs, organizations, etc. that hired you before and tell them on your latest projects or book and how it ties into their company or vision...etc.

Please feel free to contact me for a more detailed suggestion that is catered to your specific genre.


Anonymous said...


Thank you for sharing your feedback. I am so glad you like the article.


Anonymous said...

Hi Claudia,

One suggestion maybe to ask for a referal letter from the places that you have spoken at....normally they have partnerships with other likeminded business that could benefit from your speaking topics.