The Path to Becoming a Professional Speaker

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Many people dream of becoming professional speakers, but only a few take the necessary steps to make it a reality. Toastmasters International, a renowned organization known for honing public speaking skills, provides a platform for individuals to develop their speaking abilities. However, many Toastmasters members hesitate to venture beyond the confines of their meetings and explore speaking opportunities outside the organization. In this article, we will discuss the journey of professional speakers, the value they bring, and the importance of seizing speaking opportunities.

Discovering the First Step

Often, individuals with a dream of becoming a professional speaker remain inactive, uncertain of how to start. They lack knowledge about the initial steps and assume that the path is out of reach. However, the truth is that successful speakers were once in the same position. The key is to take action and pursue opportunities to refine one’s skills and gain experience.

Recognizing Your Value

Toastmasters members possess a unique advantage as speakers. Their experiences within the organization equip them with valuable insights and stories that can captivate audiences. Many aspiring speakers fail to recognize the significance of their perspectives and the impact they can have on others. It is crucial to understand that every Toastmaster has a valuable contribution to make and a compelling message to share.

Learning from Success Stories

Bill Cosby, one of the world’s most renowned keynote speakers, serves as an inspiration for aspiring professionals. However, it is important to understand that Cosby’s success is not solely derived from a single speaking engagement. Rather, his achievements are a culmination of his stage presence, writing skills, and years of experience. This example highlights the fact that success in the speaking industry is not instantaneous but requires consistent effort and growth.

Unveiling the Beginnings of Great Speakers

To truly comprehend how successful speakers get started, we can examine the stories of notable figures like Bill Cosby and Tony Robbins. Cosby initially sold cassette tapes while speaking for free at colleges, gradually building his reputation and demand as a speaker. Similarly, Robbins began by selling tickets to Jim Rohn’s events, leveraging the opportunity to refine his speaking skills. These anecdotes demonstrate that even renowned speakers had humble beginnings and took strategic steps to advance their careers.

A Personal Turning Point

In 1994, a pivotal moment occurred for a comedian named Darren during a Toastmasters meeting. Initially driven by self-interest, Darren’s perspective changed when his club president approached him. Recognizing Darren’s potential, the president encouraged him to consider the value he could offer others as a comedian studying comedy techniques. This interaction sparked Darren’s realization that he possessed knowledge and resources that could benefit others.

Embracing Opportunities

Darren’s first speech at Toastmasters, which focused on learning to be funnier, opened his eyes to the impact he could have on an audience. Witnessing individuals taking notes and expressing interest in his insights, he realized the power of sharing his experiences. Encouraged by his club president and district governor, Darren then seized the opportunity to present at a breakout session within Toastmasters District 31.

The Breakthrough

During the breakout session, Darren faced an unexpected challenge when his co-presenter froze on stage. However, he rose to the occasion and successfully completed the session. Following the presentation, a representative from the New England Recruiters Association approached Darren, impressed by his speaking abilities. She extended an invitation for him to speak at their conference and keynote the event.

Understanding Your Worth

When asked about his speaking fee, Darren, still relatively new to the corporate speaking world, hesitated. Coming from the comedy circuit where he earned $50 per set on a good night, he was unaware of the potential earnings in the corporate realm. Tentatively, he quoted $75, unaware that speakers in similar positions were receiving significantly higher compensation. Nevertheless, Darren was content with the opportunity and saw it as a stepping stone towards his goals.

The Path to Success

Becoming a professional speaker often involves starting small and gradually working towards larger opportunities. Embracing speaking engagements, even if they are unpaid or offer minimal compensation, allows individuals to gain experience, refine their skills, and build their reputation. It is essential to recognize that speaking more frequently aligns with the aspirations of those aiming for a career in professional speaking.


Dreaming of becoming a professional speaker is not enough; action is required to turn that dream into reality. Toastmasters International offers a supportive environment for individuals to develop their speaking abilities. By acknowledging the value of their experiences, learning from successful speakers’ journeys, and embracing opportunities, Toastmasters members can pave their own path to success in the speaking industry. So, if you aspire to be a professional speaker, remember to step outside the Toastmasters meeting room and share your stories and expertise with the world.

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