Saturday, March 21, 2015

The 5 Stages to Becoming a Major League Speaker

Coaching a new client to develop a strategy for launching her new speaking business gave me an opportunity to reflect on how my professional speaking business has developed over the years, and I noticed tremendous similarities to my first career in professional baseball.
Skip Weisman, professional speaker, delivers a keynote address
to over 300 project managers at the May, 2013 PMI-Northern Utah
Professional Development Day

A baseball player that reaches the pinnacle, a career in the Major Leagues, has to endure at least some time in the Minor Leagues. Some endure more time than others, but all but a handful in the entire history of Major League Baseball have spent time in the minor's honing their skills and trying to leverage their opportunities.


It's the same for us as professional speakers.
In baseball there are six levels of minor league development a player must work through before reaching the Majors, for speakers I've identified five levels.

To become a professional speaker, meaning someone is willing to pay you to be on a stage in front of their audience, which can be either company employees or members of a professional industry association, a speaker needs credibility.

To gain credibility most professional speakers must be seen in action. This rule does not apply to some on the speaking circuit who has gained status from their previous profession, such as athletes, politicians or military leaders (this doesn't mean they're great speakers, but it does mean they can command high fees due to their celebrity status).

For us, mere mortals building a professional speaking business we, like the minor league baseball players, hone our craft and build credibility before a being paid.

Here is how you do it:

  1. Professional Speaker Development Level 1: Free Speaking Level 1
    Speak for free to anyone that will have you.
    This can be local civic clubs (Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, etc.) that need speakers on a weekly basis for their meeting programs, library programs, local Chambers of Commerce, SCORE Chapters (Service Core of Retired Executives).
  2. Professional Speaker Development Level 2: Free Speaking Level 2
    Identify an industry that is a good fit for your expertise and signature topics and research the local/regional chapters to speak at their monthly membership meetings.
    Rarely do these chapters have resources to pay a speaker but they will have people involved in the larger state and national affiliated associations they can refer you to for potential paid speaking gigs
  3. Professional Speaker Development Level 3: Fee Speaking Level 1
    The next level would be the regional and state associations of your industry niche where you can usually have, at least, your travel expenses covered to get in front of audiences as conferences as a breakout session seminar speaker, get positive anecdotal feedback and high assessment scores from session attendees that can lead to referrals and requests to return.
  4.  Professional Speaker Development Level 4: Fee Speaking Level 2
    As you build credibility speaking as a breakout session speaker in exchange for travel expenses you can begin to request a speaking fee depending on event budgets. At this time you can also begin to identify opportunities to get on the larger stage for a keynote position or other general session where the entire group of conference attendees.
  5. Professional Speaker Development Level 5: Fee Speaking Level 3
    At this level you are getting referrals and calls from other meeting planners within that niche industry because of your credibility and what you have delivered for other groups. This is where you can begin to command a higher speaking fee.
For more tips on building a professional speaking business and doubling your ability to impact and influence audiences of all sizes and industries, visit There you can sign up for 52 Presentation Power Tips for a full year of weekly tips to help you reach the Major Leagues of professional speaking more quickly.

Skip Weisman is The Leadership & Workplace Communication Expert, and is a member of an elite group of international World Class Speaking Coaches.  

Skip works with the owners of companies with between 6-60 employees to transform workplace communication in 90-days and create a more positive, more productive and even more profitable company. 

Additionally, he coaches and trains business professionals and professional speakers to become a World Class Speaker and presenter that can inspire and motivate any type of audience.  You can learn more about Skip at and .

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