Be a Motivational Speaker at Schools: Career Guide

Research the requirements to become a motivational speaker. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in motivational speaking.

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Do I Want to Be a Seminar Speaker?

Seminar speakers are presumed experts in their career fields. They make motivational and training presentations to organizations, including educational institutions and private agencies. These professionals frequently travel to their various speaking engagements, allowing them to see many parts of the country. These speakers also are often self-employed, which means they get to choose which engagements to accept and which to turn down; however, this can result in an irregular schedule that might include nights and weekends.

Job Requirements

While there are no specific education requirements, relevant experience and excellent communication skills are critical for an aspiring seminar speaker. The following table contains the core requirements for becoming a seminar speaker according to the National Speakers Association (NSA) as of 2011:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Depends on topic and venue
Degree Field(s) Varies
Licensure and/or Certification Top ten percent of speakers are certified
Experience Although there is no set requirement many are entrepreneurs or small business owners
Key Skills Public speaking, as well as the ability to stay ahead of industry trends and find new ways to market products and services

Step 1: Determine Your Area of Expertise

Seminar speakers are considered to have specialized knowledge in a particular subject area. Individuals interested in pursuing a career as a seminar speaker can attend professional industry-specific workshops and conferences to assist them in defining their strengths and concentration options.

Success Tips:

  • Gain experience in a specific field. Seminar speakers often start as professionals in a particular field and evolve into speaking on the topic. Work experience can provide insight and experience that can be used in the speaking engagements.
  • Write a book. It is common for seminar speakers to be authors. Frequently they are invited to speak about their book, as well as share information or anecdotes.
  • Get an advanced degree in your field of interest. Having an advanced degree in a particular field may lead to speaking engagements at colleges or universities. Some academic departments may offer a speaker's series and engage speakers from outside the university for these events.

Step 2: Take Communication Courses

While a degree in communications is not required for a seminar speaker, public speaking skills are needed. Many colleges and universities offer public speaking courses in their communications programs. These programs may include other relevant courses, such as mass media, journalism, and non-verbal communications. Some schools may offer these courses and programs online.

Step 3: Gain Speaking Experience

Most organizations that assist speakers in booking engagements require a demo tape. Aspiring seminar speakers can build confidence and improve their speaking skills by participating in professional organizations, which can offer networking opportunities, seminars and workshops.

Success Tip:

  • Join Toastmasters International. Toastmasters International is an organization where an aspiring speaker can gain experience speaking to a group and also receive feedback on their presentation from other participants to improve their techniques.

Step 4: Join a Professional Speakers Organization

Seminar speakers can further advance their careers by becoming members of professional organizations, such as the NSA, which offers membership benefits that include professional training and networking opportunities. Additionally, there are many organizations that promote speakers. These organizations generally require a fee to join, as well as a fee when speakers are booked for an event. Submission of a demo DVD may also be required to join.

Step 5: Become Certified

Certification as a professional speaker is voluntary and may enhance the credibility and employment opportunities of an aspiring seminar speaker. The NSA sponsors a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) credential for qualified NSA members. Membership in the organization for a minimum of three years is required before applying for certification.

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