Professional public speakers work continually to hone their presentation skills and build their brand. As in any other field, receiving informed critique and feedback is one of the best ways for motivational speakers to improve their presentation skills. Public speakers of all experience levels benefit from membership and participation in a handful of speaking organizations. These organizations provide members with support, workshopping opportunities, and the chance to practice their presentations in front of an audience of their peers. Organizations for speakers of all skill and experience levels hold regular meetings across the United States.
Toastmasters International is perhaps the most well-known public speaking organization in the world. TI boasts nearly 300,000 members in 116 countries around the globe. Their meetings, which occur at least monthly in every chapter, are not led by a teacher or trainer. Instead, members make presentations and evaluate one another on their speaking skills. Members are often asked to give short impromptu speeches. Exercises like this prepare speakers to field questions from audiences and potential clients. TI is a respected speaking organization and can provide great networking opportunities. TI does not base memberships on prior speaking qualification. Rather, TI is open to anyone who wishes to improve their public speaking skills and is willing to spend the time and effort to do so. It is an ideal organization for individuals new to public speaking. TI is also an excellent organization for business and community leaders who do not wish to speak professionally but must speak in the capacity of their jobs.
Speakers who are interested in joining the Toastmasters should search for meetings in their area. Membership in TI requires monthly dues, but clubs allow prospective members to visit for free. If you decide you would like to become a member, you will fill out an application and pay new member dues. Shortly after you have completed this process, you will receive a communication skills workbook that all TI members use to improve their public speaking. You will be able to participate actively in meetings. TI members also have the opportunity to take on roles and duties in their clubs that allow them to further hone their leadership and presentation skills. TI clubs from different regions and districts may host retreats and get-togethers as well.
The Rotary Club is widely known as a philanthropic organization which brings together business people and community leaders. Members of the Club, known as Rotarians, usually hold weekly meetings. The meetings are social events and also provide a time to plan and implement the Club's service goals. The Rotary Club also helps members hone their public speaking skills. Rotarians enjoy representing their Club in their communities and so practice short speeches to explain their goals, projects, and service ethic. Generally, a Rotary Club meeting features a speech by a member. The speeches often relate to events and issues in the community, service the member has performed in the community or abroad, or business issues. Rotarians engage in open dialogue after speeches, which helps speakers further hone their audience relation skills. Rotary Clubs are also a great place to network.
Rotary International also sponsors public speaking contests for high school students. Some Clubs may have small speaking contests for their own members and the members of nearby Clubs. The annual contests for high school students focus on fostering a new generation of public speakers. Rotarians listen to students' speeches, provide feedback and public speaking advice, and sponsor students as they continue to district and state competitions. An important component of the yearly speech contest is the theme. The themes are usually open to interpretation and allow speakers to be creative and engaging. Learning how to critique a speech is one of the best ways for public speakers to improve their own skills. By watching others, you learn what makes a standout speech.
Unlike Toastmasters International and the Rotary Club, The National Speakers Association is exclusively for individuals who make a fee for speaking publicly or individuals who aspire to speak publicly as a profession. In addition to offering support and advice to public speakers, the NSA also offers entrepreneurial coaching. Learning how to effectively manage the business side of a speaking career is very important. The Academy for Professional Speaking is a special NSA program which helps speakers with serious skill make the leap to speaking for pay. The Academy combines distance learning with face-to-face classes over the course of a year. Every Academy culminates in a one-day institute that also serves as the opening for the NSA's yearly conference.
Joining the NSA has many benefits—the NSA website hosts a directory of professional speakers and provides truly awesome networking opportunities. Members also have a private website and receive monthly text and audio magazines that focus on public speaking skills. In addition, there are chapters across the United States that hold special events and mini-conventions for members. All NSA members are invited to the annual NSA conference, where they will be able to listen to great speakers, spend time in career oriented workshops, and network with other speakers. Membership in NSA is also a way to communicate to potential clients that you are a professional speaker who has been vetted by one of the largest professional organizations in the United States.
In order to qualify for membership in the NSA, speakers must be able to prove that they have given a set number of speeches in exchange for monetary compensation. After qualification, members can take advantage of the many benefits of belonging to the NSA. Keep in mind that participating in the Academy for Professional Speaking does not require qualification, but does require an enrollment fee and monthly dues. The NSA also offers students in colleges and universities a student membership program. Student members receive many of the benefits of full NSA members and also have wonderful networking and learning opportunities.
Also known as the American Speakers Bureau, this organization is similar to the NSA in that it offers benefits and services for tested professional speakers. The AMSB maintains an extensive listing of motivational speakers and their areas of specialty. Many of the speakers they represent are celebrities with strong backgrounds in public speaking. They provide consultation services to clients seeking speakers, meaning that they match professional speakers with a variety of paid speaking opportunities. In order to become listed with the AMSB, you will have to send in an extensive application that includes a sample of your speech program, references, professional live recordings of your speeches, and other pertinent information. Though becoming listed as an AMSB speaker can be time consuming, it is certainly worthwhile in terms of engagement opportunities.
Aspiring public speakers who are not yet qualified to join the AMSB may benefit from their Career Institute. The Career Institute offers speakers training in presentation and branding. An advanced seminar in entrepreneurship and professional public speaking is offered to students who have successfully completed the Career Institute or who have some paid speaking experience but are struggling to launch a career in public speaking. In these seminars, speakers learn how to brand and market themselves. They learn how to identify and pitch their presentations to clients. Public speaking is a niche profession, so training and advice from successful professionals in the field is truly an asset for the amateur speaker.
Both experienced public speakers and those who are just beginning to hone their skills benefit from joining speaking organizations. These organizations help all speakers improve their presentations and gain the business acumen and confidence to succeed in the world of public speaking. These groups also help speakers understand what they need to do in order to gain an audience. No matter what your speaking level, practicing your presentations will always help you improve and can help you identify new topics and areas of interest you may be able to speak about.
Once a speaker has learned how to give an interesting and compelling speech, they will be able to attract a steady audience. Attracting and maintaining an audience can be difficult for the public speaker on the move. A lead capture tool, like the well-reviewed and successful presentnow.me, allows speakers to provide their audience with a code they enter on the presentnow.me website. After entering the code, the audience member is able to view information about the speaker, including how they can be contacted and if they have any upcoming speaking engagements planned.
A combination of preparation and good business tools are necessary for every public speaker who hopes to turn their passion for speaking into a profitable career. Working with peers to improve your speaking skills will help you impact your audience and pique their interest. Working with tools that help your audience find you after your presentation will enhance your reputation as a speaker and will help you stay busy with speaking engagements. Great public speakers know how to combine passion, preparation, and business skill into a successful, fulfilling career.