June 8, 2017

Professional Speakers Are Masters of Discipline and Preparation

BY Caitlin Delohery IN Professional Speaking 0 Comment

speaker discipline and preparation

If you’ve ever seen the TV sitcom Bewitched, you learned that a simple twitch of your nose could bring an instant, magical result to any situation.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could approach your work in the same way?

But building a successful speaking business requires more than a twitch of the nose, a click of the heels, or the wave of a magic wand.

speaker discipline and preparation

What does it take? Sticking to a system, knowing your audience well, and always seeking to improve.

As part of our interview series, we learned how professional speakers build successful businesses that are in it for the long haul. Here are three of their strategies.

They stick to a system

There’s no way around it: to start, build, and grow your professional speaking business, you need discipline. It’s not a magic wand that makes your business run smoothly: it’s your daily habits, systems, and processes.

Clinical psychologist Sherrie Campbell says to prioritize your daily tasks so you tackle your biggest stressors in the morning. “Your mind is often your greatest enemy when it comes to following through — it will try and talk you into laziness and doing things later,” says Campbell.

Take it from Michael Hoffman, who spends the first half of every day doing sales activities. “I develop five relationship-building pieces in the morning, such as email notes, video notes, etc.,” he says. He sends those pieces out to his advocate list — people who would recommend him in a heartbeat. In the last half of his day, he works on social media to amplify his message.

Tip: Determine daily tasks that help you grow your business and schedule them in. Use a project management tool like Trello or Asana to stay on top of daily activities — or, if you want something that helps you to grow your sales, manage clients, and manage prospects, too, use a CRM.

They know their audience

Whether it’s their first speech for a client or your fifth, the best professional speakers spend a tremendous amount of time researching a client’s company and culture. They use all this info to make their time on the stage as relevant to their audiences as possible.

Marjorie Lee North, a lecturer at the Harvard Extension School, says knowing your audience helps you to create a speech that resonates with them. “This will help you determine your choice of words, level of information, organization pattern, and motivational statement,” she says.

And that’s exactly what Hoffman does. He’s been invited back by 92% of his clients over 22 years. Getting the gig over and over again is all about studying your audience, he says.

“I listen for the words they use: what they call themselves, what they say when they complain about their jobs, and how they talk about their clients,” he notes. “Then, I will pepper these words into my presentation. I want them to think I work in their field.”

Tip: Jezra Kaye, a public speaking coach, says that to know your audience is to love your audience. Her advice? Hop on the phone with at least three attendees to learn more about their business and the challenges they face. With this approach, she says, “your ideas will be more on point for their needs and you’ll approach them with more warmth and openness.” Shapeshift through research — not magic — to speak to them like a trusted friend!  

They practice, practice, practice (and practice some more)

The best professional speakers don’t entertain their audiences by casting a magic spell. They continuously practice to perfect their speech and use what they know about their audience to captivate them every time.

That’s exactly what Mary Kelly does. “Every single time I have a speech, I rehearse the night before — even ones I’ve done 1,000 times in the past.” Preparation and practice have helped her the most in creating a successful career, she says.

But don’t practice in your head. Instead, stand up, work the room, and speak like you would on stage. Bill Rosenthal, CEO of Communispond, a provider of communications training, says to practice out loud in a place similar to where the real speech will take place (or go there if you can).

Practicing also uncovers areas of your speech that can be slimmed down, he adds, and that extra time can be used for Q & A — something audiences love.

Tip: Practice at least once the night before your speech in front of a trusted audience. And if you can, set up on the actual stage to get to know the space.


The only magic involved in building your professional speaking business is the amount of heart and energy you put into it. Want more on professional speaker tips? Check out our article 7 Habits of Highly Effective Professional Speakers.

Caitlin got her roots in inbound marketing before it got its name. As a teenager in the 90s, she promoted her independently published magazines by writing about the importance of indie publishing all over AOL. Now, Caitlin is passionate about moving people and society forward. She follows thought leaders in the National Speakers Association, the staffing industry, and all human rights movements. She loves learning and helping people learn.

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