I am always working to share the message that "Speaking" is a profession. I have spent over 10+ years observing professional speakers and learning as much as I could about the industry. I have been full-time in the business for two years. While some roll their eyes at speaking as a career, I have discovered that it is honorable and challenging profession that has allowed me to expand my understanding of business and entrepreneurship.
While no special degree is required (think Lawyer or Doctor) to "wow" an audience, you do need a deep commitment to making an impact on the people you address. It also takes experience. There are many who dabble with speaking as a sideline or a hobby (usually to promote their main business), but there can be a noticeable difference between a professional speaker and someone who speaks once in a blue moon.
Many meeting planners have told me that some "free speakers" are good enough when they need to save money, but admit a preference for experienced professionals. The economic conditions of the last few years has caused many companies and professional organizations to utilize free industry speakers, but they are again looking to hire professionals, as they saw the difference in the attendee surveys.
The October 2010 edition of "Speaker Magazine" has a profile of professional speaker Roxanne Emmerich. Although I do not know Ms Emmerich, I could tell by the article that she is a true professional. She is deeply dedicated to creating real change, and works to fully understand the unique aspects of the client and their meeting. She shared that speakers cannot imitate other speaker's styles if they really want to energize an audience. It is about developing your own pizazz on stage.
She spoke about experience, saying; "it takes about 300 programs until speakers have a sense of what really works". This is often lost on wanna-be speakers and those who hire them.... there is no substitute for doing it!
I always say: "Speakers Speak!"
While 300 presentations is a big number,.... I agree (convenient, since my own experience is now about 300 presentations over the decade. More that 150 in the past three!).
Even someone who is a good talker cannot understand the nuances of their own delivery without the practice. This is similar to Malcolm Gladwell's "10,000 Hour Theory" from his best-selling book "Outliers". Nobody, regardless of natural talent, can fake this high level of experience and practice.
I am honored to be a "Professional Speaker".
Have A Great Day.