A friend of mine wants to be a professional speaker. I have never seen him present, so I cannot vouch for his skill level, but he is very passionate about inspiring others. I do not think his desire is "ego based", but instead I think he has been touched by others who present, and wants to be one of those who makes a difference.
His interest in the speaking industry is real, but he has not taken much action. He has questions, and excuses, around what it takes to be in the business. Study, inquiry and skepticism all have their place, but they can only take you so far. As we talked, I remembered being in the same position. I reviewed the business of speaking for a long time, but I was not committed. I assumed I knew what it was to be a speaker, because I had observed those who speak, yet the reality was I had no clue.
What we see from the outside is mainly the celebrities who speak, or local business professionals who talk at Rotary Clubs, business showcases, etc... But that middle ground, the working professional speakers, is harder to observe, and thus the day-to-day of being a speaker is often misunderstood.
It was only when I joined the National Speakers Association that I fully grasped what it meant to be a speaker (since I am not a celebrity). The organization has allowed me to associate with others in the profession who are devoted to serving their audiences in a variety of manners. The biggest lesson is that no two speakers have businesses that are exactly the same. There is not magic formula that once can follow to ensure success.
The next step was to understand the greater concept of the "Meetings Industry" and how I fit into that as a speaker. My association with MPI, PCMA, ASAE and other groups helped me realize that speakers are actually "Event Professionals", as great speakers have a material impact on the success of a meeting. I had to gain both knowledge and respect for the business of meetings before I was able to find my own success.
I asked my friend if he was interested in attending the National Speakers Association Convention this summer? (July 27-30 in Philadelphia). He was unsure. The cost of attending made him question the value (and he was unsure if he was ready to invest). I know from experience that if he participated in the event, and looked for others who are newer to the business, he will make connections that can help him learn and grow. It is not about stalking the celebrity speakers (as while they are nice, most wont really be able to assist), but instead finding people who one can "grow up" with in the business.
Is he in or not? I am not sure. I do know that if he attends he cannot hang out the whole time with me and my friends, as he will need to create his own social circle (as tagging along never allows one to find success at a conference). But with over 1000 speakers in attendance, everyone should be able to find people with whom they can establish real and lasting friendships. Had I not joined NSA 5 years ago I am not sure that I would have succeeded. Not because of the organization, but because of the people who have helped me along each step of this journey.
Have A Great Day