Becoming a professional speaker takes hard work, confidence, and practice.
By Ron Sandison
In April for Autism Acceptance Month, I spoke to 3,500 students and staff. During the past 7 years, I have spoken to over 250,000 people and I have presented everywhere from Israel to Madagascar. I speak at over 70 events a year including 20 plus education conferences. Two questions I am frequently asked: “How can I become a public speaker? And “How can I write and publish a book?”
In October 17, 2018, I published an article in the Art of Autism, Seven Tips To Becoming A Nationally Published Author.
I have learned ten tips to improve public speaking and receive speaking invitations to large audiences. These tips I developed by speaking at hundreds of conferences and events.
1. While speaking use the Hook, Book, Took technique.
You have only 60 seconds to gain the audience’s attention. Hook the audience quickly This causes them to listen to your message. Book — your message needs content. You want your listeners to learn something new from your presentation or to see the topic from a new perspective. Took — the audience can apply the message to their lives and share your information with others.
My message format
1. Hook- Look
2. Book- Content
3. Took- Apply
If your message only has a hook, you have ‘the gift of gab’ like television evangelist who has eloquence but little content. If your presentation is only book, you share great content but have no hook, excitement, your message will be boring like a professor of theology. A message with only took has sound advice but no learned experience like a new counselor who just graduated with her degree. When you’ve master the hook, book, took, you’re a great communicator with authority.
2. Always be at least 30 minutes earlier for an event.
This gives you time to relax and check your PowerPoints and address any electronic issues. During this time you should talk to the people attending the event and learn their interests and apply the information you gleamed to your introduction. I was speaking at Rotary Club and learned that the members were avid golfers so in my introduction I mentioned I am on the Ernie Els’ advisory board.
3. Be mindful of your body movement and its impact on the audience’s ability to maintain attention.
When presenting limit your side to side movement. I took a practice preaching class and after my sermon the professor exclaimed, “You made me seasick with all your side to side movement.” Maintain eye contact with the people in your audience and smile when you begin your message. This enables your audience to connect with you and sets the tone for your message.
4. The more you speak publicly the better you become as a communicator.
Every city has a Lion’s Club and Rotary Club. These are great places to develop your speaking skills. Contact local clubs and offer to speak for free at their meetings and events. An extra bonus is Lions and Rotary Clubs have great food and give you a free meal. Last month, I spoke at a Lions Club and for lunch had Mediterranean vegetables with lamb.
5. Keep a file of your speaking engagements and have a speaking calendar.
Create an organized list of each speaking engagement. This helps you keep track of your events. This list reminds you of each place you have spoken, the date, and the message you presented. You never want to speak the same message to the same audience twice or you will lose their interest, a speaking file prevents this from happening. You should check your speaking calendar regularly so you don’t forget an event.
The format for my speaking events:
Date & Time of Event:
For each speaking engagement I print out the information and bring it with me to the event. In the notes section, I record the message I spoke and the date. The next time I speak at the place I add the new message and date to the list. I record in the notes any information that can be helpful to me. For example the pastor has a son with autism and I write the son’s name in the notes. My lists makes it easier for me to contact the place in the future for new speaking events because I have all the information. When I re-contact a church or college about speaking, I share in the email or phone conversation, I have a great new message on…
6. Well-designed PowerPoints enhance your message and provides visual support for the audience.
Using PowerPoints causes you to be less dependent on your manuscript and more confident with delivering your message. By creating a PowerPoint you become familiar with the content and remember your points. PowerPoints prevent me from going down a rabbit trail and keep me on track with time and content. PowerPoints enables the audience to focus on listening rather than taking notes.
7. Promote your social media and website at your speaking engagements.
At the conclusion of my presentations, I share, “If you enjoyed my message please like my Facebook Fan page and checkout my website Spectrum Inclusion for valuable information on autism.” The final side for my PowerPoints is my social media and contact information. I share pictures of my speaking engagements on Facebook and LinkedIn and ask my social media followers to request I come to their church or company to speak.
8. Create speaking opportunities and don’t be discouraged by rejections.
When I begin public speaking in 2015, for every 100 emails or phone calls I received 3 speaking events. I did not give up but kept making cold calls and sending emails. I currently have a speaking list of 200 plus churches, colleges, schools, and autism center. Each year I contact the places where I have spoken and make new speaking events. Hard work has caused my speaking calendar to remain full.
9. After a speaking event, google places near where you spoke and email them requesting to do a speaking engagement.
When I drive to a speaking event, I write down every church, school, college, and autism center near the location. Then I contact those places by email or phone and state, “I just spoke at…” and “I would love to come and speak to your group on autism.” Google can provide a list of churches, schools, and autism centers near the location you spoke.
10. Treat yourself to a good meal as reward for speaking.
The Bible says, “The laborer is worthy of his reward” (1 Tim. 5:18). And so is a speaker. After speaking at Butzel Family Recreation Center in Detroit, I treated myself to seafood gumbo at Louisiana Creole Gumbo and after presenting in Ann Arbor, I rewarded my family with lunch at Pizza House. Eating motivates you to search for new speaking events. When I speak out of state, I reward myself by purchasing a new baseball cap from that city.
Becoming a professional speaker takes hard work, confidence, and practice. I have received more rejections to my speaking request emails then acceptances. One speaking event from an email can lead to me speaking to a few thousand people. When I email churches and schools, I reflect on the quote, “The only difference between a successful person and a failure is a successful person rises one more time then they fall or with speaking request sends out one more email.” These ten tips will empower you to be an effective communicator.
Checkout the video of me speaking on autism to 1,600 people at Connection Church in Canton, MI
Ron Sandison works full time in the medical field and is a professor of theology at Destiny School of Ministry. He is an advisory board member of Autism Society Faith Initiative of Autism Society of America. Sandison has a Master of Divinity from Oral Roberts University and is the author of A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom, published by Charisma House and Thought, Choice, Action. Ron has memorized over 10,000 Scriptures including 22 complete books of the New Testament and over 5,000 quotes. Ron’s third book Views from the Spectrum was released in May 2021.
Ron frequently guest speaks at colleges, conferences, autism centers, and churches. Ron and his wife, Kristen, reside in Rochester Hills, MI, with a baby daughter, Makayla Marie born on March 20, 2016.
You can contact Ron at his website www.spectruminclusion.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org