How to start a career in public speaking by Sabirul Islam

By Guest Contributor Sabirul Islam

Author Sabirul Islam explains how to turn your passion for public speaking into a profession.


We all have great stories within us as we have explored multiple ups and downs in life, learnt many lessons, each telling a story. These stories are assets that if packaged correctly can be used as inspiration, motivation or even a form of a life lesson for others. 

A career in public speaking is often not thought about as the ‘dream career.’ I’ve have yet to hear anyone say, ‘when I grow up I want to become a professional public speaker.’ Yet, it is one of the most rewarding career experiences out there, from telling your story, sharing your message and being able to engage a global audience along the way whilst getting paid to share your message. It’s a career pathway that allows you to leave a mark, and on special occasions can change someone’s life. 



What are the basic fundamental steps you have to take? I’d like to break this down into five simple steps: 

  • The Subject: What do you want to be a specialist in? What do you want to be known as? 
  • Your Audience: Who are you looking to serve? Who are your clients? 
  • Your Signature Speech: What message or life experience tells as a story to inspire and educate your audience 
  • Be in the Limelight: Are you regularly keeping yourself in the limelight of your target audience and potential clients?  
  • Referrals: Are you growing your audience and client list with referrals from events you’ve already spoken at before 



Ask yourself what knowledge or information you hold at this present time that can be packaged as a message, ready for a 20 minute or 45-minute speech on stage? Public speaking can be notoriously difficult, so it requires you being confident enough in the message aim you to deliver in order to convey your message effectively with your target audience.  

The first step is knowing what you want to be a specialist in, your area of expertise. This becomes a part of you, the brand message whenever you begin promoting yourself. For example, do you speak about climate change? Are you an advocate for greener energy, zero carbon emissions? There are many topics that could relate to a specific subject. Find your niche and focus your message around your area of speciality. 



It is vitally important to know who you are looking to serve. You can be passionate about a specific subject, but to begin a career as a professionally paid public speaker, you need to be aware of who will actually pay for your services. A great example is working with the youth market. Your message might be to inspire the youth about career prospects. But will a student be your paying client? No! Those who pay, might be the schools, universities, youth organisations and charities who work with the youth. They are more likely to be your paying clients, as you both serve the same market. So always, think of your clients in two folds. The audience you aim to serve, and those who would be willing to pay. 



You realise from the first two steps, that these are work that is done behind the scenes, off stage and off camera. Starting a career in public speaking requires planning, and a focused strategy to ensure your career is sustainable, just like any other business.  

The fun part begins when you start exploring the content for your speech. What could a signature speech look like for you? Is your aim to inspire your audience or to educate them? Or perhaps a mix of both? 

A signature speech is one that stamps your core beliefs, message and the things you are an advocate for. It’s important to brainstorm everything you know and position your story with at least three key takeaways that are easy for the audience to understand and relate too. Your signature speech should take the audience on a journey. A simple way to do this is by storyboarding. Have a beginning and an end, with three key takeaways with each take away linking with a personal story that adds weight to your message. 



A speaking career is all about keeping yourself in the limelight. When you developed your signature speech, don’t be afraid to do a few freebie gigs to get your name out there. Have it filmed so that you can create a showreel and get your personal brand message, the thing you are an advocate for in front of organisations and the people who constantly engage with your target audience. It’s important to not just deliver a speech, but to engage and interact with others who serve your market too. When you broaden your network, people hear about you, they understand the value of your message and most importantly who you are and what you do.  

The mistake many speakers often make is after an event or two, is to just sit and wait for their next speaking gig. If you’re lucky you’ll get an invitation. However, your outreach strategy is important. So, don’t be afraid to make a few calls, drop a few emails to introduce yourself and to establish a professional relationship with an individual or an organisation who you aim to convert into a paid client down the line. 



The professional speaking industry thrives of referrals. If you have spoken at a few freebie events, get the event organiser to refer you to at least three people who could benefit from your message. The more you are referred, the more credible you become.  

Once again, it’s not something you wait for, in most cases you’ll have to ask. Always ensure you remain in contact with those who refer you. They did so because you added value to them and their audience. So, keep the relationship positive. 

These are the five simple and most fundamental steps you have to take to ensure you can start a career in public speaking. But of course, with every business, it involves having a well thought out plan, a working strategy, a sales cycles, and of course being clear on your message through the marketing you do. I dive deep in what I call ‘The Seven Step Speaker Strategy’ as part of pillar four in my latest book: Build Your Confidence on Stage: Transform Your Aspiration for Public Speaking into a lifestyle profession.

Just remember, if you have a story or message you think is worth sharing on stage, there is always an audience who will probably be willing to pay to listen to what you have to say. 


SABIRUL ISLAM is world-renowned motivational speaker, author, facilitator and coach. Sabirul has inspired millions of people in 31 countries across the globe. He also developed the business board game, ‘Teen-Trepreneur, educating youth on financial literacy in developing nations. He is British-Bangladeshi and resides in the UK. 



Suggested Reading

Every aspiring speaker has one task, to master their communication and performance on stage. Through 14 years of experience and application, Sabirul Islam has crafted the brand Build Your Confidence on Stage – a fourstep process providing you with the tools and techniques to improve your passion and make money while doing so.  

In his brand, the four pillars of public speaking aim to instil aspiring speakers with the performance mindset; learning to control your content, your message and the manner of presentation which you require. The four pillars are: The Speakers Psychology; The Principles of Public Speaking; The Performance Masterclass; and The Profession of a public speaker. These pillars will demonstrate how to overcome fear and anxiety, break general norms and stereotypes, analyse the pre, during and post-performance techniques and master the discipline and its practise. Everything you need to become an expert in your field and make impact. 

More information