Improve your bottom line by using your skill set—and your passion—for speaking in front of crowds.
Working as a group instructor or personal trainer, you speak to and teach people every day. Becoming a presenter for events is a natural extension of what you already do. And you don’t have to go far to find opportunities for speaking engagements. Hotels and resorts in your area, gyms, health food stores and co-ops, local businesses and specialty groups, schools and colleges, conferences, wellness fairs and expos, hospitals and other non-profit companies: All are potential sources of extra income for you.
What to Expect
I’ve been speaking to groups since I began my fitness career 25 years ago. I originally did it to gain experience and get my name out there as a fitness expert in our community. I also did it for free.
While you can’t count on the big bucks at first, says Jill Miller—co-founder of Tune Up Fitness Worldwide and creator of Yoga Tune Up®, Coregeous®, Quickfix Rx series and Tune Up Therapy Ball Program™—the money will come over time.
“Don’t be above volunteering or working for a little less than what you feel your rate should be as you’re getting started,” she says. “You’ll naturally want to continue to increase your rate as you become more established, but that will happen organically as you develop professionally and start to attract larger events/groups.”
For example, many larger conferences have their own set of requirements, and they expect you to prove yourself as a speaker before they’ll pay you for your services. “Many conferences and events scale their pay, meaning that your first time [you may present] for free. The next time they give you a slight raise and/or cover expenses, and each year you return is a larger paycheck,” Miller explains.
One perk of speaking at conferences, even without pay, is that they often allow you to attend the other sessions and workshops while you’re not speaking. This can be a great way to gain more knowledge about the latest trends in our industry and observe how other, more experienced presenters strut their stuff.
“Study master presenters and how they present,” recommends Miller. “Go to the major conferences and take notes, not on the content of the sessions, but how the presenters introduce themselves to the crowd, the phrases they use to connect one part of the session to another and the way they close their session.”
David Newman, marketing expert and author of Do It! Marketing: 77 Instant-Action Ideas to Boost Sales, Maximize Profits and Crush Your Competition (AMACOM 2013), suggests joining your local chapter of Toastmasters International®. “This is the best training available for beginning public speakers.”
How to Get Started
If you’re serious about adding presenting to your repertoire of services, you need to take the time to do it right.
“First, create a series of workshops that you could present,” says Amanda Vogel, MA, owner of Active Voice and a fitness writer, instructor, presenter and consultant in Vancouver, British Columbia. “For each session, write a title, a description and perhaps three or more learning objectives—take-home information or skills that participants can expect to get out of the presentation.”
Once you have your workshops laid out, a good website is imperative as a way to market yourself. “Build a website that establishes your brand, who you are, what you’re about and what your special niche is in the fitness industry,” says Miller.
Good-quality photos and, of course, your workshop descriptions should be included on your site. “And write an astonishing biography that inspires you to want to study with you!” exclaims Miller.
To learn more about building a website, read “The Anatomy of a Successful Website.”
The next step is to seek out your audiences. Vogel suggests beginning where you’re most comfortable and you have the most connections.
“For example, see if you can offer short lunchtime seminars or workshops for members at the club where you train,” she explains. “Or if you’re a self-employed personal trainer, set up your own talks for your own clients. This helps you practice your public speaking as you become familiar with how to organize an educational presentation and you experiment with what topics resonate most with your target market.”
Miller suggests offering to teach workshops to the employees and members of local companies, gyms and senior centers. “It’s a very competitive space in the fitness industry, and it’s important to find ways to get in front of groups of people so they can experience your work,” she explains. “Word spreads fast, and this type of networking leads to more business.”
“Contact the coordinators or managers at local fitness centers to see if they ever run events or would be interested in a guest lecture for members or staff,” recommends Vogel. “It’s also beneficial to create networking relationships with local companies whose customer base is similar to yours. For example, perhaps clients of a dietitian or customers at an exercise apparel store would be interested in a fitness seminar.”
In addition, Vogel suggests checking out existing clinics and courses in your community to see if your expertise could enhance their offerings. “One example would be to offer your services as a guest lecturer at a running clinic,” she says. “Another example is to find fitness courses running at a local college and inquire about possible guest lecturing opportunities. For example, if you have a strong expertise and specialization in training older adults, kids or elite athletes, you might be able to offer a 30-minute talk to students in a personal training course about working with this type of client base.”
Vogel, who primarily presents to fellow fitness professionals, reminds us that your target audience doesn’t necessarily have to be the general public. If you’re a fitness veteran, chances are good that you have knowledge to pass on to the newcomers in our field.
Finding Your Groove
Ideally, you’ll want to present on a variety of topics. But it’s also important to narrow your focus so that your topics are not too broad in nature.
“Offering more than one type of workshop might increase your chances of success, because it allows for more choices and the option to hire you for more than one session,” says Vogel. “That being said, it helps to specialize in a few topics you feel most passionate and knowledgeable about. A specialty can help you create a niche as the go-to person for that topic.”
It’s also important that you practice and rehearse your presentations, figure out what you’re comfortable with and find your personal presenting style. For instance, I hate using Microsoft® PowerPoint, something that many presenters use. I find it boring, and I prefer to get into the audience and get them involved. I was relieved to discover that this is okay.
“PowerPoint is definitely not required,” assures Newman. “In fact, for most beginning speakers, it's a distraction and a crutch. The only three things you need in order to deliver a successful client-magnet speech are authenticity, expertise and enthusiasm.”
Just as you have your clients set goals, it’s important to know what you are trying to accomplish by becoming a presenter, says Vogel. “There’s often a lot of prep time involved in putting together a presentation or guest lecture, so know your goals for pursuing this career avenue,” she counsels. “Is it to make money, to sell products or to gain leads and new clients? The more clear you are on your goals, the more focused you’ll be in selecting your workshop topics and pursuing the right audiences.”