Having acknowledged both those facts, where is that invisible, movable
line that we cross?
Many of my friends and colleagues in the professional speaking
business are sadly alone in their life. It’s one of those
unacknowledged blemishes that tarnish the profession.
Professional speaking is the toughest and loneliness business I know
of. First, you have to be good at plying your trade. Developing
yourself as a professional speaker takes thousands of hours of
practice and many years of experience.
You could easily be the greatest speaker in the world and also the
best kept secret in the world. Just because you have a terrific
message and you’re great at delivering it doesn’t equate to success.
That’s where marketing must kick in.
Some speakers are excellent marketers but are not very good on the
platform. They become one-hit wonders because audiences quickly see
through them and they quickly fade away. They simply don’t have
So there are two key ingredients:
1- Having something to say and
2- Have the ability to sell that to an audience who will pay you to say it.
It’s not complicated… but it is plenty hard to accomplish. There are
places you can go to get better at both.
Toastmasters can help you to get better at what you’re going to say.
It offers you a weekly forum to hone your skills in front of an
empathetic audience who will give you positive feedback on ways to
improve. I still go every week of my life when I’m in town. There is a
club in every neighborhood.
Google Toastmasters.Org and put in your zip code and a list of clubs
close to you will pop up. It’s the least expensive investment you will
ever make to improve your communication skills, be they professional
The marketing part of the formula is a little more complicated but
fortunately there is a place you can go to figure that out as well.
It’s known as the National Speakers Association, which has chapters
all over the world.
The National Speakers Association was founded by my dear, late friend
Cavett Robert, who decided in the early seventies that a professional
association of speaking colleagues should exist.
When I won the World Championship of Public Speaking for Toastmasters
in 1978 Cavett Robert was sitting there on the front row in Vancouver,
British Columbia. He was the first to approach me after the event and
within a week I was a member of NSA and began addressing large
Positive Thinking Rallies across America.
Cavett also won the World Championship back in 1941. He also earned a
Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation from NSA and was
awarded the prestigious CPAE Speakers Hall of Fame award from NSA.
Right before he died he was acknowledged as a Legend of the Speaking
Profession by the Veteran Speakers Retreat.
I am blessed to be the only other speaker in the world that has all
those honors on my resume as well. I take no credit for those
successes but I thank Toastmasters International and the National
Speakers Association for making all of it possible.
Even after you’ve mastered the formula and have enjoyed some success
on the platform, next is the greatest challenge of all — the
loneliness of the profession of public speaking.
You live on the road by yourself, sometimes for weeks at a time. If
you’re single and carefree, this might be a great for you. But if
you’re a family man (as I am) with other business interests, you
become heavily dependent upon your support system to sustain you while
That includes a loving spouse who is there for your children as well
as caring business associates who will keep the other ships afloat in
I guess that’s why so many of my friends and colleagues in the
speaking profession are loners without much of a life off the
platform. Sadly they traverse through life in much the same way,
crossing the invisible line and in some cases not even knowing it. And
one day they wake up all alone and by themselves because they didn’t
understand the key part of the formula — balance. That sad loneliness
is the price we pay for the glory of the platform.
Michael Aun is a syndicated columnist and writes a weekly column for
this newspaper. To contact Michael Aun, email him at