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The Uncomfortable Truth About How to Become a Professional Speaker

professional speaker

People ask me all the time, “how do you get into public speaking?”

There are lots of different answers and many necessary steps but there is one simple one you cannot overlook.

If you want to teach people about greatness, then you yourself have to have done something great.

You have to earn the right to talk to people.

You have to prove that you aren’t just a student but that you also are a practitioner.

You cannot lead a mediocre life and expect anyone to want to learn from you.

Your opportunity to influence and lead others is always a direct byproduct of your ability to create greatness in your own life and in the lives of the people around you.

So it doesn’t matter if you think it’s your purpose.

It doesn’t matter if you think it’s your passion.

None of that matters if you haven’t pushed yourself to some extreme level of performance. Because then all you are is an educated derelict.

You could be someone who knows a lot but you’ve done nothing. Which actually means you know nothing.

That’s not who you want to be and that’s not who the world rewards.

The world rewards those who work.

The world rewards those who overcome.

The world rewards those who have done something that proves to the rest of us that we are capable of more ourselves.

So don’t tell me you want to speak and teach and “impact people” and then go out and look for the easiest route, listen to all the naysayers, make weak excuses, and do all the things that are comfortable.

If you want to teach people about greatness, you yourself have to have done something great.

So if you want a chance to speak – at least to me – then go out in your industry or business or area of study and do something great.

Do something impossible.

Do something extraordinary.

Do something that shows me as a fellow human that I’m capable of more than I thought.

Do something that makes me believe that if you can do it then I can do it.

Do that, and I will be the first to sign up and sit in your class at your feet to have a chance to learn from you…

And so will everyone else.

PS. If you want to know more tips and strategies for how to be a better speaker or build a speaking business you and I could talk twice a month1?

Check this out:

Brand New! Rory Vaden Keynote Speaker Demo Video

Did you know that a large part of our business model includes companies, associations and all different types or organizations inviting me out to speak to them and their teams live?


If you or someone you know is a part of planning conferences that bring in outside experts, strategists and thought-leaders to speak we would love to talk to you!


Watch our brand new demo video above and feel free to pass this on to anyone who you think might be looking for a convention or keynote speaker in the next few years.


You can click here to get more information and check my availability:


Is too much self-discipline a bad thing?


I’ve struggled over the years with this very issue, “is too much self-discipline a bad thing?” One interesting dynamic that I’ve discovered in that thought process is that self-discipline (at least according to my definition) seems to be somewhat self-balancing and self-correcting.

The definition I use for self-discipline is “doing things you know you should do but don’t feel like doing.” What I’m noticing though is that once you start doing those things enough (say working out for example) then they become a habit and if that habit goes too far it becomes compulsive (working out all day every day for example).

However, once a discipline has reached the level of an obsession or compulsion the scales then seem to have flipped around because now it’s NOT working out, or at least less working out, that is the thing you know you should be doing but you no longer FEEL like doing because of the compulsion. At the point of compulsion we become obsessed with working out.

So at that point it then requires the discipline to stop doing it or too slow down.  When you put it up to the litmus test with other things like working hard, eating healthy, saving money, or any other task that seems to require discipline initially the same mysterious flip seems to happen and then the discipline required is for re-calibration, re-focusing, and re-balancing. It’s almost as if self-discipline is also self-correcting.

I started 40 lbs overweight. Then worked out constantly. Now I seem to be closer to a happy healthy balance. I worked 80 hours a week and it was my entire focus, now my focus seems to continually be towards working towards reducing the number of hours I work.

I know I have been in situations personally where it was discipline that was required to help me lighten up on myself and not be concerned with perfection.

Weird, huh? Have you found the same to be true in your life? Do you agree with this puzzling dynamic?

For information on booking motivational speaker and self-discipline strategist Rory Vaden please visit us at

For information on sales coaching, sales training, or sales consulting please visit

See you in the stairwell,

Rory Vaden
Take the stairs – Success means doing what others won’t.

Powerful Online Listening – The basics of using Tweetdeck

Tweetdeck is a powerful listening tool; Twitter is pretty much useless without Tweetdeck. There are three primary benefits of using this free service:

  1. Tweetdeck allows you to segment all the people you are “following” into smaller sub-categories.
  2. You can monitor what is being said about any specific term such as your name, your company, your industry, etc.
  3. Tweetdeck enables you to learn about any specific topic that you are interested in by again monitoring some specific terms.

Like everything else, it takes discipline to set it up after work hours, discipline to check in on it every so often after work hours, and discipline to contribute to the community regularly (via SocialOomph after work hours).

The first technique is what I call Friend Feeding. It eliminates all the noise of all the people you are following and allows you to target specific types of people that you want to follow up with like Past Clients, Important Prospects, Team Members, Potential Recruits, College Buddies, Industry Experts, family, etc.

The way you do this is to click on the search button at the top (designated by the magnifying glass) and then in the window that pops up select the icon of the three people standing in a line (Group) and then give the group a name. Where it says “filter” type in the Twitter handle (name) of the person you want to add to that group. If you don’t know their Twitter handle, then you might have to go onto and click “find people” and search for the person by name there first. You can add as many people as you like to any group; a brilliant follow up technique which allows you to more effectively manage your communications.

The second technique is what I call Term Targeting. As the name implies you simply create a separate stream that looks for important terms that you should be monitoring. I, of course, monitor terms like discipline, stairs, take the stairs, motivational tips, sales tips, etc. I also monitor my name spelled out, and my twitter handle spelled out (Tweetdeck should come standard with a stream for “mentions” which would be the same as this but I’ve found that it still sometimes misses mentions). In addition, I monitor my various company and brand names and suggest you do the same.

To set this up just click the search button  (magnifying glass) at the top and type in the targeted term you want to monitor. This allows you to monitor what is being said about you and about specific key terms that you want to be “in the know” on.

The List and Learn is done the same as targeting a term but you target a phrase that describes a topic you are wanting to learn about such as Twitter Tips, Discipline Insights, Investment Strategies, SEO Strategy, etc.

In real life it takes discipline to be a great listener. The same is true online. It takes discipline, focus, and resources to be a great listener online and that is what Tweetdeck empowers you to do. The Take the Stairs philosophy applies to the digital world the same as the real world. Oh, and remember the Avatar rule: “If you suck in real life, you will suck online.” :0)



See you in the stairwell,

Rory Vaden
Take the stairs – Success means doing what others won’t.

My View from Number 2 – Success is never owned, it is only rented; and the rent is due everyday.

If you’ve ever lost a contest, an election, or been turned down for a job, or a date, then you understand the agony that comes from ending up on the short end of the subjective stick.  Having finished 2nd at the World Championship of Public Speaking in 2007, I was at that time, the #1 loser in the world for Toastmasters International. I’m now 27 years old and both the two years leading up to that moment and the two years since have been a wild ride.

To Vikas, and your hilarious story in 2007, congratulations! You are very deserving of the title. Now to all my fellow “losers” who have ever entered a contest and come up short, and to anyone who has ever put their heart and soul into a cause and lost, I have a message: success is never owned, it’s only rented; and whether you win or lose the rent is still due everyday.

Whether you are one of the amazing world champions or if you are one of the thousands like me who never quite won the big one, ALL of us are still very much on the journey to real success. Success is not about a trophy, a title, or a finish line. Success is, as the great philosopher Hannah Montana says, “all about the climb.”

We often convince ourselves that if we reach a certain pinnacle then we can officially be designated as “successful” forever. It doesn’t work that way though; not even for those who do become “champions.” While the saying “no one remembers who came in second,” is true, it’s also true that after enough time, no one remembers who came in first, either.

  • Can you name the last five winners of Best Actor for the Academy Awards?
  • How about the last five Gold medalists in the 400 meter?
  • What about the last five Nobel Peace Prize recipients?
  • Or maybe you know the last five winners of the World Cup?

I doubt that most people could answer these questions. These were not runners-up they were the very best, yet how quickly the world forgets about them. Competitions are truly not about whether you win or lose, but about the person you become in the process.

Things We Can’t Control

Frustration and despair set in when we’re focused and concerned about things that are beyond our control. Subjective judgment in a competition is always outside the control of the competitors. Competitors have no say in which individuals are selected to judge, where they sit, or how they’re feeling that day. While judges determine who goes home with the trophy, they don’t determine who goes home a success.

If we as competitors allow the subjective opinions of others to determine whether or not our journey has been a success, then we have failed indeed. If we allow circumstances outside of our control to dictate the conclusion of our pursuits, then we have failed.

But if we press on towards our goals in spite of what happens, then we’re a success. If, whether we win or we lose, we recognize the growth that is still available and we choose to persist, then we win. As members of Toastmasters who carry the flame of success and inspiration out into the world we must understand this principle. We win when we realize that success is never owned, it is only rented, and the rent is due every day.

Things We Can Control

We do have control over the amount of time and effort we invest into bettering our skill and our organization. When we put our self-esteem into our work habits the success we experience is not limited based on the results of any one event.  We can lose almost any battle and still continue to win the war.

One of the best lessons I’ve learned was from World Champion of Public Speaking Darren LaCroix, who said, “Stage time is what matters – not age time.”

Since the world championship I’ve been fortunate as a professional speaker to speak with and for people like Zig Ziglar, John Maxwell, and Dave Ramsey. It’s been a joy to have appeared on Oprah radio, in Success Magazine, and to now have built a multi-million dollar international speaking and training company, Southwestern Consulting™. In my newest venture (Take the Stairs World Tour) I’m raising thousands for charity by climbing the 10 tallest buildings in the world. And because of some of those successes many people see me and think “Wow, this kid’s lucky he was born with so much natural talent.”

I’ll be the first to praise God for anything and everything that I’ve been blessed with. And I’m truly flattered by comments of fans and supporters who cheer me on, but I wasn’t just born a great speaker or great leader. It’s the “stage time” that has made the difference.

From the day I decided to pursue the World Championship, October 27, 2005, until the day I earned second place, August 18, 2007, I spoke on stage 304 times. The 11 trophies I won along the way did not make me a great speaker, but the stage time did. So I may be fairly young in age time but not in stage time; not in experience.

Today, people see my polished performance as a keynote speaker for a company’s national meeting or at one of our Southwestern Consulting™ events in front of 1000 people and think “Goodness, he’s such a great speaker and he’s only 27 years old.”

What they didn’t see though was when I “bombed” at comedy clubs, got “heckled” in high schools, or when I was performing my speech in front of two people at the back of a Denny’s restaurant. Only my new documentary film Speaker captures the reality of that painful footage. What they also didn’t see was how distraught I really was the night I came in second at the speech contest.

It’s a characteristic of all successful champions, though, that they are made “after hours,” “behind the scenes,” “off-camera,” and in “training camp.” Successful people know they have to pay a price to get better. They know they have total control over how much they work. And they know if they work hard enough for long enough they’ll eventually look back and realize that somewhere along the way they’ve become successful.

So, if I can attribute my success to one element, it is discipline and getting myself to do things I don’t feel like doing. Whether I win or I lose, I know that tomorrow I must get up and recommit to paying my dues to achieve my goals. Could you bring yourself to be disciplined enough to relentlessly pursue those goals which matter most to you?

In the End

When I joined Toastmasters in 2005 I thought it was all about the World Championship. I realize now that Toastmasters is not about contests, but about the preparation that we are all going through to become better communicators.  It’s about the people you help, the people who help you, and those people who selflessly serve to keep the clubs and our organization running week in and week out.

Success for all of us as an organization is not in the glamour of the stage but the daily grind of working at our craft and serving others. Toastmasters is the gracious and warm spirit that infected me when I visited those 96 clubs on my journey that helped me to become the speaker I am today. 

So to the tens of thousands of my fellow “losers” and also to our winners I say: What sweet victory we can achieve through Toastmasters. Whether you finished first, second or dead last in any race, contest or vote, there is no one ruling that will destine you for success or failure in your life. Success is our choice and one that we must make each and every day. The real question is “are you willing to pay the rent again tomorrow?” So how’s the view from number 2? For people like you and me, it can still be very sweet.

See you in the stairwell,

Rory Vaden
Take the stairs – Success means doing what others won’t.

5 Step Universal Referral Script

This works for any industry, selling any product, for persons of any experience level:

  1.  Transition Statement: “By the way Mrs. Jones, you may not know this about me but I really only prefer to work with people who are friends or friends of friends.”
  2.  Service Statement: “I’m just trying to share this opportunity with as many qualified people here in ________ as possible.”
  3.  Paint the Picture Statement:  “By chance do you happen to know anyone who is _______, ________, ­­­­_________, _________ (fill in 4 characteristics of your perfect client) who might be open minded to hearing about __________ (whatever service you provide)?”
  4. Mental Rolodex Statement (memory jogger): “Think of people you know from…Family, Work with, church, neighbors, kid’s best friend’s parents, play softball, college etc”
  5. Closing Statement: “Would you mind introducing us?”

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For information on booking motivational speaker and self-discipline strategist Rory Vaden please visit us at

For information on sales coaching, sales training, or sales consulting please visit

Have a college-aged student in your life that you want to introduce to success principles, entrepreneurship, and leadership? Have them check out The Southwestern Company paid internship at

See you in the stairwell,

Rory Vaden
Take the stairs – Success means doing what others won’t.