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  • Writer's pictureBrad Cochrane

The Six Professions of a Professional Speaker

“So, you’re a professional speaker, eh? What kind of business is that?”

A fair question and one that’s asked more often than not. On the face of it, a professional speaker talks to audiences imparting wisdom, giving advice, and changing perspectives. We entertain while teaching so that people learn despite themselves.

In the end though, what makes a speaker a professional is the simple fact of receiving payment; it’s what differentiates a hobby from a business. In the search for a “business model,” we speakers often overlook that the speaking business isn’t a single profession but rather a mixture of numerous professions that must be mastered, executed, and blended at the same time into a delicate balance. The experience is like juggling while swimming the backstroke. No wonder that speakers suffer under a nagging feeling that we’re doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Edit the book or cold call? Dive into the cash flow or take a plunge into an online course that solves our problems for one low price? Speak or sell?

Confusing, yes. But some clarity can be found in The Six Professions of the Professional Speaker©. By understanding that each profession, or business model, has its own purpose, structure, and nuance, then we can put the proper energy into the right tasks at the right time. That leads to, if not success, then a less frantic experience.

1. The Executive creates a strategy that defines the business, designs a plan, extrapolates financials, adapts to change, and guides the endeavor throughout. The Executive takes ultimate responsibility for the success of the business.

2. A professional speaker is a Creator. Our creations are sub-divided into the Intangible and Tangible. Original ideas are intangible; the physical expressions of those ideas are tangible Intellectual Property (IP).

3. A Distributer acquires a product and then reallocates that product through supplier channels. As speakers, we distribute our IP through live events, publishing channels, or digital technology.

4. An Owner makes their time, talent, or IP available for a limited time under specified conditions –usually for a fee. It may be our speeches, books, training programs, or consultations.

5. A Broker connects buyers with sellers. Obviously, this includes speaker bureaus but less obviously, we speakers who find, sell, and book clients for ourselves. At the very core, we’re salespeople who use processes, relationships, marketing, and tools.

6. The Manager plans day-to-day tasks, executes on the business plan, monitors cash flow, and fulfills legal requirements.

The Six Professions of the Professional Speaker© is based on MIT’s Business Model Archetypes with revisions and additions relevant to professional speakers. A useful breakout can be at

A professional speaker rotates through these roles throughout any given day. By being aware of why we’re doing what we’re doing, and we can make our business a real enterprise so that we can continue to carry our message to our audiences.

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