The author of this highly rated article is Roger Knowles.
Roger is a practicing attorney and an experienced professional speaker. 
If you want more valuable advice from this expert, click here.
Some people appear to be natural communicators – they seem not to be nervous at all, and the words just roll off their tongues. Don’t you envy them? They are brilliant, humorous, entertaining and interesting. Some of the best public speakers are amongst the highest earners in society. They travel frequently, stay in 5-star hotels, attend conferences all over the world. They have a good time, meet wonderful people – and get paid for it. If you have ever wondered how they got there, consider this – A reasonably ordinary guy, an expert in retail shopping, is asked to give a talk on the latest design trends. A computer programmer who has created an ingenious new idea for combating music piracy, is required to present his proposals to high-powered executives in the music industry. A sportsman runs out of youth and decides to try to keep his income flowing by talking about the sport. Any one of these people could be on the road to a career in speaking, but it is easier said than done.
Speaking in public is one thing that most people fear – it is scary trying to appear casual and nonchalant while delivering a compelling talk to a group of people. It takes tremendous skill to organise a talk, deliver it in a controlled manner and cover all the material while keeping it interesting and informative. What a set of skills! Where did you get them, I am often asked. Here’s the truth –
My mother sent me to elocution lessons! Really. It was dreadful at the time, but it may just have been the best thing that ever happened to me. Born with a good voice, I was trained to use it well, from early on. I remember my very first public appearance – on the stage of the City Hall in Durban, at the age of six. I was to recite a poem, ‘The Donkey’ in a competition. I forgot my words! I can still remember the nauseous feeling of panic as I stood in the middle of that vast stage. Do you know the feeling? It happens to all of us at some time.
Many experiences followed, each adding to my ability to speak. As a lawyer, I spoke in courts and other forums all over the land. As a member of Toastmasters, I gained many specific skills. I lectured at the Practical Law School, spoke at meetings and at weddings or funerals. Different needs, different skills and approaches. And so, I gathered the tools for a full-time career. Then I took the leap – and really began to learn the ‘game’. As with anything else, the ‘real thing’ is very different from what you expect, and it is the place that you really learn, from experience and from your peers.
Many speakers follow a similar, life-long path to speaking success. Some however, take a bit of a short cut. Struck down by a dreadful illness or involved in a life-changing event, many begin a previously-unplanned career in speaking. They usually have just one talk, based on their special skill or experience. They still need the ‘maturing time’ during which they learn the skills and the techniques needed to convey their message. They need to keep on learning, or they will disappear from sight as soon as the attraction of their special experience fades from the public eye. By contrast, the true professionals continue to learn, to gain experience and to improve their knowledge, techniques and program content. They get better and better, living a challenging but interesting life.
Still wondering if speakers are born, or trained? I think the answer is this – to be a professional speaker, you need a spark somewhere in your being, a desire to communicate well. But, whether you are going to succeed as a professional or not, relies more on hard work (90%) and continual learning, than on natural talent (the other 10%).