No matter where I go these days I’m constantly running into someone who says they are a speaker. At the grocery store today there was one person in front of me and one behind me who got into a conversation about speaking. In L.A. you expect to run into someone who is an actor, writer, director, or all of the above on every corner. But speaker? Hmm, what’s going on?
This is interesting because, according to studies, glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking is the number one phobia Americans have. You would think more people would shy away from it, but I get calls every day from people who say they’ve just become a speaker or they want to become a speaker.
Since I’ve been working in the entertainment industry in some form or another since I was a teenager, I look at the speaking industry as being very similar to the entertainment industry. For example, you have a handful of actors who are on the A list, who make millions of dollars, a lot of actors who make a living some or most of the time, and a lot of wanna-be actors who never make any money from acting, who eventually give up and do other things, maybe acting from time to time as a hobby.
This is because the entertainment industry is full of supply, but not enough demand for all of that supply. It’s the same in the speaking industry. Most actors want to be on the A list, making the big bucks, waiting for someone to write a check so they can focus on their craft and showcase their talent. Most speakers want the same thing. I admit, I’d love nothing better than to just show up and get a big, fat check to be a rock star. Who wouldn’t? But the speaking industry, like the entertainment industry has far more supply than demand. It’s a seller’s market. Far more sellers than buyers.
So, that’s the bad news. The good news is that there has never been a better time in history to be a speaker or entertainer. But, just like the entertainment industry, it’s an incredibly difficult path if you’re simply standing in line with everyone else. Personally, I don’t have the patience to wait in that line. For the past 20 years I’ve been writing, producing and staring in my own productions, either with angel investors, my own money, or with small business sponsorship.
When you go the self-funded or sponsorship route, supply and demand doesn’t matter. You find the demand first, then supply the talent. That means finding niches that need what you have to offer and then finding a way to get paid for it.
A good example of this is historical keynote speaker Lord Scott, who bears an uncanny resemblance to George Washington. He not only looks like him, but is the right size and age to portray Washington. Scott has used this to his advantage, booking educational presentations at schools, 4th of July celebrations, corporate events, and churches.
He has also started his own non-profit “We Make History”, putting on historical events on both the east and west coasts. His team now includes over 200 actors, and continues to expand. Scott has found his niche as a public speaker and performer by thinking outside the box and creating his own speaking career.
As a professional speaker how can you create your own career and bypass the supply and demand problem of the speaking industry?