According to the National Federation of Independent Business, a recent poll of over 600 small business owners determined that small business optimism has hit its highest level since 2004. These small business owners feel that business conditions will get better and that sales will increase by 20%. This is great news for speakers looking for sponsorship as businesses think that now is the time for them to expand. In fact, 36% expect to add jobs.

Community banks have seen more requests for business loans, and earlier in the year than normal. Banking regulation reform will bring relief to small community banks, who in turn will be lending more to main street.

Even though arts, education, entertainment, and cause sponsorship still only makes up around 25% of the sponsorship pie, it’s still good news for speakers seeking sponsorship. Unlike large corporations, small business owners spend less on sports and more on arts and education. In fact, the sponsorship pie is most likely flipped, where only 25% of small business sponsorship is in sports, mainly local community sports.

When small businesses are flush with cash, they need artists and other creatives even more. Whether it’s graphic artists to help with website design or advertising, or speakers who promote them to a targeted audience, this is good news for artists of all kinds.

One trend has been around lately and will continue into the future. Sponsors are asking for more customization from sponsees. It’s not a bad thing, it just means that you have to up your game if you want to attract a sponsor. Small business sponsorship is much less competitive than large corporate sponsorship, but sponsorship in general is still a competitive game.

Even with more cash to spend in an improving business environment, that doesn’t mean small businesses want to waste money. They still want to get the most bang for their buck, and sponsorship is a great way to do that. You are putting them in front of their target audience for less than it would cost for advertising in many cases.

Business optimism leads to more innovation, and business owners being open to new ideas. Now is the time to start adding sponsorship to your portfolio of ways to make money as a speaker.

 

 

If there is a speaking topic out there, it’s a pretty good bet that someone, somewhere is making money speaking about it. Some speakers have a unique background in the topic or work in a particular industry, and some choose the topic based on a burning passion to learn more about it and share that knowledge with others.

Here are three speakers with niche speaking topics who have made a career out of a passion:

Tom Ingrassia – Motown

Tom is an example of a speaker who took a passion and turned it into a book and speaking career. He’d had a long, successful career in education, but in 2001 he decided to act on a lifelong dream of working in the entertainment industry.

Tom is an accomplished music journalist, with more than 25 articles printed in publications ranging from Billboard, Record Auction Monthly, and San Francisco Hot Ticket. He collaborated with Barbara Alston (of The Crystals) on her autobiography, “There’s No Other,” and Carl Gardner’s (of The Coasters) autobiography, “Yakey Yak, I Fought Back” before writing his own book “Reflections of a Love Supreme: Motown Through The Eyes of Fans”. Tom is also the host of  “The Motown Jukebox” on WCUW 91.3FM, in Worcester, MA.

His pop culture programs, “Motown and The Civil Rights Movement” and “Girl Power: The Supremes As Cultural Icons” have been presented at the National Conference on Race & Ethnicity, on college campuses, for performing arts centers, museums, senior centers, libraries, and business groups.

http://www.ingrassiaproductions.com/

 

John Granger – Harry Potter

John Granger is another speaker who turned a passion into a writing and speaking career. According to John, he became a Potter Pundit in response to the ‘Potter Panic’ of 1999-2007, during which it was widely believed that the popular series was “the gateway to the occult” and poorly written. His books and talks have overturned this narrative — and have earned him the title “the Dean of Harry Potter Scholars” from TIME magazine.

John is the author of several books on the subject of Harry Potter including “How Harry Cast His Spell: The Meaning Behind the Mania for J. K. Rowling’s Bestselling Books” and “Harry Potter Smart Talk”.

His speech “Why we Love the Harry Potter  Stories — Exploration of the Artistry and Meaning of Joanne Rowling’s Hogwarts Saga” has been given at universities, academic and fan conferences, and churches.

http://www.hogwartsprofessor.com/johngranger/

 

Julianne Soviero – Sports Scholarships

If you read through Julianne’s website you will see that she is absolutely obsessed with pitching. In fact she says so on the first page! And she has the credentials to back it up. She was an All-County Athlete, the recipient of a Division I athletic scholarship, and an academic All-American.  She has over twenty years experience pitching and over fifteen years of experience teaching pitching.

She speaks on the topic of sports scholarships, which is a surprisingly complex topic and is usually hired by travel teams. She’s even written a book on the subject called “Empowered Recruiting”. She says she got started on this topic because of working with female pitchers, many of whom earned scholarships in an increasingly complex market.

http://www.flawlessfastpitch.com

 

These speakers have turned their passion into a lucrative speaking career in a specialized niche. Do you speak on a niche topic?

 

 

As an inventor who has been through the entire process of inventing a product and getting it on the market, I think the best education for future inventors and entrepreneurs is watching Shark Tank. I love the fact that the sharks are all bootstrapping entrepreneurs, so they have already been through the learning curve.

I’ve put together 5 pieces of valuable business advice from Mark Cuban that could also help you as a speaker. Because these days, if you’re not an entrepreneur as a speaker, making a living at it will be tough.

  • Don’t be afraid of failure – Speaking is a performing art. It’s not something you can learn by reading a book. You simply have to get out there and do it. To become good at it you need to constantly be doing it. And in the beginning you probably won’t be very good at it. But by taping every performance and getting feedback you learn how to improve. If you’re afraid of failing you’ll never even take that first step.
  • Work harder than everyone else – This is one of Cuban’s biggest tips for entrepreneurs who want to become successful. As a speaker no one is going to do it for you. Not an agent, not a speaker bureau, not a manager, no one. Being on the other side and working with speakers and artists, this is the one thing I see all the time. Most speakers and artists want someone to get them the paid jobs so that they can focus on the creative side. If you happen to be lucky enough to have someone to do that for you, great! But that’s not the way it works for most speakers and artists. Which brings me to my next point.
  • Learn how to sell – Cuban first learned to sell as a 12 year old when he asked his dad for money to buy new shoes. His dad said if he wanted them he would have to work for them. So at 12 he got his first job selling garbage bags door to door. He learned how to connect with people and solve their problems, so it would be a win-win for everyone. If you know how to sell, you can do anything. As Cuban says “every no gets you closer to a yes”. That’s the way it is with speaking and also with sponsorship. It’s simply a numbers game, so get used to selling and learn to love it.
  • Love what you do – If you love what you do, selling should be easy. I’ve never been able to sell anything I didn’t like or believe in. I know what you’re thinking. “I love speaking, but I hate selling”. Well, if you really believe you have a message that needs to be heard and you have proven that it’s valuable to other people, then just think of it as communicating your passion to someone else. Which leads me to my last point.
  • Put yourself in the customer’s shoes – A meeting planner’s job can be stressful, and they are usually having to please everyone, sometimes on a limited budget. Put yourself in that person’s shoes and think about how you could help them. Find out what they need and offer to lend your support in the best way possible.

Today, being an entrepreneurial speaker is a necessity. But if you follow Mark Cuban’s advice, you’ll see that opportunities to make money as a speaker are everywhere.

 

 

I had a long conversation with a meeting planner the other day about whether the audience prefers style or substance in a motivational speaker. The answer is “it depends”.

First of all, it depends on the speaker’s role. It seems backwards to me, but a breakout speaker who is there to give good, actionable content to an audience is actually paid much less than a keynote speaker. At most conferences, they aren’t paid at all.

If the speaker is a name celebrity, an entertainer, or is hired as simply a motivational speaker to pump up the crowd, they aren’t held to the same standards as far as bringing actionable content. The speaker’s role is different.

It also depends on the audience and what they expect to get out of it. I speak a lot to scientists and engineers, and they want actionable information that they can take back to the lab or office and put into action. I’ve actually seen them do it, which is exciting as a speaker to know your advice was taken.

I’ve also spoken to audiences that didn’t want any actionable information. They just wanted to hear inspirational stories, and could fill in the blanks themselves if they wanted to.

This is surprising to me, but then again, I’ve spent a big chunk of my life in Hollywood, where everything is style over substance. Value is in who you know, what kind of car you drive, or how rich or connected you are. What you know takes a backseat.

This is also how many people choose a political candidate. The average height of all American presidents since 1900 have all been close to 6 feet tall. Out of 43 presidents, only 5 have been below the average height. I know some very smart people who say they vote on a president based on their height and whether they look “presidential” or not.

Even in identical twins, the taller one tends to make money money (yes, even identical twins can be different heights based on environmental factors and growth restriction in the womb).

Studies show that university professors who are considered more attractive are rated as better teachers. And females who are considered more attractive by professors will tend to get better grades than females they consider unattractive.

Is any of this fair? Of course not! But as my speaking coach always tells me “The audience is never wrong”. So, how do you know if an audience member wants style or substance?

Well, you could ask the meeting planner. But sometimes they don’t even know themselves. You could even ask the audience, but I doubt you’d get a straight answer.

The best way to handle it is to strive to be the best speaker you can be, bringing actionable content for those who value it, and a little sizzle for those who don’t. In any audience, you’ll always have a mixture of both.

As someone who favors substance over style, I feel cheated by a speaker who is all style and no takeaway content. But not everyone thinks that way.

Speakers who sell the sizzle and not the steak may succeed in the short term, but it’s the speakers who have substance and bring value that will succeed in the long term.

 

 

 

 

 

A niche directory listing is one of the most effective and least expensive ways to get targeted traffic from the exact customers you’re trying to reach. Search engines put a lot of weight on topic related backlinks, and being listed in a high ranking niche site, which is monitored by humans, is invaluable.

Here are some of the benefits of being in a niche directory:

  1. Keyword focused, quality, one way link – Link building is one of the most powerful things you can do to to drive traffic to your website. But not all links are equal in the eyes of the search engines. A good quality, one way link from a reputable, high ranking directory in your target niche market is one way to assure the search engines will love you. And you can never have too much link love.
  2. Extremely targeted traffic – Just being in a niche directory with others in your industry helps drive traffic to you. If a meeting planner comes to a site looking for a speaker, she will also see you. Being listed in the same place as your competition can be a good thing. A meeting planner who needs one speaker will also be looking for other speakers. This is one reason being listed on a niche directory is better than a general directory. You’re being exposed to new clients every day. In the search engine’s opinion, being on several good, quality niche directories is better than being on 100 general ones.
  3. Much cheaper than advertising – You could easily go through $100 in PPC ads or other forms of advertising, and it’s something you have to continuously keep up. If you run out of money, your ad goes down. But with a directory, that same $100 would last you for a whole year and would be driving traffic on autopilot to exactly the customers you’re trying to reach.
  4. Tax deduction – Being listed on a directory is a business write-off for speakers, authors, consultants and entertainers. Look at it as an inexpensive marketing tool that can be written off on your taxes.
  5. Control – You have the control to change or add content to your online listing whenever you want. You can’t do that with a printed directory.
  6. Thought leadership – Being in a targeted industry directory with other people who are thought leaders, puts you in the same category.

Being listed in a niche directory in your target industry is one of the most important marketing tools you can use as a speaker.

 

I was talking to a conference planner not long ago, pitching some of the Speaker Sponsor speakers, and he told me that if a speaker was any good they wouldn’t need to market themselves or get anyone to do it for them. Really? Well, I guess if you’re Hillary Clinton or Tony Robbins, you can basically just sit back and let the speaking jobs come to you, but for most speakers I strongly believe you need to get out and let people know who you are and what you do through speaker marketing.

Apparently, every speaker I talked to agreed, though everyone markets in a different way. Here are some of their responses to the question on speaker marketing and how they do it:

 

For sure speakers have to market themselves! Especially when you’re new to speaking on your own, without the exposure that comes from a corporate position or your book publisher, you’re unlikely to be “found” by conference or meeting planners. I’ve been speaking since I was in my 20s, when I began sponsoring marketing workshops in 1979 while finishing my MBA and writing a book on small business marketing. In that era before webinars, before Skype, before audio-conferencing (and before significant continuing education budget cuts at employers), it seemed easier to market yourself. Today, people have less time for events and less money for workshop registration or travel, and there’s more competition online from free or low-cost webinars. (more…)

business speaker

business speaker

To be good at what you do, you should watch what others do. As a speaker I like to see everything, even the worst speakers because I can always learn from them. So, when I run across a really great speaker I feel like I can learn even more.

I did happen to see a great speaker who is also in my industry. I found him because I was curious to see who the company ended up hiring. I was in the running for the job, but after seeing his video I could see why he was picked.

I’m not one who is impressed by all sizzle and no steak. So to be great, in my opinion, you have to have both. I’m not dazzled by BS, but like to hear great, unique information delivered well.

I quickly realized that this guy had done his homework. He had years of experience in the industry and had written a couple of books on the topic as well. He also knew his audience and it showed.

I’ve paid to see $25,000 speakers that I thought would also have great information delivered well and was very disappointed. Like I said, I’m not one who is dazzled by BS. (I’ve been in Hollywood too long) So, when someone is an A list speaker because they have a good publicist, yet falls short in the information department I feel cheated.

The first guy wasn’t on the A list. I had never heard of him. And I don’t think he is in the $25,000 speaker category. But if the two were side by side he would have blown the A list dude out of the water.

By seeing both of these speakers it really helped me to see what I needed to improve on. It also gave me some confidence that just because someone makes the big bucks, doesn’t mean they are better. I’ve worked in casting offices and I can tell you that is definitely not always the case.

Like I always say “You can learn something from everyone”.

If you’re working as a speaker, you must be an expert at something. But what makes someone an expert? Does writing a book make you an expert? I could write a book about scuba diving. In fact, I could write a whole series of books about scuba diving, but it’ll never make me an expert.

sexpert speaker

expert speaker

I have a crazy theory that you should have actually put in a certain number of years into practice that which you claim to be an expert in. My doctor’s been practicing medicine for 30 years, but he’s never written a book. I would call him an expert.

But I’m not the one who makes the decision to hire speakers, and having a book and being high profile does appeal to plenty of meeting planners. Of course, if you have the experience and a book and you’ve gotten a lot of press, you are way ahead of the game. (more…)