Anyone who is in the meeting and event industry already has their finger on the pulse of what’s happening, but it’s always good to look at some statistics on paper to confirm it. The more speakers know about future trends in the meeting industry, the better prepared they will be when a meeting planner calls. Or how to get the meeting planner to call in the first place.

According to the Meeting Professionals International, the industry is moving from a sellers market to a buyers market. For now, it still remains squarely in the middle, which is a much better place to be than strictly a sellers market, at least for speakers.

68.2% are optimistic about the industry in 2017, or at least expect no negative change. Half of government meeting planners and international planners expect conditions to be worse. They expect attendance at live events to rise in 2017, and a full 23% of organizations that hire meeting professionals to increase their employees.

Here’s some very good news for speakers. According to the Destination Hotels’ survey, 37% of respondents say they have more money to spend on meetings in 2017, 57% have the same amount, and 30% say they will be planning more meetings. The extra money may not be spent all on one meeting, but will be spread out among more meetings, giving more speakers more paid speaking opportunities.

One trend that is catching on is the experiential meeting. Hands-on learning is making a comeback, along with using different styles of learning for audiences who want their information in visual, auditory, and kinesthetic ways. Remember that when you plan your speech, and consider creative ways to integrate your sponsor within them.

Security is the number one topic on a meeting planner’s mind. According to the MPI report, “Forty-eight percent of respondents to the quarterly survey said they expected the costs of meetings to rise due to the need for greater security. Forty-four percent reported that they anticipated changes to the meeting and event industry due to the increasing prevalence and threat of terrorism. Cyber security is also a big concern for meeting planners.

Planning Pod, a top events blog, feels that niche events will become a hot trend in 2017. “events focused on smaller niche audiences to sub-events or tracks focused on select attendees to smaller sessions and audience sizes, events that are micro-focused will start gaining more momentum as attendees want more personalized experiences and seek out more intimate settings to learn and connect.” This is even more of a good reason for speakers to start honing in on their niche.

Building better relationships with the audience is going to become more important to meeting planners. More time will be spent getting to know who the audience is and what they want. As a speaker who is looking for sponsorship, this is important to you as well. If you’re asked to speak for free, hopefully the meeting planner will be willing to share some of that info with you so you can maximize your sponsor’s ROI. After all, sponsors are interested in who is in the audience, and not so much what you speak about.


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.



I just got back from a great week at the International Meeting Planners World Education Congress in Atlantic City where I spoke on the topic of innovation. The Speaker Sponsor concept was presented to over 2000 meeting planners as an alternative way to hire good speakers when they have a low budget or no budget.

The theme of the conference was reinvention and was held in Atlantic City, a town that has been going through a reinvention of its own. The planners of the event did a great job putting it together and sticking with the theme.

Keynote speaker Sekou Andrews reinvented the concept of a typical speaker by marrying corporate inspirational speaking with spoken word poetry. His Shakespearian/hip hop style wowed the crowd. It stood out to me because it was so unique and different from a typical speech. In a world full of speakers who all have the same style and topics, Sekou taught me that there is more than one way to present as a speaker. He literally created his own niche.

Speaker Sponsor presented the last day in the thought leaders theater. My topic was “Speaker Sponsorship: How to Get a Top Speaker on a Low Budget”. A problem I heard from many meeting planners during the week was about budget cuts and trying to find a good speaker when they really don’t have the money in the budget to pay a top speaker’s fees.

Sponsorship is a great way to get that speaker without having to break the bank. Sponsorship of a speaker means the sponsor pays the difference between the low fee and the speaker’s actual fee, or helps the speaker get paid when there isn’t a budget at all. Then meeting planners were given several ways to work with the speakers and their sponsors to make it a win-win for everyone.

But the most unique speaker sponsorship I’ve seen came from the event MC, Dena Blizzard, who did a fantastic job of keeping the show moving and interesting. During her lunch presentation, she literally had 2 sponsor’s signs taped to her butt. This was brilliant as it was broadcast on 4 giant screens across the ballroom.

One of the tricks to sponsorship is to get the audience to remember the brand that is sponsoring. Typical signage in the room is still a good way to promote a sponsor, but it’s not as memorable as Dena’s butt sponsorship. I still vividly remember both sponsors, and think positively about them because I am sure they both have a good sense of humor. Since there was nowhere on the stage to put a sign, she used her imagination and her “assets” to create memorable branding.

Speaker Sponsor is working hard to provide more of these opportunities for members in the future.

As a speaker, there are numerous ways to get paid to speak, and sponsorship is one that is clearly in your hands.

Thanks to our own sponsors, Tropicana and McCormick & Schmick’s for their sponsorship of Speaker Sponsor at the MPI World Education Congress!



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 just arrived home after delivering a keynote speech to 700 executives at the Mega Conference in Austin, TX on the future of newspapers. Part of the speech was about how live events and small business sponsorship are going to be a big part of the future for local newspapers.

The newspaper industry has seen a sharp decline in their small business advertisers in the past few years and have been looking for alternatives to their current business model. Enter… live events.

It wasn’t just me who was talking about live, local events for newspapers. It was a buzz that permeated throughout the conference, and is starting to be seen as a new, additional revenue stream for newspapers.

This is incredibly good news for speakers who are looking to partner with local and regional media for a mutually beneficial arrangement. It’s also good news because small businesses are literally an untapped area for sponsorship.

Many small businesses don’t even know about sponsorship. In my experience, small businesses often think that they have to invest millions of dollars to play in that game. But a small business could sponsor a speaker or small, local event for very little. And their return on investment is good because they are reaching a very targeted audience.

The big corporations of the world have been involved in sponsorship for several decades, but small businesses are the new frontier. Big corporate sponsorship has become a very crowded field, making it difficult to break in, especially for a beginner.

I’m encouraged and excited about the direction small business sponsorship is going. Right now, it’s in it’s infancy. But that’s good news for speakers who want to get into a multi-billion dollar industry on the ground floor before it becomes too overcrowded.

Disruption is occurring in all industries. The newspaper industry, like the speaking industry, has had the same business model for many years. And that’s worked just fine… until now. If you don’t learn how to innovate within your industry, you risk being made irrelevant.

But the good news is that opportunities are everywhere. Even in the speaking industry.


According to the sponsorship organization IEG, global sponsorship is projected to grow 4.7 % in 2016. Just in North America alone the increase is expected to be 4.5%, bringing total spending to over 22 billion dollars this year.

Keep in mind that 70% of all of this sponsorship will be spent in the sports industry, but that still leaves 23% for arts, entertainment and cause sponsorship. This is good news for speakers who are looking to supplement those free speaking jobs with sponsorship. And even better news if you’re a speaker/artist who has a cause topic.

Sponsorship looks like it will outperform advertising and marketing. One reason is because brands are looking for ways to deliver a two-way message instead of just a one way message.

A newspaper, magazine or TV ad is a one way message. The ads don’t talk back. But with social media and sponsorship you can have a two-way conversation that is interactive with your customer. Millennials are especially interested in interacting with brands these days.

Even small businesses, who have typically been left out of the sponsorship game, are starting to realize that they can also sponsor, even if it’s not in the same multi-million dollar game as the big corporations. This is great news, since there are over 25 million small businesses just in the U.S. alone.

With advertising and marketing budgets being cut left and right, sponsorship has still been holding steady for the past few years, and has even increased.

Sponsorship is based on long term, mutually beneficial relationships between a brand (the sponsor), and an a sponsee. Speakers and artists should start developing those relationships as early as possible and nurture them. A speaker or artist can create a whole career with sponsorships alone. The money is there, and the need, according to IEG, will only increase in 2016. So it’s time to jump in the sponsorship game and start getting a piece of that multi billion dollar pie.




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?





If you follow this blog you know that Speaker Sponsor specializes in small business sponsorship for niche events. While all the other sponsorship agencies target big corporate sponsors, we have found our niche in the over 125 million small to medium sized businesses in the world, instead of the under 50,000 large corporations. That’s only a rough estimate based on D&B data and other resources. But you get the point. There is much more opportunity in small business sponsorship, especially for speakers and artists.

With the explosion of niche markets of all kinds, small business sponsorship is a goldmine for speakers. I’ve noticed that a lot of speakers tend to gravitate towards general topics, like leadership and customer service. That’s great if you’re only looking to be hired by corporations and organizations who give you a paycheck for speaking on that topic.

But if you want to try something new as a speaker and create your own speaking career without having to wait around for a meeting planner to call you, consider creating your own niche events and finding small business sponsors to fund it. Here are two examples of performers who forged their own path and created their own successful niche events.

If you watch Shark Tank perhaps you’ve heard of Ten Thirty One Productions. This is their simple logline: “We are an entertainment company that creates, owns and produces live attractions in the horror genre”. Period. They don’t put on job fairs, weddings, birthday parties, or conferences. They don’t do comedy, westerns or action. Just horror. Not everyone is a horror fan. But you can bet that those people who are are die hard fans. No pun intended. (more…)

I hear it every day. “I tried sponsorship and it didn’t work”. When I dig a little deeper, it becomes clear why. The very first thing most people think about is the big corporate sponsorships. As a non-celebrity speaker or artist who is just getting started, could you get a big corporate sponsor like Coca Cola or Red Bull to sponsor you? Sure. It’s just not very likely. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t go after the big guys. You should. But learn how to work with smaller sponsors first.

I often hear artists say that they only want to be a film or TV star, and aren’t interested in bit parts. Or they only want to pursue the big corporate sponsors. There are only so many spaces at the top, but tons of opportunities if you’re willing to go off the beaten path.

I hear speakers say they only want to go after the high-paying speaking jobs and nothing else. Well, those jobs are great, but there is a ton of speaking work that isn’t in that category.

For every actor or model who is “discovered” walking down the street or bagging groceries, there are tens of thousands of them that struggle for years to get a big break. And for every speaker making 20 grand, there are speakers everywhere who are making a good living. Sponsorship is kind of like that. Just because you’re not making big money in the big league doesn’t mean you can’t do very well.

Here are some reasons speakers and artists give up too quickly and how you can change that:

  • Timing – The average corporate sponsorship can take between a year to two years to finalize. It takes a huge amount of patience to wait that long. Micro-sponsorship ™ , or small business sponsorship can take less time, but still takes several months. I’ve found that even working with small mom and pop companies, they want as much time as possible to promote the event. Even if they’re only spending a few hundred dollars, they still want to maximize that investment. It’s actually good for you too, because you both can stretch out the promotion exposure.
  • Wrong opportunity – I believe that there is a buyer out there for every seller. That said, you can’t please everybody. I’ve seen speakers and artists who had the most amazing sponsorship opportunities who had a hard time getting a sponsor, and ones who had much weaker opportunities who secured more than one sponsor easily. I could never figure it out. The only thing to do is to make sure you’re consistently in the game. It only takes a few sponsors who believe in you and make money with you to make a good living as a speaker or artist.
  • Return on investment – If you make money for your sponsors, there’s no reason they won’t keep sponsoring you. This is why you really need to learn how to work with them to give them the most exposure possible. Now is when you take off your creative hat and put on your business hat. Look at every single thing you do from a sponsor’s perspective. If you were a brand and were going to invest hard-earned money in a sponsorship, would you sponsor you? What do you have to offer that will make a sponsor more money? Can you expose their brand to the audience they want to get in front of?

Sponsorship of speakers and artists is one of the best marketing tools out there for small businesses. When the right partnerships come together it can be magic for both parties.

There are dozens of ways speakers and artists can find more sponsors, and work more effectively with them to create better ROI. Schedule a sponsorship coaching session to learn the inside secrets for getting more sponsorships. (For speakers and artists)