A Speaker Sponsor member recently asked why we send out opportunities for free speaking jobs. There are several reasons for that:

Should you speak for free?

You’re a beginner

When you’re just starting out as a speaker you may want to speak for free to get the practice. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it the same amount of time and professionalism you would give a paid job. But if you’re brand new you simply won’t have the same polish that speakers have who have been doing it for years have. Like a comedian who has to work out the bugs in a routine. It takes time to figure out what gets a laugh and what makes the audience cringe. Sometimes you stumble on something that gets a laugh that you didn’t expect. Each time you get in front of a new audience you learn something that you can add to your speech.

Speaking isn’t something you can learn by reading a book. You have to learn through experience. Students pay huge tuition fees to go to college. Think of this as your college education. Speak anywhere and everywhere you can. Try new things. Experiment. Be bold. When you’re speaking for free you can do more of that. Get in front of as many people as possible and as many different audiences as possible. Get feedback and keep improving.

A free speaking job can turn into a paid speaking job

Recently I’ve booked 2 paid speaking jobs because I filled out the online forms for free speaking jobs. Speaker Sponsor sends out free speaking leads, along with paid ones. It may seem like a waste of time when you want to get paid. But you never know when someone will be looking for speakers for a different conference. Or they secretly have the budget for speaker topics they really, really need. This is how I ended up with 2 paid speaking jobs.

Also, meeting planners will keep things on file for years. And when they need your topic they will search through them. I’ve booked jobs for things I filled out as long as 8 years ago. It was a free speaking job that I didn’t get at the time. I ended up getting my full speaking fee. So, I would say that it was definitely worth my time to fill out the free form.

If you have a book or other things to sell, speaking for free can often be a good deal. If you do speak for free ask for as many things in return as possible. Opportunity to sell books, etc. A free booth at their trade show. A list of attendees. All expenses paid. Mentions in their newsletter and social media. Opportunity to sell your coaching and consultant services. Your own sponsor, who they will help you promote.

You have your own sponsors 

I’ve taken several free jobs as a speaker, especially in the beginning. But I have never, ever spoken for free. I’ve always had a sponsor who paid me to get them in front of their target audience. I learned about sponsorship completely by accident. I was living in NYC and working on a TV pilot. It was a variety show with writers from Saturday Night Live, Broadway dancers, and celebrity guest stars. In addition to raising half of the money for the show, I was also one of the reporters. Behind the scenes my boss asked me one day to go out and get sponsors. I had no idea how to do it, but I put together a proposal and went door to door looking for sponsors for the show. This was my trial by fire into the world of sponsorship.

Once I learned out to do it I started using sponsorship to produce plays. When I became a speaker I realized about half of all speaking jobs are free ones. So I saw a huge opportunity to fill those free jobs with sponsorship to get paid. I practice what I preach and am constantly finding new ways to supplement speaking with sponsorship. Having a portfolio of sponsors helped me earn a living as a speaker during the shutdowns of Covid when events were being cancelled. Sponsorship means never having to hold your hand out for a paid speaking job. You have a much better chance of getting a free speaking job and getting paid for it.

Many Speaker Sponsor members have their own sponsors and welcome the chance to find any speaking opportunities. Paid or free speaking. They know they can monetize them and get paid for the free speaking jobs.

You need to be seen

The very best way to get booked as a paid speaker is for someone to see you speak live. I have a saying. “If you want to be in the right place at the right time you have to be everywhere all the time”. That means you have to speak every single chance you get. If you only wait for paid speaking jobs you miss out on opportunities to get in front of people who can hire you. Have a portfolio of sponsors and things to sell and you have a guarantee of being paid.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten full fee speaking jobs because someone saw me speak live at an event. And I’ve also lost jobs because I was in the running with someone who was seen live by a decision maker. Speakers who are constantly working will get more work. And be seen by more people who can hire them. If you’re booked solid all year long with paid speaking work, this probably doesn’t apply to you. But if you’re new or not solidly booked, think about all the ways you can get in front of more decision makers. Even if you speak for free.

If you want more speaking jobs you need to do everything you can. This includes adding free speaking to your strategy. But always make sure you monetize everything to get the most out of those opportunities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s no doubt the meetings industry has been hammered for the past two years. But it is slowly showing signs of life. It’s not as easy as just saying that everything will go virtual forever. Nothing beats face to face meetings! But regardless of whether the meeting is face to face or virtual or a hybrid, the speaking industry has changed.

Meetings industry forecast for 2022

Here are some expectations from Northstar Meetings Group and AmEx Global on the meetings industry forecast for 2022:

When will face to face meetings return to pre-pandemic levels?

Some meeting professionals think we will get back to that level in a year or two and some think it will take until 2025. One thing is for sure, it will still be rocky and uneven. I’ve personally spoken at several in person events in the past year, but have had twice as many cancelled or postponed. The AmEx Global survey anticipates that 81% of all meetings in 2022 will have an in person component to them. 42% in person, 39% hybrid, and 19% virtual only.

Meetings industry forecast for 2022 – costs

Let’s face it, the cost of everything is going up! Meeting planners in North America are expecting at least an 11% increase next year. Unfortunately this doesn’t necessarily mean that speakers are going to be paid more. Budgets are still tight, though most are increasing. Having your own sponsors will help put you in a better position to get paid more. Make that a part of your negotiations.

Meetings industry forecast for 2022 – space

If you’ve been out speaking you have noticed that meeting room space is bigger to accommodate more social distancing. Attendee size is smaller, but the room space is bigger. That is a determining factor in where a meeting will be booked. Also, whether or not they are able to host a hybrid event.

The AmEx Global forecast states:

“The number of attendees at in-person events is expected to increase for every meeting type, by 3.5% to 4.3%. The number of attendees at virtual and hybrid events is also expected to increase across the board, although by a smaller percentage – by 2.8% to 3.4%.”

What do you predict for the meetings industry in 2022?

 

I haven’t posted a whole lot lately. Because frankly, the speaking industry in 2020 sucked! Sure, there are speakers who are still working, and even some who are making decent money right now. There were people who made a fortune during the Great Depression. But most people were just barely scraping by. Most of the best speakers I know are not working. Obviously, Covid has put a huge damper on the live event industry in general and speakers are having a hard time right now.

Speakers are having a hard time right now

Many people will tell you that everything is simply going virtual for now and in the future. But this is a simple explanation that I’ve found is not true. Many people will tell you that the speaking industry is booming and the best it’s ever been. Also, not true. After interviewing hundreds of planners and others involved in the speaking industry, I’ve discovered that there is no one reason why speakers are having a hard time right now. It’s a deeper issue. Here are some of the things they’ve told me:

Live events up in the air

With Covid still hanging over us and variants popping up, meeting planners are hesitant to book a live event. Where they used to plan 6 months to a year in advance, now committee meetings are being put on hold. That’s just to discuss the dates and locations. Attendees are hesitant to make reservations, and the meeting planners need to have a certain number of attendees just to put on the event. Some are ready to travel and go to a live event and some aren’t.

Can’t you just go virtual?

So, if everything is so tentative, why not just go virtual? Zoom fatigue is real! Maybe in the beginning it was a necessary novelty, but not everyone wants to pay good money to watch speakers on a Zoom call. It doesn’t matter how interesting they are. Sure, conferences can charge less because it’s online, but then they also want to pay speakers less also. And, because watching speakers online is tiring, they tend to spread the conferences out for several days or even longer. I just attended a conference myself that went on every day for 2 weeks. The information was incredible. The speakers were interesting. I still couldn’t handle it for more than 15 minutes at a time. I can’t tell you the number of classes and webinars I have sitting in the que that I haven’t gotten to yet. Many people are simply Zoomed out.

So, the idea that we are only going to be speaking virtually from now on is not true. What could be true is that conferences will have other options besides just live events. They’ve been doing a combination of live and streaming for a while now. I remember several years ago speaking to a group of scientists in New York, but they wanted to have their employees in Denmark see it. So it was also live-streamed to them.

But make no doubt about it, there is a lot of pent-up demand for travel. Speakers and others who work in the live event industry do it for a reason. They are social people who like to travel and meet new people. Otherwise they would have a desk job. The speaking industry is not going to remain virtual forever.

Discontinued conference

A number of conferences are folding completely. Not all of this is due to Covid. Some have mentioned that their attendance was dwindling even before. Since this is a sponsorship site, I’ll mention that sponsorship is dependent on ears and eyeballs in the audience. The fewer people you have in the audience, the less you will be able to attract a sponsor. Or the less that sponsor will be willing to pay. At some point conferences have just decided to cancel for now. That means no jobs for speakers.

Mergers

Some conferences have decided, even before Covid, that they need to partner with their competition in order to have enough attendees to make it worthwhile. I spoke at one of those a few years ago. Several competitors just got together and had one big conference. They split the expenses and marketing. With 3 of them it was a pretty decent crowd. But, this also means they need fewer speakers. One more reason speakers are having a hard time right now.

Using industry speakers only

Part of this has to do with budget cuts, but this trend has been going on for a while now. Some conferences simply don’t hire outside speakers. And even ones that have in the past are turning to industry speakers this time around. I’ve even heard from sponsors that they want their own people to speak. Nothing you can do about that. But that doesn’t mean they are good speakers. It means they are footing the bill. And money talks. That’s why you need to find sponsors who are not looking to speak and would love to sponsor you to do that for them.

Carried over speakers from 2020

Since so many conferences were cancelled in 2020, most who had hired speakers simply rolled them over to 2021. Now if they don’t have the conference in 2021, that rolls them over to 2022. This means that fewer speakers have opportunities right now. That’s not going to last forever, and things will go back to some normalcy fairly soon.

Budget cuts

It sucks that we were finally at a point where meeting planner budgets were increasing. But, that has taken a nosedive. If you’ve been a speaker for any length of time you know that economies wax and wane all the time. I’m being told that even the budgets for big sponsors has gone down. But I’ve always made sure to line up more than one sponsor anyway. About half of all speaking jobs out there, even before Covid, are free ones. If you are able to come in with a sponsor for a free job you have a much, much better chance of getting that job and getting paid. Meeting planners need good speakers. But if they can’t pay for them, the next best thing is getting a free speaker with their own sponsor. This is how I’ve managed to make money for years as a speaker, even when the economy was bad. There are always ways to work around the free speaking thing by using sponsorship and multiple streams of speaker income. When times are tough you can prosper when everyone else is running around clucking like a chicken. This is how clever entrepreneurs became successful during the Depression. I hate to use the hack terminology of pivot, but that’s what you have to do.

Speaking industry goes in cycles

But it’s not all bad news. Everything in the speaking industry goes in cycles. Yes, speakers are having a hard time right now. But that will change.

This is a time for you to step back and figure out where you fit in in the speaking industry. Figure out other ways to make a living at it. Figure out if you are still really committed to it. And if you are, commit to learning, growing, and being the best speaker you can be. So that when things turn around (and they will), you will be ready.

 

Aristotle once said “Man is, by nature, a social animal”. Humans are most comfortable when we’re connected and sharing our emotions. When we’re face to face we’re able to match each others emotions instantly, without even realizing we’re doing it. That is something you can’t completely get on a Zoom call.

Digital Meetings

In a survey from the Professional Convention Management Association, 62% of meeting planners said they did not feel that digital meetings would cannibalize live meetings and events, but would exist with them side by side.

I was just reading over a post I published in January regarding the insight of live meetings and events in 2020. It said that 70% of meeting planners had a very positive feeling about the state of meetings in 2020. What a difference 3 months makes!

That goes to show that you simply can’t predict the future based on statistics and surveys. Because the future will always change, and life is very unpredictable.

Popular Speech Topics

There were a few things that still are relevant in the post. Health and wellness were predicted to be a big topic. That is even more important today than it was 3 months ago. Another thing that was listed is that most planners believed that technology would play a bigger role. That has literally been forced on meeting planners as many events have had to go online.

Just 3 months ago I was being hired by corporations to help companies recruit and retain employees. Unemployment was the lowest it had been in 50 years and even companies that were paying great salaries and had wonderful benefits were having a very hard time finding employees. Management was complaining that applicants would come in and demand everything for the highest salary possible. That literally changed overnight as 26 million people lost their jobs.

Speak for Free

Everything in life shifts back and forth from buyer to seller, then back again with each having the stronger position. Speakers, who were finally getting past the whole “speak for free” thing, are now thrown into a tailspin as meeting planners have their own issues to deal with in regards to cancellations and safety issues. As much as speakers may be stressed about the situation, meeting planners are also dealing with uncertainty and a never-ending process of putting out fires.

Virtual for Now

Zoom calls and live streaming are perfect for where we are now. That does not mean all meetings and events will be online forever.

Live meetings and events have been shut down before in history and they may be again. But human beings are social animals who crave the closeness of others. And that will never change.

Normally meeting planners need lead times that allow them to be able to book hotels, book speakers, book travel, and all of the other millions of things that go into planning an event. But right now with the COVID-19 crisis most are spending their time just putting out fires.

Meeting planner lead times

I was wondering if this recent crisis has changed lead times at all. Here are answers from a couple of meeting and event planners:

“This is an unprecedented time in the meetings and events industry. While past crises like 9/11 and the 2008 recession have affected a similar pivot to virtual events, each pivot was an aberration. In this case, however, we’re seeing a real paradigm shift.

The digital platforms and integrations we’re leveraging to get us through this crisis are here to stay. Events will be increasingly integrated across channels, and everyone from business leaders and event marketers to speakers and sponsors will need to adjust for that. While that’s no small challenge, of course, we expect it to lead to improved audience engagement over time.

This crisis has driven an increasing number of clients to adopt a campaign-oriented planning cycle, rather than a one-off event cycle. That’s a very good thing. In practice, this involves assessing all the content that clients intended to deliver at their live programs and transforming it into a more pulsed series of communications across many platforms. The result is that, in collaboration with our clients, we’re developing more robust communications plans that engage their employees, customers, and partners — not just for a couple days but in a way that is sustained over time.”

Jill Tanner, SVP, Creative Design and Marketing at InVision Communications

www.iv.com

Flexibility for meeting planners

“I am the CEO and co-founder of Spacebase, the leading online B2B platform
for unique meeting rooms and event locations, and I think the main change
to planning corporate events will be flexibility. Currently, the crisis is
constantly changing and updating, so event planning must accommodate and
reflect this. We are working with space providers to enable longer
cancellation periods or to postpone events.

Whenever the end point is, there is sure to be an immediate significant
influx in last minute event bookings, for businesses to regroup. At the
moment, we are encouraging our bookers to rent rooms and plan for this
further in advance, with a flexible event date. Looking forward, I think
this flexibility will stay. Whether the lead times are longer or shorter,
they will have more room for change and adaptations.”

CEO and Co-Founder Julian Jost
Spacebase
www.spacebase.com

Have you seen any changes in meeting planner lead times?

The speaking industry is in a bit of upheaval right now. Conferences are being canceled and there is so much uncertainty about the future. As a speaker you should always have backup plans. Most people just think in one direction. But there is a lot of money to be made as a speaker who has an expertise that executives and others need. I mean, you are an expert in your topic, right? If not, you need to take this time to start honing in on what you have that is of value to your audience.

Speaker Consultant

I’ve been hearing about speakers doing their speeches through online videos, which is great. But a faster and easier way to make money right now is with consulting. Companies may be hunkered down with their employees working from home, but they still need outside help, maybe even more right now.

I remember my mother worked as a consultant for a tech company when I was a kid. She would find a quiet spot in the house with a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door and schedule a couple of consulting calls. Since she was also a writer, sometimes she would even write booklets for them on her topic, which she sold in volume.

Speaker consultant contracts

One advantage of being a consultant over being a live speaker is that you usually get more work out of it. With a live event, you do a speech and then it’s over. Consulting contracts are usually longer and more intensive. Once things settle down and events are booming again, you will have a great add-on service to complement your speech. You’ll get paid extra and you will be ready and primed to do it. Just like speaking, consulting takes some practice to do it well.

Here are some ways to get started as a consultant and speaker:

Hone in on your niche

Now is the time to really start thinking about your expertise and become even more knowledgable and up to date with your info. Study the trades in your specific topic. What knowledge do you have that companies need?

Who needs your expertise?

Don’t randomly throw everything against the wall to see what sticks. Spend some time thinking about who needs your knowledge the most.

Research your audience

Before you think of contacting anyone, find out what they are looking for and what they need that you could supply.

Get certified

If you need certification to add credibility as a consultant, do that first. Find out what licenses and certification would be valuable to your target audience. Having these credentials should also help you as a speaker.

Add hard skills to your resume

A backup plan should include some hard skills along with soft skills. What hard skills can you add to your resume?

Everything goes in cycles, but right now consulting is a good skill to have on your resume regardless of which direction the speaking industry is going in. The speaking industry is in a constant sea of change, so be prepared to cover all angles.

 

 

 

 

Every year American Express puts together a global meetings and events forecast. This year over 550 meeting and event specialists from 5 continents and 33 countries took part in the study. The great news for speakers is that there is optimism across the board that the meeting and event industry is still in a growth phase. The speaking industry forecast 2020 is bright!

Speaking industry forecast 2020

Spending is up in North America, Europe, Central/South America and Asia. Meetings are going to be longer, meaning more opportunities for more speakers. I’m already hearing about meetings and conferences that are looking for several keynote or general speakers. 70% of meeting and event leaders have said they are very optimistic about the future of meetings.

Face to face meetings are still one of the best ROI for businesses. Virtual meetings will be up slightly as well, but nothing beats face to face meetings for serious networking.

Good news for those speakers who have their own sponsors is that there will be more people attending meetings and conferences in 2020. The bigger the audience, the more money you can get from your sponsors.

More money for speakers

Spending is also up across the board, but that doesn’t always translate into more money for speakers, since the costs of everything they have to pay for is also going up and they have to factor that into their budgets. So event planners may still be dealing with having to do more with less, which is still fine if you have you own sponsors.

Since prices will be going up and demand will exceed supply, planners will probably start planning events further in advance.

Just like last year, interactive technology is playing a bigger role. Over half of planners want their attendees to have a great experience and are devoting more time to making that happen. Engagement is going to continue to be a huge part of events, both during the event and afterwards through polling, etc.

Most planners also agree that this is the year to have fully integrated technology at events, as long as it’s integrated successfully. Are you a technology speaker who can address this issue?

Wellness will play an important role in meetings in 2020. Are you a wellness or work life balance speaker who can help?

And events will also become more and more personalized, with feedback from attendees.

The good news for speakers is that the meeting and event industry will continue to be strong in 2020. Figure out how you fit into the picture and how you can help planners shine.

It will eventually happen to everyone…losing someone you love. And then you may be asked to deliver the hardest speech you’ll ever give… a eulogy speech. Eulogy speeches are all different depending on the situation and which friends and family members happen to be there.

I just gave my first one for a very long-time friend and my former manager. He was the one person who took a chance on me when I first came to Hollywood and fought hard to get me work. It’s because of him that I ended up staring in several movies. But I wasn’t the only one. He was known for giving people a chance, whether it was actors, writers, directors or members of the crew.

So the fact that 300 people showed up didn’t surprise me. Many more wanted to come but were working on sets. His assistant put together the memorial service, which was more of a celebration of life. An incredible life that started as a child actor and ended up producing or casting over 450 movies.

Several of us asked or were asked to give a speech to celebrate his life. I watched the others as someone who speaks for a living would. Some were actors, who already had a performing background, but most just wanted to express their thanks for knowing my friend and former manager. I had never given a eulogy before, so I didn’t really have anything to base it on. I just went with what I really felt, as did everyone else.

As an audience member I made notes of the ones that were really good and wanted to write out some bullet points for anyone who is put in the position of having to give a eulogy:

 

How to Give a Eulogy Speech:

  • Speak from your heart – This will probably be easy to do since you’ll be talking about someone you loved or at least liked a lot. The passion you have will translate and will touch the audience since they will probably feel the same about the person.
  • Keep it brief – It’s hard to sum up someone’s life in a matter of minutes, but you do want to keep the speech as brief as possible, like maybe 3-5 minutes. Less than 3 probably isn’t enough time, and more than 5 starts to be too much for the audience. Which leads me to the next point.
  • Make it for the audience – A eulogy is a time to give the deceased their spotlight. Just like a regular speech, include the audience in it and make them feel like they are a part of the experience.
  • Share stories – People like to hear stories that they can relate to. They may not have the same exact stories as you, but if it relates to the person’s personality, the audience will relate and be able to share in the memory. This is a good place to put in some humor.
  • Add humor – This probably depends on the friends, family, and the situation, but I think anything is better when you add a little humor. This eases the tension the audience is already feeling and gives them a good way to take a slight breather from their grief.
  • Add pathos – The emotion will probably come out in your speech anyway if you deliver it with passion. But adding some pathos along with the humor will touch them deeply.
  • Keep it real – This was the most important thing I noticed. No one is an angel and no one is perfect. Show a little of the person’s imperfections, instead of painting them as perfect. It’ll ring truer and will probably get a laugh out of the audience since they will be thinking the same thing.

A eulogy speech may be the hardest speech you’ll ever give, but will probably be one of the most important.

 

 

 

 

Some of your best speaker leads can come from referrals. Most of mine have. But all referrals may not be the same. I grew up in the entertainment industry, where about 80% of all jobs come from referrals. There is a good reason for that.

Hollywood

Hollywood is a transient place that’s full of con artists, beginners, flakes, bad actors, and people who are looking for a quick buck. I’ve been in it my whole life and it never changes. I’ve also been on all sides. From being an actor who has to beg for a job, to a casting director, who does the hiring, to the distributor, who puts up the money to distribute a final product.

There are WAY more people at the bottom that are looking for jobs than there are the ones at the top who do the hiring and buying. I must say it was such a difference to go from holding my hand out to beg for a job, to pulling out a checkbook with a huge bank account attached. And I must say that I was more likely to use weak ties myself, or someone a friend recommended.

Speaker leads

But one thing always seemed to be true. You will usually get your best speaker leads, acting leads, etc. from your weak links. I was much more likely to get a job from someone my hairdresser knew or my doctor knew, than from the person themselves. It always seemed to be from someone who wasn’t in the industry but had a close connection to the decision maker.

Weak ties

Sociologist Mark Granovetter wrote a paper in the 1970’s called “The Strength of Weak Ties”. Basically it talked about how your most valuable information will come from outside your usual network of contacts. People are far more likely to get a job from a weak contact than through a friend or relative.

He refers to strong ties as friends and weak ties as acquaintances. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have both, because you should. They compliment each other.

In my conversations with meeting planners lately I’ve found that many times they get referrals for speakers from people in their audience. That would be a weak speaker lead contact.

So, instead of always trying to go in through the front door, you might try using your weak contacts. As much as Hollywood hates taking chances on newbies, they also love the idea of finding a great, new talent that no one has ever heard of. Same with the speaking industry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Years ago I hired one of the best publicists in town to promote my product. I paid $5,000 month, which is a lot now, but a fortune back then. After 4 months I was out of money and they had only booked me one magazine. Since I had no money left, I was forced to do it myself. So I learned on my own how to be a publicist.

I was only doing it for myself, but I soon had other people calling me to do their publicity. Before long I was working for large corporations, and kept raising my prices to keep up with the demand.  I never advertised my services or went on a single job interview. It all came from word of mouth referrals.

It’s ironic because I never really wanted to be a publicist. I didn’t have a college degree, so I wouldn’t have even thought to send in my resume. But, here I was making a great living and working for big companies who would probably never hire me based on my resume. They hired me because of one thing – results! I worked hard for my clients and got them results, which is an issue with many publicists who take your money and do nothing, like what happened to me.

Easiest way to book a speaking job

To get referrals you’d better be damned good at what you do and work hard for your clients. It’s pretty simple.

So, how does this relate to the speaking industry? The easiest way to book a speaking job is through referrals. It’s also the easiest way to get your full fee as a keynote speaker.

The words every speaker wants to hear

I remember getting a call from a meeting planner who said “what is your fee and where do I send the contract”? Just like that. She said “Someone on the committee saw you speak, you came highly recommended, and we took a vote. So, are you available?” Ah, the words every speaker wants to hear “Are you available”?

But this didn’t happen overnight. It took years of hard work and proving myself in the market. I can’t tell you how many speakers and actors complain that they’ve been trying to get work for several months and haven’t gotten anything. The entertainment industry in general, whether you’re a speaker, actor, writer, musician, etc. is not about being an overnight success. If it does happen it’s very rare. Most people who make it have put in the hard work and established themselves before that happens. Nobody owes you anything as an artist. It has to be earned, over and over again.

When I worked in casting for films, I would rarely take a chance on a beginner for any leading roles. It wasn’t worth me being wrong, no matter how talented someone was. I wanted to see lots of proof that they were professionals and that they could handle a leading role. I would hire them for a smaller role if they were a beginner, but would not take the chance on a bigger role. There is too much on the line.

Prove yourself as a speaker

This is the same way it is in the speaking industry. You have to prove yourself and keep looking for the open door where someone will take that chance on you. In the meantime, keep working on your craft. Keep improving. Keep learning. No matter how long you’ve been in the business.

If I thought an artist just needed some help to push them over the edge I would work with them, on my own time and my own dime, because I thought they really had potential.

I remember reading a script that was so unique and had such a different voice with characters that jumped off the page, but the grammar and spelling were horrible. I couldn’t pass that script on to my boss, but I knew the writer and the script had potential. So I went through and edited it myself.

I had numerous conversations with the writer to make sure I was on the right track with him. He was more than willing to listen to critique and improve. He had no training as a writer, which really kind of worked in his favor because he didn’t allow his writing to be guided by some template from a university or writing school. That’s what made it so unique. It was a script written about great characters who had unique voices and a lot of heart. It was like no other script I had ever read. That happened only a handful of times where I found those kinds of artists.

Be the complete package as a speaker

But not everyone is going to take the time to help shape you. It’s a business, and they simply don’t have the time to do it. You need to be the complete package right off the bat. If you’re not, then start cutting your teeth in places where people will take a chance on you. About half of all the speaking jobs out there are free ones. Meeting planners need good speakers even if they can’t pay them. I know plenty of established speakers who will still book free speaking jobs to test out new material. I think this is smart. But if you’re doing it for free, you might as well make money by getting a sponsor for your speech. This is how I’ve never spoken for free. I would test new material in a free job, but get a sponsor. That way I got paid while shaping a speech, getting audience reaction, and improving my craft.

The actors and writers I would hire for smaller roles still had to prove themselves. The ones that showed up early, never complained, prepared for their parts, didn’t act like divas, and were willing to go above and beyond were the ones that I would keep in the file.

Keep working as a speaker

To get referrals as a speaker you have to be working. Someone, somewhere has to see you. That’s what happened when I got the call asking where to send the contract. Someone had seen me speak. Someone who had enough clout and enough passion in me to convince the committee to use me. This is the easiest way to book a speaking job.

This is the place you want to get to in your career. If you ever wonder why the same handful of people seem to book all the speaking jobs, this is why. They have reached a point where they’ve proven themselves in the industry. The easiest way to book a speaking job is to be a speaker everyone wants to work with and get referrals because of it.

It’s really simple. Be the best speaker, actor, writer, musician, entertainer you can possibly be. Be easy to work with and go above and beyond for every single job. Keep working and keep improving. Then one day you will get that call about sending the contract. The more you move up the ladder, the more of those calls you will get. And one more thing… resist ever becoming a diva. I could tell you many behind the scenes stories about actors who did this. Most of them aren’t working today. Be nice, be good, prove yourself, and love what you do enough to stay in it for the long haul.