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 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.







The speaking industry is similar to Hollywood. Actors either audition or send in their videos and a group of people, the casting director, director, and producer, all have to come to a mutual decision about who they cast in a film, TV show or theater production. I’ve been on both sides of the process, and I must say that being on the casting end is much less stressful. A lot of variables go into the decision, and most of them are totally out of your control. So never take it personally. That’s easy to say, but when you think you’re perfect for a speaking job it can become baffling.

Why speakers don’t get the job

Here are some of the reasons why speakers don’t get the job:

Committee voted on another speaker 

A committee can be anywhere from a few people to a couple of dozen. Most speaker decisions are made by committee these days, which means a lot of people have to like you and think you’re the right person for the job. If you don’t get the majority of the vote, you probably won’t get the job. If your topic doesn’t fit in with the conference theme and the theme is already set in stone, you probably won’t get the job. And, If there really isn’t a theme, but they like your topic, they could pick you and create the rest of the conference to fit around you.

Went with another topic  

If some other speaker knocked their socks off, they could take the conference in a different direction to fit that speaker. The only thing to do about this one is to be the speaker that knocks their socks off. Have a unique topic that only you can provide, and have a great angle on it.

Already used your topic or similar speaker 

If they used your topic for their last conference, they probably won’t be using it again, which means having to wait until that topic and theme comes around again. They like to keep things fresh for their members or clients.

Decision maker used someone they knew 

This would happen all the time when we were casting films. We would go through the casting process, and in the end, the producer decided to hire someone’s girlfriend, boyfriend, cousin, etc. This is another thing you have no control over. Even when we would find the best talent for the part, if the director, producer or financier said they wanted their mistress in the lead role, there was nothing we could do.

Not ready for primetime  

If you’re planning to speak to a small, local library for free, the bar will be much lower than for a bigger paid job. Anyone who is going to be writing you a large check has to make sure you’re ready to play in the big leagues. The only way to get over this one is by constantly working and proving yourself. People need to know who you are and that you’re good and reliable. This is why Hollywood and the speaking industry can both feel like a closed club until you are able to make your way in. You can’t buy your way in or bribe your way in. You simply have to be incredibly good at your craft, be responsible, easy to work with, and prove that you are worthy of their trust.

They decided not to use speakers  

Sometimes conference meeting planners like to shake things up and not always put on the same conference. They may decide to have panel discussions or no speakers at all.

They want industry only 

Some conferences don’t use outside speakers at all. So unless you’re actively working in their industry, they won’t be looking for outside speakers.

The speaking industry is about the long game. There are many reasons why speakers don’t get the job, just like there are many reasons actors don’t get the job. You simply have to keep getting better and keep working. Along the way you will lose a LOT of jobs. It’s just the nature of the business. So, like I said, don’t take it personally. Eventually that perfect opportunity will come along and you will be just the right speaker for it.






The speaking industry in 2018 showed an increase in the number of meetings that would require speakers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently posted that between 2016-2026 the meeting and event industry would grow an average of 11%. The fastest growth in meetings and events is in the 101-500 attendee range.  More bureau statistics show that 85% of meeting and event planners are optimistic about the future.

Speaking industry forecast 2019

But that doesn’t mean meeting planners don’t have challenges. The number one challenge on their list, according to Event Manager Blog, is budgets. The meeting industry continues to grow, and the economy remains strong, That also means their prices are going up and they have to deal with rising costs of venues, etc. It’s expected to increase an average of 2.2% globally.

More jobs for speakers

The great news for you as a speaker is that there are simply more jobs out there, paid ones and free ones. But even as the number of meetings increases, unfortunately meeting planners’ budgets will remain relatively flat. According to American Express Meetings and Events North American, the change from 2018 to 2019 is only +0.8%.

Local or regional events

Also, according to American Express Meetings, airfares are increasing 2.11% in North America and an average of 2.63% globally. As a speaker your odds of booking a local or regional event are much better. As a speaker, if you must travel, try and book more than one event in a location to save on those expenses or use frequent flyer miles or get sponsorship to help out if the expenses aren’t covered by a job. More than once I’ve booked a job because I was able to get creative with travel and sponsorship.

Because of rising venue costs, meeting planners are having to book further out than before when hotels were struggling. Now many hotels don’t even respond to requests for proposals. So as a speaker, be prepared for meeting planners to also book talent further in advance.

Emotional connection to the audience

Here’s more good news for speakers. According to CWT Meetings and Events, “Booking a speaker based on their celebrity status will be a thing of the past in 2019, as the importance, business insight, and emotional connection to the audience comes first.”

Technology use will continue to increase for meeting planners as events become more and more interactive and experiential. Event management tools like multi-use apps will become more popular. Meeting planners are looking for ways to increase productivity and decrease costs.

More experience creation

According to the International Association of Conference Centers, “80% of event planners say that their jobs involve more experience creation than they did 2-5 years ago.” Their audiences want fresh concepts and purposeful meetings.

Mindfulness and wellness continue to play a big part in the design of meetings, and that includes speakers who can tap into that area of work/life balance.

With unemployment rates at historically low records, employees are having a hard time finding and retaining good talent, so the topic of employee retention will continue to be needed for the near future.

If you happened to take the Speaker Sponsorship 101 webinar you know that trade shows are a good way to break in as a speaker with sponsorship. The Center for Exhibition Industry research noted that the trade show industry is also growing, but not as fast. I’m sure they would love to have good, qualified speakers, but probably can’t pay them, so they would be open to them having their own sponsorship. This is a good way to get into an area where other speakers haven’t thought of going and carving out a niche for yourself with sponsorship.

This is all good news for speakers who can bring value and expertise to the table in 2019. It’s good news for the speaking industry forecast 2019.


All industries change as the world around them changes. The speaking industry is no different. The topics meeting planners requested 5 years ago or 10 years ago have changed. With a booming economy, companies are now more interested in recruiting and retaining employees than they were 5 years ago.

Current speaker topics companies are looking for

Lately I’ve been getting requests from meeting planners for topics related to the workplace, such as generational issues, managing a new generation, and recruitment and retention. With a tight job market they are suddenly interested in motivating employees and attracting the best talent.

As a business speaker, can you help companies recruit and retain the best employees? Have you gone through the same issues as a business owner and have tips that can help them find new talent? Have you been on the hiring end and have tips from human resources that will help them? 

Can you motivate employees?

As a motivational speaker, are you able to help companies motivate their employees? Recent studies show that money and benefits are actually not at the top of things that excite new employees. Peer motivation and recognition and encouragement are at the top. Employees will be spending most of their day at the office, so a fun environment is key to many people. A dull, stressful, high-paying job that sucks the life out of you will burn employees out quickly. Can you help them find ways to keep their employees happy and motivated?

Are you an expert in helping companies create a dynamic company culture? Companies that don’t have a defined culture and mission statement tend to have disorganized chaos. Once a company has a defined culture they can then hire people that fit into the culture. But they first need to know what it is. Are you that speaker who can help them define their culture? This is valuable to a company that wants to retain the best talent.

Are you a leader?

Many speakers speak on the topic of leadership. Have you actually been a leader yourself? Do you have valuable and unique information you can give to companies on how to groom talent for leadership positions? Have you been on the other side as an employee in a company who can give inside information on what employees want out of management and how to nurture their talent for leadership positions?

Or maybe you’re an expert on the topic of generational issues in the workplace. Can you help companies figure out how to deal with a workforce of different generations? Can you help them navigate through issues like different communication styles, technical issues, and different styles of collaborating?

As a speaker you’re constantly having to adjust to changes in the speaking industry. If you can use your background to help companies through the changes they’re facing, you open up more possibilities as a speaker. It gives you more chances at having current speaker topics companies are looking for right now.







I found out that you can get more speaking jobs by helping other speakers. Last week I got a call from a meeting planner regarding a keynote for their next conference. I spoke on the topics they were looking for and was available for the date of the event. She set up a time for me to have a 3-way call with the president of the company and I had my list of questions to ask.

It quickly became clear that he was looking for something completely different, and I was met with a lot of resistance on the other end. At that point I could have tried to push it in my direction but I got the impression if I had gotten the job they wouldn’t have been happy.

So after hanging up I called my competition. I knew that he was more what they were looking for and he was local. I’m not sure if he’s excepted the job or not but I felt much better knowing that the client will get what they want and get a great speaker and I won’t be miserable trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Sometimes your competition is a better fit

The point of the story is that sometimes it’s better to pass on a job than try to make it fit. Sometimes your competition is a better fit.

I had a friend who wanted to get on a TV writing staff, so she came up with a long term strategy that was kind of a gamble. She decided to spend a whole year helping other people in the industry get work. Not ignoring her own work, but always keeping an eye out for writing jobs that she could pass on to other writers.

For months, she networked like crazy and recommended good writers that she knew whenever a job would come up that they were right for. Many times the writers were direct competition. Sometimes they were better suited for that particular job than she was.

After several months she was starting to think maybe the strategy wasn’t going to work. She got a lot of grateful writers work, but she still wasn’t on a TV writing staff. And then one day she got a call that one of the writers she had helped had been promoted to showrunner of a new TV series. And that writer never forgot how she had helped her. She got the job as staff writer on a show that lasted a couple of years. Not only did she make a lot of money, but that led to other staff writing jobs.

Help the meeting planner

The bottom line is that there is a lot of work out there. If you’re the very best person for the job, you’ll get it. And if you don’t get it, you might as well be the one to help the meeting planner find the best person. That will make the meeting planner happy, so the next time they will remember you helped them out with a really good speaker. And the next job may be one you’re perfect for.

It will also make the speaker happy. Hopefully they will steer some business your way when the time is right. Sometimes they may be busy on the date of the event, or they could refer you the next year.

Speaker commission

You could do it just for the karma or you could do a reciprocal commission of 10 or 20%. But make sure you’re working with professional, ethical speakers who will do a good job for the meeting planner. Otherwise it’ll backfire on you. Get more speaking jobs by helping other speakers get speaking jobs.

This is why it’s a good idea to network with professional speakers who can hit it out of the park and pay it forward for you if possible. Even if it’s your competition.

Every performer knows the show must go on, no matter what. I learned very early on as an actor how to perform through pain. How to push the pain to the back of my mind to give the audience what they came to see. I was on my way to do a TV show in New York when I got the news that my dog died. I showed up to the studio with red, puffy eyes and struggled to sit in the makeup chair without crying. But when they called “action” I snapped into character with a smile on my face.

How to perform through pain

Last year I was in the hospital and had to fly out to do a speaking job that same day. I cut the hospital bracelet off on my way to the airport and put myself into a Zen mode. I was in no shape to be flying, but had no choice. It turned out to be one of the best speeches I had given and you would never guess from the video. The client had no idea what I was going through.

Last week I was scheduled to do a motivational speech and found out my mother died the day before I had to leave.  I had to put on a happy face and power through motivating the crowd, when I could barely motivate myself.

The show must go on!

Performers have to go through this all the time. If you work enough, you’ll probably eventually go through some kind of painful experience where you simply have to go on with the performance.

I know of a belly dancer who also juggled knives in her act. She said once she dropped the knife and it went straight into her foot, but she just pulled it out and kept on dancing. As soon as she got off stage she let out a scream. But while on stage she had to keep going.

Speaker who performed through pain

Here are some performers who prove the show must go on and how they do it:

“It was the day after the love of my life died of a brain tumor. The client had flown in his sales team from all across the U.S. And my job, was to educate and entertain them from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

There are two things that got me through this day and carry me through hardship to give it my best.

Focus on the audience — not me

Although the client may be empathetic, caring, even compassionate, they don’t really care what my problems are. They care about how they are going to get the training and entertainment for their team, keep the program on track, and get a return on the investment. To get through the day, I focused totally on the audience and giving them the best program I could give them. Make them laugh, make them cry, help them learn, answer their questions. No thinking about myself. Solely serving them.

Remind myself that I’m the best they are going to get today — so I better be good

The client has contracted with me. It’s too late to get them a substitute. It’s unfair (unethical) for me to not give my very best. The information is important for this audience. Do the job.

That was the toughest day I’ve worked as a speaker. The client never knew what I was going through and has since had me back to work with his team repeatedly.”

Laurie Richards is an accomplished speaker, strategist, and organizational consultant who works with leaders, executives, entrepreneurs, and other professionals to improve communication at every level. Known for her practical, interactive, and entertaining approach. She helps clients strategically plan outcome-based presentations. Put power into a PowerPoint. Prepare for media interviews, manage crises (before, during, and after), grow morale, build stronger teams, and improve everyday communications to directly affect the bottom line (including new business pitches, state-of-the-organization addresses, sales presentations, and meetings. Many of Richards’ programs include personality profiling. She uses Myers-Briggs, DISC, Social Styles, and Fascination Advantage.  This helps clients work better as teams, improve efficiencies, select best candidates, and coach employees.

Laurie Richards holds degrees in communication and business management, and a variety of certifications in micro-expressions and psychological profiling. She is currently working toward her Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology.For more information, visit:

Long running play

“I am an actress is a very long running play in NY called Perfect Crime; I’ve gone onstage 8 times/week since April of 1987 and have only missed 4 performances in 31 years for my siblings’ weddings.

So I have literally performed through every life experience – break ups, death and illness of loved ones, sickness, the 9/11 attack, etc. My mother died on a Saturday between a matinee and an evening performance and I did the evening show. I am not crazy (well, maybe a little) but it was strangely comforting to do the show that night.

I have given this a lot of thought and I think performing has been enormously helpful to me in terms of dealing with hardship. It’s an appropriate emotional outlet. It’s distracting in times of trouble. Sometimes when I am onstage fully engaged, a small part of my brain is actually also problem solving so I end up having a solution to whatever is bothering me after the show. So performing allows me to be creative in multiple ways.”

Catherine Russell
General Manager
The Theater Center
1627 Broadway @ 50th St
212 921 7862 (theater)

Ballroom dancer

“I’m a competitive ballroom dancer and blogger. I’ve been training in ballroom dance since 2012, started competing in 2014, and most recently, have won a World Champion title in the style American Smooth. I blog as The Girl with the Tree Tattoo. I share the good, the bad, and the awkward of my journey while shedding light on the rarely addressed mental and emotional aspects of being a ballroom dancer.

Like so many of my fellow dancers, I’ve danced through physical injuries and illnesses. I’ve danced through anxiety and/or panic attacks. I danced through the end of my marriage.

When your passion for dance is so strong that it becomes something you must do, instead of just like to do, there is very little that will keep you from it. My teacher and dance partner even tried to dance with a severely broken wrist! No matter the style, dance requires a high level of discipline and commitment. I have to push through mental and physical hurdles every day just to train and practice. This trains me to push through them at performance time.

Dance is such a physically, emotionally and mentally taxing sport. You have to have a good amount of grit to survive and thrive in it, because otherwise it will chew you up and spit you out.

Preparation is key

As far as techniques for getting through specific hardships, preparation is key. Taking good care of my body throughout training reduces the risk of injury, and if I am injured, it reduces the severity. Preparation is key for my mental state as well. My warmup process at competitions includes a lot of mindset work to help me focus and be present in the moment. My best dance performance requires me to be fully present in the moment. Dance actually provides an escape. Everything else fades away as I move with my partner to the music. And if there is something that refuses to fade, I use it. I tap into the emotions I’m feeling and redirect them into my dancing.”

Katie Flashner, a.k.a. The Girl with the Tree Tattoo, is a ballroom dancer and blogger. Her mission is to inspire and motivate her fellow ballroom dancers to become the performers they are born to be instead of the ones that others want them to be.

World Champion ballroom dancer

Katie has been studying ballroom dance since 2012 and has successfully competed as an amateur ballroom dancer since 2014. Most recently she won the World Champion title in American Smooth. Since starting her blog in 2015, Katie has welcomed over 1,600 followers who value her openness and willingness to share the good, the bad, and the awkward of her journey while shedding light on the rarely addressed mental and emotional aspects of being a ballroom dancer.

In addition to writing on her blog, Katie regularly contributes articles to FloDance and Sheer Dance magazine. She has also been featured on DanceBeat, Dancesport Place, Dance Comp Review, and Dance Advantage. Her best-selling digital book series, Dance Diaries, received over 4 stars in Amazon reviews.

Katie lives in Orange County, California with her two dogs and has just released her latest work, The Solo Practice Guide for Ballroom Dancing.

Professional musician and performer

“My name is Alissa Musto and I am a professional musician and performer based in Boston, MA.

Growing up in a family of professional musicians, the concept of the “show must go on” was instilled in me from a young age. There are certainly days where I feel absolutely terrible, either emotionally or physically, and don’t want to go on stage. I remind myself though that this may be somebody’s first and only impression of me. Whatever I’m going through is temporary and probably will be resolved in a week. The consequences of a bad performance, however, live on a lot longer.

Crunch moments

I like to refer to these instances as “crunch moments”; I’m totally overwhelmed, I’m tired, I’m upset, I’m stressed, I’m probably running behind and then on top of all that, something else unexpected happens. If I took the time to really think about and process everything going on in that moment, I’d probably break down. Instead, I just acknowledge that I’ve hit “crunch time” and that I indisputably have to move forward and figure everything else out later. At that point, there is no room for procrastination or self-doubt. I buy my favorite $7 Starbucks coffee drink and remind myself that “dealing with it” is what distinguishes me as a professional from millions of other aspiring performers.

Alissa Musto

What are your techniques for performing through pain?

According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy and Giving USA, philanthropy in America for 2017 hit a record high and continues to break records. “Powered by a booming stock market and a strong economy, charitable giving by American individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations to U.S. charities surged to an estimated $410.02 billion in 2017, according to Giving USA 2018: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2017″ 

Philanthropy in America

Philanthropy will always go on, but during times of economic prosperity, giving throughout history has increased. Aggie Sweeney, chair of the Giving USA Foundation, said “As people have more resources available, they are choosing to use them to make a difference.”  When people have more, they give more. Giving to the arts has increased in 2017 by 8.7 percent to over $19 billion dollars. Giving to education in 2017 is almost $59 billion dollars. This spells great news for speakers and artists who want to use their creativity for the greater good.

Researchers from the Indiana University Lilly Family of Philanthropy found that giving rose by at least 5% in three of the four categories they polled — corporations (8%), foundations (6%), and individuals (5%). Among all groups, foundations had the largest increase in donations, increasing by 15.5%.

Tax benefits of philanthropy

Even though charitable giving should be altruistic, there are many tax benefits to it as well. In 1917 tax code changes allowed tax payers to deduct up to 15% of their taxable income when they donated to charitable causes, such as charities for the poor, scientific study, and arts and education.

Changes in the tax code allowed corporations to deduct charitable contributions up to 5 percent of taxable income. Now most major corporations have a corporate foundation, and charitable obligations to society have become an expected part of doing business.

Throughout history, people have used philanthropy to gain prestige, power and recognition. In David Callahan’s book “The Givers: Wealth, Power and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age”, he shines a light on the new generation of top mega philanthropists and how they’re using their philanthropy for power and influence. Whatever reason they’re doing it, it still benefits speakers and artists. Those entrepreneurial artists who know how to partner with philanthropists will not only help advance their own careers quickly, but will also become a part of a growing social movement to better their own communities.

The Gilded Age

Andrew Carnegie, one of the most high profile philanthropists of the Gilded Age, said “it is more difficult to give money away intelligently than to earn it in the first place.” He put his own money where his mouth was and gave away 90 percent of his fortune in his lifetime. He also encouraged other wealthy Americans to follow him in giving their money away to improve society.

Like Carnegie, today’s philanthropists know that it isn’t just about writing a check. It’s about using that money wisely to produce the best possible outcomes for society. This is why speakers and artists need to learn the business side, as well as the creative side.

Grants for speakers and artists

An important piece of the patronage partnership is grants. Philanthropists want to improve the human condition and make a positive change to society through their contributions. They are always looking for new and unique ways to improve their communities. Socrates said that the act of giving away his thoughts in his speech was his philanthropy, and Plato left his farm to a nephew with instructions to use the profits from the harvest to help the students and the teachers at the school he started.

Speakers and artists who can align themselves with a worthy cause and partner with philanthropic entities can literally create their own “jobs” and use their creative voice and passion to make the world a better place.





All writers have run into writer’s block at one time or another. According to Wikipedia, writer’s block is “a condition, primarily associated with writing, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work, or experiences a creative slowdown. The condition ranges in difficulty from coming up with original ideas to being unable to produce a work for years.”

The same thing can happen to speakers where you get speaker’s block. You go through a dry spell and don’t have work booked for a long time. You are still doing the same canned speech you have been giving for years. Or you simply are not expanding your knowledge or challenging yourself as a speaker.

Speaker’s block

If you get to that point where you feel you have speaker’s block, here are some tips to get out of it:


Yes just get out and speak. It sounds simple and it is. If you aren’t booked to speak anywhere, call your local library, church, or Chamber of Commerce and ask if you could come in and give a speech. Even if you’re used to being a paid, working speaker, if you aren’t working, make it happen. The best speakers I know will simply speak anywhere, anytime. Speaking, like acting, isn’t a skill you can just read about in a book and get better at. You have to actually do it.

Try something new

I remember when I was in Toastmasters we would have to write and deliver a new speech every month or two. I loved the idea of picking a random topic and doing a speech on it, just to see if I could. This is a good thing to do when you’re speaking at your local library or church. When you’re speaking for free you can experiment. Pick a topic that interests you and not just one that you need to make money with. But play to the top of your game and give it your all, even if you’re speaking for free.

Do something else creative

Sometimes if you step away from speaking and try something else creative, you stretch your creative muscles and will come back to speaking even stronger. Try writing a short story or poetry, take an improv class, go dancing, sing at a Karaoke, take up photography, make a scrapbook, etc.

Get an outside point of view

If you’re stuck, sometimes having an outsider look at things will give you a fresh way to look at your career. Have someone look through your website, speaker videos, etc. There is probably something you’re missing, and you can’t see it because you’re too close to it. Get a fresh point of view and get re-energized.

Remind yourself why you’re a speaker

If you find that things are getting boring and you’re just going through the motions, remind yourself why you became a speaker in the first place. Think about your audience and why you want to get your message across to them. This will help put the passion back in your speaking and get you excited about getting back on stage.

The next time you find yourself with speaker’s block, try one or all of the above!




You walk off stage to thunderous applause and pat yourself on the back. You nailed it. The audience was with you and they loved you. But did they really? How do you know if the audience liked your speech?

One of the first speeches I gave felt like this. Until I got my feedback. “She didn’t know who we were or what we do”. Yikes! I had no idea they felt this way. But the truth is, they were right. I had spent so much time perfecting the craft of my speech but I didn’t spend any time getting to know who the audience was or whether they would like or even need the material. I never made that mistake again.

But sometimes it’s hard to tell from their reactions or their applause how an audience really feels. So how do you find out?

Ask the meeting planner

Meeting planners will usually get feedback about a speaker so they know what kinds of things the audience likes or doesn’t like. Some of the feedback is brought up in the wrap-up meetings after an event. If you’re brave, you could call or email them to find out what kind of feedback they got. Then if it’s positive, great! If it’s negative, you need to know so you can improve.

Look on Twitter

It was only when I started checking the event hashtags that I discovered some great feedback from an event that I thought the audience hated. They didn’t really participate in the interactive portion and I had a hard time getting people to even raise their hands for questions. But it turns out they were a shy group, which explains why most people were sitting in the back of the room and didn’t want to be called on. But they put all kinds of praise on Twitter. I had no idea.

Ask the audience

This is also tricky, but I tried it after the last speech I gave. I asked people in the audience one on one if there was any information in the speech that they could use in their own organizations. I not only got an idea of the things they could and couldn’t implement, but they gave me ideas for other content to look into. If you’re doing a breakout or your own events you can give people a feedback form to fill out.

If you really take the time to know and understand your audience’s needs you should be getting good feedback from them. Audience feedback isn’t a one time thing, but should be done after every speech. The more you know, the more you will improve as a speaker.