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.

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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 was talking to a speaker the other day and asked her what topic she spoke about and she answered “whatever they want”. That might have worked in the speaking industry 20 years ago, but today’s meeting planner is looking for an expert in a topic, a thought leader who knows more about that topic than anyone else, and has a solid background to back it up.

Branding yourself as a speaker

You might think that limits your opportunities as a speaker, but it’s actually the opposite. I’ve spent some time studying the top speakers, and work with some top speakers. And one thing they have in common is that they have narrowed down their niche. They dig deep within the one thing they know better than any other speaker and they stick with it.

I know so many speakers who have incredible hard skills knowledge they could be using, but say they would rather speak on topics that meeting planners simply aren’t looking for, the speaker isn’t really an expert in, or the market is saturated with.

Meeting planners talk amongst themselves, and when they are looking for a particular topic your name should come to the top of the list. If you want to speak on branding, have you ever actually created a brand yourself? You will be competing with people who have created world class brands that are household names. Why would they choose you over someone who started a Fortune 500 company with a brand that’s a household name?

I’ve seen speakers who say they speak on the topic of social media who only have 300 Twitter followers and a Klout score below 40. Why would a meeting planner hire them to teach their employees about social media?

Are you an expert in your field?

The first thing I look at on a speaker’s website is the “about” page. What kind of background do you have that qualifies you as an expert in that topic? As an audience member, why would I listen to you? Just because you’re passionate about a topic doesn’t mean you’re the right person to deliver that message. Your credibility is something that has to be earned.

If you look at the backgrounds of some of the top speakers, they have extensive knowledge, hands-on experience in the real world, media attention in their area of expertise, industry awards and years of training. They’ve earned the right to stand on a stage and speak on that topic.

The good news is that most of us have all of those things. It’s a matter of doing what speaker Joe Calloway calls “picking a lane”. I know I’ve used this example before, but Brene’ Brown is a good example of a speaker who picks a lane. In fact, on the home page of her site it says she has “spent the past 13 years studying vulnerability…” When a meeting planner is looking for that topic, she’s at the top of the list. And she works… a lot.

Find your own audience

Another part of a speaker’s brand is in their delivery. If you look at comedians, someone like Jim Carey has a very different style from Steven Wright, Mitch Hedberg’s style was very different from Melissa McCarthy’s style. They all found their own audience, as you should do as a speaker.

As far as style goes, there’s no right or wrong way when it comes to being a speaker, but it should always fit your comfort level. I would never feel comfortable lecturing from a podium with a lot of charts and grafts. But many meeting planners would rather have that style, and there are plenty of speakers who feel more comfortable giving them what they want. There’s no reason to fit a square peg in a round hole. Be who you are and the audience that’s right for you will find you, love you, and hire you over and over again. Are you branding yourself as a speaker?

 

Speaker Directory

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

Benefits of Being in a Speaker Directory

Keyword focused, quality, one way link

Link building is one of the most powerful things you can do to to drive traffic to your website. But not all links are equal in the eyes of the search engines. A good quality, one way link from a reputable, high ranking directory in your target niche market is one way to assure the search engines will love you. And you can never have too much link love.

Extremely targeted traffic

Just being in a speaker directory with others in your industry helps drive traffic to you. If a meeting planner comes to a site looking for a speaker, she will also see you. Being listed in the same place as your competition can be a good thing. A meeting planner who needs one speaker will also be looking for other speakers. This is one reason being listed on a niche speaker directory is better than a general directory. Expose yourself to new clients every day. In the search engine’s opinion, being on several good, quality niche directories is better than being on 100 general ones.

Much cheaper than advertising

You could easily go through $100 in PPC ads or other forms of advertising, and it’s something you have to continuously keep up. If you run out of money, your ad goes down. With a directory, that same $100 would last you for a whole year and would be driving traffic on autopilot. It reaches exactly the customers you’re trying to reach.

Tax deduction for a Speaker Directory

Being listed on a directory is a business write-off for speakers, authors, consultants and entertainers. Look at it as an inexpensive marketing tool that can be written off on your taxes.

Control

You have the control to change or add content to your online listing whenever you want. You can’t do that with a printed directory.

Thought leadership

Being in a targeted industry directory with other people who are thought leaders, puts you in the same category.

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

 

After looking at a list of several speakers bureaus, I found that the average number of motivational speakers each one had was between 100-200 for that category alone. And I counted over 100 speaker’s bureaus in the U.S. That sounds like a lot of speakers. But when you consider that there are thousands of meetings and conferences that go on each year, suddenly the odds get a little better. There are still not enough decent paid speaking jobs to go around, but you can increase your odds as a public speaker.

  • Pick a niche no one owns – Speaker Dr. Brene Brown has spent 12 years studying and researching the topic of vulnerability. Her list of speaking topics all reflect variations of that topic. I can’t say that I have ever heard of another speaker who speaks on vulnerability. She found a niche no one else was pursuing and she is definitely an expert. She stands out by going down a different path from everyone else. Sally Hogshead did a 3 year study on the topic of fascination. She not only wrote a book about it, but she has a slew of products, from books to a fascination advantage test. When her name comes up you know exactly what she speaks about and no one else can claim that.
  • Use your background – No one on the planet has exactly the same background you do. That includes your nationality, education, resume, family history, job skills, personality, and style. How can you use all of these or a combination of them to stand out in a crowd of speakers who are all speaking on the same topic?
  • Know more about your niche than anyone – Would you rather hear a speaker who has read some books on leadership or one who lead a disability group to the Mt. Everest base camp (then went on to be the first person with one arm to reach the summit) like Gary Guller? A speaker who has taken some leadership seminars or someone like Sir Richard Branson, a true leader who now has over 400 businesses under his control? Though most people can’t compete with Richard Branson or climb to the top of Mt. Everest, you can dominate your niche and know more about it than anyone.

So, the next time you fret about keeping up with your competition, take a deep breath and realize there is only one “you”. Challenge yourself, not to compete with all the other speakers in the world, but to compete with yourself.

 

 

You’re contacted by a meeting planner and you’re scheduled to deliver a speech on a topic you know like the back of your hand. You’re the expert in that topic and you know you can deliver a great, educational and inspirational speech about the topic. But is it really what the audience needs to know? Just because you know the topic well doesn’t automatically mean you’re able to connect with the audience.

connect with the audience

connect with the audience

I learned this lesson the hard way. After speaking to a human resources group on a topic I knew well and was an expert in, I left thinking it was the best I had ever delivered the speech and the information was well researched. It was delivered in an entertaining and educational way and ended right on time. I would have given the presentation a 10.

Unfortunately I didn’t think about the fact that I come from a very different world and had no idea what a human resource employee goes through every day. I’ve never been in that position and dealt with the issues they deal with on a daily basis. So my idea of what they needed was completely different from the truth. These are the things you learn from getting feedback. I hadn’t taken the time to get to know them and their needs. I wasn’t able to step into their shoes and I didn’t really know what they needed to know. So, the next time I spoke to a human resource group I made sure to do my homework and it made a huge difference.

Here are 3 ways you can connect with the audience:

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