The speaking industry is similar to Hollywood. Too many people chasing too few jobs. But, just like Hollywood, there’s a reason why you have no competition 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.

Competition as a 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 as a speaker, 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.



11 Responses to “Why You Have No Competition as a Speaker”

  1. Clemson Barry says:

    Very good article, Julie. However speakers should avoid being typecasted or pigeonholed into a specific niche. In a similar way, singers are know by the genre of music that they sing and play. When they change genre they usually lose fans. The same is held true for actors/actresses in the sitcoms, “Different Strokes” and “Three’s Company” . Those long episodes have made them stereotypes and they were out of a job when the sitcoms end.

  2. Julie Austin says:

    Hi Barry. I used to work in the TV and film industry and yes, it’s true that actors get stereotyped. But that is what makes them stars. And once you’ve achieved that level you can always branch out and try other things. But if you start out as a general all purpose actor who doesn’t really have any kind of branding or niche you just become like everyone else and blend into the crowd. Once a celebrity, always a celebrity… somewhere.

  3. Mike wrenshall says:

    Julie I agree with you I think! I was just given the same advice.

    I have been in sales and done well. I was abused sexually when a young boy. It’s a narrow niche and one I want to pursue

  4. Ed Bonchak says:

    Great piece on finding your unique niche when it comes to public speaking. I know the idea is to get paid, but since I am a public speaker newbie, the opportunities that I have received have allowed me to hone my skills. The improvement I see in myself and the positive comments I hear from others is payment enough. At least for now.

  5. Heath Suddleson says:

    I’d like to add to Julie’s great response about branching out after you become a star.

    I am quickly discovering that as I establish myself as the expert in my own field that people are now coming to me asking if I can modify my presentation to serve their audience. This is much better than me trying to convince them that they should take a chance on someone who is not an expert in their field.

    Become the expert, build a client base, then you can let them come to you and ask you to branch out.

  6. Julie Austin says:

    I agree, Heath! We had celebrity TV actors being submitted all the time who were typecast as a certain character. But they always at least got a chance to come in and show us what else they could do as opposed to the person who wasn’t a celeb. Unknown actors went to the bottom of the list, if they ever got in at all. Hate to say that, but it’s true.

  7. Ann Andrews CSP says:

    Great article Julie. In a crowded marketplace (and what marketplace isn’t crowded these days) we have to have a point of difference; a way that people remember us. I was the personnel manager of a poultry processing plant for a few years (not the most glamorous industry, though it was one of my favourite jobs ever) and at conferences I would tell ‘chicken’ stories – which were always hilarious. I became know as ‘the chicken lady’. We have to find a niche – ann

  8. Cindy-Michelle Waterfield says:

    Thanks Julie, for a thought provoking article. I love your title because you are most certainly right – there is a lot of room and just like the acting market, the business market or any other market there are lots at the bottom and a few at the top. Going Niche is a great strategy to get you towards the top, but it doesn’t work for everyone and it is just one of several strategies. As for numbers, just to give you some idea: When I first got involved in the industry in 1996, I did some research. The internet was far more open and less crowded with irrelevant info. Back then, in the USA alone, there was just over 400 bureaus with 127,000 people purporting to be speakers (paid and unpaid). Obviously not all signed to bureaus either – they only take on those that they can place easily. with an average rate of 10% of growth per year, you can begin to understand why specialising or becoming niche in something will get you closer to the top. 🙂 Cindy.

  9. Julie Austin says:

    Thanks Cindy. That really does put it into perspective. These days everything is way overcrowded with far too few paid jobs for all. You truly have to be innovative to figure a way around it.

  10. Erricka Bridgeford says:

    I love this article! Nobody else is in this body, having this experience. Even if other people have similar messages, nobody else is commissioned to deliver it the way I am. I’m not competing to put anyone else down… if that’s what getting work looks like… I don’t want it. I simply want whatever is a good fit for me. This post has energized me and reminded me that I am more than enough. Thank you!

  11. Joe Simon says:

    Julie, “Amen” to this.

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