Like many other industries, the speaking industry is undergoing a radical transformation. That means that the same ‘ole way of working suddenly isn’t working anymore. Most speakers who have been in the business long enough know this. Most speaker bureaus and meeting planners know it too.

But the good news is that innovation is taking its place and opening up new and exciting avenues for speakers at all levels. You no longer have to be a celebrity speaker to make a good living at public speaking. But it does mean you have to start expanding your horizons and thinking about speaking in a whole new way, which includes where you speak.

When you think of a professional speaker, the first image you have is of a speaker on a stage with a microphone. But there are some speakers who have made a living speaking on buses and planes, in barns, and in shopping malls.

My first paid speaking engagement was in a bowling alley overlooking the lanes. I made $2500 for that first speaking job because I had sponsors and went against what everybody told me was possible.

Here are some examples of other speakers who have spoken in crazy locations: (more…)

When you think of a conference, you usually think of the usual stuff, like speakers speaking on topics you want to learn about, panel discussions with experts who know what’s going on in your industry, and an agenda that’s pre-planned and written up in a conference brochure.

But what if you went to a conference that didn’t have any of that? Instead it’s a conference where you pay to share your own advice, kind of like event crowd sourcing.

Well, there is such a conference. It’s actually called the Nortech Innovation Unconference being held September 24, 2014 at the Cleveland Convention Center. It’s being marketed to inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs who are interested in having a community conversation about innovation in North East Ohio.

Apparently Ohio companies feel like this is a good idea. Twenty two sponsors have already signed up, such as AT&T, Medical Mutual, and Rockwell Automation. Manufacturing and technology are ripe for reinvention in North East Ohio. And the sponsors who are participating feel that an open discussion with business and innovation leaders is just the right way to start the process.

As an innovator I love the idea of doing anything unique and out of the box, especially events. I couldn’t guess whether it would work or not, since I’ve never heard of it being done. But that’s what makes innovation so great, is that it’s experimental. You never know what could happen unless you try it. Maybe the same ‘ole way works, but what if you tried it a different way? I’m betting they’ll discover some things they’ll keep and some they’ll discard. Just like innovation. Not every idea is a winner. And you always discover things you didn’t know would come out of it because it’s a new way of working.

Now, as an innovation speaker, I hate the idea because it would put me out of business. Again, this is part of the process of innovation. Everything changes. And if that change is an improvement, you keep it. Think about how blacksmiths must have felt with the invention of the automobile? They always had plenty of work, and the profession was looked at with awe. Blacksmiths were thought to be magical, and the blacksmith profession was looked at as being lucky. Until innovation changed all that.

So, are speakers going to become obsolete? Probably not. But the lesson here is that you always need to look ahead. Even as a speaker, you need to be innovating yourself, because you never know how the event industry is going to change. And when it does, will you be more like Henry Ford or a blacksmith?

What are you doing as a speaker to innovate?