No matter where I go these days I’m constantly running into someone who says they are a speaker. At the grocery store today there was one person in front of me and one behind me who got into a conversation about speaking. In L.A. you expect to run into someone who is an actor, writer, director, or all of the above on every corner. But speaker? Hmm, what’s going on?

This is interesting because, according to studies, glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking is the number one phobia Americans have. You would think more people would shy away from it, but I get calls every day from people who say they’ve just become a speaker or they want to become a speaker.

Since I’ve been working in the entertainment industry in some form or another since I was a teenager, I look at the speaking industry as being very similar to the entertainment industry. For example, you have a handful of actors who are on the A list, who make millions of dollars, a lot of actors who make a living some or most of the time, and a lot of wanna-be actors who never make any money from acting, who eventually give up and do other things, maybe acting from time to time as a hobby.

This is because the entertainment industry is full of supply, but not enough demand for all of that supply. It’s the same in the speaking industry. Most actors want to be on the A list, making the big bucks, waiting for someone to write a check so they can focus on their craft and showcase their talent. Most speakers want the same thing. I admit, I’d love nothing better than to just show up and get a big, fat check to be a rock star. Who wouldn’t? But the speaking industry, like the entertainment industry has far more supply than demand. It’s a seller’s market. Far more sellers than buyers.

So, that’s the bad news. The good news is that there has never been a better time in history to be a speaker or entertainer. But, just like the entertainment industry, it’s an incredibly difficult path if you’re simply standing in line with everyone else. Personally, I don’t have the patience to wait in that line. For the past 20 years I’ve been writing, producing and staring in my own productions, either with angel investors, my own money, or with small business sponsorship.

When you go the self-funded or sponsorship route, supply and demand doesn’t matter. You find the demand first, then supply the talent. That means finding niches that need what you have to offer and then finding a way to get paid for it.

A good example of this is historical keynote speaker Lord Scott, who bears an uncanny resemblance to George Washington. He not only looks like him, but is the right size and age to portray Washington. Scott has used this to his advantage, booking educational presentations at schools, 4th of July celebrations, corporate events, and churches.

He has also started his own non-profit “We Make History”, putting on historical events on both the east and west coasts. His team now includes over 200 actors, and continues to expand. Scott has found his niche as a public speaker and performer by thinking outside the box and creating his own speaking career.

As a professional speaker how can you create your own career and bypass the supply and demand problem of the speaking industry?





I hear it every day. “I tried sponsorship and it didn’t work”. When I dig a little deeper, it becomes clear why. The very first thing most people think about is the big corporate sponsorships. As a non-celebrity speaker or artist who is just getting started, could you get a big corporate sponsor like Coca Cola or Red Bull to sponsor you? Sure. It’s just not very likely. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t go after the big guys. You should. But learn how to work with smaller sponsors first.

I often hear artists say that they only want to be a film or TV star, and aren’t interested in bit parts. Or they only want to pursue the big corporate sponsors. There are only so many spaces at the top, but tons of opportunities if you’re willing to go off the beaten path.

I hear speakers say they only want to go after the high-paying speaking jobs and nothing else. Well, those jobs are great, but there is a ton of speaking work that isn’t in that category.

For every actor or model who is “discovered” walking down the street or bagging groceries, there are tens of thousands of them that struggle for years to get a big break. And for every speaker making 20 grand, there are speakers everywhere who are making a good living. Sponsorship is kind of like that. Just because you’re not making big money in the big league doesn’t mean you can’t do very well.

Here are some reasons speakers and artists give up too quickly and how you can change that:

  • Timing – The average corporate sponsorship can take between a year to two years to finalize. It takes a huge amount of patience to wait that long. Micro-sponsorship ™ , or small business sponsorship can take less time, but still takes several months. I’ve found that even working with small mom and pop companies, they want as much time as possible to promote the event. Even if they’re only spending a few hundred dollars, they still want to maximize that investment. It’s actually good for you too, because you both can stretch out the promotion exposure.
  • Wrong opportunity – I believe that there is a buyer out there for every seller. That said, you can’t please everybody. I’ve seen speakers and artists who had the most amazing sponsorship opportunities who had a hard time getting a sponsor, and ones who had much weaker opportunities who secured more than one sponsor easily. I could never figure it out. The only thing to do is to make sure you’re consistently in the game. It only takes a few sponsors who believe in you and make money with you to make a good living as a speaker or artist.
  • Return on investment – If you make money for your sponsors, there’s no reason they won’t keep sponsoring you. This is why you really need to learn how to work with them to give them the most exposure possible. Now is when you take off your creative hat and put on your business hat. Look at every single thing you do from a sponsor’s perspective. If you were a brand and were going to invest hard-earned money in a sponsorship, would you sponsor you? What do you have to offer that will make a sponsor more money? Can you expose their brand to the audience they want to get in front of?

Sponsorship of speakers and artists is one of the best marketing tools out there for small businesses. When the right partnerships come together it can be magic for both parties.

There are dozens of ways speakers and artists can find more sponsors, and work more effectively with them to create better ROI. Schedule a sponsorship coaching session to learn the inside secrets for getting more sponsorships. (For speakers and artists)