Has your speaking career stalled? Has the phone stopped ringing? Getting fewer jobs?

This week is when summer officially begins, so I thought it would be a good time to talk about spring cleaning, since summer is typically a slower time in the speaking business.

Speaking career

I remember watching a video of Joe Calloway speaking at an NSA conference. He talked about how we tend to cling to our old speeches, outdated training manuals and jokes that no longer work. His solution… “throw it out!”

As speakers we work incredibly hard doing research, preparing speeches, writing books, creating workshops, putting together one sheets, etc. So hearing that we should just throw it all out sounds a little daunting.

But all artists (I would call a speaker a performing artist), need to occasionally sit down and take inventory of what’s working and what isn’t. There’s no point in spinning your wheels going in a direction that isn’t working for you. Every so often you need to re-evaluate your speaking career, and now is as good a time as any while business is slower. Here are a few things to think about when it comes to reinventing yourself as a speaker:

Do a forensic analysis

Go through all of your marketing materials one by one. Which things bring in the best ROI? Is it your website? Your printed one sheet? Postcards? Referrals? Are your materials outdated? Can they be improved? Sit down with someone who will give you honest feedback and get their input. Hire a speaker marketing coach to help you. Get several opinions. If you hear the same advice from a few different people you need to take notice. 80% of your business is probably coming from 20% of your effort. Find out where it’s coming from and do more of it.

Create your material in different ways 

Keynote speaking isn’t the only kind of speaking out there. Many speakers make a great living doing workshops. In fact, I recently talked to a meeting planner who told me they got all of their keynote speakers for free. When I looked at the line-up, I was surprised. “You mean this guy speaks for free?” He said “Not only does he speak for free, but he actually pays us to speak on our stage”. I was surprised. So, if established speakers are paying to speak, where does that leave up and coming speakers? He said his company pays very well for trainers, and that it’s going to be much more in demand in the future. So, do you have a workshop ready to go? Do you have training materials? I lost a good job opportunity a couple of years ago because I didn’t have a workshop prepared.

Freshen up your performance

When I first moved to L.A. I worked in a comedy club and I watched how comedians prepared their material. One night was dedicated to open mic, where new comedians could get practice and established comedians tried out new material for their act. If it bombed, usually no one saw it. And if it got a great response, they would add it to their act, and constantly honed it until they got 5 minutes of the very best material. You can do the same thing as a speaker. Summertime is a great time to try out new things. Test out something new, and if it works, add it to your speech, while cutting the lame, old material that isn’t your best. What you want is what comedians aim for – 60 minutes of killer material.