Generate a Momentum for Your Speaking Business (and Tips for Avoiding Burnout)
On renewable markets:
My sweet spot area is financial literacy and financial education and that’s an area where most college students aren’t getting anything at all and most of them are 18-year olds that are taking out tens of thousands of dollars in loans and then they graduate and go, ―Crap, how much did I borrow and how much am I paying?‖
Because of my messaging, it worked really well on the university setting and so that was my first step in. Then I started thinking more and more about it, as all of my speaker friends said, ―I’ve done pretty much all I can do with this company, because they’ve heard everything I have and now I have to come up with new stuff and I don’t want to do that,‖ I kept thinking, this is great. I never have to come up with new content. In reality, I do and I enjoy doing that but the fact that the market turns over every one year, two years, four years means that they will bring me back again and again, assuming that they like my content.
There are really two keys to making this work from a business perspective. Number one is create a market or find a market that is renewable and repeatable that you can go back to again and again. Number two is make sure your stuff is rock solid and you are an incredible presenter, which I know you are covering in some of the other interviews.
Making speeches memorable:
I try to make it memorable by having tag lines and honestly, a lot of my bullet points and my takeaways are 140 characters or less. They could be tweets and so people will say, ―Hey, build a bigger life, not a bigger lifestyle.‖ That is one of the things I tell.
I am doing for two years what most people won’t do so I can do for the rest of my life what most people can’t do. That’s a tag line of mine. I am trying to use those kinds of things a lot and just really reinforce them. They are simple concepts. I give them a simple concept, I explain it in a little more detail and then I hammer home the simple concept with just a really short saying.
I think when people are laughing, they are learning. It opens up all sorts of parts of your neocortex and parts of your brain. You get a flood of endorphins when you are laughing and so I am constantly trying to bring that stuff in, even when it feels like I am in a heavy topic or I just dropped a bomb on somebody, I’ll say things like, I want to stop for a second. Is everyone with me because some of you are looking at me like a dog looks at a ceiling fan?
They love that. It breaks the ice a little bit for people.
On getting hired:
As a speaker, if you are good enough, and I knew that I was, if you are good enough, you should be able to go to an event, rock people’s worlds and then get a whole bunch of strong interest out of that engagement.
I immediately created a strong interest form. What that forum is it’s basically a way of someone raising in saying, ―I am interested in what you do. Can you tell me more?‖ At every event you go to, I really firmly believe that the more you speak, the more you speak.
The more you get, the more you should get and there should be this viral coefficient of wanting at every event that you do, so that every time you speak there ought to be a way for people to raise their hand and say, ―I want to hire you. How do I do that?‖ You give them this document and say, ―Fill this out and I’ll get you everything you need,‖ and then you turn around and automate that process.
Systematizing the speaking business:
I created a three-ring binder that basically walked students all the way through the process from here is who I am and my bio and my articles and where I have been featured and some of my video samples. Then there is the marketing plan. So I created a thorough marketing plan, including these are the emails you are going to copy and paste and send to professors, and these are the emails you are going to send to the signers of the checks, and all that stuff.
As soon as someone gives me a strong interest form, I drop them in my auto- responder and they get that three-ring binder and then they get a series of follow- up emails asking them do you need any help or clarification on this or on that, or on marketing, can I help you with that?
Generally, those go out. Students will respond and either I or my assistant responds to them and the system is very seamless.
Balancing work and family:
Knowing that I want to spend more time at home than I do away, that’s been one of my goals from the very beginning, my dad was a traveling sales guy, a trainer and organizational development consultant and I remember thinking when I am an adult and I have a family, I want to be home more than I am away.
In doing that, part of the deal is that if I am going to go away for a day, I might as well go away for three and book all three of those days and then I am home for ten days after that because I’ve made enough that it’s not like I have to keep chasing the gigs.
Travel like a pro:
I realized early on there is two or three really core lessons in this. Number one is I was very airline agnostic and hotel agnostic for a while, and then I realized all my buddies are getting upgrades and they are staying on the 12th floor and not the 2nd floor kind of thing and I went, this is dumb. I just need to be applying my miles and points everywhere I can.
I am totally gaming the travel system right now. That’s lesson number one. Lesson number two is when I started early on, I would eat whenever I felt hungry. If I was hungry, I might swing into McDonald’s or Burger King or wherever and grab something really unhealthy for me and I was drinking soda a lot. If I needed a pick me up, I might grab a soft drink.
I realized that I was crashing at the end of the day. I just felt miserable and so I changed up how I eat when I travel and what I do when I travel. I pack protein bars with me everywhere I go. I drink just water generally or if I have to get something caffeinated, I’ll get a sugar-free Red Bull but it’s on a very limited basis.
What does it mean to speak like a pro?
This was brought up at the Canfield training and I thought it was a very interesting and apt way of putting it. They said, ―The goal of being on stage is not be seen, it is to see.‖ When I am on stage, I am constantly watching my audience to make sure that people are getting, they are picking up what I am laying down.
If they are not, I literally will go out into the audience and I’ll reach out to someone and say, are you with me? I literally pinpoint someone and make direct eye contact with them and say, are you with me? They are nodding because I want everyone in the audience to think I am talking directly to them.
I’ve had a number of people come up to me afterwards and say, ―I don’t know what it was but I felt like you were talking directly to me the entire time,‖ and part of that is you’ll probably have people comment on this on other interviews but when you are locking eye contact and if you lock eye contact long enough that you are hearing me and I know that you hear me, and then I move onto someone else and I lock eye contact with them, people are going to feel like they were spoken to and not spoken at.
My gut reaction to that is I am a student of other speakers and so if being in this business is what someone aspires to or if someone is in this business and they’d like to get even better at the business side of it, I am studying speakers for two reasons.
One, I look at how they are marketing, what’s their brand, where are they on social media and how they do all that. That is one thing I am looking at all the time
Secondly, I look at speakers and particularly, I think TED talks are just an unbelievable source of content for people who really want to get better at what they do.
I’ll watch TED talks in three different ways. Number one, I watch and I listen, so I absorb whatever the message is. The second time I go through a topic, that’s really I think impactful and the speaker that’s done a great job, I will just listen. I don’t watch them, I just listen for inflection, for their stories, for how they weave in, quotes or whatever it may be.
Then lastly, I will just watch and not listen. I mute it and I just watch their body language and figure out why it was engaging for an audience if they were watching them and I got asked to speak at a TED-x conference in Milwaukee which is coming up this September, so I am really excited about that. I am going to be in super preparation mode for that, so I will be studying lots of TED talks.
When I go to Barnes & Noble, at the very entryway of Barnes & Noble, they always have all the deals and there are all those sale books. I will look for the joke books, the snappy insults and funny putdown books. I look for quote books. There is a lot on my shelf but I have a whole bookshelf full of speaker material.
I am constantly pouring through them, and I am like that would be a funny joke if I included it here and I actually have an Evernote file of all of the one-liners and jokes that I think are really powerful that could be used at some point.