In this increasingly competitive global environment, it is so tempting to become everything to everyone. However, the guest for this episode, Grant Baldwin, begs to disagree. He believes that you should be known for one thing, that you should be a steak house and not the buffet. This is one of the great reasons why Grant is the success that he is. He is the Founder of The Speaker Lab and the author of a new book called The Successful Speaker. Grant takes us inside the contents of his book and shares with us some great tips on how you can become one. Extending that not only to becoming a speaker but to growing your existing business as well, he then highlights the importance of working with what you got and improving as you go.
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The Successful Speaker With Grant Baldwin
Our guest is Grant Baldwin, who is the Founder of The Speaker Lab, which is a training company that helps public speakers learn how to find and book speaking gigs. Through his popular podcast, The Speaker Lab, and flagship coaching program booked and paid to speak, he has coached and worked with thousands of speakers as a keynote speaker himself. He has delivered nearly 1,000 presentations to over 500,000 people in 47 states. He’s keynoted for events ranging as large as 13,000 people. Grant has also been featured in national media including Forbes, Entrepreneur and has composed his book, which we’re going to be talking about, The Successful Speaker: Five Steps for Booking Gigs, Getting Paid and Building Your Platform. Grant, welcome to the show.
Thanks, John. I appreciate you letting me hang out with you.
You and I have known each other for a while. I’ve always been impressed with your branding and your messaging. I don’t know if most people will get this right away, but I want to say authenticity. You are somebody that cares about the people that you work with. I would love you to take us back. You can go back to childhood. You could go back to school, wherever you want. Did you grow up with a microphone in your hand saying, “I want to be a speaker?” How did that all start?
I was involved in my local church in high school and my youth pastor had a big impact on my life. He was a great speaker and that resonated with me. That was a path I wanted to pursue. I went to college. In fact, in college, I worked for a guy who was a full-time speaker. I got to see a little bit behind the scenes of travel, booking, logistics, details and contracts helping him. I worked at a local church as a youth pastor. I had a lot of opportunities to speak there. I was speaking on a weekly basis to students, but also I’d speak on the weekends from time to time and had some at-bats, some reps there.
Speaking is one of those things that I felt I was decent at. There was something there I wanted to do more of and ultimately decided I want to pursue a career as a speaker. I found myself in a spot where a lot of people maybe who are reading, who are going like, “I like speaking. I felt like I had the potential, but I needed the plan.” Meaning like I was a decent speaker. I wanted to do more. I have no idea what to do. How do you find gigs? How much do you charge? Who hires speakers? How does that world work?Be the steakhouse, not the buffet. Click To Tweet
At the time, there weren’t a lot of resources teaching that. I was stalking every possible speaker I could, trying to understand the ins and outs of the speaking world. Eventually, I figured out a few things. I was able to book a few gigs and got to the point where over the next several years, I was doing 60 to 70 gigs per year. I loved it. It was awesome. I had a great experience. I had a lot of people who were asking me, “Grant, I want to be a speaker. I want to do that. How do I do what you have done?”
I felt like we had built some good systems and processes. We’re able to teach what we had known and learned from being out on the road and learning that world. That’s what we started doing more and more. That’s what we do within The Speaker Lab is we teach people how do you find and book speaking gigs. That’s what the book is all about. That’s the core of what we do. We’ve been in the speaking industry for several years. It’s a phenomenal industry, an opportunity to make an income and to make an impact on people.
Income and impact, who doesn’t want that? What is great about what you’re doing and sharing with us is even if you happen to be reading this thinking, “I’d love to be a speaker. This is going to be great,” or “I don’t think I want to be a speaker. Is there something here for me?” I want to let anybody know there is and it’s the systems in place. Whether you’re building a business as a speaker or wanting to figure out a system to help grow your existing business, you’re the man when it comes to dialing in a way to figure out what’s working, what’s not working and how to grow and without stress, frustration. This is for everyone who is in any entrepreneurial business, in my opinion.
One of the nice things about speaking as you all know is there’s no right or wrong amount to do it. There are speakers who, like me, do 70-some gigs, 100-plus gigs a year, and that’s what they want. 99% of their business is about speaking, which is fine. Other speakers who would say, “I’m a coach. I’m a consultant or I have a full-time job or I have other things happening. I don’t want to speak 100 times a year. That’s crazy. I wouldn’t mind speaking five times a year or ten times a year and I still don’t know. How do you find those gigs? How much do you charge? How does that world work? How does speaking fit into my business?” Whether you want to speak a ton or little, in addition, as entrepreneurs, I know you have a lot of entrepreneurs reading that we’ll talk through the importance of positioning and making sure that you are finding the right people and positioned properly, which isn’t applicable to speakers. It’s true for anybody in any business. I’m sure there will be a lot that we’ll dig into. They’ll be relevant to anybody.
In the book, The Successful Speaker, you open up with my sweet spot, which is figuring out what problem you’re solving, who do you help and what problem do you solve. You have to have that focus and an interest in the industry for people to go, “You’re my go-to speaker on this.” One of the things I say, and I would love your opinion on this, is the better you can describe a problem, the better the potential client that might be hiring you for a speaker’s product or service. You have their solution because you understand their problems. What are your thoughts on that?
That’s true. This is the challenge that a lot of speakers have is that we enjoy speaking. John, for you and I, speaking is fun. We enjoy it. We want to do a lot of it. We are not biased whenever it comes to speaking opportunities. “Who do you speak to?” “I speak to humans. I speak to anybody. Whoever wants me to talk, I’m in. What do you want me to speak about? I can speak about anything. I can speak about teamwork, motivation, leadership, culture, change, marriage, parenting, family or finances.” I was like, “No, you can’t. You cannot do all those things.”
One of the most important things that a speaker can do is be narrow, clear, focused and say, “I do this. I serve this type of audience and I help them in this particular way versus trying to be all things for all people.” One of these we talk about in the book is that you want to be positioned as the steakhouse and not the buffet. What do we mean by that? If we were going to grab a steak, we have a choice. We could go to a buffet where steak is 1 of 100 different things that they offer or we could go to a steak house where they do that one thing well and they are the go-to place for that.
By making a decision, by choosing we do steak, we don’t do tacos, lasagna, pizza. By doing that, by making that decision, it makes it easier for the right customers to find them and also to repel the wrong customers versus trying to be all things for all people. The narrower, the clearer, the more focused you are, we think it’s the opposite. We think that the more things I can talk about, the more audiences I can speak to, the more people I can relate to, the more opportunities I can have. The truth is the narrower, the clearer, the more focused you are, it’s counter-intuitive. The more focused you are, the easier it is to find gigs.
What you’re doing there is breaking through the clutter, be the steak house and not the buffet. When you and I worked together a couple of years ago, you have this background where you’ve had to pitch at agencies, which represent big clients like Lexus to figure out how to get them to put an ad on your website or your magazine. That’s your niche. As I kept thinking and hearing your words in my head, I found out that an architecture firm has a similar situation. It’s a final three. They have to go in and pitch against their competitors.
It’s the same thing for lawyers, executive search firms, real estate, tech, anybody who has to pitch against two final competitors in a face-to-face, you get a chance to pitch your story. That’s my niche, an audience of that. Now that I figured that out, it’s helped so much that storytelling is the new way to win new business when you have to compete against your competitors. They get that. I’m sure you have a story of focus. Before we go into the other chapters, which are valuable, I want to hear a story of another speaker you’ve helped find their niche or your own niche.
I’ll give you an example of a speaker we worked with in a similar spot to you a few years ago. They came to us and said, “I’m later in my career. I’m interested in speaking. I want to do a lot of speaking. I’m trying to figure out who I speak to, what I speak about.” I said, “Let’s talk about your background. Let’s talk about some low-hanging fruit. What’s a world that you already know?” This guy lived in Colorado. He was a successful realtor. He said he’d been a realtor for 30-some years. He had been on the board for the Colorado Realtors Association. He had served in various capacities in that way.
I said, “Here’s an idea. Let’s start with realtors because that’s a world you already know,” versus saying like, “I’m speaking in this world, but I want to speak to some unrelated field that I know nothing about or that I’m not connected to them.” In that space, it makes it easier for him to find gigs because he knows the Colorado Realtors Association. There are 49 other associations in other states with the same group of people. He knows how they work, how they operate, and how decisions are made. He knows how their events are planned. He knows who’s making those decisions on speakers. He already knows that world so start there. You don’t have to stay there forever but start there because that’s the low-hanging fruit. There are a lot of people like that. “I don’t want to limit myself to realtors.” Focusing on limiting yourself does make it easier so that you’re not trying to do all things for all people.
You have the credibility to the audience. You’ve been in their shoes as I like to say. Let’s jump into step two that you have. I want to ask two of the questions in here. What should people do before they step on stage? What should they do after they’re done?
Before you step on stage, you need to make sure you’re prepared. That means that the best speakers on the planet, they don’t scribble a couple of thoughts in a napkin, hop up there and hope it magically works out. They have spent hours and hours practicing, rehearsing, going over their material. By the point that they get on stage, they are ready, set to go, prepared, comfortable and confident. That’s one of the best things you can do. That is low-hanging fruit for any speaker to be able to do is to practice, to go over it over and over. That’s one of the things that you want to make sure you do before you get up on stage.
After you finish a talk, there are a couple of things that you can do. One is to take a deep breath. You did it and you finished. It’s tiring. It can be mentally and emotionally exhausting. You finished, take a deep breath. You also want to make sure that you connect with the event planner, the client and talk to them. Make sure that you tell them, “Thank you.” I always like to write a handwritten thank you card that I give to the client. I have that in my bag that I make sure I give to them right away. I try to connect with them. I asked them how it went, any feedback that they’ve got. I also want to make myself available to talk with other attendees. A lot of times after you get off stage, people want to talk to you.One of the most important things that a speaker can do is be narrow, clear, and focus. Click To Tweet
Either they want to meet you, they want to shake your hand, they want to tell you a quick story. They want to say, “Ask your question.” Any number of things can happen at that moment. You want to make yourself available because one, depending on your business model, that’s also the type of thing that can lead to additional business. People say, “I loved your talk. Can you come to my company? Can you come to my event? I’m a part of a committee that we’re starting to look for speakers on this and I want to talk more about you. Are you available on this date? What do you charge?” It’s good opportunities for you to connect with attendees off the stage. It’s a casual environment. Those are a few ideas of what you would want to do, make sure you do, before and after a talk.
Certainly, I’m a big supporter of everything you said. For example, even if you’ve been hired to speak to one company, we spoke to a law firm back east and afterward, one of the lawyers came up to me. He goes, “Now I realize I don’t have to be a pushy salesperson. I can start telling stories. My wife works at a tech company. They’d love to have you come talk to them.” You never know where the referrals are going to come from.
It’s not like something I say a lot is you have no idea who’s in the audience. I’ll give you two stories about this. One of my first big breaks as a speaker, I was doing any possible gigs I could. A friend of mine referred me a gig and this was something that was a couple of hours away. It was a small little state conference and they had $500. I was like, “Let’s do it.” It’s not bad. I went and I did that. It went fine. I probably broke even financially on it, but there was a lady that was there who was the wife of the national director of that entire association and organization. She came up to me right after and she said, “You are phenomenal. I’m going to tell my husband about you. I’m going to tell him he needs to hire you.”
I had zero clue she was going to be there. I had zero clue until even afterward, she came and introduced herself. Sure enough, the guy followed up with me a week or two later and said, “We want to book you.” He booked me for several events that worked out well. When I got started as a former youth pastor, I did a lot of speaking with high school students and colleges. I was speaking at a high school in North Dakota. It went well. One of the students came up to me afterward and she said, “My grandpa runs this conference. I already texted him and told him during your talk that you are doing a great job and he needs to have you come to speak.” I had zero clue who’s in the audience, zero clue what that will lead to. Those are opportunities where you show up, you do a good job, you connect with the audience and that leads to other opportunities in the marketplace.
The next step is establishing your expertise by developing a speaker brand. That’s my songbook from my years of advertising. Part of having a great brand, whether you’re a speaker or anything, for people to say, “You’re the X, Y, Z person.” For example, people say to me, “Have a tagline.” I help people turn case studies into case stories and that allows them to become revenue rock stars. There are a lot of soundbites that even if they don’t 100% understand it, they’re at least intrigued to want to know more. What are your tips on developing a speaker brand?
I totally agree that this goes back to being clear that I do this one thing well. For example, I heard this analogy, if you went into the kitchen and you had let’s say ten cans of beans, you went to your utensil drawer, what would you be looking for? You’d be looking for a can opener. One thing that solves one specific problem versus, “Here’s a measuring tool. Here’s a spatula,” those things are great, but they serve different purposes. Be known for this one thing. For example, for me within The Speaker Lab, what we do for speakers, a lot of people who come to us who are interested in speakers are also interested in writing a book, publishing, podcasting, coaching or consulting.
I had someone literally message me and said, “You run The Speaker Lab. Have you ever thought about creating The Author Lab?” There are plenty of opportunities for other things that we could do. What we’ve done is say, “No, we do this for speakers and that’s it.” We don’t do anything else. By being focused, hopefully when people think of Grant or they think of The Speaker Lab or they’re saying, “I want to be a speaker. You need to talk to Grant. You need to talk to The Speaker Lab because they do this one thing that solves a problem you’re looking for,” versus, “I think they do this. I’m not entirely sure. It’s a flavor of the month thing. They may be on something totally different now.” You don’t want to be positioned like that as a speaker or as an entrepreneur. Be focused on solving one specific problem for one specific person.
You also talk about it’s part of the expertise, getting a great demo video. I’ve heard if you want to get paid $10,000 to speak, you should be investing $10,000 in a demo video. You’ve spoken in front of such large audiences that typically require two cameras and making sure your sound is good. What are your tips on how people can get a great demo video? What do you think a great demo video consists of?
Let’s describe what the demo video is. Think of it as a movie trailer. You think about a movie in general. A movie is let’s say 90 minutes, 2 hours, and they condense it down to 2 or 3 minutes to give someone a taste of what the movie is about. The point of the movie trailer and the point of the demo video is to make people want to see more. When my wife and I go to the movies and we’re watching a movie trailer before the movie starts, immediately we’re turning to each other like, “That looks good. We’ve got to see that,” or within the first 30 seconds we’re like, “That’s not for me.” Not that it’s a bad movie, but it’s not what we’re looking for.
You’re trying to do the same type of thing with your demo video. Most event planners, they don’t need to see your entire talk to determine whether or not you’re a good speaker or whether or not you’re a good fit. They want to see a couple of minutes. Take your talk and boil it down to 2 or 3 minutes. That gives people a sense of what it’s like for you to speak on stage, to interact with the audience of what you talk about. That’s what people want to see before they’re willing to hire you.
The other thing that you want to remember is that event planners are in the risk mitigation business. When they put you on stage, you are representing them. They don’t want to put you on stage if you’re going to do or say something that’s going to be embarrassing or it’s going to be inappropriate or it’s going to be wrong or factually incorrect. You want to make sure that you give them something so that whenever they decide, “Yes, I trust this person. I know this person. They’re going to do a good job. We feel comfortable putting them on stage and paying them money to talk to our audience or people.”
You want to make sure that they have something there that they can go off of. When you’re creating a demo video, if you have amazing footage and high-quality footage from all these events, that’s awesome. A lot of people don’t have that. What I would remind you is to work with what you’ve got and improve as you go. At this point in my career, I’ve had probably 6 or 7 different demo videos. The new version is much better than the first version. I didn’t have that footage initially. You work with what you’ve got. You improve as you go.The more focused you are in what you do, the easier it is to find gigs. Click To Tweet
Remember that and realize that whatever video you’re creating, do it with excellence, but it’s not your permanent video. You may do a gig in a few months and get better footage out of that. You can parlay into a newer demo video that’s more reflective of who you are as a speaker, which you speak about higher quality footage, but you don’t have that footage yet. Don’t worry about that. You’ll get that footage at some point. Work with what you’ve got and improve as you go.
That’s a great line as well as reduce the risk for the people who hire you. I love both of those as great soundbites for people to take away. I talk about the concept of letting go, being a perfectionist and become a progressionist, which is someone who celebrates their progress. If you’re a speaker, you have to have that mindset and you’ll drive yourself crazy if you think everything has to be perfect right off the get-go. I know this is step four that everyone has been waiting, salivating to know about. It’s like, “Grant, I get it, but how do I get a paid speaking gig? What should I charge?”
Let’s talk about both of those. One, let’s make up the point here. You mentioned this is the fourth step in the process that we teach, but this is the core of what people are interested in. It’s like, “I want to know how to book gigs.” It’s important to reiterate that you have to have these other foundational pieces in place first. If someone says, “I want to book gigs. That’s cool. Who do you speak to? What’s the problem that you solve? I can speak whatever. I want to book gigs. Do you have a website or video? No, I don’t need those things. I just want to book gigs.” It’s like you have to have these other pieces in place first before you get there.
There are a couple of ideas anybody can do for booking gigs. One is to make sure you let everyone in your sphere of influence know that you’re a speaker and what it is that you speak about. You may be thinking like, “Nobody in my sphere of influence. My family, friends, colleagues, none of them hire speakers.” That’s fine. That’s not the point. The point is that they may know someone who is looking for a speaker. They may be aware of someone or someone in the next few months may ask, “This is random, but do you know anyone who’s a speaker on this topic?” “I do.” If people don’t know that you’re a speaker, they won’t think to recommend you. You’ll need to get it on top of mind and get it on people’s radars.
Another thing that you can do is that you can spend some time googling and looking for events. When you’re looking for events, most of them are already planning on hiring a speaker. You don’t have to convince them to hire a speaker. Most conferences and events are planning on hiring a speaker, whether it’s you or someone else. You can begin to reach out to them though and show them why you are a good fit. Inside the book, we walk through systematically what you want to do, how you want to go about doing this. Creating a website and a video and saying, “I’m going to put my video up, sit back and wait for the phone to ring or an email to come in.” It doesn’t work like that. Speaking is a momentum business. You have to be proactive in building some of that momentum.
Another thing you could do is to build relationships with other speakers. Whenever I went back my first year, full-time as a speaker, I looked up like, “I booked all these gigs. Where do they come from?” I’m trying to reverse engineer so how can I do more of that?” My largest source of gigs came from other speakers. By doing that, when you’re connecting with other speakers, what happens is, let’s say I show up and do a great job at an event. Most of the time they don’t want to have me back for a couple of years. Even if I do a great job, they want some new speakers. They want some new faces.
They want the audience to turn over. If I can say, “I would love to work with you again in a few years. In the meantime, let me introduce you to John. John would be a great fit for your event,” or let’s say that I get an inquiry for an event that I wasn’t interested in. If I’m able to say, “I’m not a good fit for it, let me introduce you to Tom. Tom would be a great fit.” Let’s say I’m not available on a date or the budget isn’t right. If I’m able to say, “Here, you need to talk to this person or this person,” it creates a win both for the client and for the other speakers and for myself.
I recommend that you also network with other speakers. Also, be aware that most other speakers aren’t going to recommend you unless they have seen you or know you personally. Remember, if they recommend you, their reputation is on the line. If you show up and you do a great job, whoever recommended you or referred to you, looks like the hero. If you showed up and sucked, it reflects poorly on them. If someone were to message me and say, “Can you recommend me?” I’d be like, “I’m not going to do that.” If I know you, I know you’re speaking actively, I’ve seen your video and I know you and trust you, I’m going to be a lot more confident and say, “You need to talk to this person. They would be great for that event.”
This concept of letting everyone in your sphere know that you’re a speaker. I have done that and using social media. I have a short little story about people who may not think about using social media as a way to let everybody know they have a speaker. Every time I give a talk or I post it, I post a picture of me speaking. I love doing this. Here’s what I learned or here’s the takeaway. I had a client that was at the Cosmopolitan Hotel when I was selling ads a few years ago and she went to work at The Venetian. We’ve kept in touch on social media, not like a regular basis, but she reached out to me. She said, “We want to hire you to speak to The Venetian sales team. I’ve been watching your transition from selling ads to being a keynote speaker for the last few years. We think you’re the right person for us.” You never know unless you’re getting tons of likes and comments, if anybody even sees your social media posts. I thought what you said there and having an example of getting a booking from that underlines the value of what you’re talking about.
Here’s the way to think about it is if you’re a realtor, for example, you are trying to catch people at a moment when they don’t experience that often. What I mean by that is most people only buy or sell a home a few times in their lifetime. As a realtor, you’re trying to be top of mind when someone’s like, “We’ve been thinking about talking to a realtor. Let’s see what our home would be worth,” or “We’re considering moving. Let’s see if we can get a couple of ideas of what houses are available in that neighborhood.” You’re trying to be top of mind. All of the social proof that you’re showing there like you’re talking about, I’m posting pictures of me speaking, of me traveling to speak, of me on stage, of me interacting with an audience or sitting backstage or working on my talk. Hopefully, when someone decides that one small period of a year where they’re looking for speakers and considering speakers that they think, “This guy, John, he is a friend of mine. I’ve known him for a few years in the past. He seems like he’s doing a lot of speaking.” You’ve planted some seeds there that have kept you top of mind with them whenever they’re ready to look for a speaker.People do business with people they know, like, and trust. Click To Tweet
The same thing is true for a car. The car companies have to advertise all the time because you’re not in the market for a new car every day. It’s the same thing as a speaker. In the book, The Successful Speaker, you talk about closing the deal. This is a huge takeaway for anyone whether they’re in the speaking business or not. Typically, I’m sure you’ve experienced this, an event planner will say, “We’ve looked at your website. We watched your demo reel. We’ve read your book even. We want to have a conversation with you. It’s between you and two other speakers,” which ironically for me is what I ended up doing to help them win new business. I said to a client, “You realize I had to sell myself to get in front of you. I’m helping you be the one that gets picked.” What are your tips on closing the deal? Let’s start as a speaker.
A few things come to mind. One is typically the initial interactions that are going to happen over email. Either they reach out or you reach out, “Are you available on this date? What do you speak about? I came across your video. It looks cool,” that type of thing. As soon as possible, you want to get someone on the phone. You want to remember that that business happens over the phone and people do business with people they know, like, and trust. You cannot build that in time of rapport and connection than you can over email. I want to get that person on the phone as quickly as possible.
The other thing I want to make sure that I do is I want to give them a precursor of what it’s like to work with me as a speaker and here’s what I mean by that. Whenever they email, I don’t want them to have to wait a couple of days for me to email back. I want to email back immediately. When they have a question, I’m picking up and calling right away. Whenever they are needing something, I’m responding, “Can you send us this?” Right away, I’m sending it to them. One of the things that they are hiring you to do is to stand on stage and deliver a talk.
The other thing that they are hiring you to do is to be good to work with because if you’re great on stage, but you’re a pain in the butt to work with. By pain in the butt, I don’t mean prima donna or diva and, “I need this European imported water at a certain temperature or a jar of red Skittles.” What I mean is you’re unorganized. You’re sloppy, you lack professionalism, you dropped the ball on areas. They ask you to be at a soundcheck at 8:00 AM and you come stumbling in at 8:15, late and unapologetic. You don’t want to be that speaker.
You want to make their life simple. When someone is planning an event or working on an event, a speaker is 1 of 1,000 moving pieces and balls that they are trying to juggle. The easier you can be to work with, the easier you can make their life, the more likely they’re going to want to be to work with you. I’ll give you an example. When I was doing a lot of speaking, I would always ask for these recommendation letters and these testimonials. Oftentimes, we would give these recommendation letters and testimonials from clients and they would say something like, “Grant was awesome to work with on stage. He did a great job. Our audience loved him, but we loved Lisa. Lisa was amazing.” They’d go on and on about Lisa. Who’s Lisa? Lisa was the administrator who helped me behind the scenes.
She was all the details, the contracts, the travel and logistics. They went on and on about Lisa. They never met with Lisa. Lisa wasn’t on stage speaking. Lisa would be answering emails and working with them. Lisa was important to what we did though because it was the experience more than the speaker. That’s one thing that an event planner, all things being equal, if they’re like, “We found that this speaker got back to us quickly. They were easier to work with and quick to respond to things. They were nice, polite, courteous and professional. All things being equal. My hat tips to that speaker because they are on top of things.” I’ll give you another example.
We were updating some insurance. I got three different quotes. As I’m getting quotes, one is you’re comparing the pricing but you’re also comparing like how are each of these people to work with? One of them who had an okay price corresponded through email, they had some generic answers and questions. It didn’t seem like they were that engaged. The other two, they did calls with me. They followed up. They were consistent about it. Those are things on my mind as a buyer that I’m thinking about before I make that decision. One thing I would say is understanding the buying cycle and the sales cycle for speakers. Most event planners aren’t going to reach out and say, “We’re looking for a speaker on this date. Are you available? Yes, you are? Great, let’s book it.”
You said, “A lot of times, it’s a committee.” We’re reviewing other speakers or considering a few things. You always want to figure out what their next step is and follow-up based on that. I never want to say, “When does your committee meet?” “Our committee meets in two weeks and we’ll get back with you.” “I hope you think of me.” Don’t do that. I always ask them, “Do you mind if I follow-up with you two weeks before and after your committee meeting?” “Sure. That’s fine.” They don’t think you’re going to do it. Whenever you do, it gives them another example of this is what it’s like to work with me. I want to figure out if they say we’re going to meet two weeks from this day, I’m going to make a note to follow-up before the committee meeting.
“I know that your committee meeting is tomorrow. I want to touch base and make sure you had everything you needed from me.” I want to touch base with them afterward. “I know that your committee met yesterday. I wanted to circle back and see if there’s anything else that you needed or how it went. If you guys were able to make a decision on anything.” I care. I’m prepared. I’m professional, but it’s also like I’m asking them for a decision versus saying like, “I hope you think of me.” Finalizing this insurance thing is important, but it’s not urgent. It’s on my list, but it’s not super important. If the guy that I decided on emailed me, it’d be a lot simpler for me to be like, “Let’s go with you,” versus me like, “I’ve got to find his email. I’ve got to follow-up with him.” Be proactive and follow-up makes a huge difference.
Proactive is my big takeaway. Talk about being easy to work with, sometimes that happens minutes before you go on stage. The event planner can come up to you and say, “John, I know we asked you to speak for an hour, but we’re running far behind. Can you cut your talk down to 45 minutes?” You can’t be a diva and go, “No. Every moment of my talk is precious,” or “I don’t know what I’ll cut.” “No problem,” is the correct answer there. Let’s talk about fees. How does a speaker go from let’s say $10,000 to $15,000 to even higher fees? You talk about scaling. When do you know it’s time to go for a higher fee?
There are a lot of variables that go into this and this is much more of an art than a science. A couple of thoughts, one is a shortcut answer for the speaker. If you’re in that above $10,000 range, this doesn’t work as well. It starts to break down a little bit. We do have a free speaker fee calculator that people can mess around with. If you go to MySpeakerFee.com, you answer 7 or 8 different questions and it will tell you what you should be charging as a speaker. Let me give you a couple of the variables that go into that may help you understand the thought process behind it. One is going to be your industry. You can charge more in some industries versus others.
You can charge more speaking to corporations versus nonprofits. You can charge more speaking to colleges versus elementary schools. Not that one is better or worse than the other. There are different budgets available for different industries. Recognize that there’s going to be ceilings in certain industries. For example, for me, I originally did a lot of speaking to high school students and high school conferences. No matter how much I would want to be a $20,000 speaker in that market, it’s not happening. They don’t pay speakers. They pay speakers well but not $20,000 well.
I have to recognize some industries are going to pay more than others. Another factor in the variable is going to be your experience. If you are a brand-new speaker getting started, you typically won’t be able to charge as much as someone who’s been doing this for a long time because most likely they have more at-bats, they have more reps and they’re a better speaker. Another variable you touched on is your marketing materials, your website and your video. If someone is looking at your stuff versus two other speakers and you’re all charging the same amount, your stuff better looks on par because whether we like it or not, people judge books by their covers. You need to make sure that your stuff looks professional, that it looks sharp, that people look at it and they’re like, “This is a quality speaker based on the website and the video.”
The other variable and factor that you want to consider about when you should raise fees are thinking about supply and demand. What kind of speaker that you want to be? Are you a speaker who says, “I want to do 100 gigs a year,” or someone that says, “I want to do 5 or 10 gigs a year?” A way to think about this is if you were to book a hotel room in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, December 31st, you are going to pay an astronomical amount of money for that because of supply and demand. You can book the exact same room on January 5th and you’re going to pay a fraction of the price because of supply and demand. You have to recognize for yourself if you say, “My goal is to do twenty gigs a year and I’m having a hard time hitting those twenty,” it’s probably not the right time to increase your fees.” Versus if you say, “I’m hitting those twenty and I have to turn down stuff and every time I quote this fee, nobody is budging at all.” Everyone’s like, “Yeah, that’s not a problem at all.” You probably have more room in the market.
Another thing you can do is also to compare notes with other speakers, speakers that I’m consistently speaking with at other events. It’s not uncommon for speakers to compare notes of, “What are you charging now? What are you getting for most events?” To get a sense of like, “I’m way undercharging or way overcharging.” You’re trying to get a feel of the landscape, not just across the board but for your market, for your audience, for your type of event. Those are a couple of variables to go into, but again, most speakers I’d recommend that you start with MySpeakerFee.com. Go to that speaker fee calculator and that’ll help you out.
The last thing I want to ask you about is this concept of diversifying your income stream. A lot of speakers have a book. Sometimes the clients like to buy copies of my book and I sign them after the talk. I’d even come out with an online course based on the book that the more options you give a client to say, “We can buy your book. We can buy the online course,” that keeps it going after your talk. The more value you’re creating for people. I wanted to talk about your ideas for all of that.
The reality is this message that I’m sharing from the stage and helping people, speaking is one methodology for that, but there are certainly others. A lot of people who are interested in speaking are also interested in writing a book, doing a blog, a podcast, a course, coaching, or consulting. One of the things we talk about in the book is you can do all the things, but you can’t do all the things at once. Something is going to come first, something is going to come last. One of the best things that you can do is to be focused and say, “I help people in this way and this way.” That’s it. I look at our business within The Speaker Lab.
There are a lot of things we could do that we don’t do or we leave money on the table. It’s an intentional choice if we’re going to focus on this and this but nothing else versus trying to do all of these shiny objects because other people do them. We don’t do live events. We don’t do much one-on-one coaching. We don’t do any masterminds. There’s nothing wrong with all those things. They are all great. We choose not to do them. We’re intentional about it. The same thing is true for you as a speaker. You have to say, “I’m going to do speaking and I’m also going to do a book maybe and that’s it.” That’s fine, but I’m not trying to do everything for everyone. It’d be clear on this is how I’m going to serve people and this is the best way for me to do that.
Thank you for sharing your wisdom and your knowledge. The book again is called The Successful Speaker. Thanks, Grant.
Thanks, John. I appreciate it.
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- The Speaker Lab – podcast
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