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Build a Speaking Practice.

Last week we learned how you can start building your brand and then ways to use that brand to monetize your skills. We looked at the steps needed to build a consulting or coaching business. And then how to break away from the tyranny of the clock, which limits your earnings to the hours you can work. If you can command $300 per hour, and very few consultants are able to charge more, then earnings more than $250,000 per year are possible. But wouldn’t it be nice to earn that, or more, working fewer hours.  We learned lessons from folks who have developed as systemized approach and others who had the courage to offer a premium product that could be sold over and over again.

To some extent this week we start by returning to a paid by hour activity. Building your own speaking practice. The difference? Once you have established your credibility as a speaker your hourly rate will be very very attractive. Event organizers often have a generous budget speakers. And why not? You will be speaking to hundreds if not thousands of people, imparting to each of them some of your ideas, experiences, and wisdom.

How can you start building your speaking practice? Well, do not make the mistake that Dori shares in her book “Entrepreneurial You” She prepared an attractive informational package including a professional produced DVD which she sent to prospective clients. When she followed up she was told that the package must have got lost. When this happened a couple of times Dori realized this was just a line. The attractive informational package had got thrown out, which is the way higher profile events treat unknown speakers. From this experience Dori constructed, what she calls, “Clark’s Law of Professional Speaking.”

  1. At first no one is interested in having you speak
  2. Then they are interested if they can get you for free
  3. Eventually they are interested if they can get you cheap
  4. Finally, they are intent of having you and they will pay you what you are worth.

Finding your first speaking gigs.

Dori’s first piece of advice is not to expect a speaker’s bureau to help you launch your speaking career. If you would like to learn her rationale buy her book. The kindle version is only a few dollars. Please consider using my affiliate link below.

Her second piece of advice is do not market yourself as a speaker. Outbound marketing is utterly ineffective is the advice of Michael Parrish DuDell, Entrepreneur, Keynote speaker and bestselling author. He has abandoned this approach.

Instead use “Inbound Marketing” to attract potential clients to you.  You can do this two ways. First ask contacts you know and like you to recommend you as a speaker. The second way is to create content that will attract potential clients to you. Dori tells of a blog post on Harvard Business Review that caught the attention of a professional association. That led to a paid webinar gig. But for most of us our first speaking engagements will be unpaid.

Early on speaking for free is a perfectly valid strategy. It helps you practice and hone your skills and exposes you to an audience who may hire you. And that is the point, although you are speaking for free, you are really speaking for leads. If you listened to my show last week I talked about John Jantsch who developed a systemized market approach he called Duct Tape Marketing.  He would speak for free, deliver valuable content and he says, “Inevitably two or three people would come up to him after the talk to ask about the possibility of hiring his services” He goes on “If a free speaking gig leads to a consulting contract worth thousands of dollars it wasn’t free at all, it was well paid”

Here is my tip for folks who get engaged to speak at conferences. Do not sell during your talk. Focus on delivering interesting and informative content that demonstrates your expertise. I always got high scores for my presentations at CFO conferences by following these guidelines. It makes you stand out from the other speakers, often from the conference sponsors, whose presentations are more sales pitches than knowledge sharing.  You do your selling quietly, during the breakout sessions, there should always be folks who come up to you to tell you they enjoyed your talk. That’s when you let people know you are open to work.

To ensure you get the most out of your free speaking gigs make a list of the benefits that they could offer.  Connecting with influencers, testimonials, leads, etc. And do not forget to use your materials as a blog or YouTube Video. If the organizers are videoing the event ask them for permission to post it on your YouTube account.

When to charge and how much? As always transferring from providing free services to charging fees is a difficult step. As you begin to become busier your time becomes more valuable. Opportunity costs come into play. What else could you be doing as an alternative to giving that free talk? How much might that activity earn you? That is what triggered the change for me.

How much to charge? Dori provides the following rule of thumb

Newbie speakers may earn $500 to $2,500 per talk

More established speakers, or those with a book $5,000 to $10,000

Those with a book and other forms of social proof $10,000 to $20,000

Of course, high profile names can command much higher fees.

More realistically most professional speakers will earn between $4,500 to $7,500 per talk. But do not forget many of the benefits you sought when speaking for free, potential to land contracts, sell your book etc. are still available to you.

I mentioned earlier in this episode that outbound marketing rarely works but some folks have been successful. Grant Balwin who has made a comfortable living by speaking is one of those who have mastered what he calls guerilla marketing. To get started you need a website and a demo video. Dori had her demo professionally produced; Grant Balwin produced his own using a handicam. With the quality of the cameras available on your mobile phone these days you only need a stand and a ring light to produce a high-quality video. And do not spend a fortune on your website. I am a strong supporter of Word Press who make it easy to set up you own website. I have three websites all produced using Word Press.

How did Grant use his website and video to market his speaking practice? He used Google to search terms such as “Real Estate Conference” “Realtors Convention”  you can find gatherings for almost any industry using Google. Grant recommends you start your searches close to home and gradually expand your geographic reach.

When you reach out to the organizers do not make the mistake many speakers make, sending a long e-mail extolling their virtues, why they would make a great speaker, with a link to their site. Grant says do not do that, err on the side of brevity and follow up. I’ll attach an example of Grant’s typical email in my notes.

Like most things developing your speaking practice will take time. Do not expect overnight success, and while on  its own speaking is unlikely to make you rich, it can be a useful addition to your income portfolio.

Useful Tip:

Here is an example of Grant Baldwin’s initial contact e-mail. “Hi Jane, I came across your New York Student Council Conference in November. Looks awesome. I was just curious If you had started reviewing speakers yet. Thanks Grant” Notice Grant does not sell himself or attach a link to his website. He just askes. This often prompted a dialogue, and once you have achieved engagement you are one step nearer to closing the deal.

If you want to read more from Dorie Clark please consider using my Amazon Affiliate link. It will not cost you any extra and will provide a small commission to help keep this blog active. Thanks

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