“Your ability to communicate with others will account for fully 85% of your success in your business and in your life.”Brian Tracy
Imagine being paid well to travel the world and share your message with people that want to hear you speak?
If something in that question resonates, this post might be helpful.
Today, over 50% of my income comes from delivering keynote speeches and workshops to industry conferences and corporate leadership teams. It has taken over 16 years from my earliest free speeches towards a career where I can live from speaking. I have delivered over 2,500 hours of keynotes and workshops to over 50,000 participants.
In terms of quality, my recent 100 hours of speaking are astronomically better than those first 100 hours… but everyone has to begin. How do you begin?
How to get paid to speak…
1. Become an Expert.
Your fees depend more on you being (and perceived) as an expert than on how well you actually speak.
Maybe you can be paid well even if you don’t master anything, but if you are not on the path to mastery… I personally would rather you stayed home. If you are planning on being paid to speak, make a deep and lasting commitment towards true mastery.
There are 3 types of Expert speaker.
The 3 Paths of Expert Mastery:
- The Result Expert – Proven ability to get specific results for others eg Toni Nadal, Marshall Goldsmith, Tony Robbins
- The Research Expert – Has interviewed performers and has a deep knowledge of tools, strategies and tactics in an area eg Michael Porter, Jim Collins
- The Role Model – Has been successful eg Jack Welsh, Barrack Obama, Casey Neistat
A well paid speaker needs to be seen as a thought leader. The classic path is to write and publish a book, but in today’s world there are new paths: build a large youtube, instagram, or blog following. Pick one and start producing thought. I suggest that you use your blog not for sharing expert articles, but sharing your learning journey. When you write expert articles, it is much more valuable to submit them to highly credible sites (depends on your segment, but for me this would be HBR, Forbes, Inc, FT, Big Think).
3 Actions that The Best experts regularly do
- Interview other experts looking for patterns and best practice; building your connections and reputation in this important community.
- Create arguments based on 4 parts:
- What we should Pay attention to
- What things Mean
- How things work
- What might happen
- Simplify complex ideas with frameworks
Are you on a path towards being a true expert? Have you chosen whether you are a results expert, a research expert or a role model? Good… now we move to step 2.
Speak Lots and lots…
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”Albert Einstein
This blog is full of material about speaking well so I will not repeat. Some good articles on speaking well:
- Blog post: 12 tips for Public Speaking,
- Video: Improve your Speaking,
- YouTube playlist Develop your Speaking Skills and
- Free course Speaking as a Leader.
Learn directly from expert speakers. Rather than paying for a course on public speaking, pay to go and see well paid expert speakers deliver their keynotes. I learn more watching how a great speaker plans, prepares, delivers, follows up than by reading books or courses on speaking. In february I asked Luis Soares Costa to run a retreat for Vistage. I watched how he interviewed me, how he clarified what we needed and what we could do… I travelled with him the day before and watched how he prepared the room and himself for the 2 day retreat. I learnt more watching what he did and how he did it than by asking him for tips.
Here are 5 ideas for those who wish to make speaking a profession:
5 Advanced Tips for turning Pro as a Speaker
- Model the Greats. Bill Clinton modeled himself as a speaker on President Kennedy, even down to the gestures and word choice. YouTube and TED have great examples. Personally, I spent years modelling my approach to speaking on the style of Jim Rohn and the delivery of Alan Watts. The idea is not to copy, but to clarify what works and how to make it work for you.
- Practice Every Day. Make selfie videos. Every single day. (Here’s my 10 week email course Speaking As a Leader). Join Toastmasters, give speeches to the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, Lions… Teaching at a university (IESE Business School) and delivering workshops at entrepreneur accelerator programs (for free) were how I got my first 500 hours of speaking experience.
- Practice what is hard, not what you find easy. If you are naturally charismatic and go with the flow… practice deep structure; if you are analytical and structured, practice improv. In Aikido they believe that your early strength will become a weakness if you are not disciplined. I personally still work hard on structure and ensuring a consistent delivery of my content to all audiences.
- Deliver Emotion. Emotions are power. Nobody will ask you back because you were the most analytical and correct speaker, they will ask you back because you made everybody feel strong emotions (and they can see it is predictable… nobody will recommend you if they don’t know 100% that you will deliver the same emotional impact every time). If you struggle to deliver emotional content and create deep connection with an audience, start to work on yourself. If you can deeply connect to emotion and to your own inner struggle, you can then begin to connect to others. It may take psychotherapy, it make take mastermind groups with personal development angles… but you must get deeply connected with your own internal emotional life.
- Focus your Speaking Topics. If you speak about anything to any audience, you will destroy your value. It is hard to say no, especially when you haven’t been paid for a few months – but each time you dilute, you die a little. A powerful brand is best defined what what it will not do, than what it will. Apple will never make toothbrushes… and if they do, sell the stock immediately.
Build your Reputation
…with the people that matter.
Be very careful who you take feedback and praise from. Only other speakers and people who pay for speakers count. Do not rely on friends, toastmaster club mates, family. They will tell you what you want to hear, not what you need to hear.
The best speaker referrals are other great expert speakers. When a conference has success with a speaker, they will ask that speaker to come back. They will also ask that speaker for recommendations. When another speaker gives your name as a referral, this is the most powerful marketing. I get more opportunities from other professional speakers than from any other source. Build a good reputation with this group.
Testimonials and Articles on high Credibility sites
A blog is interesting, but it is not a path to expert credibility. Articles on Forbes, HBR, Inc are more valuable than articles posted on your own blog.
Testimonials from conference organisers, other professional speakers and people who have paid you are the most valuable resource for credibility.
Put some of your speaking on YouTube. It is such a powerful tool to share your message, and in a format that people can see your quality.
Long Term: Become “The” Expert
It is not enough to be an expert, you must become known as the expert. Some people become “The” expert – their name is so closely linked to a category that an event is not “The” event if they are not speaking. Jim Collins has built that level of personal brand in the business leadership category. Marshall Goldsmith in the business coaching category, Tony Robbins in the personal development category. They can multiply their fees by 100 because their name alone sells half the tickets.
My good friend Raul Aguirre’s TEDx talk (The Hidden Secret of Success) is about how to create a unique category for yourself. It is hard to be the best business school professor in the world, but I can combine 3 categories: Great business school professor (IESE) who also has a massive following on YouTube and also is the expert on the role and challenges facing CEOs (Vistage). When I put IESE + YouTube + Vistage together, nobody else can compete.
3. Become a Wealthy Expert
There are many experts sitting in bars sharing their wisdom for free with people who don’t want to hear. It is not enough to be an expert, and it is not enough to be known as an expert – you must become a professional. Professionals know the value of their time.
It took me several years to be comfortable with the following actions, but you must if you are to have the resources to be able to really make an impact with your message.
Four Actions of Wealthy Experts
There are 4 things that can differentiate the wealthy expert speaker from the non-wealthy expert speaker:
- Package your knowledge: Write, speak, record – put knowledge into a form that people are willing to purchase
- Campaign vs Promote your knowledge – each interaction leads to a further interaction. Build a community around your expertise.
- Charge expert fees – charge more than you are comfortable with. Run your speaking practice as a business. You have value and are the expert. You are not selling 60 minutes, you are selling your lifetime of experience. Your service improves people’s lives. Price yourself accordingly. Most expert speakers build a structure to their offering around multiple price points:
- free – blogging, writing, webinars
- €100 – public speech or open event
- €1000 – 1 day workshop
- €3000 – 3-7 day workshop
- €10,000 – 1-1 coaching or mastermind group
- €100,000 – something high end to make the rest seem more reasonable…
- Focus on:
- Distinction – Keep studying the competition and keep innovating, get real feedback from the important people (the person who pays and from other speakers… not from your friends or people who didn’t pay you)
- Excellence – Be better every day
- Service – Be helpful and responsive
These 4 actions were inspired by a video from Brandon Burchard. Brandon advises others on how to become well-paid experts.
Are you a Speaker
Are you a paid speaker? What other tips would you give to someone thinking about this path? I plan to update this resource a few times with more materials and tips over the coming months.