Take a moment to reflect on this question. I imagined myself in a room full of entrepreneurs, leaders, teachers… and wasn’t sure I could give a completely confident answer.
Now imagine that you have 20 years before you step into that room… What do you want to be able to say in 20 years that you have done the work to truly be a master, to have established a reputation for excellence, to have made a difference? Write that down.
“Your ability to communicate with others will account for fully 85% of your success in your business and in your life.”
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.”
This blog is full of material about speaking well so I will not repeat. Some good articles on speaking well:
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…
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.
There is formula for changing people. Doctor Malik Mohammed shared this wisdom with the EO Global Leadership Academy last week in Washington, USA. If you are to change someone’s behaviour patterns, two things are necessary.
This is a video about Experts and Fakes, Charlatans and Gurus. I share a 2×2 matrix looking at the 4 types of skill/communication ability.
I also discuss the idea of “craftsmanship” – where one person does all of the parts of a job from idea to execution and the special type of innovation that can come when one single individual understand how all the elements of the work flow together.
There are 2 types of teachers
a) the teacher who is great at teaching beginners,
b) the teacher who is a guide for advanced students and experts. A great “beginner teacher” is often not a great “advanced teacher”.
I was watching a few Charlie Munger speeches recently – Warren Buffett’s partner in leading Berkshire Hathaway.
Charlie talks a lot about “Inverse Thinking”…
The Inverse Thinking Process
What is Inverse Thinking? Charlie says it is helpful to turn a question on its head. If you want to know what would improve the situation of India, ask what would make India worse? You can apply this to most situations: If you want to know what would improve your life, ask what would make your life worse? If you want to know what would improve schools, ask what would make schools worse?
Charlie does provide his answer to how to make life worse.
Charlie’s Recipe for a Miserable Life
His answer: The perfect path to a miserable failure of a life is combining:
Another of Charlie’s particular questions he asks himself is how to keep from fanatical ideology? He sees that human beings are so open to self-deception that we must (yes even you) all be on the lookout for our own beliefs that have become fanatical.
Charlie’s Recipe to Keep From Fanaticism
Can you state the arguments against your position as well as your opposition? If you can state the arguments against your position as effectively as the opposing camp, then you can allow yourself to feel that you are not being fanatical.
Charlie on the Danger of Perverse Incentives
Be careful about being in situations that motivate unhappy behaviour. Are the incentives in the systems in which you operate motivating behaviours that make you a better person, or a worse person. Be careful if you think your answer is “neutral”…
Charlie on the Danger of Perverse People
Don’t work for those who you do not admire.
It will damage you.
Charlie Munger speaking at USC Graduation
There is one random quote that stuck with me from Charlie:
“Hope is not necessary to persevere” Frederick the Great
There… those are my thoughts for this Sunday afternoon 😉 It is now time to head to the Camp Nou for FC Barcelona’s game against Espanyol… key for the league, and the Barcelona derby!
Over the last 10 years I have increasingly moved from product businesses towards a services business.
In the world of private jets we had simple rules: if the trip is not paid, the plane doesn’t leave. It was policy, not decision.
In the world of coaching leaders to build cultures of disciplined high performance, there is often a wide grey area between free discussion and paid consulting. I find it very difficult to mark that line clearly. I love talking about psychology and high performance and getting the best out of people. I am interested.
My landlord only accepts money for rent. Not good intention. So I have to do the same myself.
6 Steps to Stop Being “Free”
Be clear on the results you can help them achieve – Can you explain what success looks like in a clear, concise, specific and compelling way? in language that your target customers can really understand?
Show testimonials, examples, logos of past successes – capture testimonials and make them as specific as possilble
Find common passions or interests (liking) – build relationships that are broader than pure business
Respect yourself – know where you draw your line (Let the prospective client know that you are the most capable, dedicated and solution-oriented consultant they will find and that you normally charge X-amount for your time.)
Blog, write, speak, publish – direct your potential client there rather than give custom answers – thought leadership is free, customising the advice for a specific person and access to you should be expensive
Ask for the sale – Make yourself a product, set clear prices – and ask for the sale. “Look, I think you value my advice – lets set up a 6 month deal – two meetings per month for €XX”
More on the fine line between free and paid consulting
I had coffee this morning with an entrepreneur from Barcelona and fellow member of Entrepreneurs’ Organisation. I spoke about a couple of blog posts that had really impacted me and changed my perspectives on life. He asked me to share my list. Here it is.
5 Blog Posts that Changed My Perspectives
Derek Sivers’ post “You don’t have to be local” was a real perspective shift for me. I have spent many years connecting into the local Barcelona entrepreneur community… and I really resonated with Derek’s perspective. I enjoy writing, blogging, travelling with Barcelona as a base. This post allowed me to feel less need to search for purely local connection.
Paul Graham’s post “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule” helped me make a big shift away from my Accenture lifestyle and manager focus towards a creator schedule. I take fewer and fewer short meetings and look at only taking 2, 4 and 8 hour meetings. This amount of time allows me to go deep into solutions and actually create something new. 15 minute meetings, 30 minute meetings really just make me feel busy, but do not actually lead to anything productive as an outcome.
David Maister’s short ebook “Strategy and the Fat Smoker” helped me take a more helpful perspective on long versus short term goals. In the end, strategy fails because the hourly, daily grind of execution doesn’t measure up to the good intentions. The fat smoker didn’t intend to be overweight and ill at 50, it was due to little daily breaks in the plan.
Leo Babauta writes the blog Zen Habits. His reflection on “Why We Procrastinate” resonated with my personal experience. His post didn’t solve my procrastination problem, but it did set me on the path to practicing focus. My own post on Self-Discipline was inspired by Leo Babauta.
Steven Pressfield wrote “The War of Art” and helped me understand that the little voice in my head that questions why I am writing, who am I to think I have something to say, what will one article change is not me, it is “Resistance“. Each day, the creator must sit down and push through this voice of resistance and “Do The Deep Work“.
Bloggers that I love and read every post, but there is not one single post that I can point out:
“If you know the name of a bird in all of the human languages, you will still know absolutely nothing about the bird. My father taught me the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing about that something.” Richard Feynman
Earlier this week, my father sent me 2 short video interviews of Nobel Physicist Richard Feynman. Feynman speaks of his intense dislike of “honours”. He speaks about valuing his work for the intrinsic value of his work: “I enjoyed physics because I used to play with it, I do it for the fun of it”. He speaks of the need to “disrespect the respectable”.
Disrespect for the Respectable
What’s the difference between the king and the subjects? The difference is epaulets, uniform, position: it has nothing to do with something intrinsic of that person.
Science in 1 Minute
Richard Feynman explains science in under 60 seconds:
Step 1) Guess…
Step 2) Check if your guess can predict nature,
Step 3) If not, your guess is wrong.
It doesn’t matter who made the guess, the beauty of the guess, how much you would like the guess to be right, the simplicity of the equations… it only matters whether it can predict nature.
More like this?
Do you know any other great minds that we can find their interviews on youtube? I would welcome ideas in the comments below 😉
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