Last updated on October 16th, 2018 at 01:02 am
Did you know the more inclusive and diverse a business is the healthier their cash-flow? Are you wondering what this statement has to do with your big dream to be a top motivational speaker?
This dream big article is professional speaker interview number 5 of my series “11 Top Women Motivational Speakers Share Their Best Advice” featuring motivational speaker and diversity expert, Jessica “Jess” Pettitt.
For my “what it takes to be a motivational speaker” series, I cornered eleven of the most powerful women speakers, and I got them to share their best secrets on what catapulted them into public speaking stardom.
Each speechmaker in this series shares their best speaker business success advice. One important area is finding your speaker niche. Today’s interview subject has an interesting speaker niche: diversity.
I asked my speaker interviewees to each answer ten questions. Since their answers are so informative, I’ve broken each speaker and their responses down into individual pages because once I put their answers together here, it was too large of an article (10,000 words) to load on a device like a smartphone. This 5th interview is with Jessica Pettitt.
Jessica Pettit has been educating college and university staff members to support and guide diverse students to success. She holds a Certified Speaking Professional designation from the National Speakers Association. You can read Jessica’s full bio on her website, here.
The Top Motivational Speaker Interviews – Interview #5 of 11:
Q-1: What made you want to be a motivational speaker?
A-1: I kept getting fired and I had something I wanted to say. My speaking career started as a backup plan, then I listened to my own message, gained more confidence, and now have the best job for me–although I do fire myself a lot.
Q-2: From the time you decided to become a motivational speaker, how long did it take for you to start making a living at it?
A-2: If “making a living” means a profit comparable to what I was making when I had a job that others considered a job, then seven years.
Public speaking is an incredibly expensive job. To make enough money to have money left over after the bills is an amazing event.
I literally pay my bills, taxes, invest in my own business and others, create marketing strategies, pay for my own professional development, and then have money left over to celebrate, support other’s and their projects, and give back to my community.
There is nothing like that and it took seven years to really become my reality.
Q-3: Name 3 things you are really great at as a motivational speaker.
A-3: 1. holding a space for people to learn while laughing,
2. Making lists and crossing things off of that list, and
3. Tied between listening, verbalizing my thoughts, and burning dinner.
Q-4: What was your biggest mistake in the business of being a paid public speaker?
A-4: Where do I start?
1. Not working to manage relationships with supervisors, key contributors, stakeholders, etc.
2. It is hard for me to ask for help and this option doesn’t seem to pop up until I am so overwhelmed that I end up babbling to someone when trying to ask for help – so then I get embarrassed and never ask them for help again.
3. Not saying NO fast enough. I can do anything, but not everything. The point of owning your own business is to be in JOY and not STRESS! I forget this all the time. I have a picture of a cubicle on my desk next to a picture of my 3rd-grade self. I actually get to choose what kind of work environment I want to work. Just like I get to choose which 22 hours a day to work.
4. I said YES with my checkbook. I created a sense of urgency and wrote A LOT of checks when I really wasn’t focused. I didn’t realize fast enough that I can’t buy focus. Buying all of that stuff might have had some advantages, but too many projects at once prevented me from gaining and staying focused. Whatever it is, I have lived without it my whole life – let’s do this right, one thing (OK 5 things) at a time (but not 500), and when the timing is right.
5. You asked for one mistake but there have been so many feel free to choose whatever you like. I just needed to include one more…
Ideas! I can create ideas until they become monsters that haunt me. I recently moved and found old idea notebooks. I was and I still am amazed that I had many many ideas repeat themselves. I believe that if I don’t act immediately on an idea it will disappear and I will miss the opportunity but it turns out that I often had the exact same idea multiple times and didn’t remember it being a repeated one from my past. As the idea re-popped up, the timing was a little better and the idea was a little more developed. Me forgetting an idea actually gave it room to simmer out of sight until the time was right.
A sigh of relief…
Q-5: What was the one thing you did right when you started as a motivational speaker?
A-5: Very early on I made two BIG decisions and I stuck to them. I decided exactly who my audience was going to be. I can see their faces; they have names; life stories; etc., so when I am making marketing choices or developing new projects, I keep these “people” in mind. This helps me pick what they want therefore they are more likely to buy than what I like or think “they” need.
I also decided early on that I didn’t want to be a good fit for everyone. Instead of looking at this as losing work, I refer the wrong fit person to another colleague/friend of mine that is a better fit for them.
I want to be me. I can do that pretty good.
I want to work with people I like to work with and love it then it works out for both parties. This allowed me to focus on my message, technique, products, etc., that align with ME. No one else can be me – even if they say the same words.
My grandmother used to say;
“Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”
Q-6: What do you think is the hardest thing about having a motivational speaking career?
A-6: I call this career “riding two horses at one time” like in the circus. One foot is firmly planted in how awesome you are–the ego horse. This is how you sell, promote, market yourself as a thought leader not to mention take in standing ovations, positive feedback, and hear the impact that your message really has. The other foot is firmly planted in fraud, imposter, and other self-destructive stories we have about ourselves as well as humility, eagerness to learn more, and our wide-eyed curiosity.
If you only ride one horse, your career will fail sooner or later, no matter how fast or slow you ride. It takes a complicated dance between both to stay accessible, humble, and be able to charge others for your experiences, thoughts, feelings, ideas, and the like.
Bonus answer: It is really hard to understand realistically the level of good you are at. If good, your bad might be better than their bad.
If bad, your good might never be attainable.
Q-7: What is your favorite type of audience?
A-7: I love reminding people that they can laugh and learn. I love welcoming people to a conversation that they have felt left out of or judged during. I love speaking to an audience that can relax and really celebrate being together.
Generally, my favorite audiences are those that are so exhausted they need to remember, the super-conservative straight Christian (usually men) who are interested in talking about social justice without being told they are the problem (it isn’t their fault after all), and the groups that aren’t so worried about 1% decline to really enjoy friendship, mutual respect, and the joy of supporting one another through the full journey of working together–through the good times and everything else!
Q-8: The motivational speaker business can be stressful. What do you do to stay sane?
A-8: Unfortunately, I got sober BEFORE becoming a speaker so drinking isn’t an option.
I try to buying local food, friend and family visits so that I can talk to people that haven’t paid me to talk to them, snuggle with surrogate dogs and cats, do laundry, and plan what I am going to do during my off-stage time.
I need structure. When not on stage, I am in a hotel, driving, sitting at a gate, on a plane, or something like that so I set goals of things to get done during these times.
These goals may be: find good pizza, get a pedicure, finish reading a novel, crochet, mail the book and/or the crochet project to friends and family, visit local landmarks, stay up to date on my news programs, watch TED Talks, cook, sleep, lay in the grass, get a massage.
I use Facebook to see if there are other speakers, friends, colleagues, past clients, etc., that are in the same area as me to have meetups. Often, I don’t know where people are living currently or where they are traveling at the time so this is mutually fun for both parties. Last night, I rolled into town, played with a dog, saw two friends new home, had the best crab cakes in a hole in the wall within walking distance of my parking space, caught up, and laughed. I slept so good and awoke ready to face the day.
Q-9: Motivational speaking takes a tremendous amount of work; how do you balance your personal life with your speaking career?
A-9: I write letters home, Skype, text, and call often. I think that a piece that some people may not think of–to balance personal life with this career–I also had to learn and now remember that life at home doesn’t stop. They haven’t been frozen in time while I have been away. Moreover, they never get to go anywhere–suck it up–and use your miles to give them some benefit of being without you and take them someplace.
Yes, this means you will have to get on ANOTHER airplane.
My partner was also not excited by upgrades and lounges–these were new areas–sitting in coach and at the gate is exciting enough. Try and be a typical traveler. Clock out. Don’t talk about planes or corporate mergers with flight attendants while on vacation with family, even if you know their name. Clock out and be with your family.
Also, take the lead to set up child or pet care. Recognizing that my partner has never been able to rely on me being home for any trip no matter how short is really a burden I didn’t think about.
Remember you are 100% responsible for every relationship in your life.
Q-10: What advice would you give to women who have decided their big dream is to be a motivational speaker?
A-10: Spend money on good luggage, shoes, bras, and black slacks. Everything else can be cheap.
Befriend every woman that does similar work as you to learn from them and give them work. This will come back to you tenfold.
Whatever you need to be successful on and off stage–figure out how to provide that for yourself. Do not depend on your customer to keep you sane. That is just dumb.
No matter the question, the answer is in your message. If you disagree, your message is too complicated. Simplify and find the core of your message. This will keep everything in perspective.
I believe that women motivational speakers are worthy of recognition and celebration. I much appreciate Jessica’s time and assistance in getting her answers to me about her public speaking business and her work-life balance advice.
Thanks again, Jess!
Kelly Swanson is an award-winning storyteller, motivational speaker, published author and TV personality who is passionate about helping women harness the power of their stories to connect, influence, and get the results they dream of accomplishing. Laughing the whole way, Kelly teaches women how to master the art of connection through the power of strategic storytelling. You can find her on The Fashion Hero show airing Fall of 2017 on Amazon Prime or on her website MotivationalSpeakerKellySwanson.com.
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