Last updated on January 22nd, 2019 at 01:57 pm
How I became successful in this business despite the fact that I couldn’t sell, didn’t know how to market, and my website sucked
I’m not as successful as some of those big name speakers you hear about. My fee isn’t over 10k. My name doesn’t show up in the top ten speaker lists. I’ve never had a best seller. I never share the stage with the other big names. And if there’s a circuit, I’ve never found it. I’ve been in this business over ten years (more if you count the years as a professional storyteller) and I have never truly known how to price myself, how to sell effectively, what marketing works best, how to position myself effectively in my market, or how to go out there and get business. I haven’t followed any lead or cold called anybody in at least eight years.
So how did I get from having no jobs to 70-80 a year?
How did I get from trying to get a bureau to notice me, to being contacted by more than I can count?
How did I go from the one who wasn’t sure how to make this speaking business work, to having hundreds of people come to me to help them speak?
How did my fee go from “I’ll take anything” to the ” I can’t believe they’re paying me this much to speak for thirty minutes?”
I have one answer.
A good speech.
No matter what audience I have been in front of – no matter how small – how unimpressive to the rest of the speakers – I have made it my goal to knock it out of the park. To deliver the best speech I know how to give. To labor over every word, every moment. To raise my game, over and over. To never settle. To insist on getting better and outdoing myself. To insist on giving my market something it hasn’t seen before.
My secret to become a successful speaker? Two words.
You’re Not Getting Booked Because Your Speech Sucks
There. I said it. I’ve been holding it in forever. But it’s time that somebody said it. Getting business in the speaking business is more than knowing what corporate will buy – more than having a kick butt solution to their problem – more than charging what you think you’re worth. It’s about having a product that is worth the price. We are speakers. While that may mean we are experts who speak, and they are paying us to deliver information that audience will use on Monday that will change lives and improve businesses – the fact doesn’t change that they are paying us to GIVE A SPEECH. Keynote speakers aren’t trainers. We aren’t teachers. They aren’t buying our content or they would have and could have bought something much better from a much more valued resource online.
If we are keynote speakers, the SPEECH is our product. The experience we create on that stage is our product.
If people aren’t lining up to book you, asking for your card when you are through, telling others about you and referring you, singing your praises on social media – then there’s a good chance your product isn’t as good as you think it is. I’ve heard HUNDREDS of speakers in my life, and the number who I’ll always remember are small. The majority blend into the chorus line. The majority of speakers I have heard are simply average. Don’t just take my word for it – what about the speakers you have heard? How many would you really consider unforgettable? How many have you forgotten?
If you’ve been doing this for more than five years and you still can’t get any business, you might not just have a marketing problem, you might have a product problem. You might not be that good.
Too many people place the success of a speaker on his/her ability to sell and market. Yes, it’s true. That’s a HUGE part of this business, and if you can’t sell you won’t get anywhere. But many are skipping right over a key step – creating a product WORTH SELLING. It amazes me how many conversations are centered around helping you get the business you deserve. Helping you own it. Teaching you how to sell yourself like a rock star. But if you show up after having sold yourself like a rock star, and you’re simply average – you have a problem. Too many people are spending all their time and energy looking for a quick fix or some magic mentor to show them that the problem they had all along was that they weren’t charging enough – or their website was poor – or their videos worked against them. When will somebody shine a light on the product itself?
Your best marketing is getting up on that stage and hitting it out of the park. Even being a rock star for a mediocre fee can get you bigger and better bookings. It’s a word of mouth business, and that means you will get booked because people are talking about you and referring you – not because they liked your website best. A flashy fancy website may get their attention, and may get you bookings – but for longevity’s sake – well, a crappy speaker can’t outsell their product.
The truly successful speakers I know, are not successful because they landed on the perfect tagline. They aren’t successful because they have the magic answer to customer service. They aren’t successful because they finally owned their worth. They are successful because they have a good product. The better the product, the more people will pay for it.
As you go into 2016 and create your business plans – your marketing plans – and what suit you’ll wear in your new headshot – I encourage you not to overlook the most important thing you need to get booked: A GOOD SPEECH.
All the marketing in the world can’t make up for a speaker who’s just not that great. Want in the game? Then up your game. Trust me, your competition is.
Okay, tough love session over. If you need help raising your game – let me know. I can help. http://www.kellyswanson.net/speaker-coaching/
Kelly Swanson is an award-winning storyteller, comedian, motivational speaker, Huffington Post Contributor, and cast member of The Fashion Hero television show airing on Amazon Prime. She is also the author of Who Hijacked My Fairy Tale, The Land of If Only, The Story Formula, and The Affirmation Journal for Positive Thinking. She was a featured entertainer for Holland America Cruise Lines, keynote speaker for the International Toastmasters Convention, and has keynoted major conferences and corporate events from coast to coast. She just launched her one-woman show Who Hijacked My Fairy Tale in theaters, and it is being booked all over the country. In July of 2022, she was inducted into the National Speakers Association Speaker Hall of Fame.
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