Lynn Serafinn discusses the down-side of public speaking, and explains how you CAN benefit from a speaking career when it is part of the bigger picture.
As thought leaders, our commodities are information and ideas. We are driven by values, and we want to share those values with the world. That is why so many service-oriented professionals these days – such as coaches, consultants, therapists and health professionals – dream of becoming public speakers. Some are content to speak to small, targeted groups, while others aspire to land a gig on prestigious platforms like TED or TEDx Talks or even have aspirations of becoming a full time speaker.
I’ve done a lot of public speaking over the years. Lately, I’ve also been getting a lot of requests from my marketing clients to help them develop their public speaking platform, write their scripts, organise their timelines and create their visual presentations. So, as public speaking has been at the forefront of my mind these past few months, I would like to share what I have found to be true time and again. Becoming a public speaker can often seem like the most logical – if not the most glamourous and exciting – means of bringing your value-driven message to the world. And it can be. BUT it can also be disheartening if you go into it blindly or start by asking the wrong questions.
In my experience, the majority of new speakers start by asking the questions ‘Where?’ and ‘When?’, i.e.
‘Where can I get speaking gigs?’
‘When/how soon can they book me in?’
While these might be the first questions on your mind, they are actually the last questions you should be asking. Before you do anything else, you need to ask the much more fundamental questions: ‘Why? Who? What? and How?’
‘WHY do I want to do this?’
‘WHO is my audience (and WHY would they care)?’
‘WHAT is my core message?’
‘HOW do I organise and present my ideas?’
Without first answering these questions, the ‘Where?’ and the ‘When?’ are moot points.
In today’s article, we’ll be looking at the first of these questions: ‘WHY do I want to do this?’ Then, we’ll look at 5 practical ways public speaking can benefit your business when – and only when – it is positioned correctly within your business and marketing strategy.
But first…a scenario from my past that can help demonstrate what I want to say about this topic.
The Starving Artist Syndrome – Lessons from a Former Freelance Musician
Throughout the 1970s and 80s, I was a music tutor and freelance musician in Texas and Arizona. For two decades, my survival was dependent upon getting enough students and gigs to pay the bills. In terms of finding gigs, my easiest time was when I managed to get on the musician’s union rota through my orchestra. Because I had a good track record and they knew I was a good sight-reader, I got called many times a month to play gigs. I didn’t need to find gigs; they found me.
Later, in the 1980s, when I had my own band, the hunt to find paying gigs was a constant preoccupation. During those years, I spent more time on the phone and sending out press kits trying to find the gigs than I actually spent playing music. And the results were wide-ranging in terms of what we gained from them. Sometimes we played at restaurants or nightclubs where we were paid in dinner and tips. Other times I landed us a gig at a music festival, where we might earn anywhere between $500 and $2,000. Some of our pay came from back-of-room cassette/CD sales (which, on a good day, could add several hundred dollars to the coffers). Sometimes, a member of the audience approach us to ask if they could hire us for a private party or business event.
During that decade, I was constantly in ‘survival mode’. I lived from month to month, always looking for the next gig. This is the classic ‘starving artist’ scenario – not setting clear boundaries, and accepting whatever happens to come along. As a result, things didn’t really progress until many years later in the 1990s, when I finally understood what it meant to have a ‘target audience’ and the importance of having a clear plan of what I wanted to gain from being a musician.
In short, I finally learned the importance of seeing my art as a business, including what it meant to market myself as an artist.
Getting Clear About WHY You Want to Be a Public Speaker
Setting yourself up as a public speaker is really no different from being a freelance musician. And the motives most people have for becoming a speaker are often the same:
- They’d like to get paid to speak.
- They like the idea of being known/famous/respected/appreciated by others.
- They like the ‘rush’ of being on stage.
- They believe that speaking will help spread ‘their message’.
Sadly, many are attracted by the glamour of standing in the spotlight, only to see those lights grow dim after six months of having to constantly chase up potential leads. They might have had visions of being able to support themselves through public speaking, but after a year of living hand-to-mouth, they realise they have landed themselves on a never-ending treadmill of searching for the next gig. And as far feeling the rush and spreading the message goes… well… it all starts to feel a bit futile if you find you’re speaking to the wrong audience, or the turnout is less than stellar.
Let me make it simple. For most of us independent business owners:
A public speaking career needs to be part of a larger business.
Your public speaking needs to be a means – not an end – to specific business goals. While it might be the thing you most love doing, in terms of business function, it needs to serve ‘the greater good’ of your business. Apart from your own enjoyment, what does it do for your business? Let’s get clear about one thing: the sporadic payment you might receive for your speaking services might be nice, but it does not constitute a business.
The key question you need to ask is:
WHAT will your business gain from your public speaking?
For the moment, let’s…
- FORGET about getting paid for gigs.
- FORGET about making a ‘name’ for yourself.
- FORGET about feeling the adrenaline rush of standing in front of an audience.
- FORGET about ‘getting the message out there’.
While all of those things are fine (and valuable), let’s consider these five tangible (albeit less glittery) things your public speaking might be able to do for your business, such as:
- Selling books or other merchandise.
- Promoting an upcoming workshop or training event.
- Getting new clients.
- Getting hired to speak at other paying gigs.
- Building your contact list.
Let’s take a look at these five potential benefits, and analyse how they work together.
Understanding the FLOW of the Relationship with Your Audience
Many service professionals I know turn to public speaking thinking it will be a means of getting a steady stream of private clients. While getting private clients via public speaking does happen, it’s actually less common than you might imagine. The reason has to do with the dynamics of the relationship you have with the audience during a public lecture. In a public event – especially one that has been organised by a third party – many of the members of your audience are likely to be unfamiliar with you. If you understand the way relationships work in the 7 Graces Marketing Funnel, becoming a private client requires a much deeper level of trust and commitment (and more money!) than buying a book or signing up for a group workshop. You might be the best coach in the world, but until that connection has been established, people will be unlikely to commit to working with you privately. In my experience, those who benefit the most from public speaking are those who have created a foundation that can tick all of the above boxes – especially the FIRST two on the list, i.e. merchandise and training. Here’s how and why this is so:
- Selling books or other merchandise
Books, CDs or other reasonably priced professional merchandise are often the starting point for building your relationship with your audience. They’ve just heard you speak, and a well-written book on the same (or related) topic is often the most practical and economical way for them to strengthen and deepen what they’ve learned from you. It requires no long-term commitment from them. Yes, it can provide extra income for you (sometimes a lot of income, if you have a wide variety of merchandise), but the primary reason for selling your goods should be to deepen your relationship with your audience so that the most motivated of them will progress to the next level (i.e. workshops and training).
- Promoting an upcoming workshop or training event
I believe the best time to give a talk is shortly before you are offering a workshop or training event in the same, or nearby, locality. I’ve seen many speakers make the mistake of doing a speaking gig with the idea that they will do a workshop the next day only if enough people enrol from the talk. As a marketer, I think this is backwards thinking. The best results will happen if you set up and plan your workshop well in advance, and then plan your speaking engagements around the time/date and location of the workshop. Then, in your promotions for the talk, you also mention that there is a follow-up workshop the next day (or whenever), with information on how to register. That way, people will arrive at the talk having already decided: a) they will do the workshop, b) they won’t do the workshop, c) they might do the workshop if they enjoy the talk. Of course, if your entire talk is just a thinly disguised promotion for your training event, it is unlikely you’ll get many takers! Make sure your talk has real substance and value. We’ll be looking at how to do that in the next article.
- Getting new clients
As I said, the average person sitting in your audience will not be ready to become your private client, especially if they’ve never heard of you before. It is important to be able to see where your public speaking ‘sits’ within the greater context of your wider marketing strategy, and that it works with all the other elements of your platform. If people attend your lecture, they might decide to attend your workshop. If they do, they will have taken one step closer to you, and will be more likely to approach you as a private client than when they were sitting in your audience. Of course, if you’ve spent a few years developing your marketing platform through books, blogging , social media or mainstream media appearances, the chances are greater that many members of your audience will already have come to know and trust you. Then, you can actually get new clients from your public speaking; but don’t expect it to happen often until you have reached that ‘tipping point’.
- Getting hired to speak at other paying gigs
Being asked to speak at other events can sometimes be simply the result of good luck; but it can also be the result of good planning and good ‘targeting’. To get invited to other gigs, you need to speak at events where there are other decision makers, i.e., heads of department, event organisers, committees from relevant organisations, community leaders, etc. Not only do these people need to be decision makers, but they need to be influential within the realm of your ideal customers or clients. For example, let’s say you are a health professional who is not looking for new patients, but has created courses to train other health professionals. In this case, your ideal ‘customers’ are those health professionals – not potential patients. Unless you are selling merchandise (or still looking for private patients), there would be no real business advantage to doing gigs where you are speaking to the general public. When you agree to give a talk, be sure it has the potential to reach and expand your target audience. If you simply say yes to whatever comes along, you’ll end up like the freelance musician who is continuously looking for the next gig.
- Building Your Contact List
Another benefit public speaking can bring to your business is the growth of your list of contacts – especially your email list. An email list is a good way to share new content, and keep people informed about other events, publications or services you might have in the future. Your email list is also a way to cultivate the budding relationship between you and your new audience, by gradually giving them a chance to know more about you and your work. In short, a good mailing list is a way to continue the dialogue between you and your audience after an event is over. Unfortunately however, most of us these days are inundated with way too much email, and signing up to a mailing list has become less and less attractive. To make sure your mailing list doesn’t go belly up, it is important to be sure to:
- Give people an incentive to sign up (like some sort of downloadable resource).
- Tell them what they should expect from you (i.e. the kinds of things you will send them and how often you will write to them).
- Stay true to your word and respect their boundaries once they have signed up.
- Always think ‘What’s in it for THEM?’ when you write to them. In other words, don’t email them to sell stuff to them. Always give them something of genuine value.
SIDENOTE: Be sure to ask people to PRINT their contact information clearly! It’s so frustrating when emails bounce because you can’t read their handwriting.
Coming Up Next Time
I hope this article has got you thinking about how public speaking sits (or could sit) within your business. Next time, we’ll be looking at how to create a signature talk to share your core value message. I hope you’ll subscribe to the blog so you’ll receive it, along with all our upcoming articles, direct to your inbox. To subscribe, just fill in your name and email in the form you’ll find in the upper-right hand corner of your screen. If you’re viewing this on your mobile phone and don’t see the form, drop me a request via the CONTACT page to let me know you’d like to subscribe, and I’ll add you to the list.
AND…if you’re a public speaker – or you’re thinking about creating your signature talk – and you’re looking for help getting focussed and structured, I’d be happy to have a chat with you to see if/how I can help. Again, just send me a message via the contact form at http://the7gracesofmarketing.com/contact, along with a brief description about your business and your aspirations, and request a free 30-minute Skype consultation.
And finally, if you’re looking for help building your online marketing platform so you can make yourself READY for the next phase of your business development , check out our business and marketing services on our ‘Work With Us’ page, and then drop us a line to discuss how we might be able to help.
I look forward to hearing from you. Feel free to leave comments or questions about this article in the box at the bottom of the screen.
24 March 2016
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Find out more about how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place:
The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing. Brit Writers Awards Finalist eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues
Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media. eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.
Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com
The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging: An Effective, Creative & Ethical Way of Marketing for Visionaries & New Paradigm Business Leaders. To receive an update when that book is available, just click here. As a thank-you gift for showing your interest, you’ll get instant access to an exclusive, free 5-page PDF revealing the exact same blogging template we use with our clients and we teach to participants on the ethical marketing training courses at the 7 Graces Project .
LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketing strategist, social media expert, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.
Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project, an independent marketing consultancy created to support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their businesses ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.
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