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What I wish I did much earlier in my speaking...

Right now I'm in an Uber on my way to JFK airport. Heading back home to North Carolina after a speaking engagement at St. John’s University in New York. I also stayed around for an extra day in “The Big Apple.” My college keynote at St. John’s went great. You can click here to watch any portion of it via Facebook Live. (note: I always go LIVE on Facebook or Instagram during a speech…and no, I don’t ask permission.) Moreover though, my experience in NYC after the keynote was icing on the angel food cake and inspired me to write this speaker tip blog for you. Look, to be successful in speaking, you have to work hard – extremely hard. In fact, probably harder than you’ve ever worked before, and especially at the beginning. Speakers are business owners and starting any business requires passion, strategy, execution, and tenacity at the highest levels. In my opinion, and from experience talking with aspiring and coaching beginning speakers, the far majority of speakers will never make it as a full-time professional speaker because they do not understand how difficult it’s going to be to start a speaking business. Of course speaking looks great from the outside perimeter, but 99% of all the work goes on behind the scenes. So my speaker tips and the coaching I provide to speakers are all designed to help you be a successful speaker in the minority. This is a good thing, yes? So it’s imperative for a speaker to embrace a “work hard” mentality. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. A “play hard” mentality is just as crucial. Because if you’re not playing hard before, during, and after those “work hard” sessions, you’re going to burn out. You’re going to start wondering if it’s worth it. You’ll become exhausted and start running on fumes. The fire you once had for speaking will kindle down…I wish I better understood this when I first started speaking. Looking back on my first few years of speaking, I greatly wish I enjoyed it more and took advantage of travel opportunities while on the road. When I was a part-time speaker, I had a decent job working in Student Affairs and the stakes were fairly low. But when I resigned that job to pursue speaking full-time, the stakes instantly became much higher. I became all “work” and no “play” because I had to survive to make ends meet. Most of you reading this know exactly what I’m talking about. Being a business owner can be painful when the business isn’t coming in. Now though, I “play” just as hard as I “work” - if not harder. And interestingly, this shows not only in my speaking but also in how I manage my speaking business. Most meeting planners and event organizers bring me in to bring in the energy! And you can’t give what you don’t have. So how do you balance a “work hard / play hard” mentality with a speaking business? Whether the stakes are high or low for you right now, I’ve got two tips that will help you make the most of your speaking experience. They’ve worked for me, and I’m confident they will work for you – when applied. And, as a reminder, I wish I had better understood this when I first started speaking. #1. Arrive early. Stay late. Arriving early to your speaking event is extremely helpful to feel the needed energy vibe from the audience as well as listening and observing to what goes on before you start speaking. For example, by listening to the session(s) before my keynote, I am always gifted with last-minute ways to align my messaging and phrases I can use that I would not have known otherwise. And overall, when a speaker can tie in their messaging to remarks from executives – if not the President of the company – who spoke before them, the speaker looks really, really good to the audience, the executives, and the meeting planner who hired them. It also makes their speech more relevant. Trust me. One of my speaking goals is to always get the audience to wonder, “How did the speaker know that? Do they work for us?” When I spoke for Anheuser-Busch, one of best evaluations I’ve ever received stated:

“Kevin, I didn’t know you didn’t work for us until AFTER your presentation. You gave the best presentation I’ve ever seen in delivery and in being relevant.”

Arriving early and staying late also means you can take advantage of what the area provides around you. I never book my travel arrangements for a speaking gig until 3 weeks out from any engagement. This way, I know the earliest I can arrive and the latest I can stay before either heading home or to another speaking gig.

(And yes, I book all my own travel. Contrary to what I hear from other speakers, booking travel should only take a few minutes.) And this ties into #2 below for things I wish I better understood when I first started speaking... #2. Make an experience in every place you visit. Enjoy the travel. You’ve worked hard for it. Find something to do, eat and truly “experience” that you couldn’t do anywhere else. But some cities this is tough to do! I can’t tell you how many college towns I’ve spoken where it’s been 100 miles of highway and corn fields, then college town, then 100 miles of highway and corn fields. In towns like these, I still try to find something unique and fun to do outside of speaking to make my visit memorable and fun. Nothing against these towns but compare them to Chicago, New York, Vegas, Buenos Aires, Punta Cana, Paris, etc. When I speak to professional organizations and at association conferences, 90 percent of the time it will be at a destination city with plenty to do. So guess how I arrange my travel? I arrive early and stay late so I can make an experience in every place I visit! Case in point, I’m in New York right now. And a place like New York City is going to provide plenty of options to experience something unique. After my speaking engagement yesterday, I took an Uber downtown and sampled a flight of NYC brews in Times Square. Then I got lucky and scored some Broadway Hamilton tickets.

This morning I went for an early jog and ended up by Rockefeller Center where I watched a taping of The TODAY SHOW. (Received several text messages from people seeing me on TV!

Then I caught up with fellow speaker and good friend, Stan Phelps, who just so happened to be in NYC too, and we went sailing around the Statue of Liberty - #EPIC.

So make an experience in every place you visit and the only way to do this is to arrive early and stay late. You’ve worked hard for that speaking engagement. Enjoy it.


Desire to become a professional speaker?

Not getting the speaking business you had hoped for?

In addition to my own speaking business, I have a passion for helping and coaching speakers develop their own. Whether it's in crafting a speech, identifying target groups who can pay, and/or how to get the speaking gig itself, I can help. I've keynoted over 1,150 presentations in practically every industry you can imagine. My book, PAID to SPEAK, outlines a proven model for speakers. If you are serious about becoming a professional speaker, contact me for a free consultation. I don't want you to flounder like I did and be frustrated. If you're not a subscriber to these speaker articles, submit your email today!


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