Advice I'd give my younger self
"If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self about the speaking business?"
This was the question I received during a Q&A in front of an audience of authors and aspiring authors this past weekend. I was speaking at the closing session of a book writing conference sharing advice about how to leverage a book to build a speaking business.
(side note: I love including a Q&A segment in each speech because you just never know the questions you'll be asked on the spot. I think audiences love it too - shows transparency and vulnerability by the speaker. So offer a Q&A in your speeches.)
A young man stood up in the middle of the audience and a microphone runner went to him. Once microphone was in his slightly shaking hand, he looked directly at me and asked, "If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self about the speaking business?" What a great flippin' question! And although I had maybe 1-2 seconds to reflect and respond, time seemed like it stopped. I immediately responded, "Just one thing?" < insert audience laughter > "Just one thing," he responded.
"Wow, impossible to pinpoint just one thing, because it's been hundreds of things that have led me to where I'm at and being with you today." I smiled and paused for effect. "But, to be respectful of your question, here's what I would say to my younger self ..."
I opened my mouth, still not even sure what might come out of it.
"I wish I knew starting off ... that my speaking business had nothing to do with me." I continued ... "a successful speaker understands they are the messenger delivering a message in order to help others learn from and avoid the mistakes already made."
I hear "mmm's" and "ahhh's" in the audience. I watch heads nod up and down. I see people writing down what came from my mouth - and heart.
However, the young man who asked the question seemed to be frozen. His hand was no longer shaking. I raise my eyebrows at him and smile, hoping to get a reaction from him.
"How's that?" I asked.
"Unbelievable," he said. "Thank you."
I then asked, "How about a few more quick tips?"
"Absolutely." He picked up a pen from his seat.
"Well as I already said, number 1 is that my speaking has nothing to do with me. It's about the message and I'm the messenger. Let me bullet point the rest out for you:
* Number 2: I'm never going to work harder on anything else in my life. But it's not work. It's purpose. If I wasn't so connected to my purpose I would have quit working a long time ago.
* Number 3: Just because I can speak or have a speech doesn't mean I have a speaking business. Understanding that a speaking business has many spokes on the wheel and speaking is just one of them. Knowing how to build an infrastructure for a speaking business is entirely different than starting a cupcake factory, respectfully.
* Number 4: Know what differentiates you. If you don't know how and why you stand out, no one else will either. Speakers who don't understand differentiation will rarely come in first place. And to quote Ricky Bobby, 'if you ain't first you're last.' (side note: click this and watch!)
* Number 5: Find other speakers you want to be like. Study everything about them. Observing how they speak, watching how they engage, writing down what they say, dissecting their website and videos, etc. ... all that will help you crystallize the type of speaker you want to, and will, become."
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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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