The fact that one could be paid to speak revealed itself to me only when I was introduced to the Professional Speakers Association of India (PSAI). Sure, I was earning through my words even before that, but differently. As I began to understand the world of professional speaking, I realized that there are 5 ways to speak for money. And here they are:
- S2S – Speak To Sell – This is what I was doing before PSAI. I would formulate a workshop or training program; identify an audience; present a valuable “free” session; and bingo, people would buy into the program and everyone would be happy. But there was a catch! This worked perfectly fine if my saliva was well used every time I opened my mouth. However, as we know from the 80:20 principle, in sales too we do not convert 80% of the time. And thus, we realize (as I did) the economy of the next method.
- S2A – Sell To Audience – Here there is no need for priming up our audience. All we do is announce a “free” session and have a battery of products ready at the back-end. During the session we do three things: 1) Provide value 2) Build personal credibility and 3) Position our products to fill the needs, which we magnify in the audience’s mind. Earlier known as ‘selling from stage’, with the pandemic many webinars and masterclasses moved from pure education to this. Here is a great place to learn the ropes.
- P2PC – Paid To Perform (Customers) – Now this is where the ballgame changes. Here’s where individual customers pay out a nominal (or not so nominal) fee to listen to the speaker. This speaker could educate, entertain, enlighten, or do whatever they do, and perhaps upsell the audience to their next program. What is important is that the customers perceive value-for-money at all points in time. And the speaker breaks even on advertising and infra costs (if priced nominally) or makes a decent living (if not so nominal).
- P2PB – Paid To Perform (Business) – This is the fun segment! This is where institutions pay speakers to deliver a message that their audiences need to hear. A guest faculty at a local college is a simple example of this. But when Tony Robbins is invited by XYZ Brand to build a leadership perspective for their top executives – in one hour for one million dollars – eyes pop open. This is where the moolah is! And since there is a plethora of free speakers and the S2S, S2A, and P2PC types, the need for “Self-Professionalization” is huge. Thanks, PSAI for honing this for Speakers!
- P2PA – Paid To Perform (Authority) – Now Tony from the previous point is arguably an authority-celebrity due to his sheer presence, but low-lying subject-matter experts can be paid to endorse their views for institutions too. This depends on how much conviction they have – and demonstrate – in their subject. Greta Thunberg, Arundhati Roy, and even Morgan Freeman became P2PA candidates only because they stuck out. So do not wallow in non-celebrity-dom… and know that Authority comes with Authenticity – more about which you will read in the ensuing portion on Attitude, the A of MAPSS!
MAPSS? Yes, Materials | Attitude | Presence | Speeches | and Sales!
While on the subject of maps, this is where I have delivered talks physically, until the time of writing this article. Below, you will find links to my websites, videos, books, etc, which are intended to serve as references. The pandemic helped me piece together my assets and I invite you to study them and send me your valuable feedback. Thanks! So, shall we begin?
M for Materials
The following checklist is presented more-or-less in the sequence that a speaker must follow, to move efficiently through the 5 categories mentioned above. The first thing to get organized is:
1. Branding elements
Basic branding elements include good photos – formal, causal, headshots, postures, multiple backgrounds. This subject also covers the colors that you use consistently, in graphics, clothing, backgrounds, giveaways, products, etc., to have people identify you easily. And perhaps a visual unit (font/logo/graphic) that defines you.
There could be stories behind these elements, which serve as conversational ice-breakers. For example, I cut the A in my name (logo) with a blue line to remind you of the iceberg analogy – and how our unconscious and subconscious minds are huge, under the ocean. The A also signals ‘peak’ potential, which I coach people to achieve.
The second key aspect of branding is to figure out what niche you operate in. What problem do you solve? The solution you bring to your customer is your brand. That’s what they can ‘buy’.
A proven way to orient your thinking to arrive at your niche is to fill in the blanks: I work with __(audience)__ to achieve __(solution)__ without __(pain)__ using __(magic portion)__. For example, speaking for myself, I work with professionals and senior executives to achieve health, happiness, and harmony without getting stressed about anything, using ancient oriental wisdom. Of course, you must live your brand. For me that means, I am bound to be healthy, happy, and harmonious 24/7… hahaha… tall order, I know 😊
If you need guidance on this (believe me it is the most critical part in speaking-for-money) you could check out a program here. I recommend it and have publicly recommended the program creator on Linkedin… so she’s been kind enough to give us a coupon code for a crazy 50% off (use coupon HALFOFF-SN) 😍
2. Website (s)
Now get this – unless you have sorted the first point, don’t even bother with the rest of this article. You will only make a hodge-podge of everything and at best get some S2S business. S2A and P2PC will be lucky breaks and inconsistent.
So, if you’re done, and ready for the website (s), here is what you need to know:
- Get a domain of yourname.com or yournameonline.com. Non-dotcom extensions are weaker. This will be your gateway site. Look up SandeepNath.com and you will see that the home page routes to 7 other sites. Why? Because those sites cater to specific audiences.
- Unless you are a full-time speaker, keep your speaking site independent of yourname.com. I use SandeepTalks.com, which allows me to focus on the value I bring to clients through speaking alone. Those clients might not be so bothered about my beliefs in Renewalism or Success, or my Qigong Coaching, or Inner Power Programs, right? I also route all my “Connect” pages to one site.
Next, you would want to build the option to blog, so that search engines will view your site as dynamic. More about this in the P-for-Presence section.
Setting up e-commerce/buy buttons on your site is relevant when you get to the product stage (if you intend to sell that way). In such a case, you may want to set up lead magnets, funnels, and sales pages with upsells and all that, which you can learn about here. I don’t go the whole nine yards anymore since I use a page about the Stress Matrix for S2S and S2A.
3. Media coverage
Have you been seen, read, or heard? That builds credibility. Not something to overuse, but not something to relegate to later either. Dig out the magazines or sites you may have blogged for. Or even if you were quoted, it qualifies for “As featured in”. HARO is a cool resource to plug into such networks. Use the publication logos as you deem fit – on social media banners, website/s, email signatures, etc.
4. Linkedin page
Of all social media, for the serious speaker, this one is critical. And there is no better time you can spend mastering this than with the program here. You will learn everything you need to grow (or reduce) your following. Yes, reducing is important as I discovered, and am practicing at the time of writing this article! Linkedin is also a serious resource for your movement to P2PB since most business professionals are found here. I’m at https://linkedin.com/in/renewalism >> Notice my URL branding is based on the word I uniquely own.
5. Youtube channel
When we talk about Presence, we will understand youtube’s benefits better. For now, make sure you set up a channel aligned with your branding and populate the About section for sure. The details in this section are picked up by search engines and will display whenever you share your channel URL. Once you have 100 subscribers youtube gives you the option to brand your URL (as I’ve done, to help with my speaking site). And if you notice the post-script after the ‘?’ in the following URL, that plays a cool trick. Click https://youtube.com/SandeepNathTalks?sub_confirmation=1 and let your eyes pop!
Now we’re definitely into the S2A or P2PC space. Congratulations! Digital products signify a certain level of mastery over your subject. They also mean you can reach out to people without your physical presence, thereby helping so many more.
Making your products is like a game. And I recommend a hackathon for digital coaches to get this done enjoyably and most systematically, in the least possible time. Anyone can do this and the hackathon guides you step by step. Here’s what it helped me put together in a mere 26 days: https://ipws.teachable.com If you check out all the courses (and prices) you will notice what an incredible deal I offer with the Stress Matrix I mentioned earlier.
Enter the world of P2PB. Unless you propose, how will anyone accept? So, here’s where you have to start thinking of how you can create interactive modules (for online or offline talks) of 30 minutes / 1 hour / half-day / 1-day / more. These modules need to be packed into proposals that are readily available when opportunities arise.
Ideally, develop a free module, to open the door and assess the client’s needs. Or have a quick workshop-type thingy to ramp up your work beyond mere speaking opportunities. Or have an industry-opening idea proposal, like this one for the Education Sector. Your readiness with proposals will ostensibly accelerate your ability to collaborate and deliver value across various forums.
Your proposal will be ideally accompanied by a one-pager. This simply helps establish your context and credibility well before you meet the decision-makers. The elements in my one-pager would be indicative of a comprehensive one, as they tell me.
Since a video is worth a thousand pictures, I would recommend serious professional speakers to invest in making 4 distinct types of videos. The most important one would be the Subject Video. This establishes what problem you address, your expertise and experience, and gives a call to action. Not more than 3-minutes, ideally with footage of you at events. The voice-over must definitely be yours because you are selling your speech after all!
Next would be what we could call a Showreel Video, which shows you on various stages offline and online. This could be even shorter or at most 5 minutes long. And the third is an Intro Video that is less than a minute and is intended to sizzle up the audience. And finally, have one Testimonial Video or many, to throw around everywhere.
How much must you budget for, per video? About as much as you expect to charge as your standard rate per gig. Like they say, what-goes-in-comes-out! Can you make good videos on your own? Well, you could explore an expert program here. I’d recommend this for “Presence” videos, more than for the ones above, but this program will teach you great ways to put together fantastic virtual footage of yourself and audience responses. Once you have all this in your bag, you’re all set for the next stop at P2PA! But first… just A!
A for Attitude
When it comes to the attitude of a professional speaker, the keyword is Value. Value yourself and Value your audience & client. In that order. Let’s dive right into what this means.
1. Value yourself
Now, this might sound debatable but here’s how I look at it… others will value you about half of how much you value yourself. So let’s say you think of yourself as a speaker who ought to earn X per hour, make your quotes 2X right away… and develop your knowledge and skills to deliver what speakers worth 5X deliver. This formula gives you a chance for winning gigs in the X to 2X range. And remember, this also means that your “Materials” must look comparable with the 5X speakers. And so must your “Expansiveness”, “Presence”, and “Speech” (all of which are elaborated upon later in this article).
For any reason, if your mind does not allow the 2X bump-up, or if it creates excuses about how pro-bono is a true-service-mentality, speaking might never become a business for you. Let us understand this with an example of a zero-revenue business – like airlines during the pandemic. To succeed, they still must get paid in full before the passenger hops aboard. You are in the business of speaking… not the business of giving credit… not the business of balancing cashflows… not the business of contributing to charities. This is a cornerstone attitude, which must be coupled with warmth and compassion, so it never gets muddied by a sense of arrogance.
Speakers must also understand their interdependence as a fraternity, and realize that there is abundance in the billions of people who need to hear their message. This business is about uplifting, not downgrading oneself and/or others.
2. Value your audience & client
While audience and client could be the same in S2A & P2PC settings, in the S2S & P2PB/A space the clients will keep calling you back if their messages reach their audiences through you. So you must ensure that happens… and guess what…? I have a formula that I call ROGER, which spells out the ‘5 Keys To Become A Speaker With Authenticity’. This was also the subject of my talk at the opening session of the International Professional Speakers Summit 2021 hosted by India. So here’s R-O-G-E-R for you!
Relaxation – Attitudinally, when the speaker is relaxed, the audience mirrors that and feels relaxed too. This brings them to the present, not worrying about their past or future. And that helps them listen and interact. The key to make this happen is Breathing in Awareness. And of course, this happens only when the speakers naturally flow with their talks – not when they are reading off scripts or teleprompters.
Openness – Being open to two-way communication; taking feedback from the audience; feeling the audience’s energy… these are critical aspects for a professional speaker. But how do you get the audience to open up? The key lies in your smile. Ideally, smiling with your eyes. One can never smile and bear a low vibration emotion like fear, anger, or dominance, at the same time. It’s not possible! A smile raises the vibrational energy all around.
Gratitude – Can gratefulness become a habit? The key lies in lowering our expectations and being thankful for whatever we have. A small audience? Be grateful to have a chance at making intimate connections. Bad audio? Thank the universe for an audience keen to hear you despite that. Any situation can be flipped from bad things happening TO us… to good things happening FOR us. Train your mind to invoke this To-For switch.
Expansiveness – Clients love speakers who are grateful… but they love the ones who can stretch or compress their content even more. Events are always dynamic and flexible speakers are aces. How do you build flexibility? The key is to pack your talks in modules, rather than in slides. And then play with the modules like Lego blocks, based on the time. Within each module, have a theory-piece, an exercise, a story, a joke, and a poll. Pull them out of your bag of tricks as necessary to expand or compress time.
Readiness – Obviously, this is crazy important. Professional speakers must exhibit readiness in 2 dimensions – Vertical; meaning profound knowledge that helps bring value no matter how deep the Q&A goes… and Horizontal; which implies that they must have metaphors, analogies and comparisons drawn from lateral industries to clarify their points as needed. But this is only readiness of speech. The key lies in the readiness of the speaker! Which arises from an alignment of the body-mind-spirit… and is energetically perceived by the audience and clients in the form of integrity, conviction, and authority.
Speakers who display R-O-G-E-R attitudes come across as authentic, and therefore clients rarely negotiate with them. They automatically become authorities, even if they are not “Authors.” Steve Jobs is a prominent example. You can be the next!
P for Presence
There’s a pearl of ancient wisdom in the saying, ‘when the peacock dances in the forest, who notices?’ Apt for speakers. While your bathroom might be your Readiness/Expansiveness-forest, your social presence is the pre-stage stage. This is what positions you right and puts your thought-leadership in front of your audience. You have to make sure you create a battery of this stuff regularly:
1. Create a Show/Videos
Youtube is a great place to put up video assets because they stay there forever. They are searchable. And they can be shared across media. If you are passionate about a particular subject, as I am about RENEWALism, you could curate a Show that builds interest cumulatively. I got this idea from Speak Internationally, which did a fine job producing over 100 episodes of the Toilet Paper Diaries during the lockdown. If you type renewalism on youtube, my playlist will pop up right on top. How, you wonder? Here’s a gift for you – the most powerful tool you can use to improve the searchability of your videos. And here’s another gift – an analytics tracker so you unravel which video content is working and why.
Once you learn these tools and practice, you will have to wait for your audience to get sticky and then you keep giving them what they need (analytics). I can’t claim to have completed this part at the time of writing this article… and this only goes to show that youtube is an individual race. Some sprint, others marathon. But with the tools, both know that they’re on the right track, and will reach the finish line. Posting consistency is important… once a week is moderate as a thumb-rule, and a good starting point.
Articles are the written version of video assets. They stay there forever, are searchable, and can be posted on fb, twitter, wherever. What’s more, articles open collaboration opportunities. You can write for others’ blogs, magazines, and even industry journals. As they say, ‘what is visible, sells.’ Be seen! Post thrice a month and stay steady. Also, don’t forget to post and comment (have real conversations) on Linkedin. Linkedin articles don’t have great traction, but they’re good from an SEO point of view. Regular written posts work well – and way better than they do on facebook.
Thanks to Instagram and Pinterest among others, pictures have taken a life of their own. Your thought-leadership can be depicted through pictures. Gary Vaynerchuk is a huge advocate of this and you could consider memes as a branding element by itself. Keep uploading several every week and repurposing them on social media.
This refers to your own blog. Ah, my blog! I’m revisiting it with this article after over a year! Very, very wrong!! But not anymore. Watch out for a new post from me every week. My doing so will tell search engines to look at my site because it is dynamic. And your comments will make it even more dynamic. So let’s do this. Don’t leave here without commenting 😊
5. Interviews & Podcasts
The audio medium is gaining power in 2021 because of the amount of trash people are posting in videos (!) Having your own podcast is great, and collaborating to feature on others’ is greater! I have found opportunities to get interviewed through HARO and PodMatch. And my own channel is distributed through Anchor. This apart, I can’t overemphasize the importance of Clubhouse in your mix. It is not merely a social medium. It is an alternative to Netflix + RadioFM. That’s big! Check it out! Small catch… you need to be invited to Clubhouse!
S for Speeches
Preparation. Rehearsal. Knowing what you are going to say before you say it… this is what makes speeches appear effortless. A speaker is a performer and the payment he or she receives is proportional to:
- The value they add
- The difficulty to replace them
- The command they demonstrate
If your niche is well-defined, (a) and (b) are taken care of. Working on your speeches is the (c) part. And then, as your circle of influence increases, so does remuneration. Quite the same for any performer, whether they be sportspeople, actors, dancers, musicians, or comedians.
Following are 5 types of speakers I have come across in my journey. Interestingly, many of them speak for money, but only the last type can command money consistently.
Readers – These speakers are somewhat academic. They have written notes and often refer to them. They could be politicians, leaders, and professionals of various sorts but they are more focused on their message than on audience interaction. One might find them in the P2PA category and sometimes P2PB, but not the other categories since they haven’t – in a sense – risen from the ranks, rubbing shoulders with the audience at their level.
Hiders – This type hides behind power-points and often gets inattentive to the audience since their slides do the talking for them. Consequently, the “Openness” described earlier is lacking and the impact lies in the can-do-better checkbox. Type-2 Hiders hide behind their desks, sitting as they speak online. Not recommended for a professional. Imagine the auditorium… who sits? Who stands? The answers reveal the speaker’s self-image… that of an audience member/panelist… or that of a performer? Besides, we can genuinely play with our energy when we stand, moving it back and forth and swaying the audience with us.
Show-ers – These are the show-and-tell type of speakers. They could demonstrate with props or with videos etc., which is gripping all right, but corny unless used well. Remember, the audience is paying to hear you and your experiences, not to see someone they could watch on youtube anyway. A balance of other’s videos/pictures and your incisive observations is essential. Contextualizing what you show is critical.
Zappers – These are the technology buffs who can zap the audience with gimmickry. Multiple cameras, fancy screens, lights, audio effects… all this is very good but it is acceptable at a threshold level too. As long as you have spent on a good video camera, clear audio (for far and near), consistent wifi with backup, and even lighting, you’re good as a professional virtual speaker. More is better, but not to cover up for lack of content.
Speakers – Yes, simply Speakers. This type can speak and hold the audience while standing in front of a plain wall (or a curtain – remember the good old stage?). How? Because they are ROGER-ready. They Zap with auditory, kinaesthetic, and visual variations. They Show exactly (and only) what supports their words. They force audiences to focus on them, not on their power-points – like TED speakers who magnetize audience eyeballs despite large-screen slides. And they Read their audiences and speak to their needs.
Developing a speech well in advance helps refine its elements to fit Type-5 delivery effortlessly. Have a buddy to serve as a sounding board. Work deeply on WHY the speech-subject is important to you, so you can dig out great stories from your personal experience, and rivet audiences with them. Because that, is what will make the difference!
Another thing that is often overlooked, according to Fredrik Haren, is the introduction – which too must be viewed as part of the speech. The intro must cover the following 3 essentials:
- Why the subject is relevant and important
- What is the speaker’s background – in context
- How the speaker will bring value to the subject + a direct invitation to greet him/her enthusiastically.
To maximize impact, it is the speaker’s job to befriend the MCs and ensure these points form the crux of whatever that they convey.
S for Sales
As the poster above the toilet says, ‘no job is complete till the paperwork is done.’ Well, this is it. You need a way to get the professional-speaking machinery chugging all the way to the dotted line. And here are 5 options for that:
Over 80% of highly-paid speakers from the US to AU admit that word-of-mouth is the most popular mechanism to get gigs. Without the above MAPS in place, that wouldn’t manifest. References imply:
- Repeat business (same customer – different geographies, or products)
- New business gained through recommendation by collaborators or well-wishers
- Business generated through affiliates or speaking bureaus (online and offline)
On the subject of bureaus, almost 95% of Speaking income of most top-speakers is NOT earned from there. These top-speakers do include the speakers who are heavily invested with specific bureaus (for whom the reverse is true), but they number less than 1% of the total speaker base. So, without deep-affiliation with a bureau, you are in the 99% pool, which could be reassuring to some.
On the earlier subject of repeat business, over 50% of professional speakers ensure that they work up the audience so that during post-talk interaction a couple of next-talk opportunities do open up. Practically, they are rebooked before the session is over!
2. Direct selling
The world’s top 50 keynote speakers do this. Many employ teams to do this. Backed by emails… newsletters… messages… It doesn’t matter who you are, ultimately you have to put face-to-face and get business. And for some reason or the other nobody gets all the gigs they shoot for. That is the nature of the beast.
In the virtual world, there are no limitations except your own readiness with MAPSS. And it is up to you to motivate yourself to do it!
3. Advertising & Social Media
Advertising works fine for S2A and P2PC. I’m not sure it would work in the business segment. Facebook and Google are the prime suspects who would take away your ad money. You need to measure metrics of cost-per-customer-acquired. If you’re spending more than X to sell a product at 2X, you better stop and refine either your product/pricing or your fixed and advertising costs. It is an iterative process but no rocket science. Here is a good place to learn all about it.
Linkedin can open doors for business interaction. And then the conversion will come back to point #2 above.
4. Networks, Clubs
Networking is a powerful means to the end. It is both an attitude and a process, which thrives on delayed gratification and consistency. You must show up, build rapport, be clear on what you are looking for, and then prepare to follow up on your conversations before you are reloaded into points #1b or #2 above. A couple of good worldwide networking forums I recommend are LunchClub and HNP. See you there!
5. Start a Flywheel
This is an advanced eco-system drawn from the Amazon Flywheel, in which all constituents receive greater value every time they interact. Internet marketing gurus have graduated from Sales-pipelines to Funnels to Masterminds to Tribes to Islands… well, Flywheels work for the world’s largest company, and they can for you too.
Think of it as a movement, a revolution. In Amazon, the suppliers increase when the customers increase. Customers increase because support is the best (and there’s the choice of suppliers). Support gets better because of economies of scale. Scale is built by more suppliers and customers. It’s all fuelled by algorithms. Same with Uber. Or LunchClub.
How can you structure your speaking business/life mission to operate as a flywheel? Think about it 😊 I am thinking too. RENEWALism is my movement. And I welcome your ideas. I’d love your comments on this article too. NOW! Thank you for reading!!
15 thoughts on “Speaking For Money”
Thank you Mr. Gupta. It’s an honor to have such a comment from you.
Besides adding value to me and helping me structure the nuances of speaking business in my mind, what really held my attention was its Simplicity, Insightfulness & Actionability.
wow ..what an insightful article for speakers. Learned about MAPSS, ROGER, and much more. Thank you for putting this together 🙂
INFORMATIVE, INSIGHTFUL , HELPFUL.
Thanks CK. Do share the link to benefit more people.
Congrats Sandeep for this well-written article, useful to both established as well as the budding speakers.
Thank you Padma for your comment. I look forward to see you apply many of them 🙂
You are an inspiration to the speaker .An indepth article for speaker s on speaking gigs and how be a global speaker. Thank you for the power packed tips.
Power packed bundle of tips for all aspiring speakers
Thank you Alex. Do share the post with all the speakers you know 🙂
Looks like a very comprehensive guide for speakers like us. Thank you for putting it together.
Great advice Shailendra! Glad you resonate with MAPSS!
Thank you Nina! coming from a distinguished speaker like yourself, this comment takes the article to a new level 😀
Sandeep! This is a brilliant, all-points-covered in one one shot article.
Loved the depth and breadth and candid comments. Loved it also because, having heard you speak, I know you are walking the talk, especially with the genuine 😃!
There are many reasons people may stop pursuing a speaking career. One of the most common is running out of ideas or not knowing how to speak professionally and take it as a career, but this article from Sandeep will point you in the right direction and avoid failure.
If you’re running out of ideas on how to make money as a speaker, then this post is for you. Sandeep’s MAPSS (Materials | Attitude | Presence|Speeches) framework will help prevent failure in your speaking career!