Excerpt: Fame 101 by Jay Jessup & Maggie Jessup
Leverage Fame to Join the Lucrative World of Professional Speakers
“Public speaking is one of the most rewarding and lucrative aspects of the Fame process. You have the opportunity to connect on a personal level and influence thousands of people. The message you deliver must be selfless and leave the listener wanting more.” – Maggie Jessup
Join Lucrative World of Professional Speakers
One of the great benefits you get from investing time, money and energy into branding yourself is that you become eligible to join some of America’s highest earners: professional speakers. Everyone knows that former presidents, best-selling authors, and other major notables make hundreds of thousands of dollars each year by giving a small number of talks.
$75,000 per engagement makes sense for a former Secretary of State and $150,000 seems an okay price to hear 90 minutes of the inside scoop from Bill Clinton, but most of our clients are astounded when they learn that even beginning speakers can make $2,500 to $5,000 for each engagement.
Our research, supported by our clients’ experience, shows that any professional can successfully package and market themselves to non profits, associations, corporations, colleges and private groups as a professional speaker. In good economic times or bad, meeting planners have money in their budgets for keynote presenters at their regional, national, and international meetings.
There are more than 50,000 events each year where a keynote speaker picks up a fee from $2,500 to $25,000 or more for their 45 to 90 minute presentation. What’s really interesting is that only a very limited number of people are pursuing these many opportunities. Why is this? Three reasons come to mind; first, most professionals don’t believe they’re eligible to be a paid speaker and second, almost everyone who takes a run at getting speaking engagements is held back because they don’t know how to get started and finally, of those few who do actually set out to get paid for speaking, most make simple mistakes that prevent them from getting hired and they give up.
The net result of all this is that there is a pool of professional speakers out there, most of whose names you have never heard, who are being paid these great fees 10, 20 or even 50 times a year. What’s doubly interesting to us is that when we randomly selected fifty successful speakers and studied their fame platform and personal branding, less than 1 in 5 was even moderately well branded. In fact, some of the field’s highest earners have an embarrassingly ineffective online presence, patently self-published books, and offer a generic message supported by few actual qualifications.
All of this is completely unbelievable and yet, absolutely true. There is a very realistic and achievable opportunity for you to add six-figures to your income each and every year. Further, you will quickly outdistance your competitors because you’ll see in the next few sections the “secrets” of getting the engagements and you’ll be a better pick for the decision makers because you’ve taken the time to create and package a powerful personal brand.
We know you can do it because we’ve put quite a number of our clients on the speaking circuit; some were terrified to be in front of an audience when we started with them, others had no idea how many topics they could actually offer as a subject of their keynote, and few had the speech training to create and deliver a compelling message to a large audience. And yet, they’re succeeding beyond their own expectations.
Our message here is that wherever you’re starting; if you’re following the counsel of Fame 101, you can consistently capture paid speaking engagements and you can do this from your very first year in your personal branding process. Could you use an extra $60,000 or even $250,000 each year? Who couldn’t? Let’s look at the steps you can take right now to put yourself in play.
Courting the Gatekeepers Who Control Paid Speaking Engagements
There are several steps to winning paid speaking engagements and a number of them must be done simultaneously but for now we’ll separate them and begin with learning who controls these desirable assignments. There are three groups of people you will need to contact who will have the authority to hire you. In fact, most must hire speakers for their organization’s or client’s events.
Group one is a person, committee or even department inside a company, college or association with the responsibility of putting on events. At a corporate behemoth like NIKE there might be dozens of people spread across worldwide geography with the task of organizing the many training, sales, management, and customer events over the course of a year.
Many of these occasions require keynote speakers, trainers, and/or seminar producers. Large companies spend hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars each year for these professionals. The downside to the big company speaking engagements is that there is often a complicated process to get qualified as a speaker or presenter and then an equally bureaucratic final selection procedure.
We typically counsel our clients to initially avoid the big companies, large associations or other bureaucracies just because of this tiresome selection process. There is an easier alternative as we discuss below. However, as speakers build their brand and reputation it does become worthwhile to pursue some of the big organizations. An NRA keynote or a training session for the management team of a Fortune 500 company can be insanely profitable.
The second group of people who control paid speaking opportunities is much more accessible and it’s these fine folks we recommend you focus on early in your speaking career. A top 20 university will have quite a few people involved in the speaker selection process regardless of the event but a State College likely has just one, or maybe two, people in charge of putting on school events that require speakers. That person is typically quite approachable and is open to solutions.
The same is true of 90% of the thousands of associations in the United States alone; one soul or perhaps a small team must find speakers for their monthly, quarterly, annual, local, regional, national and international events. The American Association of Cosmetics Wholesalers, the Oklahoma Association of Small Businesses, and other groups all have a budget for speakers and trainers. These associations might not seem important to you but I promise they are important to their members and group leaders want to find exciting speakers to educate and entertain at events.
Corporations are no different; there are tens of thousands of companies, many with names we’ve never heard, that hold events for their sales people, their executives and often their customers. The ball bearing industry is huge, as is the metal fabrication, wholesale groceries, children’s clothing and firms fitting within hundreds of other categories. So what do wholesale florists and masonry professionals have in common? Companies in their industry have events which require paid speakers; and the best part for you? It’s usually just one person who makes the selection.
The third group who can and will be of immense help to your speaking career is an industry unto itself: event planners. Many in-house planners join these few associations but what we’re looking at here is those professionals whose career is solely putting on events for client companies, colleges, associations and other groups. What’s best is that it’s a very small group and if you make a favorable impression on one well-respected member, your reputation will quickly spread and referrals will be numerous.
You can see the idea here; your target group is the people who make decisions about hiring speakers for their events. In our opinion you should initially pursue the profession’s low hanging fruit – those organizations with just one easily-accessible decision maker. Your brand and wallet will benefit more from four - $5000 easily-won engagements for somewhat unknown groups than spending a year to capture a $12,000 gig at a prominent group’s regional meeting.
Critical Elements of an Effective Speaker’s Marketing Toolkit
There are a ton of books, DVDs, online courses, seminars, and associations out there, each offering strategies to use as you pursue paid speaking opportunities. Some of their advice is great, some counsel is wrong in our opinion, and other guidance is somewhat suspect as to its effectiveness.
A few of these sources say all you need is a website and to do some cold calling; others insist mailing a simple brochure to event planners is all that’s required and still other people suggest a full Hollywood-style eMedia Kit with demo reel is required. While these options cover the entire spectrum of marketing yourself as a speaker, we recommend to our clients and anyone that they follow a combination of these paths.
Why use several marketing options? We absolutely know that the speaking market is such a great opportunity for keynote fees and spin off revenues that it’s worth the investment of time and expense up front to maximize the opportunity. So, the questions comes down to what do you need and how do you get it out there?
The good news is, if you’re following the Fame 101 blueprint, you already have many of the sales tools; in fact, almost all. In our You Dot Com chapter you learn how to create a website to support your personal brand; if you do this, to put your speaking package online you’ll only need a Speaking tab and a subpage with its own URL. With this, when you connect on the phone with a booker they’ll be able to view your package online while talking. This is one thing that will separate you from the amateurs.
Also with an online speaker page you can add that specific URL to your speaking brochure, demo media, articles you write and every other fame outreach you put in play. A surprising number of opportunities will come your way from an event planner reading an article, spotting you on television, reading your blog or connecting at a book signing. The net message here – use your website to present yourself as a speaker. Make sure your web people include some footage of you onstage at an actual event.
A simple brochure is a must for capturing speaking engagements. It can be as straightforward as a tri-fold but as with everything else we talk about in Fame 101 it must be done by a professional graphics person. That’s an easy qualifier for the engagement gatekeepers to spot a professional. We’ll talk about content below but for the moment the two reasons you must have a brochure are for direct mail and hard copy follow up.
Direct mail fell out of fashion with the advent of e-communication but Spam has brought it back. For professionals selling high end speaking services, the cost of mailing is justified if your list is great and you’ll stand out from the others who are mistakenly sold exclusively on e-marketing. The second reason is you must have a quick standard mailing piece as a follow up to your phone conversations. Many would-be speaking pros miss out at just this stage.
When an event planner asks them to send a package they either spend days racing around trying to put something together, which doesn’t work or they delude themselves into thinking they’re in play without the follow-up, or worst case the potential-hires give the deadly “I don’t have one but I’m working on it” amateur response. In all of these cases you’ve gone from a likely candidate to an extreme long shot. Enough said; get a brochure.
The final piece we suggest is something less than a Hollywood-style media package; at least initially. If you’re in the $2,500 to $5,000 fee range, planners don’t expect a Diane Sawyer level DVD presentation; but they do want some video with you at an actual presentation. They’re looking to see how you interact with the audience. The best planners have learned that people who have great stories and/or are fascinating in person are not necessarily good speakers. They want to see you connecting with the audience.
Some good footage of about five minutes of a presentation goes a long way toward securing your deal. It should include not only some onstage time but also audience shots; one face at a time. For efficiency you can use the same video(s) on your site as you send out in the package.
Again, super quality here is not terribly important until you’re at the higher end of the pay scale. If you can film a Rotary luncheon speech with a high quality digital device and ideally have a friend with another one capturing audience reaction; you’ll have what you need and what’s expected. The important thing is to have it ready to mail or email as a separate file on a moment’s notice. Waste a day and they’re talking to someone else.
Expand Your Wins With Sizzling Titles and Broadened Subjects
The gatekeepers to paid speaking engagements are primarily concerned with finding valuable and secondarily, entertaining, content for their audience. Thus, to win an engagement your marketing materials must present the “take away” their audience will receive from your presentation and that take away must be valuable and entertaining. Logical, right? Yes but your materials must convey what you’re offering.
The answer to this is compelling messaging in your marketing package but before looking at that subject we need to bring up a related issue. We see this roadblock in ninety percent of our clients, most of whom become in-demand speakers once we remove it. The barrier we’re talking about is too narrow of a focus.
As an example consider the teacher who has studied and written articles on the importance of parental support for the scholastic success of middle school children. This is an interesting subject if I have a son or daughter in middle school or soon to enter seventh grade. There is no doubt this teacher could get some speaking engagements with this specific subject matter and a title reflecting the middle school focus.
However, and here’s the thing to note, there are only so many places she will get paid to give her presentation and she’ll likely have to travel to hit any big numbers here. Let’s look at her skillset and expertise to see how she can geometrically expand her opportunities.
First, she’s a teacher; that qualifies her to speak on a variety of subjects. It sounds like she understands middle school kids as well as the parent child relationship. If you have, or have had, a child in 7th or 8th grade you know how rare it is to find someone who understands these transformative years. Further, parents are eager for any information on the subject to survive these often turbulent times.
So, if she has expertise with the kids and if she’s studied the student-parent relationship she likely has some special insights into parents, not just of pre teens but also of the broader subject of parents of school-age children. Expanding that thought she probably has some thoughts on education in general; elementary education preparing kids for middle school, middle school education and preparing students to transition to high school as well as on a variety of public, private, and parochial school issues.
We could rant on further expanding this teacher’s brand and speaking expertise but your take away here is to look at your specific expertise beyond what you’re doing in your professional activities. No doubt you’ll discover scores of subjects on which you have collateral expertise; and the most compelling of these subjects can be offered to event planners as presentations you’re qualified and equipped to present.
Many actors understand not only their craft but also the business environment in which that craft is practiced. Political candidates typically focus on a handful of local issues but they usually have in-depth knowledge on one or more of those issues on a national basis. Business leaders are on top of their industry but also have expertise in marketing, supply chain management, finance, human resources and the rest.
Once you’ve defined your expanded expertise the content for your brochure, website and the rest will logically follow. Present a strong promise in the titles of your proposed speeches and include four or more offerings rather than just one. We recently heard someone note that if you substitute the word Leadership for Success in your titles or the converse; it opens all sorts of new doors.
What association, business, or college conference attendees couldn’t benefit from new thinking on leadership; at the same time what audience is not interested in success and the many ways it’s defined? The paid speaking engagement gatekeepers, once they are introduced to your marketing materials, are looking for the key words they have in mind; give them a greater chance to find them by presenting offerings well beyond a single-subject message.
Learn From Comedians and Candidates
It’s time for you to create this product you’re going to sell for $2,500 or more per event: the Big Speech. We look at creating your messaging elsewhere in this volume; your speech will be an outgrowth of those key messages you develop related to your professional activities. The obvious difference, of course, is that an elevator pitch message is 20 seconds or less and a keynote presentation is typically about 50 minutes. So, this product is different from the messaging.
As a first step in getting you ready for some terrific stage time let’s make sure you jump past one of the pitfalls beginning speakers fall into: an unsuitable understanding of the word “speech”. For some reason most people think that a speech must be an oratorical phenomenon where one emulates the style of Winston Churchill and that the end product should be an unyielding formal presentation.
Unless you’re a political leader, the Pope, or someone of similar position, this is the wrong path. Quite simply you don’t want your presentation to be speechy. If you follow this simple advice, in every one of your appearances you’ll automatically be ahead of 90% of all speakers.
Next comes the hard part; creating your presentation. There is good news and bad news on this subject. The bad news is that you’ll likely put in weeks of work to create your Big Speech. This might seem to you to be an insane amount of effort to get ready for a $2,500 presentation to the Association of Harley Davidson Owners regional convention. You’re right, under our proposed fame plan for you, it is too much effort for that one event, but it’s not just for one event.
You see, the good news dramatically outweighs the bad. You will only need to do this immense effort once. Consider, by way of explanation the professional life of a comedian. They might be performing in Omaha tonight, El Paso tomorrow and on a Baja cruise ship this next weekend. Do you think they have a different act for each venue? Absolutely not.
How about a candidate for office? They deliver their ideally heartfelt message in town after town and city after city, but it is always the same basic message. This is the beauty in the life of a professional speaker. Once you get your basic message down, which takes some weeks for sure, it can become your base presentation for the next year or two.
It will be new to every audience and so long as you can deliver it with the same enthusiasm that you did on the very first time; you’ll get the same positive reaction time after time. Now are we suggesting you give the identical speech, word for word, to the Harley folks as you would the Alabama Association of Retired Executives? Certainly not, however, if you craft your message properly the first time you will have a base 75% of your content which carries over to almost any audience.
It’s likely messages of freedom, of flexible lifestyle or health would be just a few topics of interest to both of these groups and many more like them. The point is that it’s worth the effort to take as long as necessary to create a base speech and then for each engagement you’ll only need to put on a customized intro and outro with some group-specific messages included in the body of your remarks.
Preparation, Practice, Coaches and Friends
No one person, with the exception of a handful of superstars in the speechwriting profession, can create a great speech. It is of necessity a collaborative effort filled with rewrites, more rewrites, and then some fine tuning.
In our personal branding practice we advise remarkable and successful people. Almost by definition, even prior to working with us, these folks could stand up and give a quick talk on their subject and they would do quite adequately. Well, if you learn just one thing from Fame 101 make sure to understand that in our world adequate is never good enough if you want to join the top 1% of any field.
The danger is that once you’ve done several presentations like we reference in the prior paragraph, you might think you’re good enough. You might falsely believe that you’re that special one who can wing it as a professional speaker and earn the great checks that come with the moniker. We don’t care how many of your friends have told you you’re fantastic, nor does it matter how many presentations you’ve done – for our purposes here, you’re not ready until you’ve done your preparation and practice.
Where does this preparation start? Your speech content, whether for a 20 minute presentation or a more formal 50 minute keynote, will always have the same basic structure: Introduction, 3 or 4 core messages, and Outro. Step one will be to prepare a one page outline addressing each of these line items. Take as long as you need to get your structure the way you want it because it will become the foundation of your Big Speech.
Next, spend a week or two or a month if necessary, building the remainder of your content around the basic outline. When you’re done go over it several times with the idea of smoothing out any rough edges. In our experience if you actually stand up and read the material aloud, it’s easy to spot difficult transitions, awkward phraseology, and places where you get mired down.
You might think you’re pretty well done at this point but you’re just getting started. Remember the great income that will come to you if you do this properly and you will likely have the enthusiasm to keep going. The next step is to either hire a speech coach or find your friend or associate who is smart as well as brutally honest.
How important is this? We have speech coaches on staff and nearly every client goes through speech training with typically phenomenal results. If your budget doesn’t permit the luxury of a professional coach, your professional friend can do nicely. Have them read your speech for content and make comments on what works well, what is okay and what just doesn’t measure up.
From here you can refine your presentation and then ask the same friend to listen, without commenting or taking notes, with the intention of commenting on overall effectiveness. This process goes on and on until you have the speech just right. To have some idea of how much time you should invest, consider that when we have a professional coach working with a client it’s typically two hours a week for ten weeks with ample practice and fine tuning between lessons. Overall, a total investment of about three hours per minute of stage time is about right. Remember though, this is how long it takes the first time; thereafter your time commitment is much much less.
What you’re looking for is to get to the point where you presentation is So practiced, it seems extemporaneous. When Jerry Seinfeld or the White Trash Comedy Tour guys get up to amuse an audience; every word and the way it’s presented is prepared with infinite precision. In fact there are few professionals in any field who put in as much time in perfecting a presentation as do comedians.
As with any profession, to become a well-paid professional speaker you will need to invest the time for practice, coaching, refining and the rest. What will you get out of it? Let’s have a look.
How Long Will it Take to Get Onstage and What’s the Net?
Your ability to pick up direct and indirect income from professional speaking is one of the best benefits of building a fame platform. As with the other elements of your effort to create and monetize fame, it will take some time and quite a bit of work but the rewards are nothing short of amazing.
Most or all of our clients at any given time are either preparing to become paid speakers as an element of their professional activities or on the road making it happen and getting better. The thing you must accept is that the “professional” and “paid” elements here do not happen overnight.
As we talk to fame seekers around the country, many have already had some stage time on an unpaid basis. Most have done some business or professional presentations; some have delivered remarks at their Rotary Club or at an industry event, while others have been in the spotlight MC’ing a charity event.
Whether they will fully admit it or not; they’ve had the addictive thrill of the stage. The actors and bands we work with all already know the feeling and the rush is part of what drew them to their profession. However for the business person, the early-stage candidate, or medical professional; it’s new, it’s exciting and they want more of it.
The challenge is that because of their modest initial success e.g. good audience reactions, positive comments afterward or other affirmations, they think they’re ready for the stage. All we have to do for them is work out the income aspects. They’re rested and ready to pick up a big check; at least in their opinion.
Step one in becoming a professional speaker is to take a realistic look at your present position and to accept that while some of the positive audience reaction was as a result of your stage presence, often times you were being judged as an amateur. We respect and admire anyone with the courage to stand up in front of their peers and give a presentation. After all the fear of public speaking is greater in many people that the fear of death.
However you can’t even get started until you concede that getting some enthusiastic applause at the local hospital fundraiser is much, much easier than earning a standing ovation from an independent group whose leaders selected you to keynote their event. The difference is quite simply the distinction between being the head of the event committee and being the inspiring author flown in from Austin to deliver a riveting talk on leadership.
Now that we’re past the gateway issues let’s jump to the bottom line; what do you get as a professional speaker and how long will it take to earn that title. First, the timing. If you already have a substantial fame platform, you will need only to create your content, work with a coach to develop your presentation and then market yourself to the right decision makers.
This can be done in as little as sixty days although the lead times for hiring paid speakers are a minimum of forty five days and engagements are often set from six months to a year in advance. If you’re just getting started building your platform, don’t worry; it will only take a few extra months because much of this can be done concurrently with creating your book, your websites and such.
Now what are the rewards of joining this lucrative field? They are many and they are bountiful. First and most obviously you’ll get the speaking fee. As we’ve mentioned elsewhere they range from $2,500 to $20,000 and more with all travel expenses paid. Note here that you shouldn’t set your price below $2,500 because that will brand you as an amateur and you’ll miss out on a lot. You can always give a discount if it’s an opportunity you really want.
We’ve shared our opinion that you’ll need to write a book. Here is another area where speaking pays off doubly. Your status as a published author will aid immeasurably in winning the engagement in the first place and the additional win is what’s called the back of the room sales. If your presentation rocks, your audience will want to know more about you and one way to further connect is to buy your book.
In most instances the organization hiring you as a keynote will readily concede to letting you sell your book after the speech. The reality is that the effort is called an Author Signing and someone handles the sale at another table and then buyers come to you with their new book to be signed. It’s not unusual to pick up an additional couple of thousand dollars at one event.
In addition to the immediate cash benefits of selling books, there are other valuable benefits to speaking professionally. Possibly the most profitable are the new clients you can attract for your professional activities, the fans you will develop if you’re an actor or musician, the votes you’ll get if you are a candidate for office, or business opportunities that come from audience members who want to do business with the brilliant author they just heard onstage.
In essence, professional speakers are products. Organizations pay quite a lot for these products and, if you put the time and effort into becoming a truly professional speaker, many audience members will want to “buy” the product. If you’re featured onstage with all the related hoopla, it’s the same as a Tiffany box or Coach bag; presentation is everything and being onstage increases your value as well as marketability.
We’ll see you on the circuit. Fame can be a wonderful thing.