Multi-Billion Dollar World of Motivational Speaking – What You Can Learn

Multi-Billion Dollar World of Motivational Speaking – What You Can Learn

whether you think you can or think you can't you're right Henry fordLast Sunday, CBS Sunday Morning aired a story about my world: the world of the professional speaker. I found the piece interesting and enlightening from several perspectives.

First, I didn’t love the tone the reporter took about the industry that has inspired millions of people for decades. Throughout the report, her tone of voice said she wasn’t convinced that what we do to teach, motivate, encourage, and inspire others was somehow legitimate. Her incredulous, “Your BEST year EVER?” reply to the owner of a Chicago speaker’s bureau and her challenge to Wayne Dyer, “What do you say to people who think this is all just a bunch of baloney?” were telling, and frankly, a bit unsettling. Not that I would have wanted her to be a cheerleader for our industry, but a little journalistic neutrality would have been better for a story that was not presented as an expose of any sort.

And how Dyer answered the reporter’s challenge, was of course classic motivational wisdom. He quoted Henry Ford’s “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right,” and then told her that if she or others see a lot of baloney, they must be attracting a lot of baloney into their lives. BOOM.

Beyond that, the piece had some useful information for professional speakers in it.

One lesson is from the speakers bureau owner’s perspective, who gets 15 new speakers inquiring about having his agency represent them per month, and almost NONE of those speakers fit his criteria of “very good, great, or excellent.” He says he’s not there to be people’s friend and almost proudly admits that he’s crushed a lot of dreams. That means there are a WHOLE lot of speakers out there thinking they are good enough to be paid the big bucks, (this bureau has speakers at the $20K+ level) but in reality, are not even close to having the skill they need to succeed.

That is in line with what I see in the trenches of speaking all the time. Far too may speakers are disproportionately worried about their marketing far more than they are concerned about improving their craft, stage presence, story-telling, and entertainment value of being on stage. There are some well-known speaker marketing people who will tell you to put your speaking skills into a box and put them off to the side while you work on your marketing, in essence telling you to ignore your PRODUCT.

You see, if you get paid to show up and speak, your speech and performance is your product. And if your product stinks, no amount of slick marketing can cover up that fact. Good marketing can get you hired, but if your product isn’t top notch, you’ll never get any referrals, testimonials, repeat business, or “back end” business – things like a juicy consulting contract, or physical book and product sales.

In fact, in the story, you’ll see the second piece of important information about how to succeed as a speaker: you’ve GOT to be entertaining. Now this story focuses on being funny and talks about how you should literally time yourself between big laughs and have no more than two minutes between them. However, if you’re an inspirational speaker, or an instructional speaker, or a faith-based speaker, think in terms of an emotional impact mixed in with the laughs. We are there to create an experience for the audience members.

On the other hand, there is another group of speakers who believe if they only hone their craft better, if only they could deliver that one-liner of a joke with better timing, or pause in just the right spots, they will get more gigs, and so spend far less time than they should on their outdated marketing materials, never writing those books, or not creating any products to serve the audience.

The story’s main point is that the speaking business is healthy and growing and there is room for the best speakers to succeed. Your bottom line: allow time in your business to develop BOTH your marketing AND your stage presence and speech and you will be able to make a very healthy living.

Note: For some reason, this video cannot be embedded. You can view the whole story on Vimeo here.

 

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