When I was growing up, my dad travelled constantly around the world and across Australia.
Every 10 years, he rebooted his business in motivational speaking and education by moving to a new country. New Zealand, Australia, France, USA.
Life was frugal and fast-paced. Offices in garages. Basements. Living rooms.
And everywhere he went, he followed the same process:
- Connect with the local event coordinators.
- Offer free talks to start getting in front of people.
- Start a weekly radio show for regular touchpoints and awareness.
- Create a series of ongoing training at a central location.
- Convert content into a monthly course.
- Develop a series of products.
All of this was before email lists were taken seriously. Before Facebook, social networking, podcasting, digital advertising, webinars, and going live.
From an early age, my dad dreamed that I would be a public speaker like him. So I started in the trenches. I can’t count the number of events I sat in on. Handed out flyers to people. Managed the tables and sold product. Answered questions. Photographed and filmed.
By the time I was closing out high school, I was working for him full time, freeing him up to do more.
And of course, it worked, I learned a ton. He took on new positions. Travelled more. And I got to go with him.
But still the work was an absolute grind.
I remember some days where we headed down after an early breakfast to the basement office, and worked until 7pm – and never saw a wink of daylight.
Can you imagine if we’d had half of the tools we have today? Youtube, Facebook, automated email sequences?
We weren’t using social media at all. That was for the ‘kids’. We did no advertising, apart from parish bulletins. Email was sporadic. He was barely testing out paid Skype sessions.
7 years later, I’ve continued designing and branding. One of the clients I’ve worked with the longest is an Australia-based company that imports popular speakers for national tours. After churning through tens of thousands of people, we realized we still had a problem.
They were using events as massive splashes, but not actually doing much to engage with them.
After 10 years, the email list was still small, unsegmented, and rarely used. The donor base still had under 300 members.
This challenged me to dig deep and re-evaluate everything I’d come to understand about public speaking. And this playbook was born.
Many speakers, especially adults over 45, are still operating from the mindset that the speaking event is a transactional product.
As soon as it’s done, they leave. Perhaps they hang around to talk. There’s no process, no structure to do anything with all the energy that’s built up.
Here’s how you know you’re in a one-and-done scenario:
- Your only ‘upsell’ is a product, or a book.
- You’re trying to get people on your mailing list, so that you send them your monthly newsletter.
- You’re using social media as free advertising.
All that may have worked 10 years ago. 20 years ago. Before the world knew about the volume of speakers and products and courses and upsells and fan pages to engage with.
Today you rarely get paid what you need. Even keynote speakers aren’t always paid. They’re just very selective about where they go.
We need a new answer. A new way to steady your speaking business ups and downs, without needing to be on stage three times a week for the next year. A way to grow without selling from stage, or even needing a table at the back of the room.
And here’s what my research turned up.