Get Paid to Speak or Hold Cool Events – Or Both!
Picture yourself delivering a presentation or leading a workshop on a topic you love.
Maybe that topic is spirituality, abundance or effective leadership. Or what about how leading with spirit results in an abundant bottom line?
Or perhaps you’d love to speak about how sports or learning to play a musical instrument can be a metaphor for academic or business success.
Or on how to find your true calling, self-care for caretakers, or a thousand other topics.
Now imagine earning four – or even five – figures per speaking gig sharing your passion with others.
Welcome to my life!
I became a paid speaker at 26. My first gig earned me a whopping $150. Good money when rent was $400!
Last year I earned six figures speaking, and this year I’m on track to do the same.
Over the years I’ve addressed well over 70,000 people at countless organizations from Intel to the YWCA.
And I’ve had the honor of sharing the main stage with the likes of Martha Stewart and Gloria Steinem (now that’s a combination!)
I’m not telling you this to impress you.
Rather, it’s because I’ve learned a thing or two about how to succeed as a professional speaker – including what mistakes to avoid.
The 3 Biggest Mistakes Aspiring Speakers Make
and How to Avoid Them
The first mistake is actually the worst one because it keeps a lot of talented people with a message to share from ever even trying to get into the speaking business.
Mistake #1: Thinking You Don’t Know Enough
Far too many perfectly capable people think they don’t have enough knowledge to talk about a subject. If you’re one then I have news for you.
You really don’t know everything there is to know about your topic. But guess what? Neither does anyone else.
There’s always more to learn!
A related mistake is the misguided belief that you can’t possibly speak credibly on a topic unless you have an advanced degree – or indeed any degree.
You don’t need three PhDs and 20 years of experience. You just need to know more than your audience does. As the saying goes, to 3rd graders, 4th graders are gods!
Look at talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Despite regularly dishing out “expert” and often controversial opinions and advice on human behavior, “Dr. Laura” as she is known and is not a physician as many of her listeners presume.
Nor is she a psychiatrist, or even a psychologist. Although she did go back and study marriage counseling after starting in radio, the “doctor” designation is from a doctorate in physiology where she studied the effects of insulin on rats.
In fact, an effective counter to the internal or external pressure to be highly credentialed is to proudly proclaim yourself as the “anti-expert.”
In her book French Women Don’t Get Fat, Mireille Guilano lets readers know right up front that she’s not a nutritionist, a psychologist, an exercise physiologist or any other kind of “ist.”
Instead, Guilano says, she’s just a woman who happens to have observed and experienced the French diet and is sharing that knowledge with people who’d like to eat well and not gain weight.
Mistake #2: Not Understanding How Speakers Get Paid
There are three ways you can get paid to speak. You can
a) Get hired by organizations
b) Earn money from your adoring audience
c) Generate revenue from event sponsors
Which model or models you choose depends on your topic, your financial and business goals, and your personal preference. Let’s take a brief look at each.
Get Hired by Organizations
Other than running the occasional workshop or retreat for people who want to change course, this is my primary business model.
Because my topic – confidence – is so far reaching I can speak to a variety of different audiences.
Speaking at corporations
Having worked for a Fortune 500 company I’m comfortable working with such diverse companies as Boeing, IBM, Procter & Gamble, McDonald’s Europe division (sweet!) and Motley Fool.
Another plus of speaking to for-profit companies is they pay the most!
A topic like “how to raise sane, healthy teenagers” or “how to find your calling” typically won’t fly for employee training. But there’s another way most people don’t know about – so called “spousal meetings.”
Lots of large corporations hold at least one multi-day, off-site meeting a year where attendees (usually executives or top performing sales people) are encouraged to bring their spouse or partner and sometimes the kids too.
While the employees attend mandatory meetings, their family can choose from a range of age-appropriate activities which include speakers!
Speaking at colleges and universities
I’ve spoken at over 70 major colleges and universities. Depending on your message you can specialize in addressing undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and/or staff.
Whenever you can try to maximize my travel time by grouping my speaking gigs based on location.
For instance this year I will have spoken at Cornell (4x) and nearby University of Syracuse, at North Carolina State University and the neighboring University of North Carolina as well as two California trips to speak at Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco, UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, and University of the Pacific.
Professional or industry associations or charitable organizations
Large professional or industry associations need keynote and break out session speakers for their national, regional, or state-wide events.
Examples from my own experience include American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Alberta Business Women, and Utah Women Attorneys.
Charitable organizations also hire speakers for their fundraising events. Like the dog chef who travels to speak at events put on by the SPCA and other dog shelters.
These organizations tend to operate on a shoe-string, so expect to earn the least here. Keep in mind though that you may be able to arrange selling your book after your talk or to get a professional videotape of your talk.
Earn Money From Your Adoring Audience or From Sponsors – Or Both
If you know what you’re doing you can make insane amounts of money running your own events.
Registration fees are the most obvious source of income. These can range from $5o for a couple of hours to $5,000 for a multi-day event.
Toss in some big name speakers and depending on your audience it’s not unheard of to charge as much as $25,000.
If the material you’re delivering is intended to help your audience to use the information to earn money themselves, then you can charge more. Here again, it has to do with your topic.
Naturally people are willing to pay more for an event on how to make 7 figures selling information products than they are for one on how to write your first screenplay.
Another model is to keep the registration fee low – or even free – and instead earn money from so-called “back of the room” sales.
Most often this would mean selling books, CDs, videos and other information products – your own or other peoples.
However, if your event is on fashion or how to write a best-selling cookbook, then you could just as easily sell clothing and accessories, make up, cookware, and other topic appropriate products on site.
Masterminds and other coaching or mentoring programs
Income from registration fees and products can be substantial. But in addition to these revenue streams, the most financially successful speakers use their events another way.
They still provide attendees with valuable content.
However, the secondary goal is to use the event to showcase your credibility and value in order to inspire a smaller segment of the audience to sign up to join your coaching or mentoring program.
It worked for me. I signed on to “mastermind” with three different experts this way. In all three cases it was money well-spent.
Selling sponsorships for your event is another highly lucrative and often under-used way to get paid to speak.
Depending on your topic, sponsors could be a local newspaper or bank, a major corporation, or even a solo-practitioner like a chiropractor or life coach.
Sponsors win because they in front of potential customers in a forum that aligns with their brand and message. You win because sponsor fees can cover part or all of your event costs.
Case in point is Entrepreneur magazine’s annual Growth Conference (an event I highly recommend). The event is free to attend because UPS foots the entire bill – including lunch!
When you can attract 5 to 25 corporate or other major sponsors at the $5,000, $15,000, $25,000, and even $50,000 level, then my friend you are looking at serious revenue.
Bottom line, putting on your own events is a great avenue if:
- There aren’t a lot of organizations who are willing or able to pay you to speak on your particular topic
- Your topic is entrepreneurial in nature and/or your primary audience is business owners
- You want to offer coaching or mentoring after the event
- You have products to sell
- You can attract enough attendees to make your event attractive to sponsors
Mistake #3: Not Investing In Your Success
Whether you’re just now launching your speaking career or are a seasoned pro who wants to increase your bottom line, from a financial perspective the BIGGEST mistake you can make is not being willing to make even the smallest investment in yourself and your business.
Speaking skills not as strong as they could be?
You don’t need to spend a dime to join a local chapter of Toastmaster or watch Ted Talks.
To get there much faster though I suggest you attend a formal training program where you can learn from someone who is more experienced, skilled, and further along than you.
That’s what I did. This is me and my speaking mentor five time New York Times best-selling author and television personality Larry Winget.
As someone who has earned the right to command a $25,000 speaker fee, I knew he could help me take my own business to the next level. And I was right.
Everyone can become a better speaker. That includes me. Like all great speakers, Larry never stops practicing his craft and neither should you.
Working with Larry cost me a small fortune.
Fortunately, there are two free resources that are happening this very week.
Own the Stage: 7 Strategies to Create a Speaking Business that Attracts Clients, Connection and Cash Flow
This three-part video series is compliments of Darnyelle A. Jervey, MBA.
A sought-after speaker and award-winning business coach, Darnyelle has been featured in Black Enterprise, Essence and O Magazines and has shared the stage with some of the greats – Suze Orman, Les Brown, Brian Tracy, Lisa Nichols, Willey Jolley, Delatorro McNeal, and Ali Brown… to name a few.
Darnyelle will share the tips and techniques that helped her launch a speaking business that generates $20,000 a month from corporate and other speaking gigs. These include:
- A sure-fire technique to turn your audience into raving fans and grow your own “groupie” line
- The three different types of speaking engagements and how to maximize your earnings in each
- Must-have marketing materials you need to get you booked again and again
Sold Out to 7 Figures: The LIVE Event Formula for Cashing In
If you’re already comfortable on stage and are ready to put on your own events there is simply no one out there better to learn from than Suzanne Evans of Hell Yeah Coaching and Bari Baumgardner of Sage Event Management.
You may not know Bari by name. But you may recognize some of her clients.
Bari and her team have planned and managed highly profitable events for people like Ali Brown, Lisa Sasevich, Fabienne Frederickson, Adam Urbanski, Bernadette Doyle, and many others.
Two words that describe Bari are class act.
On the other hand there’s my friend Suzanne Evans. (One of the things I love most about Suzanne is that she’d be the first one to laugh at that transition.)
In just a few years this unapologetically big, brash, tell-it-like-it-is business coach has built a multiple 7-figure company.
But style will get you only so far.
What landed Hell Yeah on the Inc. 500 list of fasted growing companies in the US not once, but twice, are their sold-out live events.
After started out with 11 people in a crowded conference room of a dingy chain hotel quickly turned into almost a thousand enthusiastic attendees at a swank luxury hotel.
If you want to put on highly profitable live events this is your chance to learn from Suzanne, Bari and other event professionals.
Get all the details here.
More importantly I hope you realize that with the right message, the right training, and the determination to make a difference in the lives of your audience that you too can get paid to speak.