Since it was coined in 1820, the phrase “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” has become a household saying. Whether you’re referring to someone’s looks, behavior, or personal possessions, it’s generally used to suggest that emulating one of these qualities is the truest way to show admiration. That said, within our team, we like to think that looking to others for inspiration doesn’t have to be personal. It can also be professional, especially when managing a speaking business in our ever-evolving industry. With that in mind, this guide details some of our biggest sources of inspiration when coaching our clients, namely seven of the industry’s greatest professional speakers.
Before we begin, it goes without saying that the following speakers aren’t the only ones worth considering for insight. If we were to compile a list of that size, it would take tens of thousands of words. I think we both know you’re too busy to browse a lineup that large, even if you want to. 🙂
Please also note that, although we’ve collaborated with a few of these professional speakers in the past, we are not endorsing them here for any monetary reason. We’re just huge fans and want to share what’s made them successful. After that, who knows? If you follow in their lead, it could be your name in a list like this, somewhere down the line!
But enough chit-chat. Without further ado, let’s get into the list itself (and let the learning begin!).
Bill Bacharach, CSP, CPAE
First in our list of inspiring professional speakers is financial advisor and client acquisition expert Bill Bacharach. As the author of six books and more than 1,500 speaking engagements, Bill has long held a position of prestige in the financial services industry, including five appearances at the Million Dollar Round Table and induction into the Financial Planning Magazine’s Hall of Fame. Likewise, within the speaking industry, he’s racked up numerous awards that set him apart from the “average” speaker. These include the National Speakers Association’s Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) and Council of Peers Award for Excellence (CPAE) awards.
More importantly, however, Bill has built a successful speaking career largely because of his preparedness behind the scenes. On his website, for example, you can see in a single glance everything you’d need, if you were an event planner considering Bill for your event. Think details like who he serves, what his overarching message is, and why he’s qualified to speak to your audience. In your own speaking business, this level of attention to your web presence and brand can make a huge difference. Plus, to improve your attention to detail, all it takes is the steps below.
- Every public component of your speaking business should clearly and concisely communicate your value. Think about who your ideal audience is, what key insights you provide for that audience, and how you’ve made a difference for past clients. Then, build your public presence accordingly.
- Never underestimate the power of your website. Especially considering the rising popularity of virtual events, now more than ever, your website can act as a sales person if you design it well. Again, this means communicating why you’re worth hiring across the site.
- Even if you speak full-time, you’re first and foremost an expert in your focus industry. Consequently, if you want to be hired more, show that you’re an industry expert through credentials, awards, or testimonials from noteworthy clients just as Bill does in the world of financial advisors.
David Newman, CSP
Next up is the renowned speaker, CSP recipient, and marketing expert David Newman. As the owner of Do It! Marketing, David has almost two decades of experience in what he describes as “Marketing for Smart People” or maximizing marketing channels in a corporate or association setting to boost their profits and growth. He’s also the author of two books, Do It! Marketing and Do It! Speaking, the latter of which is specifically for marketing yourself as a speaker.
Additionally, aside from his books and speaking programs, David offers a wide collection of resources to further support his fellow speakers. These include coaching for “independent professionals who want to stop throwing money into a marketing black hole” as well as appearances on dozens of speaking industry podcasts, blogs, and webinars. He’s even appeared on SpeakerFlow’s podcast, Technically Speaking!
Through all of these appearances and guides, David has maintained his speaking business with a few key mantras, many of which are echoed in our own coaching programs and all of which take a unique approach to marketing for professional speakers. Below are the ones we recommend you keep in mind.
- Many of the “old school” marketing strategies we’ve come to accept as commonplace simply don’t work anymore. Instead of sending templated emails in bulk, for example, personalize your marketing efforts for each event planner. Sure, it takes more time, but it also always pays off.
- You cannot successfully market to everyone that could benefit from your message. If you’re a customer service speaker, for instance, there are many many industries that are open to hiring you, considering the broadness of your topic. But, if you focus on a few and tailor your offerings to them, your marketing will be much more effective (and your sales numbers will thank you).
- If you want to market your speaking business into something bigger, diversification is key. In other words, don’t just market yourself as a speaker but also as a consultant, author, coach – anything to share your ideas when you’re off-stage.
Number 3 of our inspirational professional speakers is another well-known name among speakers, Grant Baldwin. Over the last decade, Grant has not only established himself as an expert among his corporate audiences (entrepreneurs, leadership teams, etc.). He’s also created a reputation as an expert among his peers, thanks in large part to his exceptional marketing efforts and variety of podcast appearances.
Furthermore, if you’re an up-and-coming professional speaker, you may already know Grant from his companion company The Speaker Lab. Oriented around building a speaking business from scratch, The Speaker Lab is all about providing resources and guidance for new speakers, so they can hit the ground running or, as Grant puts it, have access to the “resources that I wish I had when I was starting”.
Along these lines, part of what we admire about Grant and his speaking business is his sales and marketing strategies. However, more importantly, among the SpeakerFlow team members, Grant has always been a model for us because of his upbeat and down-to-earth attitude. To hear him tell it, “I’m just a normal dude…I work hard, and I hustle to make my dreams a reality. I don’t want to live a normal, boring, mundane existence, and I don’t think you do either.”
In short, managing a speaking business takes a lot of effort, but the payoff can be great, financially and personally. We couldn’t agree more with this approach to entrepreneurship as well as the other Grant-inspired tips below.
- A thriving speaking business only comes from consistent hard work. Even the most experienced speakers can do something better, so if you want to succeed, stay humble and always keep your eyes open for ways to improve.
- When you create content (like the SpeakerLab Podcast, for example), take the time to find out what related topics people are looking for. Then, build your article around that topic, so it’s “search engine optimized”. Even if you think a topic is important, people aren’t going to find your content about it and see its value unless you keep Google’s SEO guidelines in mind.
- Staying active in your focus industry is a great way to reinforce your image as an expert there (like Grant does in the speaking industry). Whether it’s guest blogs, podcasts, or social media, the key is to be active on a regular basis and be your authentic self.
The fourth professional speaker to take note of is a well-known name in the speaking industry: Kindra Hall. As President and Chief Storytelling Officer at Steller Collective, Kindra has, like Bill Bacharach, established herself as a go-to source of information in her areas of focus. Not only has she served as a leader in these areas, such as her position on the Board of Directors of the National Storytelling Network. She’s also spoken for a variety of high-profile clients, including Facebook, Hilton Hotels, Tyson Foods, Target, and Berkshire Hathaway, and garnered rave reviews for her 2019 book Stories That Stick.
Besides these accomplishments, we’ve highlighted Kindra’s speaking business in the past for a number of reasons, including her sales language, her website’s design, and – my personal favorite – the elements of her personal brand. For each of these aspects of her business, Kindra is a remarkable example of the importance of providing conveniency and consistency for your clients, that even if you speak on a broad topic, you can still provide immense value in a concise and impactful way. Below are three ways to follow this example.
- If you haven’t already defined your value proposition and promise statement, now is the time. I’ve mentioned the importance of clearly communicating who you serve and why you’re worth hiring. These two components are the simplest way to do that.
- Don’t skimp on your branding. Speaking businesses are, at their core, personal brands, so the design elements of your business can make you stand out. Whether you’re standing out for a good or bad reason depends on the quality and consistency of your brand.
- Have a clear call-to-action and link to your sizzle reel at the top of your website. Ideally, an event organizer should be able to access your website, see you in action, and then contact you without having to scroll around too much. Remember, the easier you can make it for them to book you, the more likely they are to do so.
Meridith Elliott Powell, CSP
Fifth in our list of inspiring professional speakers is sales and leadership guru Meridith Elliott Powell. As a speaker, coach, and author of seven books, Meridith first crossed paths with our team in 2019 as a member of the National Speakers Association (NSA) and demonstrated almost immediately her clout within the industry. Like many in this list, she has the designation of Certified Speaking Professional and has spoken for thousands of audiences over the last 13 years. She’s also spoken for several NSA events in recent years, including their 2020 Winter Conference.
Additionally, outside of the speaking industry, Meridith is a prime example of how to diversify your offerings to create a wider range of income sources. Coaching and consulting? Check. Videos and courses? Yep. Books and podcast episodes? Absolutely. Wherever an event organizer’s budget may be, Meridith has something to help them and their audience, even if they can’t afford her full speaking fee at this time. Likewise, in your speaking business, remember to attack your sales process head-on with offerings for any qualified lead that comes your way, including the strategies listed below.
- Truly predictable revenue only comes from outbound sales. Meridith, for example, finds 300-400 leads at the beginning of each year. Then, every week, she contacts a percentage of those leads personally. In her words, “You’re doing people a disservice by not sharing how you can help,” so even if you’re new to outbound sales, it’s worth a shot.
- Don’t think of sales as a traditional pitch or “hard sell”. Instead, focus on building relationships with each lead. That way, new leads are more likely to hire you (or come back if they can’t hire you now) and old clients are more likely to hire you again.
- Remember that you can’t ever completely hand off sales. Every client will want to meet you personally. So, even if you hire someone to sell for you, remember it’s your personal touch that will seal the deal.
Neen James, CSP
Next and number 6 in the list is the hilarious and incredibly high-energy Neen James. As an executive leadership speaker, coach, and mentor, Neen focuses on more industries than most of the speakers in this list, including hospitality, direct sales, credit unions, and associations. Across these groups, her main focus is helping leaders pay better attention in their professional and personal lives. To put it another way, as it says in her promise statement, “Attention Pays: Amplify profits. Accelerate Productivity. Awaken Ideas.”
As a professional speaker, this promise statement is the first thing to note about Neen’s speaking business. Like Kindra Hall’s, it’s clear, to-the-point, and directed at the people that benefit from her sales offerings. It also employs a tried-and-true literary device called alliteration, where the same sound appears at the beginning of each sentence (in this case a hard “A”). This makes it easy for event organizers to remember her promise statement.
The second aspect of Neen’s business to consider is the elements of her personal brand. From the style of her language to her brand colors and fonts, Neen’s entire online presence is an exceptional example of what a professional speaking brand should look like. Plus, even if you’re a solopreneur and completely new to speaking, each of these attributes is easily replicable. Just follow the steps below in your own speaking business, and remember to be yourself!
- Consider incorporating videos to your website’s design. Not only are they an easy way to demonstrate what you look like on stage. They’re also an easy way to break up the text on your site, especially when combined with subtle animations.
- Make sure your brand reflects you as a person. Neen’s brand, for example, is modern and feminine, making the viewer more likely to see her as a modern and feminine person and remember her for it. In other words, faces and images are more memorable than words. So, use your branding to help event organizers remember you, even if they don’t read your whole site.
- From your brand to your messaging to your website, keep it simple. Including too much information or too many images makes it hard for people to understand what you do and make a decision about hiring you.
Simon T Bailey, CSP, CPAE
Last but definitely not least, the final professional speaker in our list is the legendary Simon T. Bailey. Arguably the best-known name on this list, Simon has spent more than 30 years as a speaker, entrepreneur, and life coach and is currently cited as “one of America’s top 10 most-booked speakers on change, leadership, and customer service”. Combined, his experience has culminated in speeches for more than 1800 organizations in more than 45 countries around the world, resulting in an international base of past audience members and fans.
Considering this – along with his social and online presence – Simon’s speaking business is, in many ways, the goal for professional speakers. From a sales perspective, his sales language and offerings are on point. From a branding perspective, his public image and personal brand are consistent and updated. Even from a speaking perspective, as a CSP and CPAE award recipient, Simon is a stellar example for new and established speakers alike. I truly have no notes!
That said, if the idea of emulating Simon T. Bailey is daunting, no worries! Below are a few steps to get you started that, along with the other tips in this list, will have you well on your way to success.
- Consider choosing a central word or theme for your speaking business. For example, every few years, Simon chooses a word around which he focuses his sales offerings and his content, such as the current term “spark”. In your speaking business, the same centralization of your ideas can make it easier to communicate your value.
- As your speaking business grows, prepare to hire additional employees to take some of your work off your plate. Obviously, there will always be things you have to do yourself. But, if you can delegate everything else, you’ll have more time and mental bandwidth for speaking and nurturing your business even further.
- Engage with your ideal audience outside of your speaking events. It can be through webinars, live social media videos, or simple social posts. Either way, the more you connect with your fans, the quicker your reputation will grow.
In the long run, your speaking business will always be unique because of what you, individually, bring to the table. Maybe it’s humor and energy, like Neen James. Maybe it’s a confident and blunt speaking style, like David Newman. But, in any case, one of the greatest advantages of the speaking industry is learning from those around you. That way, your business can grow more quickly and steadily than those before you.
Keeping this in mind, I hope this guide gave you the inspiration and direction you need to tackle your business’s challenges. For more information about how you can grow your speaking business alongside other professional speakers, join us at SpeakerFlow University or drop us a line at [email protected]. 👍