In this episode, we’ve brought in managing partner and Chief Marketing Officer at eSpeakers, Joe Heaps.
In his many years in the industry, Joe’s innovative ideas and strategic vision has moved eSpeakers forward – recognized as the leading software provider in the industry.
Listen in as we uncover how to use eSpeakers to level up your speaking business and grow in 2021.
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Show Notes 📓
✅ Check out eSpeakers’ Certified Virtual Presenter Badge: https://support.espeakers.com/portal/en/kb/articles/how-to-get-certified-as-a-virtual-presenter
✅ Check out eSpeakers’ Certified Virtual Host Badge: https://www.espeakers.com/speakers/certified-virtual-host/
🎤 Thank you to our sponsor, Auxbus! Want the best podcasting solution out there? Get your free offer here: https://auxbus.com/speakerflow
🚀 And as always, don’t forget about all the mind-blowing free resources at https://speakerflow.com/resources/
Read the Transcription 🤓
Taylorr: Welcome to another episode of Technically Speaking, we are really excited about today’s guest, managing partner and chief marketing officer at eSpeakers, Joe Heaps, Joe, welcome to the show, my friend.
Joe: Oh, thanks guys. Appreciate you having me.
Taylorr: Yeah, Definitely.
Austin: A pleasure.
Taylorr: Always a pleasure.
Joe: And this is like talking with the guys, right? We’ve known each other for so long, it’s not really a serious conversation. We’re in the same industry and do a lot of the same stuff or talk to the same people so we’ve touched rubbed elbows as long as you guys have been in the industry, I think. Is that correct?
Taylorr: Yeah, it’s been a while. 18 months, I think.
Joe: Has that been 18 months?
Taylorr: 18 months. Yeah, well now when the time of this is recorded, we’ll probably be at like 22, almost two years.
Joe: Holy smokes.
Taylorr: Yeah. Crazy, huh?
Joe: It seems like yesterday.
Taylorr: Yeah, and a lifetime at the same time.
Joe: Yeah, exactly.
Austin: You were there for our inception really. When we first showed up to Influence, we had just started the company.
Joe: I know, I was just going to say that.
Austin: We are partnered with booths right next to each other…
Joe: Walked in with your banners and stuff and it was good. We bonded as well as you can bond and we’ve had a good relationship. I think we have some good ideas and then those that are listening to this, hopefully we’ve announced a really cool opportunity between the two of us with eSpeakers and Speaker Flow that you’ll already know about. So, I’m letting the cat out of the bag and [inaudible 01:50] let out.
Taylorr: Tease that a little bit. That’s right. Well, for those of you listening, who aren’t familiar with Joe, Joe is a managing partner and the CMO at eSpeakers, and has many years in the industry Joe’s innovative ideas and strategic vision has moved eSpeakers forward recognized as the leading software provider in the industry. Joe and his team have to lead the charge and the industry adoption of technologies, such as online bookings, shared calendars, event reporting, online listing management and various other industry utilities. As one of the partners of eSpeakers, along with Dave Reed and the late professional speaker Art Berg, CSP, CPAE, Joe continues to focus on how technology can bring real business value to professional speakers, speakers bureaus, and event organizers. Joe, what a cool background. I’m curious, how did you even get into the world of eSpeakers? What led you down the crazy path of getting in the professional speaking industry?
Joe: Well, it wasn’t so much getting into this industry, it was more of my my industry experience and technology. Right before working with or coming to eSpeakers I had experienced as a product Marketing M anager at a company that’s now acquired by Symantec. I would market the product, but where I really learned a lot is in order to make $10 million, I had to spend a million and that’s always a good problem to have to spend money. But I learned a lot about the value of good marketing and getting out and getting exposure, it was paid for, but that’s how we made our money. And I got a really good base of marketing technology from that experience, but basically Art Berg who founded the company was a friend of ours, my wife and I, and when he ended up passing, we were talking to his wife and said, are you cleaning things up from his passing and can we help you do anything?
And she’s like, well, I just have this company he started and I don’t know what to do with it and so I just said, well, that’s my wheelhouse, let me jump in and help you. And I ended up helping and then just came on, that was like 19 years later, or 20, 20 years later. It’s been a good ride and that’s kind of how I got involved in the industry. I was working with Dave in the beginning, who’s my business partner now, we started kind of with our technology, it was before its time particularly with our calendar management tool. It was working with a connection through the internet, which we all know now as the cloud. And it was cloud-based technology without the cloud being there and the people knowing it was called that. And so, it allowed basically bureaus at the time to have a backdoor into a speaker’s calendar and be able to look and say, hey, they’re either booked or they have a hold that day.
And that was one of the real problems of the industry was, you had to call somebody and if the speaker didn’t have staff, you’re calling the speaker and if the speaker’s not at his office, or if he’s on a plane, he’s not answering his cell phone and it was just a real trouble to try to get coordination of that. And so, we just kind of fast tracked it and automated it and made it easier for people to connect with speakers and as that process, when we just uncovered all of these needs that speakers had, and we just kept fulfilling those needs and trying to provide ways that would make it easier and make it not only just easier for the speakers, but for the event organizers who are booking them. So, over all these years, that’s kind of how we’ve grown and become the business that we are as we’ve really listened to our customers. They say, hey, it would really help to do this, this and this. And we say, okay, well, let’s look at that and research it and come out with the best solution.
Our system is really built by our customers, if you peel back every little feature of our technology, you’d have somebody’s name by it that suggested it originally. That’s something that we pride ourselves in, we listen to our customers and it’s been really good that way, and of course, we’re not perfect and there’s things that don’t work great, but we’re always trying to improve it and make it better. And our biggest competition is the big software companies that provides the big tools and have thousands of people working for them. So, it’s a really niche industry and that’s been kind of how we’ve been able to survive is the fact that we’ve been able to provide unique tools that are unique to this industry, rather than trying to solve a problem for everybody out there, we just focused on this industry and it’s proved to be successful for us.
Austin: That’s super cool too. You guys have made a reputation for yourselves as the place to go if you’re a speaker and you need help managing your calendar. I think that branding has certainly paid off for one [cross-talk 07:25].
Joe: Yeah, it has. One of the things that we’re still working on, and it’s a frustration, if there’s something that you go to bed thinking, I didn’t get this done today, or you wake up and the first thing you think I got to get this done, it’s always this and that is that we saw a need to put the event organizers, the planners in direct contact with the speakers. That’s one of the things the speaker said is like, we understand and respect the whole Bureau role of everything, but with technology, we’re having a hard time connecting and is there something you could do? And that’s where we rolled out our profiles, one speaker in particular had said, hey, there’s like five different versions of me on these five different websites and wouldn’t it be a great idea to have one profile that updated them all. And so that’s what we do with our technology is update all of them with one tool.
But in conjunction with that, we realized that there’s a little bit of a gap. Actually, it’s not little, it’s big. It’s a big gap between buying a speaker directly from an event organizer and doing that through the web. And so, we put this technology together, call these speakers marketplace, which has a sales engine, which allows a buyer, a meeting planner to go and go to the website and kind of search through basically their price range and their topics and different things like that, and the criteria of the event and, narrow it down and kind of add people to their shopping cart or what do you call it? A short list, and then share that short list with their coworkers, with that particular event, and then they can narrow it down to one, sign a contract with them and pay them all online.
And so, all of that is done in one online process. We started that about six years ago a little bit before it’s time, but the problem that we’ve had is just getting through all the noise of the internet and we do a ton of SEO, word of mouth and we’re at a lot of the meet event, professional web conventions, we’re partners with a lot of the big groups, but one of the problems we’ve had is still just getting that traffic to those profiles and changing the mentality that you don’t have to, I don’t even know a good example here, but you don’t have to call a speaker, or email them, or contact them directly, that there’s another resource that’s kind of a better and more efficient way to search. And over the years it’s actually has taken off, and actually last year we had our very best year with the most jobs, we grew by like 400% from the year before. And we did some research in that and found that it’s because the buyers, these meeting professionals, event organizers their roles are changing and so it could be more executives that are doing it.
And a lot of the new up and coming event, organizers are millennials and they don’t buy anything, you guys are millennials, you don’t buy anything without checking it out on the web first, you’d probably do it on your phone first. That’s the, that’s the environment that we’re working with and so it’s taken off. And then what happened this year with COVID and the pandemic, it just changed everything. Essentially, in March we had speakers that had nothing on their calendar and they would have like 25 to 40 bookings for 2020, and then they just lost everything. So, one side of the table, we had all these speakers with nothing on the calendar and then on the other side, we had event organizers who had jobs in our system, and they now had to put their event on hold or postpone it or cancel it, and there was just like this gap in between.
And so, we thought there’s something that we can do, and that was to come out with a certification called the Certified Virtual Presenter. And what the certification does is that we just spend 30 minutes with the speaker, verifying their audio, video, their internet connection, their background, if it’s not distracting and where this kind of came from is, we were trying to help in the beginning of March, we tried to help a few of the event organizers saying, yeah, we have some people that can present to you virtually. And we gave him some of the names and they email them and set up a zoom appointment. And one of the speakers that was doing a pre-call with the event of organizer for their executive team of like 10 people, and the wife was doing the dishes in the background and the guy’s video and there was another person that didn’t have good internet connection, and somebody’s video was grainy and it was just like, we had this combination of all these different issues. We thought what, we can do something about this. So, we created that certification, which certifies their environment.
It’s not their presentation skills, it’s not their content, it’s just their environment. And it’s taken off we’ve certified over a thousand speakers worldwide in that time. The first two months, maybe two and a half months there were five of us working every hour of the day. I would certify 10, 11 people a day, you can imagine that’s 30 minutes a piece. I didn’t have lunch, we were just going gaink, it was absolutely crazy. People wanted some type of validation and the speakers did say, hey, I can present from my home. I normally present from the stage, but I’ve got a good home environment, I can help you.
And they adapted and pivoted super quick, almost immediately. Our biggest push was through those first 60 days. The event organizers on the other hand, struggled to kind of figure out what direction they wanted to go. They either had to cancel their event, postpone it or figure out something else and that was where we came in and we suggested to several of them, hey, why don’t you just do a virtual event? And one of them was a big telecom company over in the Philippines that had a convention normally planned, we talked him into doing a virtual event and instead of a thousand people being at their convention which they normally had, they had 8,000 people on a zoom call, 8,000 people. And these were all people from all over Asia or wherever they were in the world joining this call.
And the event organizer was kind of skeptical at the beginning, like I don’t know if this going to work if it’s worth it, but we don’t have an option right now. And by the end of it, when it was over, they absolutely raved about it because it was such a great experience for everybody. They got the same content; the speaker was amazing. It was Simon Sinek by the way, he’s amazing and knocked it out of the park. But the 8,000 people, they were getting comments from people that they’d never even heard from before in the company, they didn’t even know them. And the employees were feeling like they were engaged in it and everything. It was just an awesome experience, and it was their first [inaudible 15:52], and they’ve come back to us three times this year.
Joe: Four big events and they pay for big speakers. So, for them to sign off on that and I just found out today, there’s another one now that they’ve booked in Q1, but the point is, is that it just took a little bit of encouragement and they found out that that was okay and there are some good things that happen with virtual. Sure, there’s not some of the networking that you have in person when you do it in person. But I truly believe that because of what’s happened this year, we won’t see another event in the future they won’t have some hybrid element as part of it. They’ll always be some virtual part of it and some in-person part of it, or just virtual, honestly. But I truly believe there’s going to be a speaker that’s virtual, or the audience will be virtual, and I think that’s going to be the most common thing is that no events going happen without…
Taylorr: Virtual component.
Joe: Having a virtual sign in because people are just not going to travel like they used to. So anyway, we came out with that and then just last week we’ve been working on another certification called the Certified Virtual Host, and we just launched that last week. That essentially, it’s a training course and basically is eight hours of live course training on zoom. So, if you want to be better at zoom and for instance, you’re learning what type of learners you have, your moderating breakout rooms, you’re starting conversations with questions, you talk about a little bit of the background, the lighting and things like that, but you have to have your Certified Virtual Presenter Certification to even take this other one, because we don’t want to spend time on is your office setting okay to present from.
So, it really just focuses on the host, how you do icebreakers, how do you collaborate together, how you engage the audience virtually because most of these speakers have been presenting from the stage and when you speak to somebody in person, it’s a lot easier to see the audience reaction. You can call out people, you can use them as a discussion, it’s just a different experience as it is when you do it virtually. So, there’s some things that you have to learn doing that learning how to share videos and whiteboards and desktops and slides and troubleshooting things and there’s a whole bunch involved with that, but it’s a really awesome eight-hour span and we’ve got a really great professional that is an expert in this that we brought on to do this his name’s Kailyn Huntress and he’s super, super awesome. And…
Taylorr: Kailyn is a great guy.
Joe: Yeah. And [cross-talk 18:58] what’s that?
Taylorr: I said we’ll on our show here soon. Kailyn is awesome. So, it sounds like the virtual host, Joe it’s like the straight stagecraft component, so to speak of the virtual world. Is that true?
Joe: Yeah, it is. It’s the virtual stagecraft. It doesn’t really have anything to do with your content, again, we’re really not talking about your presentation skills as in how good you can present, because Taylorr, you I’ve watched you on video before, you’re put together and you speak well and everything like that, it’s not really that it’s really about controlling hosting the environment with other people in the room and not kicking Austin out of the room and things like that. Right, Austin?
Austin: For sure.
Taylorr: And being confident in the delivery of those things. There’re a few meetings I’ve sat in on where it’s like there’s a person who’s used to breakout sessions for like the first time ever and they’re like, well, let’s hope this works. And then, that moment before they go into breakout where they’re frozen, they think it broke like, oh no, like something went wrong. You don’t want to be in that seat when you’re running an event for somebody you want to know the way you’re executing on it is the right way it’s going to work every time. And then that gives the person that hired you in the first place, more confidence in your delivery and [inaudible 20:14]
Joe: And we’ve really came up with this because of those thousand people we certified is there are some speakers that my word, they have amazing studios, they are awesome. They got to rent those things out, they’re so good. And so, it’s been really interesting to see those, but yet you still have people that are just kind of doing it from the kitchen table, so we’ve got to kind of create a standard and that’s what we’ve tried to do. But the virtual host certification is really an extension of that. It’s just saying, hey, you can host a meeting and we’re seeing really great uptake in it so far and we’re almost full on our classes for December, so that’s really good.
Austin: That’s awesome to hear, it’s information that people need. And I want to pause us just for a minute here, because we’ve spent a good deal of time here talking about some of these certifications and the coursework that you’re releasing right now, which is awesome. But we covered a lot of other stuff too, from your background and sort of where eSpeakers came from and I want to put a bit of a timeline together for people listening, because there’s these specific segments of the eSpeakers business that I think people need to be familiar with and I want to make sure that people can differentiate them properly. So, 20 years ago, when eSpeaker started originally, it’s a calendar management tool, right?
Austin: This is where you’re managing a speaker’s inventory in their time.
Austin: Then six years ago we released the eSpeakers Marketplace and this is the directory listing where speakers can get listed, meeting planners can be connected with them and so on. And then now in 2020, we’re releasing the Virtual Certifications and the Virtual Host Coursework and Certification. This is the timeline that we’re working wit and I think that the, the virtual stuff is something that’s super cool, but I do want to go into a little bit with the distinction between the calendar management software and the marketplace. Because for us, when we get, when we talk about eSpeakers, a lot of the time, when people are talking about eSpeakers, that’s referencing this marketplace and them wanting to get booked. And we say it all the time, there’s no doubt there’s value in multiple ways for why you would want to be listed in the directory, but, and stop me if I’m wrong here, Joe, but really like when people are signing up with eSpeakers outside of the certifications in the marketplace, they’re getting Event CX. I want people to understand this Is the event calendar management side of things. Can you, for our listeners help people differentiate these two different sides of the business, meaning the marketplace visibility stuff versus the actual technology suite that you guys provide.
Joe: Yeah. This is kind of an interesting, that’s a good question. What we found is that there’s a lot of speakers that when we first… I don’t even know how far back, but they were using paper calendars. And it was on the wall or it was a whiteboard or whatever…
Taylorr: I hear that occasionally still to this day.
Joe: I know, I kind of still fall back into it because it’s a system, it works. But it doesn’t work when you have 80 events on the calendar and you’re trying to track all the different data points behind that. And if you have staff or anybody helping you, it doesn’t help you. And it doesn’t help you if a Bureau wants to look at your schedule or some buyer, that’s looking at your schedule and, on your wall, and you can’t share that. Those are the things that really differentiate that. And really the driving factor behind the calendar is so that you let people know where you’re at and where you’re going to be.
If Austin is speaking in Dallas, Texas, for example, then it’d be great for all the people who spoke to there before, or wants to speak to, they’d be notified that he’s going to be there and hey, take some time to preview, while he’s there. So that’s one aspect of the calendar. The other aspect is like searching on marketplace. If I’m looking for a speaker on diversity and Austin’s an expert in diversity, and I see that he’s available on December 10th, then that makes my job a lot easier, it really all them from that calendar. And speakers, what they would have Is a really nice storefront profile or website, but on the backend, they had stacks of paper and notes and a paper calendar because nobody really saw that and they can kind of do it the way they feel comfortable. It doesn’t mean it was efficient. We had to kind of change the mentality that way. One of the things that we really tried to educate speakers in is like, you can make your office more automated and efficient and give you more time to work on the things that you want to work on rather than being stuck, doing the automation of reminding yourself to do this and making to-do lists and things like that. The real big difference between those two is one helps sell you, which is marketplace, and the other one, it helps get you organized and helps manage you and your time. And that’s really the biggest difference.
Taylorr: Yeah, definitely. It’s what we see all the time too, it’s part of the reason why Speaker Flow exists is there’s a lot to do when you’re running any business, and Professionally Speaking is unique. You got to share where you’re at and what you’re doing, and you have to manage your time and it can be difficult If you don’t have that, for example, one of my favorite things about Event CX is that year view of your calendar, where you know where your busiest times are and you know where your held are so you can coordinate other gigs around those timeframes, so you can increase your revenue and handle those little nuance things that often we don’t think about because we don’t even know how to execute on it. Like I have a gig coming up in Dallas, it’d be great if I could find all my previous events where I spoke in that area to reinvite them and rekindle that.
But to do that with a spreadsheet or a whiteboard or whatever, it’s a monumental chore that’ll take you two days just to get everything organized before you send out those emails to people. So, having your business system is going to elevate you to a point where one, you can have staff and everyone’s on the same page, but two allows you to focus on what you like doing best, which is more often than not, not the nitty gritty business systems that propel your revenue forward. It’s the creativity, the content creation that.
Joe: Yeah. We find that people, because most speakers run their own business, they spend a lot of time working too much time in the business. They just use too much time and they don’t need to do that; they can automate it. And one of the things that we’ve been hit up from years and years about, add CRM functionality to your system and add financial bank, like QuickBooks is pretty awesome, just stay with that. Online QuickBooks is amazing and we integrate with it and there’s some great CRMs out there, not to mention Speaker Flow, but, okay, I’ll mention…
Austin: [Inaudible 27:27]
Joe: Sorry Speaker Flow. But yeah, there’s some amazing integrations and why reinvent that wheel? We’re not trying to do that. One thing that we see people do a lot is they’ll use Outlook, for example, it comes free on a computer and they use that as their calendar, which it’s a great calendar, it’ll work, but they use that to manage their events and that’s not good. They’re using kind of a square peg in a round hole and it’s not making them efficient. They have to do more work, so then they create a spreadsheet to track this and then another spreadsheet to track this and it just becomes more work. And that’s where using a tool like Event CX will help kind of centralize everything, all the events go into Event CX first and then flow from that to your other calendars. We’re not saying don’t use Google Calendar or Outlook or iCal, we’re not saying that we’re just saying you start with the eSpeakers one, and then we can link all that data to there.
In fact, one of the best pieces of advice that we were giving, I don’t know, it could have been 10 years ago and it’s still relevant today and that is to have a business calendar and a daily personal calendar and keep those two in sync so that if you have a job and you look on the 10th of December and you see you have a dentist appointment; you can reschedule that that’s not a problem or your son’s soccer game or whatever. But it’s a lot harder if you’ve messed up an event, so if the two sync together, you kind of have a lot bigger view and wider view of what the landscape looks like. With Event CX, one of the other things that it does that, that has really created a lot of traction for people is familiar with the CSP, the Certified Speaking Professional designation that our system tracks that automatically by just entering the dates in. And so, you just click button and it’ll generate a report that you can send in to get your CSP and it makes it a lot easier. It’s just a few things like that that really automate the process and help speakers.
Austin: We know for a fact that that last component to the CSP application thing is not only useful for you as the speaker, but for the board or the committee that’s making the decisions with the NSA. We’ve got a few people in our coaching program that were past members of that committee or board and they said that every time somebody came with an eSpeakers prepared CSP application, it was easier for everybody.
Taylorr: It’s about automating those little things, and also excited for that integration we have come in. For those of you listening, that integration is probably just on its way, so if you’re interested in how eSpeakers Events CX Pro can work with Speaker Flow CRM, you know where to find us. Joe as you know, we’re all about creating value for our audience, it why we brought you on. What are some of the places that you can send people right now where they would get the most benefit from?
Joe: Well, I think in the current landscape of where we’re at, there’s a lot that you can talk about in regards to your content and your state and your calendar, calendars are fairly bare right now. People are still trying to get traction with the pandemic and everything, I think it’s a relevant factor going forward, no matter what even if the pandemic was over tomorrow and that is working virtually.
Austin: That’s right.
Joe: You’ve got to be virtually prepared. I would highly suggest our certified Virtual Presenter Certification, it’s a baseline for you. You can put it out on social media, on your websites and share it with people that you have a home office that’s prepared for that. The other one is the Virtual Host that we just launched. I do think that that is going to have a bigger factor moving forward, because there are going to be events where they’re going to need the speaker. And we see this often where the speaker, the meeting planner doesn’t know really how to run the meeting. So, the speaker says, hey, I’ll speak and let me host it. And I’ll be the moderator, I’ll speak, I’m going to host it, and they run it because they know how to do it.
I think the speakers are just used to it so they’re ahead of the game a little bit, and the event organizers are catching up, but they’re still not quite in that mindset. I would say those two things, if you could do nothing else, those are the two things that I would do. Well…
Joe: I’ll add a third thing. You got to have an online calendar, got to have an online calendar. You can’t rely upon people emailing you or calling you for that. You’ve got to have an online calendar; it’s got to be available to the public and nobody cares anymore… What’s that?
Taylorr: Got to make it as easy as possible for the people hiring you. Right?
Joe: Nobody cares anymore about a bare calendar. In our case. It’s an availability calendar. It’s not how many times I’m presenting on the stage or virtually it’s an availability. It says I’m available. You could have a vacation in there, you could have a date that you’re not speaking in there, those are dates that are booked. Nobody really cares, it’s like buying shoes off of nordstrom.com or whatever website.
Taylorr: Just want to make sure they can book you.
Joe: Yeah. I just want to make sure I can get them if I don’t know how many is in stock, then why would I order it there? I’ll go to another website. Anyway, those are the three things.
Taylorr: Got it. Well, you heard it right from the source folks. I will make sure those links are in the show notes. And hey, if you liked this episode, don’t forget to hit subscribe, rate the show, and if you want more awesome resources like this, go to speakerflow.com/resources. Thank you so much for chiming in. I just wanted to take a second to thank our sponsor Auxbus. Auxbus is the all-in-one suite of tools you need to run your podcast and it’s actually what we run here at Speaker Flow for Technically Speaking. It makes planning podcasts simple; It makes recording podcasts simple; It even makes publishing podcasts to the masses simple and quite honestly, Technically Speaking wouldn’t be up as soon as it is without Auxbus. Thank you so much Auxbus. And if you are interested in checking Auxbus out, whether you’re starting a podcast or you have one currently get our special offer auxbus.com/speaker flow, or click the link below in our show notes.