22 February 2012

The "1st Commandment" of Professional Speaking

Many people think about going into the speaking industry thinking they're going to just cake out and make mega-bucks. They think they'll be the next Les Brown or Tony Robbins because they have memorized a couple of positive affirmations. Sorry ... It just doesn't work that way. Like anything else worthwhile in life, you're going to have to start at the bottom and work your way up.

Having said that, allow me to introduce you to the "1st Commandment" of Professional Speaking ... "Thou must go from FREE to FEE!" Seriously, it was John C. Maxwell who said, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." The best way a total stranger can show you that they care about what you know is paying you their hard earned money for you to share what you know. However, the only way they're going to do that is if they know it's going to be worth it.

Starting out, you're going to need to build an audience and a following. If you have a great message to deliver, and people are getting it for free at churches, schools, and Toastmasters events (to name a few), they're going to talk about you and word will spread. Coincidentally, IF YOU SUCK they're going to talk about you and word will spread, so DON'T SUCK!

When you do get these "free" gigs, make sure you have some way of getting people's contact information. Have a sheet that people can put their names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses on. If you're on Facebook, create a fan-page and direct people to it. This way, when you have new gigs coming up you can spread the word and there is how you get your "following," because those who were really moved by your message will do just that, follow you. 

The first money I ever made as a speaker!
$150 cash for a 20 minute speech.
Now when do, or should you begin charging people? That's hard to say because that's a decision you will have to make for yourself. But when you feel the time is right, here are a few tips:

(1) ALWAYS make it known that you're a "professional" speaker (even when you're speaking for free). You never know when someone will see you, who will pay you straight from the gate. Always be ready to get paid! I got paid for my first speech, and specifically told the people I wasn't charging them! 

(2) People respect what they see. Carry yourself as a professional and people will treat you as a professional. Those who don't aren't worth doing business with anyway, so don't give them a second thought.

(3) Create a Speakers Agreement (contract) for yourself. It outlines what you require as well as what services you will provide.

(4) In that Agreement, add a "Confidentiality Clause" that prohibits both you and your client from divulging how much you're charging and they're paying for your services. What you charge and what you actually make may be different from one client to another and for any variety of reasons. You may negotiate a lower honorarium for a particular group that has a lower budget, but you still wish to speak for them, or you may donate a portion or all of your honorarium back to the organization. You want to protect yourself as much as possible and not create friction should people talk about you when "comparison shopping" for speakers. Everyone is looking for a break (or a "hook-up"), and when people feel they are catching one, they're not likely to share that information if doing so means they might not catch a similar break in the future.

There is nothing more gratifying than to receive a nice check for what seems to be a few minutes of speaking, but keep in mind that you're not just getting paid for the minutes you spend on stage behind the microphone. You're getting paid for the time you spend researching, writing and rehearsing your presentation. Look at it like this ... You may only see professional athletes during game time on the weekends, but during the week, they're training and practicing and spending countless hours watching videos of previous games and matches.

Professional speaking is an industry that requires you to pay some dues in order to rise up. You can make a good living for yourselves, but you've got to make your bones. You're going to have to hone your skills and be true to your craft. The time you invest in the beginning of your career as a professional speaker will pay off massive dividends down the line, but you're going to have to create a foundation for yourselves. The stronger and deeper your foundation, the higher you can go in your career.

17 February 2012

Being a "Professional Motivator" is More than Just Being Happy

There are many people who call themselves "motivational speakers" but all they do is portray an "All is sunny in the world and will always be sunny if you just keep smiling and think happy thoughts" philosophy. I suppose that's good for whoever wants to buy it. I don't get down like that. I have a philosophy that I call "Embracing the Darkness."

The source of MY motivation comes from overcoming my struggles and obstacles. When the times are GREAT, I'm being rewarded. When the times are just smooth, then I know things are cool, and I'm kind of on cruise control. But when times are hard, that's when I know I'm being taught something. That's when I know my character is being structured. You can't have a testimony if you've never been tested and you can't possibly have a message if you haven't been through some mess. You can share a "Pollyanna" type message with children because you want to keep them excited about life, but adults have been through some "thangs." If you want to motivate them, you've got to give them something to relate to.  In fact, depending on the environment, there are a great many young people who have been through some "thangs."

John C. Maxwell says, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care," and Jim Rohn taught that you have to meet people in their struggle. He said, "Here's the clue to really affecting people ... Start with where they are before you try to take them where you want them to go."

Be wary of people who call themselves "Motivational Speakers," but have no struggles to share. Be wary of the speaker who gives you nothing but happy shiny smiles. Genesis 1:3 says "(out of eternal darkness,) God said, "Let there be light, and there was light." There is no triumph without trouble.

If you've got a speaker standing before you, and all he or she has for you is a variety of ways to say "YOU CAN DO IT!" (sounding like the Cajun guy in the movie "The Waterboy"), you just might want to reconsider staying there. The fact of the matter is you CAN do it, but in order to do it, you're going to have to GO THROUGH IT.

There's just no way around it.

15 February 2012

The Top 7 Reasons Why People Don’t Focus

Every successful person has a Coach or a Mentor to guide them. The most successful people have had Coaches and Mentors from the very beginning of their journeys. 

I have several Coaches and mentors who give me all kinds of advice and counseling. I am better able to move and inspire my audiences as well as my own clients because of the insight given to me by my Coaches and Mentors and my willingness to receive it. Today, I'd like to share some words of wisdom from one of my business coaches, Andrew Morrison.

The Top 7 Reasons Why People Don’t Focus

1. Lack of training. They were never taught how to focus their time, money and business relationships toward one activity. Their role models were constantly juggling several projects therefore this became the norm for them.

2. The Beginners Syndrome. Have you ever built an organization from zero to a million dollars in sales? If you have never done it personally or have trusted advisors who have reached that goal then you are constantly searching for the next big idea and never realizing that you already have what it takes to be successful.

3. An Addiction to Struggle. Now this concept is truly amazing. People who claim they want to reach a goal are addicted to the process of achieving the goal but never truly want the goal because they would no longer have the struggle of pursuing the goal. (I know that’s a mouth full.) Their self-identity has become wrapped up in “the struggle.” With just one yard to the touchdown they self-destruct and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

4. Low Self-Esteem. Do you really love yourself? I love being a Black man in the wilderness of North America. Hey, it’s a challenge at times. But I am ready to be an agent of change and bring forth beauty amidst chaos. Given your situation, can you say something similar? Look yourself in the mirror today and say … I love you!

5. The Appearance of Progress. You don’t have to be at every award show and be seen by all the VIPs. Quiet work that seeks no recognition is the most pleasurable and fruitful.

6. No Plan. Do you know the steps to raising $1 million for your non-profit? People who lack focus are constantly searching for the next step. Booker T. Washington reminds us that, “Success leaves clues.” Your only job is to learn from others and implement.

7. Inability to Be Still. Take a deep breath. How did that feel? That’s the real you. Release your claim to the rushed and breathless life. Remember to breathe! Life will become richer.

I hope you can recognize the above symptoms in yourself and begin to take corrective action.

Cheers to your future success!

- Andrew Morrison
Small Business Camp