From Pay-to-Play to Paid-to-Speak: Navigating the Wild West Of Professional Speaking

May 28, 2024

When I started speaking, it was to be paid to be on stage.

Over the last year, I've been shocked by the number of speakers paying for stage time. One of my colleagues paid 4k for a 30-minute set to speak on the same stage as a celebrity from the 2006 movie The Secret. I can't even remember the celebrity's name or even seeing him in the movie. Heck, I can't remember the movie.

I attended one Summit recently and it was 6 hours long, with a new speaker every 30 minutes on topics related to the theme, but speaker after speaker, it was all the same. I ended up working on my projects barely listening to anybody.

Online summits charge presenters between $400-$1,000 for 15-30 minutes of stage time. I've hopped on several summits to see the quality of speakers they attract and Geez Louise, speakers set the bar so low you couldn't even limbo it! Not to mention that you don't get to pick your time slot.

I don't want to out people I know but they run these summits and there is always a lineup of speakers hoping to break into the industry. No speakers are vetted, anybody can pay the $400 and get stage time and most speakers share endless information.

Seriously, has the speaking game gone to the birds? There is a tier of speakers at the top who are crushing it with fat paycheques, and everything below that is the Wild West.

So many speakers are paying to be in magazines and on podcasts. So many speakers are Amazon best sellers that the label loses meaning.

I'm not saying it's wrong to pay for stage time. I'm saying that professional speaking is one of the only industries with no governing body (which I DO like)!

How Do You Separate Yourself from the Pack?

My mentor Tom Antion always says, "If you want to be booked solid then you have to be the absolute best at doing something. So good that people seek you out to speak."

I have experienced this myself. When I trained youth competition speakers I entered a group of speakers into an international speaking competition. There were three age categories and not only did my team of speakers make it through the semi-finals, but they cleaned up the trophies at the main event.

BOOM, just like that I had a list of clients as long as my left leg. Everybody wants to work with a coach who gets results.

I see this play out for speakers too. I follow a few people on LinkedIn who I've seen bore audiences for an hour but they're booking 4 speaking gigs a month just by being industry-specific famous. They have a great online brand and get booked: no speaking skills are necessary.

There is another element to this statement. You also have to be relevant. According to AI, current relevant topics are AI, Mental Health, Inclusion, Branding, and Culture.

I know a high-profile resilience speaker who once lost a gig to reality TV star Snooki. Snooki was relevant and my friend wasn't... that's the game.

I'm hearing that Traditional Motivational Speaking is no longer relevant. Audiences want more than a hip, hip, hooray speaker. They want Snooki! haha

All speakers have to ask themselves, what angle am I playing at?

Finding Your Niche

The more niche your topic is, the more chance you'll be sought out if you're in the right place. Take a look at the most niche content on socials: dancing, comedy, food, and lifestyle all top the list.

Let's say cooking is your niche, now you want to define that even more. I just saw a channel that specializes in 20-minute dinners and...

Their videos are getting 26 million views!

Now, I can guarantee that the creator of 20-minute dinners can easily land speaking gigs and is probably being offered speaking gigs.

So how do we all become celebrities?

According to one of my mentors...

It's about being omnipresent (on all social media platforms sharing the same message).

According to another mentor...

It's about dominating one social media platform.

According to yet another mentor...

It's about networking and hammering the phones.

According to me...

I've paid all the above mentors (plus more) to train me. Most times I felt like I wasted $$$, but you learn something from everyone.

I learned that I really like working online. I like running ads and growing a community with a free and paid version. It's a community of personal development. A community of speakers growing wealth.

Our community is still brand new to the game but I know we are going to have celebrity authors, course developers, CEO's, influencers, industry leaders, entrepreneurs, and we may even let a couple coaches through the doors!

Each member will have their own path. Each path will require a little different approach, but each of those approaches will require excellent speaking skills!

If there is one thing I learned from all my mentors it's that they all use AI!

Everybody is using AI, and it works, but there is ONE thing AI CANNOT do for you.

It cannot make you a UNIQUE speaker.

You want to be a unique speaker? You want to rock every stage? DO you want to be so confident in your speaking game that you are willing to do whatever it takes to get you to your goals? Then join my free Facebook group for Ambitious Professionals!

Here is the link: