Good public speakers work together

Starting out in the public speaker market I have come across a dangerous zero-sum assumption. The public speaker market is not a zero-sum game. The difference is vital. It means we have a lot to win by trying a new approach.

The problem with faulty assumptions is, of course, that they lead us to faulty conclusions. Faulty conclusions, in turn, lead to faulty or ineffective action.

Simply stated a zero-sum game is a game where two or more players are involved in a game, and one contender’s gain will always equal the loss of another player or players.

That means that sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. The net amount of points to win or lose is finite and never changes.

If you hold this to be true then everyone is logically a competitor. As a speaker, you could view the available jobs as a finite number. If you do you, your peers logically become opponents. We want to challenge this.

The illusion of zero-sum mechanics

I have my background in publishing. Troubling zero-sum assumptions are at play here too. It is not unique to the public speaking. To explain what I mean, I’ll take a brief trip to the world of publishing:

In publishing, there was widespread fear that e-books and subscription models would cannibalize print sales. The logic of that idea is pretty straightforward: 

A: There is a certain demand for a book.
B: Demand can be met through digital subscription or paper.
Ergo: A book consumed through subscription equals a book not sold in paper format.

Consequently, as an author (and publishing house) generally makes more from a paper format-book, subscription-sales are bad.

Book sales came to be viewed as a zero-sum market because demand for a product was posited as the primordial unit of analysis. 

This predisposed the publishing professionals (I also held this wrong belief years ago) to caution against streaming. After all the job of any publishing house worth its salt should help authors succeed professionally and financially.

A side note: through some quirk of cognition, this let some publishers (me included) to believe that we were helping authors by not supplying the demand of users on subscription services. If you take an elevator view at this logic it is clearly troubled. 

At the time this did not seem so clear.

Good public speakers help each other

The public speaker market, or elements thereof, seem to suffer from the same faulty assumption. Largely as the unit of analysis here, is the same.

Call it A1: There is a demand for certain speakers on a particular topic.

In this setting again we get into trouble: public speaking becomes a zero-sum game. If one speaker gets a job, another speaker forfeits the same job.

It is sound logic. But if you start out with the wrong assumptions (as here) you most likely get valid but false conclusions. This likely leads to faulty or ineffective action.

History has shown that the assumption was faulty in publishing (the market has proven it)  and it is not true in speaking. We should make an effort to rid ourselves of this thinking for the betterment of the trade.

The sooner we realize, the sooner we can start building a better way of being a public speaker.

Good public speakers unite

So why on earth am I going on about this at such length? 

Because it ties into why we’ve decided to build We do not believe that speaking is a zero-sum game. If one speaker does a great job, the company he or she speaks for is likely to hire a speaker again for their event the following year.

When we are good, we grow the whole market.

This goes for publishing and this goes for public speaking. Presumably, it goes for many other areas of business or even societies.

Communities, as we do them at, are an important way forward for the speaker market, because we really believe this to be true. It means that we can grow together, create more jobs and get more jobs. 

There is an alternative to the zero-sum mechanics. The alternative is for good public speakers to collaborate.​

We do not need gurus or anyone else telling us what to do. We will get better, and every successful minute on stage – by any one of us – will grow the market just a little bit more.

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