How to become a paid speaker
Selling cultural products is not like selling cars or toilet paper. Understanding the difference will get you in the right money-making mindset.
It does not matter whether you want to be a paid speaker, are peddling books, theatre or tv-series (or subscriptions to reports for speakers). If you work with culture in any way, shape or form - particularly commercially - you can benefit a lot from adopting a simple framework of mind: ideas spread like pathogens. The idea has some implications for your marketing efforts:
1) People are not customers; they are carriers for your message.
2) Whatever you sell possesses its own inertia.
Realizing and accepting this will severely impact your wallet. So if you are working commercially with cultural products, read on.
For us, at Speakers Loft, we're mostly interested in working with public speakers. However, what we describe here is equally valid for publishers, the record industry, and many other creative businesses.
The metaphor of ideas as pathogens will rub some people the wrong way. That is the point. When you understand why you've got the point of the whole framework. We are not going to spell it out for you. It is worth the effort.
For a pathogen to thrive, it needs three things. First of, it needs to spread. Then it needs to overcome the defenses of a new host. Thirdly, it needs to transmit to other host(s). Then the cycle repeats. If each host transmits to more than one new host, you have virality.
Think about it. The last book you read, or the previous tv-show you watched, why did you pick that particular experience? How many times have you paid the credit forward by recommending the item to a new friend? If you are anything like most of us, you were recommended the experience and recommended it yourself.
You, as a customer, is a conduit, not an endpoint.
If any of the three requirements fail, the whole thing stops dead. The pathogen/experience will not spread. If they all work - at least to some degree - you have kindling. Then and only then will the right marketing tools set your idea ablaze.
If you create cultural products, consider this. Unlike a pathogen, an idea spread from host to host through communication, in a process that scientists call neural coupling or neural aligning. You can't choose whether you want to align with others or not. If you listen to them, you are affected. It happens subconsciously, and while the process may seem a little at odds with free will, we already know that it happens. When we tell each other, "you become like the people you hang out with," it's true.
It is true because that is how the brain works.
Mapping the pathogen framework to talks is pretty straightforward. If you want to succeed, you need to do three things:
1) Overcome the host's defenses
If you are on stage, you got this part covered. After all, as a speaker, when you are on stage, everyone is there to listen to you. That is their one job.
Naturally, the issue then is getting on stage in the first place. Do so by meeting with people face-to-face and create trust. You can not connect meaningfully online, and you can get nowhere until someone trusts you.
2) Infect the audience
Your ideas need to be able to live in as many of the audience as possible. If they don't understand it, or it just doesn't seem relevant to them, your idea and value are dead to them. Your career will not grow.
This is a fork in the road. If the audience is not infected and you keep going, no amount of marketing or grit will ever make you successful. If the audience is infected, steer the course.
For this reason, you're always told to keep it simple, make it relevant, and talk from their perspective. All these are true, of course, but there is also a level of on-stage professionalism and body language, that helps you work with audiences. If you know how to use your body language, very few people will be able to resist your message.
Social listening and constructing topic models from all reviews you get (the good and the bad), is a good way forward.
For the most thorough and scientific walkthrough of on-stage presence and persuasion through, we've ever seen check out the work of David J.P. Phillips at www.speakerrating.com There is also a Ted Talk called The magic art of storytelling. What David has built is potent stuff - learn more about body language in our interview with Speakerrating.com.
The final step is the most important. You got on stage. You infected the audience with your idea or mission. Now step back.
If you have done it right, your idea will take on a life of its own. People are for better and worse social creatures: They talk to their colleagues, talk to their spouses, and everyone else they come across. Most even speak to dogs.
It is an ever pulsating, ever flowing inter-human communication super-highway. If your ideas manage to tap into peoples already free-flowing communication stream, it will be ripple through society. Money, attention, and fame will flow the other way.
The problematic thing is reaching critical mass. You do so by creating new outbreaks of your idea one talk or book at the time. If you can infect the audience, all this will accumulate over time. It can be a pretty long road, but when you manage, your idea will be unstoppable.
The ideas described in the above is our guiding star in the work we do at Speakers Loft. You can find a lot of data and actionable insights in our reports, that you can subscribe to here: Reports that help you become a public speaker