A career-changing moment or experience
Planting the Seeds
In 1981, I began my speaking
career and became an instant
success … that is, if you consider five to 10 years an instant
success. What was my key
turning point? I didn’t have
one, although many speakers can
pinpoint the exact moment when their
career started to surge. If you haven’t
experienced a turning point, don’t
despair. Many of today’s top speakers
struggled early in their careers.
I learned an important lesson long
ago: By planting seeds, you will eventually reap results and profit from your
efforts. The following small but critical
actions were instrumental in achieving
my eventual success. They took hard
work and persistence, with little or no
immediate results. In fact, some of them
didn’t produce rewards until two years
to two decades later.
• When I had a cable TV show, I
invited several high-profile speakers
to be guests on the show. This forged
long-lasting friendships with many top
• At my second NSA Convention,
I participated in a small showcase in a
breakout session with about seven other
new speakers. We each had seven minutes. Big deal? No, a small deal. But three
years later, a speaker/promoter who saw
me at that showcase hired me to headline
a speaking tour in South Africa.
• From the onset, I wanted to work
with bureaus, but it took several years
before they realized how good I was …
or did it take me several years to become good?
• I was paid to do a showcase for a
speaker’s bureau and expected great results, but nothing happened for more
than a year. Finally, I received a call
from the bureau. A Fortune 500 company wanted to book me based on the
showcase, and became my largest client
for the next three years.
• My early PR efforts did not produce
any measurable results. A few years later,
however, I asked several clients how they
heard about me and they replied, “I just
see your name everywhere.” Good PR
pays off, but it takes time.
• As one road to success, I wanted to
snag a book contract with a major publisher. I exerted great effort, but achieved
no results. Eventually, I turned to self-publishing, which helped a bit. Last year,
a major publisher (through an agent) approached me with a contract. I had done
nothing … except persist for many years
to become an expert in my field.
Do Your Own Gardening
How do you create your own turning
points, small or large, to steer you onto
the path of success? Be creative! Opportunities abound if you use your imagination. But, first, a word of advice: Don’t
be overwhelmed with the number of
great speakers “above” you in this business. Every one of them was where you
are now at some point in their careers.
Here are some ideas others have
used to grow speaking opportunities
that may help spark some innovative
ideas of your own:
• Develop books, CDs, DVDs, online courses, e-books, blogs, and other
training and promotional tools. They
provide passive income and create credibility.
• Join (or create) a small speaker
group and meet periodically to brainstorm the challenges and opportunities
in your respective businesses. Several
heads are better than one. An outside
perspective can be invaluable.
• Look for royalty opportunities. It
will make retirement easy when you’re
ready for it.
• Become a “giver” on and off the
platform. Go the extra mile for the
audience, the meeting planner, your
introducer, fellow speakers, the stage
crew, and even the bellman. Walk your
talk. Your intent shows.
• Serve NSA. You can get excellent
leadership training and experience, create visibility, make new friends, and carry on the “Cavett” tradition of giving.
If major turning points aren’t happening for you, don’t give up. Persistence
is key. Focus on planting the seeds now,
and your career will come into full
Jim Hennig, PhD, CSP, CPAE,
had a recent heart transplant
and has since been diagnosed
with Parkinson’s disease. Jim is
retiring from active speaking,
but says he will be a life-long member of
NSA because members have been like family
to him for over 26 years.