form further. Are you a kids’ cereal,
granola cereal, hot cereal or a gluten-free cereal? So, if you have a background in the insurance field and you
speak on leadership, you can market
yourself as an expert on leadership for
the insurance industry.
Your platform can also be described
as the breadth of your marketing reach.
If you combine all your Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, Pinterest and LinkedIn
followers and add all your newsletter
subscribers, your platform is all the
people who know who you are, what
you do and have chosen to follow you.
It can take quite a while to learn how
the speaking business works and to put
everything you learn to work for you.
It took me more than five years to be
able to quit my day job and become a
full-time paid speaker. The speaking
business is a national and international
business. For some reason, you probably won’t get paid much to speak in
your hometown or even in your home
state or province. Speakers are perceived as more valuable when they
travel from somewhere else!
The speaking business is an expensive business. You need a website, a
functioning office and marketing materials, like videos and professionally
designed fliers or PDFs. By the time
you invest in phone lines, computers,
printers, a website and all that goes
with establishing a business, you’ll have
spent thousands of dollars. There is
also your professional development.
You must spend money to make money.
Here’s a good example of what I
mean by perseverance. It has to do with
establishing connections with the right
people in the right places.
Years ago, one of my corporate
clients suggested that I speak at the
ASTD conference because I could get a
lot of business from the people in my
audience. ASTD, now ATD, is an inter-
national organization for people in
training and development. They hold
an annual conference with more than
10,000 attendees from all over the
world. So, I submitted a proposal to
speak and was turned down. I was
turned down every year for three years.
The fourth year, I was accepted to
speak, and I’ve been speaking there
every year for the last 12 years.
Now for the fun part. In one two-month span, I got hired by two clients
who had seen me at ASTD. One had
seen me five years prior, and the other
had seen me seven years prior. If you
give up too soon and don’t stick around
long enough, you won’t make it. Make
your presence known, year after year,
and keep at it for the long haul.
In many ways, it comes down to making and nurturing your connections. The
most valuable connection and investment
I have made in my professional development was to join the National Speakers
Association. For the past two decades, I
have attended monthly meetings and
annual conferences to learn how the
speaking business works.
Don’t think you can figure the
speaking business out on your own. You
can’t. It’s a unique and complex business, but it is richly rewarding.
It’s hard, but the payoff is enormous. Since 1994, I have been paid to
speak in 16 countries for hundreds of
clients. I now make a great living while
making a difference in the world. If you
have a dream to become a professional
speaker, your dream can come true like
mine did. Heed the five pillars and
make your dreams come true.
Doug Stevenson, CSP, is one
of the country's foremost
experts on storytelling in
business. He is the creator of
The Story Theater Method
and has shared his passion for storytelling in
business mastery from Milwaukee to
Munich, San Francisco to Singapore and
Louisville to London. Go to www.story-
It’s not just your content that people buy.
It’s you. I call it your likeability and compatibility factor. Once a buyer has determined they like your content, they make
an emotional decision based on your personality. Do they like you? Do they think
your personality would be a good fit for
their organization or conference?
If they need an emotional lift, they’ll
be looking for an upbeat and high-energy personality. If they’re a serious
group of engineers, they may opt for
someone with less flash and more
intriguing content. There’s not much
you can do about your personality
except to know who you are and be
completely OK with sharing YOU.
You’ll have to get out of your own
way and let your full personality shine.
You’ll also need to sense where you will
be a good fit. You’re not for everyone.
Don’t try to be. But you’re just right for
someone. Own your personality and
find your fit, and you will succeed.
Your platform is the foundation for
your marketing efforts. It tells you
where to market your product. At least
that’s true at the beginning of your
speaking career. If you have a background in insurance, the insurance
industry is a good place to start. That
would be an industry platform. If you
were an HR director in your previous
life, you have an obvious niche in
human performance and training. That
would be an area-of-expertise platform
(which can span many industries).
I have an acting background and years
of experience giving business presentations. Telling colorful and theatrical stories, and teaching storytelling provides
me with a content specialty platform.
Your content (product) fits into a
category like leadership, customer service, diversity, etc. These broad categories just tell buyers what aisle you’re
on, like the cereal aisle in the grocery
store. But you want to define your plat-