Dan Janal: How is the speaking
Alan Weiss: The traditional speaking
industry is dead. The traditional speakers bureau is dying. In my view, speakers have to consider themselves experts.
Speaking may be a commodity, but
experts are not.
No one wants a
drill. They want holes.
The same is true with
speaking. No one wants
a speaker. They want an
expert who can improve
The old notion of a
speaker who goes in for
an hour and does the
“rah, rah, rah” attitude-
building speech is gone.
That’s OK for a celebrity, politician
or an athlete, but not for most of us.
How can speakers adapt to this
change? You have to become a
thought leader and an expert. That’s
what will see you through to the future.
You have to be able to do more than
just speak. You have to be able to provide coaching or consulting.
The era when a non-celebrity
speaker, a non-athlete, non-entertainer,
non-politician speaker can simply make
keynotes and support themselves in
a nice lifestyle is over. You have to
be an expert. If you can do that, it’s
a great living.
What can speakers do to become
thought leaders? You have opinions.
You put them into the public forum.
You make predictions. When you
do that, you start to own a certain
part of the industry or profession.
Marshall Goldsmith owns coaching.
James Carville owns politics. I own
You are cited as the source.
You are constantly thought provok-
“You have to become
a thought leader
and an expert.
That’s what will
see you through
to the future.”
ing. People might not agree with me,
but they know who I am.
We all publish. We all have numer-
ous books. Every thought leader has
commercially published books.
Thought leaders hang out with
other thought leaders.
What are you doing to improve
your image as a thought leader?
This year, I’ll be hosting my sixth
Thought Leadership Conference. It
attracts thought leaders. James Carville
will be my special guest this year. (
Previous guests included Marshall Goldsmith and Daniel Pink).
You have said speakers need to go
beyond the bureaus and meeting
planners to reach the executive
buyer or the economic buyers.
Who, exactly, are economic buyers?
Economic buyers’ titles vary. If you’re
working with a trade association, it is
the executive director. If you’re working with a small business, it would
probably be the owner, but if you’re
working with a large business, they
have scores and scores of economic
buyers. They could be vice president,
executive director or general manager.
At Merck, I used to do $250,000 of
business every single year with a guy
whose title was director of international development. He must have been
seven or eight levels down from the
top, but he had that kind of a budget,
so it depends on the organization.
One of the mistakes made by speakers
in NSA is that we insist on not dealing
with economic buyers but with meeting
planners, who are not economic buyers,
photo by levi bilbrey