A speaking peer recommend me for a job and I got it. Because she had done it the year before, it was only natural that she give me advice on what they are looking for, what the audience is like, and what she did that worked. “They really want heavy content and they really care about customer service since that’s what they all do,” she told me. So I adjusted my content (drastically) to fit what she said they wanted.
Months before the event, we are on a conference call with the client committee to discuss last minute details. I jumped in and assured them that I had met with their speaker from last year and I have a really good idea of what they want – heavy content around customer service – and that I had been editing my material to fit. There was a moment of silence and one of them said in an angry tone, “No. That is NOT what we want at all. That is what we hired that speaker to do. We are hiring you for a different reason. We want you to do your thing the way you’ve always done it. We want humor and motivation. Make them feel good. Make us look good. We want the show.”
Can you imagine if we had not had this conversation and I showed up with what I thought they wanted?
Recently I was booked for a series of jobs with one client. When the client booked me, he mentioned the speaker they had last year. “I know him,” I said. “Great! I can get some advice from him since he’s done the job before.”
“I would rather you didn’t,” the client said. “I don’t want him to influence you, or cause you to change what we saw you do.”
Lesson: Speakers aren’t your market and don’t have the perspective of your buyer.
Learning from other speakers is crucial to our success. Learn how they grew their business. Learn how they market. Learn how they position themselves. But be very careful to filter their advice and have clarity on what you do and who you serve, and how your business model is structure.
Things to Thing About When Getting to Advice:
- That speaker can only speak for the type of work they get and the people who wanted that. This is a one-sided perspective. And not the perspective of your market, but the perspective of your peer.
- If that speaker did the job before you, understand that they were booked for a different reason than you. The client is going to see something different in you. Respect that.
- When a speaker gives you feedback on your speech, they are biased. They have an opinion on what a speech should look like. They tend to think that their way is the right way. Naturally, they are going to show you how to be them. Be careful. Not all advice is created equal.
- That speaker might be great at giving advice, but doesn’t have any speaking jobs. Smoke and mirrors. Don’t assume they know what they’re talking about.
- Don’t base your fees and marketing on what another speaker did. Just because she charged $20,000 doesn’t mean you should too. She might have content that appeals to a higher budget. She might only get that twice a year. She might have agreed to do fifteen break out sessions while she was there. She might have a best seller and have a proven reputation in their industry. There are too many variables to assume you can do what she does. Don’t assume she’s a credible source because she has impressive selfies.
- Be careful of hidden agendas. Often the one advising you to do something has a vested interest in “helping” you get there and using your weakness and vanity to do it. Take their advice lightly. Many of these speakers disguised as coaches have never given a speech, but are rather master marketers hoping to charge you big money for something that doesn’t really work in the long run.
- Every speaker thinks their way is the right way. It’s only natural that every speaker gives you advice based on what worked for them. But what worked for them may not work for you. There are thousands of speakers out there who all got to where they are (or where they aren’t) in a different way. There is no one way. Period.
- Get clarity on your content, brand, and business model. Getting advice can be dangerous because it can cause you to change your entire model and brand. These things are very hard to undo. If you aren’t a trainer, don’t get advice from trainers. If you don’t like to push a course from the platform, then don’t listen to people who speak for free in order to sell courses.
- Be smart, but stick to your passion. If your passion doesn’t make you any money, you have a problem. But don’t trade in the bold idea because someone told you it wouldn’t work, or you will find out years later that someone else tried it and it did work. Don’t get stuck doing the work you think you should do, at the expense of the work you are called to do. You only get to take this ride once.
I think of the speaking world like the music world. So many musicians out there, each with his own sound, his own style, his own audience, and his own way of putting notes together to whisper into the ears of his fans. To say there is one way to play music is folly. So let’s not do that with speaking. Telling speakers there is only one way to play, robs the world of a lot of beautiful music.
Which reminds me of a story……