RANT: why would ANYONE shop at retail??

Sit back and relax. It’s story time. You’re about to hear a tale that boggles the mind …

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 (5:15 PM) – My flight to Vancouver leaves on Thursday. I’m visiting my mother for Christmas and hadn’t yet purchased her a gift (it’s a guy thing). I thought a picture book about Yosemite National Park would be nice. It would give me a chance to show her a bit of our beautiful California landscape.

With only a day and a half left before my flight, Amazon would be too tight, unless I did overnight shipping but I assumed that would be too expensive. So I drove into downtown Walnut Creek to visit the local Barnes & Noble store. Traffic was a nightmare. The parking garage was packed with cars facing every possible direction. The sidewalks were bustling with people, all apparently 5 minutes late for their destination.

The store was a zoo. With aisles upon aisles of books, I didn’t know where to start. I also couldn’t find an information desk, so I casually walked up to one of the cashiers, pretending not to notice the long line of shoppers waiting to pay for their chosen titles. A teenage girl was among those waiting shoppers and gave me a dirty look. I felt like I was doing something illegal.

After a few minutes, the cashier, who was attending to a lady who was paying for her books with a check (annoying), asked me what I needed. I offered the shortest word combination I could muster, “Yosemite picture book.” He pointed to a table about 25 feet down and told me that the information desk was upstairs. To me, the information desk belongs close to the door, no? Anyway, I walked to the table. No Yosemite books.

I found the information desk upstairs and it, too, had a long line. 10 minutes passed before I spoke with someone. He reviewed his computerized inventory and found a suitable book for $34.95. Perfect. He told me I would find the book on a different table. Nope. No book. So I went back to the desk and started to wait for my third attempt at solving my problem. Good news in 4 paragraphs.

Nobody was at the desk now. Both attendants were off helping other customers. I saw one of them walk past with his name badge stuck in his pocket. He obviously didn’t want anyone stopping him with additional questions. He quickly walked past the line-up without making eye contact with any of us. The other one came back after a few minutes and immediately picked up the ringing phone. A baby started crying one aisle down. He got off the phone and asked what I needed. It was the same guy I spoke with 10 minutes earlier but he didn’t seem to recognize me.

I told him the Yosemite book was nowhere to be found. He told me that if it wasn’t on the table, it meant that it was “in the back” and he didn’t have time to get it for me. Hang on! “You mean there is no way for me to buy the book, even though you have it here in the store?” “That’s right.” “Just to be clear, you’re telling me that you currently have a book in the store that I would like to purchase but there is no way for us to complete that transaction?!” “Yes.”

This is unbelievable to me. Incredible. Amazing. Stunning. Can you believe it? The book was actually there! They had it. It was in stock, yet I had no way to buy it. Lord have mercy.

Now, here’s the kicker …

I felt like a stun grenade had gone off. The whole thing seemed so absurd. So I took a voluntary timeout and leaned against the escalator railing.

I took out my HTC Sensation phone (running Android on T-Mobile) and opened my Amazon app. I did a search for “Yosemite” and immediately found a beautiful book by Ansel Adams. It was $55 marked down to $34.65 (37% discount), 30 cents cheaper than the inaccessible in-stock book here at Barnes & Noble. Holding my breathe, I scrolled down to the shipping options. Amazingly, because I have Amazon Prime, I could get next day shipping for $3.99!

With a single tap, the screen advanced to notify me that my order had been placed. I should receive it tomorrow.

My Walnut Creek Barnes & Noble shopping experience had lasted about an hour so far. My Amazon shopping experience has lasted about 30 seconds. Why was I here? Why had I fought rush hour traffic to get here? Why were any of these people here? I’m sure the crying baby would’ve been happier at home. Me too.

Retail is in big trouble. Sooner or later, everyone will have an experience just like this one. And when they do, they will walk back to their car, vowing to never return. Unfortunately, my mother will never understand this tale, but at least she’ll get her Christmas present.

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My First Professional Speaking Demo Video

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After four years as a professional speaker, I have finally got a professional demo video to help me market my services. I hired a great videographer named Cony Manriquez and flew him all the way to New York City to record an event I did for Time Warner Cable and Bloomberg TV at the New York Institute of Technology.

He knew exactly what I wanted. We modeled the following video by Robert “Waldo” Waldman, a successful keynote speaker who relates lessons learned as a fighter pilot to the complexities of today’s business world. His video is excellent.

The goal was to create a 4-minute “sizzle reel” about this one event, the location, the people in attendance and the topic covered. It would’ve been great to include clips from some of my recent TV interviews but the stations rarely provide the high-resolution footage and we wanted to ensure the video quality was consistent throughout. Here is the final product:

I am now getting 500 DVDs produced and sending them to speakers bureaus, association management companies and corporate meeting planners around the country. I have a second list of 300 people internationally but that will come later. For now, I want to get my new video in front of the right eyeballs before the holiday season.

As mentioned in previous posts, video is the most important marketing tool in the speaking business. I truly believe that this higher-quality demo video could double my revenue next year. The next project will be a complete revamp of my speaking website. Once complete, it will feature this video, front and center, right on the homepage. Stay tuned.

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Steve Jobs: What Shaped His Genius?

Steve Job’s success stems from his own overflowing enthusiasm for the process he was a part of. Not only did that enthusiasm fuel his tireless focus and effort, involving tens of thousands of hours over four decades, but it also inspired those around him and was obvious and infectious during his product demonstrations. True passion and enthusiasm cannot be taught. They can only be encouraged. But the willingness to get excited like a teenager, regardless of age, is the single most important ingredient for legendary success. Steve Jobs had that willingness.

Becoming an Author

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Are you a celebrity? If so, you’ll have no problem getting into the speaking business. There are plenty of well-known people that end up on the stages of large conferences, even when they’re not particularly good speakers. As detailed in this post, keynote speakers get paid for one of two things: your ability to deliver a powerful message or your ability to drive registration, or both. If you’re a celebrity, you’ve got the second one in the bag, and that’s enough to get booked.

But what if you’re not a celebrity? Well, you’re going to need something and being an author is a great start. Have you written a book? If not, I suggest you consider doing so. It’s not as difficult as you might think yet there’s no question that people treat you differently once you’ve accomplished the task. Let’s take a look.

When I first started approaching speakers bureaus, I got a very cold reception. I sent out seven packages and followed up on each one with a phone call. The people I spoke with were all polite but also very candid with the facts. Without a book or a good demo video, there was no way they could get me booked.

First, I want to point out the “or a good demo video” part. If you’re not an author but you have a killer demo video, you can definitely make progress in the speaking business. As detailed here LINK, an awesome demo video is the #1 thing you need to get started as a professional speaker. But let’s get back to the book.

Re-Purpose Your Content

I knew what I had to do. I needed to become an author. And it was funny because I had wanted to write a book my whole life and at one point, even wrote out 120 pages of content on a Word document but never pulled it all together. So I pulled that content out and took a look. No good. I had written that stuff back when I was in my early 20s and it definitely reflected the naïve perspectives I had at that time.

In the end, I found an even easier solution. In 2007, I had written and recorded a series of 21 podcasts about small business marketing. Desperate for cash, I later combined those podcasts (each about 20 minutes long) into seven CDs. I sold those CDs at my free speaking engagements.

That was an ah-ha moment for me. The exact same audio content was available on the iTunes Music Store as free podcasts but here I was selling it to different people for $15 per CD. If someone bought all seven, it cost $105. Meanwhile, they could’ve downloaded the exact same thing for free.

What was the learning point? Everybody accesses information differently. The resourceful people search Google and iTunes and YouTube and countless other places for the information they need. And in most cases, they can find it there. Almost all information is available for free somewhere, if you look hard enough. But other people don’t want to waste their time (or are simply less resourceful) and go straight to Amazon to buy the book.

Have Something to Sell

At the beginning, I felt badly about selling the CDs when I knew perfectly well that the information was also available free of charge, but that soon changed. The people who attended my speaking engagements wanted to buy something. It almost didn’t matter what it was. They wanted to take action! Not all of them, obviously, but usually at least 30% of the room wanted to take something home. If I didn’t have anything for them to buy, they would’ve been disappointed.

Seriously. You might not believe that but it’s true. Some people are actually much happier when they have taken a step – even by buying something – towards their goals.

This is an important learning point. You will see this for yourself when you start speaking. Be sure to have something – SOMETHING – to sell. I’m not talking about the expensive coaching programs common in platform speaking circuits. Instead, I’m talking about a CD or a book. If your keynote speech is insightful and impactful, some of your attendees will want to buy something and they will be happier if you have something to offer.

Constructing the Content

Anyway, by re-purposing my content, I was able to engage the resourceful iTunes users while simultaneously having something to sell my speaking audiences. Could I re-purpose the content a third time for a book? Each CD was about one hour long – 60 minutes – and I speak at a rate of approximately 150 words per minute. That meant that each CD was about 9,000 words long, and all seven totaled about 63,000 words. That’s a book! Actually, that’s a pretty big book!!

The plan was simple. Write an introduction and a conclusion, then go through the whole thing to weave in some basic continuity and BANG, I would have my book. And that’s exactly what I did. So I ended up with 21 free podcasts, seven CDs and one book, all with the exact same content. Amazing.

By the way, I was always very up front about the overlap. I never tried to deceive anyone. In some cases, I would even explain exactly what I did to a given audience and people would still want to buy the book at the end, even knowing that they could download the podcasts for free.

People rarely buy a book simply for the information. Instead, they buy the book as a memento of the information. They want something to put on their shelf. They want a reminder of the information you shared. I read about a study once (but don’t remember the source) that claimed that only 19% of book buyers ever actually read the book. It’s only a memento.

Once I finished compiling the chapters along with my new introduction and conclusion, I formatted the recycled content and uploaded it to Lulu (in PDF format) along with a cover graphic (in TIFF format). My job was done. Six weeks later, the book was available on Amazon and I was officially an author.

Becoming an Author

The funny thing about becoming an author is that you only do it once. Whether you write one book or a dozen, you only become an author once. And when you’ve accomplished it, you’re an author for the rest of your life! In a way, writing that first book is the best deal of all. You get a lifetime of benefits for that initial effort. Meanwhile, writing additional books does little to improve your status.

The interesting thing is that people do treat you differently. Arguably, they probably shouldn’t but they do. Now, just to be clear, your friends don’t treat you differently, at least mine didn’t. It’s the people you meet for the first time. When you’re introduced as an author, they immediately treat you differently. They treat you with a certain amount of respect. It’s fun!

Starting from Scratch

I had two different options for slamming out a book on the fly. I could’ve polished the content I wrote in my early 20s but instead decided to repurpose the content on my CDs. But what if I had neither of those options? I soon discovered, while writing what would eventually become my second book, that the task of actually writing a book isn’t as daunting as I thought.

My speaking career was progressing but at an extremely slow pace. I was still speaking exclusively in the free circuit LINK and was scrambling to pay my bills each month. Every morning, while at the gym, I would brainstorm strategies to generate additional revenue. Building an email list was a great option because it would not only allow me to one day sell my own stuff but it would also allow me to promote other people’s products and earn affiliate commissions as a result.

I decided to sign up for an aWeber account and create a 52-week email course that people could subscribe to on my website. Once subscribed, they would receive one email each week for a full year. But did I have to write out all 52 emails before launching the program? No way! I wanted to start as quickly as possible so I did just enough to make it work.

Building an Email List

I created an outline for the entire course, identifying the topic each email would cover. I then wrote out the first two emails and launched the program. I signed up with my own email address right away so I was my own first subscriber. And from that point on, I just had to stay in front of myself to keep the program seamless.

Once confirmed, subscribers would receive the first email right away. The second email would come seven days later and the third would come seven days after that. So I had 13 days to write the third email and was forced to write at least one email every seven days thereafter.

I didn’t follow an even schedule. When I would finally get down to writing the emails, I would pump out five or six of them all at once, allowing me to relax for another month before needing to write more. But eventually, I would have to get back to it and write another batch. I wrote the last email just three days before I was due to receive it. But then, it was finally done. It had taken a full year but I was left with 52 emails and the makings of my second book.

The email course was getting great reviews. The subscribers, although less than I was hoping for, seemed to really love the content. On a number of occasions, I got replies from subscribers suggesting I compile the weekly tips into a book. Yet again, I was about to re-purpose my content. At this point, ironically, the only content I had ever written for the purposes of being a book (the stuff I wrote in my early 20s) was the same content that never made it to that format.

Those 52 weekly email tips became my second book. It was called “Webify Your Business” and had 60 chapters and each one had a step-by-step action guide at the end. The chapters were short because they were all previously emails, and that format was a big hit. People loved the short concise chapters and the to-do lists at the end were perfect.

Create an Outline

The point is that writing a book is a process. In my case, I didn’t realize I was writing a book but the process was the same. I created a detailed outline first and then hammered out the actual writing whenever I had time for it. The outline is, by far, the most important part. Allocate an hour every day for a week and get your topics organized. After that, the writing is fairly easy.

If you’re anything like me, when you first get started, you will only have a few broad topics you’d like to cover. But when you come back to it the next day, you’ll break those larger topics down into a bunch of smaller sub-topics. By the third day, you’ll start moving things around and adding even more details under each heading. And by the end of the week, you’ll end up with a three or four-page outline with every single topic listed in bullet point format.

Writing by the Numbers

When I sit down to write, I can focus for about three hours before my brain turns to jelly. And if I’m writing from a detailed outline, I can usually pump out about 1,000 words per hour, so that’s about 3,000 words per sitting. A solid book has about 60,000 words in it so 20 sittings would do the trick. 20 sittings! That’s not that many. Hypothetically, if you did one session each day from Monday to Friday, you’d be done in a single month!

For me, writing 52 weekly tips (which later became chapters) took an entire year but that’s because it didn’t need to be done any sooner. I didn’t realize at the time that my efforts would eventually become my second book. If I had known that, I would’ve allocated more time to get it done sooner.

If you want to become an author, get your outline done first. It’s a smaller task and will make the rest of the process infinitely easier. Your outline should be at least three or four pages long including detailed breakdowns of every single chapter. Once that’s done, the rest becomes manageable.

One more thing: always give homework! Everybody is happier when you give homework. It’s true. I learned this from my implementation checklists. That was the single best thing I did in the book. People absolutely love the checklists. And sometimes, when they ask me to sign their books, I see that they even put little check marks in the boxes. It’s awesome! So whatever you do, always give your readers homework.

Getting a National Publisher

Finishing the story, Webify Your Business was self-published just like my first book. But it did quite well so I eventually had the opportunity to essentially re-release the book with John Wiley & Sons, Inc., a national publisher. I wanted to use the same title but they wouldn’t allow it, so we ended up with “Marketing Shortcuts for the Self-Employed”.

I deleted six chapters that were out-of-date and added 26 new chapters, mostly about social media. So the new book had a total of 80 chapters! Also, since it had a different title, it looked like I had now written three books when, in fact, I had only written two. And as you now know, neither of those books were written with the intention of writing a book.

Without consciously writing a single book, I had three titles to my name!

I already have plans for my fourth book. The outline is already eight pages long. It still needs to be organized and structured but the basic concept is there. This will be my first deliberate attempt at writing a book (since my 20s, that is) and I can’t wait.

Support Your Speaking Topics

Your books play a major role in your speaking career. The source of your credibility comes directly from your books, but only if the topic is the same or similar. Nobody will hire you as a speaker about leadership if your books are about knitting. Make sure the topic (and title) of your book supports your speaking topics. Ideally, your book title and speaking title should be the same.

Robert “Waldo” Waldman is a professional speaker. His book is called “Never Fly Solo” and his primary speaking topic has the same title. Simon Sinek is another professional speaker. His book is called “Start with Why” and his speaking topic has the same title. From a branding perspective, it really works well.

This also means that you can channel your speaking career in any direction you like, just by writing a new book with the title you’d like to cover. My fourth book will be called “Fail Your Way to Success” and I will launch a matching speaking program at the same time. It will have an inspirational theme and will position me for a broader corporate audience. I’m psyched.

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Professional Keynote Speaker

Hire Patrick to Speak

Here are a series of posts that cover my knowledge of the professional speaking business and how to become a keynote speaker. I created this post to provide easy access and organization to the others, and will add more as I publish them.

  1. How to become a Keynote Speaker (1,960 words)
  2. Platform Speakers versus Keynote Speakers (1,265 words)
  3. 3 Levels of Speaking Engagements (1,316 words)
  4. Becoming an Author (2,579 words)
  5. How to Write a Killer Keynote Speech
  6. My New Speaking Demo Video (includes embedded videos)
  7. Review my $97 “Keynote Mastery” program for aspiring speakers!

Feel free to visit my own speaking-oriented website. It needs a lot of work but it’s a start. Also, here’s a link to my book on Amazon.

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I have created this post as a resource for aspiring speakers. If you know someone who would benefit from this information, please pass it along to them. Here is my 7-minute “Learned Intuition” TEDx video:

Patrick is a motivational speaker who has spoken about modern global business trends (including big data, entrepreneurship and the social media revolution) at conventions and business events around the world, including the following destinations:

Learn more about the following keynote speaking topics:

America’s Most Inspiring Small Business Speaker

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How to become a Keynote Speaker


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I earn about 80% of my income from speaking fees and the remainder from book sales. I haven’t done any coaching or consulting in almost two years. My speaking career has taken me to every major city in this country as well as destinations in Canada, Mexico, Aruba, Sweden, Finland, Portugal, Dubai, India, Bangkok and the Philippines. I absolutely love what I do!

A lot of people ask me about the speaking business so in this post, I will describe the path I’ve chosen and the things I’m doing to push my career forward. I also created a $97 Keynote Mastery program to help aspiring speakers get started. Check it out if you wish.

First, it’s important to understand that there are two very different categories in the speaking business: platform and keynote. Read Platform Speakers versus Keynote Speakers for more information. This post focuses exclusively on keynote.

Second, speaking engagements tend to fall into one of three different strata: the free circuit, the cheap circuit and the pro circuit. Read 3 Levels in the Speaking Business for more information. Becoming a keynote speaker implies that you’re getting paid to speak.

Saturate Your Market

Darren Lacroix (the Toastmasters 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking) frequently cites “stage time” as being critical to success in the speaking business. Bottom line; the more you practice, the better you get. I agree 100% and recommend you start with the free circuit in your local community to refine your message and fine-tune your delivery.

In 2008, I spoke at 47 Rotary Clubs in the San Francisco Bay Area and didn’t get paid for any of them. In 2009, I spoke at 127 events (!!) and got paid for only six of them, all in the cheap circuit. In 2010, I spoke at 68 events and got paid for 21, split evenly between cheap circuit and pro circuit. And in 2011, I will probably do 60 or 70 events and will get paid for 35 or 40 of them.

Let’s look at travel. In 2008, I traveled for two events (Vancouver and San Diego). In 2009, I traveled for four events (Sweden, Aruba, Phoenix and Chicago). In 2010, I traveled for 20 events (including India, Finland, Calgary, Vancouver and more than a dozen domestic destinations). And in 2011, I have been to every major city in the country as well as destinations in Mexico, Canada and one coming up in Portugal.

This is a process! On the one hand, it has gone slowly. But on the other, it has gone extremely quickly. But the point is that I have “walked the path” and encourage you to do the same. So far, I have four years invested.

Getting Started

Looking back now, those days in 2008 when I was driving from one Rotary Club to another were dreadful. But at the time, it was exciting. Yes, I was broke (seriously, I was living on roots and berries!) but I didn’t mind. It was all new territory for me and I felt like I was making progress.

How did I book all these Rotary Clubs? I used the club locator function on their website to compile a listing of 194 clubs in the Bay Area and Sacramento. Once compiled, I spent two days making phone calls and sending out emails. I created a 1-page PDF file for my programs and emailed it off to the Program Director of each club. The PDF file had the following elements:

  • Program Title
  • Program Description
  • Personal Biography
  • Personal Head Shot
  • Contact Information

When I first started, my program was entitled “Driving Internet Traffic” but many of the Rotary Clubs rejected that topic because it was too business oriented. Rotary International is a non-profit community organization. Even though they function as business networking groups, they focus a lot on charitable causes and community development. As such, my topic wasn’t a good match.

During the afternoon of my first day of outreach, I developed a second program that would better fit the community-oriented mission of the Rotary organization. And to this day, it was the worst title I have ever crafted for any reason. It was awful. And it took me almost a full year to realize how bad it truly was. The program I developed that day was called:

“Touching a Younger Audience”

So bad. Embarrassing. But anyway, the point is that I only invested two days for outbound calling and emailing. Now, to be clear, I didn’t have all 47 events booked by the end of the second day, but my outbound efforts were done at that point. There was a bunch of back-and-forth with different clubs and some didn’t get confirmed for weeks, but my job was done. All I had to do was follow up. You can obviously do the same thing. Here’s the key:

  • Think of an awesome juicy sexy title.
  • Write a captivating and enticing description.

Rotary Clubs are easy to get into because they meet weekly and are always looking for speakers, but they’re not the only ones. Kiwanis Clubs and Lions Clubs are in the same boat and these days, you can find dozens of local Meetup Groups that would also make great opportunities. Finally, I suggest checking with your local Chamber of Commerce. Not only do they hold events themselves, but they usually know about a lot of other events too.

Climbing the Ladder

Obviously, the objective is to rise above the free circuit and start earning speaking fees. Over and above all the outbound marketing I’ve done, the #1 thing that has helped my career move forward is positive word-of-mouth advertising. If your speech is insightful and impactful, people will pass your name along.

This is critical for success. That’s why I recommend saturating your local market first. As Darren Lacroix says, stage time, stage time, stage time. Practice makes perfect. Someone once asked Tony Robbins how to become a great speaker. He said, “give the same speech 1,000 times and you’ll be good at it.” Your career will not advance if your speech isn’t insightful and impactful.

Anyway, assuming you’ve crafted a powerful keynote, people will pass your name along. The interesting thing is that referrals from free circuit gigs are generally for more free gigs. Referrals from cheap circuit gigs are usually for more cheap circuit gigs and referrals from pro circuit gigs are usually for more pro circuit gigs. They are like parallel worlds. They seem to function independently of each other.

The easiest way to start pushing referrals higher up the ladder is to start telling people what your speaking fee is. When I first started referencing a speaking fee, I said it was $2,500. Later, it increased to $5,000 and then to $10,000. Anyway, as soon as you mention a speaking fee, the free circuit people start to think differently about you and your services as a speaker.

Referencing a speaking fee does not mean you can’t do events for less money or even for free. As I mentioned above, I still do free events today, when I have a hole in my calendar or if I want an opportunity to address a particular audience. The point is that you need to muster the courage to request a speaking fee before anyone proactively offers it to you.

The big events (with big budgets) usually book 6 or 8 months in advance. Generally speaking, as I get closer to a particular date, I will accept lower-paying opportunities. For example, I will no longer book any free events more than 45 days in advance. Beyond that, there’s still a reasonable chance that a paid opportunity will turn up. But within 45 days of the date, if I still have an opening in my calendar, I will book free events that contribute to my career objectives.

If a particular organization asks me to speak for free or for a low fee, I will give them a date when I will confirm my participation.  At that point, if they need to finalize their schedule, they will raise the fee to a point where I will confirm immediately.  Otherwise, they will have my tentative acceptance but will also know that something else may come up, requiring me to back out of their event.  For me, this approach has worked well.

Essential Marketing Collateral

As described in this post, most of the pro circuit opportunities are booked through speaker’s bureaus and agents, but don’t go knocking on their door too quickly. You only have one chance to make a good first impression and if you screw it up, it’s really hard to go back a second time. Trust me.

Always think about what the salespeople at the bureau (or the agents) need in order to do their job. More than anything else, they need a good demo video. I highly recommend making a good demo video before you approach any bureaus. Here is an example of an excellent demo video. Here are the four things you’ll need to enter the pro circuit:

  1. A good 3 to 5-minute demo video.
  2. Some great photos of you speaking.
  3. A printed one-sheet with your programs.
  4. A professional speaking-oriented website.

Ideally, get a three-camera shoot for the video: one on either side of the room and one behind you. That way, you can get two angles of you speaking as well as one of your back and the audience in front of you. That third angle will also allow you to get some close-up shots of audience members laughing or taking notes. For the two cameras facing you, make sure to get some close-up footage to show the expressions on your face. It shows your authenticity.

In terms of audio, I recommend a two-track recording: one lavaliere microphone on you and a second microphone to capture audience laughter. Audience reaction is extremely important. That’s what conference planners are buying. They’re buying an impact for their attendees. If the audience doesn’t react (i.e., laugh), you haven’t done your job and nobody will ever hire you. You want to make sure you capture that laughter on the video, so make sure you have a microphone on the audience. In your three- to five-minute video, you should be telling a powerful story with a strong message and at least two or three laugh lines.

When you record your video, you want to be in a big impressive room. Here’s what to look for:

  1. An audience of 200+ people.
  2. A raised stage.
  3. An impressive stage backdrop.
  4. Dimmed audience lighting.

You should be able to get everything you need at a single event. If you don’t have a big event booked, find a way to get 200+ people in a room. Make sure it’s an impressive room and then bring in a professional photographer and a videography crew. It’ll cost you some money but you can get the photos and demo video done all at one time, not to mention video testimonials from attendees. Remember, a good demo video is the single most important thing you’ll need.

Other Helpful Tips

Empty chairs kill events. The tighter the seating configuration, the stronger the audience reaction. So theatre style seating is much better than big round tables. And you’re always better to have too few chairs than too many.

Remember, for your programs, make sure you get a juicy sexy title and a tantalizing description. Program Directors make their selections based on your program title and description, along with your kick-ass demo video.

If you have been featured on any recognizable media outlets, get those logos onto your website and your one-sheets. If you have spoken to any large corporations, add those logos. They build immediate credibility.

If you have been interviewed on TV, add clips to your demo video. Again, here is an excellent example of an awesome demo video. Watch it. His entire introduction is done with a compilation of TV clips. Brilliant.

UPDATE (October 25, 2011): I just got my newest demo video. Here it is:

UPDATE (September 13, 2013): After almost 13 months, I finally have my Learned Intuition TEDx video.

I hope this post helps you chart a course for your evolution as a speaker. If so, please subscribe below and I’ll notify you when I post something new.

How many times will you speak this year? How many will you get paid for? Share your experience in the comments below.

Patrick is a business speaker who has spoken about modern entrepreneurship, online branding and the social media revolution at conventions and business events around the world, including the following destinations:

Learn more about the following keynote speaking topics:

America’s Most Inspiring Small Business Speaker

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3 Levels of Speaking Engagements

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The speaking business has three levels as follows:

  1. The free circuit.
  2. The cheap circuit ($1,000 to $3,000)
  3. The pro circuit ($5,000+)

These are my own labels. If you approach other speakers and ask them about “the cheap circuit,” they won’t know what you’re talking about.

The Free Circuit

The free circuit speaks for itself. And because you don’t get paid at these events, the only way you can make money is to sell stuff. So this circuit is pretty much reserved for platform speakers. Read Platform versus Keynote Speakers for more information on platform speaking.

Actually, let me add a bit more clarification. Just because it’s called “the free circuit,” doesn’t mean attendees don’t pay to attend. With the free circuit name, I’m not referring to registration fees. Instead, I’m referring to speaking fees. In the free circuit, speakers do not get paid. They speak for free. But attendees may or may not pay to attend.

The reason I make this distinction is because platform speakers definitely prefer to speak to audiences that did indeed pay to attend the event. The reason? Free events attract lower-quality attendees. People who attend free events are far less likely to purchase anything while at the event. By contrast, people who had to pay a registration fee to attend have already demonstrated that they are buyers.

Close ratios are consistently higher at paid events. So even if the speaker didn’t get a penny to speak, he or she will always be happier speaking at a paid event.

Recently, Tim Ferriss (author of the bestselling books The Four Hour Workweek and The Four Hour Body) held his first platform event. It was entitled Opening the Kimono and was held up in Napa on August 19 to 21, 2011. The sold-out event was limited to 200 attendees and the registration was a cool $10,000 each.

Anyway, he had two platform speakers at the event: Brendon Burchard and Eben Pagan. Although I wasn’t at the event, it’s safe to bet that Brendon and Eben both offered expensive programs to that audience. It’s a tremendous opportunity for them because every single attendee has already demonstrated that they’re ready to throw down some serious denaro for valuable information.

Tim Ferriss’ Opening the Kimono event was obviously an extravagant one but the free circuit also includes countless other events hosted by Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis Clubs, Lions Clubs, local Chambers of Commerce, small associations, Meetup organizers and church groups. These are all great places to practice your speaking, refine your message and fine tune your delivery. And if you have something to sell, you can make some money at the same time.

The Cheap Circuit

The cheap circuit is the beginning of the keynote category. If you’re getting paid to speak, you’re doing keynote. The difference between the cheap circuit and the pro circuit is that you book cheap circuit gigs directly while most pro circuit gigs are booked through bureaus and agents. But obviously, there are also substantial budgetary distinctions between the two.

All events are hosted by either non-profit or for-profit organizations. In the non-profit category, you’ll find associations and other small groups like Chambers of Commerce. In the for-profit category, you’ll find all the corporate events. Well, not surprisingly, the non-profit events tend to have smaller budgets. For example, although there are certainly exceptions, the majority of associations pay speakers in the $1,000 to $3,000 range.

No speaker’s bureau would waste their time on events like this. It wouldn’t be worth their time. So all these cheap circuit events are booked directly by the speaker. That means it’s the responsibility of the speaker to find these events and submit proposals.

In many cases, the industry association posts a calendar of events on their website. Industry-specific media outlets sometimes do the same thing (like Insurance Journal does for the insurance industry). Speakers can also rely on Google Alerts to notify them when new conferences or conventions are posted online (see Chapter 11). Lastly, platforms like SpeakerMatch help speakers and event planners connect directly.

The Pro Circuit

Events with speaking fees of $5,000 or more are generally booked through speaker’s bureaus or agents. So what’s the difference between bureaus and agents? Good question.

Speaker’s bureaus work for the client. A conference planner might call a bureau and say they’re looking for a motivational speaker. The bureau responds by offering a list of hundreds (or even thousands) of motivational speakers. They then offer recommendations and try to find the perfect fit between the organization, the event, the attendees and, of course, the speaker. But there’s no loyalty to the speaker. The loyalty is exclusively to the client. Speaker’s bureaus keep between 20% and 30% of the speaking fee as payment.

Speaker’s agents work for the speaker. A speaker can hire an agent to represent him or her directly. The agent then makes outbound calls to their rolodex of event coordinators, program directors and conference planners. The agent tries to sell the speaker into their upcoming events. In this case, the loyalty is entirely to the speaker and for that, agents commonly keep 50% or even 75% (!!) of the speaking fee as payment.

Between the two, representation from a bureau carries a lot more credibility. It shows that you’re good enough to be included in their rosters on your own merits. By contrast, any speaker can hire an agent. An agent is just like a publicist. No additional credibility is implied. In my opinion, it makes the speaker look desperate.

Speakers can work with as many bureaus as they want. Personally, I send my marketing collateral to about 200 speakers bureaus all around the world. But there are some advantages to “going exclusive” with one particular bureau. When you’re exclusive with a particular bureau, all incoming inquiries about speaking engagements are referred back to that bureau, even those coming to the speaker from other bureaus. If you’re a well-known speaker, that’s a great situation for the bureau. And in exchange, the bureau will promote the speaker more aggressively.

If you’re not a well-known speaker, there’s no advantage to offer exclusivity to a bureau. So until you’re rockin’ and rollin’, don’t worry about it.

Working with Bureaus

I’ve been told that you won’t get representation by a bureau until you no longer need one. In other words, bureaus want to work with well-known speakers. They don’t want to waste their time with unproven newbie speakers. Meanwhile, it is precisely these new speakers who need the representation. This dilemma exists in almost every corner of life and the speaking business is no different.

The key is to understand the value proposition. Speaker’s bureaus don’t exist to promote speakers. Instead, they exist to alleviate the administrative burden from the process. Calendar management, travel arrangements, logistic, contracts and fee collection are all frustrating aspects of the speaking business. Bureaus will handle all of that for you and that’s their value.

Don’t believe that a speaker’s bureau will solve your marketing challenges. That’s not their job. Marketing is always your own responsibility.

Having said all that, there’s also no question that you can establish a familiarity and track record with a bureau. If they book you for a few events and they all go well, the bureau will be more likely to recommend you in the future. And in that sense, they can indeed bring you new opportunities. The important thing is to always do a great job. If you’re truly a good speaker, the rest will take care of itself.

I hope this post helps you better understand the structure of the speaking business. I also have a comprehensive $97 Keynote Mastery program designed to help aspiring speakers build their speaking careers faster. Read all the details here.

Have you worked with a speaker’s bureau? If so, which one? What has your experience been like? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Platform Speakers versus Keynote Speakers

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There is a big distinction in the speaking business. About 90% of professional speakers are “platform speakers” and the remaining 10% are “keynote speakers.” So what’s the difference? Let’s take a look.

Platform speakers are always promoting something. They might be building exposure for the company they work for or selling an expensive coaching program. Or they might be driving registration for an upcoming event or selling a set of DVDs at the back of the room. One way or another, they make money by enticing the audience to do something, and the destination of their presentations is the sale.

Keynote speakers are paid to speak and don’t sell anything (except perhaps a book) during their presentations. The destination of their presentations is the message. Huge difference: the sale versus the message. Very different objectives.

Platform Speakers

The reason the vast majority of speakers are platform speakers is because there are no barriers to entry. Anyone can do it. And because of that, the quality level is often quite low. By contrast, there are huge barriers to entry for keynote speakers. For someone to pay you $5,000 or $10,000 to speak at an event, you have to have a track record. You have to be vetted.

You might think the bigger income potential is in keynote speaking but that’s not true. $10,000 sounds like a lot of money but good platform speakers can make far more. Consider the following platform speakers:

These are all platform speakers. They all have programs to sell. In some cases, they endorse others and help drive sales of their products, earning a commission in the process. And in many cases, the products or programs for sale costs thousands of dollars.

Do you remember the Real Estate Expo with Donald Trump? The Learning Annex put them on for a number of years during the real estate boom. Anyway, the one in San Francisco was held at Moscone Center and attracted over 60,000 attendees. Every single session was a platform session, except Donald Trump. In other words, every single session offered a program for sale, accept The Donald.

Donald Trump was the keynote speaker and he got paid a cool $1,000,000 to headline the event. Everyone else sold stuff. And in order to have that privilege (i.e., selling to such a large qualified audience), speakers had to give up 50% of their revenue and also pay an upfront fee for the opportunity. For example, those who held sessions in the big room (which can accommodate over 15,000 people) paid $50,000 up front, just to get in the door. Let’s look at the numbers.

I attended a number of sessions in the big room and one was for a stock market trading platform that issued buy and sell signals based on technical indicators. Although the “normal price” was supposedly $8,000, the speaker soon chipped the “buy today” price down to $2,000 (surprise, surprise). That particular session probably had about 4,000 people in attendance.

If he closed 5% of the room, he would’ve made 200 sales. And at $2,000 each, the revenue would’ve topped $400,000. With a 50/50 split on revenue, he would’ve kept $200,000 but let’s not forget the $50,000 up front fee. So after that expense, he would’ve netted $150,000. Not bad for a 75-minute session.

Most good platform speakers close between 10% and 20% of the room. If the stock market speaker closed 10%, he would’ve netted $350,000. If he closed 20%, he would’ve netted $750,000. The top platform speakers make millions.

Keynote Speakers

Meanwhile, I personally know two highly successful keynote speakers and they pull in about $600,000 and $700,000 respectively. Yes, that’s a lot of money, but it ain’t millions! There are only a handful of keynote speakers who have made more than $1,000,000 in a single year and the National Speaker’s Association (NSA) has their Million Dollar Club designation to recognize those who have.

As a keynote speaker, you get paid for one of two things, or both. You get paid for your ability to deliver a message. The goal is to have your message roll over, again and again, in the minds of attendees for days or even weeks. If you’re good at that, you’ll make more money. But you’re also paid to drive registration. If you have some celebrity cache, you’ll make more. Consider the following keynote speakers:

These keynote speakers all command massive speaking fees, ranging from about $45,000 to over $1,000,000, and they deserve it because they drive registration. People attend the conference just to hear them speak.

If you wish to make more as a keynote speaker, you have to cultivate more celebrity cache. If you’re an author and your book becomes a best seller, your speaking fee goes up immediately. The better known you are, the more you will make. But unless you establish huge celebrity cache (like the speakers mentioned above), it will be difficult to earn as much as a top platform speaker.

Why do Keynote?

So why pursue keynote speaking rather than platform speaking? That’s a matter of opinion but I can say from personal experience that keynote has a mysterious sexiness to it. People are wowed by it. In many cases, they are shocked that you can earn a living just by speaking. And the unconventional nature of the job makes it very alluring for those unfamiliar with it.

About three years ago, I decided to stop doing anything other than keynote. I stopped doing any coaching or consulting. I started saying “no” to platform opportunities and I focused exclusively on keynote. And although there were many factors that led to the ensuing developments, I can honestly say that this decision coincided precisely with my career taking off.

Platform speaking has no barriers to entry. It’s schleppy. There’s a lot of riff-raff and they’re always trying to entice people to attend their next event or buy their next product. I just don’t like it, so I’ve chosen keynote and I can honestly say that I love it. I love the allure and I love how unconventional it is. I don’t do 9 to 5 and rarely find myself in rush hour traffic. For me, it’s a no-brainer!

Make no mistake: getting into keynote speaking is difficult. Someone once told me that keynote was the hardest profession to get into, but the easiest to stay in once you get going. I have found that to be true. If you do a good job, every gig leads to two or three more, so it perpetuates itself nicely. And once you get some momentum, it’s a great lifestyle.

I hope this post helps you better understand the differences between platform and keynote speaking. I recently created a comprehensive $97 Keynote Mastery program for aspiring speakers. See more details here.


What have I missed? Do you do platform? Keynote? Why did you choose one over the other? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Comparing Google+ to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

Google Plus

Google+ has combined the best features of Facebook and Twitter. Like Facebook, users can establish closed relationships where both individuals include each other within their circles. This allows users to share personal information with family and close friends. But like Twitter, Google + also supports a one-to-many broadcast model where users can share announcements to a larger audience. As such, Google+ represents a threat to both Facebook and Twitter. Finally, the user interface is clean and intuitive, making it easy to use.

Google+ does not provide an effective way of sharing past and present work history as LinkedIn does. The primary advantage of LinkedIn is the advanced search capabilities. At a basic level, LinkedIn allows users to search by job title, not possible on Facebook, Twitter or Google+. But the advanced search on LinkedIn goes far beyond this basic capability, setting it apart from the rest of the pack. As such, Google+ does not represent an immediate threat to LinkedIn.

The opportunity for Google is to connect all it’s various services (including analytics, maps, search, youtube, voice, buzz, blogger, reader and docs among others) with the Google+ social network. Done properly, the resulting functionality could threaten all competitive platforms over time.

TV Interview on Sacramento & Company News 10

Last Friday, I did a 5-minute segment on Sacramento & Company News 10. It went really well and I’m excited to share it with all of you. Enjoy.