10 Secrets You Need to Know About the Speaking Industry

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Hey friend, Grant Baldwin here, bringing you a few secrets you need to know about the speaking industry.

I don’t think someone in the speaking industry can go from a complete nobody to delivering a keynote at a national conference “overnight.”

It doesn’t work like that. If you been in the speaking industry for any length of time you know what I’m talking about.

So how does someone like Melanie Deziel go from an “unknown” with no speaking experience to speaking in seven different countries and inspiring over thousands of people at 60+ events in less than two years?

Well, I’ll let you in on what has worked for her and for many of our students. But please note that “success” depends on several factors and can be measured many different ways. There are no guarantees.

What I’m sharing with you is Melanie’s story and what I wish someone would have told me before I started speaking.

What Melanie has been able to accomplish in a relatively short amount of time, in a competitive market like sales and marketing is remarkable. She’s not the kind of person that waits around for an answer or for inspiration to strike, she’s someone that uses her resources and creates opportunities.

Here are 10 secrets you need to know about the speaking industry and lessons you can learn from someone like Melanie.

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Secret #1: Speaking Success Depends On You

You could easily make excuses like:

  • I don’t have a valuable skill set
  • I don’t know the “right” people
  • I have kids
  • I don’t have enough time
  • I have a sick parent or family member
  • I work a full-time job
  • I don’t have a high-profile job
  • I live in rural Iowa and don’t have the same opportunities as a city person

Or you could put your head down and get to work despite your situation. And that’s what Melanie Deziel did. She put her blinders on and started doing the work. From that work, she’s been “successful.”

How do I define or measure success?

It’s not by the number in your bank account. It’s not by how many likes you have on Facebook, Tiktok, or Instagram either.

Success is subjective and defined differently by each individual, but for me, I define success by giving speakers the confidence they need to make an impact.

Is Melanie successful? Absolutely.

She’s successful because she follows a strategic formula that has built her confidence — which makes her a highly sought after speaking. That, to me, is success. And that’s the first secret you need to know about the speaking industry: speaking success depends on you.

For Melanie, her success depends on her ability to work hard and persevere. She’s not the kind of person to blame others or depend on someone else to make her successful.

If I had to guess, she’s someone that accepts a challenge and creates the opportunities necessary to grow.

Melanie fell into speaking when her boss at The New York Times asked her to fill in for a colleague who was unable to speak at a conference in Florida.

The presentation was supposed to be about social media, something Melanie was familiar with, but she’d never prepared a presentation for the stage before and she hadn’t spent much time with the NYT’s “Psychology of Sharing” report, which the audience would be sure to have questions about.

She knew that success depended on her ability to learn the material and to present the findings. Even though she could have put the responsibility on her boss and asked him to prepare her, she didn’t. Instead, she went home, locked herself in a room (half kidding), read the research and dug deep into what needed to be done.

She knew that if she was going to be successful, she better be prepared for the job ahead.

Success depends on you. That’s the first secret you need to know about the speaking industry. Embrace the challenge and accept where you are.

Secret #2: Work Hard to Build your Speaking Career

You probably consider yourself to be a hard worker. Most people do. But can you honestly say you’re spending your time wisely?

Are you working on tasks that will lead you to a tangible result?

You might be working a full-time job and trying to figure out this speaking thing on the side. Yes, that is hard work, but are you strategic in how you approach potential clients?

Working hard is essential, but only if you have a plan to work. Without a plan, work is worthless.

Melanie wasn’t on Facebook, Instagram or listening to a podcast and calling it “work.” She was very organized about her outreach and used many techniques in Booked & Paid to Speak that resulted in leads and follow up opportunities.

And by organized and methodical, I mean she created a massive spreadsheet of potential events and did a ton of strategic outreach, tracking each contact so she could follow up and reduce back and forth.

She also used her network of strategic friends and fellow speakers for leads and recommendations on non-competitive events.

Melaine needed experience and she was willing to go to the not-so-glamourous events to get it. She worked hard and still does to this day.

She did the work to get in front of the right people. And she used a proven system like Booked & Paid to Speak to get where she wanted to go.

Melanie would respond to any praise on social media from folks who attended her speaking engagements. She would follow up with requests for endorsements and testimonials whenever possible.

Again, the hard work to make the impact she craved.

Melanie teaches marketing professionals how to use stories in their advertising — something that isn’t mainstream, yet. She’s working hard to make Native Advertising (brand storytelling) an essential conversation among sales and marketing teams.

She is making waves and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down in the future. Melanie is a hard worker and if you want to be successful, especially in the beginning you need sacrifice.

Secret #3: Think Long Term & Set Goals for your Speaking Business

Event planners start booking events six months to a year in advance. This isn’t a last-minute industry where people are scrambling two days before an event. If you think months down the road and start reaching out now, you’ll have a better booking conversion rate.

Melanie was constantly on the hunt for events months in advance. She would keep a record of each and every event she wanted to contact.

Long list + long term goal = high success rate.

You don’t want to be that person that procrastinates and misses the opportunity. Do yourself a favor and track every email you send and when you replied. This will make your life easier and you’ll be able to quickly follow up with an email that hasn’t been addressed in 3 weeks.

Think ahead and plan with detail. You’ll thank Melanie and me later.

If you visualize your future often, chances are it’ll become reality faster. Ever hear the story about Jim Carrey and how he wrote himself a check for $10 million and post dated it Thanksgiving 1995?

At the time he was broke and didn’t have the success he has today, but he would drive through the rich part of town and visualize directors saying, “I like your work.” He would then look at the check in his wallet, and envision that money.

And right before Thanksgiving 1995, Jim got the call that he’d would make $10M on Dumb and Dumber.

Coincidence? I think not. He saw it happening. Then he felt it in his blood. He envisioned life as a millionaire. And he never doubted that it would happen. There were times when it looked doubtful, but he set a big, long-term goals and acted as if it was already happening.

He wasn’t sitting on the couch wishing for $10M, he was working in the industry, getting gigs and honing his craft. This is the next secret you need to know about the speaking industry. Get out there, get your hands dirty and visualize your life as you want it to be.

It’s important to set goals. Without them, you have nothing to work towards or measure. Set a goal, think long-term (3 months, 6 months, 12 months), take action and keep going. You’ll get there. I believe in you.

Secret #4: Build Relationships

Building a relationship with a complete stranger takes time. But what if that person wasn’t a stranger and you had a connection?

People do business with people they know, like, trust. Event coordinators hire speakers they like and that will make them look good. If you’re hiring a speaker for an event or any type of service professional for something, all things being equal, you’re going to hire someone you actually like and trust.

Not only should you be building relationships with coordinators, but with other speakers. My first full year as a speaker, I got most of my gigs from other speakers.

Melanie says she had a similar experience. Often, as soon as she would get off stage, someone from the audience would ask her to speak at their event or if she worked privately consulting or doing live workshops. But many times, it was her fellow speakers who would follow up after, suggesting events, making introductions, or suggesting her in their place for gigs they couldn’t take.

So building relationships with other speakers are critically important for booking gigs and building your business, but it’s also valuable for camaraderie. Being a speaker can be very lonely and isolating. You have amazing highs and terrible lows so it helps to have other people on the journey that you can talk to, lean on and learn from.

Secret #5: Be Awesome On And Off The Stage

Nobody wants to do business with someone that doesn’t respond to emails or questions. And surely no one wants to work with a full blown diva that requires your pick up car to be a pleasant 72 degrees with fresh bottled water awaiting your arrival.

You have to be awesome off the stage as well as on the stage. If you hate going back and forth with emails, hire a customer service rep or VA (virtual assistant). People need to love working with you or they’ll never hire you again.

In the beginning, you need to be both sides of the business. You need to be the speaker and the booking agent. You’ll need to get them what they need as fast as possible. And after a few times, you’ll know exactly what they need and you’ll already have it prepared and waiting.

You can’t go from a nobody to rockstar if you suck behind the scenes. Make high-quality communication a priority so that they’ll be remembered for years to come.

Melanie quickly realized how time-consuming the back end of the business can be. It wasn’t easy to be working a full-time job and handling the email correspondents for speaking gigs after putting in a full day’s work, but it’s a necessary evil.

Be awesome on stage and off and eventually you’ll have the funds to pay someone to do it for you.

Secret #6: Your Best Marketing Is A Great Talk

Word-of-mouth marketing is the best way to get more gigs. That’s the next secret you need to know about the speaking industry: Once you slay your speech, people talk about you like you’re the best new pizza place in town.

After Melanie starting talking regularly, people would be reaching out to her looking for consulting or in-person workshops. Her talk was her best marketing.

She has a room full of ideal clients sitting and listening to her message, hanging on her every word. A live experience where you get to meet people in person is better than any Facebook Ad in the world.

The impact and marketing she’s been able to create for herself have been outstanding, and this is completely normal for the speaking industry. Once you start, one gig leads to the next and the rest is history, as they say.

Give a great talk and “marketing” will become much easier.

Secret #7: Stop Looking For A Unicorn

Speaker bureaus don’t care about you. I hate to burst your bubble, but I can almost guarantee that bureaus are not interested in you. In episode 24 of The Speaker Lab Podcast, Premiere Speaker’s Bureau President Shawn Hanks said, “I manage demand, I don’t create demand.”

Meaning if you aren’t already getting a lot of demand and people aren’t interested in your talk, a bureau isn’t going to magically create that demand for you.

Bureaus aren’t magical unicorns that will get you the exposure you’re looking for. You need to create your own exposure before a bureau will even engage with you.

I wasted too much time, in the beginning, trying to connect with bureaus or find agents who would bring me bookings, it didn’t happen.

The bottom line is if you can’t book yourself, a bureau or agent isn’t going to be able to book you either. So stop looking for a unicorn that doesn’t exist. You’re better off creating the connections on your own and reaching out organically.

Connect with strategic partners and people that you know. Do the work and stick with the process. It’s not easy, but no one ever said it was.

Secret #8: Invest in Your Speaking Career

If you want to grow your business, you must continue your education. Melanie didn’t know anything about speaking until after she’d been on stage a handful of times. At that point, she realized it was time to invest.

You can’t grow as a speaker if you’re not learning about yourself, the business and how to make an impact. When you invest in online courses and learn the art of speaking, you’re investing in self-confidence.

I believe that when you’re a confident speaker, your message will impact the audience and change lives. Melanie enrolled in Booked & Paid to Speak and once she did that, her confidence grew because she knew the steps and had a system to follow for proven success. Invest in your education and you’ll cut your learning curve time in half.

Secret #9: Find Your Niche

You can’t speak about everything to everyone. This is a rookie mistake, my friend. The primary reason you might be thinking like this is that all you want to do is speak.

You don’t care who it’s to or what the talk is about. (Not a good mindset by the way.)

There comes a time when you must draw a line in the sand and pick the audience you best want to serve. It’s better to have ruthless focus than to talk to everyone about nothing.

Melanie happens to be in one of the most competitive fields on the planet; sales and marketing. How was she able to niche down?


She has a background in journalism and loves teaching marketers how to use storytelling in their paid advertising. Native advertising, if you’ve never heard of it, is a cross between advertising and journalism. It takes the form of valuable, informative or entertaining stories like you might see in a newspaper or magazine, but it’s actually a paid advertisement.

Brilliant, right?

There’s tons of opportunity for education in the field. The industry needs someone like Melanie to teach native advertising to hungry marketers looking to create revenue streams and content that stands out from the rest.

There is a lot of confusion around native advertising which leaves the door wide open for Melanie to establish herself as an expert. Plus, she’s able to use her skills and passion for storytelling to make an impact — something she wasn’t able to do sitting at her desk.

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Secret #10: Be True To You

The nature of speaking is that you’re gone a lot. You’re away from your family, friends and what most people consider a “normal life.”

Being a speaker can be a lot of fun, but it can also be very lonely, isolating and draining. You spend a lot of time on planes, waiting at airports, sitting in hotel rooms, and eating meals by yourself.

It’s not as glamorous or sexy as most people think. Yes, the money can be good and you get to travel, but there are pros and cons to everything.

One of my favorite sayings is, “Who you are is more important than what you do.”

Repeat after me — Who you are is more important than what you do.

Meaning, if you’re a great speaker and every audience and event planner love you, but you suck as a husband, wife, or parent — it’s not worth it. That’s the last secret you need to know about the speaking industry. Who you are off the stage is more important than who you are on the stage.

It’s worth it to devote the time and energy to personal relationships that matter. If you’re a great speaker, but you’ve pushed your family away to make it happen, what’s the point. It’s worth it to be true to yourself, but not at the expense of your family and friends.

I’m sure when Melanie was on the road for 11+ weeks in 2016, she missed family and friends, but when she’s home, it’s time to be home. When you’re present you’re honoring and showing ultimate respect for the people that support you. Give them your time and attention when you’re home.

In episode 60 of The Speaker Lab Podcast, I interview my wife Sheila on how we made it through the years when I was constantly gone. Having that foundation with your family and friends is so much more important than a 5 figure check or a standing ovation.

Set your priorities and keep an open line of communication. You’ll be surprised at how many more doors will open with you have work and personal boundaries set.

And remember, who you are is more important than what you do.

What makes Melanie so successful?

She put in the work and built confidence by taking action. She used a system that worked and made it happen for herself.

No excuses, no blaming others — just good ‘ol fashion hard work with a proven plan of attack.

You deserve success just like anyone else. Melanie isn’t a unicorn with magical powers. She does the work, takes strategic action and creates her opportunities.

You can too!

“It may have looked like I was running away from my 9-5, but in reality, I was running toward the chance to use the stage as a platform to help, reach and teach many more marketers and storytellers.” — Melanie Deziel

You’ve learned the 10 secrets you need to know about the speaking industry. Now it’s your turn.

What opportunities are you running towards?

How are you using the stage to impact the audience?

Till next time…happy speaking!


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