Grant Baldwin: Welcome back to the Speaker Lab podcast. My name is Grant. Today we are joined by my buddy Dan Miller. Dan is an author and speaker. You may know him from the book 48 Days to the Work You Love. It’s a New York Times bestselling book. That book had a huge impact on my own life, and I’ve been privileged to hang out with Dan quite a bit and become a friend of his.
And so I’m excited to chat with him today. We talk about speaking, how he got into speaking, and how speaking fits into his current business and his business model because he’s someone who does a lot of different things.
And I think for a lot of people who may be listening to this, I think you may be in a similar spot where some of you may want to speak full-time and some of you may say, I want to be a speaker, I want to be an author, I want to be a blogger or a podcaster or a coach or consultant.
And Dan is someone who does all of these different things. So we talk about how speaking fits into the mix of that. We also talk about how he has used speaking to create some spinoff products. He’s done a really good job at that.
As well as he’s someone who’s hosted his own events. So we talk a little bit about that as well. And then finally, make sure that you stick around to the end where Dan’s going to share his story. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but we’ve tried to have this recurring theme when we bring guests on the show asking them a time when it couldn’t be worse than this.
And so Dan has a great story where the weather affected the speaking engagement he was getting ready to present at. So you’re not going to want to miss that story at the end. Here is my chit-chatting conversation with my buddy Dan Miller.
How are you today, sir?
Dan Miller: Hey, I’m excellent. Looking forward to our conversation.
Grant Baldwin: I always enjoy the opportunity to chat with you. As we moved to Nashville almost a year ago at this point, I know I’ve told you the story, but you are partially to blame for this. I think it was about almost two years ago or so, I was in town for an event with you that I came to your place for, that you were hosting.
And while in town I start to realize the number of great people that are here and went back from that and mentioned it to my wife and she said, yes, sounds great.
And so that backfired and we live here and you’re partially to blame for it.
Dan Miller: Oh, I remember that story. That was great.
Grant Baldwin: But it’s been phenomenal. And I know we’re a couple of miles from each other, but great to be here in Nashville.
All right. Let’s get onto the speaking stuff. So you are someone that has done a lot of speaking over the course of your career. You’ve used speaking in a variety of different ways to build your business. So let’s talk about where you’re at today in terms of speaking.
How much speaking are you doing? What events are you speaking at? How does speaking fit into your current business?
Dan Miller: My goal is to speak once a month. Now that’s probably not in line with most of the people you’re talking about here who really want to aggressively build their schedule. But I’m at maybe a different season in life. But more than that, I have a business model that allows me to only want to speak once a month.
Do I love it? Absolutely. But I don’t want to be gone. I love where we live and where I work. So once a month fits well with my schedule.
Now what I look for in terms of events. I want to speak at events where the audience is somebody that’s going to connect with the other things that I have to offer in my business.
So to go to a convention and speak really isn’t on my radar, but it’s people who are in this same space who I can introduce to some of the live events, the other products that we do, affiliate relationships, and all the things that we do in the backend. Those are the places where I really enjoy speaking.
Grant Baldwin: And I think that’s so important for people to learn and recognize. A lot of times speakers, both new and veterans, almost look at it like a gun for hire. I’m going to come in, I’m going to speak, and I’m going to go home. I got my check. And that’s the end of the transaction.
But I like taking that higher-level view of what happens beyond the stage. How do I continue to speak to the right audiences that can be more than this one-off event, but it’s the type of thing that they’re going to really be interested in what I do long-term, beyond that stage experience?
So for people that may not be familiar with you, tell us about your work beyond speaking so we can maybe get a better idea of the types of events that maybe you like to speak at.
Dan Miller: I’m probably most known as an author, so I love writing books. My books have served me very well. But again, if I depended on the little peanuts that come in from advances and royalties on books, I wouldn’t be living the kinda life that I live today.
Now, we aren’t extravagant, I don’t mean to imply that, but income from books is not what most people think, even when you have a couple of New York Times bestseller books. So I want to use the books as an introduction to other things that I do.
That introduces people to coaching that I do, and then we train coaches, and then we have a coaching mastery program. We have an event called Innovate where we help people release their creative ideas.
And then I develop products. I develop a lot of products. That can be a new audio product or it may be an ebook or maybe an online course, but those are always to simply continue to share my core message.
And that’s what I encourage speakers to do: identify your core message. Once you do that, then it’s a matter of what are the multiple ways that you can allow people to experience that.
Grant Baldwin: How did you arrive at that core message?
Because that’s a question I get a lot of times from people. A lot of people say we speak a time or two and we have this euphoric, fun experience. It’s like, that speaking’s really fun. It’s a great experience. So most of us were like I want to speak again. I don’t care to who or I don’t care what I’m talking about. I want to speak more.
So how did you refine and nail down and figure out what that core message for you was that you could speak about?
Dan Miller: There’s a little formula that we use, and I actually heard it really developed well at a Brendan Burchard event, Experts Academy. It’s a three-part sentence where it goes, “I help blank do, know, or understand blank so they can blank.”
Any of us can fill that in. So who is it that you help? What do you help them do? Why? So you fill that in. For me, it’s easy to fill that in. I want to help high-potential individuals understand their greatest talents and apply that in daily work that is meaningful so they can leave an impact and thrive financially. So it’s pretty easy.
Alright, so who am I going to be in front of where I can convey that message? That’s pretty easy for me to look at. Who are those high-potential individuals? People who have proven their ability to get in the game. They’re interested in the same things that I am, and so those events are easy targets for me to want to speak at.
Grant Baldwin: What would be some examples of those types of events? Because it seems the high-potential individuals that really want to maximize life, they could fall into a bunch of different categories. It could be authors, it could be entrepreneurs, it could be moms, it could be dentists.
So how do you start to narrow down and figure out which events make the most sense for you?
Dan Miller: It’s going to be events like social media marketing. Social Media Marketing World is going to have about 3,000 people there. And they’re people who are bloggers, podcasters, authors, speakers, and coaches. Even beyond that, corporate people who are looking for how to leverage their message. So they’re all looking for, how can I leverage my message?
My message blends in with that absolutely perfectly. Events like Podcast Movement, and events like Launch. Those are the things where there’s a natural audience who is eager to look at how can I do what you’ve done. A lot of the people that I speak to are people that want to do what I’ve done as an author, speaker, and coach. So those events are pretty easy to identify and those are ones where I’d love to have a little time to share ideas with the audience.
Determining Where Speaking Fits In
Grant Baldwin: I like what you described there, that author, speaker, coach, and I think that’s where a lot of people are. There are certainly going to be people who want to speak, maybe want to do it full-time, and that’s kind of their bread and butter. But a lot of people would say, I want to build a platform. I want to build a personal brand. And speaking happens to be part of that.
So for you, as your business has gone along and evolved, how have you determined and figured out where speaking fits? Because I would assume that at different points and different seasons, as you alluded to, speaking may take a bigger or a smaller piece of the pie than at another time in life. So how have you figured that out and navigated that in your speaking?
Dan Miller: I think I’ve spoken at every Rotary club within a hundred miles of Naville, good group, good solid business people, and I’m sure that had a lot to do with helping me grow and develop my business. But I really don’t do that much anymore. Those civic organizations take a lot of time. I would much rather do what we’re doing here. Jump on Skype, and do an interview. You don’t have to carve out half a day to do that, and you reach thousands more people than you’re going to. So I look for things that give me maximum leverage like that.
So over the years, instead of booking myself full to do those little civic groups, and even then other things, a real estate convention or an executive or a leadership convention or something like that, those don’t really get on my radar. It’s easy to narrow down to the groups that are going to be people who are like-minded, who are interested, and who are somewhat on the same path as me.
So I’m not going to go in and speak to a group of ladies who sell cosmetics, probably, because there’s not enough commonality there that it really interests me. There are a lot of things I did. Here’s an example, I spoke at a university up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It’s Western Michigan University. They wanted me to come up. They have a thing called the Custer Lecture series, and they’re using one of my books in one of their courses there.
So there’s a pretty strong tie there. I thought, eh, Kalamazoo, Michigan. Why would I go to Kalamazoo, Michigan? Do you want to know how I made that decision? Two things. One is there’s a guy in my Mastermind who lives there, who owns a company there.
I told him and he said, oh my gosh, come spend a day with me. The second thing was the Gilmore Auto Museum is there. So I went primarily because of what I was going to do surrounding the 45 minutes that I was going to do the presentation. That was enough to tip the scale for me. So I went, they paid me 10 grand, and I put in my 45 minutes.
But what I really loved about the trip was the next day at the Gilmore Auto Museum with my friend Tom.
Stumbling into Speaking
Grant Baldwin: That’s definitely one of the nice byproducts of speaking. I was talking to someone the other day about whether or not they should negotiate, and I said one of the negotiation tools that you can use in determining if it’s a place that you want to go. And I’ve jokingly said that I’d go speak for free in Hawaii if someone will pay for my family to come tag along. So that’s definitely a nice little perk of speaking.
Now I want to go back a little bit because you’ve done a lot in your entrepreneurial career. How did you get into that? Talk to me about how you first got into speaking. What was that like for you?
Dan Miller: I was not trying to position myself as a speaker. The whole beginning of the businesses that I do today started because I was teaching a Sunday school class.
That’s a very soft form of speaking, but I was simply sharing principles on this career life transition, and the things that we all go through. Inevitably, that little class grew and we would typically have 40, to 50 people in there.
And then I moved it to a Monday night to allow people from the community to come, and we would usually have 70 or 80 people there. And then I had an opportunity to get on local radio. We’re going to have 600 to 700 people live listening at any given time.
And those things allowed me enough exposure that I started to get requests. Will you come to speak to our group? Will you come to speak at our career transition program that we’re doing on Tuesday night?
And so I started doing that. Again, very soft introduction to speaking. I wasn’t trying to position myself as a paid speaker. That came much later. I probably spoke a thousand times to groups where I knew it was good community service or it was even good for the business that I was growing as a coach.
But it was much later that I even looked at it seriously as a speaker, and then I engaged a speaking coach. Now, I’ve also had a speech coach. That’s different, and you’ll understand that. I have a speech coach who’s worked with me to push me up against the wall and push my shoulders back, and he says, okay, now you’re speaking from your diaphragm. That’s where you want to speak when you’re in front of an audience, or even when you’re doing a podcast so your voice doesn’t go into vocal fry.
But then I’ve also had a speaking coach, someone to help me grow the speaking part of my business. And in doing that, it was really enlightening because that’s when it became clear to me that I don’t want to really build a robust speaking career. I want to do that one or two times a month only, and have it be a part of the other things that I actually enjoy.
Grant Baldwin: Gotcha. That makes total sense. So you were doing a lot of local things — from doing the Sunday school class to hosting it on a Monday night to doing the radio show to speaking at some local civic groups. It sounds like in some ways you were more or less stumbling into speaking or that speaking found you perhaps.
So was there ever a point or a time where you were doing enough of this that you felt like, I think there’s something here. I could do this professionally or I want to do this more. Or maybe even at what point did you decide to “turn pro’ and start charging for it? How did you reach that conclusion?
Dan Miller: It evolved, and I’m friends with Mark Sandborn and Tim Sanders and Andy Andrews, and Ken Davis. People who get paid, who really have done very well as professional speakers. But it’s never been really appealing to me.
But because of the quantity of requests that I was getting, I finally discovered it didn’t serve me well and probably didn’t serve my audience well to keep doing it as a free addendum to what I was doing.
It would put me in this frustrating position where I felt like I owed it to somebody to go, but then I would resent doing it. I don’t want that to be part of what I do, so I thought to make it a part of my business that does fit, I need to position myself and have a fee for that.
So I align myself with Premier Speakers Bureau here locally, where they established a fee. They put it out there, and it gives me a really nice reference point that says, here’s what my speaker’s bureau normally charges.
So when somebody comes to me, it’s a great starting point for the conversation. But it was a matter of positioning it so that it made sense with the rest of my business. It was never designed as now I’m going to really launch this to be a significant part of my income and business. Not at all.
Products and Resources
Grant Baldwin: So as you’re beginning to do more speaking engagements, not one-off events that you’re speaking at, but it’s more something to leverage for the rest of the business and other different products and resources. So what were some of the products and resources that you’ve developed over time that you’ve utilized in selling at events?
Dan Miller: When I sell at events, it’s very soft. I usually don’t have products at the back of the room or anything. It’s simple. I always have a resource that people can get, where they can go there and get a resource, and it lets me know they’re interested, then we can nurture that relationship.
Here’s an example. I spoke at New Media Expo in Las Vegas last year, and I think they paid my way out there and gave me a free ticket to the thing, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t get paid any fee for that. So why would I do that? I was talking about that at a conference that we do here for coaches.
Had a gentleman in the back of the room that raised his hand, and said, I think I know why you would speak there for free. Now he’s a physician. He described that he had a friend who went to that conference and heard me. He wasn’t even there personally, but somebody, a friend of his, heard me and said, you need to check this guy out.
He went online, and checked me out. He came to our Coaching with Excellence, $1,000. He came to Innovate, $1,000. He upgraded to Coaching Mastery, $5,200. He got in my Mastermind, $3,600.
I was writing on the board as he was talking to me, and we got the $12,000 from this one individual who had a friend who heard me speak. That’s why I speak. It’s that. And again, this is not some manipulation thing. It’s simply to introduce people to the things that I really am invested in. Speaking allows me to do that and allows a very soft introduction to the other things I think might help somebody fuel their own success. But I make my money on the back end, not on the stage.
Grant Baldwin: Yeah, I’ve experienced a lot of the same thing. I remember speaking at a conference a couple of years ago and I went and spoke at it for free, paid my own travel, and so yeah, described on paper, I guess you could say I lost money. But as a result of that, I was able to pick up some coaching clients, and we picked up several people that joined some of our different courses and programs.
I was able to get booked to speak to do the keynote the following year, this past year. And so you can look back, and you can attribute several thousand dollars to this ” free” speaking engagement. So I think you’re exactly right. I totally agree that it can be leveraged in a lot of different ways beyond that one point.
And I want to talk more about that. But one of the things that you mentioned was that at the event, rather than doing a bunch of hard pitches or sales for something, you said you offer them some type of resource so that you can nurture that relationship. What resources do you offer? What does that look like?
Dan Miller: I’m going to give you a good example here. If you go to 48days.com, you’ll find a really robust overview of how to define your core message and then how to leverage that with products, live events, affiliate commissions, referrals, coaching, and all those things that we’re talking about here.
So I simply do that, something that will help people on their own path to success. But having done so, here’s another example. I spoke recently and I said, “If you go to 48days.com/clients, there is Dan’s 10 Tips for Getting Your First Paid Coaching Client. We had a couple of thousand people do that in 24 hours.
Do you know what I have been able to make on the back end? Here’s an example. For our last Coaching with Excellence event that we do it right here at our little barn on our property in Franklin. We had some seats left that were open for that event.
So I contacted my team and I said, we’ve got these people who raised their hand already. We went through that list of people who had downloaded that form on Dan’s 10 Tips for Getting Your First Paid Coaching Client, and we got 18 additional registrants for our event at a thousand dollars a piece. It’s so easy to track. That’s crazy. And it’s not like we wear those people out.
People can unsubscribe. People have identified, and I’m interested in that. And then having done that, we have a really robust product suite of things that we can offer them that might help them.
Speaking or Products first?
Grant Baldwin: Which came first for you in your evolution of the business? Did the speaking come first and then you decided to make products out of that? Or did you start creating some of the 48 Days products and then that led to speaking? What was that timeline there?
Dan Miller: The product scheme first. The product scheme first. I’m pretty much an introverted man. I’m energized by solitude. I like to work by myself to think and create and read and connect with people like this. That’s my preferred mode of operation. The products came first. My heart is really in the product. The speaking came as a tangent because of the products. I get requests like the one I mentioned up in Michigan because they’re already using one of my books for a course that they have. The products lead. The speaking is on the backend.
Grant Baldwin: Would you recommend that for any speaker that starts with products? Develop some of the products, and then begin speaking based on that, or vice versa or depend on the person?
Dan Miller: Totally depends on the person. There’s not one right way to do it, and frankly, the way I did it would be way too slow for somebody that wants to position themself as a speaker. That really takes a lot of time. So if you want to be a speaker, no, go ahead and position yourself as a speaker. Promote appropriately for that. Get out there in the game. Have back-of-the-room sales where you can promote your own products. To do it where you lead with products, that’s going to be a very slow process.
Core Message Across Products
Grant Baldwin: I think you’re best known for your 48 Days for the Work You Love books, which if people haven’t checked out, I highly recommend. That was, I think I’ve told you, eight years, going through my own little quarter-life crisis, trying to figure out what I wanted to do when I grow up, a pivotal book for me and always highly recommend it.
But that’s definitely one of the books that you’re known for. But you also have a variety of other products. So in terms of utilizing those products in your speaking, what are some of the other products and services that you offer now, and how do you tie those into your speaking?
Dan Miller: They all continue to relate to that core message. So I have book titles like Wisdom Meets Passion, No More Dreaded Mondays, and Rudder of the Day. Those still leverage that same message. So it’s not like a diversion or I have to introduce them to something new.
So when I speak, it’s always going to be about finding your passion, then identifying what would be work that would embrace that passion so you have work that’s meaningful and fulfilling, and profitable. So the materials are an extension of that. Anything I have is an extension of that. So it relates to where somebody is at a particular time, where a particular title may engage them.
I talked this morning to a gentleman who’s been a pastor for years, and he’s making the switch to being a coach. He thought that he had defined the career he was going to be in for the rest of his life, and yet it was a crisis that came up because of some health issues. It really identified that he was extremely burned out and doing a whole lot of things that he really didn’t want to do.
Identifying the one core part that he really engaged in — it was the pastoral counseling — we can easily position him as a coach, where now he spends a hundred percent of his time doing that one thing that he most enjoyed. And he’s already making over six figures. I love seeing the lights come on with somebody, where we can give them that insight into something that’s probably right under their nose already but needs to be clarified.
That’s what I want. More material to help people get that clarity and then walk into the next season of life. Income, if that’s an issue for them if that’s something they want, but really the sense of fulfillment that a lot of people never experience.
Hosting His Own Events
Grant Baldwin: You’ve utilized that obviously through the speaking. We’ve utilized that through the products. But you’ve also taken it to the next step where you host a lot of your own events. Talk us through that because I think there are people listening to that would say, yes, I want to be hired to go speak somewhere, and ideally, I would like to be paid for that. But then there’s the other side of it. I’ll throw the party. I’ll host my own event. I get to decide what that looks like.
So talk us through how that’s evolved over time. I know you threw a couple of different events each year. They’re on your property. So tell us a little bit about those and how those came to be.
Dan Miller: Sure. Most of the things that I do today have developed in direct response to people asking for them. I have a mantra that served me well, and that is that if three people ask me the same question, I develop a product to address it. So people started asking me, how can I do with my books what you’ve done with 48 Days? I’m an author, and I made 5,000 bucks. How can I do what you’ve done?
Because multiple people asked that, we put together an event called Right to the Bank. Then people said, how can I do what you’ve done in coaching? I’m a coach. I’m making peanuts. How can I develop a really robust business like you have? And we developed Coaching with Excellence, an event that has proved so successful we now do it three times a year.
Now I’m in a pretty advantageous position to do those events. I’m a simple country kid, and I work out of a barn that we’ve converted into a little event center. It’s a cool space though. We love it. It’s called the Sanctuary. We do Coaching with Excellence three times a year. Because of my brand, we limit it to 48 people.
It’s a nice group to work with. We can be really interactive and fills our little space here at the barn. So we do that three times a year. Forty-eight people. They pay a thousand bucks a piece, so that’s $150,000. We have no overhead. There’s no fee for the hotel. We aren’t locked into catering options and all that garbage. So it’s very simple, very clean, very easy to structure, very easy to do here.
Now we’re doing an event in a few months here that we call Innovate, and we have people who are artists, speakers, musicians, and sculptors. People have creative skills and they haven’t figured out how to really put legs on that, how to monetize that, how to create an economic model. We call that Innovate. We’re limiting that to 60 people. It’s going to be the cheapest event we’ve ever done – $497. That’s it. But 60 people, that’s 30 grand. That’ll work for a two-day event.
But I’d rather do those things here where we have a lot of fun right here in my property — people can go down to zipline if they want to — than to have to get on a plane and go to some hotel somewhere and see people that I’m probably never going to see again. These are people that we really engage with. They come back again and again. We develop life lifelong relationships with them.
Grant Baldwin: Let’s let’s transition for a second. You’ve done a lot of speaking. You’ve given hundreds, thousands of presentations over your career. Are there any presentation tips or tricks that you’ve learned along the way, or things that you’ve picked up that have really made a significant difference for you as a speaker?
Dan Miller: There really is. That’s a great question. I tend to be pretty cerebral. Pretty intellectual. I’m the guy, who says give me the facts. I don’t need any hype, smoke, and mirrors. Give me the facts. And I think my presentations tend to be too much like that.
And then I hear the power of a storyteller. I hear a great storyteller like Andy Andrews. People are glued to their seats because he is telling this amazing story. So I have to introduce, to include stories, even my own life stories about my grandkids. I’ve recognized the power of the story. It’s those things that people remember, and so I’ve tried to weave my principles into stories that convey those rather than giving the intellectual facts. That’s been a biggie for me.
Grant Baldwin: Yeah, I would totally echo that. Nothing connects with an audience quite like a story. It’s always interesting to me when you start talking and you say, let me tell you a story, and you notice how everybody perks up. They start paying attention, and it could be a sad story, it could be funny, it could be serious, it could be challenging, or it could be depressing. Like you have no idea where the story’s going to go, but it definitely catches people’s attention.
Dan Miller: Even in reading the Bible, Jesus didn’t say, do this. Let me tell you about this dude that went fishing…
Grant Baldwin: Very true. If it works for Jesus, it should probably work for us. Worth paying attention to.
It Can’t Be Worse Than This
All right, let’s wrap up with this. One of my favorite questions to ask speakers. We’ve all had those moments where we’ve bombed, where it didn’t go well, where something went off the rails. And I forgot to prep you on this, but we’re going to roll with it anyway. It’s what we like to call “it can’t be worse than this”.
Tell us about a time when, as a speaker, it did not go according to plan or something out of the ordinary happened. Do you have any stories like that?
Dan Miller: I’ve got a couple of stories. Yeah.
I went to speak for the Lifeway Bookstore managers. Now that’s a really good audience. They sell the fire outta my books, and it was over at Ridgecrest, their big retreat center, the Southern Baptist Retreat Center over in Asheville, North Carolina.
So Joanne and I had gone over the night before, and we stayed there at the Big Vanderbilt, the real fancy hotel. Had a great night. It rained pretty hard during the night, and we realized that the next morning. Drove out to the retreat center and they had, I don’t know, it was like 250, 300 Lifeway Bookstore managers that are selling my books.
And when I walked in there, they said, oh my gosh, Dan, we got a problem. There’s no power. The power is out in the entire retreat center. And I said, really? Where were we going to do this? It’s in this building that’s kinda like an amphitheater. It’s almost like a chapel, really.
And I went and looked at it. It’s in the round. I said, okay, what if we got everybody in here, and I spoke? And they’re like, would you be willing to do that? And I said, sure. Let’s open the windows. We’ll let some air in. There’s plenty of space.
So I didn’t have a microphone, no keynote presentation, nothing at all. It was one of the most memorable presentations, and people talked to me about that repeatedly because they remembered that. But instead of bailing, let’s go ahead. And then the challenges made it more memorable.
When you were talking, I had another one come to mind. There was a time when I spoke, and I don’t know what it was, if there was something in the room or whatever, but my nose was running, and I could not stop my nose from running. Every 10 seconds I’m wiping my nose and we’re videoing it for their video and all that.
Now that, oh my gosh… but I never drew attention to it. I didn’t stop, I didn’t sniffle. My nose would not stop running. I thought, oh my gosh, how much worse can it get? But nobody ever said anything. I can’t help but know that it was noticeable, but I didn’t draw attention to it, and didn’t make it worse than it was. It was one of those things that I had no explanation for.
Grant Baldwin: As a true speaker, the show must go on, so you press through. Dan, I appreciate you sharing some of your story and journey.