How to navigate transitions in your speaking business

The Speaker Lab Logo

Looking for practical advice and training from the world’s most successful speakers? The Speaker Lab Podcast features business tactics, tips, and strategies from the world’s most successful speakers. We post transcripts of every episode as resources to help you build your speaking business.

Maryalice: It’s a true honor to have the opportunity to introduce you to some of our amazing students. I promise you’re going to learn so much from their experiences and be inspired by their perseverance. Today, I have the true privilege of introducing you to Amy Fuentes. Amy, where are you coming from and let us know — what do you speak about?

Amy: I am from Northern Virginia, about an hour outside of DC and I inspire and empower women to reimagine their decisions so that they can find their voice, change their stories, and become their own heroes in all aspects of their lives.

Maryalice: Wow, that’s pretty powerful. Not too much pressure to get those women motivated, huh?

Amy: Oh, yeah. Transforming lives in one talk is pretty big aspirations, but it works.

Maryalice: Yeah, it’s pretty incredible. So tell us what led you to this moment in time? You know, it’s very rarely just one event. Like someone woke up and one day decided to be a speaker.

How Amy Found Her Calling

Amy: Yeah. No, it wasn’t anything like that. As many people probably have their stories. It was a variety of baby steps along the way that kind of led me here. Started, believe it or not, when my daughter went off to college and I got literally blindsided hit in the face with a pie called “empty nest,” and I’m almost embarrassed to say how long it took me to process through that difficult transitional time and come out the other side.

But in doing so I got together with some other people, some Facebook groups and such, and  I started a personal journey and I started sharing that personal journey. And the people that I was sharing it with said, “We’d love to have you share more.” I was like, are you kidding me? Like, really, you really want more of this? Never in a million years was I thinking anything was going to come of it. So I started a Facebook page and a YouTube channel, and then I was faced with, What’s next for me?

So anybody who has ever gone through empty nest or a transition where they’re leaving the workforce or re-attempting to retire, I say that because I attempted to retire from the mortgage industry and it just didn’t work for me. I really wanted to help women transition through life’s transitions in an easier, smoother, quicker way than what I went through. And in finding that purpose or passion, it led me to where I am.

Maryalice: Yeah, it’s something that you don’t really think about in your twenties or your thirties or your forties when you’re raising children, but man, it is really not an easy transition to go from this title of mom to like — then there’s no noise in the house anymore.

You know, there is that empty feeling in the nest, it’s not called an empty nest for no reason.

Amy: Well, yeah. And what I realized was I had nurtured every relationship I had with my mother and my sister and my friends and my husband and my kids, because I knew one day they would leave and I would want to have that relationship with my husband and not look at him and go like, who are you? Who are they together? You know? But what I found was in nurturing everybody else’s relationship, I didn’t nurture the one with myself. So I didn’t know who I was. My husband looked at me when I was turning 50 and said, how do you want to celebrate? I was like, celebrate what? And he goes, celebrate, you know, your birthday. I was like, I don’t know. And then he starts rambling. Do you want to have a party? I don’t know. Do you want to go on a trip? I don’t know. I was like, I don’t know. And someone asked me, what do you want to do? What do you do for fun? I was like…fun? I’ve been going to dance recitals and soccer games – that’s what I did for fun.

And so, you know, giving people the permission to take a pause, take a breath, and really focus on the relationship with themselves so they don’t lose — you know, what’s that movie? Eat Pray Love. That whole movie is based on the fact that she was going in search of who she was. And that’s an ongoing journey because we’re living, we’re growing, we’re changing. And so it’s a constant journey.

Maryalice: Yeah. I mean, it’s really so important to talk about it and you know, you don’t need to talk about it when you’re in your 20’s and thirties. You have some time. But I do think that the more we talk about these things, and sometimes it could affect the fathers as much or worse than the mothers, right? Depends on the scenario. So this is not just for women, but those big transitions in your life. They’re in essence, and maybe you could say it better than me, but they are wake up calls to seize the moment.

It’s okay to take time to mourn and Lord knows I did when my first son went off to college, he used to love those little mini pretzels. And I remember dropping him off at school and me and my other two boys were crying and the security guard goes, “Oh, it’s okay. He’ll be home for Thanksgiving.” And my husband’s like, he lives 20 minutes down the road. We’re 20 minutes down the road,

But I remember going into our pantry and seeing those pretzels and just bawling because there is a mourning process that has to happen. The nest has shifted. Your goals in life have shifted. Whatever the transition is. This is not just about going to college. But if you think back on your life, aren’t there so many moments like those moments?

Amy: Yes, and that is why I became a public speaker — when I had my first baby and I was like, “Oh my gosh, how am I going to do this?” Not that I’m going to love the baby any less, but how do I split my time between a newborn and my husband, who I love and I want to nurture and I want to be with, but the baby takes so much time.

You know, going through that transition and I didn’t have extended family to help me out. My husband traveled and so there was a lot going on and that transition was huge. And the transition from, you know, doing that to going back to the workforce was huge. And the transition from the workforce to starting your own business again was huge. And so each transition, without having people in your corner to kind of guide you and support you makes it a much longer duration than it needs to be.

Maryalice: And I think people get stuck in those transitions, right? It’s almost like paralysis by analysis. You’re in this transition, this is a pivotal moment in your life where you could seize the moment or the moment can seize you. So what’s your recommendation to people who may be listening and are in a transition at this time in their life? What do you encourage them with? Are there steps that you go through?

Amy: Yeah, absolutely. I tell people there was a time in my life when my family was dealt a curveball, and literally overnight our income was cut in half, we had just moved into our dream house, and I found myself with an “ice cream on the kitchen floor moment” — you know what I mean, where you take a gallon of ice cream and a spoon and you sit down and you eat as you’re crying into the bucket.

Does it make it better? No. Does it make it worse? Yes, but we do it anyway. And it was many nights of eating ice cream on my  floor out of the bucket that made me have that light bulb moment, like you said — this is a defining moment in my life, and I can either choose to define it or let it define me.

And when you come to that realization it’s a process of awareness. We get so comfortable in our self pity, in our sadness, in our frustration — that we sit in it for so long and I always tell people that pain pushes way more than pleasure pulls. So it’s not until you get so uncomfortable sitting in your sorrow that you finally pick yourself up and put your big girl pants or big boy pants on. It doesn’t really matter what it is, but you have to say, “Okay, I’m sad I’ve processed through that frustration and sadness, and now I’m tired of being that way and doing just a baby step.” You’re not going to go from crying in a bucket of ice cream to, you know, dancing the jig and being happy and laughing all the time. But there are little things that you can do each day to get you just a little bit further away from that sadness or that frustration or that overwhelm and taking that one baby step. For me, for the financial thing, I just decided to track every penny that I spent and my family spent. Everyone had to have a receipt and we put it in a bucket and I went through them every week. So that was my baby step. Just getting the receipts. It doesn’t need to be big, but getting to the point where you’re no longer wanting to be in that awful place is much more of a catalyst than saying, “Oh, I want to be healthy.” You have to be tired of being sick before you can get to the point of actually moving forward.

Maryalice: Yeah, so the ice cream is actually an important point.  Ice cream is step one. Because you have to be so sick of eating the ice cream that you’re like, I need to move forward here. That’s the takeaway I got from there. The ice cream is part of the process. Don’t judge it. We all have this individual process right there. We do kind of have to hit that quote, unquote rock bottom where enough is enough. And I often hear, you know, as a coach  working with students, certain comments that if we were to just become keenly aware of, we would understand how they’re not serving us, right?

Such as, I don’t have enough time, I don’t have enough money, I don’t have enough love, I don’t have enough chops to do this, right? We hold ourselves back with those comments.

Amy: Maryalice this is exactly what I speak on. I speak on the fact that when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change, which is a big quote from Wayne Dyer, who I absolutely adore. I talk a lot about that in my talks. I also talk about the fact that we’re only one decision away from something totally different. And deciding today that we deserve that life is the first decision to get you in that direction.

Our thoughts — when we think about them long enough, they become our beliefs. And when we believe them long enough, they become our reality. So if you are in a reality that you don’t like right now, trace it back to that.

Imposter syndrome is real in the speaking industry. There are plenty of people that are speaking on what I speak about. There are plenty of people that not only speak about what I’m speaking about, but do it better and have been doing it for longer than I have.  And that was a serious thing that I grappled with. You know, there’s already people in that field that are doing it just fine. They don’t need another one. Who is going to listen to me and what credentials do I have and who’s going to pay me to talk to them about this?

We have a lot of thoughts every day. And so interrupting that thought pattern, and asking myself, “Is that what I really think? Do I want to continue thinking that and doing that pattern?” You have to interrupt those thoughts to really move forward so that it actually triggers the brain that you’re no longer going to continue to think that way.

So when you’re thinking, “Oh, there’s a million people out there, nobody’s going to listen to me.  But now, moving forward, I remind myself that there are people that don’t know about this person. There are people that can’t afford this person. There are people that won’t travel to see this person. There are people that won’t associate with this person and rather they will relate with me because I’m a different person. The more we get keenly aware of those thoughts and what emotional attachments we’re putting onto those thoughts, that’s when your whole world could shift for the better.

The Business Building Journey

Maryalice: So what are some of the things that you are seeing when it comes to building your speaking business that are actually working?

Amy: You know, it’s interesting, I love nothing more than when I give a talk and then I get the feedback right. So I agreed to do a series of talks for transitional housing — these are individuals who are transitioning from either homelessness or a shelter into a stable living condition. But you can’t make enough money or don’t have enough money saved to actually go out. So it’s lower rent and they give life skills and a lot of speakers come in to educate them. And they had me come in. I decided to do a series for that, six different talks and towards the end of the talk I saw the same people multiple times and towards the end, it was amazing when someone came up to me. The first one came up to me and said, “You know, I remembered what you said — that you were actually so nervous to speak in public that you almost peed yourself the first time you did it.” And she goes, “So in a meeting at work the other day, they asked for people’s input and I remembered that and I raised my hand and I gave input, and it was so influential that they actually invited me to run the meeting next time.”

It’s absolutely amazing. You know, that she can transform her life like that. And the other individual was saving and she really wanted to get her own place. And I had the group do vision boards and a bunch of other things during the workshop. And at the end she came up to me and she said that not only did she put money down on a place, but the home looked exactly like what she pictured and cut out and drew on her vision board. And that was due to my workshop and my talk and my input and the things that I shared. And having that kind of impact positively on other people’s lives is something that is immeasurable. You can’t measure it in money or time or success or self worth it.

Maryalice: Yeah, those are incredible stories. And I wonder for you, what do you think is the big catalyst for the impact of the transformations that you’re making with women?  Do you have a method, do you have a step by step system?

Amy: I love it because there are people that need that, right? I just announced in a group that I do on Facebook what I did to take off some weight, and I told them that they just need to eat the same. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack. And there are certain people that didn’t like that answer. They wanted to know exactly what I ate, how many ounces and when I hate it. And so I know that there are people out there that want those kinds of details. So I’m going to say this — and this is from my heart — the secret, you’re not going to like this. Those of you who want the step by step process, the secret is to be you.

Don’t follow my process. Be you. And because that’s what people align with. That’s what people relate to. That’s what people get inspired by. I’m very animated. There are speakers that are not animated. They’re just as impactful. There are people that are much more prolific with their words.

Simon Cynic is a great example of that. He blows my mind, but he’s not animated like I am. So be you. There isn’t any one correct book to follow. There are certain steps that you can do on the administrative end or on the nuts and bolts. For example — make sure you have a one sheet. Make sure that you have a talk. Make sure that when you write your talk, you have an objective in mind. What do you want the audience to take away from your talk? What do you want them to learn? Are there three key points? There are certain mechanics, but the how to and the way you connect with people is really just be you.

And that’s so hard for so many of us too. Be yourselves. There’s only one you, and so be you. That’s what people really resonate with.

Maryalice: There’s something really valuable about being yourself, but then there’s also something that people are hesitant about because if they don’t have the step by step, what if they fail? How do you help women manage around that?

Amy: I think that we need to take the word failure out because everybody fears the fact that they’re going to fail. I would be not telling the truth if I told you that I didn’t get nervous the first time I…rode a bike. I was scared, right? And I wobbled and I fell and I got up and I did it again and again and again. And I will tell you that I am a perfectionist and I’m working through my perfectionism.

Maryalice: Yeah, that’s powerful and such an important reminder that we’re perfectly designed the way we are. There’s no need to be anything else or anyone else. I think that actually helps when you’re in these transitions or when you’re trying to level up to your next level, or when you have a thought of, “I want to go for it.” When you really trust and believe in who you are and what you’re meant to be, it’s easier to take those small steps as we were talking about before. There’s less pressure because you just have this connection and I think that’s a big thing for women.

You know we were touching on this in the beginning. And not every woman gets married and has babies. I understand that, but for a lot of women, we are diverted by either our husbands or a significant other, our children, our aging parents. There, there’s a lot of distractions — puppies and animals that we bring into the house.

All of those things, it’s all on us in a lot of ways. And we do that for ourselves. We’re good at that, by the way. We’re all guilty of that, right? But it’s those women who really take that time to get back into their skin and back in touch with themselves and determine where they’re going. What is the next generation going to be like for them? As opposed to what’s all the things that they have to do to nurture and to love and to provide? I feel like when we get back into our skin, we spend some quiet time journaling, meditating, walking in nature — really a lot is revealed. And one of the biggest things is the authenticity of who we really are. And it’s powerful because it does help us step into that next level of a mindset of success, of love, of health, of all of those things that we’ve been talking about this whole time. So I’d love for you to share with the students that are listening to this going, “Ugh, I’m on the fence.”

Why Amy Chose The Speaker Lab

I remember when we did your testimonial — you guys can go read Amy’s testimonial, but I remember Amy saying she thought this was all a big scam. Like she had to really look into The Speaker Lab. And here she is now on our podcast, a successful student. So what empowered you to really check us out?

Amy: You know, I got tired of watching everybody else do it and me sitting on the sidelines sitting on the floor with ice cream, saying “I wish that was me.” I did it for over a year. I watched and I looked and I investigated. That was really huge for me. I am the first one when my daughters would come and say, “Oh, I want to go on a school trip. And I would say that we would find the money somehow. When my husband wanted to do something, I would say, “Ah, we’ll find the money.” But when it was time to find the money for me, I was like, “Oh, yikes, there’s so many other things that the money needs to go to.”

I’m here to tell you, if you are considering going into the speaking business, my number one piece of advice is to find a mentor, to find somebody that has been there, done that, so that they can guide, support, and encourage you every step of the way. It is not something that you need to do alone. It is not something that I would advise you to do alone.

Can you do it? Absolutely. It will take you 10 times longer than if you have somebody. And when I was looking at getting into the speaking business, I put every obstacle in my way. Look,I don’t have a speaker one sheet. I don’t even know what one is. I don’t know how to design. I don’t have a website. I don’t have a speaker reel. I don’t know what I’m talking about. I have so many different things. I don’t know how they all tie together. I mean, I had every excuse in the book on why I was or wasn’t pursuing this and when I got connected with Grant at The Speaker Lab. The program tackles every obstacle that I put in my way, which I said back when we talked before, and I’ll say it again, it was a good thing and a bad thing.

It was a good thing because I didn’t have any obstacles in my way. You guys provide the guidance. You guys help me come up with what I’m speaking on and who I’m speaking to. You help me with my website and the speaker reel. You help me find speaking engagements by giving me lists of all the different things in my industry.

And so, it was a good thing, but it was a bad thing because now I had no excuse. I now had everything that I needed to get out there, and the only thing that’s holding me back was me. And so if that is what is calling you, whether it is to be a speaker or an author, or an inventor, or fill in the blank, the only one stopping you from doing it is you. And finding somebody that’s already done that to help you, to assist you, to mentor you and guide you will get you there so much faster with a lot less aggravation and a lot less tears and a lot less ice cream on the kitchen floor moments.

Maryalice: That’s so powerful and I just want to share real quick — Amy you getting booked and paid to speak — you’re even pushing yourself there out of your comfort zone by asking for more money and just testing the waters. I love that story. Can you share that story?

Amy: Well, I got one to share with you that happened today actually. This morning I got on a call with somebody, they had been referred. So they were looking for somebody to do a keynote for an upcoming student leadership conference for students in the whole state of Virginia. I’m going to preface this by saying I’ve not spoken to that big of a group. So I was already pissing myself that she wanted to even talk to me. And so I get on the phone, I get on the Zoom, and we’re chatting, and I ask, “What’s your budget right now?” And she goes, “Well, we’re really trying to keep it at about $5,000. And my eyes got big as saucers and I was like, well shit then I need to do something. If they’re trying to keep it at 5,000, that means there’s more. So why should I be leaving money on the table? And so I said, “Oh.” And she says, “Is that even in the ballpark for you?” And I said, “You know, my mentors have been after me for months to raise my rates and I just recently raised them to $7,500. I said, but this is our first go around and I hope to have many more with you. So I am [good with that], as long as you cover the hotel and food and all of that, and you allow me to have a meet and greet after, to sign my book and have people buy my book, I’m happy to do this time for $5,000. And then the next time you’ll just know that my normal speaking fee is $7,500. And she said, “I’ll see if I can get you some more money.” And then she said, “Do you have a one sheet? Because after this call I’m getting on with somebody else — another event planner, and they’ve got a couple of events that I think that you would be absolutely perfect for and I’d love to recommend you.

I’m jumping all over giggling and laughing and literally mind blown. I think it’s a matter of getting that one under your belt to really give yourself that confidence. And then once you get that confidence, it kind of just builds. I know that my talks are worth at least $7,500, if not $10,000 because I do them so totally differently.

People’s lives are transformed by my talks. I haven’t felt confident enough to ask for that kind of money and now I’ve been put in situations where people who have bigger budgets are putting out there that they’re willing to pay me more for my talks. And that just gives me more and more confidence to eventually get to the price point that I thinkI eventually need to be.

Maryalice: Yeah, that’s what an awesome story. So exciting. It’s awesome to see your confidence building and you know, when you have that confidence, you attract those people who are like, “Oh, this chick’s confident, she’s not messing around.” She’s going to give us a really good experience. She’s worth every penny. And that’s really important too. So to go back to what we talked about before, our beliefs lead to our reality. And when you think that you’re not worth it, then you’ll believe you’re not worth it. And then your reality is you’re not worth it.

Well you will not be eating ice cream tonight on the kitchen floor. I love it. Well, thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate it. If you guys want to read more about Amy, head over to our student success stories on our website, check out her full story — it’s a really good one. We appreciate you, we’re celebrating you and thank you so much!

If you enjoyed this transcript, click below to check out the full podcast episode! 

Want to know exactly what to say to finally land paid speaking gigs?

We’ll send you the exact three emails you can send to conference planners and event organizers that Grant Baldwin (our founder) used to book over $2M in speaking gigs. 

Related Resources

Here are a few other resources you might find helpful. 

How to Make Effective Use of Body Language as a Speaker
Introduction No matter how well-crafted your talk is, poor body language can butcher the whole thing. We aren’t saying that to scare you, but to empower you to work on your body language alongside other...
The Speaker Lab Reviews
The Speaker Lab Reviews We are proud of the positive reviews we've received from our students, who have worked with The Speaker Lab to make their businesses more efficient, predictable, and profitable. See just a...
How to Create Impactful Stories as a Speaker
Introduction Have you tried telling stories when you speak?  The answer is probably yes, as all the greatest speakers use stories to their advantage.  But do you know how to create real impact with those...
How to Create Effective Speaking PowerPoint Presentations
Introduction On your path to becoming a speaker, you overcome a lot of hurdles. You find your niche, you market yourself, you land a few local gigs, and then your first big keynote. You’ve finally...
What ChatGPT and AI can do for speakers
Introduction  If you follow the tech world to any great extent, you've probably heard or read about ChatGPT and other AI (artificial intelligence) tools. But what are they exactly, and how are they used? Furthermore,...
Top 10 movies about public speaking
Introduction Presenting in public can be a daunting experience for many. Whether it's a class presentation, or a keynote speech or even a wedding toast, the mere thought of having to address an audience can...
7 Networking Tips for Public Speakers
Introduction Building your network is an essential strategy for growing your speaking career. If you go back to the TSL podcast and blog archives, you’ll see this topic has come up again and again. But that’s...
How to navigate legal issues as a speaker
Grant Baldwin: Hey, what’s up friends, it’s Grant Baldwin here and welcome back to The Speaker Lab Podcast. Good to have you here with us today — we're talking with my friend and attorney Autumn...
Our best advice for growing your speaking business
Maryalice: Hey everyone. I'm Mary Goldsmith, Director of Student Success at the Speaker Lab, and today I am joined by our very own Elite Concierge and Coach, Katie Campbell, for this episode of the Coach's...
How to navigate the 10 biggest distractions for speakers
Maryalice Goldsmith: Rick, how you doing today? Rick Clemons: Pretty good. Great day to be having some conversations about distractions. I'm glad you said, "Hey, let's talk about this subject matter." MG: Yeah. I mean, building a speaking...