How to Network with Other Speakers

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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.

Today we’re going to be talking all about how to network with other speakers and why it even matters, why it’s important, and how it can really change your business.

Why Network At All

First of all, let’s talk about that first piece. Let’s talk about why this even matters, and I found it to be really beneficial to network with other speakers for two primary reasons. First of all, it was really, really good for me personally, but then it was also really, really good for business.

So let’s talk about the personal side. You know, one of the things that I don’t think people always realize is that being a speaker, being an entrepreneur in general, can be very, very lonely.

It can be very, very isolating because whenever you’re standing on stage and you’re speaking to an audience, you feel like you’re with a group of people and a lot of people that are interested in what you have to say, and they’re excited to be there and that’s great.

But as a speaker, realistically, you spend 95% of your time alone in hotels and on airplanes and in rental cars traveling and being away from the family. And maybe even like right now there’s thousands of people that are listening to this podcast and this show, but it’s me sitting in my home office recording this right now.

And so being a speaker and an entrepreneur in general, it can be really, really lonely. It can be really, really isolating. You need people who can be your cheerleader, people who can be supportive people that you can lean on and talk to. And so having a network of other speakers that you can compare notes with is really, really valuable from that standpoint.

It’s also really good just to have people that you can bounce ideas off of and get feedback from. You know, again, part of being a speaker and an entrepreneur is that a lot of times you have different ideas and you’re thinking, I want to try this, or, here’s an idea I had.

And sometimes it’s helpful to just talk it through with someone else and, and to say, okay, here’s what I’m thinking, or here’s what I’m considering – I’m considering speaking about this subject or topic, or here’s my website.

Can I get some feedback on that? And just wondering if you’re going in the right direction? And just getting some of that outside feedback and support. And as a speaker and as an entrepreneur in general, sometimes you don’t get that support.

You don’t get that because, again, everyone can be like their own silo, their own island off doing their own thing. And so you don’t really know, am I doing the right things? Am I headed in the right direction? Am I making the right decisions? I don’t really know because I’m just going at this on my own.

The other thing too that it’s been really good for networking with other speakers is just to share wins. You know, I almost imagine like winning the big game, like if you’re into sports or something, if you win the big game or if you won the championship or something, but not having anyone to celebrate with, like you just won and you turn around and it’s just, it’s me – that’s so sad and depressing and lonely.

And so there’s times where things go well in business or you have a great speaking engagement or you’re just hitting on all cylinders and you want people around you who can just celebrate that with you, who can say, “That’s awesome. I’m so happy for you. I’m so proud of you. I remember we were talking about this and you’ve made such huge progress,” and so having people that you can just celebrate some of those wins with is really, really important in business.

I’ve been in a Mastermind for almost a year and a half now with four other entrepreneurs.

None of the other guys are actually speakers, but it’s been really, really valuable. It’s been probably one of the most valuable things in my business for everything that I just shared with you because again, it gives me a place where I can share ideas, I can bounce ideas off of them.

I can get feedback, I can share wins. Here’s what’s going well. Or sometimes there’s days where it’s like, here’s what’s not going well here. I feel bummed. I feel discouraged. I did this gig and it didn’t go well, and I feel like a horrible human being. I’m a crappy speaker. I’m never going to get booked again. Everybody hates me. Blah, blah, blah. Woe is me.

And so just having some people around me that can support me, that can encourage me, and in fact, to be honest with you, the Speaker Lab brand in general came out of one of my Mastermind meetings.

So we have a Slack channel where we talk regularly. Slack is a phenomenal, phenomenal tool. It’s like a modern day AOL chat room, so it’s a private little chat room for the five of us. And so we’re in there literally on a daily basis talking and comparing notes and sharing stories and yada yada.

And so we have that, but then also usually every couple of months, usually once a quarter or so, we’ll get together in person and do some type of retreat where we can get away for a few days. And in those few days we hang out and we goof off. But at the same time, we spend a lot of time just talking about each other’s businesses and comparing notes.

And so one of the things that we do is we do what is called a hot seat, where we will take a period of time usually with it just being the five of us. Each of us will have anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes or so, and in those 60 or 90 minutes, it’s our time to have everyone else solely focused on our business.

And so we’re able to say, okay, in those 60, 90 minutes, you know, here’s some things I’m working on. Here’s some things I’m stuck on. Here’s some things I’m confused about. Here’s some things I need some feedback on. And so, in fact, it would’ve been about six months or so ago, we were doing one of these quarterly retreats in person.

And so I was talking about where we were at and what was going well for the business. And so they had suggested that we start a new podcast, that we start a separate brand called the Speaker Lab. And so we kicked that around.

And so it was that Mastermind, it was that hot seat that led us to doing what we’re doing now because you’re able to get, again, some of that outside feedback and that perspective.

And so sometimes we are so blinded to what we are doing that we miss out on some of these opportunities that other people may see. I remember hearing it being said like it’s trying to read the label from inside the jar.

I mean, think about that for a second. Think about how crazy that is. Like that’s the way we are. We are so deep inside the jar, inside of our own business that we can’t see the outside of the label because we’re inside the jar. But it’s obvious to other people what we should do or shouldn’t do or some of those next steps that we should take.

And so being in that Mastermind, like no hyperbole, has literally changed my business. It has been so, so critical and so, so pivotal. Not just for my business, but again for me personally. And so being a speaker, networking with other speakers is so critically important. Not only for the personal side, but let’s talk about the business side for a second.

In my first full year of speaking, I remember going back into the archives and looking up, after I’d been speaking for a couple years, trying to figure out, okay, where are leads coming from? You know, how are people finding out about me? And that’s a good thing to do for speakers or just entrepreneurs in general.

Just know where your traffic’s coming from, know where those leads are so that you can put more energy or effort or resources into those buckets, so to speak. And so I remember looking back up and finding that my largest source of bookings came from other speakers.

I mean, think about that for a second. My largest source, where so much of my business came from, was building relationships with other speakers. And so it’s so critically important to network with other speakers, not just personally, but also because of the potential help and business that it can be for you.

Why Would a Speaker Refer Their Business to You?

So let’s talk about that for a second. Why would a speaker even refer their business to you? You know, if I’ve got a bunch of bookings, why would I share them with you? Well, let me give you a couple different reasons why maybe a speaker would be willing to refer some of their business to you, to another speaker.

Number one is that they’re already booked.

So for example, if I am booked on May 21st, I’ve got the Speaker Lab live event and someone reaches out to me and says, “Hey, we’ve got an event we would love for you to come speak at. It’s May 21st.” Well, I’m already booked that day. I can’t do that.

So rather than just telling that potential client that, “Hey, I would love to, but I can’t, I’m already booked,” I would love to be able to help them out because hopefully they would book me at some other point in the future.

So being able to recommend another speaker would be beneficial not only to them, but it would be hugely beneficial to me as well. And so why would another speaker refer business to you? One is that they’re already booked. They just can’t do that date, but they may be able to have you do it.

So let’s keep moving on. The second reason why maybe a speaker would be willing to refer their business to you is because a potential booking or a potential inquiry or client has a budget that is too low for their fee structure.

So for example, let’s imagine that I have a speaking fee of $10,000, all right? And a client reaches out to me. It says, “Hey, Grant, we’re interested in hiring you, but our budget is only $4,000.” All right, well, I have a choice at that point to make. I can decide, okay, am I willing to do this for a significantly discounted rate? Let’s say for whatever reason, I decide, no, no, no, it doesn’t make sense. I can’t do it for that.

So again, going back to the previous example, they’re already booked. I don’t want to just say, “Hey, I can’t do it. The budget doesn’t work. So best of luck till you get your own.” I would love to be able to maintain that relationship with that client and say, “Hey, that budget wouldn’t work, but let me refer you to this person whose fee structure would match up with your budget.”

So that is another reason why maybe a speaker would refer their business to you.

A third reason is that maybe that speaker wants to maintain just the relationship with the client. So here’s the way a lot of events work, especially in the conference world, is if you come in, you show up, you do a great job, even if you’re a phenomenal speaker, oftentimes what happens is they won’t bring you back for 3, 4, 5 years. And the reason is they want some of the audience to turn over.

They want to have some news speakers that would come in there. And so as a speaker myself, I would love to be able instead of saying, all right, great, I’m glad I went. Well, I hope to see you in four or five years.

I would love to say, “Hey, I know while you know you may not have me back for a couple years, I would love to be able to help you. And so here, let me give you some recommendations. Here’s some other speakers that I think would be a good fit for you. Let me introduce you to such and such, or have you heard of this person?”

Because if I recommend another speaker and that other speaker comes in and they do a great job, it builds that rapport with that client.

So now that client trusts me even more. So again, whenever they come back to me a couple years later and they want to book me, they will want to book me again because I’ve been helpful to them in the past.

So why would a speaker refer their business to you? One, they’re already booked, or two, the budget is too low. Three, to maintain a relationship with that client. And then the fourth reason is that some speakers want to refer their business to other speakers as just an additional revenue source.

This means that, let’s say, you were to refer business to me, there are times where you, as the speaker who’s referring to another speaker, may want a cut of that, may want a percentage, or what can commonly be known as a finder’s fee. So I’ve worked with speakers on both ends of it. I’ve worked with some where I’ve been referred business to me that they haven’t charged me for and sometimes that I have been charged.

I have referred business to other speakers and sometimes I’ve charged for that and sometimes I haven’t done that. There’s a speaker that I’ve worked with for several years who’s been the primary person that I would refer business to in a certain niche or market. And so it was a very large revenue source and stream for me.

If you’re going to do this, should you pay a commission or should you pay a finder’s fee? And how does that work? Well, it really depends on the relationship. Like I said, I’ve had both. I’ve experienced both.

And so some speakers that referred business to me expected a cut, and so that was always discussed ahead of time like, “Hey, I’ve got a lead. I think you’d be a good fit for it. But if I refer this lead to you and they book you, I would like a percentage of that.” Now, usually 10% is pretty standard in the speaking business. But again, like I said, there’s others that have referred me stuff that I haven’t paid anything for and, again, vice versa.

So one of the biggest factors in determining whether or not there should be some type of commission or finder’s fee is the dynamic of the relationship. So for example, if I have a friend and we refer business back and forth, generally neither of us are paying the other one.

It’s just kind of a friend helping out another friend. We’re not keeping track of, you’ve referred three things to me, but I’ve only referred one to you and so I owe you. It’s none of that.

It’s just a friend helping out another friend, but in some situations the relationship is more of a business relationship and it’s a bit more one-sided, meaning that if I’m just referring business to them or they’re just referring business to me and it’s not really reciprocal, then generally a commission or a finder’s fee is not unreasonable at all.

And so in the midst of all of this, I’d always encourage you, especially if you’re determining whether or not you should ever charge someone else some type of finder’s fee, I’d always put the value of the relationship over that 10%.

Meaning that there’s some times where some of these friends that I’ve referred things to over the years, I could have charged 10% and they could have paid me a couple hundred bucks or whatever that 10% may have been. But is that worth it to the relationship? Is that even necessary?

Like I can think of a few friends I’ve referred stuff to and I know that they got booked for gigs for several thousand dollars and I didn’t get a dime for it. But I’m okay with that because it’s just one friend helping out another friend.

But if I start charging them or if they start charging me, it changes the dynamics there.

So again, networking with other speakers is really, really important. Again, not only personally, but also from a business perspective as well.

This is part of the reason that we created our private Facebook group, which if you haven’t already been a part of, you definitely want to check that out. We have nearly 3,000 speakers there. It’s a private Facebook group, so an opportunity for you to connect with other speakers, definitely check that out – the Speaker Lab Community Group.

Establishing Relationships with Other Speakers

All right, so at this point we’ve established it’s important to connect with, to build relationships with other speakers. And you’re probably thinking, okay, Grant, that’s great. But how do you actually do that? Let’s talk about that for a few minutes here.

Let me give you some thoughts on that. But when you’re working on building relationships with other speakers, I always recommend that you focus on speakers that are at your level or maybe slightly above, that are in your niche, all right?

There are two sides of that that are really, really important. First of all is focusing on people that are at your level or slightly above. Don’t focus on these big time speakers in the same way that if I was looking to get into acting, I wouldn’t be trying to email or cold call, you know, George Clooney and Brad Pitt to let me know if there’s any acting opportunities that they can’t take. Would they reply? Of course not. So I want to look for speakers who are at a similar point in their business of where I might be.

And so again, look for speakers where you’re at or just slightly ahead of you in their business, and not only for where they’re at in terms of their business, also in terms of the subject or topics and the types of events that they speak about.

So if I’m talking with someone, who I’m at or slightly ahead of and I build a good relationship with and they speak primarily in, let’s say the medical field, and I’ve never done any medical speaking and the things that I speak about aren’t really a good fit for the medical industry, then it doesn’t really make sense from that standpoint to be trying to trade business or trying to build some type of deep relationship with.

Again, from a business perspective of trying to get referrals with them so that that doesn’t necessarily work. So I want to try to find people that are in a similar niche who are speaking at the types of events that I would want to speak at.

So what I want you to do from that point is spend some time Googling and you can kind of browse around, maybe you already have an idea of who some of those speakers are that you think would be a good fit for you to connect with, but I want you just to make a list of these speakers and pay attention to what events they are speaking at, paying attention to.

You’re not stalking them, but they are on your radar, which is really, really important. So number one, how do you build these relationships? Let’s, first of all, we’ve got to focus on the speakers that we want to kind of connect with and build some rapport and connection with. Second thing here is, once you have an idea of some of these possible speakers to network with, there are two main ways to connect with them.

First of all, number one is to meet them in person. I’ll just drill this into your head. There is nothing better than meeting people in person. Absolutely nothing better in terms of relationship building, in terms of networking. Nothing better than meeting in person. It completely changes the dynamic of the relationship.

There are people that I have emailed with, that I’ve even Skyped with, that I’ve talked on the phone with, but you can email with people and you can chat with people you know for months or longer, but as soon as you spend any time in person, it totally, completely changes the dynamic of that relationship.

So how do you actually build those relationships with people in person? Well, there’s a couple different ways to do this. One of the best ways that I’ve found is to actually meet people at conferences, and there’s two types of conferences that I always look for if I’m trying to network with other people, especially speakers.

One is I want to pay attention to what conferences they’ll be speaking at. I want to see what types of events they’re speaking at, see when they’re going to be in my area, see how far away they may be. There’s some times where I’ve wanted to network with a speaker, and so I’ve been willing to drive for 3, 4, 5 hours just to connect with that person because I know how valuable it is to meet them in person.

So I’ll pay attention to what events they’re speaking at, see if any are going to be in my area, and then there’s some of those events where as a speaker speaking in a similar space or industry, I want to see if I can speak at that as well.

So it may make sense to go to a free workshop or to do some type of breakout session just so I can be a part of that conference where I could also meet that other speaker. Because if you’re speaking at the same event that they’re speaking at, even if, let’s say they’re doing a keynote and you’re just doing a breakout or workshop, there’s some level of credibility if I’m speaking at the event versus you just drove in to meet that person?

Now, there’s nothing wrong with driving in to meet the person. That’s fine. And I would recommend that over doing nothing, but there’s also a lot of credibility that goes along with having you speak at the event as well. So I want to meet people at conferences.

One, I’m going to pay attention to what events they will be speaking at. And then two is I’m going to pay attention to what conferences they might be attending, what conferences they’ll be speaking at, what conferences they will be attending.

So for me personally, there’s a few entrepreneurial conferences that I’ll go to each year and I decide whether or not I’m going to a conference based not just on the content that will be taught, although that’s a factor, but oftentimes the bigger issue to me is who is going to be there.

I mean, it’s like the same thing that we talked about like in middle school, right? If you got invited to a party, you wanted to know who else was going to be there. So the same thing is true with conferences today. Before I sign up for a conference, I’m always wanting to know who else will be there, not necessarily what it’s going to be about.

I want to know who else is going to be there because I know how important it is to meet people in person. So I want to pay attention to what conferences not only they’ll be speaking at, but what conferences they will be attending. So meeting people in person is the preferable way to connect with other speakers.

The other option is that you can reach out via email and introduce yourself. Now, let’s talk about that. If you’re going to do this, you don’t want to be a stalker. You don’t want to just send one email and come right out and ask them to send you a bunch of business.

Most speakers, whenever you’re referring a lead to someone else, you are putting your own reputation on the line. If I refer to you as a speaker and you show up and you suck, it makes me look bad. And so I want to make sure that anybody I’m going to refer is a great speaker, that they’re going to do well, that they’re not only going to do a good job for the client, but also in some ways it indirectly represents me.

And so I would never refer speakers that I had either never met or never heard speak or really didn’t know anything about. So it doesn’t make any sense, and I don’t recommend it to just come right out and ask them to send you a bunch of business.

So most speakers would never do that, and to most speakers, that would be a huge, huge turnoff. So if you’re going to do this, I want you to almost imagine you’re asking someone out for a first date. You just met. They have no idea who you are. Don’t immediately ask them for marriage, right? You’re just trying to build this rapport, build this relationship.

If you’re going to email, especially if they are where you’re at or just a couple steps ahead of you, even though they are competitors, I’ve found that most speakers are really, really friendly or really, really willing to help because every speaker started from nothing.

We’ve all tried to figure it out as we’ve gone along and there’s always been some people that have helped us along the way, and so most speakers are willing to help out as well.

I mean, this is why we have this podcast and why we have the trainings that we do so that we can not only cut down on the learning curve, but also help you to connect to other speakers.

And so you can reach out to them via email, maybe ask them a specific question, let them know, “Hey, I heard that you’re going to be speaking at such and such conference coming up. I’d love to be able to meet you or buy you lunch, anything like that.”

And again, if you’re reaching out to someone who’s this bigwig speaker, I don’t know that they blow you off, but they may not make the time for you. Whereas some up-and-coming speaker that’s at a similar spot or slightly ahead of where you are may be a lot more willing to connect with you as well, so definitely, definitely consider.

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