How to use data to get booked and paid to speak

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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.

Grant: Hey, what’s up friends? Grant Baldwin here. Welcome back to The Speaker Lab pPodcast. Good to have you here with us today. I’m super excited. I got a really good friend of mine – I’ve been in the industry with this guy for…well we’re coming up on like two decades, is what it seems like, I think is what the math checks out to be.

We’re talking with my good friend Arel Moodie today, and he’s special to me in multiple ways. I was looking it up, man, and you were actually on Episode 025. I mean, we’re at well over 400 at this point, so you are one of the OGs. One of the reasons that Arel is special to me is he and I got started around the same time years ago, coming up on maybe close to 20 years of just two young lads chasing the speaking dream. And fast forward now, we’re just old men chasing the speaking dream. So man, I appreciate you being back with us today.

So for context sake, let’s go take a quick trip down memory lane. How did you and I first get connected?

How It All Started

Arel: This is fun. Yeah, so we started speaking — I think we were both in our early twenties, maybe like early to mid twenties, and we started speaking with an organization that allowed us to get into high schools and colleges. And it was just doing someone else’s content. And I think what you and I both shared or had in common is we realized like we could probably do our own content maybe a little more robustly. Nothing wrong with the other content, it’s just we had our own message and we like the business game.

I think we both like the entrepreneurship, the business side, and you see a lot of speakers who focus only on craft. And I think that where I connected with you is that you had a great keen business mind and a speaking mind. And I think that’s rare. And I think that’s why your podcast is so valuable because you really blend the craft and the business really well without beating one over the other.

Grant: Yeah. Cool man. I appreciate the kind words. So you and I, we got sort of doing assemblies together early on. We have joked about this before that we were getting paid a hundred dollars to do a school assembly, and we thought we were making bank. I mean, we were like, this is legit. This is amazing.

So one of the things that’s been super impressive about you is that you’ve had a very successful, steady, consistent speaking career since then, which is really hard to do over that long of a period of time. So I’m curious — in Episode 025, we talked a bit more about your journey, but catch us up today. How much are you speaking? You’ve got your hand in a couple other projects. One specifically we’re going to talk about as it relates to speakers, but how often are you speaking, who are you speaking to? And then also, what’s working for you today?

Speaking + “Something Else”

Arel: Yeah, so speaking has been the thing that I hope to do until I don’t breathe anymore. So I’m not one of those people that go, “I can’t wait to get out of the business.” I’ll always be doing something and speaking. So now what that looks like is primarily I speak to the business professional audience. So corporate audiences — a lot of it is employee development, leadership development, and specifically I got really fascinated with this section of research called Adult Development Theory. And basically, the short end of it is there’s 60 years of research with tens of thousands of data points, independently organized by multiple folks that have proven that adults pass through these predictable stages of maturity and development.

And each stage has different ways we make meaning of the world — what infuriates us, what gets us excited, and it explains so much in human dynamics why people don’t get along, why two people could be in the same room and see something completely different. Why leadership can see something as clear as they do and frontline staff think they’re idiots. And why leadership thinks frontline staff don’t see the big picture. So I got really excited about it because only a very small group of academics actually know this work. And if you look up any of the work, and it’s fantastic research, Dr. Suzanne Cooker — the challenge is most people don’t read academic papers. And the people who do read spend their time in academia mostly, not often as much in the professional world. So what I’ve done is applied that into the business world and I teach these strategies now to businesses and it’s been absolutely incredible.

As you said, we started in the student market and I was doing that primarily for a long time. And I think what happened is that as I became older, I had more in common with a manager or a leader than I did with a 16 year old. So it doesn’t mean I don’t love them, it’s just that my life experience and what I care about tracks more to that demographic.

So being able to make that jump from student to corporate was really important. So that’s where I spend most of my time at this point, about 60 events a year, and next year my goal is to pair that down to 20 as I develop the software tool that we’ll talk about.

Grant: That’s awesome, man. What is working for you right now as far as finding and booking gigs on a consistent basis? Because I think sometimes people assume, okay you’ve been at it for close to 20 years — it just must just be cake and gigs just fall in your lap? And it gets easier for sure, but it is also a flywheel and you’ve got to do a little bit of work to maintain that momentum. So what’s working for you today?

Two Things You Have to Do

Arel: For frame of reference, I completely pivoted outside of that place where I had that kind of stuff coming to me in the student market and totally transitioned over the last two years into the professional development space. So for the most part, no one knows who I am. And that’s the exciting part. So what I like about this stuff we’ll cover today is that it’s not like you talk to a lot of speakers who’ve been in the game for 15-20 years and you’ll ask them what they do for marketing and their response will be, “Nothing. Everything comes to me. It’s all a referral.” But when you have to develop it and get into a new market, that’s really where the premise is a little bit different. So what I’m doing right now that’s working really, really well are two things.

The first thing is the thing that I probably talked about back in whenever we did our first interview, which is you’ve got to find a vertical where they have a membership based association. Those membership based associations have conferences and you can identify that they’re the people you want and then get in front of them.

The other thing that you have to do is something I call a self showcase. A self showcase is where I get a list of people (like to join an association, they give you a member list). Or you go to LinkedIn Sales Navigator and search a certain title. So for example, you can search “Director of Student Activities” if you want the college market or a Director of Education and marketing and LinkedIn Sales Navigator. Anyone who has that in their title will show up and then will save that as a list and export it to an Excel spreadsheet. And now I have a spreadsheet of a couple thousand people that meet a very specific criteria of who I want to book. Then I reach out to them and say, “Hey, I’m doing a free training on this subject called Adult Development Theory. Here’s how it’s going to benefit your organization. Totally free. Come check it out.” Then I deliver a keynote virtually on Zoom completely for free. And then at the end I use Talk A Dot to get data and capture leads. And then those people turn into the people who I follow up with and book.

So I literally do those two things and that’s it. And then everything develops from there and it works really well. And I want to say this very quickly for anyone listening to this going, “Oh my gosh, speaking industry. I’m so scared.: Literally. Speaking has never gone away. Even in the pandemic, virtual speaking shot up through the roof. So it’s never going to go away in my humble opinion. I hope I’m right. Everyone can be wrong, but you just have to know how to pivot and move where the money is and where the opportunities are.

Talk A Dot

Grant: Yeah, no, I think that’s a great point — the speaking industry has been around for literally decades. It’s been around longer than either of us have been around and it will be around long after us. And it’s survived wars and recessions and depressions and a pandemic and things are still humming along.

Alright so we’ve teased this a little bit, but there is this new tool you’ve developed called Talk A Dot, and I think you reached out to me a year plus ago and we got together a couple months ago at a conference and you whipped out your laptop and I was like, “Oh dang.”

This is a really, really solid tool. You’ve really put together a great resource. So let’s kind of set the table here. First of all, explain what exactly it is, Talk A Dot, and maybe kind of even then go back in time to see what need this is solving for speakers. What problem is this solving for speakers, maybe in your own business and then kind realizing it’s not exclusive and all speakers have this potential challenge. So give us an overview of what exactly it is.

Arel: Yeah, I think all savvy speakers, all smart speakers, make it easy for people to say yes to book you. The people who struggle put out all of these friction points for someone to say “yes.” So as an example, if you don’t have a speaker demo video, and you want to get booked to speak, you’re putting a friction point in between you and making it easy for them to say “yes.” You don’t have a website — and this is why what you do with your coaching is so important because you give people email templates for outreaches. It’s making it easy for people to say “yes.” So one of the things that I realized, which was really fascinating about the speaking industry and I think no one is addressing this and it’s a huge problem, is how do you prove that you’re actually good at what you do. How do you prove it?

Here’s what we do with speakers. We say, we’re good. “I’m the best. Look at my pictures. Don’t you see me on stage? Don’t you see me? Don’t you see my amazing video with the laugh track on it? Don’t you see all these cool edits I put, I’m the best. Why don’t you believe me?” Because today, and you’ve gotta know this is true, we’ve never had more cynical, critical consumers than ever, right?

Have you ever gone to someone’s website and someone said, “This is the fourth best speaker I’ve ever heard.” And they put that on their website? No, they don’t do that. So what happens in our world is there’s really a tough way to prove you’re actually good. So that’s the premise of it.

So let’s make it easy for people to say yes, and let’s make it easy to prove how good we are. But what’s the easiest way to do it? What are my audiences saying about my events? What, what is the experience like? And let’s objectively turn that into data to say 90% of my audience says this. 86% feel this. If you look at the highest paid speakers, they can give you percentages of what their impact is, what their data shows, and almost 99% of other speakers can’t. Why? Well, because it’s hard to grab data, number one and I believe people are scared of it because they’re data scientists. So the premise behind it was to do two things. The first one is to solve that problem. So we have a really easy QR code that pulls up a survey. We like to say, we took the last five minutes of your talk and turn it into a calendar full of speaking engagements

So you invite your audience to take this very, very quick two minute survey. They take the survey, and then instantly this data report gets created for you. That shows how many people want to hear you speak again, how effective it was, how relevant it was, how inspiring it was. And then you get testimonials pulled and you also get ways for you to prove upon your speaking immediately.

So that allows you, when you go to get rebooked, to show the data. Here’s what the audience has to say about our event. 98% said they want to hear me speak again. Let’s do another one of my programs. 78% said it was valuable. It gets rid of that awkward first stage of, “Should we do another one?” No. The data shows they want to do more. And then if I’m reaching out to someone, instead of me saying, here’s my demo, here’s my bio, I can be like, here’s reports from my last 25 speaking engagements of every single audience member unedited saying I’m doing a good job.

You can fake one report. You can’t fake 25, right? So you’ll get this pattern, and then finally the other thing is leads. I think that the best person to book you to speak is someone who’s seen you speak. So when you’re in the audience and you go, “Oh my gosh, I want to book Grant. He was an amazing speaker.” And then afterwards, I want to run up to you, but there’s a group of people surrounding you. I may go, “I don’t want to wait in this line to give him my card. I’ll get him later, and then I forget and then move on. But what if I can grab everyone in the audience who says, “I book speakers and I want to book you, here’s my contact info.”

So the survey does that as well, only for the people who want to book you. So at the end of the talk, you get data and you get a list of people in the audience who want to book you to speak. So you have people to follow up with and you have data to prove what you’re doing. And it makes rebooking and getting booked way easier than ever.

Grant: Okay so first of all, let’s look at it from a logistical standpoint. You kind of mentioned this QR code. So at the end you’ve got a slide with a QR code, people scan that, and then there’s a couple questions there that they’re going to answer. You’re going to get the data on the back end.

What are those questions? Any logistics that you’ve found have worked well, kind of best practices? Alot of speakers put up a text number or QR code or something. Is there some incentive for them to do that? How do those last few minutes go?

Arel: Great question. So what we’ve found, and we’ve gotten over 10,000 different responses. So we have a lot of data showing what works and what doesn’t work, right? And here’s what we found works the best right now. You don’t do it at the very end. What I’ve actually found is you actually leave them with your final thought. And then you usually end with some type of call to action quote or thing you want them to do. You sandwich it in between that. So I leave them with my final idea and right before I go into my close, right before I go into the clothes, I go out of curiosity. “Did anyone find this talk valuable? Oh, if you did, the greatest way you can pay me back is take less than two minutes, scan this QR code and let me know what you think about it. It helps me know what you like so I can do more. Helps me know what you don’t like, so I can do less. And then as a thank you, I’ll give you this pdf and this video.”

So one of the things that we have built in to talk it out is after people take the survey, they can enter in a code and at the end of the survey, if you’ve got a .pdf, an excel spreadsheet, a video, an audio program, a special URL on your website that has like continued resources or valuable stuff, it gives it to them.

So typically, if they want that thing, which most people will want anything at that point, they can get that. So there’s a little bit of an incentive. You have them do it and then you say it takes about two minutes. On average, we’ve timed every single one. It takes less than two minutes for people to fill out the whole thing.

If I’m in person, what I say is, “When you’re done, look up and I’ll leave you with my final thought before we go.” By me saying that, I’m saying to the audience, we don’t leave until you take the survey, so go ahead and take it now, or we could be here forever. And so what happens is you get that same “everyone’s doing it experience” that you get with paper.

Because most QR code surveys, people don’t do. But with that script, in this position, at this timing, we’re getting about 60 to 80% of every audience taking the survey. So it’s really, really, really valuable. And then when they all look up, I go into my final quote, my closing or my call to action, whatever it might be.

Grant: So part of the point that you talked about was just kind of the objective data that then you could go back to that event planner, that decision maker, the person that booked you for that event and say, “Hey, It went really well. Again, not because you and I have a subjective feeling about it, but based on like, here’s what your audience actually told me.” Have you found that that has led to repeat bookings or referral or spinoff business with that same client?

Arel: By using this methodology, I’m averaging about four speaking engagements per client right now. And that’s huge for most people. And here’s why I’m going, “Look at this incredible data.” What happens is almost consistently my clients go, “I’ve never seen anything like this. You’re the first speaker that’s ever shown me any data.”

They then get to go to their decision makers or their fiscal office and show them this was a good investment. This is instead of what currently happens — focus on the fiscal goals. “Why are we spending so much to bring this person in?” Or the executive goals, “Why are we spending this much money to bring this speaker in?” Unless they see you speak, which many of them won’t, or they’ll come in for the first five minutes — the most high level people and leave. They won’t know. But if you can show them data that they then can add to annual reports that they then can use to confirm they made good choices and they’ve got data to back it up, it becomes this keyword — trust.

And what happens as a speaker, which I think I’m on this mission for speakers — I want us to get the respect that we deserve. I think a lot of speakers are having to sell themselves and do a dog and pony show, when in reality we deserve respect for our expertise. But now if we can back it up not only with videos, pictures, and subjective stuff, but with data — now you have to respect that. What a lot of people I think don’t realize is when people book you, they’re often putting their job on the line. They’re putting their name on you. And if I can make them comfortable saying “yes,” because I’ve got data showing, “Hey you should bring me back because look at this data. Has anyone ever done this before?” They trust. And with that trust, you start getting rebooked. And I’m averaging about four bookings per client simply because they go, “It’s easier to go with you because I know you’re going to do a good job. You have data to prove it.”

Grant: When you have that objective data that you can show to future event planners, it sure makes the buying decision a heck of a lot simpler and really reverses the potential risk that they may be taking.

I want to shift gears for a second and talk about the other side of it that you touched on and that was leads. Which I think is incredibly, incredibly powerful because you touched on the one thing I think you and I have both probably discovered — you have no idea who’s in the audience.

You never know who knows who, who’s connected to who. I think we could probably both compare stories of, you know, you’re speaking to something and then that person is married to someone who’s hiring a speaker. So again, kind of talk us through the logistics of how that works after the event. Someone has completed that QR survey, and not only are they giving you objective feedback on the presentation and the talk, but then is there a chance for them to opt in or I’m interested in hiring you, or like what happens from there with those leads?

Arel: Yeah, so it’s a really good point because we’ve all had this experience at an in-person event. You get off the stage, a group of people rush you and you don’t know which person is which. I want to be comfortable talking to people without feeling like I need to get them to leave, because that’s not the best energy.

So during the survey, one of the simplistic genius things that one of my co-founders put in was it asks a question, do you book speakers? If they say yes, it takes them in one direction. If they say no, it takes them in another. If it says no, but I know someone who does, I can refer you. It takes them yet in another direction. And then what happens at the end of the survey in your databases, you get this lead list of everyone who raised their hand and said, I book speakersand gave their info. And everyone who said, I don’t book speakers but I want to refer you to someone who does.

So what that means is at the end of every talk, you have a group of people that you can follow up with that have seen you speak and raise their hand saying, “I want you to contact me.” And There was one person who was in one of my audiences and she turned out to be not just an event planner, but a hired event planner for four different associations. So now we’re talking about doing multiple talks with one of her clients, and then keynotes for the other three clients that she serves. And now that one person will be worth lots and lots of impact, but also money and it’s totally, it’s pulled for you, which I think is the key.

Most people, when they do the text thing, they’re just getting a general list of people, but they don’t know which are the people that raised their hand. And then the other thing we do is if people can’t book you and they opt into your email, you also build your email list. So when you do have a book or something else — this solves it all and it puts it under this ability to get data up front. So most clients won’t have an issue. They’ll have an issue with you pitching from the stage, but they won’t have an issue with you collecting data from the stage. So you get the leads and you get the data and all you have to do is put up the slide.

Grant: So you mentioned you’re booking around four gigs per gig that you’re doing, which again has a massive compounding effect. How many leads are you typically getting from any given event? Or percentage basis. So you’ll get like three to four.

Arel: I would say it depends on the audience — let me be clear. But on average you’ll get people, three to four, who say they want to book you. You’ll get probably about seven or eight who say they want to refer you and then everyone else will just be email opt-ins. And then my goal is to ask them about the referral — and then it creates conversations. It creates warmness and then I’m not chasing people, which is probably the worst feeling in the world. I’m having conversations with people.

When you are able to really take each individual gig that you do and have that compounding, multiplying effect like that, it has a significant impact on growing a business. And so each gig leads to multiple gigs, even if it’s just that each gig leads to one or two more gigs — that really starts to add up vs. feeling like you’re starting from scratch with every single lead that you’re chasing down.

Grant: Dude, I know we’ve covered a lot, but I also know we kind of scratched the surface here. Any other big picture things that we want to make sure we hit on as it relates to the software?

Arel: Sure. So, what we’re building with this is we want speakers to make it easy to get booked to speak. What I’ve found is most speakers completely like speaking, but they don’t like everything else. Most people say in a perfect world, if I could just speak, that would be amazing. So we’re trying to help people get closer and closer to it and one of the other features we have is if someone takes a survey and raises their hand, we give them the opportunity to embed their meeting link. So if someone is super duper hot, they can actually click and schedule a meeting right then and there so after the talk they actually have stuff scheduled.

We’re super highly responsive. I have two co-founders. One of them built one of the largest, non-Amazon based Amazon businesses. It was a nine figure revenue company. He built the tech side of it. And my other partner, she built an app that had over 25 million downloads before she sold it to a publicly traded company. So we just have really smart people and we’re constantly iterating and trying to make the product better.

So it’s a really exciting phase because we realize as good as we like it, we’re nowhere close to taking it to where we’d like it to be until more speakers who use it give us feedback. I’m sure someone who’s listening to this might be saying, “Well, how much does it cost?” Right? So we have a free tier, so it’s totally free. We have a pro that has more features and more benefits, and it’s just $35 bucks a month, so it’s not like it’s going to cram somebody’s wallet. We bill it annually, so it’s $420 a year. But one talk pays for something like this X 10, but the goal is to make it easy. I think what I’m most excited about is figuring out how to constantly solve that problem so that basically speakers can speak and they don’t have to do a lot of the other stuff that they don’t like.

And then with the right coaching from someone like you on how to find and how to turn a lead into a client, I mean then they could just focus on the stuff they’re good at vs. flailing the ocean doing stuff they’re not good at.

Grant: Let’s go back to one thing you touched on there was the pricing. Listen, people. $420 a year for something that — if you use it right, generate thousands and thousands, and thousands of dollars for you is an absolute no brainer. I’m not an affiliate. I don’t get a dime for this. I’ve seen the tool firsthand. It is a phenomenal tool. You would be ridiculous not to use this. Like Arel said, you got a free tier, so at least go give it a shot. Like I said, I don’t make anything from this other than it’s a great tool that every speaker needs to be using and needs to be put in your toolbox. So kudos to you, my friend, for creating a phenomenal tool.

If people want to find out more about the tool, if people want to find out more about you, what you’re up to, where can we go?

Arel: Yea, so talkadot.com. If you’re listening to this, I’m the only Arel Moodie in the whole world. There’s only one of me. So if you go into LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, I’m the only one there.

Do me a favor, I have a question for you. Those of you listening to this, how many of you listen to this in one? 1.5 speed or 2 X speed. I want to know how people are listening to podcasts. And if you’re listening to this, send me a message and tell me. I’m just super curious. So send me a message with that and it’ll let me know that you actually listened and how you’re listening. And it’s just something I’m curious about. And it’s easy to find me on social media.

Grant: Thanks for the time, my friend. I appreciate you.

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