For good reason, many aspiring speakers are excited about the fun, glamorous parts of becoming a professional speaker. But the “fun” cannot come without the fundamentals. Certain elements of your business, such as your mission and vision, require special attention because they inform everything you do. With an eye to those fundamentals, today we’re guiding you through how to write a mission statement for your speaking business. (If you haven’t read our most recent blog on why your mission and vision are important, read this first.)
There are a few different paradigms you can use as you decide how to write a mission statement. We recommend looking here and here for some more general strategies with lots of examples from big brands. But since speaking is a very particular sort of business, we’re going to focus on a simple but effective way for speakers to write the best mission statement possible. It requires communicating your who, your what, and your why. Read on to figure out what that looks like for your speaking business!
The first key element of your mission is your what–the topic that you speak about. We’re not talking about generalities here. For example, “leadership” may be the overarching category into which your topic falls, but you won’t get very far if you leave it at that. Your mission statement is your positioning statement in the speaking world. And while leadership is one of those evergreen topics that is always in demand, speakers on the topic are a dime a dozen. Since clarity is the key to a strong, compelling speaking platform, your what and accordingly your mission ought to be specific.
So how do you get specific if you only have a general idea of what topic you want to speak about? Well, the first step in our SPEAK framework is “select a problem to solve.” Before you get to the fun part of writing your talk, marketing, and booking gigs, you have to settle on a knowledge or skill gap that you can fill for an audience (your who–we’ll talk about them next). After all, speakers don’t just tell stories and crack jokes. (Those are great strategies to integrate into a talk that solves a problem for your audience. Ultimately, offering solutions that work for your audience is what makes an impact and gets you speaking gigs.
If you’re having trouble figuring out what problem your skills best suit you to solve, spend time doing research. Are you just getting into speaking after a long career doing something else? Use social media and other internet resources to figure out where the gaps in the market are. What books are being published in your field? What pain points are people asking experts about? Which topics do podcasts or blogs keep coming back to? As you ask yourself these questions, you will quickly find an untapped market for a speaking topic in your field. Even if you aren’t an expert, so long as you speak with integrity and remain open about your qualifications, you can be a good speaker.
When you actually put pen to paper to express your what as part of your mission, don’t freeze up about getting it perfect. If you start solving one problem and then your audience’s needs shift, it is a normal part of the speaking journey to pivot toward solving a different problem. For more insights into how to pivot your speaking business, check out this podcast. People change–including you! You might find that your interests or passions evolve as well as the needs of your customer base. Adapting your mission will allow you to remain honest, authentic, and motivated as a speaker.
Articulating your mission is a continuous process. It starts the moment you decide to become a professional speaker. Your mission continues evolving as your business evolves and you can update your mission statement accordingly. If you struggle with characterizing your mission as something that might change, try writing two versions of your mission statement. A broader statement can go on your website or in a short social media bio. Then, you can get specific in client calls, marketing materials, and on stage when you know your audience. Your broad mission will probably not change unless you make a radical departure from your original speaking topic. On the other hand, you can adjust your specific mission statement as needed. Ultimately, all great speakers walk a fine line of staying true to their passions and staying relevant. If that sounds complicated, we have a podcast on this very topic here.
Well technically, it’s your whom. Whom do you serve? Your mission statement has to clarify the audience for whom you solve a problem. This is especially important for speakers because if you try to position yourself as a speaker for all audiences, you will actually get fewer speaking engagements. Many speakers come into the business trying to speak to everybody. They quickly find that it’s an unsustainable strategy for making an impact.
In other industries, the what of the mission statement might be a new product, innovative idea, or revolutionary service that is so universally applicable such the who doesn’t matter. For example, the popular salad chain SweetGreen’s mission statement is “Building healthier communities by connecting people to real food.” Since SweetGreen is trying to become an accessible healthy restaurant, their mission statement targets “people.” Gatekeeping their customer base makes very little sense in their market.
But you’re a speaker, not a tasty fast-casual salad chain. You can’t speak to everybody until you first prove yourself to one niche audience. Event planners are looking to hire someone who will connect with their specific audience. Solving a problem for a particular audience allows you to tailor your entire speaking platform so that every person you speak to feels like you are speaking directly to them. With this in mind, your mission statement should use the language that your audience uses. Research them and the content they consume. Adjust how you present your mission to your clients and audience. Even if you have to adapt your preferred verbiage, you will serve your audience better if you’re relatable from the get go.
Just like your what, figuring out your who is not a one-and-done experience. If you are speaking to a small group now but long to expand your audience, you can save those dreams for your vision statement. We’ll cover crafting an excellent vision for your speaking business in our next blog. For now, let’s move on to the last element of how to write a mission statement for your speaking business: your why.
Your why encompasses the goals you have for making an impact and what values drive you toward those goals. What’s important to you and what do you hope to accomplish? Figuring out your why helps you stay aligned with your mission and know when to pivot. If your who and your what are leading you away from the difference you want to make in the world, your why can help you reorient.
Your why matters especially to speakers because you can’t get away with a lackluster motivation. Getting a job in an industry you’re not passionate about because you need the money is a reasonable choice. Building a speaking business on something you’re not passionate about will set you up for failure. As a speaker, you’re not selling some other product. You’re selling you! Taking the leap into speaking is not a decision made lightly. This podcast episode with our TSL coaches covers how we help aspiring speakers find their why to create a better foundation for their speaking business. You should take some time to reflect on what’s really motivating you before you get up on stage. TSL founder Grant Baldwin and podcast co-host Erick Rheam talk about how a mini-retreat can help you get clear on your speaking business in this episode.
Not every gig you take has to be a perfect match to your mission. Ultimately everything you do to build your business contributes to your mission. The oddball speaking engagement you take to help out a friend or because they’ll take good photos contributes to the foundation you’re building to help fulfill your mission. When you realize you’re taking a higher proportion of gigs that aren’t aligned with your why, it’s time to work on your marketing strategy–or your confidence to say no. Are you passionate and motivated to create impact but have a hard time putting into words? Our recent podcast episode with TSL coach Michelle Onuorah is all about honing in on your core mission.
If you’re hoping for answers to how to write a mission statement for your speaking business that you never have to edit or update, we can’t help you. But with a mission statement that is both direct and adaptable, you will crush your speaking goals and stay aligned with your purpose. You might have noticed we didn’t give you a template or fill-in-the-blanks for your mission statement. Your mission statement is more than a few short sentences on your speaking website. It’s also something that you get to elaborate at length during your client calls and speaking engagements. We always recommend keeping things short and sweet, but it’s ultimately up to you how to express the who, what, and why of your speaking business.
Speaking is really rewarding when you get to the exciting parts like spreading your message, traveling the world, and landing high-paying gigs. But the fundamentals deserve just as much effort at the start and at every stage of the journey. At The Speaker Lab, we want to help you master every aspect of launching a successful, sustainable speaking business. Need some assistance on that journey? We can help.