If you’ve just decided to start a speaking business, you have a lot of ducks to get in a row. We recommend a simple 5-step process to speaking success: our SPEAK framework that informs all our coaching programs. But like with any entrepreneurial venture, there are a few other important steps that have to take place for your speaking business to thrive. One of those is grounding your business in a compelling mission and vision.
But here’s the thing. Many people–even accomplished professionals–don’t really understand the difference between a mission and vision. Often, the “mission and vision” statements on company websites are just full of fancy buzzwords. W’re not here to help you come up with jargon-y phrases to put on your website–in fact, you probably don’t need your mission and vision on your speaker page. Today’s piece is going to dig into the difference between a mission and vision. And don’t worry–we’ll also discuss why both a mission and a vision are important for your long-term speaking goals.
What is a speaking mission?
Your mission is your why and what you do rolled into one. In a practical sense, it’s your positioning statement. It answers some questions like:
- What problem do you solve for what audience?
- What is the impact you want to create?
- What are the values you want to impart?
- Why do you get out of bed every morning?
- What is the overarching purpose that motivates all your efforts?
And yes–you should formulate a mission statement at the very start of your speaking journey so it can shine through all your conversations, speaking engagements, and marketing initiatives. It doesn’t have to be long–just something you can tape onto your mirror to get you back on track if you feel like your action items aren’t really making an impact. Your mission will establish and communicate your values as a speaker and as a business even before you develop your brand.
Every action item you take on in your speaking business is part of your mission. For example, let’s say your mission is “helping executives lead with empathy.” The emails you send to find speaking gigs are part of your mission–because by getting on the stage more, you’re helping even more executives.
Now, that might sound great and all, but what if you have so many ideas and passions you have a hard time honing in on one mission? Or you know you want to speak, but aren’t sure what your talents are best suited for? Our recent podcast with coach Michelle Onuorah covers exactly this question.
Your mission is something you accomplish or do every day. Wrapping your mind around this is key to understanding the difference between mission and vision. Your vision, on the other hand, is something that happens in the future. We’ll dig into that next!
What is a speaking vision?
Your mission is what gets you out of bed in the morning. Your vision is the destination of your speaking journey. And it’s an absolutely essential component of a successful speaking business from the very start.
Your vision is a natural goal that your mission drives you toward. It’s not a fuzzy ideal, but a realistic future rooted in your mission and values. To discern your vision, you have to take some time to reflect and ask yourself a few questions, like:
- Where do you you see yourself and your speaking business in ten years?
- What kind of platform do you want to have?
- What kind of resources do you hope to offer?
- Do you want to be the world’s foremost expert in ___?
Now, you might be tempted to put off crafting your vision until later on in your career. However, the great thing about a vision is it’s just the destination, not the journey. It’s your north star, but you get to decide how and when you get there. A vision isn’t something that exists in isolation. A vision requires goal-setting and achieving in the context of a realistic strategy. (We’ll be digging more into the art of vision craft and goal-setting in future blogs, so stay tuned!) Your vision is concrete, but the goals you set on the way to achieving it are fluid. Of course, if you reach a defining turning point in your business, you might have to pivot. In that situation, it’s wise to take some time to update and refine your vision so you can reorient your business successfully.
While the vision for your speaking business should be realistic, it shouldn’t be limiting. In our experience helping guide professional speakers to hit their goals, we find many aspiring speakers hold themselves back from their real vision because they feel like they’re dreaming too big. Your vision should be big. Acknowledge that a great deal of trial and error and strategizing will take place in the great unknown before you get there.
If you’re struggling with gaining momentum in the early phase of launching your speaking business, it’s time to get clear on your vision. Doing so will actually catapult your business forward. Why? Because you can actually set your sights on your destination and move forward with intentionality and motivation. A well-crafted vision allows you to systematize and align all the grunt work of running a speaking business. Listen here to learn more about this from our TSL coaches themselves.
Many speakers hire coaches to help them formulate a vision that they can work toward. Our coaching team at The Speaker Lab has helped thousands of speakers through this process–learn how to work with them here.
Why a mission and vision are important for your speaking business.
Getting clear on the difference between a mission and vision will help you and others get clear on the meaning of your business. After all, clarity is one of the most important elements of a successful brand! Now that we’ve established the difference between mission and vision, let’s talk about their relationship and why they’re important for speakers.
When you build a speaking business specifically, a mission and vision play an integral part of gaining and sustaining momentum. In the long-term, a mission and vision are essential to the sustainability of you and your business. They drive your daily activities. Each speaking gig you consider, you measure up against them. Working backwards from your vision and keeping your mission at the forefront of your mind together help you create goals and strategy aligned with your greater purpose.
Mission and vision play a key role in long-term strategic planning for speakers. For example, your current audience might not line up with the area of impact that fits in with your mission. (That’s perfectly fine, since you can pivot your audience in the future.) However, it means you should think about how your one, five, or ten-year plan gets you more aligned with your mission.
Communicating your mission and vision in your talks and client conversations will also help others better understand what you’re all about. Your mission and vision are the part of your speaking journey that is most uniquely you. Nobody else wants to make exactly the same impact. Any audience can tell when a speaker isn’t really committed or passionate about what they’re saying. Any client can tell when a speaker doesn’t really have a good handle on the kind of events they want to speak at.
Furthermore, your mission and vision help differentiate you in a very competitive playing field. Speaking is an incredible opportunity, but there are always more speakers than speaking gigs. Great speakers though–those are few and far between, and they are often set apart by their mission and vision. Great speakers love what they do and keep their eyes on the prize. Do you feel lackluster about the solutions you offer your audience or don’t really know where you’re headed? Take a day or two to work on your mission and vision. Yes, even if you only want to speak part-time. Even if you speak in a “boring” industry. These are nonnegotiables!
To recap: your mission is your here and now. Your vision is your future. Your strategy is what you use to accomplish your mission in a way that gets you to your vision. Juggling all three of these balls is no easy task–but it’s one that all great speakers learn to manage.
Before we wrap up, let’s quickly return to something we mentioned in the introduction. You may have first encountered the concepts of mission and vision on a company’s website. If this is your first stab at entrepreneurship, you may be stressed about formulating your own vision and mission for the public view. It’s true: your speaker website is one of the most important digital assets you can have. And if you start looking at other speaking and entrepreneurship websites for inspiration, you’ll notice speakers who mention their mission and vision. Some good examples include Pamela Slim, Mel Robbins, Jenny Blake, Phil Jones, and Ann Hiatt.
But frankly, you don’t need to put your mission and vision on your website to get speaking gigs. In fact, many successful speakers don’t have a mission and vision on their website. Those speakers definitely have a mission and vision, but they have chosen to integrate them more subtly into their bio or the solutions-oriented language elsewhere on their site. So if you’re early in your career, don’t worry about cramming a mission and vision into your website. Focus on your demo video, gathering testimonials, and making sure your digital footprint puts your best foot forward.