Why coaching will transform your speaking career

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: Hey everyone. I’m Maryalice Goldsmith, Director of Student Success here at The Speaker Lab, and today I am joined by our Elite Concierge and Coach, Katie Campbell. I’m super excited to have her today on this episode of the Coaches’ Corners series. We are going to deep dive into how to maximize coaching and get out of your own way. Big topic, important topic, and I’m excited to go over this with you. Katie, how are you today?

Katie: I’m good. Thanks so much for having me — I’m excited to be here with you.

Maryalice: Katie is on the front lines, as I call it, and as soon as students sign up for one of our programs they are sent to Katie. And Katie does such a great job of welcoming our students and really helping them come up with a navigation plan on how to best go through our programs.

So I want to talk about this topic with you because one thing that you often see are students who are so in their head about becoming a professional speaker because there’s a mindset to it. They’re stepping into their next level. So what are some of the hardest things you see speakers having to do in order to get to the impact that they want to make?

Why you have to get uncomfortable

Katie: Well first let me just say, we’ve all been there. This is not easy work to do, but it’s necessary. And when you do it, it’s so worth it. But you’re not alone coming into this with a million different things on your mind and some fears. Sometimes when people sign up for the program they’ve got this adrenaline rush. And then when they look at the course, it becomes really real for them.

And the beautiful thing is we’re guiding you every step of the way, right? But it is going to get uncomfortable at times, and you’re going to question some of the things that you know and you thought were true and some beliefs that you’ve had about yourself. And it’s going to be a beautiful journey, but it’s going to be uncomfortable at times. And so our team is really here to help push you through that and lift you up every step of the way.

Maryalice: What do you think, when they look at the course as you mentioned, what do you think goes off in certain people’s minds that make them go, “Whoa, wait a minute.”

Katie: Yeah, it’s all of the in between steps, right? We want to be speakers, we have this message, this impact we want to make, and we see the end goal. But sometimes the journey to that end goal can seem really intimidating because there’s a lot of little bits and pieces that as brand new speakers we haven’t thought about, or even seasoned speakers who want to up level, maybe haven’t done in their business yet.

So just before the pieces are put together, kind of seeing them scattered about — it’s like a puzzle. It’s really intimidating before you start connecting all those pieces together. But once you do, you kind of start to see this picture form and it gets a lot easier. So it’s a very similar process, I guess.

Maryalice: I think what people are surprised about is when they come to The Speaker Lab — we’re creatives. We can get on stage all day, every day. Give me a topic, I’ll talk about it. But we actually help you build the business of being a professional speaker. Yes, we’re going to talk about your talk and we’re going to help you with that.

But all the components of a speaking machine to get booked and paid to speak repeatedly — that’s the part that I think people are like, “Ooh, I have to shut off my creative brain and I have to turn on my strategic brain.” And that could be a little intimidating at first.

Katie: It can. And that’s actually one of the first things I talk about before we even look at the course is that business mindset. If you come into this thinking you’re going to watch a few lessons and you’re going to be a speaker, it’s not going to work out well for you. You have to treat this like a business from the start. You’ve got to be consistent and intentional, like running a business from the start so that you’re not in shock mode when you come out of the course and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, yeah, this has to function now.” So the sooner these students can get into that business mindset, the easier it’s going to be to get set up for success at the end.

Maryalice: I mean, initially one of the first things we do is help a student really journey into the impact that they want to make — who do they want to make it for and why? And in that process we help them create what we call an expert positioning statement. And there are some students who come to us and they want to save the world, and it’s a beautiful thing, right? They want to help everyone. And one of the things that we strongly encourage is — don’t help everyone. Help one group of people and really narrow down your niche. This is really hard for students. Why do you think that is?

Katie: Yeah. I think we’re all empaths, right? We want to help. We have that drive to just, you know, fix and do great things. And we’re multi-passionate. I know that’s kind of a buzzword right now, but for lack of a better term, we’re very complex. So when we ask you to get really specific on one thing, it can feel impossible sometimes. But when it seems restrictive, it’s really going to help your business in the long run.

And sometimes when we ask you what’s your why? It feels like we’re asking you what’s the meaning of life? Right? Like, it’s a huge question. But really it’s meant to ask — what’s your passion? What do you love doing? What do you see useful in your passion that can help others? It’s that driving force that motivates you that can help people. But it’s usually not as big of a question as we tend to initially feel when we start that process.

Maryalice: Yeah. I also think there’s something that goes off in certain people’s brains that when they niche, they’re owning that space and they’re claiming “I’m an expert in this.” And the next thing that happens is their ego rages and says, What are you crazy? You can’t talk about that. You can’t do that. Do you see that as well?

How to overcome imposter syndrome

Katie: I talk all the time about this. Mr. Imposter sitting on your shoulder — definitely narrowing down brings out all of the scared feelings of doubt, and can I really do this? And you can, you can trust yourself, you have got to trust your heart in that.

But it’s that intersection between your passion and your knowledge, right? If you can find that intersection, that’s your why, and you’ve got to own that expertise. You’ve lived it, you’ve learned it, whatever that may be — so you’re put in that position to define yourself as an expert, but it’s a healthy position to be in.

I had a coaching call with a student and they came on the call with really low energy. And I asked how I could help them. What’s the one thing that you want to make sure you’re getting out of this call today? And they shared that they were really struggling with imposter syndrome. And I shocked the heck out of them because I said, that’s awesome – that is good. And they were like, Why? What are you talking about? They thought I was nuts. But if you’re not struggling with imposter syndrome, you’re just playing small or you’re not human. I told them — I love that you’re having some imposter syndrome because you’re playing bigger right now and you’re going to places you’ve never been before.

And I think sometimes we get too caught up on expert, right? I see students coming in and they say, “I speak on health, but I’m not an expert because I’m not a doctor. I don’t have credentials behind my name.” And it’s like, wait a second, what’s your topic though? Have you lived it? Because if you lived it, that’s a different kind of expert. So I think you have to be careful — if you’re feeling all this fear come up, how are you defining experts?

Maryalice: Oh my gosh. Such a great point because I’ll tell you right now, I would much prefer to go to a doctor who’s been through it than somebody who’s just studied it. It’s just a fact, you know — we would all agree on that.

So I’d much rather come and listen to someone who’s speaking that has gone through it. Then someone, you know, who read a couple of books and got a PhD. Not to disrespect anyone who’s read a couple of books and got a PhD, but it’s just my opinion. I would much prefer to sit in an audience where somebody actually has gone through it, learned from it, and is now impacting the world to help them get through it.

Katie: One thing I would suggest too, if you’re struggling to define that in yourself is to do a brain dump and get a notebook and write down all of the reasons why you are an expert in the field and whether it’s your credentials or not, or your experiences I think you’re going to find a lot more things come up that on why it qualifies you to talk about this than you initially can think of off the top of your head.

So don’t be afraid to put it on paper and write it down too. That can be really eye opening.

Maryalice: And you’d be surprised the people that you respect and follow and you might consider mentors if you really went into their history, you’d be surprised that a lot of them don’t have doctorates or haven’t gone to school for this, but they have a ton of experience and that’s why you were attracted to them.

So, you know, narrowing down the niche — we know that can be challenging, but why is it important that we coach our students to do this? Why do we do this? Why don’t we just let them change the world?

Katie: Yeah. It helps you speak directly to your audience, right? If you don’t narrow it down, when you try to speak to everybody, you don’t speak to anybody. You get lost in the noise. So by narrowing it down, you’re able to stand out from all of the noise, perk people’s ears up and say, “Oh wow, I really connect with this person’s message. I see myself in them.”

It creates that human connection and it allows you to really pinpoint who you’re going after too. This is a business, like we said before, and you know, if you’re a nail salon, you’re not going after a pizza competitor, right? Everyone’s gotta stay in your niche. And it’s the same thing for, for speaking.

Maryalice: And I think it really does help you get very clear on your why, because when you know, What you’re talking about, the impact you’re making and who you’re making it for. That audience becomes more than an audience, it becomes a human, and there’s that emotional connection. And so marketing to them, speaking a certain language, it becomes so much more important. There’s that emotional component to it, and I don’t care if you’re in corporate leadership or in motivational speaking, it’s still human to human. You’re a speaker speaking to humans, and when you can get really clear on your niche, it helps your why become more defined and clear.

Katie: And it’s more fulfilling for you, right? It creates self-awareness. If you’re just going out and speaking and you’re not acknowledging the impact that you want to make, then you’re not gonna feel very fulfilled from it, right? So like it does a whole lot for you, not just your audience, to really have that defined reason.

Maryalice: Yeah, for sure, not to mention that it totally helps on what we talked about in our last episode of your website and your demo reel and your abstract. The language is so much more clear and you will attract the right people and you’ll be able to answer that question, what’s in it for me? If you’re trying to speak to everyone and solve all the things, it’s really hard to attract the right people and get booked and paid to speak over and over so that clarity on your language becomes so succinct when you niche down specifically.

Katie: It’s what Grant calls the buffet method, right? I’m pretty sure he says that in one of his videos. If I’m an event booker coming to your website — I talk about this to students all the time and I’m trying to figure out what the heck you do, and I see that you speak to this audience about that and this one about that, I’m going to wonder — well what do they actually specialize in? If I go to a doctor, I don’t want to see that they’re also a chef and also an artist. So you have got to be really clear to the person who’s going to pay you and book you, and own that expertise as well.

Maryalice: Yeah, for sure. A hundred percent. So what are a few coaching tips that maybe we can share right now to help people? Maybe there’s somebody listening who thinks they really do need to niche down because I am trying to save the world and I haven’t gotten booked and paid to speak in over a year. So what are some tips that we can do to help them do this with more ease?

Katie: Yeah. So just a given — you need to be open and receptive to other perspectives. Someone outside of your bubble giving feedback on what you’ve been doing or thinking about over and over again can be incredibly beneficial.

It can be a really big wake up call for you to start considering how others see you – or what they don’t see in you. So just being open and receptive to those new suggestions is important. It doesn’t mean you have to take all of them, but you can’t coach unless you’re open to being coached.

Another thing too is looking at what other people are doing in your industry. That’s one of the things that you do in module one for an assignment — figuring out what other speakers are doing in your area and for their audiences. And that’s not necessarily to compare yourself with others. You can’t compare if you’re just starting out. You can’t compare yourself to someone who’s been doing this for 15 years and they’re doing TED Talks and TV interviews. You’ll get there, but that’s not the goal of the exercise. I can’t remember who I learned this from. I wish I could, I wish I could quote it, but I like to call it filling in the white space, right?

So if you picture a paper that’s full of pictures, that’s the noise in your industry. So you look at what everyone else is doing and then you look at the white spots on that paper and where you can fill in those gaps that are not being served to your audience. So when you compare yourself in a healthy way with other speakers in your industry, it can be really eye opening on what you can bring that’s already not there.

Finding the intersection of passion and knowledge

Maryalice: You also talked about the intersection of passion and knowledge and helping that guide you. Talk about that a little bit more.

Katie: Oh, I’ve got a self example for you on that one. So my background’s marketing and I used to give marketing seminars and I was really good at it and lots of people attended. I was very successful. And so, you know, I joined The Speaker Lab and the speaker bug caught up to me and I was like, I can do this too.

And I thought, all right, I know marketing, I’m great at marketing, I can get booked. And I started thinking about my audience and I started thinking about my talk. And I had this wake-up call and I was like, I don’t want to do this for five or 10 years. I will not find joy in writing this talk. I’m not going to love to speak about it. I’m knowledgeable, but clearly it is not my passion. So I flipped it — I live with a rare chronic illness and I’m really passionate about advocating and helping people through that. So I’m knowledgeable because I live it every day. I’m passionate about it because it lights me up to talk about, and so that’s what I pivoted to.

It took a wake up call as I was writing my talk on marketing that it wasn’t meant for me. So sometimes it does take trial and error, but when you can recognize that intersection, it’s really powerful and it may not be a huge “aha” moment like I had, but you’re going to feel it inside when you hit that sweet spot.

Maryalice: Yeah. I love that. That’s really important. And it does help you transition out of this mindset of helping everyone and more to recognizing where you’re brilliant and what you’re passionate about. I always say to people, if I put you on stage right now for 30 minutes and you’re completely unprepared, what is something that you could talk about for 30 minutes that just lights you up and you would never have to look at an index card or a PowerPoint slide or anything. What is that? Because that’s the passion, right?

Katie: It is. And you can’t force it, right? It’s only going to hurt you if you try to force your passion, right? And you don’t want that wake up call in 10 years,

Maryalice: It’s really important to understand that if you’re going to build a speaking business, you deserve to absolutely love it. It should fire you up in ways that are unexpected and unexpected. So don’t shy away from that. If you do have a passion — I mean, you can’t imagine what people speak about! It’s wild — and they get paid for it, right? You have your typical corporate type of speech, but there’s animal safari and painting and cooking and they’re getting paid really great money. So if there’s something that you’re really passionate about, don’t turn your back to that because that’s something you need to pay attention to.

Katie: You have to be selfless with your impact and your message to others, but you get to be selfish with the reason that you want to do this. It’s your life, it’s your business, and you get to be selfish with that.

Maryalice: So there are times where topics can be a little bit more general, and I know this is an oxymoron of everything we just talked about, but I do want to touch upon it because I know myself, I have coached several students where I realize you can’t necessarily niche an audience because your topic is so niched on the essence of what it’s about.

There is that difference between nicheing your audience because the topic relates to them versus your topic being a little bit more general. Therefore it’s not necessarily seeking out the audience, you’re seeking out people who are interested in the topic.

So, maybe marriage could be an example of this. You don’t necessarily have to be married to go hear somebody speaking about marriage. You might be somebody who’s aspiring to be married and wants to learn something. So it’s more important to market the essence of your talk.

Katie: Actually, I did think about someone who talks about love. And they have three different topics or talks within that topic. Love with your significant other, love with your friends and family. Love with the people you work with — so it’s this concept that’s the same, but they can take it to multiple audiences and make tweaks and it still applies.

I think there’s a fine line and I think you need a very defined strategy if you do have that scenario. I think you still have to have a target to aim for, though. I still think if you try to just —  in marketing we call it spray and pray — pray that it sticks, that’s not a strategy. And so even if your audience isn’t specific, but your topic is, you’ve still got to have that specific direction and that’s really what you’ve got to work on with a coach to make sure that you are pinpointed enough.

Maryalice: I always encourage our students —  there are a lot of people who’ve had this profound life experience that could move people and inspire people. But there’s also a system that helped them get out of that profound experience. So they could go into corporate or they could go into sales teams and they can help them meet their bottom line or get better results or create better cultures. So there’s this essence of their talk. So I always encourage them to get really punchy with the marketing language.

And this is where it’s so important that if you have this type of talk, you have to get to the transformation that you offer. If you can’t zone in on that so specifically, it makes it very challenging, not impossible, but challenging to market and attract the right people.

Katie: Absolutely. And I think like if you have this sort of topic, I think you have to be more aware of protecting yourself too for opportunities because you can’t lose sight of your why if you don’t have that target audience and you have a target topic.  You have to remember that impact that you’re making and you have to make sure whatever gigs you’re taking, whatever audience it may be, that it’s aligned with your message and your reason behind your passion for speaking on that topic. If you don’t set boundaries and you can talk to any audience, then you’re probably going to take some gigs that you really don’t want to end up taking.

So you’ve got to be careful personally too, when you can take this message so many places that you’re not decreasing the value in how you feel when you’re on stage speaking to a group of people as well.

Maryalice: There’s an essence to your talk, which means there’s an essence to the people that you are bringing this talk to, and that’s what you really have to hone in on. You have to hone in on what is this essence? So you might help go-getter entrepreneurs, but you might also help fathers be better fathers, right? Your talk might be able to cover both of those. But what’s the essence of the go-getter entrepreneurs, and what’s the essence of the father that creates that red thread or that commonality? That’s what’s so critically important. It is not as easy as helping more people make more sales, right? But when you have an essence type of talk that can apply to multiple audiences, you have to decide where you niche in the commonalities of those audiences so that when I say go-getter father, go-getter entrepreneur, both those people are going to perk up.

It’s a tough one, but it’s something as coaches where we really help you navigate those waters, and it happens every once in a while. And it’s great that they’re in our hands because we could really help them be strategic in that because it does change up the marketing angle big time.

Katie: Yeah. And I think a lot of students come in thinking that is them. And then as they talk through it with a coach, they realize they do have a specific audience. But then there are also the students where this fully applies.

Maryalice: Yea. And Rick and I talked about this on one of the earlier Coaches Corner Series episodes. But really if you want to maximize coaching and get out of your own way and accelerate this process of building a speaking business, come prepared, do the work, write down your questions, do your research. You mentioned before about researching other speakers. Know how are they positioning themselves and then what makes you different? Nobody has your stories and nobody shares them the way that you’re going to share them.

So it’s really important that to maximize coaching and get out of your way that you pull those stories out of you. And as coaches — I mean, we do that all day every day, you know?

Katie: And it’s going to serve you more when you can come with those questions and with the areas you’re having trouble navigating on the coaching call, right? We’re here to facilitate a space for your transformation, and so having you bullet point things that you really want to work through or that you’re really struggling with just takes that coaching session to the next level. It makes it all the more productive because we’re not the experts in your passion.

Maryalice: The question I often ask, unless I’ve been coaching you for a while and I know what the homework was and I know what to expect on our next call Ialways say, in the next 30 minutes, what do you want to talk about? And we get so much done in those 30 minutes because we hone in on the specific area that you’re at, and so if you’re coachable, if you did your work, if you came prepared, you will get so much out of 30 minutes. And get the coaching that you deserve.

Katie: And I love the moments too, where the student comes with this huge list of things they want to work through, and then we tackle the first two things on that list, and it answers so many more questions for the ones that follow. When we can get to the root of really what’s causing that confusion then it’s kind of like a domino effect, right?

Maryalice: It totally is. Anything else you wanna add? When it comes to this?

Katie: Don’t be afraid to mess up and to make it a little messy here and there. It’s not easy, right? If this was easy, every single person would be making hundreds of thousands of dollars speaking. You’ve chosen to step up to the plate and invest in yourself, and invest in us in your time, or go all in. But know that it’s going to get messy at times. Like you’ve got a whole support system at The Speaker Lab to help you backup and encourage you.

Sometimes it takes trial and error, right? It’s not going to be perfect a hundred percent of the way, and it shouldn’t be because that’s how we learn and grow. So if you’re scared, you’re probably doing it right. If you’re not scared, we probably have to have another conversation,

Maryalice: It’s a long game. We started this conversation by talking about how students come in, they’re all excited, they get to the content and they’re like, “Whoa, this is a lot of work.” And it’s designed like that. It’s designed for you to do the work so that when you’re done with The Speaker Lab you are so armored with everything that you need to be a wildly successful speaker.

But it takes grit, it takes patience, and it takes being coachable to get through that process and then afterwards it takes grit and patience to continue to build the business. So none of this is the bad news — it’s just not overnight. The good news is you will know confidently that when you go through one of our programs, you’re going to have everything you need.

We don’t just talk about the talk, we don’t just talk about getting on stage. You have the systems. I mean, we finish out your modules in the vision and strategy workbook where you will literally have a three year plan for your business. That’s amazing, right? So you have your talk, you have your marketing assets, you have your confidence, you have your clarity, and you have a three year business plan.

Katie: And you’re immersed in probably one of the biggest cultures of speakers that you’re probably going to be in next to a huge speaking conference that you attend, right? There’s just so much that you have to keep building you up in the program. I mean the community, not only the assets that you’re building throughout the program and stuff, but the community is huge.

Maryalice: That’s another point I would like to drive home. Rely on the community, the people who show up in our Circle group, it’s a private group. We don’t have a bunch of Facebook ads distracting us and all of that. It’s our exclusive circle community and you could go in there and ask questions. You could celebrate wins, you could celebrate other people’s wins. You could share your website for some proper feedback from fellow speakers, And you could come in there and say, you know what, I’m having a really bad week. I’m feeling frustrated. I’m feeling imposter syndrome. And it’s amazing the support that you get.

And so really we have all the components in our program to get people out of their own way, to show up to their dreams and really achieve that success. And so I think that’s another great thing that we have here, is the community. It’s powerful. And when you use it, it really does help you stay out of your own way.

Katie: Absolutely. If you’re interested in speaking, there’s so many reasons to do this, and I would just ask you too — if you’re letting fear and that imposter syndrome get in your way, just ask yourself at what cost.

You have a message and how many people are not hearing your message that need to right now? So if that doesn’t pull you through the fear and the messy things that you’ll hit along the way, I don’t know what will.

Maryalice: Awesome. Well, this is great. I think these are all really good reminders for current students, potential students, old students — just these reminders of how sometimes we really do just need to get out of our own way to get it done. Katie, thank you so much for your time. Thanks to everyone who listened, please go ahead and share this with your fellow speaking friends and we hope that you know, if you are in your own way, we are a click away to join.

We’d love to support you in your journey to becoming a professional speaker. You are in really good hands with us here at The Speaker Lab and the Student Success Team.

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 Be An Emcee
Introduction Have you ever considered adding Master of Ceremonies (MC) to your speaking offerings? Being an MC can help you learn how to add energy to the proceedings of your speaking events and help you...
How to use humor in your talk
Introduction Are you having a difficult time trying to figure out how to use humor to your talk? You're not alone! Many speakers face an intimidating fear of incorporating jokes into their speeches. Today, on...
Top 10 Public Speaking Podcasts You Should Know About
Introduction So, you’re looking for a public speaking podcast to listen to, but you don’t know where to begin? Here at The Speaker Lab, we've collated a list of the top 10 public speaking podcasts...
How to use data to get booked and paid to speak
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 -...
Top 10 Professional Speaking Conferences You Should Know About
Introduction If you've started a speaking business, but are still figuring out the lay of the land, you may benefit from networking with other professional speakers. But where do you find them? While the internet...
57 Resources for Speakers
So you've just started your speaking career. What are some resources for speakers like you to get started building their speaking business? There are a lot of great tools for speakers to build their business,...
How to navigate transitions in 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....
How to pay taxes as a speaker
Introduction Do you dread taxes or worry you aren’t using the right entity for your speaking business? In this post, we are going to tackle how to pay taxes as a speaker. As a full-time...
9 Travel Tips For Speakers
Introduction If you are somebody who loves to travel, then a public speaking career will definitely be appealing to you, because you're going to get to travel A LOT. But maybe you're not super experienced...
How to write a speaker contract
Introduction So you've started a speaking career, booked your first gig, and you get an email asking for a speaker contract. What do you do? What should be included in your contract? How much should...