Why strategy matters to build your speaking business

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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.

Maryalice: Hey everyone. Maryalice Goldsmith here, Director of Student Success, and today I am taking over the Speaker Lab Podcast. It’s a true honor to have the opportunity to introduce you to some of our amazing students, and I promise you’re going to learn so much from their experiences and be inspired by their perseverance and success. Today it’s my privilege to introduce you to Michael Laidler. Where are you from, Michael?

Michael: Originally from Miami, Florida, but right now I live in Beaumont, Texas.

Maryalice: Oh wow. Okay. Really cool. Well, I’m happy to have you here today. Good to see you. So Miami to Texas — do tell.

Michael: I was actually born and raised in Miami, Florida, and then when I turned 16, graduated from high school, I actually traveled up north to Tallahassee, Florida to attend Florida State University, and that’s kind of where my career track started as well, because in 2005, when I was 19, I actually became a police officer.

So from that point on, police work, trying to graduate college — then I was like, well, what’s next for me? What came next was border patrol and that took me to Laredo for a few years. Then I had my son and I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay on the border – it’s kind of rough around that neck of the woods. So I joined the federal prisons and from that point I moved around a few times and now I finally landed in Texas again for a second time.

Maryalice: Very cool. So I know in your career, speaking has been part of it. I got to coach you a couple times, but I’d love to know how, in your career today, your speaking has evolved and what it is that you speak about?

Michael: Speaking started for me, at least from what I can remember, back when I was a field training officer, and that’s when I think more of the coaching, the training kind of started and then it slowly progressed. Every once in a while I go speak somewhere, nothing professionally, so to speak. Nothing truly organized. And then around 2015 I was selected for a supervisory role and I knew I was going to be put in a position of instruction and being in front of others. And one of the things I don’t like is to look crazy or like I don’t know what I’m talking about in front of people. So about a year goes by and I’m getting more into my leadership role. And then in 2016 I joined Toastmasters and they’re one of those organizations that help grow your leadership and your speaking abilities. I really enjoyed participating in that program and doing the different activities.

So in 2017 I was really getting involved in speaking and I heard about the John Maxwell program. I actually saw one of my friends/former coworkers had joined the John Maxwell team and he was doing so much professional speaking. So I dove into it and I got the John Maxwell certification, and that’s where my true formal speaking business got jump started. And from that point forward, I spoke and I was learning the speaking game. I didn’t always know all the marking strategies or everywhere I wanted to go, but I would say that 2016 is when I started formally developing my skill, and in 2017 I made it a business.

How Michael Found TSL

Maryalice: Awesome. So where does The Speaker Lab fit? Timeline. So 2017/1018 I was growing my business and then in my full-time job, because my speaking business was part-time. In 2019 I received a job promotion and spoke once professionally. In 2020 I spoke zero times, and in 2021 I spoke zero times. And I was tired of having goose eggs and I was realizing I had more time in my schedule then what I previously thought. And I told myself, you know what I need? Some more help, some more tips, some more strategies on marketing, because as a speaker, a lot of us come out just thinking that because I was a speaker, I would be getting signed right away. And when you’re not professionally trained to market, or you don’t know how to go get leads and find those people that pay you, you agree to do all the unpaid events. And then you find yourself doing more free stuff than paid, and there is a place and time for that. But if you’re trying to grow it as a profession, then it’s not going to work. You can’t live for free.

So at some point in 2020 or 2021 I got on The Speaker Lab’s email list. I don’t know how I got on it to be honest with you, but somehow I got on it and I would see the emails from Grant Baldwin and then when I made my decision to actually dive more into professional speaking and I kept seeing the e-mails from The Speaker Lab — I was ready to make the transition and to figure out what I needed to do to go from not speaking to really getting a target audience and developing a path and setting goals for myself.

So I jumped into it at the beginning of November 2021, started doing part of the marketing program that’s outlined at TSL, and I had my first contract in December to come and speak. And now just in 2022 I’ve had 15 speaking engagements — just based on the formula and working on it. And now I’m getting emails about engagements for next year!

Maryalice: That’s really awesome. The Michael of 2017-2020 — it’s like, who is he? He’s a completely different person than the Michael who’s standing in front of me right now. And this is what our mission is, right?

You have confidence, there’s an air about you that you own this piece of the pie, in terms of what you speak about and your speaking business — and that has to feel really good. No wonder why you’re just happy to wake up in the morning. Look what you’re waking up to!

Michael: Yep. Some of my concepts on virtual presentations come from Erick Rheam. I published a book this year based on hearing a podcast from Chandler Bolt that was done through this Speaker Lab platform. So there’s a lot of things that you and your team have done a great job doing, and I think sometimes you have to see it to believe it. But all the stuff I have done as far as my speaking business goes has been funded through speaking engagements that I didn’t have last year.

Maryalice: Yeah, it’s really an awesome story, because we give the same information to every single student, and to see certain students take it the way you have and work the program everyday — you’re doing it! And I want to get into that because I think you’re a great example. It’s the step by step that we teach, the SPEAK framework, it’s not complicated, but it is made complicated when people don’t simply implement the steps, right?

So, I’d love to know from you, what does your day like now that you’ve gone through the program? You went through the SPEAK framework, you went through the virtual program. What does a day in the life of a professional speaker look like for you?

Michael: So that’s kind of interesting because I still have my full-time job. However, one thing I’ve learned through The Speaker Lab is to prospect at least 10 minutes a day. Really, you’re going to process a lot more than that no matter what. Just checking emails or returning phone calls, making phone calls, developing curriculum, doing video podcasts, YouTube channels, writing a book, whatever.

So in my life, what it looks like is I work 8-10 hours a day in a full-time job. But then I find time throughout the day, whether it’s in the morning, at lunch break or even after doing research on more presentations, developing my skill set, networking, and figuring out how to communicate with different people. So the speaking side is a continuous movement. It’s continuously developing. It got to the point earlier this year that I had too many speaking engagements lined up for this year to where it would’ve affected my full-time job. So I stopped prospecting, because if not, I would’ve had to miss work without the appropriate leave to take. And I didn’t want to do that to my full-time job. So as a professional speaker, I find that looking for ways to manage my time is important, because now I have a lot more things to do. So I’m looking for different engagements to go for, talking to different people, and working to understand the opportunities that are out there.

So a day-to-day process is really when it comes to professional speaking. Even if you’re doing it part-time and or full-time, it’s prospecting every single day looking for more. Even if you send out five emails, you may not get one today, but you may get one from the next five. I’ve had emails that I forgot I sent two or three months ago, and then all of a sudden, I guess they saw it and it led to a whole other conversation of potential business. So every day in my business for professional speaking, I prospect — even on the weekends, even if it’s just me responding to a quick email.

Maryalice: Michael, you just said it — you have all these things — you have a son, you have your full-time job, you have your speaking career, but there’s something else that you have, and that’s a vision of what you’re willing to say yes to and what you’re willing to balance, and because of that vision, you’re able to say no to certain things.

You still have that abundant mindset, which is so important, but you knew that when you reached a certain number of speaking gigs, that it was time to say no. So talk about how you came up with that number? How did you know that this particular amount of speaking gigs will still allow you to be a great dad, a great full-time employee, a great son, friend, all of those.

Michael: I actually never thought about it until I was in the VIP program with Erick Rheam and I started looking at what my schedule allowed.

So for me, my magic number was 15. If I have more than 15 engagements in a year, as it says right now, I have too many, and that’s about one, maybe two a month, because that allows me to balance out my weekday schedule, my weekend schedule, my time with my son, and my time doing other activities. So once I hit my number, I tell people I’m out for this year, so let’s start working on next year.

Cultivating Relationships

Maryalice: Yeah, it’s so important because it could be enticing to do two or three speaking gigs a year, but then you become a shell of yourself and that really impacts the energy of the business. But you said something really powerful there about cultivating the relationships that you already have, and I know that’s something that Erick drives home. I know that’s something myself and the coaches drive home when you get one speaking gig — that alone can turn into 5-10. It’s the snowball effect, but cultivating those relationships are really, really important. What are some ways that you have found that really works in terms of cultivating those relationships?

Michael: Every conference I do, unless they are too busy, I do a post-event call and that’s what I actually learned through The Speaker Lab. I actually do a pre-event and a post event. The more event coordinators I’ve talked to, they tell me that no one ever does this. No one ever calls us and walks us through a checklist. So I like to do all the little things that I’ve learned through The Speaker Lab to have that next level of customer service, because I’m not always trying to sell to, I’m just trying to build that relationship so they know if they need something from me as far as a professional speaker goes, that I’m willing to at least try.

I also do post event calls, and that’s probably been one of the most important things that I have done that’s allowed me to get more feedback and actually earned me more gigs and opportunities to connect with others just because all the dust is settled from the event. This way you’re not trying to rush up to people and talk to them when everything’s going on and they have time to sit down and say, okay, this is who we could recommend.

Securing Leads

Maryalice: Yeah. It’s so great. I mean we say this all the time. I know you heard it when you were going through our program from probably everyone that you came in contact with, but it’s a relationship building business. And so I think the other thing that’s really profound for you is we have a lot of students who come to us really frustrated and they say, “I reached out to 20 people and I got no response.” And I think to myself, “How do I let them know that 20 people is nothing?” They’re cold leads. They don’t know you. There’s no reason they should be opening your email because you were a stranger in their inbox.

So what do you think made such a difference to get the responses that you were getting?

Michael: So I would do the code email, and if they responded, obviously try to get them on the phone. Not everybody wants to get on the phone right away. It depends on the person or if they directed you to somebody else — but get on that phone and if you can’t get them on the phone, send an email. And if they don’t respond right away, follow the program —  wait a week, wait two weeks, wait whatever the time delay is, and then re-email them. If you get them on the phone, you send them something to follow up. Our goal as professional speakers, as a small business, is to make that path of resistance as minimal as possible. Because we don’t want them to suffer. We want them to know that when they reach back out to us, we are going to respond quickly.

Maryalice: For sure. I love that. You know, it sounds like you’re living your dream. I mean, you really had a mission to create this business. I know it’s part-time now. What’s the long-term goal?

Michael: So, I used to always say back in 2017 that I wanted to be the John Maxwell of law enforcement officers and the law enforcement industry. So that’s still one of my goals. And I can see doing this full-time. I can envision it. It’s not hard. It’s just that you have to be able to understand what kind of field you’re going into. So in the long-term, the big picture is 10 years of having my own speaking company where I am doing a speaking and have other speakers providing training that are similar to what I do – leadership through law enforcement.

Maryalice: So tell me, because you guys have training on all different things, but what’s the benefit to them asking you to come in and train officers on this aspect of leadership?

Michael: So a lot of what it is, and it isn’t just law enforcement, I’m realizing this in a lot of industries, but leadership is talked about but is not really trained heavily. Because there’s so many other things that come up that are more tangible. Leadership is an intangible skill. You don’t really see it. So a lot of organizations don’t put as much funding — or the average organization — doesn’t put that much money into leadership.

So the leadership side, with law enforcement and most other industries, it’s just not really built on as much as we think. And when you look at some organizations you’ve been part of, people talked about leadership, but how many had a program that was well executed?

In theory, at least when it comes to tangibility, it takes priority over everything else. So leadership, what I’ve discovered, is needed everywhere and especially in law enforcement. With all the things we go through, I’ve seen only a benefit to it and it helps you understand yourself. So that’s where I take the leadership or self-awareness approach — I build on both of them just because of the industry.

Maryalice: Yeah. Well you can kind of see where some of the gaps are and then you could really dive in deeper and have that empathy and compassion for the leaders in law enforcement. It’s a really awesome opportunity for you actually.

So tell us — what if someone’s listening to this podcast and they really would love to become a speaker. They’d love to have 15 gigs on their calendar, but I just don’t know if this is for them or if their topic is important enough.

What kind of advice would you give someone who’s on the fence about pursuing their dreams as a speaker?

Advice & What’s Next

Michael: Trial and error, and be able to accept failure. You’re going to fail. And if you’re not a speaker right now, that means that you probably failed to live up to your potential. Because if you’re at least listening to The Speaker Lab Podcast, you’re thinking about it, but you haven’t implemented it because of whatever roadblock you have. But to get over that, you’ve just gotta put your information out there.

So if you’re on the fence right now, if you don’t have time, that’s fine — but don’t say that you’re not ready because you probably are ready if you’ve at least taken the step to look into a speaking program, because that takes effort in itself. And trust me, you’re probably going to swing and miss on the first one unless you’re lucky. So be ready for that.

Maryalice: You know, I think one of the biggest benefits of The Speaker Lab is we don’t just talk about your talk and how to perform on stage. We talk about what this whole being a professional speaker and owning a professional speaking business embodies. And that’s everything from who you are, who you serve, what you do, how you do it, and why you do it. And then also give yourself that confidence of being that expert in your specific niche, which is powerful.

You can’t market yourself if you don’t know what you’re an expert in and what problems you’re solving. So the SPEAK framework is so powerful that way. And I see how it’s paid off for you. I see how you’ve gotten so clear on your niche and the confidence you have as a speaker. It’s really awesome.

And when you think about the Michael of 2017/2018, you knew you were onto something. You just had a bunch of puzzle pieces. You just needed to put all those pieces together. And I think by investing in The Speaker Lab, that’s exactly what you did. And that’s why you’re seeing the success that you’re seeing because, obviously we’re not messing around, but you also got the resources you needed to really create that puzzle and put it together. We always love celebrating our students and we, we are so appreciative for you spending the time and sharing your story because it’s an incredible story. What’s 2023 looking like for you? ,

Michael: Hopefully 15 gigs again, easily. But on top of the gigs, I want to start incorporating more training programs in some of these law enforcement agencies, because I do believe that motivational speaking, speaking at a conference for an hour, two hours, half a day, even a whole day, is great, but you get your long lasting effects when you actually incorporate a whole training program and you’re there three months or six months a year.

I’ve had people from other disciplines reach out and ask if I can do a virtual training. And that’s why I have a virtual studio because I listened to Erick and all of you at The Speaker Lab and started hearing about his options.

So it’s part of the whole process, working it, developing and, and creating. Following the program. It’s as simple as that.

Maryalice: You’re obviously killing it just by following the program. And again, it’s not necessarily a simple thing, but they’re easy steps to take. We’re really excited for you. You’re awesome. Keep up the great work and keep in touch and thanks so much for spending this time with us.

If you enjoyed this transcript, click below to check out the full podcast episode! 

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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. 

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