Monday, February 19, 2007

Future of Professional Speakers

More and more people are moving into the direction of pursuing their dreams. Many have gone through incredible hardships and have learned through heart ache and struggle that they’ve learned survival and success techniques that they’re anxious to share with the world.

These people become speakers. And with any luck, hard work and persistence, they become professional speakers!

The path of being a professional speaker up until now has had two distinct career paths. Since the beginning of time, experts, former politicians and business leaders and professional athletes have shared their wisdom from the stage. These people get the big bucks and are now represented by celebrity agencies in the major cities.

The other path, are the speakers and trainers who study personal development, organizational development, sales or customer service and enjoy performing. These speakers write trainings which become books, and usually have a business model that combines speaking, coaching and consulting.

I see a third level of speaker who is about to emerge on the scene and it should scare the current motivational speakers and should leave them shaking in their shoes.

I believe that in the future, actors will replace speakers to deliver the latest content available in the universe. These actors will be trained to retain and deliver dynamic information which is entertaining, funny and interactive. These performers will be paid a day rate, and will be highly specialized speakers yet will not have ever worked in business. Content providers and researchers will hire these actors to present their material.

Speaker bureaus who now work with a barrage of professional speakers, will offer another tier of speaker. Performer to deliver keynote, workshop or Training. Union scale will apply. Ads for actors will read: Multiethnic performer/female, age 30s to deliver motivational speeches of adventure, fulfilling potential and excellence. 30 all expenses paid vacations a year paid by corporations. Spokespeople/models encouraged to apply.

Companies will pay $700 for these actors to deliver a highly motivational and exciting speech. The actors can mingle after or during the reception as the “person who climbed the mountains” and take on the whole persona of an outdoor adventurer. Later that night, she’ll climb back in bed and get up the next morning to shoot a movie or a commercial. She’ll be a speaker for hire. An actor. And she delivers up to date, engaging information.

The speaking business is now highly computerized. Anyone can make themselves out to be an instant celebrity by understanding internet marketing and how to build name recognition as an expert. The information is available on the internet for anyone to sound like an expert with an hour or two of study.

I believe as a result we’re not far away from the Milli Vanilli's lip sync scam from the 80’s who performed on stage in front of thousands around the world who bought the group’s music which earned the group a Grammy. Later, Americans learned they’d been scammed by a record label and that the two in the group couldn’t even sing. They lost their Grammy and their credibility. But the reality was, was that the audience didn’t seem to mind. They loved the music they were hearing, and loved the looks and the moves of the performers. It was entertainment and it was successful.

Will corporate audiences care who delivers the content? Will meeting planners care who researched the material that is delivered? Won’t they care more that their staffs are updated on current information and wouldn’t it be a bonus if the spokesperson on stage is nice to look at? Professional meeting planners won’t have to answer phone calls or even speak with speakers. They’ll just search for an actor who can deliver exactly the message they need at the moment.

Already, companies hire young actors to travel to the high school circuit to deliver inspirational messages. These actors have to be certified and memorize 2-3 speeches but then service their immediate city along with many other actors to reach the masses.

Motivational speakers beware. More and more people are pursing their passion of speaking and this competition is going to drive the price of a no name motivational speaker down. But a notice to all of the up and coming actors: Here is a new gig to consider! So get out your suits, polish your shoes …. You’re now a Motivational speaker who has a live crowd to motivate today!

Written by Mary Gardner, Speaker, Coach and TV professional. She can be located at Send for her 10 ten necessary tips for new speakers or review her new ebook: “Prosperity Journal for Professional Speakers” which provides a system to save speakers hundreds of hours of time in learning the business of professional speaking.

Friday, February 02, 2007


First there is an inner shaking, then the neck and the face start to heat up… rising from the bottom of your toes to the top of your head. Then the voice starts to go weaker and weaker and finally, you’re grasping for breath, you think to yourself: OH MY GOSH.. this is ABSOLUTELY horrifying!!! What has happened to me?

Our body has a natural reaction to stress and to fear, fight or flight. But what do you do when you really NEED to face a terrifying situation but your body doesn’t want to? For instance, public speaking, giving a report at a company, or in my case, pitching a TV show to a TV network?

This week, I’ve been lucky enough to attend a terrific conference called Real Screen. It’s a yearly conference in Washington DC where most of the Directors of Developments of the national TV networks gather to brainstorm, meet the producers and explain what their network is seeking in terms of programming. At the conference, hundreds of TV and film producers from around the world gather, to pitch their TV concepts and seek deals with the networks.

Before I got here, I was completely convinced that the show we’re creating is the next big thing. It’s got heart, its got style and it’s extremely current. Since I’ve been at the conference, I’ve seen that everyone feels the same about their own show and their job is also to convince the same group of people to buy their idea.

In other words, it’s stressful.

Yesterday, I pitched my show concept formally to MSNBC. They’re now accepting new programming and I thought that my show might have an angle that they’d like. The room is set up like speed dating. You get a number if you pre registered, or you hang around to see if there might be room at the end. I was the one getting in under the gun at the end because I was a late register to the conference. They call you over to the mini table where the 3 Development people sit and wait for you to make your pitch. I started off strong by introducing myself, and then I got to work explaining the concept of my show. I could hear my voice be enthusiastic and excited about the show, and then I felt the heat rising. It swarmed over me like a blanket or someone drowning in a pool of water. There was no controlling it. My face went red and my voice went south.

It was horrible.

Luckily, I finished the pitch, provided the information and then got up to run to the next seminar. I was heading to the speech that was to be given by one of the producers I just met from MSNBC so we went to the seminar together. By that time, the energy of the hundreds of people in the hall helped me retrieve my voice and I chatted happily with him all the way to the next session and we had a terrific exchange for about the same amount of time that I sunk in front of him moments before. Within that time, I learned that my show would not be a decent fit for them, as much as he liked the concept.

It was a great experience for me to go through because next time, I’ll be prepared. Its funny how I could stand before a 1000 people and speak, yet speaking to 3 people in the corner of a room at a table terrified me. The difference was in the preparation. I hadn’t prepared to “speed pitch” and did it on the fly.

It gave me a huge appreciation for my clients who go through similar horrifying episodes in business when they have to speak in front of a meeting or group. It literally makes people sick to even think about public speaking so they derail their career by refusing to do it. As a coach, I can teach anyone to get over the nerves, but the best word of advice that I can give is to prepare, prepare, prepare. Do it in front of a mirror and do it over and over until it’s completely natural. Tape yourself giving your message and do it over and over until it sounds lively and fun.

Speed pitching was torture, and although I’m not doing it again today, I’d definitely do it again and sign up early, prepare and then pitch. In the meantime however, I’ve been able to casually meet other networks heads such from Oxygen, WE, TLC, National Geographic, the BBC, Smithsonian Network, among others. In the quick casual conversations, I came across likeable, passionate and had a story to tell that was intriguing. Most liked my concept but it still hasn’t found a home.

Getting over nerves isn’t ever going to happen fully because they’re there to protect and guide us. But learning to anticipate them and prepare for them can hold them at bay.

There’s no doubt that it’s better to prepare and be articulate than wing it and crash and burn. It’s also a heck of a lot more fun.

From Church Mouse to Champion

I just viewed the most inspiring video I think I’ve ever seen. It was a story of a dad whose son was born with the cord around his neck. The baby wasn’t given much of a chance to live any sort of normal life and the doctors all recommended that he be put away in an institution because they said there was nothing going on in his brain. Yet, when the dad didn’t believe it and they took the baby home to live.

The video showed the boy in his wheelchair through the years with other kids holding a hockey stick, or hanging out with other kids with the intention of having the most normal life as possible. When the boy was able to type on a computer, he told his dad how alive he felt when doing sports. That was the motivation that the dad, a self proclaimed couch potato needed, and he started competing in running events, triathlons and marathons, all while carrying his physically impaired child in a raft while swimming, on the bike handlebars or pushing a stroller while running. They’ve now competed in hundreds of races and beat ¾ of the field, even in spite of the fact that the dad is carrying the son. The story and video are so touching that its’ hard to get through it without crying but it’s so inspiring and it makes you realize that the challenges in life are meant to bring out the best in each of us. It was a video that shared one man’s strength and determination to overcome the odds. To experience and see the love that this father has for his son is awe inspiring, because you can see and feel pain of struggle so much that it creates empathy, respect and reverence when viewing this man and his son who have triumphed over adversity and beat the impossible odds.

When we finally “get” that challenges and frustrations in life are meant to grow us, and to prepare us for bigger and better opportunities. Our microwave society which thrives on immediate gratification, has become disposable. We dispose of diapers, old people, live babies and dead marriages. When we’ve had enough, we ignore it or eliminate it. There is an acceptance of if it gets hard, then get rid of it, instead of the old motto, “when the going gets tough, the tough gets going”. We’re becoming weak and pursuing happiness instead of strength and character. People aren’t getting there however, because it takes growing strength and character to grow in inner happiness and strength. So many people keep searching for the perfect relationship, the perfect outfit, the perfect house, the perfect kids, and end up living in a battle of anxiety and depression, because they’re seeking something that isn’t going to appear without going through the process of growing up.

Our world has never been more connected than it is today. We can reach out to people within seconds from around the world. We can view images of their life on line 24/7 and view movies, documentaries and view cams that show us graphic and intimate moments. Yet, millions of people, sit isolated and alone in their living rooms, watching others on TV, and have no idea whatsoever of how to break the ice with their neighbor, or get over the petty relationship issues that cause friction or frustration.

We’ve given up the words, “I’m sorry” because we know that we can develop a new relationship with someone on line tomorrow, probably with another lonely and isolated individual.

In my work of coaching individuals, we work on building real connections with others. We work together to create a plan to engage with others, and to communicate with others. I challenge my clients to pursue real and authentic conversations with their work associates. We create opportunities for them to mentor, coach and help others in their sphere of influence. We also look at the challenges we face in our lives and create a plan of action to manage the problem. By naming and owning the challenge, it gives us a goal to work towards. By not acknowledging the issue, it can continue to challenge and control us, but by owning up to it, it gives the permission to view it optimistically.

One such client had the goal of growing into a leader in her company. She had been with the company for 10 years and had some success, yet she showed up as a church mouse at work. She showed up, but didn’t participate fully in meetings. She let others do the talking and the planning, even though she had many ideas that were valuable and that could have helped the organization. Little by little, with a little planning, a little encouragement and quite a bit of coaching, she took little steps towards over coming her fear of emerging as a leader. Her peers viewed her as a librarian; resourceful and useful but not powerful. My client’s goal was to become a powerful leader.

Moving in that direction challenged her to face her fear of making difficult decisions, standing and speaking in public, mentoring others and correcting others when needed. We started with the basics, just connecting with those in her immediate work space. Then she looked forward towards mentors and instead of just taking mentoring from them, she started bringing value to them. She started showing up to key meetings with something to say, even if it was just a motivational quote to share with the group.

It hasn’t been easy, but my client is now about to start leading important meetings with several groups and as the facilitator I’ve challenged her to show up as the visionary, and the motivator. She now has a plan to do that and is practicing behind the scenes.

Whatever the challenge that faces you in your life, name it. Give it a place in your life. Then get to work. Understand that its going to take a plan. It’s going to take knowing where you want to go, and constant energy, effort and work to get there. More than likely, you’ll need mentors, coaches, books, tapes and even failures to get to where you’re going. You’ll stumble along the way, but you won’t fall if you know where you’re going. Keep that vision in your mind and get up every day with excited anticipation about getting one step closer to getting there.

Overcoming the challenges that life throws at you will either make you crumble or make you strong. If life has given you a life or death challenge like the father in the video, or a work challenge like my client, we can build our inner strength one day at a time. In the beginning, many days seem like complete failures because there is so much to learn and do that it can be overwhelming and make us feel hopeless. But many days of failure turn into more days of learning and stretching and conquering. Eventually, over time, our bodies and minds learn what we wanted to teach it, and we become who we had in mind.

Life is a series of ups and downs, challenges and triumphs. It’s path of getting there that we can celebrate because then as we grow in experience, we grow in our success.