Why You Must Consider Your Personal Brand–Even If You’re Building a Company


Personal brands aren’t just for celebrity entrepreneurs.

Take my friend Amanda Steinberg.

Amanda has built 3 companies, including DailyWorth which delivers financial advice to over 1 million subscribers every day.

She has poured her heart, sweat, and tears into her brands. But for her latest project, she needed to consider a new brand…

…her personal brand.

Amanda, as we discussed when I interviewed her for Episode 16 of Profit. Power. Pursuit., is writing a book called Worth It.

Companies–and the brands they embody–are great at fulfilling a message.

But when it comes to sharing a message, keynotes, books, and op-eds rule.

Company brands don’t give keynotes, write books, or pen op-eds. People do.

And, if you want your message to have the chance to be heard, you’ll want to work on your personal brand, as well as your company brand.

Your company will give you credibility but your personal brand will share the message and make it human.

Contrary to what many believe, personal branding is not a popularity contest.

Even Amanda said, “the personal brand marketplace is getting crowded inside a torrent of social media one-upmanship.”

Your personal brand isn’t about having the best looking office on Instagram or the most popular hangouts on Facebook Live. It’s not about who can be the pithiest on Twitter. It’s not even about who can drive the most traffic to their blog.

Your personal brand is what makes you most compelling, most effective, and most unique.

That’s your Quiet Powerto use my own parlance.

Your personal brand and Quiet Power inform your company brand, too. So working to understand what your personal brand is all about will serve you very well in the long-term of growing your business.

You have a message that needs to be heard, an idea that needs to be used, or a movement that needs to be started. One of the key ways you can do that is to be recognized.

  • Amanda wouldn’t have been able to tell her story and be preparing to change the money lives of so many women through Worth It without cementing her personal brand.
  • Being Boss wouldn’t be such a beloved podcast without Kathleen and Emily having strong individual personal brands.
  • Heck, Apple wouldn’t be the kind of brand it is today without the personal brand, message, and collective work of Steve Jobs.

So what should you do if you want to better understand your personal brand and how to use it to your advantage? Answer these questions:

1) What really makes your blood boil?

The things in which we most passionately believe are the language in which our brands are written–to paraphrase the inimitable Anne Lamott.

Tap into what gets you ranting and raving and you’ll be well on the way to discovering a key piece of your personal brand.

2) How would you want people to introduce you to someone else?

The words you want them to use point to your most deeply held personal values. Those values shape the message behind your personal brand.

3) How do you want to make people’s lives meaningfully better?

Forget the work you want to do. Forget the value you offer.

Hone in on how what you do or the value you provide makes people’s lives meaningfully better.

Once you have the answers to these questions, make sure you’re utilizing them. Sometimes, you can do it explicitly–like in an About Page. Other times, you can hook people in and help them get to know you more covertly–like in the opening story to a talk or webinar.

Just knowing your answers and keeping them top of mind while you’re crafting content, being interviewed, and sharing your perspective will help to solidify your personal brand…

…and give you the platform to deliver the message you most want to deliver.

Another person who has worked hard to build her personal brand–in addition to playing a key role in the growth of many companies and organizations–is Debbie Millman–my guest this week on Profit. Power. Pursuit.

Debbie is the host of the first and longest running design podcast on iTunes!

She’s interviewed some of my personal heroes like Seth Godin, Dan Pink, and Alain de Botton.

We talked about how she’s used podcasting to build her personal brand and create a platform for her best work.

We also talked about the 10 to 12 hours she puts into interview prep, how she started with just a phone line back in 2005, and the opportunities that have come her way thanks to the podcast.

Click here to listen to the podcast or read the transcript.

Growing Your Personal Brand with Podcasting with Debbie Millman

Growing Your Brand With a Podcast with Debbie Millman on Profit. Power. Pursuit. with Tara Gentile

I think a good interview is like a game of pool.  You not only want to have a good question and a great answer, but know where that answer might end up, so that you can prepare where to shoot next, so to speak.

— Debbie Millman

Tara:  Welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit.  I’m your host, Tara Gentile, and together with my friends at CreativeLive, we talk to powerhouse small business owners about the nitty gritty details of running their businesses, making money, and pursuing what’s most important to them.  Each week, I deep dive with a thriving entrepreneur on topics like time management, team building, marketing, business models, and mindset.  Our goal each week is to expose you to something new that you can immediately apply to growing your own business.

My guest this week is Debbie Millman, host of the first and longest running podcast about design, Design Matters.  Debbie is also an author, educator, and brand strategist.  She’s the chair of the School of Visual Arts Masters of Branding program, the Chief Marketing Officer at Sterling Brands, and President Emeritus at AIGA.  She’s interviewed superstars, and some of my personal heroes, like Malcolm Gladwell, Dan Pink, and Seth Godin.  Last year, iTunes named Design Matters one of the top 15 podcasts.  I wanted to find out how hosting Design Matters has impacted Debbie’s life and career.  We talk about the 10 to 12 hours she puts into interview prep, how she started with just a phone line back in 2005, and the opportunities that have come her way thanks to the podcast.

Debbie Millman, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit.  Thank you so much for joining me today.

Debbie:  My pleasure, Tara, thank you for having me.

Tara:  Absolutely.  So you’ve been running the internet radio show and podcast Design Matters for over 10 years, which is a long time in any internet pursuit at all.  Can you tell me how the show got started and why you decided to incorporate this, you know, at the time, fairly new media into your design and branding career?

Debbie:  Absolutely.  Well, I should clarify in some ways that the show didn’t start out as a podcast, because there were no podcasts back then.  The show actually started out on an internet radio network called Voice America, and it was a little operation that ran out of Arizona, and I believe they’re still in business, but at the time, it was a really fledgling enterprise, and working with them was a little bit like working with Garth and Wayne on Wayne’s World, but they were really wonderful people.  I actually got cold called from them about doing a show on design and branding, and at the time, I was really honored and thought that they were offering me a job, and what I later came to find out was that actually, they were cold calling me to be a host, which would require my paying them to pay for the production and the air time, but at the time, this was 2004, I had just begun to start doing  personal work again after essentially abandoning all my personal work in an effort to build my branding career for the previous 10 years. 

And the call came at a time when I really felt like my creative soul was perishing and had just begun to start writing again.  I hadn’t begun to start doing any of my personal illustration yet, and I felt like I needed something to buoy my creative spirit, something that didn’t have anything to do with marketing and positioning and market share and research, and something that required … I didn’t want to have to be selling anybody anything in doing this, and here was an opportunity that I had never, ever gotten before, and thought why not invest a little bit of money in myself and my desire to try something new, and Design Matters was born, and I often say now that it was born with a wish and a telephone line, because that’s how I did the show.  I would use a telephone handset to do my show, and my guest would be on the phone with me.  Often, my guest was in front of me, and so we were both on handsets, and so I don’t know if you’ve ever picked up a landline while somebody else was on the same landline in your vicinity, but you often get an echo, and so that’s how I did the show.  There was always an echo going on.  My listeners didn’t hear the echo part, but it was really distracting. 

I had really, really goofy ads that ran at different times during the show, but it gave me an opportunity to approach the people that I admired most in the design business and interview them, and essentially, I was given carte blanche via the use of an interview, or the excuse of an interview, to ask all of the questions that I was curious about, and I had a million questions, and so I did the first 100 episodes on Voice America, and then in 2009, the late, great Bill Drenttel, the founder of Design Observer, invited me to bring the show over to Design Observer, with the proviso that I improve the sound quality.  And he introduced me to Curtis Fox, who is a producer, and at the time, he was working at the New Yorker and the Poetry Foundation doing their podcasts, and so we started working together.  The School of Visual Arts was very supportive.  That’s where I have my branding program, and we were first building the studio, and so they incorporated a podcast studio into my space, and so since 2009, I have been recording the show live at my studio at the School of Visual Arts in front of my students, live student audience, sort of like Inside the Actors’ Studio, and then my guests, when they’re finished with the interview, they come out, and they’re asked questions by my students, which is really, really fun for them, and for the guests, and I’ve done I think about 260 or 70 episodes at this point.  So the show won the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in 2011, which Bill was really, really involved in helping me win, and then last year, iTunes named it one of the top 15 podcasts on iTunes, which was a dream and a miracle.

Tara:  That is so awesome, and I totally missed that you recorded live in front of your students in my research, and I find that fascinating.  Can you talk just a little bit about how that works, and like what your students get out of it, why you decided to do that?

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Debbie:  Absolutely.  One of the gifts that I could provide to the students was access to these incredible minds, and what better way for somebody to learn through listening to somebody talk about their life, and to be inspired by their trajectory.  And the show has changed a little bit over the years.  The show really began, initially, as a show very much about design and branding.  The show now is really, it’s still … it’s still very much about design and branding, but the centerpiece of the show is really for me to talk to my guests about how they design a life filled with creativity and purpose.  And so for students, and these are my graduate students, although my undergrads can also sit in if they like, they are given access to the journey that the artist, the writer, the designer, the creative soul has created their path.  What decisions did they make?  What obstacles did they face?  How did they design the arc of their life to date?  And I think that it’s become a really meaningful component to the program that I have at SVA, the Master’s program in branding, because it teaches people how essentially my guests have branded themselves, and how they have created a life that stands for something, and that’s really, in my mind, what branding is.  Deliberate differentiation, and how do you stand for something that you believe in. 

And so I think the students get a tremendous amount out of it.  They’ve gotten jobs from some of my guests and have learned an incredible amount and have read incredible books in preparation for their own questioning, and so I think it’s a really signature part of the program now.

Tara:  That is so cool.  I will be filling out my application after this interview.  No.  Seriously, though, Michael and I, my producer and I were just talking about this yesterday, how hosting a podcast is very much like having sort of a private but public mastermind where you just get to pick other people’s brains and find out how things work, and I just … I love that you’re involving your grad students in that as well, and I think that’s such a powerful tool for them, and I just can’t even imagine how powerful that experience might be.

I do want to rewind a little bit as well back to your first answer, and ask you a little bit more about, you know, you said you were just … when the podcast started, you were just starting to write again and you hadn’t yet starting doing illustration again, and you know, you needed to flex your own creative muscles some outside of the business world.  Can you talk about how your personal creative pursuits have informed the way you’ve, you know, molded the podcast, or even just molded your career in general?

Debbie:  Sure.  When I graduated college, I had a degree in English Literature and a minor in Russian Literature. And I went to SUNY-Albany, which was an extraordinary experience for me.  My on-the-job training really was as editor of the arts and features section of the school newspaper, and so when I graduated, and I often joke I have a degree in reading, I … my only marketable skill, in order to get a job that had some aspect of creativity to it was doing very traditional old school layout and paste-up, and so … and that’s how I got a job.  I was absolutely determined to live in Manhattan.  I wanted to live in Manhattan.  That was the only thing I can look back on the journey of my life and say that’s the one thing I knew for sure.  Everything else was very much how could I do this?  Am I good enough?  Am I smart enough?  Am I capable enough? 

But moving to New York required just the deep, deep desire to do it, and I had to figure out how to pay my rent, and so I really … I felt really bad about myself, and I didn’t have any confidence to pursue what I really felt in my heart I wanted to do, which was a combination of art and writing and music and a really creative life.  More fine art than commercial art.  But I only had my commercial art skills, and for the first 10 years of my life, I really floundered.  I had very little confidence.  I had very little experience, and just kept sort of going from rejection to rejection, and sort of failure to failure.  I quite by accident ended up in the field of branding, and because my background growing up included working in my father’s pharmacy, I had had a relationship with brands almost as early as I could talk and walk, and had spent a tremendous amount of time in his pharmacy, spent a lot of time at the cash register helping him out, and really had this innate understanding of brands and how people shop and why they buy the things that they do. 

His pharmacy was more of a general store than just a pharmacy.  It was a general store with a pharmacy in the back, and so I found quite by accident … and probably serendipitously, that I was very good at branding.  Almost as if it were a natural talent.  So the second ten years of my career were building this career.  Building this ability, and finding that I was really successful at it, and that began to help me build some confidence, and I talk quite a lot about how I’ve come to believe that confidence is really overrated.  Dani Shapiro said this once to my students after her podcast when somebody asked her about being confident in life, and she felt  that confidence was overrated and felt that most really confident, overly confident people, or very visibly confident people can often be kind of obnoxious, and felt that what was way more important was courage.  The courage to take that step before you have any success.  And I think all confidence really is, is repeated success at doing something over and over.  You’ve done it before.  You know it’s come out well.  You expect that when you’re going to do it again, you’re going to do it well again.  So what is really more important is courage.  To take that first step before you know if you are going to be successful at doing something, and then confidence is built from there.  But I think that because I started to feel somewhat more successful, and definitely more secure financially for the first time in my life.  I then had a little bit more freedom to begin to do all the things that I had given up in pursuit of my branding career, which included writing and painting and drawing and creating things with my hands.

Tara:  I love that.  I love the transformation, and I love the reframe around confidence and courage.  I know that’s going to be a big takeaway for people.

So shifting gears a little bit.  I listened to the Creative Mornings presentation that you did on their podcast, and you said that if you’re not making enough mistakes, you’re not taking enough risks.  So what are some of the risks and mistakes that you’ve made with the Design Matters podcast?

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Debbie:  Well, I think the biggest mistake that I made was underestimating how long I would do it, and I mean, I hope to be able to do Design Matters for the rest of my life.  It’s one of the things that I feel most important to me, and really helps … has helped give me a sense of purpose for being alive.  But when I started the show, I started it with this little fledgling phone line, and the sound quality was really terrible, so I had done these 100 episodes, and the sound is sometimes so bad, you can’t even listen to the show.  So those, so I wish that I had taken it more seriously from the start, but it’s very, very … it’s … this is something that I tend to do in my life. 

I don’t take things as seriously as maybe I could or should, just because I’m the one doing it, and so I wish that I had taken it a little bit more seriously or taken the effort more seriously, because those hundred episodes don’t really sound as good as I would like them to sound.  That’s the biggest regret.  Other than that, I didn’t have a logo for the show for the first … which is kind of ironic.  I finally asked Armin Vitt to help me do that.  I’ve never … I don’t think I’ve given the show my own sort of personal respect in the way that I probably should.  It took me a really long time to get my own website.  It took me a really long time to get my own logo.  Armin Vitt has been really helpful in helping me do that.  I … Maria Popova has helped me, my partner, Maria, has helped me really understand how to better talk about the show online and take the social media aspect of it a lot more seriously, because it’s a labor of love, and not something that I ever did to, for business purposes or to raise money or to make money.  I probably have not been as diligent about building the brand, so to speak, as I have in my other work.

Tara:  That’s fascinating, and very relatable.

Debbie:  Yeah.

Tara:  So, you know, you just said that you haven’t ever done this for business purposes, but at the same time, I’m sure the podcast has had a big influence on your career, maybe on opportunities that have come your way.  Can you talk about how the podcast itself has really influenced your branding and design career?

Debbie:  Well, I don’t have any empirical today to say that because I did this, this occurred, but I think that it was my entree into the design discourse of our culture, and that has, because this show tends to travel far and wide via iTunes and Soundcloud and Stitcher and so forth.  There are people that listen to the show that I never would have imagined would receive and be interested in it, and so I think that most of the invitations that I get to speak in different countries, most of the invitations I get to judge competitions come via people being exposed to me through the podcast, and so I think either that or my books, and both of those sort of happened consecutively, and so, or concurrently, rather, and so I think that … that it has helped introduce my thinking to the broader design community globally.

Tara:  I might be a professional educator and expert, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped learning.  When I’m ready to learn a new skill, the first place I go is CreativeLive.  Check out this great class.

Alex:  Anyone can benefit from learning to tell better audio stories.  Whether you’re a reporter on the radio, or you’re an entrepreneur trying to tell an effective story about your business.  In this workshop, what I’m doing is sort of unpacking what exactly is a story, how can you be effective in telling stories, and how can you lay them out in a way that they get maximum impact with your audience.  You’re also going to learn a lot about the art of the interview.  If you’re interviewing somebody, how do you make sure that the interview is engaging, is informative, has moments of emotional resonance?  I also have a formula that is actually, you know, it’s actually a mathematical formula that tells you how am I on the right track when I’m thinking about telling a story.  I’m Alex Bloomberg, and this is Power Your Podcast with Storytelling.

Tara:  So we really like to get into the nitty gritty here.  So I want to know how you personally prepare for interviews, because I know how I prepare for interviews, but I’d love to hear, you know, what’s your process?  When you’ve got a great guest, and you have had some amazing guests, what is your process for thinking about how you’re going to approach that interview, what you … what kind of background you want to know, what maybe you don’t want to know before you sit down with that person?

Debbie:  I believe that my podcast, a podcast, any podcast that I do is successful when the guest looks at me and says, “How do you know that?  How did you find that out?  Did you talk to my mother?”  I do a tremendous amount of research.  I probably spend upwards of 10-12 hours preparing for the one hour interview.  I … if they’re somebody that has published books, I like to read everything that they’ve written.  If they have created work, I try to see everything I can possibly see.  I am vigilant, and I love researching.  I mean, how many times do we go internet surfing and feel guilty that we might be, so to speak, wasting time going into these little wormholes of research just for the fun of it?  Well, I get to do it as part of my job.  So I’ll start with a link, and that’ll take me to something else, and that’ll take me to something else, and before you know it, I’m, you know, at their birth certificate.  So I just do a tremendous amount of investigation, essentially, trying to understand the entire arc of a person’s life.  Where were they born?  What were they like when they were kids?  Where did they go to school?  What did they major in?  Did they get a graduate degree?  Where did they work?  Where did they … where is every place they’ve ever worked?  What is everything they’ve ever made?  And go from there.

Tara:  Ah, okay.  Do you think design thinking has influenced your, you know, the approach that you use to that research or to that preparation for your podcast?

Debbie:  Probably.  I use a lot of post-its.

Tara:  Awesome.

Debbie:  Yeah, I do think so.  I mean, part of what I do for every show is essentially create a script, and I have probably somewheres between 40 and 50 questions prepared.  And I think a good interview is like a game of pool.  You not only want to have a good question and a great answer, but know where that answer might end up so that you can prepare where to shoot next, so to speak.  And that’s what you want to do in a game of pool.  You want to not only shoot a ball into a hole, but you want to be able to shoot the next ball into the next hole, so it’s very strategic, and so for me, I feel most secure when I am doing an interview that any answer that my guest would provide, in many ways, I already know the answer and know where I want to take the conversation next, or if they surprise me, I want to be able to at least know enough about the topic to be able to ask an interesting question.  I never want to ask questions that my listeners would already know the answers to.  I want to be able to constantly surprise my listeners with information about my guests that they might not be able to get otherwise all in one place.

Tara:  Wow.  That is a game-changing answer for me.  I will be incorporating that for sure in my own process from now on.  Do you have a team helping you out with the podcast?

Debbie:  No.  I do everything myself, except for the production.  And the production is done by Curtis Fox.  He’s been my producer since 2009, and he has really helped me evolve the show to where it is now.  So he … his voice at the beginning and end of each episode, and he essentially takes what usually is about an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes worth of tape and edits it into usually about half of what I’ve taped for.  So if it’s an hour and fifteen, it’s half that.  If it’s an hour, then he ends up with about 30-35 minutes, and essentially, he edits based on what he thinks is interesting.  Am I getting bored while I’m listening to this?  Or do I feel like it’s keeping my attention throughout?  So he keeps it really snappy, really breezy, takes out all of my mistakes.  I often make mistakes, and takes out the ums and the uhs and the likes and the kind of sorta things like that.

Tara:  Fascinating.  And do you guys collaborate on that at all?  Or is that just, that’s his role?

Debbie:  That’s his role.

Tara:  Wow.

Debbie:  I do not … I do not listen to the edited podcast.  I trust him entirely.

Tara:  Wow.  That’s amazing and awesome.  Thanks for sharing that.  All right, so one more question about the podcast, and then I want to ask you about the class that you have coming up for CreativeLive.  How do you balance the needs of the podcast, and I know there are many, I mean, you said you prepare 10 to 12 hours for each guest, against the demands of the rest of your career, because you’ve got a lot going on as well with that, and you know, our listeners are always interested in, you know, how people balance things, how they manage their time, how they fit it all in.  So can you talk about that a little bit?

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Debbie:  Absolutely.  I don’t really believe in work/life balance.  I feel that my, almost all of my work is a labor of love, and I love doing it, and I feel privileged to be able to do it, so I don’t feel resentful of the time that I dedicate to doing, I would say, most if not all of my work.  I love doing it, and because it’s such a privilege, I … what I … I often say that I don’t find the time to do things, I make the time to do things.  And one of my favorite slogans is that busy is a decision.  You prioritize what you want to do in the order you want to do them, and if you don’t make the time to do something and say that you’re too busy to do it, what it really means is you don’t want to do it, and so I often urge my students to be really clear about what they say they can and can’t do because of busyness, because if they can’t do something because they’re too busy, maybe they should reconsider how much Game of Thrones they want to watch, or what they do while they’re watching Game of Thrones.  And so I spend a lot of time doing the things that I love and have been really trying hard over the last three years or so to only do things that I love.  I’m approaching my 55th birthday, and want to be really clear the older I get to only be doing the things that I truly, truly love, and then it’s just about joy and doing things with my whole heart.

Tara:  Nice.  Nice.  And yes, busy is a choice.  I love that.  So you’re teaching a class here on CreativeLive.  Can you tell us what we can look forward to with that?

Debbie:  Yes.  Part of what I discovered having that first 10 years of what I call experiment and rejection and failure, and then the next ten years really trying to make a career is how much how you feel about yourself influences your success, and so much of what we can and can’t do in our lives comes from how we edit, how we censor, and how we tell ourselves what we can and can’t do because of how we feel about what we can and can’t do.  So this is a class called A Brand Called You, and it’s very much how to position yourself to create a career that you love, to create a life that you love, based on what it is that you love as opposed to what it is that you fear, and so it’s very much about how to create a point of view, how to develop a resume and a portfolio, and your own personal marketing campaign to go after what you want and get it.

Tara:  Beautiful.  So important.  Absolutely love it.  Well, Debbie Millman, thank you so much for talking with me today.  This has been really great.

Debbie:  My pleasure.  Thank you so much for having me.

Tara:  Find out more about Debbie Millman at DebbieMillman.com, or find her podcast, Design Matters, on iTunes. 

Next week, I talk with Cory Whitaker and Parker Stevenson from Evolved Finance.  I turn the tables on them, and find out how they use financial reports and tracking in their own business to project cash flow, make hiring decisions, and set goals.

CreativeLive is highly-curated classes from the world’s top experts.  Watch free, live video classes every day from acclaimed instructors in photography, design, audio, craft, business, and personal development.  Stream it now at CreativeLive.com.

This has been Tara Gentile.  Discover how to accelerate your earning as a small business owner with my free class, Revenue Catalyst, at QuietPowerStrategy.com/PPP.

That’s a wrap for this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., a CreativeLive podcast.  Download more episodes of this podcast and subscribe on iTunes.  If you appreciate this kind of in-depth content, please leave us a review or share this podcast with a friend.  It means the world to us.

Our theme song was written by Daniel Peterson, who also edited this episode.  Our audio engineer was Kellen Shimizu.  This episode was produced by Michael Karsh.  We add a new episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit. every week.  Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you love to listen to podcasts so you never miss an episode.

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How I Book & Prepare for Public Speaking Gigs

How I Book & Prepare for Speaking Gigs

Some of my fondest memories from high school and college are of being on stage with the jazz band performing.

I love taking an audience for a ride with rhythm, melody, dynamics.

When you get it right, you can feel the energy in the room shift with the music.

Needless to say, performing music in school got me hooked on performing period.

Once my business started humming, I knew that performing–in the form of public speaking–would be a big part of my goal. Over the last few years, I’ve worked hard to become known as a speaker, learn the craft, and hone my skills.

Now, I have the privilege of getting paid well for it and getting to do it often.

Whether speaking on stage is a part of your goal or whether you realize public speaking (webinars, presentations, meetings…) is a key part of any business owner’s success, you’ll want to invest your time and energy in getting it right.

One of the best things I’ve ever invested in when it comes to speaking (other than working with this week’s Profit. Power. Pursuit. guest, Michelle Mazur) has been seeking out pro speakers and finding out about their process.

So I thought I’d take you behind the scenes of my own process, from booking gigs, to negotiating fees, to planning my talks. Ready? Let’s go.

The Inquiry

I have a speaking page on my site that highlights that I’m available. There’s a form on that page for meeting or event planners to submit an inquiry.

However, most of my gigs don’t come because of that page, even if they come through that page. Instead, my speaking gigs generally come from personal contacts (even if a few degrees removed) or because an event organizer has seen or heard me speak elsewhere.

When we receive an inquiry, the first thing I do is investigate the event as best I can and start considering the audience. The audience determines pretty much every other step of the process—including negotiating my fee.

The Negotiation

Once an inquiry comes in, I normally need to share my speaking fee. While this used to cause me tons of stress, now it’s pretty matter-of-fact. I share my fee and if it’s an audience that I’d really like to get in front of, I might even suggest some alternatives to matching my fee.

The conversation about my fee is often mixed with the conversation about what I’ll present, and I consider this a part of the negotiation too.

It’s in my best interest to both use one of my core presentations and to present a talk that has the most potential for piquing the interest of audience members to purchase from my business. Of course, the event organizer often has something else in mind entirely!

I negotiate the topic balancing what they want with what is in my best interests. Sometimes that might mean designing something new but often it means tweaking what I have to best meet their needs.

I’ve accumulated about 200 hours of potential talks (thanks for 6 classes with CreativeLive and plenty of webinars) over the last 3 years.

The Research

Once I’ve spoken with the event organizer and negotiated both my fee and the topic, I’ll do some more research. I try to gauge the tone and format of the event, as well as look for key audience questions or problems.

My goal isn’t to say what I want to say. My goal is to say what I want to say such that it answers a specific question or problem for the audience—just as I would with a product or service package.

I’ll try to find folks who have been to the event before, engage with an event community, or just poke around the website for the event or event founder to see conversations with real people in the audience.

The Introduction

Over the last year, my goal has been to nail the introduction of any talk I give. That means not getting up on stage and introducing myself, telling people what I do, or asking how everyone’s doing.

You can tell a pro from an amateur by the way they start their talk.

I like to get the audience engaged & laughing in the first 2-3 sentences. So I spend a good bit of time finding that one punchy line I can land to set myself up.

For the talk that I’m giving in Denver this week, the second sentence of my talk is, “We were shocked to learn that Sean…[insert dramatic pause] is an extrovert.” Trust me, that’ll get some laughs.

I’ll actually write out the full introduction so that I feel good about the narrative flow, since storytelling is not a strong suit of mine but writing is.

The Slide Deck

Once I’ve outlined the rest of the talk, citing an example and an action item for each point I’m making, I’ll start the slide deck.

I keep my slides simple with lots of big text and interesting images. While bullet points can help a sales page or blog post become more readable, they’re often messy, messy, messy in a slide deck. I avoid them except when I’m actually listing things out.

The Transitions

One of the reasons I never finished my music degree (I’m 1 class and a few private trombone lessons shy) is that I’m terrible at practicing. So, I don’t spend hours in front of the mirror running through my presentation.

I start by running through the presentation once for timing.

Then, I carefully rehearse the introduction. If I nail that, I know the rest will go smoothly.

Then, I focus on rehearsing transitions. Again, if I can nail each transition, I know I can easily get through the minutes in between.

I isolate the 2-3 slides around each place in the presentation where I change points. I’ll run through how to make the pivot from point to point several times.

The Conclusion

The conclusion has often been a sticking point for me. Many of my talks in the past have ended with, “Well, that’s it. Thanks!” as I sheepishly walk off stage. Even if I gave an outstanding talk, that ending damages the overall effect.

I’ll practice the last thought of the talk… and practice stopping there even more.

Day Of

I’m writing to you on the way to my next gig and, already, I’m thinking about my routine for tomorrow morning. I always wake up early and use that quiet time to settle my mind and do a final run through of the introduction, transitions, and conclusions.

Once I’m at the venue, I’ll find the green room as quickly as possible and get settled. I need “introvert time” without surprise interruptions or personal introductions for at least 30 minutes before a talk or I don’t feel ready.

Then I get miked and head to the stage.

Once it’s over, I love talking with people. In fact, it’s one of the easiest times for me to connect with new people because it’s like we’ve been chatting for the last hour (my presentation!). I feel in my element and completely comfortable continuing the conversation.

I’ve honed much of this process thanks to working with Dr. Michelle Mazur, my guest this week on Profit. Power. Pursuit. Her Speak for Impact methodology has made it so much easier to prepare for talks, find stories and examples to use, and feel confident that I’m going to hit a home run every time.

To hear how Michelle uses public speaking in her own business, from negotiation to preparation to getting paid, make sure you listen to our interview:

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Photo above by Jessica Hill Photography

Use Public Speaking to Grow Your Business with Dr. Michelle Mazur


At some point, you have to make the decision to assume the identity of speaker, instead of just playing at it.

— Dr. Michelle Mazur

Tara:  Welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit.  I’m your host, Tara Gentile, and together with my friends at CreativeLive, we talk to powerhouse small business owners about the nitty gritty details of running their business, making money, and pursuing what’s most important to them.  Each week, I deep dive with a thriving entrepreneur on topics like time management, team building, marketing, business models, and mindset.  Our goal each week is to expose you to something new that you can immediately apply to growing your own business.

This week, my guest is Dr. Michelle Mazur.  Michelle is the founder of Communication Rebel, and a coach for entrepreneurs, speakers, authors, and thought leaders who want to speak with impact.  She’s also the author of the bestselling book, Speak for Impact, the creator of the Rebel Speaker Boot Camp, and the host of the Rebel Speaker Podcast, plus I actually worked with Michelle on one of my own signature talks, You Really, Really Must: How to Make Bold Choices in an Overwhelming World. 

I wanted to find out how Michelle is using public speaking to grow her own business.  We talked about negotiating a new engagement, preparing for a talk, getting paid, and all the ways you can speak without ever stepping on stage.

Dr. Michelle Mazur, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit.  Thank you so much for joining me.

Michelle:  I’m so excited to be here, Tara.

Tara:  All right.  So you have just released a book called Speak for Impact, and it catapulted itself to the top of the Amazon rankings right away.  I think that is so exciting.

Michelle:  It was.  It was very exciting.

Tara:  Awesome.  So just as your book has been a hot topic, I think public speaking in general is a really hot topic for my audience, but instead of kind of asking you for advice, I want to find out more about how you’ve used public speaking in your own business.  So this is going to be a little meta, but I think it’s going to be super fun.  So first, can you tell us how you got started with coaching and consulting public speakers in the first place?

Michelle:  I’ve been coaching or consulting in some form for 25 years.

Tara:  Wow.

Michelle:  I did the math this morning.  I was like, oh, I’m old.  And I started on the speech and debate team in college, and so when I went to graduate school, I became the assistant director of the speech and debate team, and I went to Oklahoma and started the Parliamentary Debate Team there, and so I was always coaching and helping people write speeches and get better at it, and then as I evolved through being a professor and then into corporate, what was interesting is I was doing market research in corporate, which was so not my jam, but that’s a story for another day, but the leadership knew I was great at speaking and messaging. 

So they would always come to me and be like, “We have this big sales pitch.  Can you come and watch it and give us feedback?”  So I spent a lot of my time not necessarily doing research, but coaching and consulting on their message and how it was going to be received and how they were presenting themselves.  And eventually, I got to this point where I was having a conversation with one of my good friends, and he’s like, “Michelle, you have all of this great knowledge about communication and speaking and you’re so talented at it.  Why are you not doing something with it?  Like, why are you in market research?  I don’t get this.”  And he encouraged me to start a blog, and that blog turned into my business.  That’s … I’ve been at it now for about four years.

Tara:  Yeah.  And it has grown immensely over that time.  All right.

Michelle:  Yes.

Tara:  So speaking of which, what are some of the ways that you’re using public speaking in your own business right now?

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Michelle:  The first thing is I don’t look at speaking as something that just happens on the stage.  As business owners, as creatives, we are always speaking.  So I use it, like today, I’m on my way to Portland to speak at an event, but I also use it for webinars and workshops and Facebook Live and podcast interviews like this one, media interviews.  I mean, even blog posts, because once you have your message, and you know what you stand for, then you can just use that all over the place, and so I incorporate it into every aspect of my business, and so speaking for me doesn’t happen just on a stage.  It happens in so many different venues.

Tara:  Yeah.  I completely agree with that, and I think it’s one of the reasons that public speaking is a hot topic, and I think it’s also one of the reasons that if you have any kind of resistance to public speaking, it really is time to get over it, right?

Michelle:  Yeah, because you’re hiding in your business or your creative work otherwise, because if we can’t know about you, if you can’t articulate what it is that you do in a compelling way that makes people want to listen to you, you’re never going to be found, and you’re just going to die in obscurity, which is really sad.

Tara:  Yeah, yeah.  Okay, so I want to come back … I want to come back to that, for sure, but I also want to tie how you’re making money, the profit piece of the puzzle …

Michelle:  Mmhmm, yeah.

Tara:  To the ways that you’re using public speaking right now.  So can you just talk about how … how you’re generating revenue in relation to at least a few of the different ways you talked about also using public speaking?

Michelle:  Yeah.  So in the book – this is a great segue to the book – I talk about two different paths to revenue.  So I talk about paid speaking, which is the gold standard, which everybody wants, and then I talk about client-attracting speeches.  And so for me, I’m using paid speaking right now mostly in workshops, because I am a natural born teacher, so I love to teach my Speak for Impact process, or I teach the How to Fascinate assessment, and so I get paid that way, but then I also do gigs that either are very low-paying or fee-waived, and I have a whole system around how I give a speech, I make an offer from the stage that’s completely free, and people opt-in, so using some of my email marketing mojo, and then I nurture them into clients and customers.  So that’s how I’m using that aspect to really fuel my one-on-one work, my small, you know, my small group work.

Tara:  Okay.  Let’s talk about exactly how you work that process.

Michelle:  Okay.

Tara:  Because I hosted an event earlier this year where you were a speaker, and you were one of our top speakers at that event.  Everyone loves hearing you talk.  I love hearing you talk.  Anyhow, and I did not pay you for that talk.  You know, it was our first event, we didn’t have a big budget.  In fact, we were, you know, finished the event in the red, as a lot of event organizers, I’m sure, can … can empathize with that.  So how do you make an event like that profitable for you?  What does that process, can you walk us through step-by-step?

Michelle:  Oh, yeah.  Yes.  So the first thing you have to ask yourself is, “How do I get paid?”  And for me, I run the Rebel Speaker Bootcamp, and I aligned the launch of the Bootcamp with your event, because I know your people are my people.  So I gave a speech called Speak for Impact, and within that speech, it led to my free five-day challenge that I was getting ready to run right after the event called Get the Speech, Get the Gig.  And so people joined the challenge, and then they took part of it, and there was a Facebook group, and I got to give a lot of feedback, and so they got to know me really well, and then I launched the Bootcamp, and from that, I earned about $4000 of revenue, which was great.

Tara:  That is great.

Michelle:  It’s awesome.

Tara:  And that’s just in that one iteration.  We don’t know how much revenue you might earn from that later on because of the beginning ties that you’ve created to potential customers, right?

Michelle:  Yeah, because I’ve had speaking gigs pay off two years later.

Tara:  Yes.

Michelle:  I mean, it’s not an instant, like, make $10,000 in 60 minutes kind of thing, but it is very much, like, okay, if I’m strategic about this and I have a way to nurture people, they will become my clients.  And this time, it was like within three weeks they became clients, but sometimes, it’s a month, two months, or even two years.

Tara:  Yeah, absolutely.  I totally agree.  I mean, Pioneer Nation is an event that I’ve done twice and have gotten really great … those same results for.  Didn’t get paid, but probably from the first one, made at least $50,000-$60,000 over the course of two years.  That’s nothing to sneeze at, and so I think that’s really something to think about when you’re approached with a free speaking gig.

Michelle:  Yeah, and I think it’s all about the strategy, because if you don’t have a speech that’s really aligned with your business and leads them to the next natural step, that whole client attraction speech will not work for you.

Tara:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  So the other piece of this that I really like, too, is that, you know, I encourage people to create events towards the end of their launches to get people really, or like right before they make their pitch, to get people really on the edge of their seats, ready to buy, and what you’ve done here is not create an event, but leverage an existing event, so you had to do less work to get those customers excited and ready to buy from you, and I think that that’s something, I hope everyone takes that away.  Is that something that you’ve done in the past?  Was this the first time that you’ve done something like that before?

Michelle:  I was never so strategic about it before.

Tara:  Okay.

Michelle:  Because I was looking, because I knew I had the Quiet Power Strategy Summit coming up, and then I was like, okay, well, when am I going to launch the Bootcamp next?  Why don’t I launch it right after that event?  It just made a ton of sense to me to do it that way, so I was able to be very, very strategic, but even with this event in Portland, I’m not launching anything after it, but I’m giving a speech called Your Unfair Speaking Advantage.  My opt-in is called Your Unfair Speaking Advantage.  And then I’m able to nurture people, and have them get to know me, and tell them, like, what I do, and make my offer to them.

Tara:  Okay, all right.  So let’s talk about that for a little bit, because clearly, consistency is key when it comes to your message.  What else are you thinking about when you’re considering what is the message, what’s the takeaway, what’s the big idea that I want to leave with in a particular talk?

Michelle:  Yeah.  I’m very audience focused and audience-centered.  So I like to give the audience a bite-sized result that they can walk away with.  So for example, when I’m speaking in Portland, it’s all about how do you stand out, and I really want them to identify an idea that they’re either passionate about or it makes them go on a rant, and they’re like, oh, that makes me so mad and I want to do something different.  And for me, that’s a great result, because then they can take that, and whether they’re a speaker or not a speaker, they can write a blog post around it, they can do a Facebook Live, they can incorporate it into their speech, and they get one step clearer to really understanding what makes them different from all the other businesses and all the other speakers.  So I love to give them that bite-size result, because I know that audience struggles with what’s my message and how am I different from every other business coach or social media strategist out there.

Tara:  Got ya.  Okay.  And so that brings us to another kind of important takeaway for people, too, which is that your goal when you’re on stage or I’m sure on a webinar or you know, wherever you’re doing speaking, especially when you’re trying to attract and nurture new clients is not how can I be inspiring, or even what can I teach them, it’s what can they do because of this talk, right?

Michelle:  Absolutely.  I am all about action and change, and I feel like I have done my job if they do something differently after they hear me speak.  So I’m not … I always say inspiration is cheap, action is priceless.  So if we can get the audience taking action, if you can get them a result in a 20-minute talk, they are going to be like, “I love you so much.”

Tara:  Yeah.

Michelle:  Tell me more.  Like, tell me more about what you do.  So that’s what I’m always aiming for is that action piece.

Tara:  Beautiful.  Love it.  All right, let’s shift gears a little bit.  How do you go about looking for or booking speaking gigs?

Michelle:  So for me, a lot of them come through referral at this point in time, and I always tell people your speech is your best marketing tool, because if you can go to a speaking gig and knock it out of the park, other gigs will come from that.  So I get a lot of mine from referrals.  Yeah, probably the vast majority of even my workshops come through referrals, because somebody talked to somebody else, and I think that’s the best way to get speaking gigs, and I do do some pitching.  So if there’s an event that I’m really interested in that I want to be on their stage, I first, I don’t pitch right away.  I work on cultivating that relationship, first, and getting to know them, or maybe, I don’t know, going to the event.  Hmmm.

Tara:  Mmhmm.

Michelle:  Because once you have that personal connection, it’s easier to pitch yourself as a speaker, so I’m not one of those people who will be like, you know, cold call ten people today to find your next speaking gig, because yeah, it’s a numbers game, and eventually, you’ll book one or two gigs after you make 100 calls, but ugh, that is not the way I want to run my business or do speaking.

Tara:  Yeah, I’m really glad that you pointed out actually going to events before you try pitching an event organization or pitching, you know, an event committee, because one misstep I think I see people make is for those people who want to get into public speaking, they will only go to conferences, you know, that they have successfully pitched, or they will only go to a conference when they’ve pitched it, and it’s like, well, but you’re missing out on all of those relationships that you could be building with people who could be booking you, and so your impact, even though, sure, okay, great, now, you’re getting to speak, your impact is so much smaller than if you just make that kind of short-term investment in actually going to an event and making those relationships happen.

Michelle:  Yeah, absolutely.  I think that’s the key thing.  Like get out of your house and go to the event where you most want to be speaking at, and meet people and be insanely helpful to them.

Tara:  Yeah.

Michelle:  And that’s the way you’re going to develop a relationship with them, and that makes booking speaking gigs so much easier.

Tara:  Yeah, okay, so this makes me think about, sort of like how public speaking is a long game.

Michelle:  Mmhmm.

Tara:  Can you talk about that a little bit?  I don’t know that I have a fully-formed question, but I feel like you probably have some really good inside on playing that long game of public speaking.

Michelle:  Yes, it is a long game, and I hate all of the marketing that’s like, “Make 6 figures from speaking in 6 weeks,” or, “I made a million dollars and so can you,” because I think that gives the wrong idea about what speaking is about, because the first step of it is you have to have something to say.  You have to have a speech that you can market and sell into an organization, and then once you have something that’s good and remarkable and people really want.  Then it’s about okay, how can I book this?  How can I sell this into different organizations?  And who do I know?  And going to those events.  And I think about one of my clients, and she and I have been working on and off for like two years, and she’s finally getting a ton of momentum.  Like, she spoke at Google a couple of weeks ago, and she, every time she goes out and speaks, she’s booking more gigs, but it’s been two years in order for that to happen.  So if you need to make money fast in your business, speaking is not the way to go.  But if it is a way that you know you want to get your message out there, start with writing that speech and giving it to anyone who listens at first, and then really focus on the selling and the marketing of that.

Tara:  Yeah.  It’s just like so many things in business.  If you know you want to do it eventually, like, start now, because it’s going to take time.

Michelle:  I know.  Every once in a while, somebody will say, “Well, you know, public, I’m going to hit it out of the park next year with my speaking.” 

I’m like, “Great, so how’s your speech?” 

“Oh, well, I’ll do that next year.”

And I’m like, “No.”

Tara:  No.

Michelle:  I’m so sorry, it’s not going to work for you like that.

Tara:  I might be a professional educator and expert, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped learning.  When I’m ready to learn a new skill, the first place I go is CreativeLive.  Check out this great class.

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Tara:  All right, let’s go back to booking gigs.  So what’s the first thing that you do or the first thing you think about when you get an inquiry for a speaking gig?

Michelle:  Yeah, the first thing that I do, especially if I don’t know the person or the organization, is I Google them.  I find out who their audience is.  I find out all about their event.  I find out if they’re charging for their event, how much they’re charging for their event, because then I kind of get an idea of like do they have a budget or is this something that I’m going to have to negotiate, like, will you buy my books in order for me to speak.  So it just gives me a good idea about what they’re about.  I also look at like … like their Board of Directors and see if I know anyone or someone I know knows them.  So I just really do my research before I respond back, because it also tells me if these people are the people that I want to be talking to.  Especially if they can’t pay me, I need to be in front of my ideal audience for my speech to work.  So research is always first.

Tara:  Totally agree with that.  I’m so glad you brought up research.  Because yeah, I will still speak for free, too, if I’m talking to exactly the right people.  If I’m not talking to exactly the right people, I need to get paid, because I’m not going to make that money on the backend, right?  And that is so important.  It’s so important to know that and think about that, because when that email comes into your inbox, and you’re like, “Can you come speak in,” I don’t know, a great city, “San Diego?”  Yes, I would love to speak in San Diego.  What do you want me to talk about?  Science fiction?  Sure.  You know, whatever it might be, but you know, as exciting as a new inquiry can be, I totally agree that research has to be the first step.

So what does that response then kind of look like from you?  Because I think immediately you get into that negotiation piece, where it feels like both parties are kind of a little, like, I don’t want to give you too much information.  I don’t want to give you too much information.  How do you handle that?  What does that first email back look like if you’re wanting to move forward?

Michelle:  I try to get them on the phone.

Tara:  Okay.

Michelle:  Because it’s so much easier to talk about the money thing.  I honestly feel like negotiating your speaking fee is like negotiating for a used car.  Because yeah, you’re right, nobody wants to give too much information.  Like, they won’t tell you your fee, they won’t tell you the budget.  It’s like trying to buy a car, and you’re like how much is that car?  They’re like, “I don’t know.  How much do you think it’s worth?”

Tara:  That is exactly what negotiating speaking fees feels like.

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Michelle:  And it causes a lot of stress, and I just did a workshop for my tribe around I don’t care if you’re speaking for free or not, you have to have a price in your head.  So whether they have the budget or not, you can decide whether to work with them, but if you don’t have a price, and you’re like, “Oh, yay, someone wants to pay me to speak, but I don’t know how much I charge,” that’s kind of a problem.  So having that price in your head is key, but I much would rather hop on the phone with someone for 15 minutes, and say, “Hey, yeah, so what is your budget?  And what are you looking for?  And what are you able to pay?”  And just have more of a dialog, because then it’s just, it’s easier that way.

Tara:  Yeah.  Can you talk a little bit about how you personally determine your speaking fee?

Michelle:  Yes.  So what … so in this webinar that I just did, I talked about coming up with like an hourly rate that represents your value, at least.  Because there’s a lot of intangible value in your speaking fee.  Because it’s not the hour you’re on stage.  It is your years of experience, your education, everything you’ve done to become the speaker you are today, and that needs to be considered.  And then there are other things that you can actually measure.  Like how long is it going to take me to prep and practice?  How long will it take me to travel?  How long am I on stage?  How much recovery time do I need?  So I consider all of those things for each, well, and I have a pretty standard fee right now, which I’ll just say it’s $4000.  It’s like …

Tara:  Thank you for sharing that.

Michelle:  I’ve done … I’ve done the math, it’s $4000, and that covers my costs, it covers my time away from business to do the speaking, it covers my practice time, and I feel like it represents my value really well.

Tara:  And just to stop you right there for a second, you’re expecting the organization to cover travel and other expenses on top of that?

Michelle:  Yes.

Tara:  That’s not included in the $4000.

Michelle:  Yes.  And I know there’s other models where people do say okay, I charge $10,000, but it’s all included.  Like travel is included, and my hotel, you don’t have to worry about any of that.

Tara:  Yeah, I need to switch to that model, because I’m very picky.  Just so we’re all clear on that, I’m a little bit of a diva when it comes to travel.  Okay, I feel like I have … oh, I know what my follow-up question to that was.  You mentioned earlier kind of negotiating fees maybe around something like are they going to also buy your books.  Can you talk about maybe some of the creative negotiations that you’ve done over the years?  You don’t need to need names.

Michelle:  Yeah.

Tara:  Just, I think people don’t think about all of the options that they have for getting compensated for a speaking engagement that is not financial.

Michelle:  Yes.  So sometimes, they don’t have a budget for speakers, but they have a budget for swag.  So they’ll say, “Okay, well, can you buy a book for every single person who comes to this event,” and if they have 200 people and you charge $20 per book, that is a pretty great fee for you.  So thinking about your books and having them buy those and give them out as swag.  Thinking about sponsorships.  Like either having someone sponsor you to speak at the event, or negotiating with one of the event sponsors to speak at the event.  There’s also things like video, which is so valuable for speaking, and photos.  So if they have a professional videographer and a photographer, you can use that for all your speaker marketing materials, and that has value, because that means you’re not paying, you know, two grand out of your own pocket to get video of you on stage in your element.

Tara:  Yes, amen.  I’ve also negotiated around promotional consideration before, too.  So like are you willing to feature me in your newsletter a couple of times?  Can I do a webinar with your audience outside of the … like with your whole audience, instead of just the conference attendees.

Michelle:  Mmhmm.

Tara:  And doing things like that can be really beneficial to me.

Michelle:  Yep.

Tara:  But it goes the other way, too, where you may want to negotiate a higher fee based on how much promotional consideration they’re looking for from you.

Michelle:  Mmhmm.

Tara:  Yes.  So good.  So good.  So good.  Okay.  So how do you go about preparing for a talk once you’ve booked the gig.

Michelle:  Yes.  So at this point, I have two signature talks that I give all the time.

Tara:  Okay.

Michelle:  Which is great.  So that means I don’t have to write it.  But if I ever do have to write a new talk, I use my Speak for Impact methodology, because it’s a great way, it’s the way I use with my clients to write a speech that gets results for the audience.  So I use that method, and then as I prepare, I kind of revisit the method, and I decide things like which stories should I tell for the audience.  At this point in time, I have like three openers for my speech, and I have one that’s a Rocky Horror Picture Show opening, and for edgy audiences, that’s awesome.  Like, they love it, they eat it up.  For more conservative audiences, it’s like, no, I’m going to do like the what do you want to be when you grow up, or the visualization one.  So I have these three openers that work really well, they’re tested, so I kind of figure out which one is best, and then I go through.  And my main content never really changes.  It’s typically the stories and the examples that will change based on the audience and what they need.

Tara:  Ah, I love that.  So it’s almost like building with different puzzle pieces, or from building blocks, or like Breanne would say, Lego.

Michelle:  Yeah, it’s exactly like that, and once you get to the point, it’s like, okay, this is my core message, now, I can just plug and play different stories that I know that work, different introductions, different conclusions, and customize it for that audience.

Tara:  Nice.  Okay, so you mentioned you have two core talks that you give.  And I know how this goes.  I mean, like, I have two or three core ones that I give as well, but an event organizer comes to you and they say, “We’d really like you to talk about X,” and X is not actually one of your core talks.  What do you do then?

Michelle:  I try to negotiate.

Tara:  Okay.

Michelle:  Because I feel it’s very important, in order for you to get known as a speaker, you have to have a consistent message.

Tara:  Mmhmm.

Michelle:  You know, I think about like Sally Hogshead or Brene Brown, they’re not going to be talking about topics outside of their area because an organizer wants them to.  And sometimes, I think you get to a point, and you’re like, nope, sorry, I don’t talk on that, I just can’t, it’s not my area of expertise, I’m not comfortable, I can talk to you on this, but you know, trying to negotiate and I’m always super creative.  Like I am good at making the link between whatever they want to talk about and whatever I want to talk about.

Tara:  Yeah, I’m really glad you brought that up, because I think there’s … there’s sort of an objection to that, or an immediate objection to that, which is, well, but I want to book the gig, so I want to do what they want me to do, right?

Michelle:  Mmhmm.

Tara:  But I think there’s a way to balance that against what you also need to be talking about that’s best for your own personal business strategy.

Michelle:  Yes.  Like, for example, I was working with a client, and she wanted to pitch this CEO group, and she talks about people problems, and how to solve people problems through leadership, and she’s like, “Oh, but they want strategy and technology,” and I was like, “Weren’t you just telling me the other day that in order to have successful strategy, that you have to have your team on board before you do the strategy?  And that’s the people part?”  I was like, “So actually, your talk fits into the strategy pocket,” and she’s like, “You’re brilliant.  Thank you.”  But for me, it was just like, oh, well, there’s a very clear connection between what you talk about and what they need.

Tara:  Yes.  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  So that’s brilliant.  Just what is … what’s the thread that ties these things together so that you can stay on message, but also give the event what they need as well.  Perfect.  Okay, so what do you do after a gig is over?

Michelle:  I rest.

Tara:  And what do you, Dr. Michelle Mazur, do to rest after a gig?

Michelle:  Mostly, it’s Netflix, going out to breweries, and going out to dinner with the hubby, because I am spent.  Now, I’m an ambivert, but I even hear from my extroverted clients that they need that recovery time, and I remember once I did three speaking gigs in one day, and literally, my friend watched my brain shut down.  So I spend some time recovering, and then after I’ve had my recovery day, I will definitely follow up with the organizer, I will follow up with people who chatted with me at the event, and start building those relationships.

Tara:  Yeah.

Michelle:  So, but that recovery is so important.  You just can’t go right back into business right after speaking.

Tara:  No.  You can’t.  And just to kind of remind everybody that you mentioned that when you were talking about your speaking fee, too, because it’s not … it’s not just something that you have to … to block off in your calendar, and you do absolutely need to block it off in your calendar when you’re putting that speaking gig on, you know, in your schedule, but you also have to include that time in your fee, as well.

Michelle:  Yes.

Tara:  Very, very important.  All right.  Can you tell us more about the book?

Michelle:  Sure.  Well, I’ll give a shout out to CreativeLive, because I did your publishing course on CreativeLive.

Tara:  How to Write and Publish an EBook.

Michelle: In five days, or I did mine in a month, and it was so incredibly easy.  Like, it was actually a very joyful process for me, because I took an existing blog post that I had that was all about writing your speech as your next bestselling product, because I believe that your speech is a product that you’re going to sell in your business.

Tara:  Which we also talked about in a CreativeLive class.

Michelle:  Yes, which we also talked about in a CreativeLive class.  And so I wrote this, like, 4000-word blog post around that topic, and I was like, oh my gosh, this is awesome.  I have this blog post, and then I just wrote some bridge content.  I pulled in some other blog posts, because I felt like there were some missing links, and sent it off for copy editing.  I got it out within four weeks, and I had a fabulous launch.  Like, I was able … it was kind of insane.  I decided to put a street team together, and I emailed my list, and I was like, “Hey guys, I’m releasing this book, if you want a free copy, I would love to have you on the launch team.  Here’s what’s involved with that,” and I walked away from my computer to work with a client, and an hour later, I had 40 applications, and had to shut the launch team down.

Tara:  Wow.

Michelle:  Because I’m like too much, too much, okay.  And I think the launch team made it a success.  I also reached out to influencers.  I was telling you about the book.  People like Tonya Geissler, and just letting everyone know, and people really rallied around it, and that’s what I felt, like, the book is definitely what I want to be known for.  Like, building your speech as a product and here’s a strategy to do it, and I felt the positioning was good, because all public speaking is about skills, and this is like, okay, let’s think about this strategically, people, and then the marketing was just so easy.  It was so much fun and effortless and it was just a joy to do.

Tara:  That’s awesome.  And tell us how well it sold.

Michelle:  Oh, yeah, like it climbed to number one in all of its categories within hours after it launched.

Tara:  Yeah.

Michelle:  And it’s staying in the top ten.  Like, I’m like three weeks out from launch, and every once in a while, I’ll log into Amazon to like spy on the book, and I’m like, “Oh, look, it’s number one again.”

Tara:  Yeah.

Michelle:  And there’s … and I know Amazon’s been promoting it, so I’ll see like a spike in sales.

Tara:  Mmhmm.

Michelle:  But it’s doing really well.  I’m curious to see what’s going to become of it in like six months, because it’s just kind of that little engine that could, and the feedback I’ve gotten from people, they’re like, “I love this book.”  They’re like, “It’s so strategic.”  And they’re like, “Yet, you write in such a way that’s approachable, and it’s not stuffy at all, it’s really fun.”  So it’s been such a great experience.

Tara:  That’s awesome.  And just to kind of bring it full circle then, is the book one of … is the topic of the book one of the core topics that you speak on then?

Michelle:  Yes, that is my other signature talk is Speak for Impact, and talking about how to build your speech like a product, how to make money from speaking, and how to really get known for your idea.  So that is in a speech of itself, so the book lines super well with my speaking, it aligns well with my one-on-one service, and I just feel like … in some ways, it was like marking my territory on this idea, writing that book, because no one else is talking about it this way, and I felt like okay, it is my time to mark my territory, and now, I … this is my viewpoint, and if people want to know how I’m different from other speaking coaches and consultants, they can read that book and figure it out in an hour.

Tara:  Brilliant.  Brilliant.  Brilliant.  Brilliant.  Okay, two more questions.  The first one, for people who have been speaking kind of casually, maybe they get those inquiries about a free gig here or there, or they’ve been doing webinars and they really want to get on stage, what would be one or two things that they should do next to really start accelerating their speaking career?

Michelle:  I think the first thing is really deciding on what your signature talk is going to be and building that and writing that, and I have to say, I know for some people, that’s like the struggle part.  It’s much more fun to get a gig, and then write a speech, but it’s so necessary for you to be known for what you want to do.  So if you’re doing it casually, and especially if you’re reinventing the wheel every single time you’re speaking, you’re wasting your time and you’re blowing any momentum you’re getting from that speaking gig.  So having that one, like, one or two go-to talks, and just knocking it out of the park would be the first step, and then I think at some point in time, you’ve got to get serious, and make the business decisions.  How am I going to get paid?  Like how am I going to make money from this?  Am I okay?  Like, and how many times do I want to speak a year?  Like, for me, I have … I want to speak six to eight times a year, because in a past life, I was on the road a lot speaking, and I’m over it.

Tara:  Mmhmm.

Michelle:  Like I want to be at home with my cats and my husband, and making some of those business decisions, like how am I going to make money, how often do I want to be speaking?  What kinds of events do I want to be speaking at?  Because at some point, you have to make the decision to assume the identity of speaker, instead of just playing at it.

Tara:  Oh, brilliant.  Okay, last question.  What’s next for you and your business?

Michelle:  Yeah, right now, I am working on getting my Speak for Impact process out as like a DIY just in time learning course, because it’s a great way to write a speech, and I know most people don’t know how to write a speech and they waste a lot of time and put a lot of effort into something that audiences don’t want.  And then the other thing that I’m thinking late 2017, early 2018 is I want to do my own live event that’s an alternative to TED.

Tara:  Ooh.

Michelle:  Which … so this is new.

Tara:  No kidding.

Michelle:  I mean, this is like breaking news.

Tara:  You heard it here first, folks.

Michelle:  I know.  Because I love TED, I love what they do.  The, you know, Ideas Worth Spreading, but I also think ideas aren’t enough, it’s change and action are where it’s at.  So I want to have speakers who are more for social justice, more for change, sustainability, having some of those conversations.  So I’m really scared telling you this, but I’m really … I know that that’s the next step for me.

Tara:  That is so awesome.  I’m so excited for you.  Well, Dr. Michelle Mazur, thank you so much for joining me.

Michelle:  Thank you, Tara, I’m so pleased to be here.

Tara:  Find Dr. Michelle Mazur online at DrMichelleMazur.com or at The Rebel Speaker Podcast on iTunes.

Next week, I talk with Debbie Millman, host of the first and longest running podcast about design, Design Matters.  Debbie and I talk about the 10 to 12 hours she puts into interview prep, how she started with just a phone line back in 2005, and the opportunities that have come her way thanks to the podcast.

CreativeLive is highly-curated classes from the world’s top experts.  Watch free, live video classes every day from acclaimed instructors in photography, design, audio, craft, business, and personal development.  Stream it now at CreativeLive.com.

This has been Tara Gentile.  Discover how to accelerate your earning as a small business owner with my free class, Revenue Catalyst, at QuietPowerStrategy.com/PPP.

That’s a wrap for this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., a CreativeLive podcast.  Download more episodes of this podcast and subscribe on iTunes.  If you appreciate this kind of in-depth content, please leave us a review or share this podcast with a friend.  It means the world to us.

Our theme song was written by Daniel Peterson, who also edited this episode.  Our audio engineer was Kellen Shimizu.  This episode was produced by Michael Karsh.  We add a new episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit. every week.  Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you love to listen to podcasts so you never miss an episode.

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The Next Big Thing in Social Media Is Small

The next big thing is social media is small.

The next big thing in social media is small.

As my friend and mastermind buddy Sarah Bray puts it, it’s the difference between big box stores and small shops:

When I was growing up, Wal-Mart was inevitable. It was just this place you had to go to get basic stuff. You needed it, and you didn’t think twice about how horrible it was. It was cheap and it was there.

But now, we have all these other options. We can shop locally. We can shop online. We can shop at Target. We don’t have to go to Wal-Mart anymore.

I hope this is what is happening with the web right now. That more of us are deciding that the Wal-Marts of the Internet aren’t really what we need, and that we can do better.

Wal-Mart, of course, is Facebook. Or maybe it’s Twitter. Really, it’s wherever you don’t want to be but feel like you have to for the sake of “getting the word out” about your business.

Social media–as a behemoth ready to send you tons of free traffic if only you can crack the code–is all but dead. 

And yet…

Long live social media!

Social media is getting smaller, more organized and less algorithmic, more people-focused and less startup-focused.

What this means for you is that you have a lot of control. Now, you no longer only have control over your content, you have control over the platform because the platform is yours.

You create the space, invite the people, and play in it together as you see fit.

You don’t “go on” social, you  are social.

Sarah is doing this with her own community and virtual co-working space, Gathered. I do this with The Lab.

But you don’t have to go rogue to make this new wave of social work for you and your community.

Live video is also working to create these spaces–within big boxes like Facebook or in small, private spaces like on Crowdcast (my new favorite thing).

With live video, each post becomes a gathering spot. 

It’s fleeting, yes. But it’s also incredibly powerful. When you make an eyeball-to-eyeball connection with 5, 100, or 10,000 people for 5 minutes, you’re doing more good for your business in that time than a lifetime on Twitter.

Live video isn’t the next big thing because it’s new technology or a new tactic for connecting with your audience. Live video is big because of how small it makes our world for a few powerful moments. 

I suspect that more technology will come along and mimic this small world environment soon. 

I spoke with one of the pioneers of online business and social media marketing, Joel Comm, for this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit.

Joel told me that he sees live video as the thing we’ll be talking about with social for quite some time to come.

If you want to hear more about how live video creates small gathering spots for your community–and how Joel approaches new technology, platforms, and trends in social media, check out this week’s episode.

Click here to read the transcript or listen in to our conversation.

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