The Mike Drop Moment Ep12: Will Work for Applause or Why Public Speakers Aren’t Making Money

In this episode, I talk about why it is dangerous to get too hooked on audience applause as a measurement of your speaking success — and why it stops a lot of public speakers from making money.

Public speaking looks like a lucrative career when you view it from the outside — you travel to exotic locations like Des Moines, IA, you stay in fancy conference hotels, you get a nice check for being on stage for an hour, and ALL the applause from the audience.

Except a lot of speakers are missing out on the check part. I have clients who come to me frequently worried that they are not great on stage because they aren’t getting booked more or they aren’t booking business from their speech. And while there are usually some performance tweaks we can make — there is almost always a business model issues and a talk design issue for us to fix.

Let’s say you speak to owners of spas. The average person in the audience owns one location with 15 employees. Your audience is full of these people. If you travel to the conference and speak for free to this audience to build momentum, you can’t be upset if they book you for a speech. You see the owners of these locations don’t hire keynote speakers — so if your talk, your bio, you description all lends themselves towards you being a keynote speaker only — then you’ve blown your chance of making money at the event.

I also pair this episode with a fun bottle of bubbly from Napa.

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You know, one of the weird challenges of having a podcast is that often I want to break out in song. Like, for example, right now, I really would love to be singing lines from Lady Gaga’s song “Applause.” But Lady Gaga wouldn’t approve the release to let me sing it. So you’re not hearing me sing nor hearing Lady Gaga sing it either. But anyway, this episode is all about the applause.

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The thing that happens for so many people when they become public speakers or dream of public speaking is that they dream of being on stage, of having audiences clap for them and cheer for them. And that’s great, except that it doesn’t pay the bills. And there’s a whole business model behind using speaking as a revenue tool.

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We need to think about the time from starting up to getting paid to do big keynote speeches so that you can afford your life. There’s some latency there. There’s a little space in there. And so speaking for applause, well, you’re going to find yourself not able to afford your house or renter room. So what do you do?

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And how do you design a business that allows speaking to be part of it, that you can get the applause, but it also drives the business that’s we’re talking about on this episode of The Mike Drop Moment. And it’s Wednesday. So it’s Wine and Wisdom Wednesday. So I’ll be sharing some wisdom on that and pairing it with a really cool wine from an interesting celebrity. Think of applause. All right, here we go.

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And if there’s any part of you that maybe needs some healing or need some validation or love or you weren’t hugged enough as a kid or whatever the case is, then you might be drawn to it for those reasons as well. I mean, there’s a lot of people who are drawn into the world of acting, singing, performing feeder comedy because they’re dealing with stuff they didn’t deal with or maybe they did deal with. And this is still somehow part of healing that trauma. And that’s totally fine. But there’s a danger when you rely on that to make your money because the applause might not get you paid. So one of the things that happens a lot when I’m coaching my clients is they’ll come in and they’ll say, I have this beautiful, beautiful script for a speech.

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Maybe they worked with a writing coach. Maybe they, you know, have trained with somebody. Maybe they worked on it on their own. Whatever the case is, they come in and they have a speech and ask them, what do you want people to do? Because they’ve heard your speech. And often it will be something specific, like be a better leader or change the way they recycle or realize that climate change is a real thing or whatever the case is, which is great.

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But we also need them to make a decision possibly about working with us again. There’s a big difference between speaking for fee and speaking for money. I spoke about this in episode number three of the Mike Trout moment where I talked about the different business models for speaking. And if you need a little refresher on that, you can hop back over to session number three, episode number three to hear what I was talking about in regards to building a business model. But it basically comes down to this. There is speak for fee, speak for free and speak for me. And what I think the speak for fee model is, is basically you’re a big enough name and you have a big enough solution that people will pay you money to show up and do it. That typically takes a little bit of time. That takes a little bit of building something that takes some, you know, celebrity status in the industry. And so for a lot of speakers in their first few years, it’s harder to develop a model where you’re speaking for a fee and able to kind of get rid of the other work you do. And then there’s the speak for me model, which is where you build your own workshops and retreats, speeches and you invite people to them, your home hosting your own events. And that’s a whole different thing. And if you’re doing that, then you probably know what you need to include in your speech so that people do what it is you want them to do, which is maybe work with you longer, make a decision to make a change in their life.

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And then the third model, which is really what I’m talking about here, is the speak for free model. This is where you go and you speak at events. A lot of the breakouts. I mean, there are for every keynote speech, there are probably five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 20 breakout sessions happening at an event. I was recently at an event where I was the keynote speaker and there was one keynote a day. And then throughout the day there were four sessions. And in each of those sessions, there were six different talks. So that’s twenty four speeches, breakout speeches for one keynote. I was the only person getting paid to be on stage. I was getting speak for fee work where I was paid to show up and speak on the stage to kind of set the tone for the event. But the breakout speakers, they weren’t getting paid. And anytime that we speak. Sure. We’re trying to get our audience to to change the way they believe, to think about new way of existing in the world to do something different. But one of the things we need to have them decide is possibly to make a change, a change in the way they’re working, make a decision in. Working with you maybe make a decision to either do something or not do something. Most of the people I coach as a public speaking coach, they are those kind of speakers.

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They are authors, entreprenuers, consultants and coaches who are out there speaking in breakout sessions in the hopes that people will learn about them and want to work with them again. That’s a very different speech than just having to give a speech that encourages the audience to go out and think differently about the world or highlight something like you would in a keynote speech in a speak for free, where you’re trying to help the audience make a decision about whether they might want your help in doing something. Well, that’s a different kind of speech. And this isn’t about the kind of like sell from the back of the room, run back here and buy my programs speaking. And there’s nothing wrong with that anyway. Everybody needs to make a living. And as long as you’re serving your audience and actually being helpful during your speech. Who cares if you have a program in the back of the room to sell them? In fact, maybe it’s a helpful thing. Maybe it’s cruel of you not to offer it. What I’m talking about here, though, are people that are going to breakouts and hoping that that will lead to business for their agency, business for their consulting, business for their workshops, business for their coaching. Those people are speaking at these breakout sessions in order to get the audience to make a decision to say, you know what, I want to do something about this. And you person on stage seem like the kind of person who can help me. And that’s what I’m talking about here.

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And largely those are the kind of folks I work with. Every once in a while. I work with someone who is just speaking for fee or speaking for me. They’re doing their own event. They want to polish up their speeches.

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But a lot of the folks out there and I bet a lot of you listening to the show today are the kind of people who are speaking for free, which means you need to figure out what goes into your speech so that you can build the business.

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Speaking as one of the best ways to show your authority, to show your expertise and to start helping people transform in front of you so that they say, hey, I kind of like this. I like some more transformation. What do I do next? Where do we go next? How do we extend the relationship? That’s your job in those speeches. And if you just give those speeches for applause, if you just give those speeches so that people say that was pretty good. That was fun. I had a good time. That was entertaining. Well, then you’re not going to be able to do it very long unless you’re independently wealthy because you’re speaking should be attached to the return on investment of your time, your travel, the cost of your flights and everything. That’s the reality. And I had this conversation probably twice a week with clients who are thinking about why are people not hiring me? Why is no one reaching out? Why am I not getting X, Y and Z? Everyone loved me.

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I was speaking for the applause and I got a lot of applause. The issue is that you didn’t help your audience make a decision to work with you. And that is what we need to change the frame on. So I’m going to show you a couple of ways you might want to think differently about. That’s that you don’t end up working a bunch for free. And it really being for free, meaning you’re just getting a lot of applause. But that applause angle. Pay your mortgage, my friends. That applause doesn’t buy you all the fancy things you like. And speaking of fancy things, it’s time to talk about why.

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On the Wednesday episodes of The Mike Drop Moment where I go solo and I just talk about some wisdom I’ve learned out there in the world. I pair those episodes with wine. It’s called Wine and Wisdom Wednesdays. And so this week’s wine pairs nicely with applause. Whenever I think of applause, I think of celebration, I think of achievement. I think of something great. And when I think of something great, there’s nothing better than a nice bottle of bubbles. So that’s what we’re gonna be tasting today. And this one comes from a man that has certainly achieved a lot of applause in his decades and decades of fame and notoriety. The bottle I’m talking about is the Santana Brut, which is a collaboration between Carlos Santana and Mumm Napa, which is a really amazing sparkling house up in Napa Valley. Now, this one, the Santana brewed, it retails for about 50 bucks. Carlos Santana gives 100 percent of his proceeds to the Milagro Foundation, which aids underserved kids. So also, not only do you get to have some bubbles and celebrate, but you can feel good knowing that a little bit of your bubbles went to help kids or the cost of your bubbles. You know what I mean? Anyway, this one is really, really fun on the palate. It’s got this really like juicy yellow apple. So not quite as tart as a green apple, say, and not quite as soft as a red apple, but like a juicy yellow apple like one that’s just like waiting for you to dive in.

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It’s also got some really nice bright acidity to it. That means when it hits your palate, when it hits your tongue, your tongue starts to dance and kind of beg for food. This is actually a really great food wine because it would pair with something that was a little bit spicy. It would pair really well with seafood’s with salads. All these things that are sometimes difficult to pair, this would go really nicely with. And what’s great about it is that acidity is a really great thing because you could serve this to guests as they are arriving and it will start to get their mouth salivating. That’s what this city does in your mouth. It kind of gets you juiced up and ready for whatever is coming next. So it primes them out. So I’m loving this one. It’s got its really kind of mouthwatering. There’s that juicy yellow apple. There’s some strawberry that follows through. You smell it. And then when you drink it, that follows through on the palate, you can really taste that in your mouth, that kind of straw berry ash and the wine mix here, the grapes.

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It’s 60 percent Pinot Noir and 40 percent chardonnay, which are two of the grapes that you classically will find in a lot of sparkling wine. They are the two big wines that grow or the two big grapes that they grow in the champagne region of France where sparkling wine comes from. So this one is 60 percent Peno, 40 percent Chardonnay. It’s from Mumm, Napa, and it’s a collaboration between mom and Carlos Santana. It’s called Santana Brut. And I think it tastes really great with everything. So if you see it out there in the marketplace, grab yourself a bottle, celebrate whatever it is you’re celebrating. Take the applause and enjoy the moment. That’s it for this little wine tip.

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It’s time to be unapologetically you find your #mikedropmoment.

Your challenge as you think about not speaking for the applause and let’s just get this clear. If you want to speak for the applause, if you want to get out there and just get the claps and get the love, that’s totally fine. But don’t call it a business because there’s not a business for it to be a business. There’s gotta be some business exchange here. So if you’re just out there performing for fun, if you have any, you can go speak and get the applause and get the love and move on to the next place and not need to worry about any kind of value exchange besides the slap of those people’s hands coming together. I mean, more power to you. That’s great. But don’t call that a business. It gets tricky because we can confuse ourselves. We think that if I’m getting the applause, it means I must be really good. If I’m getting the cheers, I must be really good. But they’re not doing anything. I learned this really early in my speaking career when I first started speaking way back in 2014. I was giving speeches that were, you know, keynote type speeches and speeches that maybe kind of would help the audience understand that they would be able to work with me in a workshop setting. I used to speak largely to the restaurant retail hospitality industry because that was my background. So I thought might as well do whatever the easy yes would be. And people wanted to do what I had done, which is sell a lot of restaurant companies and grow brands people love. So I can probably get those people to let me speak at their conferences. And I got pretty good at that when I started to realize that speaking for free was also an option, that I could speak for free and I could get some of those gigs. And there weren’t a lot of people that were speaking for fee in the restaurant industry.

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There were there were a couple other folks out there. But I realized, okay, that’s a niche. I can I can do that. But there were also a lot of opportunities to speak for free. There were a lot of conferences that were hiring people like Danny Meyer from Union Square Hospitality Group or someone from Southwest Airlines. That was really popular back when I started as well.

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And I realized we’re going to put me on stage instead of this $40000 speaker who was well-known in the industry and there were opportunities for me to do breakouts that would be unpaid. And so at first, I probably did like two or three, four or five maybe before I realized there was a problem. The problem was that I was getting a lot of applause. I was getting the handshakes, the smiles, the claps. I was getting all of those things, the crowd that wanted to take a selfie with me afterwards. But I wasn’t getting any business. I was giving a speech that I mean, it kind of highlighted the fact that I did workshop work and consulting work and things. But I hadn’t thought about the fact that a lot of the people in the audience, as I was speaking to, they were solo restaurant owners. They owned a single concept here or there. And I didn’t really offer the kind of consulting they would pay for. And they certainly weren’t going to hire me to come in and do a workshop. And they certainly weren’t going to hire me to come in and give a keynote speech to their staff of 20. So I was giving a speech that everyone loved and people were learning from. I was giving it for free. I was getting the applause, but I wasn’t booking any business. And because I had a background in business, I quickly realized, wait a second, there’s a problem here.

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And I knew that the mix was wrong, that if I was going to speak for those types of audiences, I needed to be really thoughtful about who was in the room. I needed to go speak at franchise kinds of conventions or the kinds of restaurant, retail, hotel conferences where there were people from Hilton and people from McDonald’s and people from these bigger brands that might be able to bring me in. I needed to think about how I got in front of people that owned regional brand with 15, 20, 30 locations where they might have me come in and do a workshop for their team. I started to realize that picking the right audience was really important for my speech, that I couldn’t just give a speech that was really good, that I had had beautifully written and beautifully rehearsed and beautifully performed. If it wasn’t to the right audience, that could do the thing I needed them to do to support my business. And that’s the difference between speaking for fee, where you’re coming in to give an inspirational message and help the audience think differently about the world, their business, or whatever it is that you’ve been hired to help them think through.

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And speaking for free, which is where you’re speaking in exchange for being in front of the right kind of people. It’s a really simple idea. I know you’re listening and you’re thinking, yeah, that makes sense, but it’s one of the big things I see all of the time. And the clients I coach is that they’re not booking the gigs, they’re not booking more gigs and they’re wondering why. Well, it’s because the audience here in front of is not the type of people that book speaking gigs. And maybe in your speech you haven’t clarified the kind of workshop work you do. Now, I am not suggesting and this is not how I help my clients design their speeches. I’m not suggesting you need to go out and create a speech that at the end you say, hey, I’m available for workshops, please reach out to me. Saying that you need to, through out your speech, find interesting ways to talk about the work you do. Interesting ways to highlight results that people just like them have got by working with you. And again, this takes a little finesse and a little bit of work. And you’ve got to know how to do it right so that it doesn’t feel like you’re just pitching them on the stage unless you’ve been invited to do that. But you need to make it clear that that’s the type of work you do that can even happen in your bio when you’re when the person who is introducing you introduces you. Maybe there’s something they can say in there of, you know, Michael Hino is a storytelling expert who travels the world working with small businesses to help them tell the kinds of stories that ignite their clients through workshops, consulting, yada, yada, yada.

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Maybe you can embedded there in the bio that you include on the Web site for the event or in the handout, the brochure, the agenda. Does your bio explain that? That’s the kind of work you do. How about the title description and or the title and description of your speech? Is it really clear when I read that? Who should be in the room? Your title in session description are like a beacon.

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It’s a way for you to signal to the community. Who is this for?

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Who’s going to get value here? What are you going to leave with? Those are all ways that you can kind of start to set the tone. And then, of course, through your speech design, you can figure out ways to highlight the work you do and the way you’ve worked with people and the things that people have done before. There’s a really crafty and elegant and beautiful and supportive and helpful way for you to do that in your speech.

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So when you are speaking for free, it actually supports your business. And speaking of your business, my speaker friends, if you’re an author, an expert, a consultant to coach, you’ve got to think about the whole thing holistically. Again, it can take some time before you become a keynote only speaker. And in effect, that’s really rare. And I know you know a few people who do that, but it’s rare that that’s all you can do. A lot of times people do workshops, consulting, coaching, those kinds of things as well. Maybe they have group programs or or different things that people go through. So how does the keynote speaking act as a Attraction tool act as a spotlight to shine a spotlight on what you could do with the people in the audience? Again, I get this call two or three times a week from people I’ve been working with or people that want to work with me where they talk about, oh, my gosh, I think I’m pretty good, but I’m not getting getting booked. I’m not getting any more speeches. The challenge is maybe the audience isn’t the right audience for that. And maybe you haven’t clarified the way you can work with people. So take a look. Sit down and look at your speech and think about it. Look at your bio. Look at your introduction that someone reads. Look at the title. The session descriptions isn’t clear to the audience that they could work with you.

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And another thing, as you think about the reason for your speech and how you want your audience to be changed. What is the decision they need to make? What is the thing they need to believe in order to say, wow, I think I need some help with this so that they can call you and say, hey, what do you have to offer? How might we work with you? I heard you mentioned a workshop. What’s that about?

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Because you helped me realize you helped me make a decision in that 45 minute breakout or that hour-long keynote.

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You helped me make a decision that I’m gonna do something about this. Now the decision is theirs. They can decide to do nothing. They can do something on their own. They could do something with someone else or they could reach out to you. Your job in that breakout session is to get them to make a decision of whether they’re going to do something to solve the problem you’ve been talking about or not. And then if you’ve done everything you need so that they trust you, that they like you, that they think you can help them, then hopefully you’ll be the option. But if not, your job, even in a speak for free gig, is to help your audience make a decision.

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This episode has ended, but your journey doesn’t have to head on over to www.mikeganino.com access all the resources and links that Mike and his guests shared today. And keep on crafting your own story. That’s www.mikeganino.com. Your audience is waiting. Isn’t it time to find your #MikeDropMoment?

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