Thank you to Panicos Iordanou, who wrote this article after attending his first ever Speaker Express Club Night.

“The INSPIRATION behind the name for the Speaker Express was the 19th century Pony Express horseback mail delivery service in the American West. Its most famous rider was quite possibly ‘Buffalo Bill’, who started riding for the service at just 14 years of age.

While none of my fellow attendees at the event were quite that young (there was in fact a real mix of ages and backgrounds – always a good sign), one can appreciate the parallels between that historical mail delivery service and the Speaker Express Club. Many people without any training or experience of public speaking might understandably feel that a public stage bears more than a little resemblance to the Wild West of old; and that standing up in front of even the most sympathetic audience is only marginally less scary than taking part in a duel to the death.

However, there’s no need to fear. The Speaker Express Club, through the provision of training; exercises and activities for groups and individuals; and the good old-fashioned support of a very friendly and likeminded community, are working hard to change all of that. In doing so, they are empowering more and more people to deliver their messages – just like the riders for the old Pony Express.

The theme for the evening was ‘TRUTH’ and the event was kicked off by a presentation by Elliot Kay entitled ‘The Truth about Building a Speaking Business’.

Elliot covered a lot of material but I did manage to scribble down a few pearls of wisdom. Here they are, together with a few thoughts of my own:

‘Give away your information and sell your expertise!’

By now, very few people will not have come across some version of this approach somewhere on their travels through cyberspace. One example being the ‘Sign Up Now and get a FREE ebook!’ type of incentive (over-)used by many internet marketers to build email marketing lists and get prospects into the sales funnel.

Still, the principle holds true and it’s great advice. In the age of Google; Wikipedia; and Siri, it’s inevitable that consumers are less and less inclined to pay for mere ‘information’. It’s a widely held view that this shift is what has led to the decline of the newspaper industry (although at least one prominent professor would disagree). 

BE A BROADCASTER – BUT REMEMBER, ‘EVERYTHING COUNTS!’

Speakers/coaches need to think of themselves as broadcasters and take full advantage of the vast array of platforms both online and offline. In Elliot’s words: ‘it’s all stage time’. That said, he also called for caution, ‘remember, everything counts!’

If you’re building a personal brand, everything you say or do online is an extension of that brand. Even a seemingly innocuous Facebook status could cost you business (he learned that the hard way).

ON BEING AN EXPERT

‘Being an expert is just being two steps ahead of everybody else. That’s it’.

If you’re two steps ahead of somebody, you can deliver meaningful value for them. If you’re two steps behind, look at what you need to improve and how best to go about it.

ON MAKING MONEY

‘Charge according to your level of expertise.’

‘If you can’t charge, make sure that you have an opportunity to promote and/or sell something.’ Of course, this means actually putting the effort into having products and/or services you can sell at such events!

‘Money often comes to you ‘down the line’. Let go of the notion that it’s always an immediate exchange’.

Often, somebody who has benefited from something you have given away (e.g. as an attendee at a presentation, or a free initial consultation etc) comes back a while later and becomes a very good client.

MY CLOSING THOUGHT…

In an increasingly crowded marketplace, made ever smaller by technology, you must do something to stand out if you want to succeed. You simply cannot expect that if you ‘build it, they will come.’ Giving away information and selling expertise (you could easily substitute ‘expertise’ for any paid-for service or even physical product here) is one great (and increasingly common) way to do this. 

To my mind, there’s a clear demonstration of this trend in the online world, where brands are increasingly moving away from pure ‘advertising’, in favour of what is known as ‘content marketing’. KISSmetrics explains content marketing as follows:

‘Content marketing is a relatively new type of marketing that provides free media-type content to customers in exchange for their attention. Unlike traditional advertising which interrupts customers to get noticed, content marketing provides content that customers want in exchange for permission to market a product or service.’

The second sentence can equally be applied to individuals building their careers and networks. Whether dealing with a potential client, employer or collaborator it could be an interesting (and rewarding) exercise to ask yourself what you could freely give that person in order to ‘earn the permission’ to market yourself to them. This also ties in with what Elliot was saying about money often coming ‘down the line’ (I suspect you could substitute ‘money’ with any desirable outcome).

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