Write Way to Success

Here’s an article By a friend and fellow Colorado motivational speaker, Doug Stevenson.  He’s a total rock star.   This article is reprinted with his permission.




A few days ago, I was watching a video of one of my private coaching clients. Bill is a new speaker just getting into the business. As I watched the video, I followed along with the script he had emailed to me.

Discipline Pays Off

What strikes me about this beginner is his discipline. Although he is new to the speaking business, he’s an old pro in the insurance field. In his keynote, he talks about how his success in business is a result of simple disciplines that he had established early on in his career. Now, in this new field of endeavor, he has already written and nearly memorized a 45-minute keynote. Watching him speak, it is evident that his discipline will pay off.

I teach my students that the script shall set you free. I know it’s true from my experience in theater. I played George in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and Harry in William Saroyan’s The Time of Your Life. My favorite, however, was Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream by my buddy, Bill Shakespeare.

These playwrights taught me that there are certain combinations of words in specific sequences that work better than other words in different sequences. To make their play work, you have to memorize their words – the script. Once you have moved beyond memorization to interpretation, you truly are free. But it all starts with the script. Writing out your script is the “write” way to speaking success.

Let’s examine this concept. Consider the words “discipline” and “habit”. They are similar, yet different. If you were ad-libbing your speech, you might accidentally say one when it would be more effective to say the other. In this newsletter, I chose to use the words “field of endeavor” instead of “line of work.” Can you feel the difference in tone between the two phrases?

When you write out your thoughts, you are forced to clarify them. When you write out your stories, you discover places in the narrative that are poorly defined. Writing forces you to make the move from good to great . I know the difference. I have ad-libbed and been good and I have followed my script and been great.

I’m not saying that you have to write an entire speech, word for word. I certainly don’t do that. You want to leave room for spontaneity. You need to speak from your heart to what moves you in the moment. Also, you’ve got to be able to adapt to things that happen or to content your audience heard in an earlier session. None of my keynotes or trainings are the same every time. But the most important content pieces, the critical ones, are scripted and memorized.

I believe that your stories need to be written and memorized word for word. They are theater pieces, mini-plays, around which you build the rest of your material. As a keynoter, I know that my audience will remember my stories, above all else. They’ll either remember them as good, or great. If they’re great, I’ll get spin-off and repeat business. If they’re good, then I’ve become an average speaker with good stories. The high fees go to the great storytellers.

Because Bill has a script to work from, he’s way ahead of the game. We can go to the exact spot that needs to be worked on and add, delete and rewrite. It’s obvious from watching his video that he’s well on the way to a solid keynote already. And that’s after one speaking engagement! Over the next few months, we’re going to tweak it, polish it and make it sing. It won’t take him years to develop this talk, it’ll only take months. He knows what he wants to say and he’s getting to the task of saying it, because he understands the importance of the script.

How about you? Are you on the fast track to a great keynote? Are you disciplined enough to write, rehearse and memorize? Remember…the script shall set you free; write it!

Speakers Bureaus

Speakers who are new to the business are often asking me, “How to I get bureaus interested in me? The first question they should be asking is, “Do I want to get bureaus interested in me?” Let me share with you what I’ve learned about speakers bureaus over the last eight years.

There is a saying in the speaking business that goes something like this. “When you need speakers bureaus, they don’t need you and when you don’t need them, they start coming out of the woodwork.” It’s true. Speakers bureaus are like any other business, they exist to provide a service and make money in the most efficient way possible. New, unproven speakers take more time and effort to sell and are a gamble. Established speakers take less time and effort to sell and are relatively safe. The path of least resistance is to go with the established speakers. At the same time, bureaus are also on the lookout for that hot new speaker!

Do you do training or keynotes? Speakers bureaus primarily sell keynotes. That’s where the money is. Clients generally pay less for training than for keynotes and because bureaus work on commission, generally 25% to 30%, they want the higher fees. Most bureaus don’t want to talk to you until your fee has reached $2500. That’s the low, low end of the keynote business. If you receive $2500 or more for a keynote and have a good quality video demo and professional looking promotional materials, they may be interested in talking to you.

Here’s why bureaus would want you:
1. You’re real good and have a professional quality video that shows it.
2. You have a marketable keynote/message that they can sell to their clients.
3. You have a solid client list that proves you are not a beginner.
4. You know who you are and where you fit into the marketplace.
5. You are a dependable business professional.
6. You have expertise in one or more areas.
7. You’re bureau friendly and easy to work with.

“Bureau friendly” means that you will promote the bureau when you are on-site and refer all leads back to the bureau. They want the spin-off business from your bookings and more importantly, they want to retain that client for next year’s conference. Do a good job and they keep the client. Blow it and they may lose the client. It’s that simple.

Why do you want to be represented by a bureau? Is it so you can sit home and wait for the phone to ring while they do all your sales and marketing? Forget about it. They don’t market speakers, they market themselves. You and I are products that they offer. If you happen to be the flavor of the month and they like you, they’ll submit you. A percentage of the leads that they submit you for will turn into bookings. If you do well on those bookings, they’ll keep submitting you. If you don’t nail it, they may stop submitting you. Or they may fall in love with another speaker and forget about you.

Hey, get real! They’re people. It’s a tough business. Everybody’s doing the best they can. I’ve had bureaus go gaga for me for a couple of months and then forget about me completely, only to call me a year later. Then I’ll get hot with another bureau for awhile, and then that relationship will cool off. It’s not that I’m not good, it’s just that hot new speakers keep showing up on the horizon. Sometimes I’m the newbie and sometimes I’m the old hag. It’s my job to rekindlethe romance, not theirs.

In my office, I’m always the hot new speaker. I never go out of style. I can sell me better than anyone else can. And I’m in control of the marketing effort. I have no control over the bureaus, other than to continue to be attractive and hope they see it.

Your challenge is getting noticed by the speakers bureaus. Most of them get 100 – 200 videos a month, many of them unsolicited. They throw most of them in the trash. Most of the sales reps don’t have time to chat with you on the phone. They’re too busy talking to clients and sending videos out the door.

Your job (and mine) is to remain attractive to bureaus by being excellent, visible and dependable. Give them a reason to want to work with you. Show them that it’s in their best interest to have a relationship with you. Market to them like you would any other client. Be consistent, persistent and understanding of their needs, but don’t bug em’! Figure out how to make their life easier.

So, do you want to work with bureaus? My suggestion is that you want bureaus to be a part of your marketing mix, without depending on them completely. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Continue to develop your own client list, including a couple of well-chosen bureaus. Then market and sell yourself!


by Doug Stevenson 2002


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