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How To Build A Successful Speaking Business - The Grant Baldwin Story

succeed through speaking tom bailey Jun 24, 2022

Tom Bailey, founder of Succeed Through Speaking, interviews Grant Baldwin.

In this episode we hear about our guests journey with confidence, public speaking and presentation skills and how it has helped them and others succeed in life and in business - in other words, how to succeed through speaking.

As founder and CEO of The Speaker Lab, Grant Baldwin has helped thousands of people build successful and sustainable speaking businesses. Over the last 15 years Grant has become a sought after speaker, podcaster, author, and accomplished entrepreneur. Featured on the Inc. 5000 list, Forbes, Inc. Entrepreneur, and the Huffington Post, he has committed his expertise and insight to equipping others to share their meaningful message with the masses.

With a mission to motivate other leaders and entrepreneurs, Grant has developed a training course with The Speaker Lab, completed by over 2,000 speakers (and counting), and created a multitude of additional resources for speakers with varying levels of experience! His leadership and dedication to creating a one-of-a-kind organizational culture are evidenced by the impact of the team he leads.

Grant’s favourite moments are those spent with his high school sweetheart, Sheila, and their three daughters. They live in Nashville, Tennessee where Grant enjoys playing pickleball, summer days at the pool, and living life like Chuck Norris.

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Tom Bailey  00:07

Hello and welcome to succeed through speaking the place for experts and entrepreneurs who want high value ideas to boost business results Hello, I'm Bailey and in today's episode, I'll be getting to know Grant Baldwin who is a sought after speaker, a podcaster. And author and accomplished entrepreneur is also the founder and CEO of the speaker lab. So grant Hello, and a very warm welcome to today's episode.

Grant Baldwin  00:41

Tom, thanks for letting me hang out with you, man. I appreciate it.

Tom Bailey  00:44

Awesome. Thank you so much for being here. And just out of interest whereabouts in the world. Are you right now?

Grant Baldwin  00:48

I am in at home in Nashville, Tennessee here in the States.

Tom Bailey  00:52

Amazing. I've never been but absolutely on my bucket list. One day in the future. Nice. Come

Grant Baldwin  00:57

visit anytime, man.

Tom Bailey  00:58

Thank you so much. I'm trying to just share a little bit more about you before we do get started. So grant has also been featured on Forbes entrepreneur and the Huffington Post. And he's helped 1000s of people build successful and sustainable speaking businesses. To grant all of this sounds incredible and very relevant for our audience. The first question was ask you today is how did the speaker lab first come about?

Grant Baldwin  01:23

Yeah. So if we go way back in time, I was actually a full time speaker for about eight, nine years or so. And actually before that, I was a youth pastor here in the in the States and was working with students and it gave me a lot of opportunities to speak speaking was something that I felt like I was decent at I wanted to do more of and at the time, there wasn't really any resources on you know, there was no books or podcasts or courses or training or anything about how do you actually find them book gigs. And so I found myself just emailing other speakers just harassing them stalking them, just trying to pepper them with questions and just figure out Yeah, but how do you actually book gigs? And who do you speak to? And how much do you charge. And so I learned a few things and sort of booking gigs here and there. And eventually got to a point where I was doing about 60 or 70 gigs a year, and had a lot of people who were asking me like, hey, I want to do that. I want to be a speaker, how how do I how do I do that. And so we started doing a little bit of teaching coaching training along the way. And that's really evolved into what we do today with the speaker lab. So we're a training company and coaching company, teaching people how to find and book paid speaking engagements.

Tom Bailey  02:19

I love it. And a lot of people that listen to this podcast are coaches solopreneurs entrepreneurs. And why do you think public speaking is so important for these people in terms of raising their profile or growing their businesses? Yeah, I

Grant Baldwin  02:32

think it can be used speaking can be used in a lot of different ways. I think sometimes there's a misconception that in order to be a speaker, you have to be doing this full time, and you gotta be doing 50 6070 100 gigs a year. And I know speakers who, some speakers who do that and do really, really well and other speakers who, you know, they do five gigs or 10 gigs a year, and that's fine. So it's not necessarily that one's better or worse than the other, you just got to kind of decide how to speak and fit into what it is that you want to be doing. And so speaking can work a lot of different ways depending on what you're trying to accomplish. So one would be like you mentioned, kind of, from like a credibility standpoint. You know, anytime you've been at a conference or an event and you see someone up on stage, there's a certain level of credibility that we ascribe to that person, because they're up on stage, and we're in the audience, right. So there's certain amount of of prestige or recognition that goes along with being a public speaker. It's also really good from like a lead generation standpoint. So if you're a coach or consultant, if you're a solopreneur, oftentimes speaking, can be used as a way to to generate leads to build rapport connection with the audience, who may then want to work with you on the back end in terms of some type of product or service that you may offer. So So for example, there's a client that we had worked with, and they were doing several speaking gigs a year, and they would do all these gigs for free. But they would do that as lead generation for their coaching business. And so they generated hundreds of 1000s of dollars in their coaching business, by speaking at the right type of gigs with their ideal customers that were in the audience. So again, even if you don't want to be a full time speaker, or you don't want to do keynotes or anything like that, that's totally fine speaking can still work as a really good business tool.

Tom Bailey  04:01

I think what you said at the end, then was really important, speaking in front of the right audiences with the right message, and with the right offers or whatever that is that that's really important. Because ultimately, you could end up speaking to a roomful of people that just don't really connect or resonate with your message. Yeah, absolutely.

Grant Baldwin  04:17

And I think it's, you know, one of the things that that's really important is for speakers to get really, really clear on who they speak to, and what problem that they solve. Now, the challenge for a lot of speakers is that we just enjoy speaking, speaking, it's fun. It's one of those things we look forward to, and so we're just looking for any opportunity or at bat. So what that leads to is, you know, who do you speak to? I don't know, I speak to people, I speak to humans. My message is for everybody, but really, it's for nobody. And when you think about the question of Who do you speak to? Or rather, what problem do you solve? It's like, well, what do you want me to solve? What problem can I speak about what I'll speak about anything? You know, because we're just again, we're looking for opportunities in advance, but that doesn't work. Trying to speak on all things to all people is never a winning proposition versus saying, you know, I saw one specific problem for one specific The Guardian since it's counterintuitive, but the more narrow the more focused you are, the easier it is to actually find and book gigs.

Tom Bailey  05:06

That's a really important message for people to hear. Because, you know, there's a lot of speakers out there, and if you're a generalist, or you just offer business coaching, for example, and there's a lot of competition, whereas if you've got a lane and it's very niched, it's a lot easier for you to get booked as well. Yeah, very true. And so for people out there listening who haven't ever been booked as a speaker, but they want to be what, what are some of the first steps that you take to going from not to being a speaker or, or not having been books as big as actually getting booked? Yeah.

Grant Baldwin  05:38

And so, a couple things I would say to that. One is that to remember that everybody starts from zero, like any speaker, you look up to you admire your respect, I think it's easy to kind of get distracted by like, Oh, look at that speaker that they are so good, I can never be that good. But realize, like there was a point where they had none gigs. And then they did their first gig. And so everybody starts from from scratch, everybody starts from zero, that's kind of like, you know, the first time you record a podcast, you know, the from podcast one to episode now, it's like, they're night and day, because the more you do it, the better you get. So be cautious and saying like, I'm never going to be as good as they are, therefore, I'm never even going to get started. That's not the reality. So make sure that you kind of recognize and keep that in perspective. Now, one of things we do inside this big lab is we teach our students the speaker success roadmap, which is a five step framework that just walks people through how to actually find them book gigs. And so it makes the acronym speak SPE a que. So that first step is what we've already touched on a little bit, that s selecting a problem to solve. So again, you have to get really clear on who you speak to what problem you solve. And once you Once you're clear on that everything else becomes a lot simpler. But yeah, it's easy for speakers to want to skip over that and just think, oh, man, I just want to speak to anybody and everybody like, again, that doesn't work. The next part of the process P is to prepare your talk. And so to be really, really clear on what's the solution that you're providing to the problem that you're going to solve, it's also important to note that, that that solution can come in a lot of different packaging, meaning that it could come in the form of doing a keynote, it could also come in the form of doing a breakout or a workshop or some type of ongoing training, it could be virtual, it could be in person, it could lead to some coaching or consulting that you could be doing. So don't be like Well, I'm, you know, I don't really enjoy doing, you know, I don't want to be up in front of big crowds or anything, I'd rather work with a small group. Great, that's fine. So again, it's not that one's better or worse than the other, you just decide what's the best way to package that solution that you're offering. Next for the processes E is to establish yourself as the expert. So two key marketing tools that you need, you need a website and a demo video. If you don't have a website, you don't exist, people aren't going to take you seriously. And a demo video is basically think of it like a movie trailer, right? You take like a two hour movie, you boil it down to two or three minutes. And within those two or three minutes, you have an idea of who's in it. What's the plot, what's the theme? What's the genre that the movie is in. And the goal of the demo video and the goal of the movie trailer is to make people want to see more. So that's a website and demo video. Next part A is to acquire paid speaking gigs. Now, this is where like, we have to do something proactive. The mistake a lot of speakers make is we say, Okay, I have my website, I have my video, I'm clear on my presentation, my talk, I know who I speak to, I know what problem I saw. And now I just sit back and I wait for the phone to ring. And it just doesn't work like that, like speaking is very much a momentum business. And so you've got to get the ball in motion and get the ball moving. And so having a proactive plan where you reaching out following up and being very strategic and systematic about it, that's a big core thing that we teach our students. And then the last part of the process is Kay know when to scale meaning. A lot of people who are interested in speaking are also interested in coaching, consulting, doing a book doing a podcast, doing a course doing a YouTube channel, and all those things are well and good. But you can't do them all at once, like something's gonna come first, something's gonna come last. So you gotta be really, really clear about how to speaking fit into the mix. So again, that's kind of like a big picture framework there of what we teach and work with our students on.

Tom Bailey  09:02

That's really, really useful. And I don't I don't give away your secret sauce, but just on the on the video element of that the showroom. And for somebody who's not been on stage before, what kind of footage Do you think it's best for them to try and capture to create something that will land them their first gig?

Grant Baldwin  09:19

Yeah, it because it feels like a chicken egg situation, right. So I need bookings in order to get video footage and any video footage in order to get bookings. So which comes first. So a couple things I might recommend here. One is to remember that when you're creating a demo video or a website, you're creating version 1.0. So do the best that you have. Do it with excellence and improve as you go. And what I mean by that is, as of today, I've had probably seven or eight demo videos. And so each time I speak every year so I might get better footage my talk is getting better and more clear on who I'm speaking to and what problem I solve. I'm speaking maybe better venues. And so I'm going to use that footage each time to update not every single game Ah, but you know, every year, so I'm going to find some better footage and better footage. So again, realize everybody starts with version 1.0. If I showed you my version 1.0 demo video right now, it's not good at all I was literally I was speaking to a group of about 30 teenagers at a local church youth group, I borrowed like a handycam from a friend of mine set it up on the side of the room. It was dark, the audio was bad, the acoustics were bad. It was just like, it was not a great setup at all. But like, that's what I had. In fact, I even edited myself using Windows Movie Maker, which I don't even know if that's still a thing. Yeah. So I spent $0 on it. But again, I worked with what I had. So a couple of ideas if you're going okay, I don't have any footage. But I want to get going here, what do I need to do? One is that you could find some type of a local event you could speak at for free with the sole purpose of I'm just trying to get some footage. Another option is this is going to sound weird, but this works well is you could speak to an empty room. Now, if you're going to do this, do this in the type of setting where someone would actually hire you to speak meaning nobody's hiring you to speak in your kitchen, or your bathroom or bedroom or anything like that. So you want to go to some type of boardroom auditorium, theater, classroom, some type of setting where someone would actually be hiring you to speak. And so I'll give an example. Like I remember, several years ago, I had a demo video. And the entire video is me on stage, and kind of like different cuts of my presentation and talk. But the entire time all you saw was me on stage, you had never had another person in the shot. And so sometimes I would show students that and say, Hey, how many people were in the room? And everybody would guess, you know, a variety of different numbers? Well, actually, there were 3000 people in the room, but like it could have been 3000 could have been three could have been nobody yet. You'd have no clue, because you never saw anybody else in the in the shot. And so realize, like, again, you could do that just using and an empty room. And that can be effective for version 1.0.

Tom Bailey  11:52

Perfect, that's really useful. To answer a lot of people's questions. I think one question I have asked quite a lot of speakers who get paid to talk is it's that transition from getting booked as a speaker to actually getting booked as a paid speaker. And sometimes that's an internal transition, a mindset shift. But sometimes it's things you have to do differently externally as well. So I guess what, what is that tipping point from getting booked as a speaker to actually getting booked as a paid keynote speaker?

Grant Baldwin  12:17

Yeah, I think that one thing to be aware of is there's not like some magical prerequisite that you have to accomplish or achieve and like, Okay, now you've done, you know, 10 free talks. Therefore, now on the 11th. One, you can start charging, like, it just doesn't work like that. And I'd also say, there's actually there's, there's nothing necessarily wrong with doing a free gig, as long as the caveat here, you know, why you're doing it? Meaning that sometimes there's that doing free gigs can get a bad rap? Well, you're not a serious or professional or real speaker, if you're doing free gigs. No, absolutely, I would still today, at this moment, do a free gig for the right type of audience and for the right type of setting. So free gigs aren't necessarily a bad thing. But again, to your question, and to your point there, there is a mental shift there that as a speaker, we are providing something of value. And so it's important that we extend that we receive something of value in exchange. Now, sometimes that comes in the form of a paycheck, ideally. But again, there's other ways that that an event planner, or an audience can provide value to you whether or not you got paid meaning like for example, let's go back to let's say, you're a coach and you go speak at an event and you they don't pay you to come speak at that. But let's say you pick up two or three or four clients from the audience that are worth maybe 1000s of dollars, like all of a sudden, like that one event is worth perhaps, you know, $10,000, or more than maybe way more than what an event planner could have paid you in the first place. So you got paid from doing that event, but it looked a little bit different than maybe what you assumed in your mind it was going to be so again, there's a lot of different ways that you can, you can quote unquote, get paid to speak. But again, the important thing is to remember that you are providing something of value and it's okay and necessary for you to receive something of value in exchange.

Tom Bailey  13:59

Yeah, that's a really good point. And a lot of people just starting out as well. It's an I get a lot of this from interview guests. Is that thing around value really think about who's sat in the room? And what's that one piece of information? Or what's that thing that they can take away with them from your talk that they can then utilize in their life? And the more value you provide, the more you can charge effectively is what he's what I've been told from other speakers. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And so next question isn't quite topical one we've just come off the back of a global pandemic, which pretty much wiped out speaking and in person so so I guess, first of all, how did you transition during that period? And secondly, has it changed the I guess the environment in which speakers can operate in now? Yeah, they

Grant Baldwin  14:45

it has dramatically changed things and actually for the better now this is gonna sound crazy, but hang with me, but COVID is one of the best possible things to happen to the speaking industry. And here's what I mean. Is prior to the pandemic, virtual speaking wasn't really a thing. was something that a few speakers did do event planners day, but it wasn't anything that anybody really took seriously. And so then COVID hits and all live events shut down, nothing happens. I know a lot of speakers who had full calendars to nothing just literally within a matter of a couple of days is really scary time for the speaking industry. So because nothing existed in terms of impersonal gigs, then the only game in town was going to become virtual. And what we're seeing now is we fast forward a couple of years, is as live events have come back, they're not coming back and replacement of virtual events, but they're coming back in addition to. So what that means is, is now there's a whole new opportunity, a whole new set of opportunities that exist with virtual speaking, in addition to in person. And there's also a lot of hybrid opportunities that exist. So for example, one thing we see a lot right now, is you may go and do a Keynote or an audience. And then for the next three months, maybe you do once a month or twice a month zoom calls to help implement and apply what it is that you talked about in the keynote. And so what that means is it creates new opportunities and revenue opportunities for speakers that largely didn't previously exist. And because at this point, we're also accustomed to zoom and accustomed to virtual speaking, it's something that event planners can wrap their minds around and can see the value of. And so we see that maybe before, let's say you, if I go back several years, where I was doing 6070 gigs, a year is probably 60 or 70, standalone, individual events and individual clients that I was working with. Whereas now maybe I'd only have to work with 10 or 15. And I could do more with them over an extended period of time between virtual and in person. The other thing that's really good with virtual, that seems obvious but is you don't have to get on a plane, like, you know, if you're traveling a lot like it just it's a grind, it's tiring, I'm married to my high school sweetheart, we got three daughters, I don't like being on the road all the time. And so if you can do a gig and still be home, and be able to make an impact beyond just you having to get on the plane and go somewhere, that's really impactful as well. So again, the pandemic was a was a bad thing, in a lot of ways. But hindsight at this point, you know, two and a half years later, it's been a really good thing for the speaking industry.

Tom Bailey  17:11

And it's a great stepping stone for a lot of people we talk to have fears of public speaking, but they really want to learn how to speak. And by being able to speak in the comfort of your own bedroom, potentially, and in front of a live audience. It could be that stepping stone as well to build up your confidence with your content, before you actually go out and deliver in front of a live audience. So yeah, loads of benefits for sure. And so this has been so useful. I've personally got a lot of value out of it. And I know I'm audience well as well. And the last question for me is, where can people connect with you online if they want to either find out more about your training or in fact book you as a speaker?

Grant Baldwin  17:45

Yeah, everything we do is over at the speaker The speaker You're listening to this podcast, you've probably listened to other podcasts. We have a podcast by the same name, the speaker lab podcast, we've got a nearly 400 episodes there. So there's a lot of free content that you can check out. We also got a book called The successful speaker five steps for booking gays getting paid and building your platform. So that speak framework, that SPE a k, we go through that way more in depth inside of the book. So definitely check that out as well.

Tom Bailey  18:15

Love it grant. And what I'll do is I'll add the links in the show notes to all of those as well. So click on them and dive right in. So thank you again so much for your time today. I really appreciate you coming along and sharing such great value with our audience.

Grant Baldwin  18:27

Thanks, Tom. I appreciate


it man.