The Business Side Of Speaking - Erick RheamNov 08, 2022
Tom Bailey, founder of Succeed Through Speaking, interviews Erick Rheam.
Erick Rheam is a speaker and published author. He communicates and educates on topics related to discovering significance and the art of mastering human dynamics to achieve success.
Erick spent the past decade training and educating athletes, entertainers, business leaders, public officials and association executives on how to build value added customer service programs, create culture, and gain organizational buy-in. Erick partnered with The Speaker Lab, a leading coaching program for aspiring professional speakers. As the Director of Student Success, Erick ensured that The Speaker Lab’s curriculum properly trained and equipped leaders and influencers on how to speak professionally as a career.
Prior to partnering with The Speaker Lab, Erick worked for eighteen years in the public power industry for a leading energy efficiency software company and two municipally owned utilities in Indiana and Colorado. He led a customer service division and served business communities to ensure local policy enhanced the business environment so that the business class could thrive, grow, and create jobs.
Erick earned his Key Public Power Account Executive designation through the American Public Power Association (APPA). He also served on several national boards and committees to promote green technology, energy efficiency, and customer service. He was vice-chair for the National Customer Services Section for APPA. He also served as the chair for the National Key Accounts Committee for APPA.
Erick graduated from the United State Military Academy in 1995 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering. He served as a Military Police Officer in the United States Army in Bosnia Herzegovina and Europe.
Erick currently resides in Southern Indiana with his wife, three children, his Yellow Labrador Retriever, Stella, and new Doberman, Oynx.
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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 Tom Bailey. And in today's speaker stories episode, I'll be getting to know Erick Rheam who is a professional speaker and published author. It communicates and educates on topics related to discovering significance and the art of mastering human dynamics to achieve success. So Erick, hello, and a very warm welcome to today's episode.
Erick Rheam 00:46
Hey, Tom, it's exciting to be here with you, man. I love talking shop. This is gonna be fun, man.
Tom Bailey 00:51
Amazing. Yeah, I guess you do a lot of speaking about your your topic. But actually we speaking about speaking, though, it's really interesting. So just out of interest people listening were about in the world are you right now?
Erick Rheam 01:02
Right now actually, I am in southern Indiana, there's a town called Bloomington, Indiana University. So if there's any big 10 fans that are listening, that's where we're at. But it's funny you asked that because we're in the process of maybe relocating to South Carolina. And I might be making an offer on a house here, maybe today. And the house is in Hilton Head. So we're looking to move to Hilton Head Island on South Carolina. So that's that's the dream. That's the goal.
Tom Bailey 01:26
I'm Isaiah. And it sounds like you could be close to achieving that dream as well, so big to look. And so Erick, I also know that you partnered with the speaker lab, and you are director of student success there. So given that a lot of the people that you've worked with and spoken to have been aspiring speakers, I'd love to start by asking why you think speaking is so important for entrepreneurs today, more than ever?
Erick Rheam 01:49
Well, it's a fundamental way in which we communicate, right? So I speak on communication, and the primary way in which we connect with one another is through the art of speaking. And so if you want to make any impact in the world, you're going to have to do that with others, you know, there's no man or woman, it's achieved any level of significance without the help of others. Well, in order to get the help of others, and to get people to buy in to whatever you're doing, or whatever you want to bring out of the world, you're gonna have to influence them. And one way you do that is through the art of speaking. So there's nothing There's no better way, in my opinion, to really spark something to inspire to influence, then delivering a message that moves people. I love it.
Tom Bailey 02:28
Yeah, I love that. And the guest for you on your journey, you've had lots of different, you've worked in the corporate world, I think you've been in the army as well. How important is speaking been for you at different points along that journey? And especially now because you're a speaker?
Erick Rheam 02:41
Well, I think speaking has been the way almost, it's almost like my workbench, it's how I've kind of figured out things Tom in my mind, and where I'm going on my journey as I evolve. I'm evolving with my speaking. So I'm speaking on topics, I'm speaking with authority now that I didn't have maybe 10 years ago, and speaking as a way that really allowed me to kind of get that stuff that's out of my head, get it out into the world and see what really is working. You know, it's one thing to think about things. Yeah. Have you ever thought about something, Tom, but when you said it out loud, it sounded totally different. Yeah. And so when I start seeing stuff out loud, and start kind of working this stuff out, almost speaking in a way as a way that I've workshop my own life, because in order for me to impact an audience, I gotta make sure I impact myself first. So it's been a really great tool for professional development for me.
Tom Bailey 03:27
Ah, love that. Yeah. And I guess, you know, people spend a lot of time reading about personal development, but one of the best ways is to really push yourself get outside your comfort zone and get on that stage and start speaking. And so was it always this way? Or let's, you know, let's take it right back to the beginning. was speaking difficult for you in the beginning? Or? Or did you were you quite natural straightaway?
Erick Rheam 03:47
Yeah. Well, depends on what you mean by was speaking, and
Tom Bailey 03:50
presumably standing up on stages. Oh, yeah. Delivering public speeches.
Erick Rheam 03:54
That's never been a problem for me, man. Getting on stage, I'm comfortable with messy. I'm okay with that. So I'm uncomfortable with the unknown. I'm uncomfortable. I like live feedback. I probably could have been a stand up comedian. I liked that kind of stuff. I liked the feedback. I liked the awkwardness of it. That part's never been hard. The hard part for me was the business side of speaking and just turn it into something where it's predictable income revenue stream, that was a hard part. For me, that took me a while to kind of figure out but once I got that figured out, and aligned it with my passion and talent for speaking and I was off to the races.
Tom Bailey 04:25
Let's let's talk about that. Because a lot of the guests to have on the podcast always told me about this transition point where maybe they do in free speech is that they're, you know, just delivering talks, not really getting any revenue back. What was that turning point? And how did you make that happen? To go from free speaker to paid speaker and really turn it into a career?
Erick Rheam 04:44
It is there was I think there wasn't really a major turning point. It was almost like I was I just had a passion for time. It just didn't matter to me, man. I just wanted to be on stage I want to deliver a message and I just had the passion, the desire the energy. And then what happened is I said Gotta get paid. And the checks started coming in. And I went from, you know, my first time I really started speaking, I made about five grand that year. Yeah. Next year, I made about nine. And suddenly I made 30, then I made 150. Then I made 195, there was 435, you know, it just kept going higher and higher. And before I knew, I'm like, wait a second, I think I got something here. This defining moment, it was just I just put my hand to the plow. And that's part of the problem, too, is sometimes as speakers or anything where we do something and we meet, you look at the scoreboard and see where we're at. I just didn't look at the scoreboard, I just kept driving, I kept doing it, I can be inconsistent. And then over time, I started getting some momentum. And once you get the momentum, then you're you're good. And that's what happened to me.
Tom Bailey 05:43
And and for some people, it's about being prepared. When you get asked that question, what's your fee? Because you haven't charged before? You don't really know how to answer that. So it's almost making sure you've got something, something you know what you're worth, you know what your message is worth? In the beginning as well. It's really important. Yeah,
Erick Rheam 05:57
actually, you know, when you start when I talk to speakers, I coach a lot of speakers. And one thing is I tell speakers is very humbling, because we think we know what we're worth, but it really doesn't matter what we think, what matters, what matters is what the market thinks. Yeah. So the market dictates what your what your talk is worth. And so you have to be self aware when you're approaching the marketplace and how you price it. And really, it doesn't matter what you think it matters, what the market thinks, and you get feedback from the market and you make pivots from there.
Tom Bailey 06:23
Yep. And that's another important point, actually. And, you know, you only get paid what what the market thinks you're worth. And I guess that's based around how much value you're providing to that audience or more the event hosts audience, how do you make sure that when you're delivering a message, there's a return on investment or return on time for the people listening to your message? How do you really pack it in with enough value to make it worthwhile being paid for?
Erick Rheam 06:48
Yeah, well, I would say that one things I would say, we said, you said something, I may have said it too, I think it's incorrect. It's not the market. Market dictates what you're worth. It's what your talk your your topic is worth was sometimes we tie ourselves too much emotionally to the topic. When when a market says well, we're not going to pay you that much for that has nothing to do with you. It's the topic, it's the timing, all that. So I would tell you that the number one thing and what I the thing I get, Tom that a lot of event planners give me positive feedback on is, I think, ultimately, to make sure that the audience gets something of value, what you're delivering is really two things. One, there's gotta be a transformation. That's what, that's what people pay for they pay for transformation, there's got to be a transformation, meaning that I'm different, I'm going to do things differently. I'm motivated, do things differently as a result of hearing you. That's number one. The second thing is there's got to be action that can be taken. So if I've come out of your talk, I'm inspired, but I have nothing, I can't do anything with it, then it's no value whatsoever. However, if I come out of your talk inspired with an action step, a plan or something I can actually do with that inspiration. That is huge. That's what separates the great speakers from you know, the mediocre speakers my opinion.
Tom Bailey 08:03
And I guess one of the big benefits of that if people walk away inspired, transformed, and I've got that action is you're more likely to get rebooked as a speaker elsewhere, because you know, people are talking about you, they want you to come speak at their event. You know, you get those referrals then as well, which is so important in this in this world. Yeah. And have you had any big? I don't want to say failures, but I guess, key learnings that you've had along your journey as a speaker, and you know, what, what can people learn from those mistakes, values or key learnings you've had?
Erick Rheam 08:33
Yeah. That's a different podcast, man. So I'll give you two. I'll give you one major one. Yeah, one of the big one for me was when I had to give money back one time, and so I've only had to do that once. And the reason for that time is I was not aware of the audience is that that was the problem. And so I did a talk, I did a keynote in Boston, in Boston, for the New England fans out there, if you're from that area, there's a different vibe, you know, and so you got to bring, you got to bring a different vibe, when you get on stage in front of New England, New England. It's not good or bad. It just is right. And then I did a talk there. And then I nearly got on a plane, I flew out west, to a community up in the mountains, okay. And so when I got there, they had a different vibe, right the next day, and I didn't pick up on it. And so what I did is I brought that Boston vibe I was I had that hardcore kind of what worked in Boston, I tried to make the same thing, the same vibe work on that stage. I totally the lack self awareness. And I wasn't gauging the fact that they weren't connecting with me. So after the fact that I did an exit interview with him. I said, How did I meet your expectations? They said, Actually, you did not. You actually offended some folks. And so I said, Okay, explain to me what happened, they told me, and then based on that, I realized that, you know, I was at one space, there was another space, there was a gap there. And so my message is not that not really transit to the audience. So I told him, I was gonna give their money back and they said, No, you don't have to do that. I said, Yeah, I want to get the money back. But here's the thing, because I know Tom that the speaking industry is very tiny, right? Yeah, so good, bad or ugly, your reputation is gonna get out there. So what I told him was listen, somebody may contact you some time and say, did Eric speak at your event? All I want you to tell him is Yeah, he did. He wasn't for us. But he made it right. And he refunded us and we're good to go, at least he's got integrity, you're always going to win like that. And so I learned in that in that session, that setting that every time I get in front of audience, I make sure I have to make sure I fully understand what the audience demographic is, what they're expecting, what their vibe is, and I got to match my vibe, I got to be authentic, I have to match my vibe, and align it with them. So that way they can actually get the message. The message was sound the way I delivered, it was incorrect, because that was a big learning point for me.
Tom Bailey 10:40
Yeah, that's, that's great lesson. I guess a lot of speakers, they have their talk. But you can't just deliver that exact same talk on repeat everywhere you go. Because like you said, it could be for different audience, different location, different number of people in the audience, you're gonna have to have that ability to flex and shape you talk, I guess, live as well, depending on how the audience reacts. So I've got lots of people connected to these podcasts, who either at the very beginning of the journey in that they're not even speaking yet, or there's people who are looking for that transition to becoming paid speakers. So I'm somewhere in the middle personally, and I've done a lot of podcasting. I've done a lot of virtual speaking, I've done a little bit of stage speak, I guess, what advice would you give to somebody like me, who thinks they've got a message to share with the world who has been on a bit of a journey to build competence be able to stand up and speak but I'm not quite there yet. And it's really holding them back from from making that I guess, leap to becoming a professional speaker?
Erick Rheam 11:38
Yeah, well, I would say number one is you just got to be willing to get on stage. And it doesn't matter what stage it is, by the way, if sometimes I hear speakers say, well, they're gonna they're gonna pay me thing, it's free? Well, that's a huge deal. Anytime an event planner allows you to go on their stage, that is their reputation, that is their stage, they have curated, they may have built an entire career around that stage. Yeah. So when you get on that stage, that is a huge deal. So you got to get on stage, you got to get your at bats, nothing. Nothing's going to ever, you gotta go through an amateur phase, and you gotta get up a lot on stage, it doesn't matter what kind of stage it is, I've been on some crazy stages of my time. The other thing I would say is, you mentioned you had an idea? Well, you gotta get that you have to clarify that that idea. And you need to put it in the form of an abstract. An abstract is a one pager that has your learning objectives on there. The abstract abstract serves two purposes. One is, if you can't put your idea on that one page in that format, then you you don't have clarity on your idea yet, so it forces you to get clarity, then you can actually take that abstract without a website without a demo video without headshots, you don't need any of that. You can take that abstract, you can take it out to your market and test that abstract that idea. Tom, I can't tell you how many times I've sold a talk and didn't even have a top prepared yet. Right. And I haven't had a group pay me 40 grand, they said, We're gonna pay you $40,000 Once a, we signed the contract. I said, I gotta go back and get the talk right now. Yeah, I sold him an idea. And so that's the thing. And so you want to test the market, the way you test the market is you just gotta get out. And you got to reach out to folks, hey, I'd love to have a conversation with you. I'd like to talk to you about what I how I can add value. And here's the key. This is where I work with a lot of students, I work with a lot of speakers. Most speakers that don't make it are the ones that don't consistently prospect every single day. Now, sometimes, Tom, you'll come to me and you'll say, I'll say what do you do in your business? I worked for two hours of my business today. Well, what would you do? I was working on my website, check it out. I was getting an appointment set up for my demo video. I you know, I was researching maybe people I can reach out to and I said you didn't build your business at all today, like what are you talking about? That's just preparing to build your business, building your business is getting, sending out emails, sending out the direct message. And if your social media is your thing, getting on the phone, when people actually physically reaching out to people that is building your business, it's important that you're consistent, and you have to be consistent every single day, Tom, I would much rather you do this 30 minutes a day, yeah, then two hours on Monday and you don't touch it for two weeks, and then do another two hours, that means nothing to me. It's got to be done every single day. So you're gonna get your idea on a paper, which is the abstract, you've got to have to get that abstract in front of the market. And the way you do that is you have to consistently prospect every single day. You mentioned the speaker lab. So that's what we do with the speaker lab is we just help what I just showed you. We actually we actually walk through people Step by Step Paint by the numbers exactly how to do that,
Tom Bailey 14:26
of that. And I think one of the big things without going out there is actually going out before you're ready. And I think that's really important to say, Hey, I'm Tom pharmaceutics at speaking I've got this, this talk that I could deliver to your audience. Here's all the value I can add. Here's the topic, the idea and one thing I was going to ask is, you know what, what's the core? What's the what's the secret ingredient on the abstract, that's gonna really help is it? Is it the value? Is it the transformation? Is it the change you can offer? What is the kind of secret sauce?
Erick Rheam 14:56
That's a great question. It's the learning objectives. The parts On the abstract, is you're gonna have a picture of you and there, you're gonna have your contact information, the title of your talk, then you're gonna have what's the abstract itself, it's a three to five minute, it's like the three to five seconds like your elevator pitch. So you put your this is the problem, this is the solution. But then the learning objectives, there's usually three to five, I will tell you the one thing that event planners hate. I know a lot of event planners, like a lot of planners that are friends. Event Planners hate vague, alright, and most speakers are vague, they'll say, you know, we're going to inspire you to be a better mother at the end of this. That doesn't mean anything. Instead, they should put down here are three questions, you must ask yourself to benchmark whether or not you're a good mom or not something like that, you know. So the learning objectives is usually three to five, they gotta be very specific, something that the event planner can look at and say, yeah, that's, I can definitely see that translating well on stage. But that is huge. event planners will go write those learning objectives. And if they're vague, they're not going to hire you. Because event planners may have 75 people contact them that day, and you may be number 74 and 73 of them. It is so vague, vague, and yours looks like everybody else's. But then if yours is clear and concise, straight to the point, like wow, this guy's got something. Yeah, if you get an event planner to pause, that's good. And so that learning objectives are the secret sauce. I love
Tom Bailey 16:14
that. Yep, I love that. And then and then getting it out there like prospecting finding gigs. Even if the stage is only 20 people in the audience. That's okay. Because, like you said, it's that amateur stage you need to get through, learn learn the trade, and then you can build up to becoming a paid speaker. So yeah, great.
Erick Rheam 16:30
Are you ready for this time I've made more I'm the less the least amount of people when when there's less people in the crowd actually make more money usually. So my highest paid event was 40 grand so far number 40 people in the crowd. So if the numbers really doesn't necessarily associate to revenue, that's, that's pretty irrelevant. It's it to me, it doesn't really matter who's in the crowd. The main thing is, is that you're connecting with the right people. In fact, I did his talk one time where the event planner messed up the times that are supposed to be 425 people in the room, seven people showed up. And a four room that was formed 25 people was embarrassing. Yeah, I had to get up and I had to give this talk for seven people. I was feeling sorry for myself as like, Man, this sucks. They still paid me four grand to do it, to talk to seven people. And I thought, Okay, well, lesson learned, I moved on. Years later, I was at a reception. And there was a guy in the audience or in the reception. And he came over to me with his young daughter. And he pointed out, he said, This is the guy, he looked at the daughter and said, This is the guy was telling you about and the girl looked at me her eyes got real big Tom, she gave me a big hug. And she said, Whatever you said to my dad, thank you. Because he became, we got to we had a much stronger relationship, we're in a much better place. Because you said something to my dad that made him change. Well, him and I got to talk. And it turned out he was one of those seven guys that. And that's when I realized it doesn't really matter, Dude, you just get up and do your job as a speaker and the rest takes care of itself.
Tom Bailey 17:47
Of that. Yeah. And that that's such great feedback to you know, to show the impact you've made on that family. Yeah, that's what it's all about, isn't it?
Erick Rheam 17:55
Yeah. By the way, I want to I want to talk about that just a second, what you just said is important. Because I know one of the things you struggle with possibly is just, you know, getting up in front of people and stuff. And I get here that a lot. If you take the focus, because I coach a lot of speakers through this, if you take the focus off yourself, because usually when you're scared Tom to get up in front of people, you're making it all about you. And I'm not saying you personally, I'm saying yes, but most of it's like, Oh, am I Are they going to connect with me? Am I going to say this, right? If you make it all about you, then fear is going to dominate. However, if you flip the switch and say there's somebody in this crowd that needs to hear what I have to say, The fear goes away, and you get up and know that you're just a messenger at this point, because the somebody in the audience is going to be transformed by something you're going to say, and it may mean everything to them. And maybe that little girl, that's his daughter that needs she needs that transformation. If you're willing to think that way, you'll be able to again, go through some of these fears that you have, whenever I make it about myself, which I've had before, that's when fear starts to come in.
Tom Bailey 18:54
And it really makes the I might look, I might feel nervous, or I might embarrass myself. It's just insignificant, then isn't at that point because versus I could transform these people's lives versus I might embarrass myself. It's it can't You can't compare. So yeah, I really that's awesome. Brilliant. And one last question from a ton of value out of this already. And but the last question for me is if somebody wants to book you as a speaker or find out more about you, where can they connect with you online?
Erick Rheam 19:22
Just go to my website, Eric green.com. And you and I were talking before we pressed record here, I'm the only Eric rrim in the world, your E R I C K, R H E am all this stuff's in there. And if you're aspiring speaker, all my abstracts and all that's in there so you can download that and kind of get some ideas on you know, maybe what you want to do with your stuff. Perfect. Yeah.
Tom Bailey 19:43
And and yeah, just just Google Eric and you will find the only one.
Erick Rheam 19:48
That's right. Thanks, Mom. I punched you forgive me.
Tom Bailey 19:51
Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for your time sounds really appreciate I've gotten a lot out of this. I'm sure the audience will as well. I'm really, really appreciate it.
Erick Rheam 19:58
No problem. It was my pleasure. thanking Tom