We talk a lot about how to grow your business on this podcast, but there’s one thing we haven’t talked about yet, and that is growing your business through public speaking. And that is exactly why I invited my friend Jessica Rasdall to be on the podcast today. You get the power of two Jessica’s today on this episode, Jessica is a motivational speaker, bestselling author, public speaking strategist and the host of the Creative Speaker Podcast, which you should totally go listen to after this. She partners with small business owners to craft stories and presentations that connect with their audience and convert from the stage. Jessica has shared her story of turning her mess into a message for over 13 years and has been featured on major international media outlets such as ABC’s 2020, Katie Kirk, the Guardian, MTV, Netflix, and much more.
Jess: Jessica and I have been friends for several years now so it’s just fun to bring friends on the podcast, especially when they are super amazing people like Jessica who can help you so much in your business. So I asked my Instagram followers if they had any questions for you today and one that I received is, how do we initially start getting speaking engagements? I have some of my own ideas, but I’d love to hear what you have to say.
Jessica Rasdall: I love this. I think, so many of us, we wait until we feel like we can’t speak yet or we’re not qualified enough and we have to reach this perfect place to get there. And it doesn’t matter where you are in your business right now, you are fully equipped to speak to someone. And it might not be the audience that you think, but there is somebody out there who is ready to hear from you. So I love that somebody who’s listening is ready to take action right now.
I’m a big advocate for starting in your own backyard because one of the biggest mistakes we make is when we’re wanting to get started with speaking, we think about the biggest, most publicized conference in front of thousands of people that is likely a few plane rides away, a few nights in a hotel and it’s going to end up costing us a ton of money. And I want to bring it back for a minute and get focused on, well who is it that I’m trying to speak to? Why is it that I’m trying to speak? Because when we get clear on that, we can realize there are probably people right in our own backyard that we can pour into. There are probably, depending on your business and your life and who it is that you’re speaking to, there are probably community groups, small business associations, networking events, churches, youth groups, schools, resources that you can dive into that only costs you a few hours of your time. That is the place that you want to start.
You want to start with your immediate network and people in your hometown who already know you and they trust you, and it’s not going to take a lot for you to pour into them because we want to make sure that this is an even exchange and you’re pouring into them and you’re getting something from this. And if you’re going to end up spending thousands of dollars and days away from your home and your office to go speak at an event, we want to make sure that it’s worth it. So it’s always best to start in your own backyard so that it doesn’t cost you too much, you can get that experience, you can build your authority, you can really work out the kinks of your talk without taking away from what you’re doing.
Jess: Yes, absolutely. And this is so easy to do. I know a lot of people who teach fitness classes in a church or in a community building, and so I think that would be an easy way to like, “Hey, can I host like this workshop,” or something along those lines. I even had somebody at my gym, I work out at Gold’s Gym, and there was somebody who wasn’t affiliated with the gym at all, but I know she’s a local business owner and is in that area, and she didn’t speak about fitness or nutrition, she spoke, I think, about confidence or something like that. And she… I saw she had an event last year and it was just a 45-minute kind of thing, and it was like, come hang out, listen to her. It was really cool. And I know a lot of coworking spaces in our area, we’ll have lunch and learns or little workshops, and they happen so often. So I have to imagine it would be pretty easy to be like, “Hey, do you have any space available? Any topics you need covered? I’d love to speak about X, Y, Z,” and set it up that way. So I think it’s super easy to just start locally. There’s so many options.
Jessica Rasdall: Yes. And we can get in our own way with this and feel like, “Oh, I don’t want to ask them. What are they going to say?” And, “Oh, I’m such an inconvenience for them.” But we forget that these establishments, whether they are a church, a gym, or a coworking space, they want to provide new and different content for the people coming there. They want their audience to have something. So you’re adding value, not just to the audience, but to the host. You’re giving them content that they would otherwise have to go look for.
Jess: Yep. Exactly. And the other thing, what I was going to say for getting speaking engagements, and I’m sure a lot of your clients probably experience this, Jessica, but for me, I’ve gotten my speaking engagements because people found me online. They saw my YouTube videos, they heard my podcast, they found me… One time I spoke at a local event, and she had just found me because searched Atlanta graphic designer. She just wanted a local designer to come speak and so, because I had good SEO, she found me. And that was easy. So just having a good online presence shows people you’re an authority and they’re like, “We want you to come speak about this topic.” So I think that can also be really beneficial.
Jessica Rasdall: That is huge. Absolutely. In this day and age, organizers want to research you. They want a taste for what it’s going to be like to have you on their stage, so the content that you’re creating, not only is building your authority and showing them you know what you’re talking about, but it lets them imagine what it would be like having you up on their stage. And that’s a big risk on their part, bringing you in, because they don’t know, are you going to represent their brand well? Are you actually going to deliver content? Are you just going to hard sell yourself and be this skeezy salesman? Do you know your stuff? So creating content, showing up online, pouring into your people, that is the stuff that they’re looking for. I mean, I just had an inquiry coming the other day too from… It was the same thing, they had searched Tampa speaker or something like that because they needed an MC for an event at the last minute. So that kind of stuff, it’s what they’re looking for.
Jess: Exactly. So hopefully, eventually, we might start getting asked to speak rather than us always having to pitch people in places like, “Hey, let us come talk.”
But how do we decide whether to say yes or no to speaking opportunities that come our way?
Jessica Rasdall: I think you know this is my favorite.
Just when we are as business owners, we have so much stuff on our plate and at the same time, we’re trying to feed ourselves, maybe take care of little humans, potentially have a social life, and all of that is hard. So the last thing I want is for speaking to become an extra thing on your plate. I want to make sure it’s working for you. And I’m just so, so, so adamant about this because when I first started speaking, it wasn’t a part of my business. This was something that I felt like I had to do in order to make things right. It was like the thing that was carrying me through, so I was so focused on the mission. And as business owners, we need to be so focused on our mission and who is it that we’re speaking to? What difference are we making for them?
So I’m going to challenge you to ask yourself why it is that you want to speak. There’s typically two reasons as business owners that we’re doing this. It’s either, one, we fall into the category of we really want to build our credibility. Maybe we want to launch an online course, or we want to start a podcast, or we want to write a book and we want people to start seeing us as the go-to expert. That’s when we fall into this tier one category and we are speaking to build credibility. If that’s the case, it doesn’t matter so much about who we’re talking to and what audience we’re getting in front of, but we want to make sure that we are saying yes to speaking opportunities where we are speaking about our subject matter, that we are going to be very selective about what we will talk about and not talk about.
So if you are a nutritionist, for example, and somebody is asking you to come in and talk about new fitness strategies or new workouts, they want something dynamic, I want you to say no to that because maybe yes, you have the knowledge and you could talk about it, but right now you are laser-focused on making sure people look at you as the go-to person on nutrition.
Now let’s say you already have the products in place, maybe you have an online course or you do one-on-one work with people in person, or you have a book, you have streams of revenue that you want to get new customers in. If that’s the case, when you have an inquiry coming in, the most important thing for you to ask yourself is, am I going to be speaking in front of my ideal client or not? Because there’s no way that you can convert those audience members into clients if they’re not the right potential client. So depending on where you’re at in your business, those are the things that we want to focus on. So when the request comes in, ask yourself right now, what’s most important, is it building credibility or is it making conversions? If it’s building credibility, we need to make sure that this speaking opportunity gets you speaking on the right topic so you’re positioned as that go-to expert. Or if your main focus is making conversions, we want to make sure that that possible speaking opportunity is in front of your best ideal client so that you could obviously convert them back into your business.
Jess: Super smart. And I love that you pointed out we can use speaking to either get clients or get people into our course or to buy our book. It’s not just exposure. It’s not just like, “Oh, I’m going to speak on stage and this is going to be great and I’ll get in front of so many people,” but we can actually use it to convert people for a few different reasons.
Jessica Rasdall: Oh my goodness. I can tell you of just one event that I go to every single year, I have made tens of thousands of dollars on the backend. Not from being paid upfront, on the back end of it, from the conversion.
Jess: Amazing. I love that you were like, “I made it on the back end.”
Jessica Rasdall: They didn’t give me money. I go to this event every year for very, very, very, very little pay and I’m very comfortable with that because I know it is my ideal audience and I know that I’m delivering a high value talk there. You can’t go to this event and assume, “Okay, these are my ideal clients. I’m going to convert them all,” and deliver junk. I delivered something very well and had the strategy in place, and some of those conversions happened months, years later, so it is a long game. That’s something you do have to realize is that when you go to a speaking opportunity, you are likely meeting those audience members for the very first time. It is the first time they’re coming in contact with you. And I’m sure you know that online, we do need a couple of touch points before we’re ready to pull out our wallets and invest in somebody.
The nice thing about speaking is that dating period with your audience is shortened. People make connections much faster in person and they’re much more likely to invest quicker, but still if you have an high end offer, typically people aren’t going to make that investment right out of the gate. They probably want to follow you for a little bit. They want to make sure that you really do all the things you say you do. And then, when the time is right, they will invest. So you will likely make money right away from those initial conversions, but I don’t want you to discount the ones that are going to come in the weeks and months later from the people who are watching on the sidelines and just on the fence.
Jess: Super smart to remember that.
And since you touched on money, can you talk a little bit about how we say yes or no or decide, “Okay, this opportunity is going to pay me, this opportunity is not”? How do we deal with that?
Jessica Rasdall: This is one of my favorite things because I think people get the expectation that, “Oh, I’m going to speak so I’m going to be rolling in money.” I feel like people think the same thing about books, like “I’m going to write a book and I’m going to be rolling in money.” Nobody gets rich off of that.
That’s not how that works. And so what you do with the book. And if you have a book, just to know, you should be speaking because you can increase your price and there are fun strategies around that.
But okay, so let’s talk pricing on things. Again, it all comes back to knowing what is it that you want speaking to do for your business. So if you don’t know where you fall on this, if you’re that one or two, I have a quick quiz that you can take at the publicspeakingstrategist.com/quiz. And it’s 10 questions and it will tell you where you fall. But I’m sure you can figure this out by saying, do I need to build with my credibility? Do I need to make conversions?
Or you might fall into tier three, which I don’t talk about as much anymore because the water just gets a little bit muddy, but if you’re somebody who maybe you want to speak on something beyond your business, maybe you have a passion project, that’s something where you would be getting paid upfront to go speak and you’re not worried about conversions at all. So that’s a whole different ball game. But let’s say you fall into the category of credibility or conversion, here’s what I need you to know, speaking is going to be a marketing activity for your business. And I’m willing to bet that you invest in other marketing activities in your business, so it’s not crazy to think that you would make investments in speaking at places that you know you’re going to get a return on.
However, we want to be very selective of the ones we do invest in because that’s your money and that’s your business and it’s a whole lot of time, and we want to make sure it’s doing well. So before we ever say yes or no to an opportunity, we want to do some math. There are questions that I would love for you to ask yourself before you say yes or no. So I need you to find out as much as you can about the audience, is this going to be a good fit for you? Do these people look like your ideal audience? Do they need what you have to offer? And then I want you to ask things like, how far away is this? How much is it going to cost you to travel there? How many days out of office is it going to be? Will you need to get a dog sitter a nanny? How much is this event actually going to cost you? And that’s your baseline. I really don’t want you to have to go into the red unless you know that this is an event you’re going to make your money back on.
When it comes to getting paid for your time, it’s going to vary based on your industry and the particular place. So speaking engagements can vary from $0 to $10,000, and I will tell you that because that’s my range. It is something that we just treat it as a case by case thing. I don’t want you to be one of those people who throws up a button on your website and says, speaking engagements are $5,000, because you’re better than that. And this is a boutique service where you are going to custom create an experience that serves the organizer and serves the audience.
So what we want to start to factor in is, how much is this event going to cost you and what kind of budget are they working with, so you can create something that works for both of you.
Here are some things you’ll want to look at. If it’s an event that has one speaker and you’re the only speaker, they probably have a budget for you. So lean in there and ask them what that’s going to look like so you can get paid for your time and really serve them well. If we’re looking at a lineup that has like 20 speakers, I want you to really put yourself in the organizer’s shoes and realize that organizer has to divide their speaker budget among 20 people. There may not be as much there for you, so we want to really start to understand where it is that we’re speaking and what they have and how we can really use that to create the best experience.
Jess: Super helpful. Thank you so much for sharing that. Hopefully, some people are rewinding, taking notes on those questions and how we clarify that. That’s super helpful. And just as an example of tier three, as Jessica was mentioning, the one that we don’t touch on as much, I’ll share my own experience. So I was recently asked to speak at a conference next year that is for church communicators, so people who are working on all the communications and social media in a church. That is not my target demographic. Obviously, I have this podcast that is for health and wellness entrepreneurs, so somebody who works in a church, not in that market. But I actually used to work in churches. It is kind of a side passion, something that I do care about even if I don’t work with them, and they want me to talk on design. So it’s something in my zone of genius, just not my target market, but it would be a paid opportunity and it would also be experience on my end, a good speaking experience. And Jessica was like, “Well, that’s a tier three opportunity,” so you just craft your talk to not be so focused on conversions.
And so that’s one opportunity that I may take because it would, like I said, be good experience and it is something that I’m passionate about, and I realize not everything has to serve my business. I’m seeing this as a little more of a Jessica Freeman speaking, not so much just creatives.
Jessica Rasdall: I am the exact same way as far as… I love that, that you’re separating the two because, with my story, I still will share parts of it in a business presentation to my ideal audience because it’s just a part of who I am and my journey. But if I’m being brought in to speak at a high school or a university, that’s completely different. That’s Jessica coming in to talk. That has nothing to do with my business and I don’t plan to convert any students into clients.
Jess: Right. Okay, we’ve got the speaking engagement, we’re ready to go…
What do we need to do in our business before we go speak at an event? How do we prepare?
Jessica Rasdall: Nobody wants to talk about this part because what’s going to happen is you’re going to go and you’re going to give an amazing talk and pour into people and then you’re going to get flooded with inquiries. And people want to know more and they want to work with you, and if you’re not set up for that, it can be super scary and you could end up dropping a lot of balls. So ideally before you go into your talk, we want to make sure that we are bridging the gap between that presentation and the offer we want to convert into. So if we’re doing this for conversions and you have a high-dollar offer, if somebody is meeting you for the first time, they might not be ready to invest $1,000 or whatever it is with you. But maybe something needs to be a touch point in between.
So we want to make sure that we are giving them something to do after the talk to help them take action right away. We’re not in the business of talking at people or in the business of creating transformations, and we can’t help somebody have a transformation in their life or in their business if we don’t give them action steps. We need to hold them accountable and help them put what they just absorbed into practice. So the best thing you can do after your talk is have something ready for them that they can go do at home or in their life or in their business. So maybe if you’re speaking, I’m making up examples on the fly, it’s a bad idea, but maybe you are talking about healthy eating and maybe one of your big takeaways for them, is planning, that if you’re just planning ahead and you’re making time for this, your decisions are easier.
So maybe you can help them out by creating something that they can download, that’s an easy… Their first week meal plan, totally free, go get this, but you don’t want to just give that to them. That’s not enough. When we receive something for free, somebody gives us a flyer or a handout, it typically goes into the trash can or collects virtual dust on our desk.
What you need to do, your role really comes in here to get in their corner and hold them to that and challenge them to take action on it. And whether that’s holding them accountable with asking them to email you and send you a picture of what they made or taking that step to say, “I’m in your corner and I really want to see you succeed,” is what’s going to have the transformation happen. So we don’t want to do that manually. That’s not fun. You don’t want to send out a hundred meal plans when this is done. So in order to really facilitate that transformation ahead of time, the best thing you can do is go ahead and get that resource set up and a download for them so you can collect their emails, get them the resource they need and serve them well after the talk.
But what I want you to do is take this a step further and make sure that that resource for them is on its own specific page. We cannot know our ROI on these speaking engagements if we’re not tracking them individually. And I know that sounds super nerdy and clinical, but if you’re going to do this for the long term and decide what are these events that I go back to year and year, like I told you I do earlier, you need to start figuring out how much it is benefiting your life and your business, so the only way we can do that is by tracking. So we want to set up a separate page. Go ahead and have that download already, get those emails in place, and I want you to feel confident that when you’re done with your talk, you’re not going to be running over to your laptop and trying to email everybody this thing. But instead, you’ll be in the hallway giving out high fives and hugs and networking and hearing everybody share with you their concerns and answering their questions.
By setting up that stuff ahead of time, you get to be present and you get to serve them well. So I can’t stress enough thinking about what do I want them to do after this talk so that I can keep supporting them and getting all of that done ahead of time.
Jess: Absolutely. I love this. I mean, I even do this sometimes for podcasts interviews where instead of just, “Oh, go to this resources page or go to this specific download,” I’ll be like, “/JessicaRasdall” or whatever it is to make sense. So when you’re creating that page on your website that’s specific to this speaking engagement, whether it’s on your slide on stage or it’s on your handout, make sure that the URL, the end of it, after the slash, is somehow related to the event just so it’s easier for the people in the audience to remember. So it could be the name of the event, or if it has an acronym or something, that way it’s not just creatives.com/videoideas-2 dash. Let’s not do that. But make sure it’s somehow tied into the event and then, like Jessica said, you can track those analytics and see how many people come to the page and how many people sign up or inquire, whatever. It is nerdy, but I love me some nerdiness and data.
Jessica Rasdall: It’s so nerdy but it’s so good because maybe you’re realizing, “Okay, there were 500 people in the audience and five of them downloaded this, where did I miss the mark? Maybe I’m not prepping them for this.” I’m going to tell you right now, spoiler, usually if it’s not happening, you didn’t explain to them why that’s actually important for them, why they should care about it. You probably didn’t overcome any objections they might have, like they don’t have time for this. So it is going to be a big indicator of where do I need to improve my talk.
Jess: Yes. Yes. Super important. So my last question, I’m sure you get this a lot…
What do you tell people when they’re like, “But I’m afraid to talk in front of people. I don’t know if I can do this. Public speaking is scary. I don’t want to do it”?
Jessica Rasdall: So I’m just going to disclaimer here, I’m an introvert. I am a hard core… I test high on that I. As much as I go and I speak at these things, I’m an introvert. I need to be done when I’m done. But here’s my thing to you is I have two questions if your feeling I’m scared to do this, this makes me nervous, all of that. First thing I want you to do is I want you to think about your favorite client you’ve ever worked with who maybe got the best transformation, and I want you to think about them very specifically, envision their face, how they felt before they started working with you, all of those fears, all of the struggle they had, whatever it is they were going through.
And then I want you to think about them when you were done working with them, what kind of transformation was created for them? What difference did you make in their life? Because every time you get up on a stage, your audience, they’re in that before stage. They are riddled with all of the stress and anxieties and hurdles to overcome that that client you had did. And by getting up there and putting that ego aside for a second and being really brave and just pretending to be an introvert for like 30 minutes, I mean extrovert for 30 minutes, you get to create that same transformation for a whole room of people, and that creates a ripple effect. They’re going to go out and they’re going to share this with other people. They’re going to spark new inspiration in people you’ll never even meet. You can never imagine the impact that that one presentation could have.
But additionally, some of us are not as motivated by the positive. And I for one may be opposite because I have my own guilt stuff that comes up. So when I start to get my own way about speaking, I ask myself, what’s going to happen if I don’t do this? So if there’s that same room of people and they’re sitting there with all of these fears or insecurities or struggles and I know how to help them, how selfish is it of me to not get up there? They’re going to keep going on the way they always have when I’m sitting here holding this solution. And for me, that’s the piece that I need in order to get up there because then it’s less about how am I going to be received? What are people going to think of me? And instead, I get to refocus on what difference is this going to make. And that gives me purpose in this work. So if you’re struggling to feel really good about it, we need to recenter on what’s the difference this is going to make.
Jess: Yes. And touching along with what you said, both Jessica and I have lost somebody, and I think Jessica shares the same sentiment that for me, losing my mom… She was a teacher for like 35 years or something, I lost the track of how many years, it’s 30 plus, and she was an amazing resource. At her funeral, so many people were like, “Oh my gosh, she was so helpful in my first year of teaching and she helped me with this and that.” But she didn’t write any books, she didn’t create any courses, she didn’t do any speaking, and I think about all of the information and the knowledge that we lost when we lost my mom. And so for me, it’s I want to be able to share what I know before I leave this earth. I don’t want it to be a situation like where we lost my mom and she… Yes, she got to help people while she was here, but we don’t have anything left now that she’s gone, if that makes sense. Whereas if I die tomorrow, y’all have like 300 YouTube videos and a book and a couple hundred podcasts, episodes and blogs. You have a lot to learn, even if I’m not here. So I just want to say what you have to share is worth sharing.
Jessica Rasdall: Yes, you’re leaving your legacy with this, and it’s incredible.
Jess: Yeah. So this has been super, super informative. I’m so glad you came on the podcast today. I hope everyone learned a ton. Before we wrap up, I’d love for you to share where we can connect with you online and stay in touch.
Jessica Rasdall: Yes. Well, I can’t thank you enough for having me because I love nerding out about this, especially with somebody who appreciates the analytics and whatnot. You can follow me over on Instagram. It’s @JessicaRasdall. It’s just me. You can come hang with me. And if you are somebody who’s wanting to add speaking to your business, the best place you can binge all the free content, I just put it out every week. Whatever you need to know, I’m just going to tell you on the podcast. You can listen to the Creative Speaker Podcast and get all your speaking needs over there.