Category Archives: Professional Speaking

How do I Prepare for Webinars and Teleseminars

I do a lot of webinars, teleseminars and video recordings.  Here are some tips on how I prepare.

  • Go potty.  You don’t want to be on a 1 hour call and have your bladder screaming at you.  Maybe you *can* hold it, but do you want to concentrate, answer questions, and sound awesome while having that distraction?
  • Have water.  I have a big cup of water, full.  I’ve done a few calls and didn’t get my cup filled… never a good idea.  A coughing fit doesn’t sound very well…
  • Have the right headset.  I use GoToWebinar and Skype mostly (I use all kinds of systems but those are my favorites), and 99+% of the time I use VOIP, which means a headset, not a phone line.  The most important part of my headset?  The inline mute button, which allows me to to mute by pushing a button that is about 2 feet down the cord.  And, the “right” headset doesn’t mean expensive.  My favorites are about $30.
  • Write down the phone number on a piece of paper. If your internet goes down, and your smart phone loses service, you want to be able to pick up a landline and call in… but you need that number!  I write down the number, the code to get in, and even the number of the host/hostess.
  • Have a backup computer/laptop?  I have been doing this for over a year.  Look, my webinars are worth a lot of money to me.  Whether it is thousands of dollars, or potential to make sales or share my brand, if someone schedules their time on my call, I want to make sure my main computer isn’t the cause of an early termination. I have a laptop and headset set up so that if my PC crashes, within 5 seconds I’m up on the backup laptop.  The alternative (which has happened too many times) is my PC restarts and it takes seven to ten minutes to get back to the call.  Those seven minutes are KILLER.
  • Write down the talking points.  I speak on different things, and most presentations are different from the others (even if it is the same topic).  I always write down the talking points to make sure I talk about every point the audience thinks I’m going to talk about.  No matter how smart you are, your brain will go in a lot of different directions, especially if the audience can ask questions during the call.  Write down your points and respect your audience by talking about the stuff you said you were going to talk about.
  • Respect TIME.  I typically start within 60 seconds of the time I said I would, and I do what I can to end on time.  Don’t go longer, don’t do part and tell people you’ll do another part later.  Respect the audience and watch the clock.
  • Be ready for the unexpected.  If someone else is co-presenting and their line dies, what do you do?  Can you talk through it?  What if you get the hiccups?  What about a bloody nose?  What if there is unusual and loud noise by your office?  I’ve had these and more… you need to be ready and able to ignore, or talk through, the unexpected.  FOCUS on your audience and your presentation.
  • ???

What would you add to this list?  How do you prepare, or what have you seen other presenters do that is awesome?

David Teten: How to Hack Your MBA (video)

This is a 44 minute video from David Teten with the subtitle “How to Squeeze Maximum Value from College or Graduate School.”

Talking points include:

  • career acceleration,
  • time optimization, and
  • selective short-term learning programs and scholarships.

The questions he asked people with degrees in leading MBA programs include:

  • What is the best thing you did to leverage your education?
  • What would you have done differently?
  • What is your advice for someone just starting your program?

Here’s his original post where he shared the webinar… and here is the webinar in full:

Why Write a Book?

I got an email from a friend this morning and she was talking about the books she has inside her that she has thought about writing.  She’s wording about the process: writing, editing, revising, etc.  She didn’t mention PUBLISHING, which should be at the top of her list (although easy to resolve).

In my response to her I said:

“The bigger question is, why do you want to write a book?  Is it to sell the book, or get speaking engagements, or to be known as an expert?”

Let’s break that down:

To make money selling books: Everyone says you don’t make money selling books.  I’m here to tell you, that is not accurate. People make money selling books.  I’m one of them.  Over the last 4ish years my royalty checks have surpassed one year of what I used to make as the general manager of a software company. It’s not enough to live on, but it is a great supplement to my other revenue streams.  I’m expecting the book I’m working on now, 101 Alternatives to a Real Job, to sell a lot.  Each sale will be profitable. I will make money selling books.  And then I’ll get the benefits of the other things listed below.

To get speaking engagements: I told my publisher I had no interest in speaking (or consulting).  Then, a few weeks later, I was offered $5k plus expenses to sit on a panel interview at a conference.  In less than one second I decided that HECK YES I was a professional speaker! Since then I’ve been paid a number of times to speak at conferences, do training for companies, on webinars, etc.  I don’t know the exact figure right now, but since I started speaking I’ve made more than six figures as a professional speaker.

To be known as an expert: I had no idea that writing a book on LinkedIn would make me a “LinkedIn Expert.”  Sounds silly, I know, but that’s not why I did it.  I did it to get exposure for my company (  That worked, but a major side-effect was that I was known, world-wide, as an expert and authority on LinkedIn.  Will being known as an expert help you, somehow, in your career, even if you don’t care about book sales or speaking or consulting?

To just get it out of her mind, and off her bucket list: This is more of a vanity play than anything else… not that that’s bad, but there’s no real reason to do it, other than to say you are an author?

If you have a book in you, and it is just nagging at you to get out, why do you want to do it?  Is it one of these four, or something else?

Speaking Testimonial: Not too shabby :)

It took me three months to finally come to terms with the worst professional speaking engagement I’ve had of my life.  It was really, really bad. I blogged about it here.  I almost gave up and stopped speaking completely.

I did pretty good last year, brushing off the dust and getting back into a groove as a professional speaker.  I guess what I really did was get some confidence back.

Last month I spoke 13 times in 4 days, and it was awesome.  The 12th presentation I did was to the National Speakers Association chapter in Minneapolis.  It’s always scary to speak to professional speakers because I feel like they are critiquing my style more than listening to my message.

But I did it, and it went well.  How well?  Here’s the feedback I got from Gaye Lindfors, president of the NSA Minneapolis chapter:

You hit a home run out of the ballpark this morning.
Your content was relevant and helpful…
Your presentation style was engaging…
And you sent us home with ideas we can start using today.

It was fabulous.

Thank goodness for good people to help us know that we are doing alright!

First Piano Lesson by Sam

Today I started piano lessons with my 13 year old daughter.

That is, SHE is teaching me.

Considering she’s been playing since she was 3 (see a cool song she self-taught herself below), I figured she’d be an excellent teacher.  Plus, I’d like to see if she likes it and would teach other young kids and make a buck here or there.

It went well, although my fingers and hands don’t really want to do what they must.  Piano isn’t as much about learning what sound each key makes as it is figuring out how to control the movements of my body, and retrain my movements.

The sound I’m plucking right now are very simple, but if I can get the form down I’ll be able to move into other, complex, more beautiful music.

Just like earlier this morning when I took her to the raquetball court.  She wants to hit with her wrist, and she wants to hit overhead, and she wants to have her body point in the wrong direction on a hit, and she wants to—— use bad form.  Because it’s more natural.

But she’s learning good form, and as she masters the good form, and her muscles strengthen, and she gets more control, she’ll be able to play at a higher level.

Just like her mom, who started to write songs many, many years ago, but a few months ago she started to go to local songwriter meetings to learn how to write songs – what is a bridge, what is a hook, how to use twists, how to relate to the audience, etc.

She has dozens of songs started, but some of them are probably pretty sophomoric, because she didn’t have the training.  But she’s getting the training, and she’s practicing – in the mornings she pulls out a notebook while her mind is fresh and she writes for ten minutes.  She is reading books on lyrics.  I’m sure she’s already improved, and over time her songwriting will only mature.

Just like blogging – when I started blogging I thought I was freaking awesome, but I’m coming up on my five year anniversary and I know my blog posts have gotten better.  I didn’t go to blogging school, but I have been at it, writing almost 2,000 posts in the last five years.  I’m experimented, played, tried and just plain written, and I can only hope that my posts are more meaningful, more impactful, and just plain better.

So, could the formula for getting proficient at something be:

proper instruction + plenty of practice = profiency


About Sam – she’s really good.  She self-taught herself to play this song (we need to get a recording up on youtube):

Getting Paid as a Professional Speaker

A few months ago I was at a network meeting and we were giving our 30 second pitches. The guy before me said he was a “public speaker.” When it was my turn I said “I’m a professional speaker, which means I get paid to speak.”

Big difference, in my mind, between a public speaker and a professional speaker.

A friend sent me an email about getting paid to speak … here is parts of the email and my responses:

>> [This is in regards to someone who is] the author of a best-selling book.

>> she was bemoaning speaking engagements she does being free.

Free isn’t all that bad – there are times, and reasons, to do free.  For example, if you have a method to get email addresses of people in the audience you will build a prospect database…

>> She was saying that corporates that she speaks to always put really strict constraints on her talks/presentations.

If she has a problem with it, and she isn’t getting value out of the opportunity, then she has to say NO.  SHE has the cookie… it is her decision to agree to speak.

>> For instance, she can’t sell her book

Most books sold in the back of the room make very little money anyway.  Assume she gets $10/book (which is not usual – especially if she didn’t self-publish) and she sells 100 books (that is not easy to do) – she gets a mere $1,000 … not much money.

>> or any product at the end

There is a lot of opportunity to make money on non-book products… does she have high-margin products that she could sell?  If so… (read on :))

>> and she has to pay her own way to get there and she gets no fee etc.

It sounds to me she is making bad business decisions.  No fee, no opportunity to sell and she pays expenses?  What does she get out of the engagement… does she get “her name out there?”  That doesn’t put food on the table.

>> … I remember you a few years back now when you said that you’d just gulped, added a few zeros to your speaking engagement fee and they accepted it without blinking.

My first paid speaking engagement was priced at the same price I charge right now. I doubled my rate for a while but that was because I was getting over-booked… I went back to my normal rate once my schedule calmed down.

I did, however, get solid advice from Andy Sernovitz to triple my rates – not necessarily my speaking rates … but I love the advice for various reasons.

>> So I’m thinking; how is there such a difference?

It is a matter of her saying: My fee is $x,xxx plus expenses, and then quietly waiting for a response.  If they say no, that’s fine.  Her time is valuable and I’d argue that one speaking engagement eats up at least four hours of her day.  She can’t do that for free.  If they want to negotiate down she has a business decision to make… which she can do on a case-by-case basis.  But speaking for free, especially if she is a best-selling author, is a great disservice to her capability, knowledge, experience, etc.

>> Is it the groups that you speak to are different corporate groups than her?

I don’t know where she is getting asked to speak but I’ve gotten fees from places/organizations that others said don’t pay.  SHE has the cookie… she has to make a business decision. She has to respect her abilities, and what she brings to the table, enough to say “my time and experience merits $x,xxx,” and if they don’t want her for that then that is fine – she can work on other revenue-generating projects and pass up an opportunity to lose money.

>> Why would she get nothing for her talks and you can name a price?

Because she hasn’t figured out how to name her price, and say NO if they don’t pay a certain amount.

>> I’m just curious how you have obviously been able to get it to work for you, but not her.

Without knowing more about her situation that’s my guess… it is as simple as stating a fee without flinching and then waiting, quietly, for the response.

>> Do you think this is odd?

No.  I think many people do this because they are excited that anyone would listen to them in the first place and they are proud to have an audience.  But you do that a few times and then wonder why you do it for no money…

Another common thing, unfortunately, is speakers who will do it for a couple hundred bucks.  No one is making a living on a couple hundred bucks…. speakers who say they are raising their rate to a couple hundred bucks are still in the “I work by the hour” mode, and they don’t appreciate the power of the message they (can) give.

NOTE: I don’t know if she’s a great speaker or a boring speaker… which could have an impact on her getting jobs…

Are you a speaker? You are probably average.

Update 7/28/2010: here’s a brilliant post on Tim Ferris’ blog that goes deeper into how to get to that far left extreme: From CEOs to Opera Singers – How to Harness the “Superstar Effect”

I love watching speakers present.  I am a student of presenters and often find myself writing down two things:

  1. Things to do: what is the speaker doing that is amazing and awesome, and something I need to incorporate.
  2. Things to never, ever do: what the speaker does that discredits the message, causes a negative reaction, etc.

A few weeks ago I was watching an awesome person speak. This person speaks often, so I had high expectations because:

awesome person + speaks frequently = should be awesome presenter

That formula is flawed, of course, and the presentation was… well, also flawed. It was average.

What does “average” mean? Check out this drawing I came up with:

NON Professional Speakers

Note, this is for non-professional speakers.  I consider myself a professional speaker because people pay good money to have me speak, and I speak frequently.  More on that below.

For non-professional speakers, some thoughts:

  • Most presentations are average.  You will likely be just average.  You would have to work pretty hard to really suck, even though that’s what you are most stressed about (sucking). Don’t worry, expectations are low and you probably won’t suck bad enough to be in the red circle on the right.
  • Most self-confident speakers (like me) think they are awesome, and awe-inspiring.  But they really are just at the left side of average, in that pinkish box.  As great as you think you are, you are just as average as you would have been anywhere else in the yellow.
  • You *can* do a presentation where you are in the green circle and be awe-inspiring.  But it takes a lot of work.  Presentation skills, your appearance, your message, the stories, jokes, etc.  How you connect… there are so many things to get into that circle that if you ever do, consider quitting your day job and becoming a professional speaker.    But you won’t get there by just practicing a few times… it takes a LOT of work.

Here’s a similar image for PROFESSIONAL speakers.  These are the biggies that get paid to do this for a living.

Professional Speakers

Some thoughts:

  • Since the expectations are much higher, there is no pink box.  You are either average (“yeah, he was like all the other speakers we’ve paid”), or you are awesome.  Getting to awesome is equally as hard as it is for non-professional speakers because you don’t get any slack… the bar is HIGH.
  • Average is different… you can’t go too far to the left or else what would be average for anyone else becomes below average for your audience.  Once again, the bar is high, so you can’t do just okay… just okay, for a professional speaker, is not even close to good enough.

Rarely do I ever see a presentation that I would put in the awesome side of this bell curve.