Becoming a Millionaire Through Speaking

by Dan Kennedy | July 24, 2011

I started speaking professionally, i.e. speaking for money, in 1978.

It took longer than I would have liked, but by the end of 2001, I had cash assets in excess of several million dollars, a business arguably worth another couple million or so, and the ability to cease working altogether if I chose to do so. To some- maybe you - a measly few million dollars may not be all that impressive. My friend Nido Qubein probably goes through that just for custom suits and monogrammed hankies in a year or two.

For many reading this, though, I know very well it is a big number and, quite bluntly, a number you will never hit by following the "norms" of the speaking business or profession or whatever this is. I also happen to know quite a few "big name speakers" who everybody thinks of as wealthy but are, in truth, still in urgent need of next month's gigs to meet last month's expenses, and will never see a million dollars all in one place in their lives - unless it's inside the glass display case at Binion's in Vegas.

Anyway, I might point out I hold no college degrees, I did not come from a hugely successful career in some other industry, I am certainly not a great speaker in terms of platform artistry (and I was outright awful when I started), but I set out to get rich through speaking and did so .... to my defined target of what "rich" is.

One of the objectives of this book is to clear all the cobwebs and erroneous ideas out of your head, so you can turn "speaking" into "wealth" - however you define it.

In the 25 years, I have accomplished quite a bit as a speaker. I came to speaking with a radically different purpose and viewpoint than most folks do, and it's important to understand that, as I believe you'll need to switch to my view if you are to achieve substantial financial success via speaking.

Many people come to speaking with missionary zeal, to deliver heartfelt messages, to save the world, to change American business, or with some other globally proportioned idealistic vision. I had no such inspiration. And frankly, I do not think that has any place in business. If this is you, you belong at the helm of a church or charity. As a matter of fact, the most dangerous person in business - to himself and everyone around him - is the person chiefly motivated by and making many decisions based on non-business factors.

A lot of people come to speaking after having discovered "self-improvement", under the illusion that the whole world is eagerly awaiting the same discoveries. This is something akin to a religious passing. I confess to having had a little of this myself. But only a little, and I fortunately, quickly shook it off.

Here's a biggie: a lot of people come to speaking to escape business. They wind up sadly disappointed. These are salespeople, sales managers, executives, doctors, who view speaking as a glamorous, exciting means of making a good income without all the headaches they've had in their "real" business. Little do they know, all those headaches follow, plus the fact you must deliver what you sell. Oh, and make no mistake, this is 90% about marketing and selling, 10% about speaking. And, frankly, I can teach anybody but a mute to do a serviceable job of speaking. It's not so easy to master everything required to make a living doing it. This is a corollary of Mr. Gamble's wonderful quote: "Any fool can make soap. It requires a genius to sell it."

A lot of people suffer as speakers by immersing themselves in the "technical" rather than the "marketing" - actually an affliction shared by people in most other categories of business too.

I came to speaking for none of these reasons, with none of these interests. I came for one reason and one reason only: money. And I have never had the slightest interest in any aspect of speaking that did not directly translate into more money. For example, I could care less about improving my voice inflection or bringing theatrical drama to my platform style or any similar goofiness, unless it will directly increase my income. Artistry for artistry's sake is as interesting to me as closely inspecting somebody else's hemorrhoid.

When I first entered speaking, I thought it was a business. It is not. If it is, it's one of the all-time worst businesses ever invented. Some think speaking is a profession. Pfui. Some think speaking is a career.

Speaking is merely high-priced manual labor. Nothing more.

However, you certainly CAN create ample wealth through speaking, if you will understand what it really is, and recognize its only real value.

Speaking is an advertising media.

It is no different than a magazine ad or newspaper ad or TV infomercial or radio commercial.

It has but one truly valuable purpose: to acquire customers.

Speaking is an extremely appealing media because it lets you acquire customers free - or, more accurately, with no out- of-pocket expense. The trade-off is manual labor, and time that might have been otherwise profitably invested. But when you run an ad in a magazine, you deplete your checkbook to do it. When you acquire customers via speaking, not only do you avoid depleting the checkbook, you actually get money. This is like having the magazine run your ad for free and pay you for giving them the privilege.

This defines speaking as having one useful purpose - and task: building up your list of customers. Your herd of responsive raving fans. I'm not talking about the clients or the meeting planners; I'm talking about the audience members. Each one able and willing to whip out a credit card to buy something from you on the spot, then able and willing to keep buying more from you, continually or again and again, without again requiring you to stand in front of them and speak. Each such customer has substantial, on-going value, if you know what to do with them, and do it.

But what you must grasp is that this "herd" is the only asset of value you can possibly create through speaking.

The asset that can have lasting value, value not linked to manual labor, even saleable value is the customer herd you can create from speaking.

This, in fact, is the only hope or prayer you have of becoming a millionaire via speaking in any reasonable time frame.

The customers added to the herd through speaking can have long, long, long life. I have customers currently giving me money acquired at speeches as long ago as 1978.

The customers added to the herd through speaking can have high, high value. Roughly 20% of all the customers I've acquired from speaking have been worth more than $10,000.00 each to me.

The customers added to the herd through speaking can be the basis for a solid, secure, predictable continuing or recurring income stream, via paid Subscription newsletters, tape-a-month programs, other continuity or renewable products, coaching, and overrides from 'vendors you endorse. When 9-11 occurred, a great many speakers' incomes plunged down the toilet. They were in trauma. 9-11 didn't disturb me financially. My locked in, continuing income streams continued unabated. What I built from speaking is solid.

Using certain strategies to set up periodic big paydays, you can build up this herd with the plan and definite ability to, at some point, extract an inordinate amount of money, and quite easily walk away with an extra million dollars or more in a year's time.

If you can grasp this, then a number of other things become self-evident. For example, speaking only to audiences that yield valuable customers, and avoiding all others. For example, getting very, very good at platform selling, as that determines how many new customers you collect at each engagement.

If you cannot grasp this, then the likelihood of you amassing any significant wealth and financial security through speaking is slim.

Dan S. Kennedy is the provocative, truth-telling author of thirteen business books; a serial, multi-millionaire entrepreneur; trusted marketing advisor, consultant and coach to hundreds of private clients running businesses from $1-million to $1-billion in size; and he influences well over 1-million independent business owners annually through his newsletters, tele-coaching programs, local Chapters and Kennedy Study Groups meeting in over 100 cities.


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