All posts by John Paul Narowski

I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.

4 Actions You Can Take Now if Your Speaking Gigs are Inconsistent

Have you ever found yourself with a bit of a dry patch when it comes to speaking bookings?

It happens from time to time with speakers, especially if you don’t yet have a particularly high profile among event planners.

Many speakers rely heavily on referrals, and in fact run a thriving business that way, but sometimes you need a bit more to ensure that your calendar remains as booked as you’d like it.

You need consistency, and part of that comes from having a consistent process for finding and booking future engagements. If you find yourself with calendar gaps, here are four actions you could take today to help fill up your schedule:

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#1. Assess your overall business practices

Most professional speakers love to get onto the stage and engage an audience. But many are not as comfortable with the “business” side of their profession. It takes much more than speaking savvy to succeed, and it’s relatively common for people to have areas of their business that they struggle with.

If your gigs tend to be inconsistent, it’s a good time to sit down and really assess what your overall business practices are. Is there anything missing, or inconsistently done that could be contributing to the drought?

There are a couple of issues that we commonly see:

  1. Not having a good system in place to track and follow-up with contacts
  2. Relying on remembering, or doing things manually.

As a speaker, you meet hundreds, perhaps thousands of people throughout the year. Anyone may be a potential lead, or contact to connect you with those who hire speakers. The trick is to ensure that you follow up with people – not so often that you become annoying, but regularly enough that they still know who you are.

Do you have a good CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system in place? If not, this is one action that you can take right now. It makes a world of difference to your contact and customer follow-up if you have a system in place that makes it easy. No more spreadsheets, rolodexes or shoeboxes full of business cards! (You can sign up for a free trial of KarmaCRM here).

Secondly, look at any essential part of your prospecting or contact management process and see what you can do to ensure there is a robust system around it. For example, there may be things you can automate, or delegate to an assistant to ensure that they happen. When you rely too heavily on remembering or doing things manually, it’s easy to let things slip when you get busy!

A CRM is an essential tool for a professional speaker to follow-up with Click To Tweet

Speaking gigs

#2. Be very specific about what you want

“When people will not weed their own minds, they are apt to be overrun by nettles.”– Horace Walpole.

Sometimes it’s all in how you frame your search for more speaking gigs. For example, you might be asking yourself, “how do I book more engagements?” This is a very general question. When your question is wide open like that, it’s easy for your mind to be “overrun by nettles!”

It’s time to get very specific about what it is that you’re looking for. More business bookings? More college bookings? More big events? You can get even more specific than that – what type of businesses, colleges or events? Who specifically would you like to speak for?

Keep a list of “ideal” clients and ask yourself, “how do I get booked by (client)?” This sort of clarity helps to drive more targeted action.

As soon as you become clear on who you’d like to target, you find ways to make that happen. You research their website, you look for contact names, or you look through your current connections to see if anyone is already connected to them.

This is something you could get started on right now – write down 10-20 places, names or events and work from there.

#3. Have a prospecting habit

This action fits right in with those business practices we talked about assessing earlier. The most successful professional speakers tend to have solid routines for their business practices, including prospecting for new clients.

Do you have a prospecting habit? If not, this is one thing to add into your routine right now.

For many professional speakers, this means having a set period every week where they do nothing but look for new prospects. If you’re used to devoting Tuesday mornings (or whatever your schedule is), you soon find that the habit keeps you with a healthy prospect pipeline.

Another advantage of doing this is that it’s an efficient way of working. Productivity experts often speak of the advantages of “chunking” like-tasks, so that you don’t lose efficiency through task-switching. Basically, if you’re building in prospecting time, you allow yourself to get onto a roll, making the most of the time spent on that activity.

In a nutshell, consistent prospecting can lead to more consistent speaking gigs. You’ve got to be out there to get the job!

#4. Go where the meeting planners are

There are speaking opportunities almost anywhere you might care to look, if you know what to look for. One key point comes back to knowing who’s hiring you. You know which audience/s you want to target, but who is it that actually books you for the gig? These are the people you want to be tight with.

Assess your places and methods of finding people – if your gigs are inconsistent, are you really hanging out where the event managers and speaker bookers are? A mistake that speakers sometimes make is to spend a lot of time engaging with the audience they want to speak to, but not necessarily the people who put them in front of that audience.

Here are a few tips about where to find the meeting planners:

  • Pay attention to events that pop up on Facebook, in other social feeds or in articles that you read. Can you find names associated with organizing those events?
  • Read meeting planning magazines. These tend to be full of events, company names, and meeting planner names among the many articles. For example look at; BizBash, MeetingsNet, Smart Meetings, Meetings and Conventions, or Special Events.
  • Look for relevant hashtags. On social media channels such as Twitter where hashtags are used, you can find a lot of potentially useful connections just by searching those hashtags. You’ll need to do some research to find whatever is in current use, but here are some which reveal results in a recent search: #conference, #eventprofs, #meetingprofs, #eventmarketing. Connect with event planners and create your own Twitter list to work from. Pay attention also to whoever Twitter recommends you follow once you have followed a known event planner – it will usually recommend similar profiles. Use a similar strategy on Instagram to find relevant hashtags.
    Speaking gigs
  • Find events, groups and meeting planners on LinkedIn. This is usually a simple matter of using the search function. Groups can be a great way to get your name out, if you’re contributing in a valuable way to them. Just look for groups that are active and constructive, rather than those that seem to just involve “buy my stuff” people.

Of course, an important part of the process after doing any of these things is to make sure you put the new contacts into your CRM and follow up with them. Don’t add them to autoresponders or generally be spammy, but do set reminders for yourself to make contact.

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Final thoughts

Creating a consistent pipeline of speaking engagements means having a consistent process for finding them. You might get a lot of work through referrals, but this is your business – don’t allow yourself to become complacent over prospecting yourself!

Understand exactly what it is you are looking for, be consistent about following up, and make sure you’re finding and targeting the people who actually make the bookings. These are all exercises you could sit down and do right now. All the best for future bookings!

I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.

A Speaker’s Guide to Preparing Ahead of Bookings

What does it take to present successfully on-stage?

Many people assume that you must have special gifts or talents to be able to hold the attention of a room, and aptitude definitely comes into the picture, but nothing is as important as prior preparation.

In fact, one of the secrets of top professional speakers is that they tend to have put in many hours of preparation, even for just one hour on the stage. There’s much more to it than memorizing a presentation – it’s about understanding the audience, the context within which they operate, and the little nuances that take your presentation from “just like any other” to “she gets me!”

That said, how do professional speakers prepare for a successful presentation? Let’s take a look:

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Gather material

Every speaker has their own preferences for gathering material that they can use in presentations. For most professional speakers, this is something that they do as an automatic part of their daily processes. There is all manner of experiences or stories that, even if you can’t use them in an upcoming talk, might be useful filed away for another time.

The important thing is to have a good system, so that you’re able to recall those tidbits whenever you need them. How do you file good speaking material? Perhaps you file them under headings related to the key point, for example “managing change” or “setting goals.” The types of material you might gather include:

  • Stories or anecdotes that evoked an emotion in you. Maybe it made you laugh or cry, or it was simply something interesting that made you pay attention.
  • Your own experiences. When you review various chapters of your own life, what experiences or situations can serve as lessons for others? What insights can you impart from successes, failures, high, or low points?

When you’re in the build-up to your next presentation, it can also be useful to keep a journal or notebook, so that you can easily jot down thoughts as they occur to you. You never know where or when inspiration can strike!

Speakers preparing for bookings

Top professional speakers have a system for gathering and recalling speaking material Click To Tweet

Know your audience

Did you know that the average attention span of humans is around eight seconds? Generally speaking, depending on the source you look at, people argue that you have anywhere between five and fifteen seconds to grab the attention of your audience.

For a professional speaker, there is no “rule” about how you’re going to quickly engage the attention of your audience, but one key factor is to know that audience well. In understanding your audience, you can take your best shot at what will appeal to them.

The best professional speakers focus a lot of time on defining who it is that they’re speaking to and where their interests or needs lie. Your aim is to create a presentation that will really resonate with them and to hold their attention throughout.

Some things that you want to know about your audience include:

  • Learning about current issues within the industry, particularly if speaking to companies. This allows you to include those issues in your presentation, or at least be able to acknowledge them so that the audience knows you’ve done your homework.
  • Understand any changes the audience might be dealing with, or problems they might be managing. For example, what if you were hired to speak to an audience at a company where restructuring has been an issue?
  • Learning about their goals, aspirations or dreams. How can you tap into the desires of your audience?

Research is the professional speaker’s best friend ahead of a gig. One of the best ways to go about it is to simply talk to people who fall within that target audience. You can pick up things like the language they use, their feelings on certain issues or topics, the level of information they need, and their motivations.

Understanding and using the language of your audience within your presentation can be a powerful way to hold their attention.

Gather and examine feedback

First of all, top professional speakers always gather feedback from their past events. These days, event organizers are commonly looking to maximize the value they get from speakers, so “speak and run” isn’t going to cut it.

Gathering feedback can also be a useful tool for booking more speaking gigs. It can be quite helpful to show audience feedback to event organizers. Those who book speakers are always looking for ROI!

As far as preparing ahead for your speaking appointments, your feedback can be useful to help guide your presentation, particularly if you’re speaking to a similar audience. Look back at what people liked or didn’t like, aim to improve on what you can, and give people more of what they enjoyed.

Understand what the aim is

One very important point when it comes to preparing for a presentation is to understand what the person or company who booked you is hoping to get out of it. Companies are often booking speakers with specific business goals in mind, so it’s important that you understand what these are and allow them to shape your presentation.

Consider questions like:

  • Why have they asked me in particular to speak?
  • What is the purpose of the event overall?
  • What goals does the organizer have for the event?
  • What would they like their audience to take away?
  • How can you deliver content for which they’ll be able to get measurable results?

Your ability to keep booking further speaking engagements will hinge greatly on how well you are able to deliver value and meet client expectations. This always begins with good preparation – you’ve got to have a clear picture of those expectations in order to deliver.

Practice your presentation

“Let’s just wing it,” said no professional speaker ever! (At least, none that we have spoken with!). The best professional speakers do have some natural ability, but their real secret is in their preparation and the practice they put in ahead of time.

The best practice tends to be either on other people, or at the very least, out loud while you pretend to “work the room.” Speaking as you would on stage helps to engage that memory and imprint it, so that you can present a polished performance.

Another important thing about practicing is that you can discover areas of your presentation which don’t quite flow or come across as you intended. Take the opportunity to polish them ahead of time!

Speakers preparing for bookings

Practice on your friends!

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Final thoughts

The best professional speakers don’t simply whip up a winning presentation out of nowhere. A key to their success is the amount of preparation they put in. For many, this can be multiple hours of work for just a one hour talk – but it is this preparation that helps to ensure they are booked repeatedly.

Top speakers prepare by:

  • Having a system to gather material, and ensure they can recall it as needed
  • Carefully researching their audience
  • Gathering and examining feedback
  • Understanding the goals of the event organizer
  • Practicing their presentation.

Natural abilities will only get you so far in the world of professional speakers – consistent bookings come from careful preparation. What do you do to ensure you prepare effectively?

I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.

A Value-Driven Approach to Booking More Speaking Gigs

The question of how to book more speaking gigs is a common one among professional speakers.

What can you be doing to keep your pipeline full and your calendar busy? Besides taking the right steps to ensure you’re operating with a business owner’s mindset, of course booking those gigs will come down to your appeal with potential clients.

Staying on top of trends and understanding what it is that clients are looking for out of a speaker are excellent ways to ensure that you can take a value-driven approach. What might that approach look like? Here are a few thoughts:

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Understand desired business outcomes

Mike Wittenstein, CSP, CMC, DTM, CCXP, international conference speaker, corporate consultant, and founder of Storyminers, chatted with us a little while ago about the habits of effective speakers and what he sees happening in the future of the industry.

A growing trend he identified is that businesses are desiring more in the way of tangible business outcomes through booking speakers. Companies are accelerating their use of speakers as agents of change, and they want to see the bang for their buck.

Neen James, CSP, finds that clients are demanding more actionable content, which has measurable results and is followed-up on throughout the year.

The bottom line is that businesses want value, and that value will very much depend upon their desired business outcomes. This is something that every speaker should understand before drafting their presentation, even before talking to a new prospect.

For many speakers, this means having an outline of clear deliverables which they advertise as part of their marketing materials. If you flip it around and look from the perspective of the hiring business, they are often given the advice to look for speakers who directly align with their objectives. State your mission clearly so that they have no doubt that you can deliver.


How will you demonstrate actionable content?

Professional speakers: how do you deliver tangible business outcomes to clients? Click To Tweet

Offer the full package

Many businesses are looking beyond a one-off speaking session. They want to see ROI from the engagement and follow-up to ensure that the lessons learned stick. Sometimes they want to see additional offerings from speakers, both before and after events.

What can you offer that will make your service a complete package for the client? For example, you might send through an exercise for participants to complete in preparation for your event, or some kind of introductory video to drive anticipation.

Afterwards, your follow-up is becoming more and more important to both businesses and to event organizers. Businesses want to maximize their investment, while event organizers are keen to ensure that their event is popular and that attendees feel they’ve received value.

For example, event follow-up activities might include:

  • Providing copies of your presentation to the audience, perhaps as a download.
  • Arranging for the audience to get digital or physical copies of your book (if you have one).
  • Follow-up webinars or conference calls, giving audience members the chance to talk about any actions they have taken or ask any questions.
  • Engaging on social media using an event hashtag. This is also a way to answer any follow-up questions, or generally to keep people engaged.

Check out this piece of advice, given to event organizers about finding speakers:

“When all is said and done, the days of a speaker swooping in, making their speech and sneaking out the side door, having had no contact with their audience and no follow-up, are more or less over. Look for ways to maximize their value and you’ll get a return on your investment that will be felt for a long time to come.”

Well, there you have it again – ROI and the delivery of value are keys. Offering a more complete package rather than “taking the side door” is where it’s at…

Be clear about what qualifies you

Event organizers and businesses who hire speakers are looking for someone with credibility. This means that you obviously “walk the talk” when it comes to the things that you teach or talk about.

These potential clients are interested in knowing, how do you implement what you talk about? What qualifies you to talk about these things to their audiences?

Think back a few years and there was definitely a period where “everyone” was suddenly a coach or marketing guru, with many claims being tenuous at best. The thing is, people like that are usually uncovered relatively quickly (thanks, internet!). At the very least, you need to know more about your particular topic than the audience whom you are addressing.

Your clients are looking for someone who can be an authority on the topic and hold up when it comes to any question of credibility. By nature, many audiences are fairly cynical. For example, think of a business where you might be called in to help them through change management. Those audiences are often uneasy and looking for ways to poke holes in the presentation of the speaker. How will you stack up if the question in the audience’s mind is “why should I listen to you?”

On that note, it’s good practice to deliver a sort of “why you should listen to me” near the beginning of any presentation. This is probably similar to what you would use in your content and marketing materials to convey the answer to the same question.

Involve the audience

A trend that Neen James identified is a growing desire for more audience involvement and interaction. Specifically, she sees trending:

  • Requests for more integration of technology in speeches to drive audience interaction and share content.
  • Requests for more audience interaction and a conversational approach, regardless of audience size.

These are definitely things for any professional speaker to consider as part of their value proposition. The days of “death by Powerpoint” are over, at least for any speaker who wants to remain relevant. How will you get the audience involved?

When it comes to the technology side of that, just be a little bit cautious about what you can promise upfront. Technology very much depends upon what is available at the facility and how well it is working. Even then, you have to plan as though the technology isn’t working as well. How many times have you been to an event where internet or mobile data reception is poor at the venue?

Matt Bailey offers some solid advice when it comes to presentations and technology:

“Pro Tips: Presenting well is all about minimizing external factors. Never rely on “external factors” to make your presentation successful. Mitigating possible problems and controlling as much as possible should be your mindset.

Don’t rely on:

  • reliable internet connections
  • compatible internet connections
  • presentation remotes being provided
  • ideally placed screens
  • ideally placed projectors
  • everything to work, all the time.”

So, think about audience interaction, and offer technology solutions, just don’t rely on them.


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Final thoughts

What do you do to communicate “value” to potential speaking clients? Increasingly, event organizers and businesses want something more for their speaker-booking money. They want to see measurable results from booking the speaker and often, they want more than just the presentation itself.

What are the business outcomes that your target customers desire? How is it that you are qualified to speak on and deliver these outcomes?

Think about how you can offer a value proposition that is more than turning up, delivering a presentation, then disappearing from the consciousness of the audience. Companies are actively looking for what you can offer them both before and after the event as well.

How will you deliver value?

I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.

5 Ways Speakers can Get More Referral Gigs

How heavily do you rely on referrals to keep your calendar booked?

For many professional speakers, referrals are an absolute key source of business. The idea that these might dry up, or go through a quiet spell, could be quite detrimental to the health of their business.

You might be fortunate and find that many of your referrals “just happen,” but a more reliable strategy is to create those referral opportunities for yourself.

So how can you ensure that you keep a steady pipeline of good referrals?

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#1. Gather feedback

Hopefully you’re already in the habit of gathering presentation feedback as a way to help guide improvements in the future. But what does feedback have to do with referrals?

One primary concern of many companies that book speakers is seeing an ROI from the engagement. Did booking you as a speaker create the value they were hoping for?

When you think about it, corporate gigs are usually arranged because the company has some kind of goal they’d like to accomplish by booking you. As for conference gigs, they want to know that having you up on stage checked the boxes for their audience so that they come back next time.

So, you should tell them how you added value.

Here’s a neat tip from professional speaker Hugh Culver: ask the “one thing” question.

“For everyone who comes to talk with me, buy a book, or ask a question, I always, always ask them what is the one thing in my speech that made a difference.”

When he asks this question, people pause. They consider that “one thing” and then, as Culver describes it, they give him the best free market research possible.

“If they say they learned tips they can use – great! I’ll include more of them.

If they tell me they feel more empowered – great! I’ll spend more time on motivation.

And if they tell me one lesson made all the difference – great! I’ll promote that lesson more.”

You could take that feedback and simply use it to craft your future presentations, or, you can do what Culver does and share your findings with your client. Make sure your client knows of any evidence you have that what you are doing works.

You can assume that some people will naturally refer to you once they have seen you in action and had great feedback, but this is not something to leave to chance…

More referral gigs

Gather feedback from audiences and present that as success to your client #speakertips Click To Tweet

#2. Ask for the referral

Asking for the referral is an obvious step, but it’s important to know how to ask the right way. Joanne Black has become legendary among sales practitioners with her approach to proactively seeking out referrals. The No More Cold Calling founder believes that getting referrals shouldn’t be a lucky break or afterthought, but a key part of generating business.

Black says that many people in sales think that they have to wait until after closing the sale to ask, but this isn’t true. You can ask at any time, ideally after delivering some kind of value (see our first tip above!). You’ll know you’ve delivered something, because the person is probably saying “thank you.”

For many professional speakers, there is an aversion to the word “sales,” but in the end, you are running a business. This means that it is valid to look at the advice of sales professionals for building your business. Ask for that referral!

A good approach, rather than simply asking “do you know anyone who could benefit from my services?” is to be more specific. Who exactly is your ideal customer? Describe them to the client and ask if they know anyone who matches the description.

To take it a step further, do some homework on the client and find out what you can about who they are connected to already. For example, you might look at their connections on LinkedIn – are any of them a good match for your services? You may be able to work a warm referral to the person into your conversation.

#3. Keep in regular contact

You’ve got stacks of business cards from events and emails in a database, but are you optimizing your contact management to build your business and get referrals?

A common problem in many businesses is lack of consistency. They have a vast network of contacts, but they don’t stay in touch. Or, when they think of it (or suddenly have a need to book the work), they send an email out of the blue.

The problem is, if you don’t regularly stay in contact, the relationship easily fizzles out. When your email arrives in their inbox, they don’t remember who you are and mark it as spam.

There is a better way of ensuring that you keep up contact, and that’s by using a good CRM tool (check out KarmaCRM here) to manage those contacts. Develop a regular program of keeping in touch, such as through an email newsletter. At the same time, make sure you keep updated information on your contacts. Where did you meet? Where are they and what do they do? Try to keep information updated as anything changes.

#4. Make yourself shareable

What is it that makes people want to share your work or your content? Whether this is your social media posts, blog posts, or links to something else you have produced, think about what is most appealing to people.

The idea is that the more shares you get, the more visibility you have and the better the chance of those word-of-mouth referrals. Make it easy for people to share your content by producing posts regularly and engaging with people on your online channels.

Importantly, the idea is that you deliver value somehow, and aren’t afraid to give some away for free. For example, what if you had video snippets of yourself, delivering a quick message? This would serve to highlight your speaking ability as well as the content you deliver. Shareable quotes or thought-provoking articles might also be good options. You can experiment to see what appeals the most to your particular audience.

#5. Have a hook

Your “hook” is your point, or engaging ideas which reel in your audience. These might include exercises which get people involved, memorable stories, or thought-provoking ideas. You have to grab your audience within the first minute of your presentation so that you can keep them interested enough to stay tuned.

What does this have to do with getting referrals? Well, similar to making yourself shareable, having a hook that engages the audience or is relatable for them is a good way to spark word of mouth referrals.

If you have something that is provoking enough, people will tweet out your quotes and stories, or still be talking about them with others in the days after the event. Think about the “meat” of the presentation you deliver, but also consider the punchy lines which are easy to repeat and eminently shareable.

More referral gigs

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Final thoughts

What will you be doing to make sure that your referral pipeline remains stacked?

Sales is a critical aspect of a professional speaking business, and every decent salesperson will tell you that referrals need to be a focus. It’s not just about talking to anyone and everyone, you also want to make sure that you are being referred to people who are your ideal client.

Have you thought about exactly what that ideal client looks like? This might be a good place to start, to guide your referral strategy. Consider who it is you are looking for and be able to articulate that to your clients.

We’d love to hear any good strategies you use for landing referrals – let us know in the comments below…

I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.

Why Speakers Need a Business Owner Mindset

Speaking is a business, and the most successful professional speakers treat it that way.

In fact, you can be the most dazzling, engaging speaker there is up on stage, but still feel the pinch offstage if you’re not of the right mindset. Your business can fizzle if you’re not approaching it with an owner’s perspective.

As Hall of Fame speaker Shep Hyken said in a previous interview:

“The speaking business is two words: it’s speaking and it’s business. There are successful speakers who are just good at what they do. Then there are amazing speakers that will blow you away with their speaking ability, but they don’t get much work. The difference is that some people have figured out that the speaking business is two words, and others haven’t.”

What then, does having a business owner mindset involve?

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Taking a proactive stance

Most professional speakers don’t “just” speak. If they have any team members, that usually consists of one other person, such as a virtual assistant for helping them to stay organized. Whether you’re a small team or flying solo, your job is still to proactively guide strategy.

Even if you’ve got a huge network of contacts and potential sources for referrals, the gigs don’t just happen, it takes active management to keep your calendar booked.

Jeff Bush, a speaker whom we interviewed recently, estimates that he lost up to 20 opportunities per year just because his inbox wasn’t proactively managed. We get it! There’s only so much time in a day and inboxes have a habit of being crowded places.

Luckily, Bush is a speaker who understands the value of a holistic approach in managing a business. He took a step back, examined what was going on, and realized he needed a tool to help with long-term nurturing of prospective clients. In this way, he is proactively managing his business, rather than simply hoping that someone will book and responding in an ad hoc fashion.

This definition of a proactive business is a good one for speakers to consider:

“A proactive company is one that places greater emphasis on forward-thinking strategic planning as opposed to reactive strategies to deal with problems, or to approach opportunities as they arise.”

You get to actively create your own opportunities – that’s what tends to separate the most successful professional speakers from the rest. What can you do to adopt a growth strategy for your business?

Business owner mindset

Willingness to learn

“Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one’s self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily.” – Thomas Szasz

Learning can be humbling and a bit scary, but successful speakers know that in order to grow themselves and their businesses, a willingness to learn is a must. This often means having to get a bit uncomfortable, to tread unfamiliar waters in a quest to make improvements to your own business.

A common area that many speakers express discomfort with is getting sales. You’ll hear some variation of “oh, I’m not into sales,” and yet, without sales, how would you have a business? Whether it’s sales, implementing new business software, researching new topics to meet market demand or any other area that may be “new” to you, having that simple willingness to learn is part of the owner mindset.

You’re in charge of strategy, and adopting new practices or learning new things can be a key part of keeping a business thriving. Remember, your clients, the business market, and the world in general aren’t remaining stagnant, so neither should you.

From our speaker interview series, Diane DiResta says:

Most speakers love speaking, and that is where they may be putting all their effort, but it’s really a sales and marketing business.”

If these areas are unfamiliar territory to you, then they should be learning priorities. On keeping your business thriving for the long-term DiResta says:

“You also have to be a lifelong learner. You have to stay relevant. The market has changed so much that you have to continue to learn new skills, new technology, and new ways of doing business.”

Willingness to learn can be humbling, but it’s part of a business mindset for professional speakers Click To Tweet

Getting to know customers deeply

Customers are the heart of any business, and the savvy business owner knows it. For professional speakers, like any other type of business out there, being able to deliver value is a key to success.

In order to develop the content and packages that will deliver the best value to clients, top professional speakers do their homework. They get to know their customers deeply.

Michael Hoffman, CSP, a motivational sales and customer-service expert, discusses part of his preparation process:

“I listen for the words they use: what they call themselves, what they say when they complain about their jobs, how they talk about their clients. Then, I will pepper these words into my presentation.”

It’s not just about your preparation for the gigs you have already booked though, it’s the research and preparation that you do in-between. Staying up-to-date with the common issues in the industries of your clients and understanding where their typical needs are helps to put you in a better position to book the next opportunity. This is another part of being proactive – deliberately seeking issues which you can deliver help on.

One thing that can help to get you into the right mindset is to have clearly developed “avatars” or “personas” for your clients. These help you to create a clear picture of who your target client usually is, what their interests and problems are, and how you can help them. You may have more than one customer type, so sometimes it makes sense to develop a few different avatars.

Being a doer

“Keep on going, and the chances are that you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I never heard of anyone ever stumbling on something sitting down.”

-Charles F. Kettering

For a professional speaker, being a “doer” is about maintaining momentum. It’s about grit, tenacity and finding ways to move your business forward.


This doesn’t mean you have to actually “do” everything. In fact, this might not be the wisest use of your time. However, you do look for ways to ensure those key tasks in your business still get done, with or without your input.

Neen James, a professional speaker whom we interviewed, is a great example of a “doer” who ensures that her time is well-spent. She operates a virtual team and says:

“I outsource as much as I can so that I can focus.”

Part of the secret to this is systemizing everything that she can. It might initially take you some time to document processes, create templates and automate what you can, but in the end, this allows you greater time-freedom.

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Final thoughts

You can rock the stage every time you’re up there, but that alone is not what keeps a successful speaking business going. You need to take care of the “business” part and operate with a business owner’s mindset.

This might mean heading out of your comfort zone, needing to learn new skills or develop systems that support your business. Willingness to learn and being proactive are key traits that will help you to maintain momentum.

Be sure to check out our professional speaker interview series for more nuggets from successful speakers.

I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.

What Does a Great Business Workflow Look Like for a Speaker?

What separates a speaker at the top of their game from one who is kind of middling or just getting by?

There are a lot of factors we could point to – connections, marketing, global footprint…but one less talked about is the workflow the speaker uses to keep their business ticking.

Managing the “business side” is often less appealing to a speaker, or perhaps outside of your usual wheelhouse. However, having a well-managed business workflow is what keeps the opportunities coming and your profile growing.

Let’s break this down, beginning with…

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What do you mean by “workflow?”

We like to keep it simple (much more simple than what you’ll find with a dictionary definition anyway!). A workflow is how you get your work done. Usually, you create a process map or series of steps which outline what you need to do in the order that you need to get it done.

The term workflow dates back to early in the twentieth century, where it is thought to have originated with Frederick Taylor, Henry Gantt and the Scientific Management movement. Workflow and the process management ideas developed within this theory are closely intertwined.

Workflows are involved with any process that is necessary to keep your business running optimally and might involve just one person, multiple people, or interacting with some kind of tool to get the work done.

As an example for a speaker, let’s say you have a workflow for following up with your leads or contacts (an important workflow to have!). At a very basic level it might look something like:

Workflow for a speaker

Workflow automation

One of the cool things about the tools that we now have available to us is that there are plenty of opportunities to automate either entire workflows, or key parts of workflows so that you don’t have a “human” bottleneck.

In fact, where possible, we would put workflow automation in place as a best practice. Anywhere you can replace manual processes or actions within processes with an automated response makes it less likely that you miss important tasks. For example, if you had to individually write an email to each lead in your database, how soon would it be before you couldn’t keep up with the job?

Workflow automation helps you to improve your everyday business practices by not only getting important tasks done, but freeing you up to focus on the most important things. For example, rather than sending individual emails to everyone who is top of funnel in your sales cycle, you can be focusing on making the booking with those who are already at the bottom of your funnel.

Speakers: you can improve your business practices through workflow automation Click To Tweet

What makes an effective workflow?

Effective workflows come down to a couple specific questions:

  1. What do I need to achieve?
  2. What is the most efficient way to get this done?

Getting back to Henry Gantt and Scientific Management, he broke down that question of efficiency by looking at:

  • The exact jobs that needed doing
  • Who was responsible for the task
  • The time taken to complete each task.

The answers to those questions can help you to structure a chart or process map (Gantt was the inventor of the Gantt Chart), giving you a basic workflow.  With those factors in mind, let’s now look at a few best practices for creating those workflows:

Brainstorm the workflow

Are you working on your own, or do you have team members who work with you? Either way, getting the elements of the workflow down on paper (or a shared tool) helps you to stand back and examine it for efficiency. Be sure to involve your team members if you have them.

Are there any parts of the process that are ineffective or clumsy? Is there someone else who can look at your processes and give a perspective as to what might make them more efficient? What parts typically cause bottlenecks or other issues?

One of the secrets to building a business that is scalable is to have processes in place that are clearly defined. This includes anything that you need to have going to keep your business running – marketing, sales, accounting, customer support, etc. When you brainstorm your workflows, don’t leave out any steps. For example, if there’s often a holdup at some particular point, what happens then as a result? You need the bigger picture to look for improvements.

Many speakers don’t have any processes for their business. If you’re starting from scratch with formalizing processes, that’s a good place to get going from anyway. Top workflows which we suggest a speaker needs include:

  • Obtaining leads
  • Nurturing those leads / keeping your networks “warm”
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Gathering feedback
  • Planning presentations and/or events.

Examine any flaws

Where do the inefficiencies or flaws lie in your processes? As an example, a typical issue in a speaker’s business might be that their referral pipeline has gone quiet or completely dried up. On closer inspection, you might find that there is little follow-up with those contacts. Perhaps they are entered into a contact database but then rarely hear from the speaker, putting them out of sight and out of mind.

Some other typical flaws you might find include:

  • Time-consuming, manual processes that could be automated
  • Degradation of information transfer, meaning that something gets lost along the way. A typical example is when you call a customer service line, then have to repeat your problem every time you get transferred. In your business, are you recording key information about contacts, such as where you met them, what their interests are and who they work for?
  • Following that last point; information that is kept in different places, making it difficult to bring together. For example, contacts, history, and customers.
  • Steps that are duplicated or unnecessary
  • Steps that aren’t clearly assigned to a person (where you have a team)
  • Lack of oversight or reporting on progress.
  • Tasks that can be completed simultaneously being recorded in the process as being sequential. If it’s just you in the business, this isn’t such a big deal, but in teams this can create unnecessary bottlenecks.

Streamline and document the processes

With all the parts of your processes laid out in front of you, what can you now do to streamline them? As a first step, we would look to automate anything that possibly can be taken care of that way.

This may mean investing in the right tools for your business; for example, if you’ve been managing contacts via a spreadsheet and a scratched-together system with email, you might consider putting in place a CRM software which keeps all of that information in one place, and can automate sequences for you.

Documenting processes is also an important step if you have goals for growing your business or delegating more tasks to team members. This helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that team members can pick up where someone else left off. You reduce back-and-forth, or training time needed when processes are clear and accessible.

Lastly, be clear about who is assigned to what wherever there is a task that requires review or cannot be automated. This leaves nothing up to chance within your system.

Review processes

As a final best practice, to ensure that you keep your business running as efficiently as possible, review your processes every now and then. Sometimes you will find a new technology has arrived which will help to automate something that you couldn’t previously. Sometimes processes become obsolete or unnecessary (paper-based files have fairly rapidly been replaced by cloud solutions).

Sales workflows

Let’s talk briefly about sales workflows. If there’s any particular workflow that a lot of speakers need to improve, it would be sales. Specifically, often there is an issue with following up with leads and ensuring that people remember who you are. Sometimes this happens when the sales system is an ad hoc activity, or sometimes it’s because the workflow is not set up well, or does not have automation where it could.

What do you have to lose when you do things ad hoc? Well, speaking gigs for one! If you’re not managing your leads and continuing a strategic program of following up, then you are potentially missing out on a lot of opportunities.

An effective sales workflow is about smarter selling of yourself. It’s about having an understanding of the right timing to reach out to people and how to market yourself to capture their attention. The thing that a good sales workflow delivers is consistency. You can systemize your sales process so that your pipeline is kept busy.

If you’re looking for a place to start with assessing the efficiency of workflows in your business, we’d suggest that sales and lead follow-up is it. Don’t let those opportunities go begging!



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Final thoughts

At a glance, the very word “workflow” sounds like, well, work! In breaking it down however, it’s an efficient way to ensure that you have clear processes in your business that keep it powering forward.

A common worry for speakers is that they aren’t managing leads and contacts as they could be, which potentially means they’re missing good opportunities. A sales workflow might sound a little daunting, but it is a friend to the scalability of your business.

If you’d like to know more about a scalable sales process for speakers, we wrote a brief ebook on the subject. You can download The Professional Speaker’s Sales Blueprint for free here.

I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.

Announcing Deals v2 – Visual Pipeline and more

In a CRM, deals are typically our lifeblood. After many customer discussions, surveys and white-boarding sessions we’ve made deals in karmaCRM a first class citizen, are proud to announce deals v2!

We’re best friends now.

What’s it all about?

Visual Deal Pipeline

The new deals system comes with a number of enhancements. First and most importantly is a visual deal pipeline. I don’t know about you but I’m a visual person. I like to see my pipeline in simple visual display, which is why we revamped the homepage of deals to contain this format. If you love the list view don’t worry, you can still get to that as well.

You can drag deals to different stages and if they are won or lost, simply drag them to the won or lost buttons and taaaa-da, you’ve closed a deal! By the way, karmaCRM keeps track of won and lost dates so you can start to get an idea of your deal lifecycle and timing.

Deal progress

Within a deal you can now see the progress visually here as well. To switch stages, simply press the stage that you want to switch to. Once the deal is won or lost, simply press won or lost in the top right.

Deal stats

Right in the deals section you can switch to stats mode to see how you and your team are doing this week. This will give you the at-a-glance info you need to grow your company.

How do I get it?

If you’re on the per user plans, you can get access to this feature right now. Simply go to the deals page and press the black link where it says “new layout available”. This will switch your entire account to the new deals page. You can also switch back at any time if you prefer the old way of doing things.

Many many many thanks

Thank you to everyone who has worked with us to design these new features. We realize how important it is to have clarity in tracking your pipeline and are here to support you. Keep the feedback flowing as we treck along on the journey of CRM and business clarity!

I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.

Announcing Business Card Scanning

Do you ever end up with a stack of business cards from strong leads, but they just gather dust sitting on your desk? Us Too! The last time we spent 2 hours entering business cards into karma we decided it was going to be the last time.

We’re proud to announce our new business card scanning feature. This allows you to take a picture of a business card with our karmaCRM mobile app, then a new contact is created in your CRM from the information on the card. These cards are scanned by humans so you don’t have to worry about errors.

Once the card is entered, you can apply automations to the contact and even send them a thank you email. Fight back against the business card stack, and save time!

Business Card to CRM Card Scanner

How to use it?

This is a beta feature so please reach out to us at and we’ll get it added to your account.

How much does it cost?

This feature will be $5 per month to add it to your account for 25 scans. Each scan after 25 will be $0.25 a scan.

How do you like it?

Since this is a beta feature, we’re looking for feedback on how you like this feature, and how we can make it better.

I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.

Announcing Browser Notifications

Stop competing with your team’s busy email inbox and keep everyone in the loop with our new Browser Notifications feature. This has come from a few conversations with our users who often lose the battle for people’s attention throughout the day.

Enter the browser notification hero!

If you’re using either Chrome, Firefox or Safari, you should have seen a recent request to allow karmaCRM to send you browser notifications. As long as you accepted, you’re in.

What is a browser notification?
As long as you have karmaCRM open somewhere, a browser notification will show up in the top right hand side of your monitor (see above screenshot). This helps you keep track of things in karmaCRM even if you don’t have that tab open at the time.

What notifications are supported?
We support notifications for all of the following activities:

  • When a user is assigned
  • When a task or event is due
  • When a user is added to a note

We’re also working on mobile push notifications as well. Those are coming soon so stay tuned.

What do you think? How else can we help keep your team communicating and working together, we’d love to know.

PS: Notifications on events and tasks will only start working after today. These also only apply to non all-day events and tasks with a specific due at time.


I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.

Announcing Print Templates

If you print contracts or PDFs based on information from your info in karmaCRM, then this feature is for you. Now you can easily create PDFs from the data you already have in your contacts, companies, and deals.

This feature is for the Per User Plans only.

To create a template, go to your settings and then print templates

Screen Shot 2017-01-14 at 5.05.45 PM

To use the templates go to the actions menu of your record (in this case we’re in the contact record) and select “Print Template”.

Screen Shot 2017-01-14 at 5.06.19 PM

You now have the option to make any final edits to the template before it’s turned into a PDF.

Screen Shot 2017-01-14 at 5.06.35 PM

And VOILA, your template was generated and downloaded. Process shortened and time saved, for the win! Thanks to our customers for helping us develop this handy and time saving feature. We now generate all of our karmaCRM service contracts and NDAs using this tool.

Cheers folks.

I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.