September 22, 2017

Professional Speaker Interview Series: Joel Block Talks About Maintaining Focus, Charming the Audience, and Collaborating with Other Speakers

BY Caitlin Delohery IN Professional Speaking 0 Comment

Joel Block

We sat down with some professional speakers and asked them about the challenges and keys to success in their profession. Joel Block discusses maintaining focus, charming the audience, and collaborating with other speakers.  

What are your top day-to-day challenges?

The hardest thing about my day is keeping focus. A million distractions come through: email dinging, Facebook ringing, text messages going off all the time. I have a hard time focusing. I’m spread a little thin, and that’s a bit of a problem.

What the secret to your success as a professional speaker?

I would tell a speaker early in their career to get really, really focused on a niche. Be an expert. It can only help you. When you need a doctor or a plumber, you want an expert. The more of an expert you are, the more successful you will be. People invite me to come and talk to them because I am an expert.

What’s your biggest career accomplishment?

I built a company that I sold to a Fortune 500 company.

What online resources do you turn to for industry information and career inspiration?

My favorite ones are the NSA member Facebook groups. I’d tell any early-stage speaker to get involved with NSA. Join a local chapter. They should take the training offered by the local chapter and by the NSA academy programs. Be around other professional speakers. The only place you can do that is NSA. Remember, Toastmasters is about acquiring the skill of speaking, but NSA is about monetizing that skill.

What are your predictions for the biggest trends in professional speaking in 2017?

Except for a few of our really great keynoters, I don’t really think of professional speaking as a business. If it is, the business model is really poor. Most speakers scramble around to get a piece of work, then they scramble again for the next gig. That is a really bad way to take care of your family. You want to build a company, an enterprise, that does something and you can use speaking to support that.

There are two ways to make money. You can make money from speaking as keynote, a training, a breakout session. Or you can get paid because of speaking. That would be if I go to speak somewhere, and because of that speech, people buy other services from me. More and more, people are using speaking to soft sell and make their audience aware of opportunities, problems, and solutions.

As people begin to understand that this is really a weak business model, more and more people are going to collaborate to fill one another’s gaps. The number of people who make a substantial living from full-time keynote speaking is low but the number of people who make part of a good living from speaking is high. So supplement speaking with other correlated activities and you have a winning formula.

I prefer speaking from a marketing perspective. When you speak to sell advisory or other services that companies need, then you’re likely to be hired, both for those advisory services and for more speaking. The more you speak, the more you get to speak.

I don’t get paid for keynotes. I get paid by monetizing an audience.  

I refer to myself as a professional speaker, but I view it more as a skill than a livelihood. When I say that, I mean that I’m a very good speaker. I do make a sizeable amount of revenue of speaking. But I don’t make it the way keynote speakers do.

There are people who are much better speakers than I am. But I speak with enormous authority. I’m an expert in a couple of areas related to economics and finance. The people who want to hear what I have to say hang on every word, and they generally haven’t heard what I talk about anywhere else. I pull back the curtain on how things work in the money business. Many people haven’t been exposed to how things work. No one really talks about it, it’s not reported in the media. And the people I speak to really like it.

I run a seminar company, and twice a year I run a program for CPAs, attorneys, and investment bankers. They come to learn how to be in the same aspect of the money business that I’m in. That business drives significant amount of revenue. Then there are advisory services that drives even more.

Selling seats to my seminars, frequently starts with meeting large groups of people through a speech. What I use the speech to do is pick the right people out of the audience. I call it my “snake charmer” technique. Speaking is a marvelous way of pulling perfect prospects from a crowd.

Also, I don’t see it as a trend so much as a need, but speakers should collaborate more together. There are lots of solopreneurs out there doing speaking by themselves. They’d do better if they worked together. If they don’t overlap at the same skills, they can create a pool of people who work together and help each other.

The NSA chapters collaborate and share ideas to help make everybody better. This is an industry where sharing helps, it doesn’t hurt. It’s better for everyone to share and learn from each other, rather than fight and learn for yourself.

Looking for more on professional speakers? Check out our entire interview series.

Caitlin got her roots in inbound marketing before it got its name. As a teenager in the 90s, she promoted her independently published magazines by writing about the importance of indie publishing all over AOL. Now, Caitlin is passionate about moving people and society forward. She follows thought leaders in the National Speakers Association, the staffing industry, and all human rights movements. She loves learning and helping people learn.

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