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How to Start Your Speaking Business

How to Start Your Speaking Business written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with Grant Baldwin
Podcast Transcript

Grant Baldwin headshotOn this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I sit down with speaking expert Grant Baldwin. He is a professional speaker himself, a speaking coach and founder of The Speaker Lab, and the author of the new book The Successful Speaker: Five Steps for Booking Gigs, Getting Paid, and Building Your Platform.

Baldwin started out as a youth pastor, which took him down the road towards speaking within his church community. From there, he started speaking to audiences within the business community. He got to a point where he was booking 60 to 70 gigs a year, and now he shares the approach that he used to book speaking gigs with others.

He founded The Speakers Lab and wrote his latest book to help anyone who wants to get into speaking to find their niche, identify their audience, and craft a compelling talk that will keep audiences and event planners happy. If you’ve been thinking about kick-starting your own speaking business—either as a piece of your existing business or as its own venture—Baldwin has the advice to get you started.

Questions I ask Grant Baldwin:

  • How did you become a speaker?
  • Should everyone be a speaker?
  • If you’re not a celebrity, what’s the best way for you to make good money speaking?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • The first step any speaker needs to consider.
  • What two questions you should always return to as you shape your speech.
  • Why speaking for free isn’t always a bad thing.

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Grant Baldwin:

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

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Transcript of How to Start Your Speaking Business

Transcript of How to Start Your Speaking Business written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

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John Jantsch: Want to quickly send amazing looking emails to your prospects and customers in just minutes? AWeber is the market leader in making email marketing powerfully simple for a small business. Visit for a 30-day free trial.

John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Grant Baldwin. He’s the creator of the Speaker Lab and Speaker Lab Podcast, which I think I’m an alumnus stuff.

Grant Baldwin: You are. You are.

John Jantsch: I couldn’t remember what show was. And the online course Booked and Paid to Speak and then a new book we’re going to talk about today, The Successful Speaker: Five Steps for Booking Gigs, Getting Paid, and Building Your Platform. We’re going to talk about speaking today. Grant, thanks for joining me.

Grant Baldwin: John, thanks for letting me hang out with you. All right, I was pulling those up here you are on kind of a compilation episode, episode 100, but then had you on recently on episode 261. Yeah, you have certainly been a repeat guest on the Speaker Lab Podcast.

John Jantsch: Well, and of course I thoroughly enjoyed our time together. I just couldn’t remember if you had more than one podcast. I wasn’t spacing it completely. But since we’re going to talk about speaking, I think it’s probably valid for me to ask you how did you become a speaker?

Grant Baldwin: Yeah. If we go way back in time, in high school I was really involved in my local church and my youth pastor had a really big impact in my life. I was like, “I want to do that.” That seems really cool. He was a phenomenal speaker as well, so one of my favorite speakers. That’s kind of the path I was on. I eventually got a job as a youth pastor at a different church and that gave me a lot of at-bats. It gave me a lot of opportunities to speak on a weekly basis to high school and college students, and then from time to time we get to speak on the weekend and big church.

Grant Baldwin: Speaking is one of those things I just really enjoyed, just one of those things that came naturally to me, and felt like I was decent at it, and I wanted to do more of it and found myself in a spot where a lot of listeners may be or people that are somewhere spotted just saying like, “I want to do more, I don’t know what to do next.” And how do you find gigs, and who pays speakers, and what do they pay speakers to talk about, and how does this mysterious black box work?

Grant Baldwin: I stalked a bunch of other speakers, and I’m sure you’re amongst that list, and just try to figure out anything I possibly could. Started booking a few gigs here and there and eventually got to the point where I was doing a 60, 70 gigs a year myself and really enjoyed it. Then had a lot of people asking me like, “Hey, I want to be a speaker. How do I do that?” I felt like we have built really good systems and processes for how do you actually consistently find a book gigs without having the big platform or having a big name.

Grant Baldwin: I didn’t have any big following or anything. I didn’t have any crazy story. I hadn’t won any medal in the Olympics, or been cured of cancer, or landed the plane on the Hudson. Just I’m a white male from the Midwest and has had a pretty average life, so on paper there’s nothing that qualifies me to be a speaker. But we figured out what worked and how to find a book gigs. I started teaching that. That’s kind of the core of what we have inside the new book.

John Jantsch: Speaking is, maybe I’m in a little bubble here, but it’s a pretty hot topic amongst marketers. I mean, do you tell people everybody should be a speaker, everybody should learn to speak, should you just do it for money, are there other reasons to do it? I mean, let’s kind of start with who we’re talking to.

Grant Baldwin: Yeah. Nice thing about speaking, as you well know, John, there’s no right or wrong amount to speak. Both know speakers who do a hundred plus gigs a year. It’s basically 100% of their income and revenue and their whole business model. And that’s all they want to do. They don’t do want to do any consulting or coaching or anything else. I just want to speak. That’s fine. That’s largely what my career was early on. Then there’s other speakers who say, “You know what, I’ve got other things going, but I wouldn’t mind doing, I don’t know, five gigs a year, 10 gigs a year. But again, I’m just having trouble figuring out how to actually find those and how much do I charge, what do I speak about, how to put together a talk, how do I deliver?” You know, those type of pieces and questions. There’s really no right or wrong way.

Grant Baldwin: In addition, there are speakers who speak full time and they’re kind of a traditional gun for hire. You and I both done a lot of that. You come in, you speak, you collect your check, and that’s kind of the end of the transaction. That’s all that they you’re brought in for, and others to speak more for, let’s say, lead generation, for some type of coaching, or consulting, or marketing, or some type of service based business that they’re offering or operating on the back end. Yeah, it’s one of my favorite things about speaking is there’s, again, not a literally a no right or wrong way to do it, but there’s also just a lot of format that speaking can be valuable for any entrepreneur.

John Jantsch: If somebody comes to you and says, “I really want to get into this speaking business. I heard you teach people how to do it.” What’s the first thing you would tell them that they need to get figured out?

Grant Baldwin: Yeah. Inside the book, we walk through what we call the speaker success roadmap. It makes the acronyms speak, S-P-E-A-K. The first step is the most important step, the S, is select a problem to solve. Select a problem to solve. For a lot of people who are interested in speaking, John, you and I, we just enjoy speaking. Speaking is just fun, right? And so if we were given the choice of just like, well, who do you speak to? I don’t know. I speak to people. I speak to humans. I speak to everyone, right? Or when someone asks a speaker what’s the problem that you solve or what do you speak about?

Grant Baldwin: And when speakers say, “Well, what do you want me to speak about? I can speak about marketing, or sales, or advertising, or leadership, or consulting, or parenting, or sports.” It’s just like you may know something about all those things. You may be passionate about all those things, but you can’t try to run a business speaking on all of those things. The best speakers on the planet say, “No, no. I speak to one specific audience and I solve the one specific problem,” versus trying to be all things for all people. One of the things we talk about inside the book is that you want to be the steakhouse and not the buffet. The steak house, not the buffet.

Grant Baldwin: Meaning, John, if you and I were going to go, we’re looking for a good steak dinner, we could … Actually, you’re up in the Kansas City area. I ate at a good barbecue place up there. Is it Q something?

John Jantsch: Q39, yeah.

Grant Baldwin: Q39 okay. So if we’re looking for like a good steak, good barbecue, we could go to a buffet where steak or barbecue is like one of a hundred different things that they offer or we could go to Q39 where they do one thing, but they do one thing really, really, really well. Right? You don’t go there for tacos, you don’t go there for lasagna, you don’t go there for spaghetti. You go there because they do barbecue. They do steak. They do one thing really, really well. That’s the thing that you want to try doing as a speaker is not trying to be all things for all people, because probably whoever the executive chef is at Q39 or whatever your favorite restaurant is, they could probably cook any number of things.

Grant Baldwin: But they say, “No, no. I’m going to make a conscious decision that I’m going to focus on this. I serve this audience in this way. I create this one type of product for this one type of audience. I create this one type of meal for this one type of person.” There’s people who are like,” Oh, I’m vegetarian so I’m probably not going to go to the Q39,” and that’s okay. You don’t need to go there. Right? That’s what you want to try to do as a speaker is draw a line in the sand and say, “No, I solve this specific problem for this specific person,” versus trying to be all things for all people.

John Jantsch: Well, and I think frankly, that’s the message I give for marketing in general. I mean, people don’t want our products and services, they want the problem solved. The company that gets that and can communicate that is probably the one that’s going to stand out in a company.

Grant Baldwin: Yeah. Because it’s so much, I think, sometimes especially for speakers, I hear people who come to us and say, “Hey, I haven’t really spoke before but I’ve got a cool story. I was in a car accident, or I lost my job and now I’m successful, or fill in the blank thing that has happened.” I always try to politely say, “Listen, nobody cares.” Like, “The audience doesn’t care. You’re in the problem solving business. You have to bring some type of solution.” Your story, that’s great, but the audience is always wondering how does that relate to me? You overcame cancer, you climbed yourself out of a hole, you overcame this crazy thing. But what does that have to do with my life, right? So, you always, again, being very solution-minded, what is the problem that you solve?

John Jantsch: Let’s talk about style. Maybe this is kind of a personal bias on my part, but we’ve all seen speakers that, I mean, they go there, and they educate, and they get a point crystal clear, and they simplified things. Then we all know speakers who are all over the map, but gosh, dang, they’re funny and entertaining. Which one should we be?

Grant Baldwin: I don’t know that there’s necessarily a right or wrong, but I will say that when you’re creating a talk, you want to create it through the lens where the audience is always asking themselves two questions, so what and now what. So what and now what. Again, going back to what we just touched on, the audience is always wanting to know so what. That happened to you? That’s great. So what? What does that have to do with me? And now what? What am I supposed to do as a result of this? So if the audience is like, they laughed a lot, but then they leave and they didn’t do anything different, and there’s nothing that was impactful, and they’re kind of like … Again, I think speakers, audience members, we’ve all left talks where you’re like, “It was good, but I don’t know. What am I supposed to do now? Or what was the point of that?” You know? You always want to connect the dots of so what and now.

Grant Baldwin: I think humor can be very, very effective, but it also kind of depends on the context. You know, if you’re hired to more like an in depth training, technical type of talk, then humor can break it up a little bit, but you’re probably need to be a little bit err more on the education side. Versus again, there’s other times where they want more of a lighthearted motivational inspirational type message, and so you may be able to use more humor. Some of it just kind of depends on the context of which you are hired in the group that you’re speaking to.

John Jantsch: If you’re not Magic Johnson, for example, what would you advise somebody? I mean, what’s a way, or what’s the path, or the type of talk, or the type of groups to talk where people get paid the most?

Grant Baldwin: Yeah, so there’s seven different speaking industries that we talk about inside the book. You have corporations, associations, faith-based in churches, non-profits, government and military, colleges and universities, and education, K through 12, so elementary, middle school, and high school. Now, they’re each going to have different fee levels and they’re also going to have different supply and demand. There’s absolutely going to be some, especially like corporations associations, where typically you can charge more than others.

Grant Baldwin: But a mistake that I see some speakers make is they look at it purely through that lens, and it’s absolutely a factor, but it’s not the only factor. If a speaker just says, “All right, I want to be a speaker. Where can I make the most that?” In the same way that if you know, a college student says, “All right, I’m picking out a career. Which career pays the best?” That’s a horrible approach. Versus saying like, “No, no, I’m really passionate about this. Now that I have determined that and I’ve determined there’s a problem here and I’m an audience I can speak to, let’s absolutely maximize that and figure out how can I generate the most bang for the buck?” But it has to be more than just here’s the industry that I can make more in, so I’m going to pursue that.

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John Jantsch: Let’s go back to the let’s call it free speaking for leads. What’s a way for somebody to maximize that? There are plenty of places you can go speak for free, so how do you make sure that, and again, not selling product from the stage or coming off salesy. I mean, how do you maximize that?

Grant Baldwin: Yeah. I absolutely think there’s a misconception that speaking for free is a bad thing. And so, what I would say to that is that if you’re going to speak for free, you need to know why you’re doing it. As a speaker, you are providing something of value and so you need to receive something of value in exchange. Now, ideally that isn’t in the form of a check, but let’s talk about some of the other different ways that you can receive value otherwise. Right? You mentioned if you have some type of service, and so not even necessarily a pitch from stage or a sell from the stage type of thing, but I can think of certain events where … In fact, I had this past week, there was a friend of mine that had like a small little local mastermind.

Grant Baldwin: There was like a dozen people there. Is a small little thing. I went and did a little session on some of what we’re talking about here. The guy who’s putting it on, he bought a book for everyone there, so that generated a little bit of revenue. But then also, there were people there that have already reached out about working with us for coaching, or consulting, or something like that. It didn’t pitch anything. I didn’t do any sell from stage. Same with like this right now, you and I, there’s no financial transaction between us, but there’ll be people who will listen that will probably start following some of our stuff or maybe reach out about inquiring about working together in some capacity, right? There’s certain lead generation that can happen that may not have come actually from pitching or offering anything from stage. That’s one route.

Grant Baldwin: Another thing may be the way that you get better as a speaker is you speak. The way that you get better as a writer is that you write. The way you get better as there anything as you do the thing. But in order to become better as a speaker, you typically need audiences, right? One of the ways that you could use speaking for free is just to get the practice, just to get the at-bats. Because when you’re creating a talk, you’re creating an educated guess until you get up in front of an audience. I think this is funny, I think this will resonate, I think this will make sense, but I don’t really know until I get up and speak, so speaking for free, just for the practice can make sense.

Grant Baldwin: Speaking for free and certain industry events where, let’s say there’s other event planners that may be there who may be looking for speakers like you. I know that there’s events that I have done knowing that if I do a great job, and I know that there’s the right people in the audience, that this is probably going to lead to additional speaking engagements.

Grant Baldwin: Then one other one I would mention to you would be for travel. I’ll give you an example. There is a friend of mine who doesn’t do a lot of speaking, but he got invited to speak at something in Europe. He’s like, “How much do I charge? How do I figure this out?” We we’re kind of talking that through. They invited him to come speak over there and I think it was in Spain. They had a lower budget than what he would have liked. I said, “Let’s talk through how you can turn this into a European vacation.”

Grant Baldwin: And so, long story short, they paid him, but then also paid for his wife to come along, paid for her airfare, his airfare, covered several additional nights in hotel there in the area. He’s like, “All right, I was able to make a little bit financially, but I was also able to get a European vacation with my wife out of it.” Right? There’s something of value versus saying like, “Oh, they didn’t have enough, so, oh well I’m just going to go ahead and do it.” He received value in a couple of different ways there.

Grant Baldwin: I don’t think it’s black and white versus like you got to check or you didn’t get a check. Always look for ways that you can receive value beyond just the check itself.

John Jantsch: Yeah. When I was first getting started and I would do what I called speaking for leads, when somebody would ask me to speak at an event, I had a price. It was $2,500, let’s say. But because you’re a nonprofit agency, and I’m local, and I want to give back to the community, I’m going to discount it to zero, but here’s what I want in return. Quite often, that conversation went, “Well, I got the list at the end or I got to make like just a little pitch at the end to say, here’s what I do if you want to find out more.” I think that that sometimes people forget to negotiate, like as you said at the outset, because you are delivering value.

Grant Baldwin: Right? Right. No, absolutely. You have to kind of pick and choose when makes the most sense. I wouldn’t recommend like speaking for free, and they’re not going to cover any travel, and I just need to practice and I have to fly halfway across the country to do it. No, but if you have an opportunity there locally at a Toastmasters, or chamber of commerce, or rotary club, or something like that. I’m just like, “I’m just going to try and get an at-bat, then yeah, it may make sense for you to do that there locally.

John Jantsch: Let’s talk a little bit, and of course you have a whole section in the book that covers this, but let’s talk about the actual talk itself and what makes one talk better than another. Is there a formula? How do I know that I’ve got the message delivered? I mean, what’s the process for that?

Grant Baldwin: Yeah, so again, it can be intimidating when you are staring at a blank screen going,” I have some idea of what the talk’s going to be around, but I don’t know. Where do I begin? Where do I go?” And there’s not just this end all be all one way to do a talk. It’s not like, “I have to have an intro, and then I have to have three points, then I have to have a conclusion.” You know? You can certainly do that, but there are a lot of ways to go about that. Again, one of the things that we touched on there is always thinking through the so what now what, but also really beginning with the end in mind. You don’t want to get to the end of a talk and again be a have the audience be like, “I don’t really understand what was the point of that or where it was going.”

Grant Baldwin: Think of it like a road trip or some type of travel experience. You want to pick everybody up at the same origination point and you want to drop everybody off at the same destination, right? So thinking through where do I want to take them and what is the best logical path to get them from point A to point B. So, by the end of this, am I trying to get them to think differently, or feel differently, or act differently? I would say within this, one of the simplest things that any speaker can do is to tell a lot of stories. Stories are incredibly powerful, incredibly relatable, memorable, impactful. One of the simplest things you can do that has a lot of impact is to tell a lot of stories.

John Jantsch: I remember when I first got started, I was guilty of trying to pack too much into my talks because I was afraid. An hour? How can I talk for a whole hour? I put everything I knew into a talk, and about 30 minutes into it, everybody was exhausted. You certainly do learn that over time, don’t you, that you’ve got to actually give the audience the chance to breathe?

Grant Baldwin: Yeah, absolutely. You’ve got to kind of have some ebb and flow to it, so think about if you’re watching a movie, or a Netflix series, or something, you may have some intense heavy drama scenes that I got to really lock in and pay attention here. But after that, I need a minute just to catch my breath and to slow down. That’s where humor can work really well to just kind of break things up.

Grant Baldwin: In the same way, like in a typical TV show where they’re going to do several minutes of something, and they may have some different scene changes, but then they’re going to go to commercial, and part of it is from a financial ads perspective, and part of it is just to give the audience a mental break. Like, “Ooh, that was heavier, that was intense.” Or that was, “I just got to process that.” Right? Just you just said something that was really good. Just let me chew on that for a second. So yeah, learning to kind of add that the ebb and flow to the talk.

John Jantsch: Let’s talk about the performance part of it, so when you’re up there on stage delivering, I mean, there certainly are practices and techniques that help you get across a message, or let’s face it, make you less distracting while you’re delivering the message. How do you suggest that people get better at that? I’m not sure if you’d even use the word performance, but that’s what I would call it.

Grant Baldwin: Yeah. One of the best things that any speaker can do at any level is to practice. The best speakers on the planet that you look up to, you admire, you respect, you think, “Oh, they just scribble down some ideas on a napkin, they hopped up there, and they just wing it, and it’s just perfect.” It’s like, “Nope. Doesn’t work like that.” They spent hours, and hours, and hours practicing, preparing, rehearsing, going over their talk time, and time, and time again. So by the time they get up there, it does look like it’s just off the cuff. It looks like it’s just natural. But it’s because of the amount of time that they spent behind the scenes. That’s something that you don’t have to have any special talent or ability, you just have to be willing to commit to practicing.

Grant Baldwin: A way to think about this is if you think back to middle school, or high school, or college, or university and you remember taking a test or a quiz of some kind. You could show up and just kind of like, “Ah, I didn’t really study. I’m just going to wing it and hope it all works out,” And typically it doesn’t. Versus I’m going to spend the time going over my notes and reviewing and practicing and preparing. And so when I show up, not only does it typically go better, but I just feel more comfortable. I feel more confident because I’ve done the work going into it, versus again, just getting up there and hoping it all magically works out.

John Jantsch: How about getting training? Obviously, this is a layup for you I’m about to serve up. I mean, because again, practice is great, but in some cases practice will only take you so far, right? I mean, if you don’t have proper form shooting free throws, it doesn’t matter how many thousands you shoot. How should somebody go about getting training, or looking for training, or again, is that something everybody should invest?

Grant Baldwin: Yeah, so a big thing that what we do, our company’s called the Speaker Lab and everything we do is over, but the core of what we do is on the business side. Because to your point, if you’re a phenomenal speaker and yet nobody knows you exist, it’s really hard to build a business that way. Speaking is very much a momentum business. Your best product, your best marketing is a great talk. The best speakers on the planet and those that are booked a lot isn’t just because they’re great marketers and isn’t just because they pay attention to it, it’s because they do a great job on stage. There’s absolutely two sides of the equation. But again, if you’re the world’s greatest speaker and nobody knows you exist, you’re out of business, and so you have to be able to communicate clearly who it is that you serve, who it is that you help, what’s the problem that you solve for them, and have a plan to actively be able to find a booked gig.

Grant Baldwin: The problem that a lot of speakers have is like, “Okay, I know who I speak to. I know what the promise that I solve. I’ve got a website, maybe I have a demo video. And now I just sit back and I wait for the phone to ring. I wait for some things to fall in my lap or wait for an email or an inquiry to come in.” It just doesn’t work like that. You have to be proactive and continually work at it over time.

Grant Baldwin: John, you’ve been in the speaking industry for a long time. It is certainly easier for you to get gigs today than it was years ago, but my guess is it still requires effort, it still requires work, and if you turn off the work and effort, and eventually those leads and those calls on those bookings are going to dry up. You have to continually to beat that drum, but having a system in place of knowing what to do and how to consistently do it is what’s really important there.

John Jantsch: Let’s transition to all right, so we got our talk down. We’ve found somebody who wants to hire us. Once we get the gig, are there some things that that more professional speakers do to, again, make sure that they’re prepared, make sure that the whoever booked them is communicated with that maybe they follow up afterwards? I mean, what are some of the best practices for making sure that hiring you was a good experience as well?

Grant Baldwin: Yeah, that’s a great question. Think about it like if we went to a restaurant, right? Let’s go back to like a Q39 or some nice restaurant. Part of what you’re paying for when you go to that restaurant is the food, right? Absolutely, the food may be the star of the show, but part of what you’re also paying for is just the experience. So if you go to a nice restaurant and the food’s amazing, but the service sucks, and everything is slow, and the atmosphere is kind of, “Eh,” and just shady, and it’s just like everything else about it just lacks, it’s the same thing as a speaker who shows up who is amazing on stage, but they drop the ball in every other area. Part of what an event planner is hiring you to do is to be great on stage, but part of what they’re hiring you to do is to be really good to work with.

Grant Baldwin: And by really good, I don’t mean you’re a prima donna, or you’re this diva, or you need the jar of red Skittles, or you need this European imported water at a certain temperature. I just mean that you make their life easy. You look at it from an event planners perspective, and as a speaker, you’re an important part, sure, but you are one of hundreds if not thousands of moving pieces that an event planner is trying to think through. The easier you can make their life, the easier you can make their job, the more you can just really stay out of their way, the more likely they’re going to want to be to work with you, to refer you, to recommend you to others.

Grant Baldwin: As a quick example, when I was doing 60, 70 gigs a year, one thing we were always really diligent about was asking for testimonials and recommendations from clients that we worked with. I had a lady at the time that was helping me, her name was Lisa. Basically, I would work to book the gig and I would pass the Baton to Lisa and she’d handle contracts, and logistics, and travel, and yada, yada, yada. We’d get these testimonials and recommendations after the events, like, “Grant did awesome from the stage, Grant was worked great to work with, but man, we loved Lisa and Lisa was so good, and Lisa took care of everything, yada, yada, yada.” List and I always kind of have this joke of like, “Hey, if you’re great interacting with them and working with them, I don’t even have to be that great on stage, because you’ve made their life easy.”

Grant Baldwin: And sure, of course I’m going to do my best on stage to deliver, but part of what they loved was working with Lisa and the customer and the client experience that made it great. Part of what goes into that is just simple things, like whenever they send you an email with a question, that they don’t have to follow up a few days later, or they send you the contract, that you get that right back to them, and whenever they say, “Hey, please be here at 8:00 AM for an AV tech walkthrough,” that you’re not showing up at 8:15 with your Starbucks. You know? That you do what you say you’re going to do, that you are on time, that you’re punctual, that you’re professional, and that you’re just a good person to work with. That makes such a huge difference.

John Jantsch: Yeah. It’s just not that hard to stand out, is it?

Grant Baldwin: It isn’t it.

John Jantsch: Grant, tell people where they can find out more about the Successful Speaker and the work you’re doing at the Speaker Lab.

Grant Baldwin: Yeah. Like I said, everything’s at We have a podcast by the same, like we mentioned, that you have been a guest on. The new book is called The Successful Speaker: Five Steps for Booking Gigs, Getting Paid, and Building Your Platform. Like we said, anybody who’s interested in speaking at any level, whether that be full time or you just want to do a couple of gigs here and there, would definitely encourage you to pick up the book. The book is on Amazon, and Barnes & Nobles, and wherever you buy your books. Yeah, go check it out. The Successful Speaker.

John Jantsch: Awesome, Grant. Thanks for stopping by and hopefully we’ll see you soon out there on the road.

Grant Baldwin: Thanks, John.

Transcript of Learning to Speak Like a Pro

Transcript of Learning to Speak Like a Pro written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

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John Jantsch: This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo is a platform that helps growth-focused eCommerce brands drive more sales with super-targeted, highly relevant email, Facebook and Instagram marketing.

John Jantsch: Hello, and welcome to another episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Grant Baldwin. He is a speaker, author, blogger, podcaster, and founder of The Speaker Lab Podcast and Speaker Lab Summit, and so guess what we’re going to talk about today? We’re going to talk about speaking and how to get into speaking, how to become a great speaker, and how to get paid to speak. Grant, thanks for joining us.

Grant Baldwin: It is an honor and delight to hang out with you, John.

John Jantsch: I’d love to hear a little of your backstory. Anybody who is a paid speaker and now a trainer of paid speaker, what was your path to speaking?

Grant Baldwin: That’s a great question. In high school I was really involved in my local church and my youth pastor had a really big impact in my life and so for a while I was kind of like, “I want to do that.” That seemed like a really cool gig and he was doing some speaking and I felt like speaking was one of those things that I had done a little bit of like in high school and felt like I was decent at it. It was never one of those things that I thought of a like a career type of thing. I think for most speakers, we never really even knew it was an option. It was never on the career menu so to speak.

Grant Baldwin: After high school, I went to Bible college and then worked at a local church for a little while as a youth pastor, and so in that context I was doing a decent amount of speaking. I was speaking to the youth group on a weekly basis and then from time to time I would get to speak in big church on the weekends. I think it was really there where I felt like, “Okay, I think I’m decent at this. I feel like this is something that I could do.” In fact, in college, I actually worked for a guy who was a full-time speaker and kind of got to see kind of the back end of the business. He was traveling all over the place and speaking and I was kind of helping with like the travel and the logistics and the contracts and just kind of, again, the back end side of it. I got to see a little bit of like, “Okay, this is actually a thing. There’s a career path there.”

Grant Baldwin: After we left the church that I was at, I met a couple of guys who were full-time speakers and just sort of learning about the business and so I started kind of going down that path. I started just doing things that allowed us to… just kind of speaking locally for free or beginning to reach out to potential decision-makers and clients and would book one thing and try to leverage it into something else. It took me about a year and a half to go from zero gigs on the calendar to being able to do it on a full-time basis. To fast forward, I’ve been doing it full time for about the past eight years or so, speaking a lot in the education market, doing a lot with high school and college students.

Grant Baldwin: Today, we do a little bit more with entrepreneurs and corporations, but really, really enjoy speaking. Speaking is an absolute blast. There’s a lot of ways that speaking can be used for entrepreneurs and their business, which you could do it on a full-time basis, but you could also…. John, you and I, we both have friends who they don’t want to speak full time. They want to do five, 10 things a year, and by all means there’s absolutely opportunities for people to do that.

Grant Baldwin: I got to a point a couple of years ago where I was speaking… I think I did about 69 events or so, and it got to a point where part of the challenge with speaking is it just doesn’t scale very well, meaning that you are one person, in one place, at one time, speaking to one audience, and while that’s great and there’s nothing that can compare to like that 45 minutes or one hour on stage, the nature of speaking means that you have to leave your family. You have to go somewhere. It’s dependent on you being someplace.

Grant Baldwin: I remember early on having a buddy tell me like, “Speaking is a very high-paying manual labor job”, meaning that we get paid way too well to travel and stand on stages and run our mouths, but again, the nature of it is you have to… it’s a manual labor job. You have to do something in order to earn that check, and so I wanted to do something that was… I still wanted to speak, but just wanted to create more of a business that was less dependent on me.

Grant Baldwin: We started The Speaker Lab, which you mentioned, and so now we do a lot with training speakers and helping speakers on the business side. There’s a lot of people out there that teach on kind of the performance side so to speak of how you create and deliver a good talk, and that’s something that we teach a little bit on, but a lot of what we try to teach on is the behind the scenes like, how do you actually build a business of a speaker? How do you find bookings? How do you know how much to charge? What do you speak about? How do you connect with decision-makers? That’s a lot of what we do today.

John Jantsch: Well, and one of the things I want to emphasize, because we are going to talk about the business of speaking for somebody who really wants to be paid and maybe have that be their primary source of revenue, but I think there are so many reasons to look at yourself as a speaker, get better at speaking because I think it makes you a better salesperson, it makes you more confident in everything that you’re doing.

John Jantsch: For me, I speak at an amount that people would consider as a full-time job, but I do it just as much because we sell books and we sell courses and we recruit people to our consulting network. In fact, when I first started speaking, it was the greatest way to get clients. I would go speak to a group of willing participants, show them how smart I was for 45 minutes, and inevitably two or three would come up and say, “Hey, we want to hire you.” There is so many reasons to get good at this and look at this as a legitimate channel, even just for lead generation.

Grant Baldwin: I would totally agree with that. In fact, one of the students that we work with, he was telling me recently in the past 12 months he had earned $372,000 from speaking for free. I was like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. How does that even work?” He said he speaks for free as lead generation for his coaching business, and so sometimes there’s kind of this misconception with speaking that, “Well, if you aren’t getting paid you’re not a real speaker, you’re not a professional speaker”, and that’s not true at all. Like you said, John, you can use speaking to generate revenue in a lot of different ways, whether that’s through selling books, or curriculum, or training, or coaching, or consulting.

Grant Baldwin: I know for me personally, and I’m sure you’ve experienced the same, where I’ve had a few events where I’ve actually generated more in back of the room sales than I had from my actual speaking fee. There’s a lot of ways that you could use speaking to build your business beyond just the “You went, you collected a check, and you went home.” Again, that’s great. That’s one way to generate revenue and to build your business, but there’s a lot of ways that you can use speaking to market other parts of your business as well.

John Jantsch: I actually look at it as a channel, just like I might PR our advertising, quite frankly. Let’s get into some nuts and bolts. I’m out there. Maybe I have a company. Maybe I want to be a speaker, so we’ll keep it a little bit generic. How do you figure out who to talk to?

Grant Baldwin: I think there’s three key questions that I always challenge speakers to answer, people that are interested in getting started in the speaking world. First of all, number one, would just be, why? Why is it that you want to speak? Kind of in a related vein there would be, how do you see speaking fitting into your business? Speaking is one of those things that for a lot of people it’s kind of like, “Well, I did it. I spoke at a local Rotary Club”, or, “I spoke at a conference for a friend and just did a little workshop and it was really fun and I just want to do more of that.” That’s great, like it is absolutely fun, but being really, really clear about why you want to do this and what the win is for you.

Grant Baldwin: Like we were kind of talking about there, John, do you want to speak in order to sell more books? Do you want to speak in order to travel? Do you want to speak to find more clients? Why is it that you want to do it because why you want to speak will kind of help dictate and determine the context of the types of events that you should be speaking at. If you want to sell books, for example, there’s going to be some environments and contexts where it’s a heck of a lot easier to sell books through speaking versus others. Understanding that “why” ahead of time really makes it easier on the marketing piece later.

Grant Baldwin: Once you understand the “why” piece, the other two questions would be, what do you speak about? Who do you speak to? These are super basic marketing questions, but again, a lot of times speakers, we just don’t think those things through. Again, it’s just kind of, “I like speaking. Speaking is fun, so who do I speak to? I’ll speak to humans. I want to talk to people. Anybody that will listen.” “What do you speak about?” “I don’t know. What do you want me to speak about?” You cannot build a business that way.

Grant Baldwin: I think about it like a book. John, you’ve written several books and so if you had a book that was being published… I know you’ve got a new book out and people were to ask you, “Where on the shelves of Barnes & Noble would your book go?” Well, if you were to reply like, “Well, it could go anywhere, like any section, and it’s for everybody”, well, it’s really for nobody, so you have to be super, super clear of, “This is who I speak to and this is what I talk about.” Once you’re clear on why you speak, what you speak about, and who you speak to, well, then it’s a heck of a lot easier to find potential opportunities and events and engagements versus trying to just stick your stake in the ground and saying like, “I speak to humans about everything”, because in reality you cannot find speaking gigs that way.

John Jantsch: Totally, totally right on, dead on, but I’ll throw in the caveat that I tell a lot of speakers, if you’re just getting started, go speak to wherever two people will have you because you got to get practice. That’s where you’ll find what works, what doesn’t work. Don’t get so hung up on that, “If my leads aren’t in this room I’m not going to speak there”, until you can get to the point where you can do that I think.

Grant Baldwin: Totally, totally, and I think like a way to kind of frame that is from a marketing perspective, I tell a lot of speakers, “If I were to go to your site and I’m considering hiring you as a speaker and it feels like it’s for everybody and nobody, I’m probably not going to be interested in you.” I remember early on, because I was speaking a lot in the high school and college market, that’s really what I kind of based my marketing materials around.

Grant Baldwin: Now, if that meant that I spoke at an event and someone saw me speak and they’re like, “Hey, do you also speak to corporations or associations or this totally different demographic?” It wouldn’t be like, “Well, no, no, no. I’m sorry, I can’t do that.” Well, if something came up, and again, if it was an opportunity for an at-bat and an opportunity to speak, then by all means. if I felt comfortable doing it. I think that’s a key, too.

Grant Baldwin: You don’t want to put yourself in a position where it’s like, “Oh, man, I’m talking to an audience that I am way over my head or talking about a subject that I literally know nothing about.” If it’s in the vein of, “Yeah, yeah, I could do this and I could do a solid job”, then by all means do that, but kind of in the upfront marketing communication you don’t want to be the person that’s like, “I can speak about anything to anybody.”

John Jantsch: I want to remind you that this episode is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo helps you build meaningful customer relationships by listening and understanding cues from your customers, and this allows you to easily turn that information into valuable marketing messages. There’s powerful segmentation, email autoresponders that are ready to go, great reporting. You’re going to learn a little bit about the secret to building customer relationships. They’ve got a really fun series called Klaviyo’s Beyond Black Friday. It’s a docuseries, a lot of fun, quick lessons. Just head on over to, Beyond Black Friday.

John Jantsch: Once you’re out there and you’re starting to do it and you decide, “Hey, this could pay off. I could either get paid for this or maybe I am getting paid for this or I can get business out of it.” What are some of your resources… we could spend hours talking about this, but essentially, how should somebody go about getting better at it?

Grant Baldwin: Well, I think one of the best ways to get better as a speaker is you actually speak. This is the same thing that’s true with anything. You want to become better as a writer, you have to actually write. I’ve got three daughters, and so if I was teaching one of my girls how to ride a bike, we could watch TED Talks about riding a bike. We could read articles about riding a bike, but the way they actually learn to ride the bike is you have to get on the bike. The same thing is true with speaking, and so the more opportunities you speak, the better you become. I know the more comfortable you feel, you figure out what works and what doesn’t work.

Grant Baldwin: One of the kind of misconceptions with speaking is that professional speakers, they can talk about anything, they just make it up on the fly, they shoot from the hip, and the reality is is, John, we both know that they’ve got like one or two talks that they do and that’s it, but those talks are extremely, extremely polished. They are really, really dialed in. They have given those talks hundreds of times and told those stories hundreds of times so that they’re really, really focused and tight and it’s not something that they’re just kind of making up. Whenever you speak, you get some of that real-world feedback immediately from audiences. You start to figure out, “You know what? This part of the story worked really, really well and this part didn’t, and so I can tweak that and modify that.”

Grant Baldwin: Whenever you’re kind of staring at a blank screen and creating a talk, it’s all an educated guess until you get in front of an audience, and then you actually figure out what works and what doesn’t. I would start by trying to find some of those local events or trying to see what you could do for free, and even if it’s something like speaking at like a Rotary Club or a chamber of commerce or even a Toastmaster, just something where I’m getting some practice, I’m getting some at-bats that gives me the opportunity just to speak. Again, the more often you speak the better you become.

Grant Baldwin: I think today at this point, I’m a pretty decent speaker, not because I have some special gift that nobody else has, it’s because I’ve given hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of presentations. Over time, you get a better feel of what works and what doesn’t. You just start to feel more comfortable, and again, it’s true with anything. The more you can speak, even just for free, I think the more comfortable and the better you become.

John Jantsch: I think that “comfort” word is a big one because you see a lot of speakers when they’re first getting started, I certainly was this way, they’re very nervous and they’re thinking about what they’re going to say and whether or not the slide is going to work. That all gets in the way of you just being you, and so the more practice, the more comfortable you get. It’s such a huge deal.

John Jantsch: Let’s go to some practical things, too. Now, I’m starting to get some business around this. I’m starting to get known and people like my talks when I give them. They get highly reviewed. How do I go out and, as a professional, start getting that 2, 3, 4, $5,000 kind of paid gig? What are some of the tools out there for me to promote myself?

Grant Baldwin: There’s several different things that you can do to actually start picking up some business and starting to kind of generate that flywheel so to speak. Again, kind of going back to those three questions of why you speak, who you speak to, what you speak about, when you’re really clear, especially on the “who” question… Let’s say, for example, you wanted to speak primarily to accountants. Kind of a bonus fourth question would then be, where do those people gather? There’s a lot of existing events, associations, conferences, groups, clubs that gather on a regular basis that are looking for speakers. This is a really key point here, that it is much simpler to get your foot in the door with organizations and groups that are already looking for speakers versus trying to convince some organization that’s never hired a speaker that they need to hire one.

Grant Baldwin: It’s kind of like if someone… We’re recording this right now in the fall and it’s a beautiful day. I’m home here in Nashville, and so if someone came to my door right now and said, “Hey, would you like me to shovel your driveway?” I don’t have a need for that. You’re asking me for something that I just do not need versus someone that comes in January and it’s dumping snow. You’re providing a solution to a need that I have.

Grant Baldwin: If you wanted to speak primarily to accountants, one of the simplest things you could do is honestly just start with Google and start kind of just browsing around to figure out… looking up phrases like “accountants conference”, “accountants association”, “accountants conventions”, “accountant event”. I would look this up by state or region or province or territory as well. The reason being that is if you will look up like “accountants association” right now, you would probably find like some of the bigger national conferences, and oftentimes those bigger associations and groups are going to be bringing in bigger national speakers.

Grant Baldwin: When you start looking up… if you just looked up let’s say the Missouri Association of Accountants, they may not be able to afford some bigwig big name speaker with a $20,000 speaking fee. What they’re looking for is they’ve got, like you said, John, a 3, 4, $5,000 budget, and so they’re looking for a quality speaker but they can’t afford the $20,000 speaker. If you are someone who is within… I remember early on, I tried to look for like within a three-hour driving distance of where I was what some potential organizations and groups would be because at that point, again, if you find let’s say some association or conference or group that is bringing speakers in to speak to accountants and you are someone who speaks to accountants, again, you are providing a solution to a need that they have. That’s where I would start is even just using Google.

Grant Baldwin: Now, from there, there’s a lot of things that you can do in terms of finding repeat business, of building referrals from existing clients, of networking with other speakers and finding referrals. This is a big thing that a lot of people don’t think about, is they think speaking is very, very competitive and there’s a lot of speakers out there. The fact of the matter is, John, you and I are both speakers, but there’s no reason why we couldn’t refer business to one another because kind of this misconception is like once you or I go speak at an event, even if we do a phenomenal job, most likely that client will not hire us again for another three or four or five years because typically they have the same audience. The want the audience to turn over a little bit. They just don’t want to bring the same speakers back year after year after year.

Grant Baldwin: If I go do a great job at an event and they ask me, “Hey, we’d love to have you back in five years”, I want to maintain that relationship with that client, so why wouldn’t I go to the client and say. “You know what? I know you’re not going to have me back for a few years, but let me introduce you to my friend John. John would do a phenomenal job at this conference. You really need to talk to John.” There’s a lot of times where I have referred business to other speakers, other speakers have referred business to me because, again, we want to maintain that relationship with that client. If I speak this year and I refer John, and John shows up and he kills it, it makes me look good. I continue to build and solidify that relationship with that client.

Grant Baldwin: Again, there’s a lot of ways kind of long term that you can start to find gigs and book business, but again, I think just the hustle and grind of just digging through the haystack and looking for some of those needles there of groups that are looking for speakers to talk about what it is that you talk about to the associations or the groups that you would typically speak to, just doing that is a great way to get the ball rolling.

John Jantsch: What about agencies? Or I’ve run into a group recently called GigMasters, which is kind of an online tool or community that help folks get gigs. Is that an important step? Or is that really just more… is the agency route more just kind of personal choice?

Grant Baldwin: There’s pros and cons both ways. On the agency and kind of bureau thing, sometimes, again, another misconception here is, “All right, I want to be a speaker, I just need to find a bureau. I just need to find an agency.” It just doesn’t work like that. One of my neighbors here in Nashville is the President of Premiere Speakers Bureau, and he said it a great way. He said that, “Bureaus don’t create demand, they manage demand.” They don’t create demand, they manage demand, meaning if you can’t book yourself, why would a bureau be interested in you?

Grant Baldwin: Now, if you’re at a point where, “Man, I’m booking a lot of stuff and things are really going and hopping”, then that’s the point where most bureaus and agencies might be more interested in you. Again, if you’re someone that is like, “I’ve never booked anything on my own, I can’t get anybody to hire me, I’ll just find a bureau”, well, if you can’t sell yourself, what makes you think you think a bureau or an agency would be interested in you? Now, when you go to some of those third-party sites of, like you said, the GigMasters of the world, you may be able to find some opportunities there.

Grant Baldwin: It’s also going to be… it can be a bit of a meat market where you just have a ton of people… you may just hundreds and hundreds of speakers trying to pounce on a handful of opportunities there. You got to kind of sift through that, and so again, rather than, “I’m just going to wait for some of the right job listings so to speak to post on some of these sites”, I would rather be more proactive and going and trying to find some of those types of gigs. Again, sometimes speakers think, “Well, I put on my website that I’m a speaker”, or, “I posted a YouTube video and now I just sit back and wait for the phone to ring.” You cannot build a business that way. You have to be more proactive in going out and finding business.

John Jantsch: I tell you another thing that a lot of people don’t do that was… I’d tell you how I found all of my first, especially when I was speaking for leads, I would go to some of these conferences that were close by and go to the luncheon at the Remodeling Contractors of Kansas City were holding, go as a guest. That’s how you meet the program person because they’re there. They might not return a phone call or an email, but while they’re there and in the environment and somebody introduces you to them, then all of a sudden you are in the context of them trying to hire. It’s a great way, too.

Grant Baldwin: Well, yeah, and you bring up a great point there that one of the important things about the speaking business, and I think just business in general, is this is a relationship business. People do business with people they know, like, and trust. There are times I’ve done the exact same thing, John, where I may go speak and do like a free workshop because it’s something that’s within a couple of hours drive just to get my foot in the door. Just to like meet that client because you can exchange emails or phone calls, but when you meet someone in person, it just changes the dynamic of the relationship.

Grant Baldwin: John, you and I, we had exchanged a couple of emails I think and then we had met in person at a conference this past fall in the Portland area and it just changes the dynamic. When you meet someone in person, we were just talking beforehand of we’re both going to be at the same event in a few weeks, and it just changes that relationship when you’re able to meet, both speakers and potential clients there.

John Jantsch: Tell me a little bit about… obviously we’ve got people listening. If they’ve listened this long, they’re interested in speaking. Tell me a little bit about the training and the workshops and the courses that you offer at Speaker Lab.

Grant Baldwin: We’ve just kind of scratched the surface of some different things that are important for getting started, and again, for people on all different phases of the business of where they’re at. We do have that website that you mentioned,, the We’ve got a podcast over there with over a hundred episodes that people can check out, all types of topics and interviews and those type of things, but then also we have a free email course people might be interested in checking out. It’s a nine-email course, just walking through, again, how to find and book speaking engagements. If people are interested in that, they can find that over at, and right on the home page there they’ll give you a link to register for that.

John Jantsch: Awesome. Grant, great catching up with you here, and as you mentioned, we’ll see you in real life out there on the road.

Grant Baldwin: Looking forward to it. Thanks, John.

Learning to Speak Like a Pro

Learning to Speak Like a Pro written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with Grant Baldwin
Podcast Transcript

Grant Baldwin headshotLots of folks seem to be teaching public speaking these days, and with good reason. While becoming a sought-after and highly paid speaker may be a dream for some, learning to present your ideas in a more effective manner is a good idea for all.

My guest for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Grant Baldwin: speaker, author, blogger, podcaster and founder of the Speaker Lab Podcast and the Speaker Lab Summit. Baldwin and I talk about how public speaking can help generate revenue, both as a profession, as well as promotionally to increase sales.

Baldwin knows all about public speaking. Starting out as a youth pastor, he has since evolved his love for speaking. Baldwin has presented to audiences all over the country in conferences, assemblies, conventions and other events.

Questions I ask Grant Baldwin:

  • What are some of your resources and best strategies to improve public speaking skills?
  • How do I start to pick up business and land paid gigs? What are some tools you use?
  • Can you tell us a little bit about the training, workshops, and courses that are currently available?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • Why understanding your why, what and who is critical to building your business.
  • How practice really does lead to perfection—where to find smaller events that are perfect for practice.
  • What the pros and cons are to using an agency or bureau.

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Grant Baldwin:

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

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This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. If you’re looking to grow your business there is only one way: by building real, quality customer relationships. That’s where Klaviyo comes in.

Klaviyo helps you build meaningful relationships by listening and understanding cues from your customers, allowing you to easily turn that information into valuable marketing messages.

What’s their secret? Tune into Klaviyo’s Beyond Black Friday docu-series to find out and unlock marketing strategies you can use to keep momentum going year-round. Just head on over to