Archives for September 2015

How to Speak vs. How to Get PAID to Speak…


Move around the stage.

Stay loose.

Connect with the audience.

Speak up.

I have seen a lot of speakers over the last 13 years. Some are really incredible and dynamic. Some are…OK (and some are flat out terrible).

I have also met a lot of speaker coaches over the years.

Everyone has their favorite speaker coach. I have mine, too, but I’m not going to show any favoritism. The majority of these speaker coaches and experts focus almost 100% on “how to speak” or “how to communicate more effectively.” I went to a great speaker training this summer and was disappointed that only 1 hour out of 3 days was spent on how to effectively market your speaking business.

If you’re serious about growing your speaking business, those skills are undoubtedly necessary. You have to be a master of the stage. But…

I would argue that being a great communicator is only half of the equation.

You can be the best communicator in the world but have no idea how to get booked. You can be the most dynamic, articulate, eloquent public speaker in the world… and still, be living in your parents’ basement binging on Netflix and wondering why you don’t have more paid gigs.

You’d feel sorry for yourself every time you saw a speaker. Any debate, newscast, conference, or sermon will awaken the jealous rage inside you as you mumble, “I’m better than them…”

And this isn’t just about getting on stages, either. It’s about getting beyond the stage.

If you have mastered the art of public speaking but are gone from your family 250 nights a year… is that everything you dreamed it would be? What have you put on hold to master the art of speaking? One of my dear speaker friends used to be on stages 200+ nights a year. He racked up the frequent flier miles but missed all the birthdays and anniversaries you can imagine.

He felt like he was missing out on life.

It’s a tug of war that many speakers face. The passion and drive to get your message out versus the tug and pull of your home life. I remember sitting at an Applebee’s with a speaker as he called home to read a story to his kids before they went to bed. He had been on the road for over 2 weeks by then.

My Director of Marketing & Operations and former speaker, Cody, would record videos of him reading his young kids their favorite books and send them the videos while he was gone.

Thoughtful? Absolutely!

Better than being there in person? No way!

Let me be clear, I am not trying to make you feel bad about being on the road. There are a time and place for that. And there is a time to be home with your family, too.


Wouldn’t it be great to scale your message beyond the stage?

What I mean by that is developing digital (i.e., online) training, courses, or consulting/coaching you can do from home. Leverage technology to drastically increase your reach and scatter your message to a wider audience.

Grow the online portion of your speaking business in 4 steps:

  1. Create a course: This doesn’t have to be a “course” technically, but get your message and take it online. Convert a 60-minute keynote talk into 4 videos 15 minutes long. Make it a PowerPoint, a whiteboard training, or just stand in front of a camera.
  2. Record your course: You can use screen capture software like Camtasia, or get a $200 camcorder (or use your phone). Here at Speaker Payday, we set up a studio with some lightboxes, a camcorder, tripod, and lapel mic. It probably cost us $400 or less. Don’t overthink this!
  3. Build Your List: Create an opt-in form on your website, Facebook page, and anywhere people are engaging with your message. Give away something of value in exchange for their email address (maybe it’s the takeaway in your keynote, maybe it’s a handout that complements your keynote…something simple and valuable). For the tech side, you can use LeadPages or ClickFunnels, or WordPress plug-ins like PopupAlly. Immediately upon opt-in, make them the offer for your course (this is where ClickFunnels comes in really handy!). There are lots of templates you can use to create your opt-in and sales page for the course you just created.
  4. Deliver the Content: Once they opt-in to your list, deliver the content. This can be over the course of a few days, or a week. It’s up to you. We’ve found the key is to test, test, and test. I can tell you what worked best for us, but that isn’t helpful in your business. Change some variables (price point, look, and feel, etc.) and test it out.

There is a lot more that can be said about this topic. We dive deeper into this topic and a lot more at our annual live event called Reach Academy Live!

Best of luck,

Pete Vargas
Founder, Advance Your Reach


How I Built A Sales Team From Scratch

The phone was ringing incessantly…

I rubbed my eyes and looked at the clock. 6:12 a.m. Who could be calling at 6:12 a.m.?

I let it go to voicemail and rolled back over.

Another call came at 6:31. And another at 6:45.

Was this the new normal? My phone ringing around the clock?

It was after 7 am in the Central time zone and people were starting to show up at their offices.

…starting to show up and call me.

A few days earlier, I was in Texas and had secured my first big stage. Actually, it was 2 stages right next to each other on the calendar.

I was working with a speaker that had a message for educators, and we were thrilled at what these 2 stages would mean for our growing business… no more calling individual customers and trying to convince them to book us… we were going to where they were hanging out.

They were a Safe and Drug-Free Conference and a School Safety Conference, both in Texas. They were, in short, “dream stages.”

The events had gone really well, and a lot of people were looking to bring us into their schools. They loved what they heard at the conference and knew it would impact their students.

(Funny how the right message to the right audience at the right time can make all the difference. It can birth and grow an organization…)

Over the course of the next few weeks I had hundreds of highly-motivated, well-funded leads to follow up with.

I thought to myself, “this is really going to work…”

But I needed help. I had figured out how to crack the code of getting on dream stages but needed help on the administration and coordination side.

I had someone in mind to help me get started. She was sharp, a recent college grad, and I knew she needed a job. I sat down with her and explained the opportunity.

I told her how many leads I had coming in. Leads I couldn’t service. People were hungry for the message we had to offer, but there were not enough hands on deck to book, service, and administer them.

And, full disclosure, I made her an offer on the spot: 10% commission on programs sold.

For the short term, I knew I had enough leads that we could both work. I would continue to book “dream stages” and she could help service and book lead on the back end. She could also help build the systems (i.e., sales reports) and strategize around research for the next big dream stages.

She accepted, and in that next year she booked hundreds of thousands of dollars in stages… and also set up vital systems for our organization to grow.

Furthermore, I taught her everything she needed to know to book more dream stages. So she wasn’t an order taker for long… she quickly originated and closed her own leads.

This was working…

In the next round, we brought on 3 (yes, 3) more salespeople. They were all full-commission (10% of sales). They were also young, hungry, and anxious to book as many stages as possible.

Our team now consisted of me (Chief Rainmaker, unofficially), my first hire was still doing sales and admin, and 3 more sales reps.

Our main source of leads continued to be these “dream stages.” As this was the heartbeat of our business, we began calling these stages our “bread and butter.” This was what we went to when all else failed.

Running out of leads? Book a dream stage!

Don’t know who to call? Book a dream stage!

(Side note: this varies for your business. If your customers are entrepreneurs, then book yourself at entrepreneurial and business conferences. If they are teachers, book educational conferences… you get the idea. We will post our in-depth strategy on how we do this soon).

We had some turnover throughout the years, as does every organization. At our height, we had 9 salespeople on the phone selling over $6 million of stages… all for the same speaker. They had obviously grown beyond a “speaker” and had themselves become an “organization” with some serious traction in the educational space.


Here are the 3 steps to hiring and growing a sales team for your speaking business:

  1. Start with a booking assistant. This should be someone who is a go-getter, comfortable on the phone, can do some research, and start to build your systems. The easiest pay, in the beginning, is full-commission, and pay as much as you’re comfortable. 20-30% is standard, but if they help you get stages, you never would have had in the first place, start them higher than that. We cover this in a FREE training.
  2. Hire a motivated sales specialist. If your first hire was more admin/sales combo, make this one more sale driven. Someone you can train and mentor under you. Show them how to book the stages you want. Push each other; hold each other accountable. In that “round of 3,” I talked about, I had this guy that was a mini-me. He completely ran with the “bread and butter” idea and was eventually booking more “dream stages” than me. Well, almost. 🙂
  3. Rinse and repeat. Once you have the winning formula, grow your team as you are comfortable. For us, this is when we have generated too many leads and events to adequately follow up with. There is no set formula (though I wish there were). Start to divide up the country into regions, giving each rep a part to work with. (At one point we had multiple reps working all over the country… it was a disaster… everyone was fighting over leads and who “saw them first.”)

It’s definitely an art form. A lot of speakers today can get by with #1 on that list for a loooong time. That’s fine. You might not ever want a sales team or a team of speakers. No problem.

But a team of skilled assistants, researchers, and salespeople can help grow your MESSAGE and turn it into a MISSION. How cool is that?

Pete Vargas
Founder, Advance Your Reach


Why I Love Speakers (and Why I Always Will)…

I sat motionless.

I knew that something had finally “clicked.”

As the applause was dying down, I tried to discreetly wipe the tears that had pooled in my eyes.

From my seat in the front row, I had the advantage of none of my students seeing how emotional I had become. I tried to gather myself before I turned to face them.

I was in my early 20’s as a youth leader in the tiny cow-town of Hereford in the windy plains of the Texas panhandle.

About 3 months prior to this moment I had been strongly encouraged by one of my mentors to bring a specific program to my students and community. Trusting this man wholeheartedly I begged (and I mean begged) several local business leaders to give me the funds I needed to bring in this speaker. I earnestly believed that this speaker could make such a positive impact on our community.

Boy, was I right.

So there I sat at the end of the presentation for our students. I was in the front row, as I mentioned, and I was deeply moved. The message of kindness, forgiveness, and compassion had so deeply penetrated my heart; I was woefully unprepared.

I will never forget, as I spun to face my students, that many students were emotional. I saw hugs, tears, high fives. Some of the meanest, toughest kids in school were asking for forgiveness with tears in their eyes.

In just 60 minutes this speaker brought together our community; from the hallways of our schools to the chapels and churches in our close-knit town.

My first thought was, “This speaker did, in 60 minutes, what I could not do in years, maybe decades.”

My second thought was about my father.

My relationship with my dad was a rocky one. I don’t retain many memories from my childhood, but the ones I have are not pleasant. My parents’ relationship was tricky; they married and divorced 2 times. We moved around a lot. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents as my parents were trying to work things out.

The truth was that I was mad at my Dad. We hardly ever spoke. I went through middle school, high school, and college with little contact with him.

But, after seeing this speaker rock the stage with his message of forgiveness, I just knew that if my dad could only see the presentation that night, he would change. He would feel different.

I had a lot of family in Hereford (and still do), so we gathered everyone up. I had aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandparents ready to attend.

And, most importantly, my Dad.

That night the auditorium was packed. Over 1,000 people (in a town of about 12,000) came to hear the message. The impact was palpable. For the 2nd time that day the speaker rocked the stage, people were incredibly moved, relationships were restored… the response was overwhelming.

I hugged my aunts and close friends that were there. I couldn’t wait to see how the presentation had affected my Dad. I was ready for a hug, an apology, a handshake, whatever. I didn’t know what to expect.


But when I saw his face, my heart sank.

He was stone-faced. Cold. Like nothing had happened.

I couldn’t tell if he had just experienced an emotionally powerful presentation or was watching C-SPAN.

I was floored.

Actually, I was mad. I thought, “if that doesn’t get through to him, then nothing will.” As silly as it may seem, that speaker was my “Hail Mary” to restore this broken relationship with my Dad.

The auditorium cleared out. We shuffled back to our cars, and after a few more tearful good-byes we headed home.

The “Hail Mary” had fallen flat.

A few weeks later, my wife brought me a posted, stamped letter she had retrieved from the mailbox. It was addressed to me.

And the return address was… from my Dad? (The funny thing is that I lived 2 blocks from him, but he drove 4 blocks to go the post office!)

I cautiously opened the letter. My jaw slowly dropped as he told me time and time again how proud he was of me. He apologized for the father he had been. He said he was inspired by what I was doing in the community.

And that phrase that I had so longed to hear for many years… there it was in black and white… over and over again… “I love you.”

My wife and I held hands and read that letter again and again.

It was the first step towards a reconciled relationship with my Dad.

Now, it didn’t happen overnight. But it was the first step. Fast forward now, 13 years later, and our relationship is completely restored. We are closer than we’ve ever been to. He is not only an amazing Dad and friend to me, but he is also an incredible, loving Grandfather to my kids.

And you know the real kicker? A few years later, he found out that, at the age of 49, he was going to be a father again. And when his second son was born, he told me that he felt like this was his 2nd chance to be an awesome dad. And he is.


That night in Hereford I saw the power of a speaker. I saw the impact of a powerful message.

That is why I love speakers.

A speaker changed our community (we had that speaker back for several years).

A speaker changed my career (I essentially dropped what I was doing to get this message into every school in America… more on that later).

A speaker changed my family tree and mended some broken branches.

What message do you have inside you? What message are you taking to the world? Do you realize the immeasurable impact that your message can have on a person, a small group, business, town, or family?

Do you believe that your message can live beyond those 45 or 60 minutes you have on stage? Do you really believe that?

The truth is… it can.

Pete Vargas
Founder, Advance Your Reach