It’s true that many people who start in the speaking business love self-development. One of the reasons we love it is because we need it. Sad but true, and I was probably the worst of them when I started back in the mid-1990s. As with many emerging speakers, I suffered from the imposter syndrome, the fear of being found out as a fraud. Yikes!
If you have those thoughts, congratulations, you are human. Welcome to the club. Many people think they are the only one. If you have those thoughts, you ain’t alone, that’s for sure. So it is no surprise that it can be a challenge for some people to start asking for money. If it is a real challenge for you, I have an idea. Hold tight.
First, though, I see a bigger problem. The bigger problem is when some people start charging and have not yet earned the right to charge. They are told, “Just start charging.” Honestly, many are not ready. They think they can just regurgitate what they have learned from gurus.
Whether you are coaching or presenting, keep in mind what a business mentor of mine, Alan Weiss, Ph.D., says so brilliantly: “We get paid to improve the client’s condition.” So, here is the tough question: Have you actually improved the client’s condition? As your fees go up, shouldn’t the actual improvement also increase? Just because someone stood in front of an audience does not mean there was improvement. Just because you said some words, even with confidence, does not necessarily mean that the audience took away a new perspective.
I’ve seen people who have charged for coaching and given many hours of their time to a client. Afterwards, however, clients sometimes think, “Is that all there is to coaching?” They feel cheated. Why? Just because someone spends time with a client does not mean that the client feels they got what they paid for. One-on-one coaching can be an easy sale, but personal transformation and clarity are expected.
So what do you do? You start speaking and coaching people for testimonials rather than payment. As you build your own self-belief based on value. Value is based on improving your client’s condition. Once you develop a coaching eye and a presentation that consistently wows, you have then earned the right. No first-time presentation wows anyone. Even when I’m working on a new presentation I take it to many surrounding Toastmaster clubs to see if that story/presentation earns the right to be delivered in front of a paying audience. If it’s not working there, if value isn’t transferred, it’s not going to make the big stage for me. This may sound like work. It is. I love this quote by James Clear,
“Everybody wants a gold medal. Few people want to train like an Olympian.”
(FYI, he’s a great thinker and writer. I love his newsletter.)
Thinking and strategizing about coaching and speaking is not coaching and speaking. Planning is not either. It is the actual time spent doing it one-on-one or one-on-many that matters.
It becomes a whole lot more fun when you are actually improving people’s conditions. Why? Because they love you for helping and inspiring them. You are much more likely to hit the mark if you know what the mark is. It’s not your message; it’s their outcome from your message.
If you are a Toastmaster, start like I did. Find out who is in charge of the next conference, and put in a proposal to do a breakout session. Not sure if you are ready for that yet? Do a mini-workshop at your club, and prepare as if you were getting paid $10,000, not as if you were doing a workshop at your club.
If you want to coach, then coach 50 people, and find out what they think afterward. If they are not willing to give you a testimonial, that should say something. Don’t argue or beg. Focus on being so good that they would love to give you one. Why? Because you have to improve their condition significantly. Why do I say 50? You will learn from coaching every one of them. If you are going to start a business, then you need many testimonials. Some people won’t be a great fit, but that’s OK. You can’t judge things on a tiny sample size.
At the beginning of your journey, it is also less pressure without the payment portion. It’s still not easy. You must deliver, but the risk is much lower.
On the bright side, anything can be learned. I love Toastmasters. It has changed my life considerably. It is a very nurturing environment. Unfortunately, it gives some people a false sense of confidence, and they get a huge wake-up call when they go out into the real world. In the real world, the audience won’t automatically clap for you. Some audiences will be warm and loving, but the true pro can handle the toughest audiences and the unexpected challenges.
Commit to the process. Commit to improving many people’s conditions. It may take you a while to figure out how to do that, but set that intention. After you have enough experience, you have certainly earned the right.
Are you making any of these Top 10 Speaking Mistakes?