You may have the best speech in the world, but it does no one any good if you can’t present it to the right audience. So how do you get an audience? And how does a busy executive get booked? In this episode, Elizabeth Bachman gets into the nitty-gritty of booking with speaker brand strategist Whitney McDuff. Whitney specializes in the art of building public speaker brands, and here she discusses how to start building your brand and how to get people to notice and remember you. Tune in to learn more tips on building your speaking career right here.
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How Busy Executives Get Booked With Whitney McDuff
Speaking Gigs That Show Your Expertise
This episode is the 4th of 4 episodes in the Visible and Valued Training Series, where we are featuring Whitney McDuff, who is a PR specialist to talk about if you’re a busy executive, how do you get booked? She is known as the speaker’s secret weapon. She works with purpose-driven leaders to build visible, credible and profitable brands through public speaking and public relations.
She lives in Charleston, South Carolina, and she has won the Best of Charleston Award. Her clients have been showcased on stages around the world, recognized by Forbes, ABC, NBC, CBS, Marvel Networks, ESPN, Newsweek, USA TODAY and the Huffington Post. She also has clients who’ve got been placed in European and global publications.
Whitney likes to guide leaders to create measurable and meaningful impact by monetizing their genius. Whether they lack the confidence or the roadmap, she passionately provides both. She’s also the author of two bestselling children’s books, The Lollie Tree and Where The Lollies Go. You can check her out at WhitneyMcDuff.com, but best of all, stay online because she is my guest and we had so much fun talking about how do you get booked? What are the mistakes that people make? When you’re busy, how can you get help and get onto the stages that are going to make a big impact on your career?
Whitney McDuff, I’m happy to have you on the show.
I’m happy to be here. Thank you for inviting me.
I’ve been saving you up because I knew that when we were going to do the Visible and Valued Training Month, I wanted to finish off with how do you get booked. Before we dive into that, let me ask you what I ask everyone else, which is if you were to have a dream interview with someone who’s no longer with us, who would it be? What would you ask them and who should be listening?
I love talking to interesting people but if I had to choose one, I would say Leonardo DaVinci. Everyone should be listening to that interview simply because it’s hard to think of someone who has been more influential in nearly every aspect of our lives, from art to science to literature to philosophy. He was an anomaly of a human being.
I would love to hear his own insights on how he thinks about things and how he sees the world because if we all had a little more of that, the world at large would be a much better place. He seemed constantly curious. That’s a good place to be in but his other strength that is amazing was his ability to execute on these incredible ideas. They have influenced everything that we’ve done. He’s touched every mark of our society and will continue for generations. He’s a fascinating human and I would love to pick his brain.
That would be the thing you want to do, an early evening interview. Everybody goes over and opens up 1 or 3 bottles of wine and see what happens when you get your feet up having those conversations would be almost more fun.
I would ask him, “What happens when you wake up in the morning? What is the first thing you think about? What are you trying to achieve that day?” He accomplished so much in his lifetime. I feel like he is the true embodiment of somebody that maximized every minute of their life. To understand the mentality behind that, what were the day-to-day routines he had? All of those things that any of us could benefit from knowing more of because we look at the body of his life and his work. It seems overwhelming but when you think about it, he has the same 24 hours in the day that the rest of us do.
What is he doing differently? What are people like Oprah, Steve Jobs of the world, Walt Disney, all of these people who have impacted the world so dramatically, what are they doing differently and how are they doing it in the same 24 hours that we all have? That’s a question I think about a lot. He is the epitome of someone who has taken every second of his life and turned it into an influential moment that the rest of us can benefit from.
I certainly think one thing is that the people who are with us now in the 21st century are people who have also assembled good teams to help them. None are doing it all by themselves. I used to beat myself up. Look at all these people who are doing so much more than I was, I thought. When I got to look at it, I said, “These are also people who have help.” They get help and it’s okay to ask for help.
It’s a difficult transition for us to make.
I could do that myself, but is it worth my time? DaVinci had his disciples too. I would like to be in that audience to hear that interview. That would be fun.
That would be amazing. Who is your person?
I grew up fascinated by Queen Elizabeth I because my name is Elizabeth. I would like to have a conversation with her. The other one I’ve often thought of is if I were to have a dinner party, I would like to have 4 or 5 comedians who would be Molière, Shakespeare, Noël Coward, Oscar Wilde, those four.
The thing is, it would be the best dinner party ever or it would be the absolute worst dinner party ever because every single one of them would want to be the only diva. The question is whether you could get the four of them to bounce off each other or whether they would all sit in there for little corners in a huff and say, “I’m supposed to be the only star.”
I’d love to be there to find out.You can have the best speech, but if you're not with the right people, it's not going to have an impact that's worth your time or effort. Click To Tweet
Whitney McDuff, you are a PR expert and you’ve talked to all small places like Forbes and little groups like that. I’ve been talking all month about how to use presentation skills to raise your visibility. The best speech in the world does you no good unless you have someplace to give it. It does take time to find the right speaking gigs. If you’re a busy executive, what could you do to obtain more speaking gigs?
Let’s start from the very beginning because a lot of times, people are not asking the right question. We all think and we all want to get more visibility. I’m in this world of speaking and PR because I do PR specifically for speakers. We’re doing a lot of curating gigs for clients, all of that kind of thing, but it starts with asking the right question. Instead of saying, “How can I get more speaking gigs?” I want everyone who’s reading, if they have an interest in this, to think about a better question. What speaking gigs do you want? The second you start narrowing that down, life’s going to become a lot easier. People get very general.
Let’s say I want more speaking gigs. One, that’s overwhelming to even think about, but let’s say I live in Charleston, South Carolina. I want to be a TEDx speaker at nine nearest cities that have the TEDx event in Charleston, South Carolina. Suddenly that becomes a lot easier to figure out what we need to do to make that happen.
The first thing is getting specific on what events you want because you can have the best speech in the world, but if you’re not on the right stage, it won’t matter. It’s the same thing. You can have the best speech, but if you’re not around the right people, it’s not going to have the impact that’s worth your time or effort. Getting specific is the first thing.
The other mindset change that I see a lot that needs to happen with people is they need to be comfortable with understanding that they are a speaker and having that conversation. Your own network is going to be essential if you know how to ask, how often to ask and what to ask for, which goes back to that first question, what specifically are we looking for with speaking gigs? As you know, Elizabeth, you are a world-renowned speaker speaking snowballs. When you do one of them, the more you speak.
What people get uncomfortable with is kicking that off. It may be as simple as appearing in front of your social media audience for a few months and having these conversations and showcasing your expertise. This is very much on the PR side. What you’re wanting to do is constantly remind people that you are an authority in the space. Everyone has a social media account and that’s easy access to. You need to be on there constantly reminding people of your expertise and reminding them that you are a speaker.
I don’t know if it’s a pride thing or they don’t think about doing it, but reaching out to your network and saying, “I am a speaker. I speak on these topics. I would love to be connected to someone who you know, who needs this,” is very powerful and it’s also simple. Yet, people are not reaching out to their greatest allies, which are their friends and colleagues. That would be the easiest thing to do first.
What I have found is it’s important to be specific. What are you looking for? If you say, “Who do you know who needs this?” I don’t know who to recommend and who would like this but if somebody says, “I’m Whitney McDuff and I do PR for speakers. Who are the speakers you know who need help?” I would say, “Who are the speakers I know who are maybe not as famous as they would like to be?”
This moves into the power of leverage. I’m glad you brought up specifics about this. Your email lists and social media are a great way to communicate with people in your network. What I see speakers not doing enough is reminding people that they speak, what they speak about, and who they need to speak to. For instance, let’s say you have a speaking engagement at Coca-Cola. We need to be talking about that to your audience. We want to thank Coca-Cola for having you, that’s wonderful but we also need to reach out to your network and say, “I had the most amazing experience at Coca-Cola. This impacted them. Does anyone know someone at Pepsi? I’d love to go talk to Pepsi.”
Start thinking about the mindset, “HHow do I leverage this great experience that I had for either something equal or something bigger?” The other thing that needs to happen a lot is you need to look at people in your own space. Let’s say you’re a health and wellness speaker, and you want to get to more events. Let’s go on the back end and look at who else is in that space of yours that speaks a lot. Who are they speaking to? At that point, we know that these companies that are hiring that person have a budget for speakers in that realm. That starts narrowing down the field because if we’re too general, it’s overwhelming to find speaking needs.
If I’m Whitney McDuff, health and fitness coach, and Elizabeth Bachman, you are someone I aspire to be, I want to look at that list and start reaching out to them and say, “I know this is content that your audience loves. I’d like to show you how I’m different and how I do it.” We don’t ever want to belittle someone else ever who wants to say, “This is how I do it. This is how I can impact your audience. I know that this is content that you desire. Let’s talk about what it would look like if I came to speak to you?” Start small.
I have often said that the best place to find speaking gigs is from other speakers and to share. Once you’ve done the gig and they’ve hired you, then you say, “You know who your next speaker ought to be.” Be proactive about recommending people. I have a question for you. I used to think if you could find the podcasts that your ideal clients were listening to and yet on them, you would be getting in front of your ideal clients. The podcast world is so enormous. Would it be just as useful to be on a podcast that is more or less in the right area and then tell your ideal clients to come to listen to you?
Podcasting is amazing for a lot of reasons. As a guest, let’s talk about that first. As a guest, podcasting plays two roles. Not only are you getting in front of new audiences, but more importantly, you are reminding your current audience he knows, likes and trusts you, what you speak about and who you’re speaking to. It’s that constant subconscious.
When they’re opening up their social feeds and they’re opening up their email and they’re like, “Here is Elizabeth Bachman again, speaking on how to speak and get results.” You subconsciously help people learn how to talk about you, which one of the things you’ll hear me say all the time to people, “It’s not about if you can tell me what you do, it’s about I can tell someone six months from now after two glasses of wine what you do.” The way that happens is I have to hear it all the time.
Whether people feel like they’re driving people nuts, talking about themselves, if that’s some insecurity, I want to reassure people of two things. 1) We get 700,000 marketing messages a day. You are not being too much if you remind someone once a week what your expertise is. 2) You cannot help people that don’t know what you do. Shift that mindset from, “I’m talking about myself.” It’s not about that. It’s about the people that you’re helping and you cannot get in front of them if people do not know what you do.
I want to shift that mindset for people, particularly coaches and thought leaders. There is a lot of mindset stuff around that. One of my roles is to shift that and say, “No, you are called to the stage because you have spent decades of your life refining this skillset. People need this from you. Let’s not be afraid to talk about it and remind people what you’re great at because you’re helping the world be a better place. Let’s move in that direction.”
I was going to say one of the biggest mistakes people made, but you’ve already answered those. A lot of the executive women that I’m working with, they’re busy all day long. They’re way overbooked and they may have families. How can you get help finding the right speaking gigs? One thing I know, certainly from my clients and from myself, is that looking for the right speaking gig is one of those important but not urgent things. It’s easy to put it off. Suddenly you wake up and six months have gone by and you haven’t called any of those people on the list. There may be other people who are more disciplined than I am but that’s what happens to me.
We often feel like we have to do all the things. There are a couple of different ways to think about this. You can work on social media, refining that message and talking about your expertise that way. It’s more of you’re dealing with an influx at that point because so many people know that you’re the expert in this, but specifically for your question, we need to invite help. The problem that I see a lot is people try out the gates to send too much to the person that’s not making the decision.
They’re sending too much information to someone who’s not even making the decision. They’re doing all this work and it will go into the abyss. We’ve got to find the gatekeeper. They don’t need to know any details. They don’t care if these people are busy. We have to think strategically about what speaking engagements do we want. What is going to be worth it for us? In the past, what speaking engagements have you seen a return from? What can you utilize in your social media and PR plan to remind people all the time that you do speak? This is the other thing that people fall apart on.
Let’s think strategically. Let’s say you’re a thought leader and TEDx is where you want to go. We know that, so that’s a specific type of speaking engagement. What cities are we thinking about that are going to benefit us? We send a one-line email, “Amy, contact at this website. Amy, I hope you’re having a great day.” Who’s the best person to talk to about booking this event? That’s it. Don’t make it long, don’t give them your pitch. No one cares. You’re going to wear people out before you even get to the person who makes the decisions.
How do we find and pass the gatekeepers? That still feels like a lot of work.
It is not a lot of work to the more specific you get. This goes back to not being so general. Let’s think about precisely where we want to be and we’re looking at sending ten emails a week instead of feeling like we have to send 1,000 and that’s overwhelming. It goes to the back-burner and nothing’s ever done. If you can set up a system where we’re going to have a planning meeting with my assistant and think about where we want to go. My goal is to send out ten emails a week for the next three months.
If you want to have a speaking business, you have to treat it like a business. There has to be some commitment on the client’s part to be willing to take the time, to think about where they want to be and be willing to send those short precise emails and see what comes back next. 9 out of 10 times, people are super helpful and they will help get you where you need to go. That’s the place to showcase your expertise, share where you’ve spoken in the past. That’s one way.Let's not be afraid to talk about and remind people what you're great at because you're helping the world be a better place. Click To Tweet
The other giant mistake that people make that is super easy to course-correct is they get some piece of media or they have a small speaking event or a larger one and they never share it with their audience again. Like our team, we take on a client. Every single podcast they’re on, every single speaking event they do, every single media appearance, that goes into a rotation on their social media, in their newsletters. People are constantly reminded that this is a person who was pulled up as an authority.
That is such an easy course-correct and people do so much work to get more visible. They have the experience and it goes into the abyss. No one ever sees it again. That’s such an easy thing to start fixing. All this stuff you’ve done in the past, let’s pull it back out to the front because you most likely are having evergreen content, suggestions and guidance. This is a great interview. Introduce them in a different way.
Talk about evergreen content.
Evergreen content is content that is as relevant now as it will be five years from now. We’re talking about it now. How important it is for presentation skills and visibility? How important visibility is in advancement? That is evergreen content and those things are here to stand true. You for instance, if you did a podcast or a speaking engagement, that automatically, once it’s finished, we thank the event planner, we’d ask them if someone else who would be a great suggestion for another speaking engagement, we want to utilize the people who like working with us.
Once we’ve done all that, put that into your social media rotation so that you can remind people that this is happening. It’s also very flattering for whoever hosted that event because they’re seen again. They understand that you are committed to building a relationship with them. Everything comes down to having great relationships and great content.
The way that you do that is by being helpful. I love that suggestion you brought up about if you want to speak somewhere and maybe you’re not quite ready, have the audience or feel your content is ready, email that person and make a great suggestion for a speaker. Start building the relationship with the event planner.
You could say, “What was that date again? I’m already booked.” Maybe you’re already booked finishing writing the speech but, “I’m already booked. Could we try for next month? In the meantime, here is who you could use.”
A couple of other easy things that people can do, everyone needs to have Google Alerts set for your industry and phrase call for speakers. Every single day in my inbox, I get a call for speakers, Google Alerts, and you need to make those specific to your industry. That is a zero-effort way to understand what’s going on in your sector. You’d take a quick minute, look as it’s something you want to pursue. Great. If not, you can move on. That takes 30 seconds out of your day. There are a lot of great websites that curate speaking gigs. I’m sure that you’ve spoken about several of them, but there are places like SpeakerMatch.
I have not spoken about them. Being on SpeakerHub, SpeakerMatch or something, I know some people for whom it’s been great and I know a lot of people who’ve never heard anything since.
It depends on what type of gigs you’re looking for and how you’re going to utilize them. For instance, let’s say there’s a large summit. You’re not going to get paid for it but it’s that the right audience you want to get in front of because you should never have a speaking engagement, a podcast interview or a media interview where you don’t make money in some way. What I mean by that is there’s either a great call to action that people are coming over to you or you are using that interview to remind your audience that you’re the authority and get booked for something paid in that way.
One of the things that a lot of people don’t think about is maybe the audience is not your audience, but the other speakers or the organizers are. One of the reasons for saying yes to a speaking gig is if the organizers are people who could get you to the speaking gig you want. I have been caught by occasion doing speaking gigs for the sake of one person. That was the one person I wanted to reach. Anybody else who I could reach would be great, but I wanted that one person to see that I could do a good job. That’s another way to think of it. Let me go back to catch on something where you said about being paid. How do you find the paid speaking gigs?
A great way to do that is to look to the other people who were speaking in your space. If they are tied to a speaker’s bureau, that’s amazing because 9 out of 10 times, a speaker’s bureau will list their fee range. You’re going to know that John Green, if he spoke at a conference that you wanted to if you look at his speakers for your website and it’s $10,000 to $15,000, we know that John is getting on that stage for $10,000 to $15,000. That is probably the budget that the company has for that rate.
It’s doing a little bit of investigative work that isn’t hard but it can be very meaningful in not leaving money on the table. A lot of things that people do that I’m sure you have seen is they negotiate against themselves. You should always enter any conversation around speaking and what budget do you have reserved for speakers.
You need not the precedents that there is that expectation and people wait to do that, or they start negotiating against themselves. My normal fee is $5,000, but for you, I’ll do it for $2,500. That drives me insane, like, “Don’t do that. They didn’t even come back. What if their budget was $10,000?” Thinking about where to find these gigs. We need to think about destination management companies. SHRM, depending on your industry.
It is the Society for Human Resources Management for my international readers.
At these large hotel conferences, 95% of those speakers are paid. You can be thinking about this all the time. If you’re traveling on vacation, go to your hotel and see what conferences are hosted there. That’s a great way to understand, “We’ll have to come back here.” You can develop a relationship right there in ten minutes with the event planner. You’re already at the hotel.
It’s changing your mindset and understanding that everything is a potential opportunity to meet someone who could connect you to a speaking opportunity or get to an event that needs speakers. The fastest way aside from a curated service that does it is looking at the competition and what their fees are, so you understand what kind of money we’re working with. Your celebrity speakers are getting anything from $80,000 to $150,000 a gig. Those are celebrity speakers. That’s a whole different thing.
If they had Bill Clinton last time, they might not be spending that money on you.
It’s work that if you happen to have an assistant. Once you layout specifically where you want to be, instead of, “I want speaking gigs,” that is something that an assistant can help with to free up your time to be developing the relationships that you need to, to get you on that stage. That’s where your time would be best.
To be transparent, you have been helping me find more podcasts. Assume it will take 4 to 6 weeks for you to know enough about each other to find the right ones, especially if your topic is not the standard topic at all. I’m in a specific niche and I have many speaker friends who speak to a different audience. People are saying, “Come on my podcast.” I go, “Yes, but that’s not my audience.” People who say, “Elizabeth, you have a podcast. I have a great person for you.” I go, “You should know who my audience is.”
There are a couple of podcast booking companies that I have written back to and said, “I’d be happy to talk about your people, but you need to do your homework.” Sometimes they never hear from me again, but there are a couple of groups or one who will say, “I know who you’re looking for. Who are the people who also address your audience, who would be a good fit for your show?”
A little insider trick, going back to how to leverage the competition. The misconception that people have about speakers’ bureaus is they do not create demand. They manage demand. Anyone who was with a speaker’s bureau needs someone to manage the demand that’s already happening. That’s a great opportunity to go on a speaker’s bureau.
Don’t look for it for yourself. Look and see who’s in my category, who is speaking for the same fees that I am wanting to speak for? Where are they speaking? That’s going to be listed. That’s a fast way to get a direct list and then give that to your assistant and start outreach. Who’s the person that I need to talk to about speaking at your company? That is a lightning-quick way to get a curated list.
Another thing about working with an assistant is that you’ve got to take the time to train that assistant. That assistant needs to learn what you’re doing. I have three assistants who do a lot of work for me. One of them is specifically working on booking. It took us three months to get it all figured out. Now she’s great. You have to put in the time.Once you hit that runway and really get a cadence, speaking truly does become easy. It's just about managing at that point. Click To Tweet
If you put in the time in the beginning, it will start to snowball. That’s the thing about speaking, PR and all of it. It starts to snowball once you hit that runway and get a cadence. It truly does become easy. It’s about managing at that point.
Whitney McDuff, how can we find out more for our readers who want to get some help or have a conversation with you about how to get that great speech out there?
You can find me anywhere on the internet at WhitneyMcDuff.com. All my social handles are @WhitneyMcDuff. I’m easy to find, that is by design. If you want to have a conversation, I would love to help people get their message into the world.
Thank you so much for having been my guest on the show, especially as the crowning finale to the Visible and Valued Training Month. Let me remind you that if you are curious about how your presentation skills are doing, you can take our free assessment at SpeakForResultsQuiz.com. That’s where you can see where you are strong in your presentation skills and where perhaps a little support would get you the results you need and the recognition you deserve. I’ll see you at the next one.
- The Lollie Tree
- Where The Lollies Go
- @WhitneyMcDuff – Instagram