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Aug. 2, 2022

176. Leverage Speaking to Create Influence, Impact, and Income with Grant Baldwin

How to use your unique voice and message to inspire others, improve their lives, and increase your earnings.

How to use your unique voice and message to inspire others, improve their lives, and increase your earnings.



As founder and CEO of The Speaker Lab, Grant Baldwin has helped thousands of people build successful and sustainable speaking businesses.  

Over the last 15 years Grant has become a sought-after speaker, podcaster, author, and accomplished entrepreneur. 

Featured on the Inc. 5000 list, Forbes, Inc. Entrepreneur, and the Huffington Post, he has committed his expertise and insight to equipping others to share their meaningful message with the masses. 










It's okay to speak for free as long as you know why you're doing it. And so you're providing something of value and so you want to get something of value in exchange for that. And that may come in the form of a check. It may come in the form of a variety of other things.


Welcome everybody. I'm excited today to have, have Grant Baldwin with us. He's going to talk about how you can leverage part time speaking to create influence, impact and income in your business. Thanks so much for joining us today, Grant.


Wade, thanks for letting me hang out with you, man. I appreciate it.


Absolutely. Grant is the CEO and founder of the Speaker Lab. He's helped thousands of people build successful and sustainable speaking businesses over the last 15 years. He's become a sought after speaker, podcaster author and accomplished entrepreneur. Featured on the Inc 5000 list. Forbes, Inc Entrepreneur and the Huffington Post. He's committed his expertise and insight to equipping others to share their message and their meaningful message with the masses. So Grant, maybe just share a little bit how you got started. What got you so dialed in on speaking as opposed to other ways of doing things.


Yeah, so way back, if we go way back in the time machine, when I was in high school, I was actually really involved in my local church and my youth pastor had a really big impact on my life. And for a long time I was kind of like, I want to do that. That seems like a really cool profession. And part of it was like, I felt like if I could make the kind of impact on other people that he had made on me, like, that seems like a really rewarding, fulfilling type of career and professional. It's kind of the path I was on. One of the things about that was the opportunity to speak. He was speaking on a regular basis as you passed away. He was a very phenomenal speaker. And actually when I was in college, I worked for a guy who was a full time speaker. And so I kind of helped a little bit behind the scenes with him on kind of the contracts and booking and travel and logistics, that sort of thing. So I kind of got a little sense of like, okay, there's a thing here. I don't know what that looks like or what that means, but there's something there.


So actually I went to Bible college, was a youth pastor for a little while, and as a youth pastor, I had a lot of opportunities to speak as well. And speaking is just one of those things that I felt like I was decent at it, I wasn't the best at it, I wasn't the worst at it, but I was like, I enjoy this, there's something there and I enjoy doing it. I look forward to it. I'm getting good feedback from people and so I was there for a little while, and then when I left that, I spent the next six to twelve months just trying to figure out, okay, what do I want to do now? What do I want to do with my life? And the thing I kind of kept coming back to speaking again. I was like, I think I could do this. I want to give this a shot. But I just had no idea. How do you find gigs and how much you charge? What do you speak about? Who hire speakers? How does this mysterious black box of the speaking industry work? And thankfully, today there's a lot of resources available, and we try to provide a lot of those resources, but at the time, there just wasn't a lot.


So I was emailing and stalking other speakers and just harassing them, just like, tell me what to do. And I kind of felt like I had the potential, but I needed the plan. I had the potential, but I needed the plan. Meaning I felt like I was a decent speaker, but I just need someone to show me, like, how does the business of speaking work? And so eventually I figured a few things out, started booking some gigs here and there. And then over the next several years, I got to a point where I was doing 60 or 70 gigs a year and was traveling around, making a full time living. Loved it. It was awesome. And at the time, I just had a lot of people who are asking me, like, hey, I want to be a speaker. How would I go about doing that? And so we started doing some teaching, coaching, training courses around that. And then eventually that's kind of evolved into what we do today, which is called the Speaker Lab, where we teach people how to find and book paid speaking gigs. So, yeah, that's the background and a snapshot there.


Awesome. That's cool. Yeah, there's so much that there's actually a few similarities. I was involved in some new stuff and leadership and stuff like that. And one of the things I always loved about it, which sounds you do, is the feedback from the crowd. Whether it's a small it doesn't have to be the crowd. Like Wembley Stadium, just like five to ten people just getting feedback, being able to interact with them. One of the things let me think.


Back on that real quick, because you think about, like, a podcast right now. Like, you and I may be talking, there may be thousands of people that are listening to this at any given point, but we have no idea. Are they listening? Are they engaged? Are they not engaged? If someone is reading a blog post or a book, the author of a book never gets to watch someone read their book. Right? Whereas as a speaker, you get that real time feedback, and actually that's what makes you a better speaker, because whenever you're creating a talk, you're creating a presentation, you're making an educated guess. I think this is funny. I think this will make sense. I think this will resonate. I think this is sad. I think people will laugh, but I don't know until I get up in front of the audience and there's going to be times where you deliver something you're like, well, that didn't work at all or nowhere near what I anticipated. Or maybe you throw a line out like, I got a way better reaction than I would have anticipated. I got a mental note. Make sure I use that again in the future.


So, yeah, that's definitely one of the fun things about speaking is that you do get that real time feedback that ultimately helps you to improve your craft.


Yeah, that's been so huge for me. And I think of the times where as much as it's nice to constantly be doing new things and seeing new things, like you said, when you own it on the top, like a sales pitch, like anything else, when you've said something a number of times and you start realizing, okay, that worked. That didn't work. I know. Just even in coaching, you sports. I see that a lot. What I want to do and I asked you ahead of time, you said, Great, let's shape it this way so I know if people want to do full time speaking, they can go check out your speaker lab stuff, and they'll get great resources there. But what I wanted and I asked you to do, to speak today is to that person, because I'm this person too, and I know a lot of my audience is this where, hey, I feel comfortable speaking, but I'm not sure I either want to or let's even say I don't have the time to do it full time. And yet part of me is realizing whether it's because of YouTube podcast TikTok. I'm realizing, yes, I want to position myself and, yeah, why not?


So let's say for that person who wants to do it part timeish, maybe if you'd shape a little, like, what would that look like, first of all? And even just, I know there's the basic questions of what would you talk about? And a lot of people might say, well, something about with what they work with, but maybe share a little bit for that person who's thinking, you know what, this could be something that maybe it would be full time later, or maybe I don't see where it could be full time, but I'd like to ease my way into that. What can that look like to where they can get some feedback, they can get some exposure and not have it to be such a high pressure, oh my gosh, if this doesn't work out, then I just wasted so much time.


Yeah, well, first of all, that it's totally fine to do that, right? You don't have to. Like some people, when I say I was doing 60 or 70 gigs a year, some people hear that and be like, that sounds amazing. And some people are like, that sounds awful. That's fine. I think one of the great things about speaking is there's not necessarily like a one size fits all, meaning that there are speakers I know who do over 100 gigs a year and speakers who do 20 gigs a year and speakers who do two gigs a year. And again, it's not that one's better or worse than another. You just have to decide what makes sense for you. So before we get into the kind of the blocking and tackling of it, I would really encourage people to think about why is it that you want to speak, what's the win for you? And that can look in a lot of different ways. I'll give you some examples. One, maybe from a business standpoint, meaning like, let's say that you are doing you offer some type of product or service on the back end. Speaking can work really well for lead generation because whenever we talked earlier about some other different mediums where content can exist, whether that's going to be a podfest or a book or a blog or YouTube video, but there's nothing that compares to being with people in person.


And so if someone has been in your audience listen to you give a presentation for 30, 45, 60 minutes and they have a good idea like, excuse me, can I trust this person? Do I believe this person. Do I like this person. Is this person knowledgeable? And you really pick up on that on an in person environment. And so if you are presenting on something and then it leads to your product or service and the audience is a good fit for that, there's going to be some percentage of the audience. It's like, hey, everything you just talked about, can we hire you to either come implement or boy, it's just me here from my company, but I really wish my team could hear this. Can you come speak to them or can you train us on this or do you have additional resources? And you may have given like a 1 hour talk, but there's really like a two day thing that you could do to really go in the weeds on implementation. So that is a really good model that a lot of speakers use is they use speaking more as lead generation for their business.


So I'll give you a quick example of this. There's a speaker we worked with recently and they were doing something like 40, 50 gigs a year. And all of the gigs were free, but they were doing it as lead generation for their coaching business. And so their coaching business, they were generating several hundred thousand dollars a year. But the whole thing was built upon lead generation from free gigs. So I think that's also important to note. I think there's a misconception that people think about whenever it comes to compensation for speaking. Like, well, I'm busy. I have a lot going on. I don't want to speak for free. I always say it's okay to speak for free as long as you know why you're doing it. And so you're providing something of value, and so you want to get something of value in exchange for that. And that may come in the form of a check. It may come in the form of a variety of other things. So there's a friend of mine, actually, this was literally just a week or two ago, he was speaking and got like a small fee for it, but he did legion for the other part of his business and generated tens of thousands of dollars in business.


It was way more than what the organization would have been able to pay him for it. And so on paper, you're just like, oh, man, they barely paid you. But for him, he's like, no, I got paid. The event was absolutely worth it. Again, I think this is where even if you just want to do 510 gigs a year, there's a lot of great opportunities that exist for that. Makes sense. One of the things I'd say on that would be that because of the Pandemic, it's created a lot of virtual opportunities that did not previously exist, meaning that prior to the pandemic, virtual is one of those things that nobody really took seriously. It wasn't anything that event planners really did. Speakers really did kind of exist, kind of didn't. Then the Pandemic hits and like, there's no live events. It's just not even an option. And then all of a sudden, virtual comes on the scene, and it's the only game in town. What we've seen now is that if we fast forward to today is that live events have come back with a vengeance. People love being together with other human beings. You can never replace or duplicate the in person experience.


But at the same time, virtual has stuck around, which is what we anticipated happening. And so there are going to be actually more opportunities than what previously existed because there's now live opportunities are back. Virtual opportunities are sticking around. We're seeing a lot of hybrid opportunities where maybe you might go speak to something live and in person, and then maybe a couple of months later, you do a follow up via Zoom. And so it increases the opportunities for speaking, for building deeper relationships with an audience or with a company. So all that to say, long answer here, but there's a lot of opportunities for speakers, even if you want to speak on a part time basis.


Yeah, thank you so much. I think there's so much to that to unpack. And I think about literally just yesterday, actually two days ago, was the presentation of it. Now, for those of you this is what, March of 2022. We're now kind of coming off a lot of the code restrictions. And this particular event was designed to be an in person event. And about two months ago, the Omakron was still just doing its thing. And so they said, okay, hey, we're going to have to virtual. But what was kind of cool is, in my case, I'm a speaker where I have a software business, I have a coaching business, and I didn't have to go and hang out for three days because then sometimes people say, well, okay, we had a virtual booth and it can be great. I just got to do virtual booths. So I got 6 hours of zoom time, 1 hour presentation. And I'd say, for the most part, I don't know what your experience is. I think I got the 80 20. I got the most of the people that are involved or interested excuse me, they saw me. Anyway, like you said, there's no relationship building to the same level.


But from a standpoint of in the past where you sometimes have that awkward situation where it's like, okay, are we paying you or we don't pay you. And as you and I know, depending on where you're at with your business model, I mean, hey, if you can get in front of 100 people, who your ideal client? That's compensation sometimes too, for a person getting started, how do you recommend people either negotiator, proactively, hit that situation where sometimes the organization will say, well, hey, we're putting you in front of people. So you just sell your thing or tap dance and you might say, well, yeah, wait, I already have that built out. But no, actually, no, I don't. I'm just learning. How should people navigate the approaching of the speaking fee when they're being approached versus when they're approaching somebody else?


Yeah, it's a great question. So the short answer is it depends. And there's a lot of variables that go into it. So it's kind of talk about what some of those might be. Again, this kind of goes back to why you want to speak, what your goal is with speaking. So I'll give you an example. When I got started speaking, I didn't have a product or service. I didn't have a book. I wouldn't do any coaching or consulting. All I was trying to do was to book speaking gigs. And so that was my 1000% focus. Whereas for someone different, let's go back to the coaching example. Someone who says, hey, my whole goal is I don't care if they pay me or if they don't pay me. My whole goal is to be in front of the right audience and be in front of the right people. Right. Well, both of those have a completely different outcome of what it is that they are going for, what it is that they're trying to accomplish. So that's right for you as a speaker, you've got to get super clear on what's the win for you, what's the piece of value that you want to be able to get in order to go speak at something.


Now, to your point where there may be a lot of events that say, hey, come speak at our event because you're going to get a lot of exposure, right? And on one hand, I can't pay my bills with exposure, right? There's no currency exchange for exposure, but there is some truth to that. Again, going back to the lead generation part. Now, the thing that you have to be aware of as a speaker is you have to be aware of is that the exposure to the right type of audience, meaning that, hey, you can get exposure in a lot of different ways, but if it's to the wrong people, then what's the point of it, right? So, for example, if you say, hey, I could go speak to this group and there's only 20 people in the room versus that group over there, there are 200 people in the room. But if those 200 people are not a fit at all for anything you're wanting to do, and these 20 people are 20 of the most spot on people who would be interested in your product or service, who may be interested in hiring you for additional things.


20 people is probably a way more valuable audience than what the 200 would be, right? So it's so much more than just the black and white of you got paid or you didn't get paid, or how much did I charge or don't charge. But really determining again for you what's the goal with speaking, what is it that you're trying to accomplish? What is it that you want to get from speaking? And then that kind of determines what you might charge or when it might make sense for you to do something for free or not for free. Another factor might be just the location and the proximity. So a way to think about this is think about your time like a hotel. And what I mean by that is there's going to be true supply and demand on your time. Okay? So if you're a busy speaker, typically the way most speakers tend to operate in spring and fall is usually a little busy. Summer, slows down a little bit. Anything around the holidays is a little bit slower. For example, when I was speaking full time, my September, my October was slammed. April May was slammed.


But boy, if you can get anything in December, it was good. It was a good thing. So another example would be like if you went to book a hotel room in New York City, you could book a hotel room on December 1 overlooking Times Square, and it's going to be one price. You can book the exact same room on December 31, New Year's Eve overlooking Times Square, and you're going to pay astronomically more because of the loss of supply and demand. And the same thing is true on your time. An example of this would be like, right now I live in Nashville, and so if I was invited to speak at something for free and it was the right audience and it kind of made sense and it's here in Nashville, it's a lot easier to say, like, yeah, it's right down the road. I can go do that. I can be home for dinner. Perfect. That's a win, right? One thing I always look at is and I joke around with my wife and kids, is like, how many sleeps am I going to be gone? The more sleeps I got to be gone, the less interested I'm going to be.


If I can go speak to something and I can sleep in my own bed, that's a huge win. So that's a factor to think about. Another thing is going to be your actual hard cost. Meaning, let's say if I live in Nashville, I'm invited to speak to a small, little group in San Francisco that's going to cost me, and they can't afford anything. It's going to cost a good amount to fly out there for the time there to fly home. It's a significant time and money and financial investment. So then again, I just got to kind of count the cost that is this worth it? In some cases? Yeah, absolutely. The 20, right. Best, most perfect people are in that room in San Francisco and I'm in Nashville, how do I get to San Francisco? Right, so that may be the case, but you've got to make some assumptions there for yourself if that's going to make sense. And this also ties into where, like, virtual can be really powerful, whereas before, boy, the challenge of getting to San Francisco or wherever may be a pain, but if I can present virtually and be able to still stay home and be home, then it's a lot easier to accommodate that.


There's a lot of different ways you can kind of go about it. But again, I think it comes back to this idea that we've been talking about that you have to be really clear on what's the goal for you with speaking, and then as you're looking at opportunities to those opportunities, whether they're free or paid or whatever it may be, do they align with what it is that you're trying to accomplish?


Yeah, there's so much that I remember when I was single and then when I was engaged, but we didn't have kids. Speaking was cool, hey, we're going to such and such place. My wife, hey, come on, let's go there. I'm speaking in Vegas. Hey, they're paying for the hotel. Great. I'll get the flight. It all depends. And now with kids, it's a whole different thing. And one of the things and I'm wondering, you could probably expand on this a lot, but I'm thinking of, again, this group that I spoke with yesterday, what was very interesting is I've now spoken with them probably about four or five times, and so far every time has been virtual because, again, just the timing with the pandemic. But what also even led me to go ahead and book the flight and I actually technically lost money on the flights. The flight got canceled to the original event was I knew it was a long term relationship, and they made it clear, and I made it clear. And in fact, when I spoke to them, when they said, hey, we've got this big event coming up, I said, well, hey, why don't I do one or two?


I'll do free webinars ahead of time to kind of gauge the interest, because I've experienced that what you've said is, hey, it sounds like the same audience. It sounds like a similar audience that I'm like. And I'm like, well, gosh, I still don't want to travel. And to your example, I remember when I started thinking of time as well, look, if I'm going to literally be gone 24 hours, that I can't be with my family, do what I want. I mean, technically, I'm sleeping part of that time, but that's as if to me, that's time I could be doing that, I could be doing something else. So the traveling piece seems a lot more of an almost an imposition, but something that I can check with first. How can somebody tell if somebody is also serious? And what's a good way, what's a reasonable amount of requests, like once before, once after, so they can kind of see, yeah, is there a relationship here that maybe allows for a couple of exposures? Because we know the more times you're exposed, if you're good, that there's a good chance someone is going to come from as opposed to there being all this pressure on one event.


Yeah. So again, if we kind of go back to, like, what's your goal is speaking so, for example, when several years ago, and all I'm trying to do is books, books, again, they got to be the right gigs. You're not just looking for anything and everything, but they got to be the right gigs. But there will be opportunities where if my sole purpose is to book gigs, it's like, it's not exactly perfect, but it's better than nothing. And I'll give you an example of this. So I remember early on in my career, I got invited to do at the time I lived in Missouri, and I got invited to do this small, little conference in Oklahoma. It was a state conference. They had $500. And so by the time I drove down there, paid for hotel and travel, I was like, it's basically going to be break even. On one hand, you're just like, well, what's the point? And on the other hand you're like, hey, it's another at that. And the lesson here is you have no idea who's in the audience. And so here's what happened. So I go speak at this event, and it goes really well.


There's maybe 100 people there. And afterwards I finished speaking, there's a lady that walks up, introduces herself, and again, this is for a small state conference, the state organization, and she says that my husband is the national director for this organization, and you need to be speaking at our national conferences. You're really good. I'm going to let him know. And had no idea, zero clue issues in the audience, no idea who that lady was. And sure enough, like a week or so later, her husband reaches out. Hey, my wife saw you. You were awesome, and we want to have you. And he booked me to do the keynote for three of their national conferences. Right? And again, it's an example of you have no idea who's in the audience. Now, does that mean that you should just be bouncing around from event to event to vent, crossing your fingers and wishing upon a star that hopefully the right person is going to see you and all of a sudden you're going to be discovered? No, that's not a great strategy. But to your point, Wade, I heard a friend say one time, the more you speak, the more you speak.


The more you speak, the more you speak. Meaning speaking is a momentum business, right? The more you speak, the more the people see you, more the events are aware of you, more that you're top of mind, more that you're being referred, more of, hey, I saw this speaker, they were awesome. More the event planners telling other event planners, more of them bringing you back for other things. So all of these are factors, but again, they all tie back into what is your goal as a speaker? What is it that you are trying to accomplish? And so once you're clear on that, then again, kind of making some decisions about which events you should do, which events you shouldn't do, what you should be charging. If you are willing to negotiate on any of that, all of that becomes a lot simpler once you're really clear on the why.


Awesome. Thank you. There's so much there. And I'm going to go through some of these a little quicker, and I think you can definitely drill down these. So there's a lot of different ideas about how you get started to speak. And I remember something I loved that I heard Ariana Williamson say in an audio version of one of her books where she said she was tired of hearing actors say that they couldn't act. And she said, look, if you want to go act, go ask, go act to the community center, go act somewhere. She said, what you're saying is you haven't yet figured out how to get paid millions of dollars to act. Okay, great. Understood. But at some point, you've got to be willing. To get started. What's a rule of thumb for somebody to say, okay, X number of gigs? And again, I know it kind of all depends, but how long would you say a person could say, look, I at least need to get in front of X number of vents just to experience it and to get some momentum, or is there a comfort level or what does that look like?


So the person can say, you know what my game plan is, okay, I'm going to put in 510, whatever the number is, and then I'm going to start getting and I'm going to start either raising my price or starting and then how does that start to tie in to pricing?


Yeah, so you're right that it depends and there are a lot of factors that go into it. But a few things I would say would be that if you're, again, really clear on what it is that you're trying to accomplish and what it is that you want to do as a speaker, that's going to certainly simplify things. There's also nothing like we kind of touched on earlier. There's nothing wrong with speaking for free as long as you know why you're doing it. There are still some of the best speakers that I know still speak for free for the right type of audience. Another factor to consider and why it may make sense to speak for free, especially early on, is that the way you get better as speakers that you speak. And so it's not like, hey, I want to be better as a writer. Well, you don't need anybody else. You don't need anything else to practice your skill or your craft of writing or playing a sport. I enjoy playing golf. If I want to get better at golf, I don't need anybody else. I can go to the range or whatever and just practice, practice, practice.


If you want to get better playing piano or whatever, or singing, there are things that don't require anybody else. But when it comes to speaking, it kind of requires an audience to some degree, right? But again, that audience can come in multiline different forms. So one way you can practice, you can get better is doing podcast interviews. Whether that's hosting or doing something like this, it gives you a chance to try some stories. So, for example, the story I told earlier about speaking at a gig in Oklahoma, right? And the right person is in the audience. The wife of the executive director is there. Well, that's something I've shared numerous times. So each time I can kind of, let's try it this way, or let's maybe try it this way. And so you can get some of that practice and some of those at bats and some of those reps and just getting more comfortable speaking and presenting. Again, it's a different context, but you're getting more comfortable of just explaining a thought or being concise with a thought kind of talking something through. Maybe you write something like, okay, I really want to tell the story of this idea.


And you just take like, okay, I'm going to just kind of flesh out for two minutes. Here what that idea is. I'm going to write it out, really think it through, and then my next podcast interview, I might try to incorporate that thought into the conversation. Also doing YouTube videos or Facebook Live or Instagram Live, there's opportunities that exist today where you can present, again, slightly different context, but you can present and start to get some of those reps and start to get some of those at bats. Now also kind of ties into your question about how much should you charge as a speaker? And again, there's a couple of different factors that it depends on. One factor is going to be your industry. You can charge more in some industries versus others. Meaning you can charge more speaking to corporations versus if you're speaking to churches. You can charge more speaking to universities and colleges versus if you're speaking to elementary schools. Again, it's not that one is better or worse than the other, but each industry, each pond, so to speak, kind of has its own, like, yeah, this is kind of what we pay for speakers.


This is kind of a broad range. So that's going to definitely be a factor. Another factor is going to be your experience. Meaning if you're a brand new speaker just getting started, you're probably not as good as a speaker, someone who's been doing this five or ten or 20 years, and it's just, frankly, a better speaker than you, right? So the product itself of your delivery, what you talk about, how you engage with an audience, is just going to be vastly different if you're brand new versus someone who's been at it for a while. Another factor is going to be your marketing materials. So two key marketing materials that we talk about for speakers is your website and your demo video. So these are the things that oftentimes event planners, decision makers will look at when determining whether or not they should hire you. And so when they're looking at these, oftentimes they're going to be looking at yours relative to two or three or four or five other speakers. And so you want your marketing materials to look sharp. You want them to look presentable. And so whether we like it or not, whether we agree with it or not, every single one of us, we judge books by their cover.


So you may be the best speaker in the world, but if I come and look at your marketing materials and they're sloppy and it's unprofessional, or the design just isn't on par relative to others, then I'm just kind of like, maybe they're a good speaker, maybe not. Again, it's kind of people judge books by coverage, whether we like it or not. So that's definitely a factor as well. Now, I'll give you a shortcut here. We put together a speaking fee calculator that people can check out if they'd like, it's totally free. If you go to again, it's totally free. You answer it's like eight or ten questions or something. It will take you less than a minute. It's all multiple choice and it will spit out a number at the end of what you should be charging. Now, speaking fees is much more of an art than a science, but it gets you in the ballpark. There of something where you're just like, I don't know, a couple of hundred or a couple of thousand or a lot of thousand. So go through that, that speaking fee calculator, it will give you a number there and then that will at least point you in the right direction.


Awesome. I really like what you said. It reminds me of any time I've listened to comedians talk about how they would try new materials. Yeah, I go to a club. Again, lots of reps, but okay, I'm going to try this story. And so maybe eight, like in their case, literally each thing they're generating, like, okay, maybe eight of my stories are going to be tried and true and I'm going to try two new ones and see how they do. I think that's something when I remember when people say getting your message cleared almost sounded so dramatic, like, okay, I'm not some historical figure. I'm not coming down from the mountain. I'm not my message. It sounds so grandiose and yet just having something to say that makes sense as far as a person, let's say, that says, and I'm going to go back a little bit to the business then. So you mentioned some people are higher volume, lower volume. Let's say a person decides, okay, I'd like to speak once a quarter. As far as I'm thinking of a couple of variables, topic, audience, and I'm going to ask you to comment on this.


I'm thinking I'd want to get familiar with the topic and practice the topic a couple of times. I'm thinking I'd want similar audience as opposed to bouncing around. What could that look like? Let's say even said once a quarter. And then maybe next year I'm going to go once a month. I'm going to ease into it. But again, doing it in a way, the core of the question we get into is the hardest thing I think, for entrepreneurs is to decide when did I tried enough to where I can find out either like, I'm great at this or I'm horrible at it. And if I'm horrible at it, I'm very okay with if I try something and I'm horrible at it, that okay. Maybe I'm supposed to present it a different way. I can still live this message a different way or I can still deliver this work a different way. But at the same time, sometimes it's hard to tell. All the images, all the memes of the guy that's about to hit gold and it's like he turned around and so I think there's that fear of oh gosh, I was almost there.


How could a person start? And what should the feedback look like? Not necessarily the number of followers or likes or views, but what should they be hearing and how can they? Again, let's say that quarterly plan or eventually whatever you suggest is something that's a good way to get started, where person can say, you know what, I can invest four to 8 hours a week. I'm willing to do it for a year, let's say, and then evaluate what can that look like where they can kind of see, okay, I've gotten some of that and either, yeah, this is for me or no, maybe it's not, and happy for you to bring in, like you mentioned, even some of the podfest or other things that help them sort of supplement that.


Yeah, there's a few different ways you can kind of filter this one is going to be also kind of recognizing that if you're just doing, let's say, four things a year, again, there's nothing wrong with that. But it's hard to get the feedback loop is going to be a little limited. Right. And again, like we were talking about earlier, speaking is very much a momentum business. So it's kind of like you imagine that you're pushing a boulder and initially you're just like, boy, I'm putting a lot of effort just to get it to move at all. But now once you get the boulder moving, you can start to pick up a little bit more momentum and it's a lot easier to keep it going versus just trying to get it started. Another thing we tell our students all the time is it's a lot easier to steer a car that's in motion than it is to steer a car that's in park. And what I mean by that is oftentimes it's easy to kind of sit on the sideline and analyze, analyze, analyze. Who do I speak to? What do I speak about? What problem do I solve?


What's my message? And like, yeah, we need to figure out all of those things. We're not going for just a complete shotgun approach here, but it's easy to overanalyze those things, sit on the sideline to the point that you just don't do anything. And so when you get the car rolling and you may speak on one topic to one type of audience to be like, boy, I like speaking. But that wasn't a fit at all. I'll give you an example. I remember early in my own speaking career, I knew I loved speaking. I wasn't entirely sure what that was going to look like, but there was an organization that was a seminar company and what they would basically do is they would hire speakers to go out and they present they would do, like, a full day seminar with, like 30, 40 people in different cities. The attendees were sent from local companies, and for the most part, they typically did not want to be there. Generally at the time, I was early mid 20s, just about everywhere. I was the youngest person in the room. And so I was like, Boy, I love speaking.


I don't love this kind of speaking, though. And so it wasn't like, let's throw the baby out with the bathwater, but going like, okay, I know that I'm good at this. I know that I'm okay, I can do more of this, but what does this look like? There are speakers that I know that love doing, like, an all day thing with the right audience. I find for myself personally, like, I'm really good in a 1 hour block. That's about it, right? And other people are like, 1 hour, you can't cover anything. I need three days with ten people, and we're going to go deep in the deep end. That's great. Again, that kind of goes back to one of the things we talked about at the beginning. There's a lot of ways that speaking could look in terms of what would make sense for someone. So some of it may be early on, you're at the buffet just kind of, like, trying a couple of different things to kind of get a sense of what makes sense for you, what it is that you want to do, and how speaking fits into your business. As far as getting some of the feedback, there, there's a few things you can do.


I think one just having, like, a healthy self awareness. Am I getting good feedback? Am I getting good responses? Or are people coming up to talk to me? Or are people engaged while I'm speaking? Are people laughing? Are they smiling? Are they nodding? Are they taking notes? Or are people just completely checked out? And again, you always get better, or you tend to get better over time and so recognize, like, well, let me put it this way. I think it's easy. Sometimes you look at, like, a professional speaker. You go to a conference, and let's say you're speaking at a breakout, but you just saw the keynote, and the keynote is someone who's been doing this for 30 years. And Dang, their message was polished. It was tight, it was crisp, like, it was just really good. And you do your presentation, you're like, oh, it was okay. Yeah, they're probably going to be better in the same way that if I go out and I shoot some baskets and try to play basketball, and I'm like, I saw LeBron play, and he's much better than me. Yeah, he's been doing it much longer, and he's just better, and he's put way more effort and energy into it.


So you got to be cautious and not, like, comparing yourself to, hey, I'm at step one. And there they are at step three, and they're better than me. Yeah, that's the way it works. And so be cautious when you're kind of looking at that. Nothing you can do is just getting feedback from trusted friends or family members, or even if you're building relationships with other speakers and getting feedback from them. Shoot straight with me. Be honest with me. What worked, what didn't work? When I was speaking quite a bit, if my wife is in the audience, she's always like, good to give feedback. And she saw me speak a lot of times, and there were times I'd finish up and she'd be like, that was really good. You brought your A game today, honey. And I was like, all right. I can't feel good. And times I'd get off stage and she'd be like, not your best. You're like, oh, crap. So getting some of that feedback from people is valuable and important. Yeah, again, I'm kind of throwing a bunch of stuff out there.


No, that's great. That's great. There's a couple of things you said there, which is so true, is, I think, of the podcast concept of I spent seven years contemplating starting my podcast because I was so, well, I'm going to make it perfect, and it's got to be this way. And just contemplating. And then I started it, and I still because I was obsessed with it, it's got to be done every week, and I know it's better when you're consistent weekly, but I knew I wasn't ready to do that yet. And yet in my first three years, which theoretically should have been 156, I guess whatever episodes I had done about 60. And I was like, you know what? 60 is a heck of a lot better than zero, because the last seven years I had done zero. And then the other part of just getting comfortable as a podcaster or your podcaster, I can think of at least four other topics that I would love to do a podfest on if it was really easy to do. And as I grow and scale and build my team, that I probably will. And definitely there's a level of comfort, and I developed it in the corporate world that I was in of just being on a stage that I think comes across.


So now it's funny how this circles back, at least for me. So now that a person has an idea of, okay, so it's about reps, it's about doing some of the work, then where would you suggest a person starts? Let's say the person has this sort of that continuum of passion versus profit. And they want to get speaking, but they want to get speaking for business. Because you hear this thing about you got to be passionate about something to make money at it. And there's a back and forth. And in my experience, sometimes I've made money. Things I'm not very passionate about. But I got these things called bills and I need to make sure those are paid. And sometimes I'm passionate and I'm great and it's awesome and maybe I get paid or maybe I don't. So what's a realistic way to start? And maybe and I still don't love that word because it sometimes can be limiting to say what's realistic versus what's possible. But what's a likely scenario where again, a person can say, hey, I'm going to start out with the topic. How do they kind of balance? Can you infuse passion into something or how do you infuse passion into a topic?


Let's say that, you know, you can monetize because you've got a retention in a certain field and you already respected and maybe you can bring some passion but still have it be in a way where people say, oh, he's not going three degrees away from what I know him for. I know him for X. I'd love to have him talk on X. How can a speaker kind of balance that and again line themselves up for some good successes without losing definitely without selling their soul, but without feeling that they're way off of where they need to be?


Sure. One thing that we teach, that we talk about inside of our book, the successful speaker is think about like three circles kind of overlapping in like a Venn diagram, right? And so in one circle you have your interests. What is it that you're interested in, that you're passionate about, that you're knowledgeable on, and not only just your interest, but the market's interest, right? Meaning just because you're interested in it doesn't necessarily mean anybody cares. Meaning let's say that you're the world's greatest expert on underwater basket weaving and you are the undisputed champion of that, but nobody cares. If there's no speaking opportunities that exist, then it's hard to build a speaking business around that. So you want to make sure that you have an interest in the topic that actually organizations and groups actually care about and actually hire speakers for. So interest is going to be a factor. Another factor there, another one of the circles is going to be the industry. Again, maybe you are interested in a certain topic, but maybe it's not the type of topic that certain industries hire. They hire speakers, but they just don't hire speakers to talk about that.


So you got to find that type of overlap. And the other factor is going to be integrity. Where are you even qualified to talk about this? Just because you're interested in it, just because you're passionate about it, just because you know something about it, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're qualified to talk about it. Now, it doesn't mean that you need to have won a gold medal or been a Nobel Prize winner or cured cancer or anything like that. But I've got some type of level of experience that I can speak from on a certain subject or topic. So you've got kind of all factors there that come together between interest, integrity, and industry, and you have to find the alignment between those versus just like, you know what? I've decided today that I want to speak to this really niche audience on this really niche topic. That's great. Just because you want to do that doesn't necessarily mean that there's opportunities that exist, and the opposite is true. Meaning, like, if you say we talk with speakers all the time about, you have to get really clear on who you speak to and what problem that you solve.


And so a lot of times, speakers make the mistake of, well, I want to spread the net as far and wide as possible. So who do I speak to? I speak to humans. I speak to people. My message is for everybody, and what do I talk about? I don't know, man. What do you want me to talk about? I can talk about a dozen different topics there, and you don't want to be that speaker. You want to solve one specific problem for one specific audience. Now people listening maybe going like, okay, that's great. I got an idea of who I might want to speak to, what I might want to speak about. If you're already an entrepreneur, already doing something, you probably already have kind of a sense of like, this is what I could speak on. This is what I'm already helping this is what I'm helping them do. One thing that you could do is to go spend a minute on Google and see if you can find other speakers who are doing something similar who are speaking to a similar audience on a similar topic. Now, if you can't find any of them, sometimes the answer is like, that's perfect.


I'm going to be the first. I'm going to be a trendsetter here. No, that's not what we're going for here. If there aren't any speakers doing it, there's probably a reason why. So you're looking for, like, where all right, there's already fish here in this part of the pond. Let's try fishing there versus nobody's fishing over here. I'm going to be the first. That's because no fish are biting there. So look for the opportunities that already exist in your niche or field. And again, if you're an entrepreneur who's already doing something, some type of product or service that you're providing, you're probably already familiar with your pond. You're already probably familiar with here's the association events. Here's the Wade shows. Here are the events that you're probably already going to that you're attending. You've seen what they hire speakers to talk about. You're probably even familiar with some of those speakers or people who are planning those events or putting those events on. So even just kind of like looking around in your backyard, what's right in front of you that you're already familiar with? Let me give you another example on this. I remember a while ago, we were working with a speaker and he was getting started with speaking.


He'd been in real estate his entire career. And I'm going to butcher part of this. I don't remember exactly, but we were talking and I said, all right, talk to me about who you want to speak to. And he's like, I want to speak. And I don't remember what the industry was, but it was just totally unrelated. And I said, okay, but your entire career has been in the real estate space. Yeah, but I just want to do something different. I get that, but talk to me about like you've been in the real estate space. What associations are you familiar with? He's like, I was the president of this state association for years, and I was like, oh, let's start there. Right here's a world that you're already familiar with. There was another speaker we worked with who they came out of the restaurant industry. They spent a lot of time, like, consulting in the restaurant industry. And I've spent most of my career in the restaurant industry. I don't want to keep working that. I was like, that's fine, I get that, but let's start with something that we know. So he started speaking in the restaurant industry, utilizing all the connections, resources, the insider lingo, insider baseball knowledge that he already had, started doing that for a couple of years and now Pivoted and now had a lot of outbats speaks at a lot of industries way outside of the restaurant space.


But he started in his backyard, a world that he already knew, that he's already familiar with and started to build some momentum that way. So start with again, if you're already an entrepreneur, you already have a business, what's the world you're already in versus trying to I'm going to start something totally different in a totally different space that's unrelated to anything that I'm doing now. It sounds like you're already doing something where you got some momentum. So how do we build upon that momentum? Using speaking.


Awesome. Thank you so much. There's a lot to that. And again, like I said, I really appreciate you being very clear and direct. I know that's definitely going to help our audience. So some sort of rapid fire questions here. If you could give your entire target audience one skill, what would that skill be?


I think clarity getting really clear on again who I speak to, what problem I solved. Because again, that makes such a difference. It really simplifies things once you're clear on those things. But if you're again you're trying to appeal to anybody and everybody, it's really hard to make that work. So we tell speakers, you want to be the steakhouse and not the buffet. The steakhouse, not the buffet. Meaning way, let's imagine you and I were going for a bite deep. We're looking for a good steak. We have a choice. We could go to a buffet where steak is one of 100 things that they offer and they're all mediocre. Or you could go to a steakhouse where they do one thing, but they do that one thing really well. They don't do tacos, they don't do lasagna, they don't do spaghetti, they don't do cupcakes, they do steak and that's it. And when you're looking for a good steak, you're not like, let's go to this taco shop and say no, you go to the steakhouse because that's the thing that they do. Again, counterintuitive, but you want to be the steakhouse and not the buffet.


Love that. Okay, what's the costiest business mistake you've ever made and what did you learn from it?


I think kind of piggybacking on what we just touched on where speakers are just kind of like bouncing around like, okay, I'm going to try this topic in this industry for a year now. I'm going to try this topic in this industry for a year now. I'm going to try this topic in the industry for you. And on and on the list this goes. I think the reason I've had some level of success in the speaking industry is I've just been in the speaking industry for the past like 15 years of my career and it's looked different, but I've pretty much been in the same sandbox and so there's just a level of longevity and building some momentum. And listen, there's a lot of other things that are of interest to me that going, I have the same shiny object syndrome that everybody else does of going, boy, I could do something over there. Let's do something totally unrelated to speaking. There's cool opportunities, there something I'm interested in or passionate about, but knowing I've built a lot of credibility in this one space by being in this one space for so long. So instead of just bouncing around, say, choose my lane and commit to being in that lane for awhile.


Awesome. Alright, you just answered the next one. Alright, what do you find? And this little goes on the productivity side. What's your best tip to get more results in less time? What do you do?


I try to be really intentional and focused with my time. Meaning it's one thing to just kind of sit down at the computer and go, okay, what are we going to do today? Versus being intentional and going, okay, let's really be specific on what thing I need to be working on and what order do I need to be working on those things? There's going to be, especially when it comes to speakers, if one of the primary goals is booking gigs, there's a lot of things that you can spend your time and energy and effort doing that. Do not move the needle with speaking. Okay? Social media is a big time suck. Meaning sometimes speakers think like, I'm going to craft this great LinkedIn post, I'm going to work on my next tweet, I'm going. To make this YouTube video. And those things are much more reactive. Meaning, like, I'm going to put this stuff out there into the ether and I hope that people magically find out about me as a speaker versus being clear on, okay, this is who I speak to. This is the problem that I solved. Where do those people exist?


Let me go to those people. Let me give you a quick example. When I was in high school, snow days were amazing, right? For multiple reasons, obviously get out of school. But one of the best reasons for snow days was me and a buddy would go around to the fancy rich neighborhoods and we would shovel driveways. And the way we would do that is we wouldn't sit at our houses and just wait for them to like, hopefully they find us magically somehow. We would go door to door to door, hey, I saw that there's a problem that exists in your driveway. Would you like for us to make that disappear? And we would go and we would earn a couple of $100, which was a million dollars to a couple of teenage dudes. And it was great because again, they had a problem. We went to them proactively rather than being reactive, hoping that they magically find us.


Oh, I really like that. Yeah, I used to do a lot of selling canyon school lawn business, selling weeds, that sort of stuff. So yeah, absolutely. When you actually nailed one thing on the social media, it's such the hits, the dopamine hits are good, but gosh, sometimes it can be difficult. What have you dropped from your business or your life that's been most liberating for you?


Dropped from my business? I think it's kind of a roundabout way of answering this, but I think I feel really intentional on the type of business that we want to have. I tell our team all the time that who you are is more important than what you do. Meaning we're not trying to build some juggernaut. We're not trying to be on the cover of some magazine, tell the team regularly. This isn't the grand show. I'm not trying to do something to build my own ego. I really want to be intentional about the way that we do things and we want to grow at a pace that is sustainable and not some rocket ship thing. One of our key people on our team came from a start up where it was expected that you're working 60, 70, 80 hours a week. You're burning the candle at both ends. You have a long commute to the office. It's very stressful. I'm just like, man, I don't want to do that. I wouldn't want to work there. Life is too short to work like that. So we've been really intentional to build a type of business on our terms.


Listen for the audience, listen to you. You're building a business and you get to choose how you do it. You get to make the rules. Like, this is a game that we're playing, and you get to decide the rules for what makes sense for winning, what makes sense for losing, and how you want to go about doing it. And you can be influenced by other entrepreneurs or other people or whoever, but ultimately, you get to decide what the game of business and entrepreneurship looks like for you.


Absolutely. Awesome. And what are you most excited about in your work right now?


I really love the team that we get to work with. So we've got about 25 team members, and we're a completely virtual company. Everybody is all over the map, but just really for a virtual company who doesn't get together real often, like, boy, we have really strong company culture, and there's a lot of team members that we've hired who have joined the team who have said, you sold us the company culture. But it's way better than I expected, even on the other side of the curtain. So that's something I really enjoy. I know that we're doing meaningful work. I know that we are in a lot of ways. We are helping the speaker that I was 15 years ago going, man, I think I can do this. I just wish someone would just think and show me how to do it. I can execute. Just tell me what to do. And so I know we've got a lot of those speakers that we help. We've worked with thousands of speakers every US. State in 49 different countries around the world on all different subjects and topics, all different ages and stages of life. So I know that we collectively are really making an impact on the difference.


That's awesome. Congrats for that. Yeah. Being able to help the person, you were 510, 1520 years ago. That's where I'm at. It's so huge. And then last question, other than your information, what are you most excited about in your personal life right now?


My wife and I just celebrated 20 years of marriage, so that's pretty cool. Yeah. We were high school sweethearts. We started dating when I was 15, and so we dated for about five years. We got married super young. I was 20 when we got married and turned 40 a few months ago. We celebrated our 20th anniversary a couple of weeks ago. So, yeah, I love business. I love entrepreneurship. I love speaking. I love talking about this kind of stuff. But my most important roles are being a good husband, being a good father. We got three daughters, so it's me in a house full of women. It's just the best. It's the absolute best. And so, yeah, I want to be a good entrepreneur. I want to make a difference in the world. I want to lead our team well, I want to make a bunch of money, you know, all that stuff. But I do not want to do those things at the detriment of being a good husband, being a good father, and making sure that I'm taking care of the girls that I'm entrusted to take care of.


Awesome. So you mentioned and again, we'll put all these links in there. You mentioned your book. Where else can people reach you? And again, we'll put the links in there and how can they connect with you?


And you're listening to a podcast right now. So if you're looking for more Podfest, you're going to go deeper on this topic. Host a podcast called The Speaker Lab. Podfest. The Speaker Lab podcast. So go check that out. We've got close to 400 episodes there, so hundreds of hours you can go through on all different, again, subjects and topics related to anything and everything speaking related. So, yeah, check us out there. Everything else we do is over at the If there's ever anything I can do to help you support you, please don't hesitate to reach out and let us know.


All right? Awesome. Thank you so much for joining us today. Grant, thank you for sharing so much great insight and wisdom. And again, thanks so much.


You bet. Absolutely way. I enjoyed it.


All right. And everybody in the audience, as always, look forward to helping you impact more people and make more money in less time. Do what you do best so you can better enjoy your family, your friends, and your life. Thanks for listening.


Grant BaldwinProfile Photo

Grant Baldwin


As founder and CEO of The Speaker Lab, Grant Baldwin has helped thousands of people build successful and sustainable speaking businesses. Over the last 15 years Grant has become a sought after speaker, podcaster, author, and accomplished entrepreneur. Featured on the Inc. 5000 list, Forbes, Inc. Entrepreneur, and the Huffington Post, he has committed his expertise and insight to equipping others to share their meaningful message with the masses. His leadership and dedication to creating a one-of-a-kind organizational culture are evidenced by the impact of the team he leads.

Grant lives near Nashville, Tennessee with his wife, Sheila, and their three daughters.