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Build a Better Speaking Business – By Saying No!

How would you like to…

…be more excited about your work?

…be more confident on stage?

…make a more powerful impression on your clients and audience members?

…get more repeat and/or spin-off business?

…sell more products?

You can. And it all starts with saying… “No!”

Let me explain.

What is one of your major goals as a speaker? To book dates, right? That’s why, when the money’s on the table with a firm offer and your calendar’s open, the easiest thing to do is say, “Yes! Book it!” But I encourage you to practice the art of saying “No.”

To really build a great speaking business — to experience “more” of everything I listed above — you don’t want to just book dates. You want to book quality dates — dates that:

  • Are aligned with your “sweet spot” (an industry/sector/audience you can effectively connect with, and the topic/theme that really allows you to shine)
  • Are with clients you enjoy working with — clients who energize you rather than drain you (HINT: if you’re inclined to send a particular client’s calls to voicemail, that’s probably not a client you should be working with)
  • Are set up for you to succeed, from a technical/logistical standpoint (for example, having a time slot at the end of a 3-hour awards banquet would not qualify)

When you participate in engagements that meet these criteria, wonderful things happen.

But as you well know, not every invitation that comes in does meet these criteria. Sometimes the audience just isn’t the right fit. The topic is just a little left of where you shine. The client rubs you the wrong way… and asks for more and more and more… at a rock-bottom price.

Have you ever accepted one of those dates?

Sure you have. We all have. And we regret it afterward.

Saying “no” isn’t easy, but sometimes it’s the right thing to do. Don’t be afraid.

I remember recently I was talking with a prospective mentoring client — a speaker I’ve known and respected for a few years. I wanted to work with him. He started suggesting slight tweaks to the mentoring framework I had designed very purposefully, and in an effort to accommodate, I made adjustments. But with tweak after tweak, I realized that the program was no longer one that (a) excited me and (b) I was confident in. So I pulled out. I knew I would regret saying “yes” a lot more than I would regret passing up the mentoring revenue.

We’ve made similar decisions in our speakers bureau business — either to take a pass on business, or to “fire” a client who clearly wasn’t right for us. Never have we regretted it.

All the good things you want for your business come from working with clients who are right for you… events that are right for you… audiences that are right for you.

You will never build a great business by accepting engagements that aren’t a good fit. You may put money in your bank account, but you won’t build a great business.

So there you have it — my “just say no” public service announcement. :-)

If you’d like more help on this topic, work through this free exercise from Michael Port to implement what he calls the “Red Velvet Rope Policy” (from his Book Yourself Solid book)

by Shawn

Shawn Ellis is founder of The Speakers Group and creator of Succeed Speaking. An award-winning speaker agent and manager who has worked with many of the world's best speakers, authors and thought leaders, Shawn has a passion for helping a new generation of speakers rise up to reach more people with positive, meaningful messages -- while building innovative, profitable businesses at the same time. Learn more...

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