Hire a speaker coach? Beware, some just will take you money and you will get basic advice Looking to hire a speaker coach? Speaker coaches have popped up everywhere.  Speaker coaching is a BIG BUSINESS.

In this blog post I am referring to coaches and courses who promise to help you build a speaking business, not coaches who help you with your presentation skills.  These are two different types of coaches.

If you need help with performance (and everyone does – even the best speakers), I am all for you finding a coach. I actually do coaching for C-Suite executive who want to improve their skills for an important talk. I think working with a skills coach is a good idea.  I have done it for specific things when I knew the talk mattered.  Becoming a good speaker takes time and you need feedback.

If, however you are seeking to make a career out of speaking, I suggest you hit pause before you invest large sums of money with someone promising to teach you how to get booked.  I am not saying all speaker business coaches are bad, but many give basic weak advice and you are wasting your money.  There are some out there who have a good track record of helping people, once in the business, fine tune and improve their marketing.  But most are a business model that separates people with hopes and dreams from their money.

There, I said it.  Many “get rich as a speaker” programs and coaches will make a coach very wealthy, and leave you with nothing to show from your time and efforts.  The BIGGEST FLUSHING SOUND I EVER HEARD IN MY BUSINESS WAS THE $8000 I PAID A SPEAKER BUSINESS COACH.   She took my money, told me to raise my rates, bragged about the two famous people she coached, and we only did 9 of 12 meetings and she never booked another call.  She told me because of my situation, I should take some time to think about what the taught me (ummm, nothing???) and never has spoken to me again.  I have talked to dozens of others who have had the same experience with this coach and others.

Full disclosure, I have thought about doing speaking coaching. I have had a moderately successful speaking career (not a half million dollars a year, but a decent number for 12 years before the pandemic).  The pandemic hurt my business, and it has taken time, but is now beginning to come back.  Many suggested that I start coaching to make money, but it seemed weird to be in a slump and take money from others to show them the way.  A very very busy speaker told me “Do you know why the most successful speakers do not usually do coaching? Cuz they are too busy working”.

There are many new speakers who fall prey to the idea if they hire a speaker coach they will be shown the tricks to the business.  But it is not that easy.  First you have to be a good speaker (this is why I am all for presentation skills coaching), but when it comes to getting the gigs, much of it is word of mouth.  So all the things the coaches say are leaving out that you need to be good, have a topic people want to pay for, and you need a “buzz” about you in the industry.

Back to why to avoid speaker coaches and courses.  I am not saying all of them are frauds.  Some are good.  But the question you should ask the person selling the course “How many times a year to you speak and what is your fee?”.  My guess is you will not find them to be a $20k a speech speaker who speakers 100 times a year, as those people just work and enjoy their life.   However, that is whom I want to get advice from.

The National Speakers Association is a great place to start.  If they are doing their job, their conferences will have all the information you could ever need to get inspired to grow a business.  Plus, the secret sauce to the speaking business is having real friendships with WORKING SPEAKERS….as they cannot help it….success leaves clues.

Most of these speaker coaches want over $10,000 for their course or coaching.  That same amount would cover you attending the summer and winter conferences (registration, air, hotel, etc…) for the NSA for two years.  There is no shortcut.

A young speaker asked me for advice.  He was spending $900 a month for a coach.  I later met his coach, who was 26 years old, had given two paid talks, and really did not understand how the business even worked.  I could tell in a few minutes that his business model was to find people who dreamed of being on stage, talk to them about it, take their money, and it didn’t matter if they got results.  He had all clients under age 30, and from what I could tell, he was making a lot and his clients were not doing very much.

My advice….. ask yourself, “How many speaker friends who are earning more than $150K a year from speaking fees do I have?”.  If the answer is less than 10…. go make friends in the business.  Once you have 10 real friends who will talk with you about the business, ask them how many started by spending a lot of money on a coach and felt it was worth it.  If they have a coach they believe in and can show how it helped them, ask for an introduction to that coach.

I have seen dozens hand over large sums of money (myself included…. the person I paid was nice and seemed smart…but had zero ideas that I had not heard from my “speaker friends”.  And her level of caring that I got no value was zero.  She was either lying to herself that she helps people, or justifies that when she doesn’t it is because of of the client, or she is just counting her money and laughing at how easy it is so play on the hopes and dreams of speakers who want a better business.

My advice, join NSA….and make friends.  This might take a few years of participating. People say I am an “insider” in the NSA, but for the first 3 or 4 years I really had not many friendships in the business. It takes time to cultivate a network.  But once I did, the speakers I know are always helping each other and others.

I have a new rule.  I will talk to anyone who is a member of NSA and I will NEVER charge a member of NSA for speaking industry advice (fi you are not a member of NSA, I will still talk to you once, as I try to be a nice guy and not that many people call me…..so until I get tons of calls, I am always open to a chat).  Now, I am not sure I am successful enough to be the one giving advice, although I have learned a lot during the pandemic and seeing a 12 year business totally shut down.  But as it comes back, I have a new outlook on how to build that speaking business.

There are no shortcuts to the speaking business.  Hire a speaker coach if you must, but be careful.  Ask them for a long list of references of past clients who will talk to you. If 10 people rave about getting their money’s worth then it should be legit.  But if they wont give you the list of ten to call, be careful.

Again, there are many coaches I know who help speakers build their business who are not useless….but so many are and so many are just looking to make money in an industry they could not make money in for themselves.  So just be careful.

And join the National Speakers Association and make friends.  Give NSA three years of participation (some go once and say “I didn’t get anything”….well that is how associations work, it takes time and commitment to get the value.  But for me, NSA has been the best money I ever spent, and I have made decent money for over a decade.  It is not easy to make $200-$300K a year as a speaker. Harder still to make more.  But if you can do that for a decade, you probably know a little about the industry!!!

There…I said it.  This will piss some people off.  But if I can save a new speaker from a giant flushing sound of money going away…then good.