Behind The Scenes Of A Successful Speaking Business – #120


How To Create Build A Successful Speaking Business

Successful Speaking Business

This week we are turning the tables on James Taylor and Maria Franzoni will be placing the spotlight on him and his speaking business.  As many of you know, James started his career managing high-profile rock stars and then transformed into a keynote speaker and internationally recognized leader in business creativity and innovation.  For more than 20 years, he has been advising CEOs, entrepreneurs, educators, governments, and leaders on how to build innovative organizations, unlock creative potential, and increase productivity.

James will shares insights into his speaking business, how he got started, where his bookings come from, how he went international, how he works with speaker bureaus, and much much more.



Artificial Intelligence Generated Transcript

Below is a machine-generated transcript and therefore the transcript may contain errors.

James Taylor  0:00  

I’m James Taylor, and you’re listening to the SpeakersU podcast, a show for aspiring and professional speakers. This episode is with my co-host, Maria Franzoni. Enjoy the episode.

Maria Franzoni  0:12  

So today we’ve got something really special, we are going behind the scenes of James’s speaking business because I’ve been incredibly impressed by James and what he’s achieved. And you’re going to be impressed too if you don’t know. And if you don’t know, where have you been? But just in case, I’m going to ask the man himself to give us a little introduction of who he is. And what he does. Tell us, James? Uh, well,

James Taylor  0:35  

I am a keynote speaker I speak on creativity, innovation, and artificial intelligence. I work with clients from lots of different industries, probably the biggest industries I work with just now are financial services, technology, telco, and consumer packaged goods companies. In 2019, before the world went a little bit crazy, I did about 52 keynotes, I think it was in 25 countries. So a lot of international travel since the pandemic happened, moved very quickly into doing hybrid and doing virtually. And actually, this year, as we’re filming this just now in 2021. This is by far, my busiest year ever. It’s just it. So it’s kind of been a very interesting time I don’t I as you were gonna find out just now I, I’m still relatively new into this business, I still, I still consider myself a newbie, I guess, to a certain extent.

Getting Paid To Speak

Maria Franzoni  1:30  

Fantastic, wonderful. And that’s one of the reasons I wanted to talk. So well done in your introduction, because you told us who you are and what you do. And what’s even better, you told us how you do it for you are clear on the companies and the clients that you work with. So already you have shared some of the genii that have made you successful, there’s so much I’m going to pull out of you. It’s just got Oh my god, I can’t wait. And James, you are relatively new. And I want to just put also a caveat on what you said, you said 50 gigs, but you charge a pretty high fee. We don’t need to reveal that if you don’t want to have to reveal every single thing so that we can do the math to know exactly how much you’ve made. But you do very well. You don’t have a low fee, you have a good fee, you’re very well positioned. So talk to me as a newbie, okay, when did you start getting paid to speak?

James Taylor  2:18  

When was that? So I actually had to go and check what I had because I knew we were coming on I went and found my bullet journal, my can a moleskin journal from about that period, just to see when the deal was done, and how all the things happen. So I’m kind of going back into the books here a little bit. But basically, my very first paid in-person speaking engagement was in January 2018. That was a very, very first one. And I think we booked it actually in October I seem to remember I think is when we booked it in 2017. But as we all know things, things are so much quicker now that you get booked in the gigs next week and things but back then, in the pre-pandemic days, you did often have like six months before you get booked. So that was my very first one in January 2018. Wow. So

Maria Franzoni  3:10  

we did we meet? Do you remember is that in your journal

James Taylor  3:13  

that no one will be in one of them. I think we may be met in 2019. And I know

Maria Franzoni  3:21  

exactly where it was it was a PSA event actually, and I knew you spoke before me and I spoke after you. And you impressed me. You impressed me so much. So that immediately I said right. I need to sign you up for speaker Bureau. Do you remember?

James Taylor  3:36  

I do I do. I remember having a really good conversation at that event. And it was a really fun event as well because I probably will get into this. But I speak in my own country. I mean, probably, if I do two dates a year in the United Kingdom, which is where I’m based, that would be kind of surprising to me. So most of my things are international, obviously our virtual, it’s all pretty, it’s all international. So it kind of felt a little bit nervous because it felt like speaking for your Auntie’s speaking to a UK audience. So it’s, it’s, it’s different. But I enjoyed that was a nice event that was organized by the professional Speakers Association. And that was the other thing is because I was, you know, also speaking to your peers, I what I do most time, which is speaking to, you know, a public audience or, you know, corporate audience or associations, when you speak to your peers, you’re also realizing they’re not just looking at you in terms of your content. They’re looking at you in terms of your delivery. And so but it was a nice, very welcoming group of people,

Choosing your topic

Maria Franzoni  4:37  

or their fathers. That was the London event and you rocked it, it was fabulous. So listen, you’ve got a podcast out this week. I know because I want you I’m subscribed to a podcast, I listen to it. And it’s about the question I’m going to ask you now, which is how did you choose your topic? Because your topic is so important. You want to be known for that one major thing ideally because otherwise, it’s very difficult. Grow your speaking business? How did you come to choose the topic you chose of creativity, super creativity, in fact,

James Taylor  5:06  

yeah, so that’s that interview. That’s great. Tamsin Webster has a great book out now called the red thread. So the just kind of go back to my background, before getting into this business, I was a manager or rockstar. That’s kind of what I did. And so I was very good at building other people’s brands. And I very quickly, kind of realize that in the music industry, you have session musicians. And then you have the main artist who wants it on the front of the stage. So session musicians, I mean, he always used to be there, if you weren’t that attractive, you’re a session musician, because you could be behind the scenes. And then when they took the band out on the road, they would bring all the nice-looking people onto the stage. That’s not true anymore. But there is a big difference. There’s a great, there’s a great documentary called 20 feet from stardom, which is this difference of being if you go to a live show, you know, those people stand at the back of the stage, maybe the backing singers, or the drummer, in the band, the session drum on the band, as opposed to that person is right at the front of the stage called 20 feet from the sun. And it’s a big, 20 feet, you have to do a lot of things to go from the back that backstage to the front stage. So one of the things that you do one-note things you notice between session musicians, and people who get annoyed for their thing is they specialize. session musicians are great, you can put a session musician in a studio, and they will be able to play every style do can have everything that can sound like anyone and that’s what you want, often from a session musician to the most flexible. And that’s how they get all the business. But if you want to be the mainstage artist, you have to be known for one thing. And so when I decided to start my speaking business, I said I’m gonna have to decide what my one thing is. And for me, I always felt that creativity is that big term was the thing I’m passionate about as a topic. And that kind of stems from seeing people like Edward de Bono. I know, we spoke about him on a previous episode as well, an early kind of person, you know, the Tony Robbins, as well, and people like that. But I loved this idea of creativity and how we can unlock the creativity and more people. And I kind of wanted, I worked with so many amazing creative people thought, imagine if we could get that level of creativity and that level of inspiration. But from someone that’s maybe working customer service backstage, you know, behind the scenes as well. But here’s the thing I quickly figured out. And this was what Sally Hawk said, I’m going to give her credit for this great speaker from lives in Florida. And Sally said to me early on, she said, you know, the difference between a creativity speaker and an innovation speaker is $5,000. And she said, You need to figure out even if your thing is creativity, you need to put a spin on it. So it stands out. And for me, the topic I’ve always been passionate about is technology. And specifically, more recently about artificial intelligence machine learning. So my spin on creativity is it as you said, super creativity, which is how we can augment our human creativity with exponential technologies like AI and machine learning, robotics, IoT. So it kind of puts me in this kind of Venn diagram of creativity. And I’m kind of technology, you know, future trends stuff, although I’m not a futurist. And that was another thing I can learn from a book I read a long, long time ago, about branding and positioning is sometimes you have to create your category. So I decided to create this category of super creativity, and it’s quite nice. Now I saw someone copying me the other day, and creating a term. I’m not gonna say who The term was. But it’s the super creativity concept because it seemed me do a couple of things. So that’s, that’s the highest form of compliment. When you get started, people start copying your stuff.

Use of AI to analyze audience

Maria Franzoni  8:58  

Yeah, I think I might know who that is. But I love that create your category. I also love that, you know, the analogy of the session musician, and the frontman, which is so cool. And I know your passion for AI. So that works so well. And also that point about, you know, the difference between innovation and creativity. It’s true. I would argue it might be even more than $5,000. The difference. So that’s fascinating. And now, you AI we’ve mentioned it a couple of times, what struck me when I saw you speak, you did something I had never seen anybody do before. And it might have been done before, but I hadn’t seen it. I have today. And what you did is you used AI to analyze the audience. And you then told us what the AI had told you about us and you had used that knowledge to prepare your speech. And that for me was a USP that was, but also it was an aha moment because everything you said, I’m setting that up again, there’s no way it can be accurate. And you said, Oh, you’re this sort of age group and this is your aspirations is your values. This is what’s into you, this is what you’re going to want from this. And okay. Yeah, yeah. Wow, I was blown away by that. And you had me because you were talking about us in the audience with the audience before you even started sharing anything. So you had my attention. Talk us through about this AI that you use to analyze your audience because it’s cool. Yeah,

James Taylor  10:19  

I mean, the why of that, I guess comes from I was doing an event yesterday, actually, for one of my clients, bell Bell, Canada, telco company. And one of the executives the sales executive, said a phrase to me, which resonates, resonated to me, he said, when you work with a client or a customer, you need to show me that, you know, me, show me that, you know, me, which I love this phrase. And so the next level of that, you know, as speakers, we always do, like pre-event calls, and we look into the company that we’re speaking for the association, their industry, everyone, every speaker in the world kind of does that, or should do that, I wanted to take a few steps further, and use some of the technologies you’ve probably heard from, like Cambridge Analytica, we’re using not in a that’s not in a very ethical way. But there’s this technology is agnostic, and we can use it in different ways. So another one of my clients is IBM. And they had a great tech piece of technology, which a British guy in the team called Jeremy Wait, first introduced me to and Jeremy Wait Is, is also a storyteller and resident that IBM teaches storytelling to their executives. And what he did is he worked with some of the AI team at IBM. And they found a way using some machine learning technology. And using union psychology, basically, in terms of how it categorizes you to mean that I can go to your social media profile or an association’s social media. And then what I can do is I can give that to artificial intelligence, and it will create a psychometric map of that audience or that person. So I can immediately see what is important to that person, what their needs are, what their values are, how they think, what their hot buttons are. And something, if they don’t have social media all I need, is 1000 words, someone’s spoken or their written movies, done an article or done a YouTube video, or they’re being interviewed like this. And I just give that to the AI. And it creates a site this psychographic map. So as a speaker, what this allows me to do is rather, rather than just understanding about their industry or their company, I now understand them, or that decision-maker in the room or the audience on a much deeper level from a psychometric standpoint. So, you know, an example here was when I was doing the other day, and this particular audience, they valued trust very highly. So in their case, I’m going to go to use probably earlier, my keynote, my presentation, a few more trust indicators, no would necessarily use. So I might mention clients of mine, just now I might see I got this award. So stuff, I wouldn’t necessarily use most of the time, but I’m going to use it with them. Because I can see on their sacred metrics, this audience values trust, very highly. So that’s kind of how we can use this as well. And you know, this stuff has been getting used by marketers for years. But it’s under the hood, you don’t see it. And so probably what for that audience, that event I spoke to, you know, I explained kind of how at work, people go to my LinkedIn profile, they can there’s an article that explains kind of how it works. And there are lots of these technologies today that are out there, that help you understand your audience. And I think, you know, for me, as a speaker, this is useful. But I also think this is useful if you’re an event organizer, and you’ve got a conference coming up to understand what is important to this audience. If I see that this audience values practicality, very highly, then I’m going to want to put in more kind of workshop-style things. And then when I speak to my speakers and put my speakers I’m going to ask them for more actionable tangible things to come out of their presentations rather than just big blue sky stuff. So that’s how we use it. That particular one is what I was using IBM Watson, which is their AI. But there are lots of other ones out there that are available now.

Setting Fees

Maria Franzoni  14:15  

Yeah, no, loved it. loved it, that made an impact on me. So I liked that. And I’m sure other speakers were using it out there that you would want that explained it and showed it to us. You took us under the hood, if you like you gave it away a bit. And so here’s the big question. Let’s go to the meaty stuff. Now. Did you set your fee when you started speaking and has it changed now?

James Taylor  14:36  

Yeah, so what I’m going to tell you now is not what I would necessarily suggest to a speaker but as what you know, what you normally suggest to speaking now is you put together a rate card and you have it up on your board and you get very very good seeing your fee whatever your fears and you get very comfortable with that. I didn’t do that to me I should I should have known you. I wish I’d known you at the time. So this is what I did. One of the first inquiries we got wasn’t my first speaking engagement. But it happened a few months after my first speaking engagement. But it got booked, I think around in October or September 2017, I guess, was an inquiry from a client, a company in the Middle East. And we went through all the things that we heard, you know, we’ve seen your work, and we would like to invite you to come and speak at our conference this great as we went through all the things, and then they said, I washed your feet. I have no idea about my fears. So I think, let me just get back here. Let me think about it, you know, you kind of stalled for time. And then I reached out to a friend of mine who kind of almost act as a mentor kind of early on in my and still now actually, my career the speaker called Frederick horn, is an amazing speaker. And I suppose What do I say? And he said change is very, very easy. All you say is, you use to think of a number in your head. And, an usually high number, and you say, this is my fee, but I’m happy just pay me whatever you paid last year’s keynote speaker. So in my case, I just made up several $15,000. I think there’s a there’s a number I made up plus flights and all the other things. And I said, so my fee is $15,000 plus flights plus hotels, but just pay me whatever you paid last year’s keynote speaker. Now I did know that the previous keynote speaker was of a certain caliber. Yeah. Alberto. Well, I wasn’t going to going in completely blind. But I didn’t know. And she came back to me and he said, Well, that’s fine. said our previous speaker. His fee was 15. So $10,000 plus flights and hotels, and the visa costs. And would you be happy with that, then? I don’t? Yeah. Okay. So so my very first speaking fee was 10,000. US dollars, which, in hindsight, is probably quite a good fee as your first gig.

Maria Franzoni  17:06  

Yeah, no, great. And actually, I like that piece of advice is to say what you know, I’m happy to take what your previous keynote, you paid an interesting press keynote. And of course, you can find out because you can google them and go into speaker bureau websites and see the fee ranges because speaker bureaus give fee ranges, so you’ll have some idea of where they were at. So that’s interesting. The previous speaker was Oprah,

James Taylor  17:27  

though that’s the problem.

Travel included in the fee

Maria Franzoni  17:31  

That would have been so cool. Yeah, that would have been amazing. That’s brilliant. I like that. And, and your fee has gone up since Of course, which you don’t need to reveal any further. But we know that. And but also, what’s interesting, now I know is you include your travel in your fee now, which you didn’t do at the beginning.

James Taylor  17:49  

Yeah, and I’ve kind of gone back and forth, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer to this. So it you know, it depends on kind of where you’re based. If you want to be more of an international speaker, we had a certain strategy at the start, where we wanted to go for international make things very easy for customers. So we kind of like figure it in, and we just kind of put a number around that as well. Yeah, another time that you might want to do that is if I’m doing I’m playing to quite a lot of speaking in the US market next year. And I used to live in California, I live in America. So it’s a market, I stayed away from early on in my speaking career. But now it feels like it’s now time to focus on that as a market. And in that case, what I will do is I will choose probably three months or three to four months in the year in the spring period in the fall. And I will base myself there. So that means I can go to bureaus and go to clients and say my fee is this. And that includes my travel because I’m already in the market where it can become more difficult, let’s say if you’re an international speaker having to go and speak in, in the USA or Canada as a market is they always have to factor on the flights and things as well. So I just wanted to make it easy at the start for them that you don’t, that’s just the way that I kind of did it. And things have changed kind of slightly since then, as well. But that’s certainly the way that I’ve I’ve I kind of got started just to make it easy for them to say yes. Which I guess kind of brings, you know, kind of brings back to kind of strategy as well, but about certain markets. I had early on, I thought how can I stand out in a crowded market. And so I made a decision pretty early on, to focus on markets that other speakers were scared to go to. And, you know, so focus on those markets were in our case in the UK, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office would put a warning on it, you know, or the State Department in America would put a warning on the country. Now the thing is most countries that you go to even countries they see a dangerous, they’re not that dangerous. You know, I mean, I grew up in Scotland, and I lived for many years in Glasgow. And Glasgow on a Saturday night, I would argue is probably more dangerous than Beirut. You know, now so. So that’s kind of where my mindset and this allowed me to distinguish myself because most of the speakers are going for the big markets. Most other speakers are going to New York, Orlando, Las Vegas, London, Paris. And I didn’t do that. So I’ve made a purposeful outreach to more unusual emerging markets. And that was a strategic decision early on,

Speaking Internationally

Maria Franzoni  20:42  

I love it. I love the fact that you thought strategically about your speaking business, because I think a lot of speakers don’t, and they don’t sort of target, you know, when the kinds of organizations and the kind of territories, I also think is incredibly brave for you to go international, straight off, and not to stick with one territory, which is it’s a lot easier to get known in one territory. But of course, you’ve chosen certain industries, which makes it easier. And you’ve missed your topic, which makes it easier. But the international approach, which is a much harder way to go to start with, why did you say that was that because, as you said, speakers don’t normally do that? Or did you not realize it was harder?

James Taylor  21:24  

No, I mean, I think there was another very selfish reason is I like to travel. I like staying in nice hotels, and go to nice places and exploring and meeting interesting people. Because for me, my topic is creativity. And core to that, for me, is travel, being able to explore new places meet new people get new ideas, like oh, wow, look at what they’re doing here in South Korea. I wonder if we applied that there to that industry or that country there. So for me, it was as much about a lifestyle for a bit as being a speaker’s anything like anything else. But then I also really recognized Listen, there are so many phenomenal speakers out there phenomenal speakers on my topic that I just wanted to go. I just wanted but most of them will focus on their home market because it is easier as you say if you’re based in Las Vegas, you never leave after leaving Las Vegas, frankly, as a speaker is that it’s just that easy. And what gave me a little bit of confidence very early on, as I mentioned, was Frederick Caryn and Frederick car and built a career as a global speaker. He is like a global speaker, he focuses on speaking at those big global conferences where you bring everyone together because they want a speaker who has an international experience. So that’s kind of where I focus on, which is probably also the reason why I don’t do too much stuff in the UK. Because, you know, I had a strange experience the other day where, before the lockdowns happened, a client booked me to speak in too good to fly to Singapore to speak for the UK audience primarily this UK grouping, but then they flew a Singaporean or maybe, I think was maybe a Malaysian speaker to London, to speak to their Singapore and it just didn’t make any sense to me because it was a very it was a kind of there was a hybrid type of event. But it does go to something that I often stress to my members of speakers is this idea of the alien advantage. That’s a term that was first taught to me by Manoj Vasudevan, who’s the number one Toastmaster like last year like the great public speaker, phenomenal speaker. And he said he never gets booked in India. So he’s Indian, never gets booked in India, he gets booked all over the world because he feels in his own country, you’re just not valued as much. So that’s kind of what I did. And, and I but sometimes I look at people like we had a Jamil crash, you know, on the show a little while ago. And I look at Jimmy, I think, what a great life he’s got. He never has to go anywhere. If we pray, he does speak internationally. He’s got such a strong base in the UK as a market. And he’s been able to build that. So if I had to do the same thing again, I still do the international thing first, yes. Because there’s part of me about who I am global first. And it’s very it’s not very, are you know, the whole globalization thing now has is almost received D globalization decoupling, but I’m very much at heart I’m an I’m a globalist. So that’s kind of where I want to go with it. I’m James Taylor, keynote speaker, and speaker business coach, and this is the SpeakersU podcast. If you enjoy listening to conversations that will help you launch and grow your speaking business fast new thought possible, then you’ve come to the right place. Each week we discuss marketing strategies, sales techniques, as well as ideas to increase the profitability of your speaking business and develop your craft. You’ll find show notes for today’s episode as well as free speaker business training at speakers This week’s episode is sponsored by speakers who use the online community for international speakers, speakers helped you launch grow, and monetize your speaking business faster than you thought possible. If you want to share your message as a highly paid speaker, then speakers will teach you how just go to to access their free speaker business training.

Maria Franzoni  25:18  

I love that alien advantage. And actually, it’s true that more often than not, if you are very established in your marketplace, you will get much lower fees than if you go abroad. And okay, there is the fact that there’s a bigger timescale. And you’ve got to factor that in too so of course, you’ll get paid more, but you are valued more, it’s strange. And going back to the whole International, and we were talking about you were talking about including travel, and or going to the territory, which sometimes you’ve done, and sometimes you haven’t done, I think is a very good strategy to include travel. And I remember when I started working years ago in the Bureau, and I don’t know if he’s still based there, actually, because I have not worked with him for a while. Although I interviewed him, I should have asked him I don’t think he is Martin Lindstrom was based in New Zealand. And that puts people off if they’re in Europe because they’re thinking the airfare is huge. So he just put it into his fee. This is my fee. And then of course, if he’s then coming to Europe, but he’s then got other events going on. he gains. And when I was working with Bo Lata, the neuroscientists and representing him, we have the same issue because he was based half the time in Oxford, half the time in New York, and now and then he went, you would go somewhere else. And I said, Listen, let’s just do a blanket fee. And if you happen to be local, you just it gain, and if you if you’re not, you might lose a bit. And it worked incredibly well. It works better with the higher fees, though not so good. If you’re low fees, that’s brilliant. And what is your speaking business consists of now then? So yes, you do keynotes but I know you do virtually? What are the various products and services you offer?

James Taylor  26:50  

So if we take you through the different product categories, we have keynotes, so those are virtual keynotes, or in person or hybrid, keynotes. Now, I also hologram keynote is something we’ve been doing more and more recently. So the keynote side I would say is the majority of my business and that’s where my focus is on. But after that, we have workshops. So these are usually virtual workshops. Although I do you know when pandemic I did a lot of life I did one big one for like McDonald’s in Thailand did a lot of stuff in Latin America doing a lot of workshop beef, I think I did one day, one week in Ecuador, I did four workshops in a row, back to back and there’s a full-day workshop, and we’re doing keto, which is at the second-highest capital in the world. So I was exhausted after doing four days of that. So it does require a certain different level of energy that keynotes don’t. So virtual workshops. And then after that, we have my MC side, which comes about during the pandemic, is not a product I had did before, you know, you know, we do a lot of interviews, so it’s, we feel very comfortable. And you know, doing virtual is very comfortable for me with keynotes. And some clients just started coming to me, James, could you, we don’t want to hire like a big external speaker. But where we do need someone to hold this whole thing together and be the voice. So it’s quite nice, the way that I do it, I script all of my stuff. So they come to me almost as a mixture of being that face and being very comfortable doing virtue and being kind of unflappable with also having the kind of scripting writing skills and understanding the language of the industry. So understanding in terms of, if I’m, if I’m emceeing a big artificial intelligence company event as I did, last week, I did two, two things with an AI company in the middle of the night because it was for China. And I know the language of that world of AI and machine learning. And so I can have a conversation in we do like the fireside chats and the breakouts, and so I can talk with those CEOs at that level if I need to. So that’s been relatively new and that’s been a great thing. I’ve enjoyed doing that doing virtual emceeing and probably will continue to do that after your things that kind of going back to a bit more normality. And then the final part is online courses and memberships. And that’s a bit of a strange one is because I come from that world. When I lived in California, I was responsible for helping create over 30 online academies for different brands and different thought leaders. And so I know how that model works online marketing, how it worked. And so I decided when I was doing mine to do that, and so I have two online academies. One is called SpeakersU where I train other speakers on how to convey can do I do so they can build their speaking business. And then the other one is more recent, which is called Super creativity. You used to be called sea school and super creativity you are essentially the place where I’m not sending, selling direct to the public with those but if I have a client who Speaking for, then often what I’ll do is I’ll create a course, or give access to a membership program within that for all of their executives or the employees for a certain period. And all of that lives within super creativity use. So those are my different products. And then the final thing which is not been a big thing this year, or last year, which is retreats, live retreats that I think we would normally do here, we would normally do about 10 creative retreats a year and California and New York up in Woodstock, and Italy, and France, and Amsterdam, and the UK and Asia. But we haven’t done any for the past two years, and probably will start to do those again, but I’m not really in any particular rush to do this. Because there are a lot of work is, you know, we, you know, you’ve done, you do live events as well. And, you know, bringing 30 people together for a week is quite an intensive kind of mastermind style retreat is a lot of work.

Successful Speaking Business

Continued learning experience

Maria Franzoni  30:57  

It sounds like a lot of work. I know that we’re talking about maybe doing one together for speakers, and we’ll we will revisit that when we’re ready. But yeah, so back when we started talking about your speaking business, and we you said that your first year you did 50 events if I’m correct and saying and that on top of that you have the online you have the membership, you have your podcast, you have your emcee is as the emcee would be part of the gigs. But there’s so much more to your business than just the speaking parts and you’re constantly out there, it’s been three years you have built so much you’ve done so much. It’s truly impressive. And what I love is the fact that you can offer clients a continuing learning experience. So it’s not just that keynote, they’ve got that access to you as a membership or an online course, etc. That is invaluable. And of course, you’ve created once you’ve done it has no you don’t have to keep creating over and over again.

James Taylor  31:55  

Sometimes you know the nice thing about creating courses you from a sales selling you if your main thing is keynotes or speeches, for example, is I’m always up against two other really good speakers pretty much always. And, and I always love to know who the other speakers are. And because I can secretly celebrate when you know that 100 grand speaker that I was up against, and I get the gig and even though they’re a great speaker, because that has that competitive side of me, I guess. But sometimes when you’re selling, and you’re being, you’re being may be compared in some ways, but usually that level, you’re not it’s not a kind of an apples and apples thing. It’s an apples and oranges thing. So I’m trying to find ways to be distinctive from that other speaker because they’re going to be fantastic as well. regard you know, the book, the other speakers, they’re going to be amazing, I do not doubt it. So what I will sometimes do is with a client, prospective client, I will say this is what I’m going to deliver, I’m going to tailor-make tailor-made this keynote better than any other speaker you’ve ever had. So my whole thing is about tailor-making James Taylor, which speaks to them super customized. I go way beyond mentioned AI, but I do a lot of other things as well. And in addition to my speech, it doesn’t just end there. Because what we can do is we can give all 1000 members of your event access to my complimentary online course that goes along with this that in the old days, we used to upsell to books, I don’t have a book, I haven’t published a book yet, yet the thing you’re told to write a book. So I created courses instead. And I would use courses as a way of dealing with pricing objections, as well. And also for the audience. You know, I’m up there on stage for 60 minutes or 45 minutes. There’s only so much I can share in that time. And I know a lot of people, myself included, I quite like things, going back and returning to material and going a little bit deeper on things as well. And that’s where online courses can be phenomenal. That’s why that’s part of the reason for doing online courses is not so much as a front-end sales thing to make money from online courses. But add, as you say, add more depth to that experience for the client.

Finding Speaking Gigs

Maria Franzoni  34:12  

Fantastic. Fantastic. Adding more value. Tell me This is the $16 million question. Where do your bookings come from?

James Taylor  34:22  

Well, I’m gonna say where they come from in 2021 as I’m doing them because it has changed over the years. Because when I first started, I wasn’t working at any bureaus, no bureau partners. And I almost had I had a very arrogant thing right at the start of going I’m not going to work with any bureaus. I’m just going to focus on the direct customers. Like that’s going to be my thing and everything. And then I quickly realized that 75% of speaking gigs that pay fees over 15,000 are being done through bureaus. So that was a kind of stupid way of thinking about it at the start. So I’ve kind of changed my think over the years, but now I would say number one Is SEO boring? You know, and we pay for SEO tools. And we’re doing lots of things around SEO, one of the reasons we do so much content is because SEO is for doing that. After that, it would have been PPC, usually, we’ve kept our back in the PPC recently, because as we’re doing this just now, when the summer periods, so you tend to kindle backup, and some of them pick it back up again for the autumn. And then after that, it’s going to be bureaus now. And I work with about 40 different bureau partners. And so there’s business comes in from those different bureau partners. And then I would say after that referrals from actually probably frozen, maybe a little bit more than that. But maybe referral is a big thing. And probably 0.000001% comes from social media. I just I’ve never been able to if we’ve had some great guests talking about social media, how their social media is getting them gigs. And we track everything like ridiculously everything is tracked in our CRM. And I’ve very rarely done we see things that have come in because someone’s first had contact with us, or they’ve learned about me through Twitter or Facebook or even link LinkedIn. It just doesn’t the mic build relationship after that and do some more exploring, but it doesn’t come in from that way.

Maria Franzoni  36:21  

That’s interesting because that’s completely the opposite of Jamil’s business. Of course, he’s is he does have the bureaus and not as many as you have there. But he does so well on LinkedIn, I can help you with LinkedIn if you want a bit of help on that. But

James Taylor  36:36  

But Jimmy has personality, which I think works well on LinkedIn. Because he’s kind of got this is funny in that sense as well. I think you kind of have to, you know, push into your, your strengths and how you like to communicate. And he likes being on LinkedIn. I don’t particularly I mean, we’re probably this is probably streaming just now to LinkedIn. But it’s a nice thing. Yeah, I mean, I just do stages, like, yeah, it’s okay. But given my thought, I would rather just read a book. And so, you know, yeah. Yeah. To be dangerous, but no more.

Succeeded with Speaker Bureaus

Maria Franzoni  37:12  

Yeah, you have to do what you enjoy. So that’s fascinating. And so SEO, PPC Bureau is 40 bureaus. I’m going to come back to that referrals. I’m sure your referrals are higher up, I do. Because referrals are probably one of the best ones, isn’t it. And then the social media thing. So there are some opportunities there. I think about that, but you’re busy enough. And I want to talk to you about bureaus because it’s not easy to get listed with a bureau. It’s even harder once you are listed to get any business with the bureau. How have you managed to get listed with 40 bureaus? And I know you have active ongoing and successful relationships with them? How have you succeeded in doing that?

James Taylor  37:53  

Yeah, so it’s a mixture of different things I think. And probably the big caveat to place here is even though I work with 40, bureaus, you’re probably only going to find in an average year that five of those will give you any decent number of gigs. So it’s not, they’re all created equal. So this is the way that I did it. So I mentioned PPC, early on, we ran a lot of PPC, but why we do is rather than book those dates myself or have a member of the team, you know, look to book those dates on my behalf, I would end up channeling them to a bureau. So let’s say I had an inquiry that came in, and it was in Hong Kong, what I would do is I would if I didn’t have a bureau that I work with Hong Kong, I would reach out to the Bureau and I say, hey, we’ve just received this inquiry from a standard bank or whoever the client was about booking me to speak at their conference. Would you like to handle it? Would you like to deal with it? And every Bureau is gonna go? Yeah, absolutely. It’s, you know, it’s likely

Maria Franzoni  38:52  

they will because of your fees, they will because you feel so somebody with a lower fee, you might not get the same reaction. But also you have strategically chosen the right bureaus as well, because that’s important, too. So yeah, if you choose the right Bureau, you’re going in with a good fee, and you’re going in with a good client, as you’ve mentioned. Absolutely,

James Taylor  39:11  

absolutely. And then what we did is it was almost like fishing, like throwing outlines of your hooks is I would give Usually, I would give two to three inquiries to each Bureau. Over maybe a year, we were getting lots of inquiries all the time. And then I would sit back and I would watch, first of all, who convert because, you know, I don’t want to give inquiries to people that can sell well or can’t convert me or, or, and I’m gonna say this in the very rare instance that this does happen, where they will try and then move the client from booking me to booking one of their exclusive speakers. does happen I’m not gonna say, yeah, it’s like various things happen as well. And then the other thing I’m doing is I’m also watching to see if business starts coming back the other way. And, and so if I started getting inquiries from them, and then once you kind of do that process, you find who the good girls or the good guys are, and you go I enjoy working with them. Let’s just kind of go deeper with that. And so for all the viewers, we work with, we give them the same things we give them, all of our packs are case studies. I am always reaching out to them, like, what else can we do for you, if you got showcases, if you other things going on, all that all time we do a monthly newsletter to all the agents, all these different bureaus that we work with, but there’s a smaller grouping, I would save about five euros, that I would have a much deeper relationship with. And, and also with some of those, I’m giving them, maybe the client is booked me for a conference. And I’m then having a conversation with the client that the after the event, the debrief. And I’m suggesting maybe speakers Oh, have you thought about, you know, you did this thing here? Or have you spoken about or thought about this, but great speakers maybe for next year for your for? If that’s the avenue, you’re going to? Let me know, let me connect you again with Rebecca here, a big speech. And she can have a conversation with you about where that’s because I know that she does a lot of booking for her. So that’s me giving referring business by referring into the bureau not referring it to the speaker

Inquiries and working with bureaus

Maria Franzoni  41:22  

Fantastic love that. And actually, another good strategy if you have an inquiry. So as you said, you had that inquiry for Hong Kong, and you didn’t have a relation with the Bureau is to say to the client, do you ever work through a bureau? Do you have a preferred Bureau, because if they do, they’ve they’re already set up, they’ve got the bureau set up as a supplier, they’ve already got a relationship, and they could introduce you to a bureau that you don’t know. So that’s also another good way to do it. And so it’s interesting that you’ve had to have that number of bureaus, 40 bureaus, and auto five that are good. Partly that would be because you’re so International, whereas if somebody is focusing on one local market, you can’t have 40 bureaus in one local market, not that there probably are 14 decent bureaus in one local market, apart from maybe, maybe the US would be the exception. Fantastic. So listen, we’ve I’ve taken lots of your time, I have got a couple more questions, I would like to ask you, would you do anything differently? If you had to start over?

James Taylor  42:18  

Would I do anything differently?

Maria Franzoni  42:20  

upon having a red card? Maybe? Yeah, we

James Taylor  42:22  

gotta be useful. You know, I’m, I might have spent even less time on social media and gone old school. And I think maybe this is a there’s also a generational thing we’re seeing here as well, where I’m noticing a lot of younger speakers, just don’t use the phone. And I, you know, I’m happy to use or jump on live video calls and things with people as well, where they will be much happier, like just posting lots of content. And so that’s kind of a thing that, you know, if I was to do the whole thing, again, I might even go a little bit more hardcore on not being social media. And there are lots of great examples by the speakers. I’m always amazed that I was doing an event the other day like this. I was the opening and the closing keynote speaker, and I was having a conversation. And this is like a successful speaker. And they just don’t do any social media like anything. Because their thought leadership is so strong, they release a book every three years. And it’s a brilliantly researched book. So they spent all their time researching their ideas and having conversations behind the scenes. It’s all below the line. Nothing’s above the line. It’s all below the line. So if I was doing that, I would, you know, get an international phone plan with Skype. And, you know, just have called have conversations, I think it’s, I think it’s almost in some ways, it’s a little bit harder now. Because as a newer speaker, you don’t get maybe as many referrals. So if we think about when you go and do a live event, you would do your live event, you’d come offstage, you do your business cards, video. And I was always told if you don’t get two offers, of people coming up to you a gig, say we’d like to bring you to speak or we’ve got a conference, you know, we’d be interested speaking as, then your speech probably isn’t good enough. So that bit there, when you make the transition to the referral. I think that’s much harder in a virtual space. And so I there’s some ways I can if I think there’s the hardest thing for speakers to do, but I do think I would do anything particularly different. I think it might be a little bit different now doing in 2021 that I was thinking as a global speaker, we’re seeing a D globalization, a decoupling. So what I might do is I might choose my side. I might either go the West Western world focus on that, or I might focus on China, Asia, Southeast Asia, and focus on those markets instead, I think we’re gonna see a stronger kind of line going down there. Because the stories to tell are going to be different as well.

Post-event offers

Maria Franzoni  45:05  

I see a fantastic couple of things that I pick up on. So for me, you’re right. It’s about conversations. It’s about talking to people. And when I talk to speakers, and I try to help them, social media, for me is about attracting those people to engage with them to have conversations. It’s not about putting a ton of content, it’s about putting enough content to give you credibility, test set up a conversation, so totally agree with you, you’ve got to start talking to people, whether it’s on zoom or the phone, always and, and that’s, that’s the only way you can build a relationship is by talking. Absolutely. And then the other thing that you said about having two offers after you’ve come offstage, I agree with you, if you haven’t got somebody come back to you and saying, I want to use you again, whether it’s virtual, whether it’s life, it’s not good enough. And you can always, always, always be better, always. And you need to keep working. Wonderful. So you know, I’ll tell you


James Taylor  45:59  

a funny story. So that first gig that I ever booked, so I had a couple of months to write my speech. So I sold the speech before I’d ever written the speech, and a subtitle, and I was like, Okay, I’ve got a couple of months to write. And so this is I still say this day in day out, I had to get my reps up and figure out what work and the way that I did it is I went and gave I think 25 talks to rotary clubs in Scotland, which is where I live all local to me. And I remember doing those first few ones, and try and material like a comedian like, oh, that wasn’t working that well, that will that gets us to laugh, all that gets a resonance with the audience. And I remember strongly I can tell you where it was, it was at the Invercargill hotel. In Dundee, there was an audience of about 200 people in a rotary club meeting like a Wednesday afternoon, where you go up and you do your 20 minutes. And I remember coming off the stage or doing my thing and getting two business cards from two people that people said, We’d like to put us to our conference. And I remember that point going, I’m finally getting my speech is finally starting to get but that was, that was probably 15 speeches in


Maria Franzoni  47:13  

absolute, and that’s how Jamil has built his business. He always says, the more you speak, the more you speak, but you’ve got to be good. Brilliant. So to finish, because we love tools, we love apps, I know you love them. So what was your what’s your go-to tool, your go-to app, your go-to software, whatever it happens to be in the speaking business that you could not live without

James Taylor  47:35  

certificate, you could want just one tool.

Maria Franzoni  47:37  

Now give us more than one if you like, go on give us more than one

James Taylor  47:40  

I’ll let you off. The heart of what we do is ontraport, which is a CRM. And that just kind of stores all the data, we send all the emails to make our offers to track everything that’s happening as well. That’s the core. But in terms of really useful tools I use day in day out is one called Bom Bom, which is it’s very simple just sits on my phone. And this is how I use it. It’s a video email tool. So I always think that you know, other speakers, usually we’re very good at communicating verbally. That’s how we like to communicate. And suddenly, we have to, like start sending emails like writing stuff. And it feels a little bit jarring. Can I always say you can say better as a speaker if you speak it rather than writing it? So Bom Bom is made for us. Bom Bom is a tool that allows me to fill them a little short video. Hey, you know, John, thanks so much for you know, reaching out to me the other day, it would be great to come and speak at your event. And you send this as a little embedded video, essentially, it comes out, it looks really good. And you can see all the clicks and things. So this is how I use I use it for cold outreach. Because it stands out in someone’s inbox. You’ll have something like this, usually, I’ll have a little kind of thing like the with the person. And I can do something like that, and it gets your attention gets them opening and watching that video. I will also use it after I’ve done a call with a client. And I want to summarize the conversation we’ve had because maybe they’re having to sell up in their organization, maybe they’re the executive director of an Association, and they’re gonna have to go down to the committee to make a final decision. Because what can happen is I can send that video of missing great speaking today about MC potentially coming speaking at your conference in October. So here’s a quick recap, here’s why I’d be a great choice for ABC and then send that to them. I’ll then get a little notification saying that they’ve seen it and they’ve watched it. But then maybe a few weeks later, I will get a little ping again saying Oh, some people are opening and looking at that video again. I know that the back end by stage because maybe that’s the stage that the committee is now looking to make a decision and then I can then reach back out to the client Hey, I just one just following up on your you’re still thinking about you know, interest in booking weakness. Oh, funnily enough. We were just talking about you today because we’re just making that decision this week. And you get the sale because you’re relevant and you’re on time. And so Bom Bom is a tool that we use. We use it for lots of other things like after just like if I’m at an airport, I’ll do bom bom thanking the client. Thank you so much for bringing me in to speak at your event. There’s one thing I wanted to mention to you, we have an entirely online program, that would be great to give all of your people access to so they can access even more training on this particular thing. Just click on the link below and I’ll have my assistant send you the information about that as well. So that’s how we use Bom Bom.

Maria Franzoni  50:30  

So anybody listening will now know why I twisted your arm to talk about your speaking business because you do everything right. It’s so cool. The CRM, thank you so much because I think so many speakers do not have a CRM, and I don’t know how they run their businesses without CRM that if their things will be falling through the cracks, things will be leaking through, there’ll be losing stuff and missing stuff. And I love the Bumble. I don’t I don’t particularly like cold outreach. I’ve had it used on me for hours. But the follow-up where you’re doing that proposal, and you’re saying, Let me give you a summary. So it’s in your words, and you’re doing it is genius. The fact it tells you so you can then pick up with the client again is so cool. thanking people. Yes. Wonderful, because people and thank bureaus as well because bureaus don’t get thanked often enough. And don’t get enough Christmas presents. So all my viewer friends out there, that’s okay. I hand No, no not, not from you know, but for you. But for other speakers and other speakers, they know who they are. And the whole upselling then only you thanking but you’re selling something else. James, you are a true genius. So just remind people, if they want to book you to speak on Super creativity, tell us where to go. And also, if somebody wants to grab all of the great knowledge as a speaker from your membership, tell us where to go.

James Taylor  51:51  

So very simple. Just go to for my speaking side, or anything of thought leadership around creativity and AI, and if you are interested in actually getting training from me, and we’ll create lots of courses to help speakers I can show you everything about how we do it all behind the scenes stuff as well. We have loads of online courses about 500 hours now of online course content now, just go to speakers or letter U speakers And you can join our membership program. They’re


Maria Franzoni  52:23  

going to be fabulous. And a couple of comments before we disappear. We’ve got a Facebook user sadly you haven’t put your name so I don’t know who you are, who said the great idea re asking what the previous keynote was paid. First time hearing it they are a nice little gem there. Somebody else has said so with you read thank yous it does my head in how infrequently people say thank you. That sounds like somebody who might be booking people there. I think James was awesome. Fantastic. I can’t I cannot thank you enough for that. Wonderful wisdom. I hope you enjoyed the rest of your day in Siracusa.

James Taylor  52:58  

Thank you, Maria. Have a great time everyone.

Maria Franzoni  53:01  

See you next week, everybody, thank you.

James Taylor  53:04  

You can subscribe to the SpeakersU podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts while you’re there. leave us a review. I appreciate it. I’m James Taylor, and you’ve been listening to the SpeakersU podcast.