Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. Frankly, I said yes to today’s guest before I even knew what we’re going to talk about because I just dig him. His name is Grant Baldwin. He’s been on the interview here a few years ago when we talked about how he became a successful speaker. And for me, a successful speaker, truthfully, is somebody who is entertaining, interesting to watch, teaches you, but truthfully, that’s not why I had him on here. He was making a living, traveling by speaking and moving audiences. And I was fascinated by that. And so I interviewed him about how he did it.
Today, we’re going to talk about two things. Number one, how he went from being a speaker who got to travel, and make good money, and build a reputation speaking to running a company where he doesn’t have to do as much travel, and he can teach other people how to build their successful speaking careers. I was going to say teach people how to speak but it’s more than that. He shows them how to find the right niche, how to promote themselves, how to figure out what to say, and basically how to turn it into a business. The name of his company is The Speaker Lab. It helps clients find in books speaking engagements, and he’s got a book. Is the book out now?
Grant: The book is out.
Andrew: It’s out.
Grant: As the time of this recording, it’s out yesterday. So . . . good timing.
Andrew: Oh, man, we should publish this. All right, we got to move this publishing along. The name of the book is “The Successful Speaker.” I don’t love the subtitle on this. It says, “Five Steps for Booking Gigs, Getting Paid, and Building Your Platform.” I guess what you’re trying to do is say, “Look, I nailed it down into five steps.” And it’s true. You’re really kind of anal about coming up with acronyms, coming up with clear steps. I guess it would have sounded a little bit too hokey to say everything you need to book speaking gigs, find your topic and get paid, right? But that’s what it’s about. You’re really giving us the A to Z.
Grant: Yeah, the thing about speaking and, like, the speaking industry is, it always just kind of felt like this black box and kind of these people asked like, “You know, how do I get on the circuit?” Like, I don’t know of any circuit that exists. And so what we really wanted to do is demystify it. So part of what we were trying to do with the book and just the company what we do in general is create a solution that I wish I had when I got started so we can get into if you want. But early on, I had done a lot of speaking, I felt like I was a decent speaker. I wanted to do more speaking but just had no clue, like, how do you find bookings? And who hire speakers and how much do you charge and what do they speak about? So I felt like I had the potential but I needed the plan.
And I find that there’s a lot of people that are in the same spot. They have the potential, they like speaking, they want to do more speaking, zero clue what to do next. So we want to just give, like, a systematic approach. It’s more than just like, “Oh, just write a best-selling book and then you get speaking gigs.” It’s like, “Yeah, but there’s more to it than that. ”
Andrew: Yeah. Now you go super into detail. You go big picture. The audience doesn’t want to know why you’re interesting or fun. They want to know like, what’s the problem that you solve and for whom? And I like that big picture. But you also go really, like, specific, like, make sure your pants are zipped and that . . .
Grant: It’s the little things, man.
Andrew: . . . you don’t have anything in your teeth, and that you use your own remote control. And usually, when people go super in-depth like that, when they give you too detailed, they’re missing the big picture, the thing that matters or if they give you the big picture, they don’t give you the details that will get you started. You do both and you do them really well here. I should say this interview is sponsored by two phenomenal companies. The first if you’re hosting a website, go to hostgator.com/mixergy. And the second, if you’re running a team of people who have to communicate on your behalf, I’m going to tell you why Qordoba is going to get you all to communicate well, no grammatic mistakes, no typos, everyone communicating in the same way, and also none of the sexist language that will get your company in trouble. Anyway, it’s called Qordoba, I’ll talk about it later. When you were speaking, how many days a year would you say that you were on the road at your height?
Grant: Yeah, the busiest year, I did 70 gigs, which would have put me on the road. I can go back and look it up but it was about 90 nights give or take. Because there’s somewhere you would go in and you’d be gone, you know, one gig for one night and there’d be somewhere you do two or three gigs, back to back to back and you just kind of go on from city to city to city type thing.
Andrew: How much money were you making doing it at your height?
Grant: Yeah, I think our busiest year, we did about 400,000 in revenue.
Andrew: Just from speaking?
Grant: Yeah. Yeah. We did a little bit on books. Like I have a self-published book for . . . I did a lot of speaking in the education space and a lot with high schools, colleges, and then transitioned to doing more with entrepreneurs.
Andrew: And then your business, The Speaker Lab, how much is that doing?
Grant: Last year, we did about . . . We’ve just crossed the $2 million mark. So we’re officially multi seven-figure so that’s fun. Yeah.
Grant: Thanks, man.
Andrew: You know what? I would have thought that traveling would be more fun. You told that producer that it wasn’t that much for you. I wonder why. Maybe it’s the way that I do travel. I like to get together with people who are at the conference as much as possible. I like to go and run through the city, explore the food, do that stuff. But maybe you didn’t get to do that when you were speaking that many nights a year.
Grant: Now, like, it kind of depends on the gig, depends where you’re going. You know, if you’re going somewhere cool, you’re going to be there for a day or two, then yeah, it’s fun to go out and maybe see something. But for the most part, when people are like, “Oh, you’re going to Chicago, you got to go to such and such museum.” I was like, “I don’t have time. Like, I want to get there, I want to do the gig. I want to deliver what I promised I was going to do, and I want to go home. Like, I want to get back to my fam . . . ” I’m married to my high school sweetheart. We got three girls. To me, in a house full of women, it’s the best. And so as much as speaking is really fun, it’s really enjoyable, the 45, 60, 90 minutes you’re on stage, it’s hard to compete with. It’s more important for me just to be a good husband, be a good father. So I like speaking but I want to get home too.
Andrew: What was one of the fun speaking trips that you took?
Grant: I can think of some gigs that were really fun, like just some big ones, you know, like, some big arenas type events, some that were . . . Like the biggest event I ever did was 13,000 was a keynote for that. That was really cool, where you just walk in, this is, like, a big basketball arena, you know, that type of venue. And other types of events where, you know, you do the talk, the talk would go well, and then you’d have people that would line up for I remember a couple of times, like two hours, two-and-a-half hours, take pictures or sign autographs or talk to you shake your hand or whatever. And it’s just kind of this, like, pseudo weird feeling. Like, this is strange.
Andrew: Do you enjoy all that or does . . . ? So my favorite gig ever, speaking gig, was speaking at Chris Guillebeau’s conference, the stage and everything was beautiful. And then once I came out, and I think it was in Portland, I got to walk through town. And it was the whole conference took over the town and so people would come up and talk to me about the ideas in the presentation, help me think it through in more depth, helped me see how it helped them. That for me, was just an exquisite experience all the way around. What’s one like that for you? Is it when you’re standing in line and everyone wants to talk to you? Is it something else?
Grant: No, it’s definitely . . . Because, like, what you just described, before you speak at a conference, nobody knows who you are, right? And then after you speak, then you have a bunch of strangers that all of a sudden feel like they know you, right? And you don’t have any clue who they are other than they were in the audience. They saw you. “Wait, weren’t you that speaker?” You know, so you have that happens a lot. But it is incredibly fulfilling to hear those type of stories.
The balance and the challenge is, I have found . . . I don’t know about you. I know, for me, personally, I am relatively introverted. And a lot of speakers I know are very introverted. We like people, we like being around people, but it’s also tiring. It’s draining, you know. So, when you stand and talk to people for several hours, like, that’s really cool people, like person after person after person after person. Like, it’s a very first world problem, person after person saying like, “That was so amazing. That was so helpful. That impacted my life. That changed my business, that, yada, yada, yada.” That’s really, really cool. But it’s also just tiring. You know, it’s like mentally, emotionally draining, you know. So, as fun as that experience can be, it’s sometimes afterwards you’re just like, “I just need to go take a nap. I’m just wiped from that, you know? ”
Andrew: Yeah. I feel very, very little of that. Usually, I’m such an extrovert as long as I have . . . I like to run on my own. And I need the end of the day for nobody be there. So I don’t like sharing a room with anyone. As long as I have that, I’m totally fine. Let’s go all day and talk nothing but, let’s do it. Give me a couple of tips. One of the first things that stood out for me as I read your book was that you got to find the problem. Tell me what you mean by that. And I want to understand how you built your business. That’s what I’m here about to understand The Speaker Lab, but give me an understanding of what you mean by find the problem.
Grant: Yeah, the mistake a lot of speakers make is we just enjoy speaking. Like, you and I, speaking is just fun. You know, so you’re just like, “Well, I just want to speak.” So who do I speak to? Well, who do you want me to speak to? I can speak to anybody, you know?
Andrew: So, for me, it might be I’ve been interviewing entrepreneurs for years. I have a lot of interesting stories from talking to entrepreneurs. I’ll speak about anything that they’ve talked about, right? That’s the wrong way to do it. You would say to me to do what?
Grant: Well, to get really, really clear on who you speak to and what is the problem that you solve. So we understand this in other areas of business and other areas of life. So think about it this way. So let’s imagine that we were going to go . . . Like, one of things we talked about inside the book is that you want to be the steakhouse and not the buffet, the steakhouse, not the buffet, meaning, if we were looking for a good steak, like you have a choice. You could go to a buffet where steak is one of 100 different things that they offer, and they’re all mediocre or you could go to a steak house where they do one thing, but they do that one thing really, really well.
And so it’s the same thing for us speakers. Speakers who say like, “Well, I could talk about sales or leadership, or entrepreneurship, or marketing, or advertising, or parenting, or marriage. And, like, just because you’re passionate about all those things, just because a chef could make all those things doesn’t mean that they should create the buffet because then you end up watering what you do down and you end up being everything for nobody at the same time versus saying like, “No, no, I solved one specific problem for one specific audience.”
Andrew: Okay. And you also want us to think, “Well, look, if you’re going to charge, well, who’s got the money? And then they might want you to speak about one thing but you love to speak about another thing. The example that you gave was about personal financing speaking at schools right?
Andrew: I wouldn’t have thought that schools would even have a budget. What was the topic that you wanted to talk to them about?
Grant: So what we talked about inside the book is called a Trojan horse method, meaning that there’s kind of this overlap between what you’re passionate in talking about, versus what the market will actually pay speakers to talk about. Just because you care about a topic just because everyone needs to know about underwater basket weaving, I’m the foremost expert in the world on underwater basket weaving, it doesn’t mean anyone cares. So you have to find that overlap between here’s what I care about versus here’s what organizations and groups actually pay speakers to talk about.
So in that example, we talk about in the book, at the time, I was doing a lot of speaking with high schools and colleges. I was really passionate about personal finance. I was having a hard time getting, especially high schools, to book me to talk about personal finance. But what I did find was a lot of schools were saying, “Hey, can you talk about helping our students make a smooth transition from high school into college and the real world?” I was like, “Bingo, of course, I can do that.” So I started doing that. And within that, as I’m talking with students about, “Here’s how you make a smooth transition from high school into college in the real world, one of the things we talked about was ding, ding, personal finance.
So you’re able to still talk about the thing, but put it in different wrapping paper or go about it in a different way. So it’s not like a bait and switch type of approach where you’re saying, “Well, you heard me talk about this, but I’m really going to talk about that.” Like, don’t do that. That’s not cool at all. But be clear of, like, just because you’re passionate about it, doesn’t mean anybody cares or doesn’t mean anybody’s necessarily hiring speakers to talk about that.
Andrew: And high schools had enough money to pay for you to come in? These are private high schools?
Grant: No, no, like, public high schools, thousands of dollars. Yeah.
Andrew: Public high schools have budgets?
Grant: Absolutely. Totally. Public high schools, the thing with . . . So inside the book, we talk about there’s seven different primary speaking industries, right? You have corporations, associations, nonprofits, faith-based, government and military, college and university, and education, K through 12, elementary, middle school, high school. You have all these different. So, again, what you don’t want to say is like, “Oh, like, I can just speak to all of them or I’ll pick five of them.” Like, don’t do that. Like, solve one specific problem for one specific audience. Right?
I’ll give you an example. Okay. This is an example that just happened last week. So my wife has been very sick for the past several weeks. And she goes to the doctor. And ultimately, they’re like, “You know what? We think the issue here,” she’s not going to like me sharing this with you, “is your uterus. We need to do a hysterectomy and take your uterus out,” right? So at this point, we have a choice to make. You could go to, I don’t know, just pick a doctor who, like, they went to medical school, they’re smart, they’re educated, they probably know more about the human body and surgery than we do. Or we went to a doctor that we were referred to, like, he’s been doing this surgery for 25 years, like day in and day . . . He does the surgery in his sleep, I presume, right?
So the same type of thing is true for a speaker of, like, you don’t want to be all things to all people. You don’t want to say like, “I speak on this. Like, I speak on this and I’m an expert on that.” No, no, “I do this, but I’m the best at that.” So, by going to the . . .
Andrew: If I just . . . do hysterectomies, I’m not doing hysterectomies and boob job?
Grant: Right. Yes. I do this one specific surgery, right? And he was great at it, right? She came home, she’s home right now, she’s getting better. And so that’s what you’re looking to be as a speaker. And because of that, you can also charge a premium because I solve this one thing on the best setup versus, “I’m this generalist.”
Andrew: What were your topics?
Grant: So a lot of what I did early on with students was, again, helping them make that transition from high school into college. And then a lot of what we’ve done with entrepreneurs, I did some stuff with work-life balance for organizations. And then today, it’s a lot around what we’re talking about now of those . . .
Andrew: How to give presentations.
Grant: Yeah. Well, entrepreneurs who are interested in speaking.
Andrew: Like, Pete. Was Pete an under . . . ? Do you remember Pete in your book? The thing that stood out for me was Pete was a proposal machine.
Andrew: And I like that.
Grant: Pete Smith.
Andrew: What was it?
Grant: Pete Smith. Yeah, yeah, he is a great guy
Andrew: Oh of course, you remember his last name. Yes, exactly. So one of the things that stood out for me was he picked who he was going after and he sent out hundreds of proposals a year . . .
Andrew: . . . to just any conference organizer. Talk to me about that approach because he says, “Everyone wants you to be smart and, you know, work smart not hard because I had to work hard until I could get smart.” And I feel like that makes a lot of sense for a lot of people. Who would he go after?
Grant: Yeah. So we talk about getting clear on this is who you speak to and what is the problem that you solve for them? And then you got to think about where do those people gather. Again, just because you’re passionate about a topic or just because you care about certain group of people, where would those opportunities exist? And once you figure out what those opportunities are, then you can start the process of reaching out to them.
So, you know, just because you have a website, just because you have a demo video doesn’t mean anybody cares. And that’s a mistake, not just speakers make but entrepreneurs make like, “All right, I got my product, I got my widget, I got my tool, I got my website. And now I just sit back and I wait for the phone to ring and the orders to come in.” Like, speaking is no different than any other business, and that it requires a lot of momentum, but it requires work to get the momentum going.
And so, like, in Pete’s case, he spent a lot of time of, like, actually reaching out to clients and actually reaching out to potential people who are looking for speaker. So one of the things we talk about is the easiest potential clients to book or those who are already looking for speakers. So let’s take World Domination Summit that you spoke out . . . what you’re referencing with Guillebeau. Right? So, when it comes to Guillebeau and World Domination Summit, you don’t have to convince Chris to hire a speaker. He’s already planning on hiring a speaker, you’re just showing why you are a good fit for that event.
And Chris’s event is one of thousands of events that happen on a daily basis all over the world on a variety different subjects and topics. So part of what you can do to start the momentum is start to manually reach out to some of those, not from a spray and pray approach. You’re just like, “I’m just going to contact anyone who has a conference and hope it magically works out.” But again, if you’re really clear on this issue I speak to and this is the problem that I solve, and you . . . ”
Let me give an example. There is . . . I use the example about sewing, knitting and sewing, right? So let’s imagine that you’re somebody, like a knitting sewing expert, and there are all types of, like, knitting sewing conferences that exist. And so, if you reach out to them and say, “Hey, here’s something that I could teach your audience,” then you’re helping them to solve a problem that they already have. They’re already looking for a speaker. Again, you’re just showing them why you are a good fit.
Now, from there, again, because speaking as a momentum business, to what you’re referencing with Pete, each event you speak at, you can leverage into additional events and keep the momentum going because people will see you in the audience or you’ll build relationships with other speakers or your build relationship with event planners. And there’s a lot of referrals that begin to happen. But in the beginning, you do have to do a little bit of grunt work to get the ball rolling to start to build some of that momentum.
Andrew: Yeah. You went on to say Pete is now an established speaker who earns an average of $9,950 per speech plus travel and still cranks out hundreds of proposals per year. And I love how even in the book in “The Successful Speaker,” you tell people how to charge and the line that I highlighted was after you quote your fee “Shut up.”
Grant: Shut up.
Andrew: Which is, it’s one of the things that I had to learn as an interviewer, after you asked your hard question, don’t go in and apologize, and give them, like, lots of ways out because people will just fit the look for a way out. They’ll take it. So Sherry Walling interviewed me, I fricking love Sherry Walling. She asked me some tough questions that I was ready to get in deep with her. But I felt that she was so apologetic about it that it would be weird now for me to go in deep on this because it’s maybe not what she’s looking for. I was ready to go deep on it. I had some business trouble I kind of brought out when she said, “Well, I don’t need to know all of it.” I go, “All right. Then I won’t go into it.” But that’s one of the things that I liked about your book. And you kept saying, “We, we, we,” I go, “Who’s we?” And it’s with Jeff Goins, I just noticed. You wrote it with the guy who teach people how to write books.
Grant: Yeah. Yeah. And in fact, I think this might be helpful for the audience is how this kind of came about. So Jeff and I have been friends for several years. He texted me about two-and-a-half years ago or so. And we talked about this in the book and he asked, “Hey, have you ever thought about writing a book?” I was like, “Yeah, I don’t know.” Like, when I was doing a lot of speaking with students, I’d self-published a book. Writing a book is a lot of work. I don’t necessarily enjoy writing. And so he basically said, “Hey, what if we do this? You already have a ton of content, you already have a lot of IP, you already have a lot of knowledge around this topic. You have all the experience about being a speaker and finding and booking gigs. What if we work together? I’m going to take all of that. You’re going to be the author, but I’m going to be the scribe. And I’m going to take that, I’m going to turn it into . . . I’m going to take your words.” He’s basically, like, a named ghostwriter, you know, a non-ghostwriter ghostwriter.
Andrew: Yeah, yeah. I should have known. Yeah.
Grant: And so, like, it was a . . . From that standpoint, it was a phenomenal experience. I thought about it through the lens of . . . I remember asking a couple of buddies of like, “Hey, what do you think . . . ? You know, Jeff and I were talking about this idea.” And they said . . . I said, “So let me get this straight, a publisher is going to pay you a bunch of money for Jeff Goins to write your book?” “Yeah, let’s do that.” Yeah. So because Jeff, you know, for those that know Jeff, and I know you do, like, he is extremely articulate, smart, wise, a very good writer, very good at taking concepts and ideas, and putting them into book form. So that’s . . . So when he said, “Hey, let’s all write the book. We’ll work on it together.” I was like, “Yeah, that sounds, like, a huge . . .
Andrew: Plus, I’m going to say this for Jeff. And by the way, I said, “How did I not see this in the book? What happened? It’s in the acknowledgments.” I didn’t read the acknowledgement.
Grant: [inaudible 00:19:14].
Andrew: The content, it’s in there. One of the things that stands out for me about Jeff is, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the hair out of place on his head. And if it was, it’s only so that he could have, like, the movement of moving the hair back and starting a conversation.
Grant: It’s possible.
Andrew: Right. He’s that type of a person. That makes sense that your book would be this good.
Grant: He’s polished.
Andrew: I got to talk about my first sponsor. My first sponsor is a company called HostGator. Let me ask you this. You wrote about this in your book. So why don’t I tee this up for you as part of my HostGator ad. You say, “Look, one of the things that you need is, yeah, social media is good, but your website is more important.” Why is your website more important and what should anyone who’s listening to us who says, “I want to get into speaking,” what should they have on their website? So why is it more important than say, I don’t know, all social media and what should they have on their site?
Grant: You got to have a website. In this day and age, if you don’t have a website, you don’t exist. Like, people won’t take you seriously. If you went to a . . . You know, you’re talking to a potential client and they said, “Hey, I’d love to learn more about you,” or “Hey, we have a committee meeting come up, our board meeting,” I’d love to share your information with our team, you said . . .
Andrew: And it’s not enough to have Instagram and say go to instagram.com/ my . . . ?
Grant: Yeah, if you like, go to my Pinterest page or go to my Facebook page, like, that’s stupid. That’s so unprofessional. Like, no one’s going to take you seriously. So you have to have a website. I also recommend that you use your name as the domain. Like, I actually had to purchase grantbaldwin.com from another guy named Grant Baldwin. So use your name as a domain.
Now as far as what goes on the website, I’ll give you a couple of quick things. One is going to be a demo video. People want to see it more than you just tell them about you being a speaker. They want to see a bio. They want to see some speaking pictures, some social proof of you actually doing it, a list of topics that you actually speak on and ideally, like, actual talks that you do think about, like a restaurant menu. You don’t just sit down and they say, “What do you want us to cook you?” They say, “Here’s our five things that we can make. Which one of these five do you want?”
And you also want to have a contact form. Make it clear for them. “Okay. What’s the next step for us to start a conversation?” Most people, I’ve done hundreds and hundreds of paid speaking gigs, rarely, if ever, have I had someone email and say, “Hey, we’re ready to book it. Let’s go right now.” It doesn’t work like that. Usually, it’s just, “Let’s start the conversation. Are you available this date? How much is your fee? Can you talk about this?” You know, some of these different conversation starters. So, yes, you got to have a website, HostGator is the place to be.
Andrew: I was smiling as I did this, because, first of all, you did my ad for me.
Grant: You’re welcome.
Andrew: And number two, I said, what’s he using for his theme because HostGator will host WordPress, and he’s using WordPress, you’re using just the 2019 theme that comes with WordPress for free, but you’re making it look good because you got a nice headshot on there, you’ve got a photo of yourself standing up and speaking. And then, of course, you’ve got links to all the things that we need, like, your videos and yes, links to your social.
If you’re out there listening to me, you should understand whether you’re speaking publicly or hoping to get podcasts interviews, we’re all going to go to your page to get a sense of whether you’re credible or not. And that’s an opportunity for you to control your message. Go to hostgator.com/mixergy and you will be able to do this easily, quickly, and reliably. They’re fantastic and yes, beyond the cheap options that they have on the URL that I’m about to give you where you get a super low price, they will scale as your business grows. Go to hostgator.com/mixergy. Get a great hosting package inexpensively and keep growing your business with them.
And frankly, if you don’t like them, yes, they have a money-back guarantee, and you can always also just pick up your website and move it to a different hosting company. But I think you’re going to love them. I’ve been with them for years, hostgator.com/mixergy.
All right. So you got all this set up for yourself and you say, “I know how to do this. I’m going to start to teach.” At what point did you decide that you were going to create The Speaker Lab.
Grant: So, growing up, I’ve always been pretty entrepreneurial. I was the kid that mowed a ton of yards in the neighborhood, and I love the business side of what we do. And so I remember early on as a speaker, I had a speaker friend tell me, “This is a high paying manual labor job.” It’s like a doctor or a surgeon right, we get paid way too well to stand on stage and run our mouths but the nature of it is that you have to get on the plane. You have to leave your family. You have to go somewhere. When you’re speaking to that audience in that room, you cannot be speaking to anybody else anywhere else. So there’s just that there’s some limitations. I get it, it’s very first-world problems but that’s kind of the nature of the beast.
And so you also reach a ceiling, a cap. In order to make more as a speaker, you have to do one of two things. You have to either charge more or just do more gigs. And so in the industry I was in, I was on the upper end of what I felt comfortable charging and I was doing 70 gigs. I didn’t want to get to 100 or 150, or anything like that. I felt fine with where I was at. So I kind of like, “Okay. I did it. Like, I reached the top of what I was going for,” right? And some of the best advice that I got that I think again is applicable and relevant to any entrepreneur is I had a speaker friend who told me and I’ve talked about this in the book, he said, “You want to find things where the challenge exceeds the skill set. The challenge exceeds the skill set.” And what he meant by that was whenever I first started speaking and I hop on stage, it was terrifying. No idea what I’m doing. You feel like this is going to be a complete disaster, right?
But over time, the skill set exceeds the challenge, right? I could stand on stage right now in front of an audience and do really, really well, right, versus there’s other . . . It’s kind of like the first time you run a marathon. Okay. The first time you run a marathon, the challenge exceeds the skill set. Part of you is thinking like, “This is a horrible idea. I think I could die,” versus overtime, it switches and the skill set exceeds the challenge. Like, you know right now, you and I could go out and do a marathon. It would be a disaster. We would be in pain for a lot of days. It would not be a PR by any stretch. But mentally, we know we could do it. So over time, again, the skill set exceeds the challenge.
And so, again, you want to find things where you feel like, “I’m a bit in over my head here and in a good way.” And so, at the time, I was doing a lot of speaking gigs. I was kind of feeling like, “Okay. I like where we’re at, but I don’t know where to go from here.” And I started having a bunch of people ask me like, “Hey, I see how you’ve built your business as a speaker, I want to do the same. How do I become a speaker?”
So we started we put together little training and we started doing teaching around that, and that started to really take off. And so, as that increased, then I started decreasing the number of gigs that I was doing. And, like, long story short over time, that’s basically what happened to the point where I still do a handful of gigs, not nearly as much as I used to, but the core of the business of what we do is around teaching other people how to find and book gigs.
Andrew: What year was this when you started?
Grant: Started The Speaker Lab?
Andrew: Was it 2011? Sorry, yeah,
Grant: The Speaker Lab, we started in 2015, I believe, 2016, somewhere around there.
Andrew: Got it. Okay. And so the first course taught what and then how much was . . . ? What did you teach and what did you charge?
Grant: Yeah, the course was called “Booked and Paid to Speak.” It’s the same course that we offer today. We’ve done a lot of iterations since then and the price has gone up since then. So I think initially when we first started doing it, we were charging like a 297, 397, somewhere in there. Today, it’s a 997 course and then we have a group coaching program. That is a $5,000 program that is sold over the phone and then the $1,000 course is sold via automated in live webinars.
Andrew: And so one of the things he told our producer, I didn’t know this, you said, “I was doing . . . Before I focused on speaking, I was doing things with Amazon or Pinterest marketing.” Pinterest marketing for what?
Grant: I wasn’t doing anything with Pinterest marketing. I don’t know squat about Pinterest marketing. Yeah. I think the point was that . . . I’m trying to remember what we were talking about with that. Oh, I remember what it was. I remember what it was. But the idea with speaking is that . . . One of the things I like about our business is I feel like there’s a lot of longevity to speaking. Okay? Meaning that there has always been people interested in speaking and there will always be people interested in speaking. Speaking is one of those aspirational things that a lot of people are interested in, but don’t necessarily know how to get into it versus something like a Pinterest marketing. Pinterest marketing is something that may be super niche and then maybe . . .
Andrew: And temporary.
Grant: . . . really interesting. And yeah, yeah, popular for the moment. And three years from now is Pinterest marketing going to be a thing? I have zero clue, but I’m really confident that speaking will be and events will continue to hire speakers, and that people will continue to wonder how they get on those stages.
Andrew: Yeah, you know what? I’ve been thinking lately about how many things are just outdated now in some ways or just saturated and overcrowded. Like, think about podcasting. Podcasting was easy. There weren’t a lot of people who were doing it. I could stand out as just the only podcaster in the startup space. And then it becomes something that just, over time, it feels like everyone’s doing it. Meanwhile, as I read your book, you were talking about the importance of storytelling. And I thought, “This is like 100-year-old book by Dale Carnegie talked about the importance of storytelling in his time and giving presentations.” I thought, “This is timeless. There’s somebody who’s going to be reading Grant’s book 100 years from now and it’s still going to make sense.” And there’s a sense of comfort that comes from having a skill that is that long-lasting. You know what I mean?
Grant: Yeah, no, absolutely. I think about . . . I’ve heard Jeff Bezos talk about, you know, investing in the things that are going to be around. So people are always going to want their products quicker. Like, people are never going to complain about faster shipping, you know? So, like, what are those type of things? What are the businesses, the industries that have been around that are boring that are going to be around for a long time? And I wouldn’t necessarily say that speaking is boring. But it is one of those businesses and industries that has been around for a long time, I think it will continue to be around for a long time in one form or fashion. And again, like I was saying, I think there’s always going to be people who say, “I want to be a speaker, but I don’t know what to do next.”
Andrew: Were you thinking of a different topic or a different business, something that didn’t last before you committed to teaching speaking?
Grant: We dabbled a little bit with the topic of helping people figure out what they wanted to do in terms of a career. And so I was doing some speaking around that topic. When I was doing some speaking for high schools and colleges, I did a little bit on that topic of, you know, figuring out what you ultimately . . . What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you want to do with your life and so really enjoyed that.
And so, in fact, before the . . . I do a podcast today called “The Speaker Lab” by the same name of the company, and we’ve done 280 some podcasts of episodes. And the previous podcast I had was called “How Did You Get into That?” Where we’re interviewing people who just had, like, unique, weird, kind of quirky careers? Like, how did you get into that? You know, like, some type of unique sort of thing. There’s going to be people listening who say, “I want to do that. How would I?” People, like, a Lego master builder. One of the guys who worked at Nike designing an Air Jordan, a lady who was a cheesemonger, one of the top cheese . . .
Andrew: So why didn’t that become the big thing? Why did Speaker Lab become it?
Grant: Yeah, so we tried it. So we did the podcast and then we sort of built up a bit of an audience around that and we created a course called Clarity course. And we launched that and it did okay. And I think we sold out, like, 10,000 or 15,000, 20,000. So it was immediately one of those things where I was like . . . It was okay. I think gut instinct is way undervalued in entrepreneurship because I felt like because people around me were like, “You’re onto something. You got something.” I was like, “No, but, like, that’s not it. Like, we’ve got something else here.”
Andrew: Why wasn’t it? Because you’re thinking about career advice, that’s a time when people are open to new things. You’re thinking about career advice, which means that they’re looking to get paid more in the transition. And you’re getting to know them at a period in their lives where they’re going through a deep, desperate problem and challenge, and you can help them. It seems like it would be a big business. It seems like it would be a better business, but there’s a reason why it’s not and I’m not able to put my finger on why.
Grant: Yeah, I mean, I think it could fall into that buffet category. And I feel like what we do now is more of a steakhouse, you know, so like . . .
Andrew: Too many different types of careers, too many different transitions, somebody who’s going to become a developer is not going through the same thing as somebody who’s going to become, I don’t know, a restaurant, a chef at a restaurant. Right. Right.
Grant: Totally. Totally. And I would say this, like, so even within the business of what we do today, there is no shortage of people who come to us who are interested in speaking who are also interested in publishing or writing a book, or podcasting, or doing a course, or online marketing. And I feel comfortable and confident with all of those topics that we could do something.
I had someone message me the other day and said, “Okay. You have The Speaker Lab, you should do the author lab. But again, I don’t want to become a buffet. Like I want to say, “No, no, we’re the best darn Steakhouse.” Because when people . . . Anybody listening right now, and for you and I, Andrew, when people think of us, they say, “Hey, what’s Andrew up to these days? Or what’s fill in the blank up to these days?” You don’t want people to say, “Well, they do this but then they also do this and they dabble in that. We’re not really sure what they do today.” Like, I want people to say, “Oh, you need to go to Grant, Grant’s the speaker guy.” The blank guy, the blank girl? What are you . . . ? What is it that people say about you?
Andrew: Jeff Goins is the author guy.
Grant: Yeah, right. Yeah, so that’s what you want to be.
Andrew: Right. Bryan Harris has gotten good at that, your friend. He’s the growth guy, right?
Grant: Yep. Yep.
Andrew: And even though he has lots of different products, lots of different businesses, or at least aspects of his business, he’s found that one topic that they all connect back to and it helps. Okay. So you decided to stick with this. You also made another decision, you told our producer. You said, “I didn’t want to be the only person. This is not going to be the Grant Baldwin show.” And so, at what point did you start to bring people in and make them the face of the company too?
Grant: Yeah. So, at this point, today, we have . . . I recognize like I am the face of what we do. You know, I do the podcast interviews and my name is on the cover of the book. I do the webinars. I recognize like I am . . . What a lot of people may be familiar with because of The Speaker Lab, but internally, I tell our team . . . And you even mentioned like inside the book, I always talk about our book, we, us, our. I tell our team all the time, we, us . . . Like, people a lot of times will ask me, like, “You keep saying we, who are you talking about?” Right? Because I firmly believe it is not all about me. It’s not the Grant show. And so I know that when people come to The Speaker Lab, that there are . . . we have multiple coaches, a lot of people who’ve actually been through the program, who’ve seen success and are also now working with speakers within the program. So it’s a collaborative effort. You know, like, the book . . .
Andrew: So The Speaker Lab, the very first version though of your course was you teaching, right?
Grant: Oh, absolutely. Yep. Yep.
Andrew: And then at what point did you say, “I’m going to not just bring somebody in for customer service, but they’re going to help with selling and being the face of the customer sales, the sales part”? I’m muddying up the question. But you used to talk to customers who are interested in buying. At some point, you said somebody else can do that. You used to be the person who is teaching . . . there are other coaches. When did that happen?
Grant: I think pretty early on, like, again, I would recognize, for myself, personally, I enjoy speaking but I enjoy being an entrepreneur. And I recognize, like, there’s things that I’m going to be good at and other things that I’m not going to be good at. You know, so even the collaborative part of the book was me recognizing I’m not the best at writing a book. So let’s partner with someone who’s really, really good at writing books and have him do the heavy lifting on the book writing portion. The same thing is true for other parts of the business
Andrew: So where did it start? It wasn’t always like that. So, again, I’m going back to the Internet Archive. I see one of the first versions of your site. There a couple of things that stand out for me. Number one, Jeff Goins looks like he’s 14 years old in his quote on your site. And number two, the top is about Grant, not about us as the top link. It’s about Grant. And then there’s a link that says, “Ask Grant.”
Grant: Which link are you on?
Andrew: I’m on the version of the site that was back in 2015, 2016.
Andrew: No, The Speaker Lab.
Andrew: The Speaker Lab had . . . It was the Grant show for a while. At some point, you said, “I’m going to bring in other people to be the face of it.” Who’s the first person that you hired beyond yourself?
Grant: Let’s see here, I have to think back on that. We’ve had, like, a variety . . . Like, our team currently we have 13 or 14 people.
Andrew: Wait, 13, 14 people with 2 million in revenue? That’s because a lot of them are contractors who are not full-timer, right?
Grant: Correct. Correct. I would say equivalent of probably seven, eight full-time people, give or take. I have to kind of . . . Because yeah, those are all contractors. We have two employees, plus myself, who are full time and then everybody else is a contractor to varying degrees.
Andrew: So my guess is the first person was maybe a personal assistant type person?
Grant: Yeah, so assistant, customer support would be one. But then also realizing like, “Okay. There’s going to . . . ” Like, especially when we started doing some of our later programs of whenever we sell over the phone, I can’t be on every single call. So we have a team of four sales reps currently. And part of our job is filling their calendars whenever we do coaching. I know that I can’t do one on one coaching. I also know that, like, again, going back to one of things we talked about earlier, because I’m relatively introverted, I didn’t want to do a ton of one-on-one coaching because I knew that there was going to be a limitation to that. Same thing with, like, if we look back to the speaking business, there’s a limitation to how many times I wanted to get on a plane or how many times I wanted to get on a stage. So, if the business is going to grow, it can’t about, sign up to get coaching with Grant, sign up to get access to Grant, sign up for Grant, Grant, Grant because then, like, we’re immediately putting a ceiling on it.
Andrew: So let’s take one of the parts of the business that you expanded beyond yourself selling. You told our producer, “I wanted to sell first by myself. It was important for me to do sales.” Why? As somebody who’s introverted, why was it important for you to do it yourself instead of saying, “I’ll hire a salesperson let them figure it out?”
Grant: Yeah, because I knew . . . Like, one, I don’t necessarily enjoy selling but I know I’m okay at it and I know that I can do it. And so, one, was I wanted to hear from people, from prospects, from potential students to get a sense of, like, where they’re at, why did they book this call? Why do they want to talk to us? Why do they feel like we have the solution? What are the things like, “Oh, I would join but here’s my hesitation or here’s what I’m . . . If only you guys did this, then that would really help, you know . . . ”
Andrew: To get a feel for what people wanted and . . .
Grant: Yeah, totally.
Andrew: Got it. What was closing a sale, what wasn’t? Okay.
Andrew: And then, where did you hire the . . . ? Actually, at what point in the process did the sales call come in? Because you had a course for 1,000 bucks, you weren’t talking to every potential customer at 1,000 bucks, right?
Grant: Well, correct. Because the $1,000 course, we’ve always sold through automated and live webinars. So the difference is, like, if you’re selling on a webinar, it doesn’t matter whether there’s 10 or 1,000 people on the webinar. And if they’re buying, like, a self-study course, you’re really just wanting to make sure you support them. But beyond that, it doesn’t require a massive amount of manpower.
Andrew: So what is the product that you needed a salesperson for?
Grant: When we first started doing the high-ticket program, because basically people were going, “Okay. I can buy the $1,000 course. But I want more help. I want more coaching. I want more access.” And I’m going, “I don’t want to be responsible on all of those individual things. So I’ve got to start having people that help way beyond me.” Even as I’m talking about this, I’m thinking about it. One of the first hires, I remember, was a guy named, coincidentally also named Jeff. And Jeff was a contractor. He lived up in Canada and he helped with all of our technical stuff. So all of the email marketing. He did a lot of writing of emails. He did a lot of . . . You know, when we do the podcast, he’d help edit it and make sure it went live. Whenever you have, you know, this webinar that triggers this sales funnel, that triggers this da, da, da, and tags and upsells. He was the one that put all that together on the backend and made the toys play nicely together. So Jeff was incredibly, you know, helpful in that respect.
Andrew: Okay. You then said, “I have this $1,000 course, people want more access to me. I’m going to sell it, it’s going to be $5,000. I’ll give them one on ones with it. And for that, if we’re selling it, I think $5,000 was the price point, right?
Grant: Yeah. Five thousand is currently the price point. Initially, when we did it, it was I think $2,500, then we went to $3,000, then went to $4,000, and just recently, as of literally a couple weeks ago, it went to $5,000.
Andrew: And then for that, it was, “I need to sell them first so that I can explain to them why they should spend so much money but also as I understand what’s leading them to make this purchase. Got it. And then when you want to hire a salesperson, where’d you find the salesperson?
Grant: A lot of the people that we’ve hired over the years, almost all of them have come from our own audience. Because at that point, they know, like, and trust us. We’re not necessarily always looking for people who . . . In fact, our best sales reps, we call them enrollment advisors, our best enrollment advisors today are not people who come from, like, massive sales backgrounds. A lot of them are people who have gone to the program, who’ve seen some success, and doing some speaking, and so whenever they’re talking to prospects on the phone, that is not, like, this hard pitch or something. It is, “Hey, I went through this. I drank the kool-aid too, here’s my results.” And because I think sometimes people can view Grant as, “Well, Grant’s done a lot of speaking, but I can’t do that. You know, Andrew has a huge podcast, but I can’t do that.” But whenever you’re able to say, “No, no, here’s someone who . . . I went through the exact same thing and here’s the results I had. So come on, if I can do this, you can do this,” right?
Andrew: And they’re more likely to buy if they see somebody who was where they are, who’s not the big face of the company and says, “I did this course, you should . . . ” Got it. You should too. And so that helped. And where in the sales process does a call come in? Is it after they buy the $1,000 program or is it some other time?
Grant: No, no. So basically, everything that we do points to either join an automated or a live webinar, that’s where we offer the $1,000 program or book a call. And that’s where we offer the $5,000 program. So pretty much all the calls to action, all the lead magnets, point to one of those two things.
Andrew: Okay. All right. Let me talk about my second sponsor. It’s a company called Qordoba. My guess is you never heard of it. Am I right?
Grant: Never heard of it.
Andrew: Here’s the problem they solve. I’ve been opening myself up to more phone calls this year. Because after coming back from Antarctica and doing seven marathons on seven continents, I realized I got all this extra time this year. It’s all done all the marathons. Instead, I’ll spend days just talking to people about their challenges and I’ll help them out as much as I can. No sell, no nothing, just understanding.
This one guy said, “I’m having trouble hiring people, but I’m finally on track.” And he found a way to hire writers because he’s got a content machine, but he is the number one writer on the machine and he wanted to bring in other people. And so he said, “I’m very systemized person. Here’s what I did. I put together a Google doc and a spreadsheet and a Trello with all the steps to write the way that I do so that we don’t lose the magic of my writing.”
Man, it’s a pain and it’s a drag. And the reason it’s a drag is because nobody’s reading it. And he’s getting upset that they’re not reading the material that he’s sending over to them. But in reality, nobody reads these style guides. And if you do read it, it’s natural that you don’t internalize it or you miss something. Look at me, I read your book in preparation for today. It was a blind spot that I didn’t think to read the acknowledgement to understand a little bit about how the book came about. Totally fine.
Qordoba says, “Well, let’s assume nobody’s going to read your style . . . ” In fact, let’s assume you don’t know how to write a style guide for your company but content matters. That’s what sells people on who you are. That’s what lets them stay customers of yours.
So, you know, “First of all, we’ll make it easy for you to create a style guide, super simple, I’ll automate it, you just go through their process.” Number two, they say, “Now we’re going to assume that nobody reads the style guide. We’re going to have software, read your style guide. Give your people a beautiful writing experience that’s better than Google Docs, but inspired by some of the features that you’ve come to know in Google Docs, your people just write in that.” And by the way, whenever they’re ready to say, “Is this good instead of sending it to you and saying is this good, they just hit a button and say that the software is as good.” And we’ll use your style guide to make sure that they’ve written things the way that you want them written.
If you decide that you want the AP style guide or some other style guide, in addition to make sure that things are grammatically correct, we’ll do that too. And if you have certain language that you don’t want, like maybe you don’t want them to ever refer to people as guys, or this is a big thing, by the way, Grant, a lot of people who text message me who know me, they refer to women as girls. And I think if they do it in text message, it’s one thing, but if they do it broadly, it’s off-putting.
So if as a company, you decide, “We’re not doing that. We never refer to somebody who you interviewed as this girl who I interviewed. Like, we want to make sure that we have that all in our system and let the software take care of it. That’s what Qordoba is all about. And they have this beautiful writing process that, yes, before sending it to the you or whoever your top writer is or whatever your editor is, you hit a button, you send it to the software. The software in real-time, immediately highlights all the mistakes, all the things that could be corrected and lets the writer decide, “Do I want to keep this in because I’m kind of making fun of it, or do I want to knock it out fast because that’s not how we as an organization write?”
All right, if this has gotten you curious about it, I want you to go actually try it for free. Go start with a blank page, start writing, see what it’s like when you go to qordoba.com/mixergy. First of all, you’re going to be confused because you’re not going to know how to spell it but I’ll spell to you in a second. Second, you’re going to see that they will let you use it for free. And if you decide that you want to pay for it, they’ll give you a big beefy 25% off their already low price. Here it is. It’s Qordoba, spelled this way qordoba.com/mixergy, qordoba.com/mixergy. We’ll probably add a link to it in the show notes here for this interview and always on our site.
Grant: It’s kind of like this. It’s kind of like what Jeff and I did on the book, right? Because it wasn’t just Jeff taking Grant’s content and writing in Jeff’s voice, like he was very intentional to write Grant’s book in Grant’s voice, which is again different than the way Jeff would write. So there are several things. In fact, reading through edits and I told Jeff this, when I read for the audiobook, I read through it and I texted him and I was like, “This sounds like me. This sounds like . . . ” I know he typed this out, but it sounded like it was in my voice.
Andrew: I feel like he typed it out in your voice. I completely thought this was you. It sounds so much like you. I feel like he was able to do it because do you guys have, like, a Slack group together or is that . . . ? Are you in some kind of a buddy thing with him too? The way you said it in the book, you and Bryan Harris every day are texting each other. I feel like . . .
Grant: It’s a little ridiculous.
Andrew: So tell me, what is this relationship you have with these people, with these other entrepreneurs?
Grant: Well, with Bryan, especially like he and I text constantly every day. We’ve had multiple days of several hundred text messages.
Andrew: About what?
Grant: Business, life, marriage, kids.
Andrew: I think . . . I feel like he’s really good at, “I’m hiring somebody. Tell me about that.” And then he’ll give you his, what does he call it? The scorecard. He doesn’t call it. It comes from a different book. He’ll send you the scorecard for how he does it?
Grant: Yeah, so a lot of, like . . . We’re in different industries but similar business models. So a lot of times we’ll compare notes. So, if I pull up today, I can pull it up right now, we’ve exchanged, again . . . Probably, I got to go scroll here for a minute.
Andrew: Tell me what the topic is.
Grant: We saw each other at the gym this morning, he messaged me about a tweet he saw about a guy that is using LinkedIn for booking speaking gigs. So we talked about that. At the gym this morning, I was telling him about a meeting I had yesterday with our CFO and a new dashboard that we’re using and he said, “I want to see this,” so I’d sent him a screenshot of that. He had a call with a friend of ours who basically runs operations for a company and he said, “Hey, I’m going to send this to you.” So he sent me all his notes from that. We . . . Let’s see here. He told me he’s getting a haircut at lunch. A lot of times . . .
Andrew: He’s that type of buddy?
Grant: That type of body. Yeah, yeah, totally. So yeah, like we . . . Because a lot of times it’s business up and a lot of time, you know, it’s just . . . As you well know, being an entrepreneur, it can be lonely, it can be isolating. Like, I . . .
Andrew: I don’t. I’m the only entrepreneur who doesn’t feel lonely. You know what I feel? I feel one of the things in your book where it’s like constant up and down and I hate that. Like, no matter how good you are, you’re almost always gone. That sucks. The lonely part is, “I would like a little bit of loneliness. Guys, give me, like, a week where nobody talks to me.”
Grant: Yeah, well, both he and I, like, we enjoy . . . Like, texting works really, really well for us. Like, we hate phone calls. We don’t go out to lunch. We text. We text a lot. And so that makes a big difference because I think it helps us . . .
Andrew: Can you tell him . . . ? I feel like he always has it in control. What’s the name of his company? I forget the name now.
Grant: It depends on the day.
Andrew: No, he finally switched from . . .
Grant: It used to be Videofruit. Now, Growth Tools.
Andrew: Growth Tools, Growth Tools is way better. I just blanked out on the name.
Andrew: But I feel like he’s always super organized. I’ve never asked him for something and he couldn’t find it within a couple of . . . Like, a couple of minutes is too long. Within a minute, it’ll be in the right Evernote folder, organized probably. The problem is that he doesn’t have any problems. He doesn’t go through the downs that you’re dealing with, right?
Grant: No, that’s not true.
Andrew: Don’t you need somebody who goes through that? He does go through that?
Grant: No, of course, like, anybody goes through that, right? And so I think . . .
Andrew: And we’ll you two be open about it? Will you go, “Holy crap, I got $2 million business but I’m almost at $2 million expenses. This is horrible. What should I do?” Will you be that open with him? You will?
Grant: No, absolutely we will . . .
Andrew: What’s the biggest problem that you had in the last year that you had to go talk to him about? Be open.
Grant: I’m trying to . . . Like a lot of time to talk about, like, personnel. Like, we both know each other’s teams really, really well. And so, like, if I had a key . . . Like, I had a really key person who left a couple of months ago, great terms. They had, like, a side blog that had blown up and they’re going all-in on that. It’s like crap, “I got to replay . . . ” And so, like, typically if something like that happens, Bryan’s the first person I’m messaging with and vice versa. Like, I know he . . . When he runs into the similar things, he would message me and say, “Hey, let’s either, a), let me just vent for a second or b) let’s just talk this through of what some of the next steps would be because I know that we both know each other’s businesses real well.” If I were . . . I know we’ve talked about this. I don’t know if this is formalized. But I know we’ve talked about, like, putting each other in the other person’s will as far as the business goes, like, “Hey . . . ”
Andrew: That’s a great idea. Yes.
Grant: If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, you get the keys to the business and close up shop, wrap up everything and make sure the family’s taken care of, but you’re my guy.” And so we’ve had that conversation before our wives feel like that for each other.
Andrew: That’s critical. That’s incredibly helpful. And I could see him being able to carry it forward for a couple of years at least to let your people get taken care of and produce some revenue for you. You’ve also developed a tool that you gave away for free as a lead magnet. I did an interview with Bryan Harris about how he does this. He’ll partner up with people there. What’s the tool?
Grant: Tool is called Agent. I think it’s at myspeakeragent.com, myspeakeragent.com. I think it’s myspeakeragent.com, I don’t have it right in front of me. But basically, his approach is smart because for a lot of people who are creating content and some type of organic lead magnet, it is, “Let’s create a podcast. Let’s create a blog. Let’s create a YouTube video and we’re going to drive people back to our core stuff that way.” What he has done is he’s always been really fascinated with software and has spent a lot of time creating free, but very useful software tools and uses that as lead gen.
Andrew: I see it.
Grant: So we put together on that where . . . Is it my speaking agent?
Andrew: It’s my speakingagent.com. And what it is, is I can search through 1,000 plus conferences and find the contact info of the decision-makers. And that’s great for both of you because people who are using speaking to grow their businesses should find out about his tools. And people who are obviously looking for conferences to speak in, are great candidates to learn from you and sign up for one of your courses. And that’s what you guys created. And you both sent your audience to this?
Andrew: And asked them to help, like, spread the word about it, now you’ve got this tool that exists online?
Grant: Because it’s one thing for he and I to say, “Hey, we both worked together on this blog post and it’s really good. And you guys should check it out.” It’s another thing to be like, “Hey, here’s this really well-done tool where the bar and the barrier to entry is high and it’s not just I’m just going to crank out 1,000 word blog post and call it a day. It’s a really well-done, well-polished tool that you could hypothetically charge for. But we’re going to give for free as lead generation for other parts of the business.”
Andrew: On it right now. And because I signed up for one of his other pieces of software, it automatically says, “Hey, you already have an account with us.” So . . .
Grant: Come on in .
Andrew: Come on in. And so you now get ongoing referrals from that tool.
Grant: Correct. Correct. Yeah, yeah, so we both are pushing people towards it in our automated webinars and various places, and throughout our content. We’ll say, “Hey, if you want a database of speaking leads, go to myspeakingagent.com.” It’s not an end all be all for finding leads but it’s a good starting point.
Andrew: You took a month off, complete . . . You called it a sabbatical. What makes it a sabbatical versus a vacation?
Grant: I don’t know what the technicalities are between the two but . . .
Andrew: But I felt like there’s a difference in your mind for what you were trying to do that . . . Were you trying to explore new things in your life for that month?
Grant: No, no, no.
Andrew: No. You just want to disconnect for a month, and test your team, and test your business. How?
Grant: Yes. Yeah. And so that was the big part of it I had read “Clockwork” by . . .
Andrew: Was it “Built to Sell”?
Grant: Well, I’d read “Built to Sell” a while back when I was read “Clockwork” by Mike Michalowicz. Which if you haven’t had Mike on the show, you need to have him . . .
Andrew: I got to have him back on.
Grant: He would be great guest.
Andrew: We did of course with him. Is that his latest book?
Grant: “Clockwork.” Yeah, I think so. You probably talked to him on “Profit First.”
Andrew: We just did a masterclass with him. There it is.
Grant: So within “Clockwork,” one of the ideas is that you pull yourself out of their business for a month to see how things run without you. So, again, it’s one thing for me to say, like . . . And that’s not the Grant show. But it’s one thing to say, “Let’s take Grant out of the equation for a month and see what happens. Like, what breaks? What doesn’t work? What falls apart?” And it also, like, helped us to really think through some systems and processes on that but also gave the team a lot of trust that it’s more than just lip service of me saying these things, like, “I legit believe in you. I have a lot of confidence in you. So I’m going to unplug.” Like, going into it, I didn’t feel like, “Oh, man, I really needed vacation, I really need a break.” Like, I didn’t feel burnt out at all. Like, I was really enjoying what we were doing. I still enjoy what we’re doing. I really enjoy our team. It’s more just kind of a stress test on the business. Let’s pull myself out and see what happens.
Andrew: So what broke?
Grant: Actually, like, honestly, three days into it, they texted me and said, “Hey, we can’t find a password for a certain tool.” And that was the extent of it. I didn’t check email. I didn’t check . . .
Andrew: What worked well then? What did you guys get better at because of that time away?
Grant: So I don’t know that there’s any . . . So it’s one thing to say, “Okay. I’m going to step away and see one of three things can happen, either things fall apart, or things decrease, or things stay the same, or things grow.” And, you know, in a month’s time, there’s only so much that can happen. But the big thing that they all said, the whole team said that like, “It’s kind of business as usual.” Like, things ran well, things were good, which was a huge win. You know, it wasn’t like, “Hey, I’m stepping away for a month and I’m counting on you guys doubling the business while I’m gone.” Like, that’s not realistic. But let’s figure out on a day-to-day basis, what are the things that I’ve got my hand in that maybe I don’t need to have my hand in and see if, you know, we can fix some of those things and shore up some of those things. So they did a great job.
Andrew: Since you’re a content person, I’m looking to see how you’re doing on content using Ahrefs, the tool that I was given for free from our partners there. It looks like the biggest thing for you is paid speaking opportunities. That’s the big . . .
Grant: It’s our blog post.
Andrew: I think it’s the most popular blog post on your site. I was trying to get a sense, as I read your book, who is your audience? Like, it felt to me, like, the audience . . . And tell me if I’m wrong. It felt to me like you wrote this book for somebody who is . . . Well, there was a story in your book. It was someone who is at a conference says, “I’m just here on the conference floor, a nobody essentially, and they’re people who are up on stage, I have to hustle for sales, they basically have people coming over them and overcrowding them for sales. I want to get up on that stage. I know enough to go do that.” And so you’re speaking to them, but also giving them an opportunity to go much bigger and showing them, “This could be your start to get business and sales. But if you ever want to make this into a career, it could happen. And here’s the book to help you get to that level.” What do you think, right?
Grant: No, absolutely. Because speaking is not necessarily a one size fits all. So it’s not like, “Okay. In order to be a speaker, you got to do X number of gigs a year.” Like, that’s not the case at all. So are you still doing much speaking yourself?
Grant: Okay. So there are going to be people listening who say, “I want to do 100 gigs a year” and there’s going to be people who are like, “I don’t want to do that. Like, I want to do five or three.” Because even if you don’t plan on speaking being a big part of your business, like you said, one of the things is that speaking provides a lot of authority, credibility, networking opportunities. If you’re doing, not necessarily like a formal back of the room sales, but just lead generation, if you have some type of product or service that you’re offering a good opportunity to network with other speakers and event planners. So there’s a lot of ancillary benefits to being a speaker. And, like, you were referencing for a lot of entrepreneurs who are speaking, they use it as lead generation for some type of product or service they’re offering, whether it’s coaching or consulting or some type of product or tool that they’re selling.
Andrew: You know, when I read books, I look for the key ideas and then I also look for things that I can kind of argue with, that would make things interesting. It gives you an opportunity to firmly state your point. I couldn’t come up with anything except for one. Well, not one, it was a question. You say, “Ask people to do the show of hands. How many of you here are entrepreneurs?” What’s with that? I see speakers doing it all the time. To be honest with you, the only time I do it is when I really need to read the room. And that’s rare or when I’m feeling a little stuck and I just want to feel the audience back. And I don’t have a joke or something I could go with. So it’s a crutch. Is that what it’s for?
Grant: No, it’s not a crutch at all . . .
Andrew: I’m not proud to use it. I’m not proud to say, “How many people here by show of hands do whatever.
Andrew: Because it feels like there’s no benefit to the audience of raising their hands and, like, stating it and what’s the point? Entertain me, teach me. Don’t have me do a little poll for you.
Grant: But it’s not necessarily like always talking head of “I’m going to stand on stage. I’m going to lecture you, you sit there and listen to me, and I’ll tell you,” you know, that type of thing. Speaking is really a very much an interactive experience. And so, part of being a professional speaker, part of being a great speaker is really reading the room and feeling that, “Are they with me? Are they not with me? Okay. If they didn’t . . . ” Like, I’m making some decisions in my mind. I’m like, “Okay. I just told this joke. If they didn’t laugh at that, there’s no chance they’re going to laugh at that thing I’m going to say in 30 minutes,” or I’m saying this one thing, but it’s not clicking or I need to go a little bit deeper on this topic. And so I have to get some of that engagement interaction with them. So raising the hand is a simple way to do that.
So, in the book, we talk through the different levels of that interaction because as the levels increase, the amount of trust has to increase too. It’s one thing for me to say, “Okay. How many of you have a mom? Raise your hand.” Okay. I’m going to get a bunch of people that are going to raise their hands, right, versus if I say, “Okay. I want you to turn to your neighbor right now. I want you to tell them your deepest, darkest secret.” Like, I’m not going to get anyone to do that. Because when you get up on stage as a speaker, for most part, assuming the audience doesn’t know who you are, you have to get them on your side. You have to build that trust and that rapport. So if in the first 30 seconds, I’m asking them to do something that they’re not comfortable with, I’ve already lost them. But if I can get them to engage with me by saying, “Hey, just raise your hand if” fill in the blank, then it’s a simple little thing that I can do to start to build some rapport and connection with them. And like you said, you can also use it later in the talk, just to get them moving, like just to get the blood flowing with a simple raising of the hand.
Andrew: My favorite interaction tip that you had in the book was call in repeat, where . . . Tony Robbins does this a lot. And I’ve seen a lot of self-help people . . . And the guy who I’ve seen do it the best is T. Harv Eker. He’ll say, “How many people do this, say I.” And first you go, “This seems so dorky.” But I went and I sat through a three-day session just to see what his magic was that people were talking about. And by maybe three hours in, I was like saying I because I couldn’t sit there still for three hours. Right?
Andrew: And so that, I liked a lot, but I’ve never been able to pull it off. I think you have to and you said this in your book. The first couple of times people are iffy about it. You have to own that you’re doing it. By the seventh time, there’s almost like an enthusiasm. This is what we say here. And I never got to the seventh time when . . .
Grant: Yeah. And you build more comfort and confidence as you do it as well because you just . . . I’ve done this with enough audiences that I know this works, right?
Andrew: I know they’re going to, like, roll their eyes the first time, the second time, they’re going to, like, look at their friends because they feel embarrassed. By the seventh time or the fifth or whatever, they’re going to be in with me and . . .
Grant: But you’re exactly like . . . If not done well, it can be extremely corny and it can be extremely hokey.
Andrew: Right. And no one says I when you say, “Everyone say I,” it feels flat, like a failure or it could be an opportunity say, “Come on guys, this is not the way we want to be,” and tie back to what the message that you’re . . .
Grant: Yeah. But at the same time, you also don’t want to do that. You know, like, it’s like the speaker who opens with, you know, “How many of you are excited to be here? Let me hear you. I can’t hear you.” Like, that can just become so hokey, and so cheesy, and so overdone and like, just unnecessary.
Andrew: What do you think of this move that I’ve done? Sometimes you get on stage and the person . . .
Grant: You don’t speak.
Andrew: . . . who introduces . . . you, does such a good job of introducing you so that there’s applause. But other times, the person is kind of flat and people don’t know they need to applaud and when there’s no applause, there’s no energy in the start. So what I do is, I say, “Isn’t that a great, like, MC here,” or to the organizers, “Thank you for having this . . . Guys, isn’t it amazing that Chris Guillebeau was able to pull this off. Let’s give him a big round of applause.” And I wake people up a little bit. Is that corny or is that good?
Grant: It’s fine to do. I wouldn’t do it at the beginning. So as soon as you walk out on stage before you open your mouth, that is the most attention that that audience is going to give you. Because at that point, you walked out on stage, but I have no idea where you’re going to go from here. Okay. So I’m locked in. So you don’t want to waste those first few precious moments of saying, “Hey, how about a hand for the person who just did our introduction? How about a hand for Chris? How about . . . ? You guys like Portland? Portland’s great, huh? Did you guys try their donuts?
Andrew: So I become a little bit more anonymous?
Grant: No, no, you just want to, like, get right into the talk. And then there’s . . .
Andrew: What is a good way to get started? What’s the thing that works?
Grant: I don’t know that there’s any, like, one thing. I always like opening with a story. Like, just get right into a story. Because stories are an easy low hanging fruit for any speaker and it’s easy to remember, it’s easy to relate to. If I said right now let me tell you a story. You’re immediately going to be hooked in. You have no idea that . . .
Andrew: You said that in the book. You said, “When you say to an audience, let me tell you a story, you wake them up,” I always thought that was just me. And I said, “Maybe I happen to like stories more for whatever reason. Maybe I’m more sensitized to it because I’m a reader of stories.” No, you’re saying this happens to other people in the audience?
Grant: Say that line. Use that line. “Let me tell you a story.”
Andrew: Yes, that line works on me all the time. I start paying attention.
Grant: Yeah. Because again, like, if you say, let me tell you a story, the audience has no idea, “Is this going to be funny or sad or depressing or boring? I don’t know. But it’s a story and so I’m in.” So stories work really, really . . . You look at them . . . The commencement address from Steve Jobs years ago at Stanford, and he got up and I think it’s like a 10 or 12-minute talk, and he told three stories. And that was it. So it wasn’t like, “I’m going to tell you, you know, the secret to life. I’m going to tell you three stories and I’m going to get offstage.” And so that type of format works well of just get right into a story.
Andrew: So start with a story. The problem I have with the story is, there isn’t the payoff until your two minutes are done with the story or the 30 seconds are done, you know. And so people for the two minutes that you’re telling the story, which is not that long, they don’t know where you’re going.
Grant: Well, that comes down to you telling a good story because it has to be more than just two minutes of waste to get to, like, a five-second punch line.
Andrew: To one point?
Grant: Yeah, yeah. Like, you can still tell a story and take some segues along the way, that add in, you know, interest, and humor, or intrigue that keep the story moving forward.
Andrew: All right, sorry, I got to ask you more about this. I was listening to Toastmasters speakers when I was trying to win a Toastmaster competition. I did. I got, like, four levels in, it was great. And I noticed that if they started off with the story and they almost always do, I don’t remember anyone who didn’t. They would ask a question first that gave you a sense of where they were going or something like, there was this one guy who walked to the stage and goes, “Do you ever try to do something and then fall flat on your face?” And he literally fell on his face. And then he told the story. And at least with that one question, he made me aware of where he was going. What do you think of that?
Grant: As the idea of, like, opening a loop. You know, when you open a loop and the artist is like, “What? what was that? Like, come back?” It’s the same thing, like, when we tease something on a podcast or you’re watching your favorite Netflix show, and it’s a series and they leave you with a cliffhanger. You’ve opened a loop, like, “Crap, I got to hang on because I got to know where this is going. As you’re doing the same type of thing of, “Hey, have you ever had something like this happen?” And you’ve opened a loop? Like, “Yes, I have. But why are they referencing that from stage? Where’s this going?”
Andrew: All right. I can ask you . . . I’ve got more. I’m, like, zooming in and out of all my notes on you and I realized, all right, we’ve gone over already. The book is apparently on sale right now. We should have done this interview last week so we could publish it the day of. Since we can’t, is this a book that I can only get on your website or through filling out a form? I can go anywhere? Amazon?
Grant: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, wherever you buy your books. Yeah.
Andrew: Up in Grant Baldwin, you got Kindle version and everything available?
Grant: Yeah, Kindle, Audible. It’s all there. All the versions, all the places, all the things.
Andrew: What’s the name of the book again? I’ve . . .
Grant: “The Successful Speaker: Five Steps for Booking Gigs, Getting Paid and Building Your Platform. ”
Andrew: Cool. Oh, I know why I can’t see it because I’m still searching for your co-author. I love that you sent this to me in digital form because I’m on an iPad. I got this thing where I . . . And by the way, it says copyrighted material all over this. But I love that with this app that I use on it . . .
Grant: The publisher did that.
Andrew: Good. Who cares? As long as I can highlight, that’s all that matters, that that doesn’t . . . Everything that I highlight, then automatically gets pulled over to the side like this . . .
Grant: Oh, that’s cool.
Andrew: . . . and I will usually export it out to another app. So I have just my highlighted notes that I don’t come back to. In this case, I decided to go back to the book because I wanted to be able to tap on one of my highlights and go to that section so I can ask you a question. The fact that you accommodated me and didn’t make me feel like . . .
Grant: I’m here for you.
Andrew: . . . I don’t know, like, I’m stealing from you, which a lot of authors do. I just want the digital version so I can read the whole fricking thing and be prepared. And I am prepared and I’ve got to say this. I hate number, one, when at the end of an interview, I compliment the author because it feels almost like it’s, “Thank you for doing this interview with me. Thank you for spending an hour,” and I hate myself for doing it.
I will say this though. This book was damn good. And here’s what made it good. You told stories, number one. Number two, it wasn’t some BS, some guy, some imaginary person. It was a person, first name, last name. There’s a real thing here. It shows your credibility without pumping you up and saying, “I taught 1,000 people.” I could see it through Pete. And the fact that I bring it up. And, you know, Pete Smith helps a lot, number one. Number two, you go into the details of what you need to do, right as a speaker. And number three, you go broad, also. That combination of the two is really, really hard to pull off. You go too specific, it becomes a lead magnet, that’s just too ephemeral. It works today, and not later. You go too broad, and I have this big understanding, but I’m just trying to get started. Tell me what to do.
Andrew: Do the whole thing really well. And now I understand why you were able to do it. You got a good co-author there. Thank you so much for being on this interview.
Grant: Thanks, buddy. Appreciate it.
Andrew: All right. Thank you all for listening. And I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen real quick. If you need a hosting website, if you need to have your website hosted, go to hostgator.com/mixergy. And number two, if you’re writing anything as a team, do yourself a favor, go try Qordoba. I’m going to spell it, it’s qordoba.com/mixergy. Grant, thanks. I know we’re running late so I’ll let you run. Bye.
Andrew: Bye, everyone.