Recently, I was looking through some posts on a speaker group and I ran across a question from someone just starting out: I would like to start speaking, who should I be contacting and how?
One person replied that the person posing the question was getting ahead of themselves. First they should have a presentation written and know it backwards and forwards, then they should go out and give that speech for free to as many groups as possible to polish it, and after doing all that, then they should start thinking about contacting people about paid speaking gigs.
The advice was well-intentioned, but wrong. The first thing anyone with an idea should do is find out if there is a market for what they want to sell, be it a product, services, or in this case, a keynote presentation. Too often we are told (or convince ourselves) that we need to hone our skills or product until there is no question we have reached as close to perfection as possible. The problem with this of course is that if no one is interested in what we have to sell or say, we have wasted a grand amount of time, and we are going to be VERY frustrated when we start selling.
We still hear the old chestnut, “do what you love, and the money will follow,” or some variation on that theme. We are fed the stories of people who gave up the grind of being a lawyer or a stock broker to pursue their dream to create pottery, jewelry, or perhaps something even more exotic, and how this business grew to be even bigger than their previous career. A lot gets left out of those stories. One thing in particular that isn’t mentioned or gets glossed over is the person in question often has been doing this new business as a hobby or a sideline for years, and has developed a following. In marketing-speak: they identified their target market. In my terms: they have identified a key data point: will anyone buy this?
Simply put, before you decide to spend a whole lot of time developing your product, service, or speech, find out if people will actually pay for such a thing, and if there are enough of those people to sustain you. Don’t let your desire, belief in, or love for something allow you to ignore cold hard facts.