Ryan Foland speaks with James Taylor, an in-demand keynote speaker and internationally recognized leader in business creativity and innovation.
In this episode of our podcast series, Ryan and James talk about becoming a professional speaker. James also shares his tips on waiving your speaking fee – not speaking for free.
One of the key messages in this interview is there's never been a bad time to be a speaker. As long as you are passionate about what you do and determined to be a professional speaker and improve your speaking business, you can succeed.
Tune in for an interview full of ideas and tips on becoming the professional speaker you dreamed to be.
Listen to the interview on iTunes or Soundcloud.
Welcome to the World of Speakers podcast, brought to you by SpeakerHub.
In each episode, we interview a professional speaker and reveal their very best tips and tricks.
You'll learn to improve your presentation skills, keep your audience engaged, and grow your business to get more gigs and make more money.
Here is your host, Ryan Foland.
Ryan Foland: Ahoy everyone and welcome back to another episode of the World of Speakers.
Today is a very special episode because I'm here with a friend and we are going to celebrate the 100th episode anniversary of World of Speakers, to the poppers boo, boo.
Very special guest.
James Taylor: We should have some yacht rock music here.
Ryan Foland: Oh my God, we need yacht rock for sure.
James Taylor: We should have some proper music. We need to do that in post.
Ryan Foland: Well, if you don't recognize that voice and that melodic accent, that is none other than James Taylor.
He is a keynote speaker on creativity, innovation, and artificial intelligence.
I could not think of a better person to bring back to the show to talk about really what we are going through as speakers.
We are the Byronic heroes of this crazy journey that we've all been on since the inception of this podcast.
I mean, really, look at the last few years.
And so James, I'm excited to just have a conversation about where we've been, where we're at now, where we're going in the future.
We'll wrap it in a creative bow and then we'll see how technology can artificially make us more intelligent.
And yeah, poppers and yacht rock all in between.
So welcome to the show.
James Taylor: Well, thank you, Ryan.
It's a great honor for me to be on your 100th episode and congratulations to you because I know how much work goes into doing podcasts.
And that consistency that goes in is great.
I commend you for doing this work.
Ryan Foland: Thank you.
It's been a labor of love and actually, the genesis was off of a TEDx Los Angeles project. You might not know the history, this is an interesting history of the show.
I had this concept of really trying to understand if people would recognize or could articulate the power of their voice.
This is a very opaque question.
And so I got my camcorder, I got my microphone and I hit the streets in LA.
My goal was to interview people with one simple question, put the microphone in front of them and say, "What is your voice?"
I wouldn't give more clarifying questions to that, and it would just, it was really interesting to see what came out.
I think I interviewed 386 different people of all walks of life, driving around LA in these different areas.
It was a fantastic experience to see what people thought their voice meant.
It was 386 different answers.
And so I had sort of digested all of those interviews, I smashed them all into one single audio track, and then I developed a speech that I gave over the audio track as it was in the backdrop at a TEDx LA salon event.
It was one of the most inception, powerful moments ever.
Because I was using my voice to talk about the power of voice while I had 387 voices going behind me.
I think I even got a little emotional at the end of it and it just made me realize the power of people's voice.
So I had this concept, it was called "The city of speakers" and I was just going to focus on LA. And then I talked with Andras, and I was working with him, with SpeakerHub and he wanted to start a podcast.
So I'm like, "Well, I'm going to do this City of Speakers, but maybe we can make it a World of Speakers, and this could be a platform for speakers to talk about professional speaking."
And there it was born, here we are, I almost want to say a 100 years later.
But it's 100 episodes later, so it's fun to see where it started.
James Taylor: What is great as well, it kind of also brings it to the global side.
I was reading an article recently about travel journalism specifically.
A lot of people were saying, well, travel journalism is dead because you can go on Google maps anywhere in the world, to see anything, and we have YouTube now so we can visually see to kind of get that experience.
What this writer was saying, really, is that the power of travel journalism now is the ability that you get to go to places and hear other people's stories.
And if you have the ability and that great honor that we have as speakers, sometimes we share some of their stories on stages as well.
And when you suddenly think of that, you think, well, there's like 6 billion or 7 billion people in the world, every single person has a story.
Now, it doesn't say every single person wants to get up on a stage and share that story, but that's kind of what we do, we're storytellers and we go out and find all these stories and share them.
And that's the great thing, hopefully, as the world starts to reopen again, we get to travel and meet people again.
Ryan Foland: Well, it's funny you talk about stories.
Because for the last 99 episodes I have asked people to start the show with a story that shapes them.
It's really the genesis of how we get to know our guests.
And if you notice for our longtime listeners, I never start with a bio. I never just read off accolades.
Because sometimes it just feels a bit promotional and it feels like, okay, okay, we got it.
But I've always found with these little vignette stories of people from their lives, sometimes I learn more about them in those few minutes than anything I could have found because there's so much involved with that.
So in true fashion for the 100th time, is there a story that comes to mind that shaped you?
Something that we could get to know you a little bit more and maybe some insights into how you see the world of speaking?
James Taylor: There's a story that— I was having a conversation last week with Michael Bungay Stanier who's a great speaker from Canada, who wrote a wonderful, very successful million-selling book called "The Coaching Habit".
And we were having this conversation about speakers that we'd liked over the years, we've seen.
And somehow we got to talking about a speaker that I remember seeing probably when I was 14 years of age.
I remember going to some type of event.
I think it was an education-related event, I was just there as a student in the audience.
And this speaker got up there, on stage and he kind of like wandered on stage and he almost looked like an old professor that you'd see at Cambridge or Oxford or some kind of like Harry Potter movie.
Then he sat down on the stool and he proceeded to talk, to give the speech.
And there were no fireworks.
This was no Tony Robbins type of experience, but his stories and the way that he communicated with the audience were amazing, were incredible.
And one of the things, and I remember sitting there at that point, thinking,
"Imagine if that was your job to go on stages, to kind of, there's a performance side for that, but also go and share stories to help people, to hopefully make the world a better place".
And in his case, his name was Edward de Bono and he was probably one of the greatest thinkers on creativity.
Unfortunately, we lost him last year.
I remember there was a couple of things I noticed, one was, "This is amazing, creativity, I'm really inspired by listening to this person speak about this topic".
But the second thing I noticed was a more of a technical thing, I guess, was that he stood up there and he had next to him a projector, an old-fashioned, overhead projector.
I don't know, Ryan, you're probably too young to remember those.
Ryan Foland: No, I remember those, my parents are both principals and there was one of them that ended up at my house and I would love as a kid to draw and see it projected up on the wall.
So I'm with you on that, for sure.
James Taylor: So these are overhead and the acetates, these were the things that, and so what he was doing is, as he was speaking, he was doodling on this acetate on this overhead projector.
And so it might be like symbols, or shapes, or things like arrows and all kinds of stuff, kind of basically doing the type of mind mapping.
And this was being projected to the two and a half thousand people in the audience.
At that point, I suddenly thought, "Wow, stories make people listen, but visuals make people remember."
And I remember thinking about it.
I think, "If I ever become a speaker, on stage, I want to be able to use visuals."
And then fast forward, and I'm speaking on stages, in person, and you can use PowerPoint and you can kind of do some cool things, but, well, it's not quite there.
And then what was amazing is when the pandemic happened and we all switched fully to virtual, there are tools out there where I can basically do the same as what he did, I could almost go whiteboard, which is part of my screen.
And I'd be sitting there with my iPad and drawing on it and talking and sharing this stuff and taking feedback from the audience and putting up and seeing it.
And I think, I'm basically doing an Edward De Bono, all be it with more modern tools.
And so that was a story in terms of that got me inspired about this idea of speaking, communicating, storytelling, but also that technical aspect about understanding the power of visuals.
Ryan Foland: You know what resonates there is, what is old is always new.
And it really, as we look back for what's been going on for the last three years and we identify what's happening now and in the future, it's interesting to see how the messaging of how we communicate is changing with technology, but there's always some component that helps to complement the talk.
And even if you're a zero tech, I've given a couple of TEDx talks with zero visuals, because sometimes it can be distracting, your hands are the technology and it's the back to the caveman-like the technology that we have as speakers is everything that we have access to.
And whether it's old school, whether it's a new school, I know you're experimenting with holograms, I know you're experimenting with AR /VR, all this kind of stuff is at our fingertips.
And so we're all hearing the same little boxes, but we have that much more opportunity to play.
One thing that comes to mind is the idea that when you put constraints, it actually can increase creativity.
And I think that that is something that if you look at it that way, it can be inspiring. If you don't look at it that way you might feel restricted.
So as we sort of dissect what has happened, what's happening, what's going forward, I want to find two different sorts of section themes.
One is around the art of speaking and we're right on point with this, like, using augmented reality and sound effects and all these different things that we can utilize.
Because the green screen makes all of that available.
I've got my Atem Mini Pro, I've got my setup, we have all these different rigs.
So I want to talk about the art of speaking.
And then I want to also talk about the business of speaking because that's fundamentally changed as well.
So if we start with the art of speaking and we look at what has happened, where we are and where we're going, what would you say to people who are aspiring to be professional, and by that, I mean, getting paid, so many people got their knees chopped off, and now we're sort of revisiting this new world, but then we have the future look forward to.
How would you even start that complex question, set of questions?
James Taylor: Well, I mean, one of the things I sometimes think of is if you're brand new into speaking when it comes to some of the craft, there are some things which are evergreen.
But a lot of things which may be the business or some of the technical things, frankly, don't listen to someone who's been doing it for a while.
It's not really going to, some things will help in terms of basic craft things, which are really evergreen, but a lot of stuff doesn't. I'll give you an example.
At the end of last year, I'd done just a ton of virtual keynotes.
And one of the things I was experimenting with was how often I would be moving, doing transitions, like from video to images, to different things.
And normally, if I would be doing an in-person, if I'm using PowerPoint, I would maybe do one every two minutes or so.
When it comes to virtual, I was probably doing one every minute or maybe even less at times.
And what was interesting, I thought, I did an event at the end of last year in Kiev, in Ukraine.
So this is an in-person event it was around 700 people there.
And it was a couple of other speakers, really good speakers on it.
And I thought, "Okay, what I'm going to do is I'm going to experiment with something, I'm going to rather than go back to my usual pacing of an in-person I'm going to stay in virtual pacing time because people got so into that. And I want to just see how it feels on stage, what the audience feels".
And it was great because there was a speaker before me who did exactly the same thing and he was really good, I've forgotten his name now he's from Belgium.
And he has done a ton of virtuals for the past two years.
And he kind of got in this way and it was great, and it was like really sharp, really sharp.
And then I went up and I kind of did that similar kind of thing as well, quick transitions, a lot of videos, a lot of moving parts, still using blocking, stage blocking, and traditional techniques as well.
And then there was a speaker that came, I think after, a little bit later in the day.
And he was doing the more traditional site and it felt so slow.
And there's nothing wrong about not doing any visuals or going slow with things, but in today's Tik-Tok kind of world, you just have to put a little bit more, you have to really use pacing and timing a little bit kind of smarter.
So I would say if you're a new speaker getting into it, there are some classic things that you can do, which are going to stand the test of time— pausing before you land a big line, pausing afterward so let people digest those, those are these kinds of classic things, blocking how you use the stage.
But some of the other things, really, frankly, you're as well prepared as anyone else just now, because you're coming at it fresh.
So I think that that hopefully gives people a little bit of confidence as well.
Ryan Foland: For those people who haven't really invested, or they don't know what to do for their technical setup, what would you say to them?
And my experience just like you is that I had to make that full digital transition.
So I investigated the green screen concept, wasn't sure how to even rig it until I was sailing.
And I was inspired by the rigging on my sailboat.
So I went to West Marine, rigged a bunch of harnesses up and down.
And so I actually like to have it cleated.
And so in real-time I can uncleat and bring my backdrop. I've got the Atem Mini Pro, so I've got multiple camera inputs, I've got all these things, but it took me a long time to figure that out.
And in full disclosure, sometimes I'd have a piece of new equipment and it'd be looking at me and I would just be intimidated because I wasn't sure how to fix it or figure it out.
For those people that are just still stuck in that one Zoom box, what do we say to them to get excited or be creative about that tech setup to fully utilize some of these newer tools?
James Taylor: Well, here's the good news.
I did what you did, Ryan, I started doing virtual keynotes really right from the start.
So I started really speaking late 2017, early 2018.
So relatively new I'd be on stages a lot before that, but first time in terms of being a professional speaker.
And I started doing quite a lot of virtual from the start, I'm not quite sure why.
I think it was because there was a number of American clients I was working with and I couldn't necessarily be there so we ended up doing virtually.
So I kind of set up a home studio and it was all everything you would want, great lighting, really great cameras, great lenses, you mentioned Atem Mini, I got one of those, did all, all the fancy stuff, like $2,000 microphones.
And then the further I got into it, I was like, "Actually, what can I remove from this?"
Because in the heat of the moment at times, unless you really know everything and really know which feel very comfortable it's just another thing you got thinking.
So for example, now I would say, Oh, a speaker would really need is something like an e-cam live, which is a piece of software I'm running on just now and the camera.
And if you don't have the benefit of living in Southern California, where you always have such a lovely light, then get some nice lights. And even a nice ring light.
And that's pretty it, that's pretty much it. It's not that much more complicated.
My setup's a little bit fancier because often I'll have multiple cameras.
I'm doing an event in a few hours time, which is actually, sometimes I'll do, kind of virtual MC things for the clients.
They might have what's called a client advisory board where they'll bring their top clients together, a very private, intimate thing.
And so I've done keynote things to them before, and in this case, I'm kind of almost like master ceremonies for them or hosts for them.
And in that case, I have autocues, I'm running a teleprompter.
And I have that set up here with all those things.
But for most of the time, you don't need any of that stuff because most of the time, really something as simple as e- cam live a nice, even a great webcam, they are so amazing now.
And some good lighting and you're ready to rock and roll.
It's so much easier now because everyone's kind of co-op and a lot of the technology.
Ryan Foland: Now, one of the things that I've utilized is the chat. I make sure that it's interactive, I strategically warm them up and I get them to trust me, and then I cue them.
And then I bring people up in a spotlight and I'm really working the room, essentially.
Maybe you can speak to some of the ways that you're engaging your audience, that you found work, so it's not just a screen to a whole bunch of other screens?
James Taylor: A little bit depends on the platform that the client wants to use.
And so I'm kind of platform-agnostic, if they see we're on Teams, we're on Zoom, whatever the thing is, you might have a specialized system.
So that's the first thing is you kind of think, okay, what can I do within that particular tool?
We're doing this on Zoom just now, so Zoom is great because it's got lots of, it's not perfect, there are things I would love to have, but it's got lots of tools.
So you mentioned obviously, chat, there are hand raise functions.
People would come on, camera, ask questions.
Breakout rooms are obviously a big one that you're using.
So all that stuff, pretty much everyone's kind of doing and they're trying. I think actually what's in some ways more interesting is when you use these things, not necessarily what you're using.
So this is a decision you have to make like I'm doing one on Friday for a client in Texas, an event.
And it's a virtual and it's a little bit initially they wanted me to give more of a workshop so I started preparing stuff for the workshop, and they said,
"Actually James, could you make it a little bit of a mixture between a keynote and a workshop?"
So if anyone's got a good name for keyshop—
Ryan Foland: A keyshop. yeah. A shop-note.
James Taylor: So you're thinking about, I think okay, so there's the keynote traditional bits, which tends to be a bit more transmitting, but there is a little bit of interaction.
Workshops are much more interactive.
So then you have a decision to make, which has got to do more with energy and flow for the presentation.
Because for example, I could be thinking, okay, maybe I'll do some things at the start because I want a certain level of interaction.
I'm also doing it from a psychological perspective because I want them to do a couple of things first to almost kind of buy-in.
So it's like the classic sales thing.
You get people to say yes, a couple of times, you do virtual versions of those.
And then you have a decision to make, well, do you want to do some of these, especially breakout rooms halfway through your one hour?
There are some benefits to that. It breaks up in terms of guest people interacting in that way, but it can also break the flow of things as well.
And guest people, their heads move to a different place and it's not one is right or wrong, but you kind of have to think about, well, what is the objective of this client?
What are they trying to do?
What are they trying to achieve?
How does it sit with everything else?
So in this case, I've decided that I will actually do a more traditional keynote style for the first 30 minutes.
And then we'll go into two possibly three kinds of breakouts.
One will be very quick, very short in pairs.
Then I'll bring them back in.
We'll talk about observations from that, I'll share another tool in this case, it's a creative thinking tool I'm doing.
We'll move into a slightly bigger group, and then we bring them back in.
And then there's another thing that we do as well.
Because one of the objectives for that client is this is a merger of two businesses coming together.
So they want people mixing and mingling.
So you've kind of got that in your head.
So you're doing all of these different things and you're trying to add the flow, so there's no right or a wrong way to do this.
It just comes from a kind of experience knowing, well, that works well.
It's like I used to be in bands many years ago, and as a musician, you tend to find very quickly, ah, these three songs work really well together.
So they almost go, these two songs always go work well.
Or if I put this and that reaches the height of that part of the show then I know that I want to go to that real quiet number, drop it back down again.
And this is when we're just talking about show dynamics or keynote dynamics as well, but you only get good at this stuff by doing it.
There's no, there's that wonderful Austin Kleon phrase thing.
They said, a lot of people want to be the noun without being the verb, without doing the verbal, if you want to be the noun without doing the verb, which I love.
So a lot of people want to be speakers, but without speaking.
The salespeople without selling.
It is all of you want to be writers without writing.
You have to do it. You just have to get in there and get your hands dirty.
Ryan Foland: It also sounds like the old Hollywood conundrum that you need the experience to get the job, but you need the job to get the experience.
Speaking of experience, for those who are trying to gain more experience, maybe they're not at a point where they're getting that traditional keynote or an actual engagement.
I want to get a gauge of what you see as far as the right types of timing for some of these low pay or free paid opportunities.
Because what I'm finding is there's more opportunity than ever.
You obviously have to pick and choose what makes sense for you and your brand.
Oftentimes, I find that the ones that are free or that they're not charging for, there's an opportunity for you to say, I'm going to give this length.
And so I want to talk about timing. I've heard the 20 minutes.
There are 30 minutes. There's the 45. There's the hour, there's an hour and a half.
Yes, it's based on sort of what the audience is after, but are there certain timeframes that you think might work better for this practice?
Or if you have a choice between 45 and 30, would you steer people in a certain direction?
James Taylor: Well, a couple of things.
One is, it depends on the time of day that you're delivering it and the audience.
If let's say, I mean, I don't speak for free.
I don't waive my fees on things with a very, very rare exception if it's a non-profit that I, we move, we support a lot of animal charities and things like that.
So if it's something like that, then no problem.
Or if it was a local school, let's say they wanted to bring in, I don't have a problem with that, but for everyone else, it's a business.
We're in the speaking business.
So for that, if I was speaking and I was waving my fee, not speaking for free, I was waving my fee, I would be asking, if it was a conference, I would be asking to get the slot just before the coffee break.
Because that gives you that golden 15, 30 minutes to go out there, hustle and go out with the cars and meet people.
If you get the 2:00 PM slot, that's hard, unless you're also a magician as well or something, everyone's energy tends to be a little bit lower.
So it's not so much the length of the time, but it's more where you sit.
I mean, I personally love doing mornings just after maybe the CEO has spoken or after maybe the main people from the company have spoken and then I get up, do my thing, and then we take a coffee break, and then I'm having conversations with people.
And I love that slot. Or you could do end of the day.
There are some speakers who really specialize in being closing keynote speakers, other ones are a bit more kind of opening because there are different demands there.
So that's the first thing I would say, it's almost like the time of day is as important as how long you're doing it for.
The other one I would say is, and I was actually just thinking about this morning as everyone's style is a little bit different.
My style in terms of how I work with clients is they're coming to me and I'm giving them a tailor-made suit.
Ryan Foland: That's funny. I like that.
James Taylor: It's true. I'm not giving them— you can go to Nordstrom and get off the peg kind of suit or jacket or dress or something like that.
You can get kind of made to measure or customize as well.
Or you can get a proper tailor-made suit.
Now you do them for different things and it can have different pricing involved.
If you're just going into a place that in a shop, you see that jacket or that dress there, it's made, there's some creativity that's gone into making that piece of clothing.
But it's what we call creativity of certainty.
You know exactly what it's going to look like.
You can even put it on, see how it looks on the thing. And it's fine.
With a keynote, if you have a really great 15 minute, 20 minutes prepared thing, and it's pretty much really solid, you would go on that and that might have one type of pricing.
If you wanted to do it that way. I never do those because I get bored too easily to do those types of presentations.
So my preference is to do more tailor-made where what I do with a client is we do multiple pre-event calls usually.
I ask them to fill out a survey, so I can understand who the audience is. I will often with some clients saying NDAs non-disclosure agreements, because I want to know what is the cutting edge of the technology that they're working on, even the people in the audience probably don't know.
So that company is working on that point.
So you have to sign NDAs. So I'm crafting this tailor-made presentation for them.
There will be stories that I've never given before.
I might just give it for that one particular event or the one series of examples. If you do that, you're doing what's called creativity of risk.
So you are going as a client, you are going on a journey with me.
We are co-creating this, I am not the only creator of this keynote.
You are creating it with me on that journey.
Some clients love that; some clients want to have that experience to feel that they're actively involved in creating something.
They know when I hit the stage, almost exactly what I'm going to say, because we've walked it through with them, they know that point, they know I'm going to hit certain things that may be thought about even like on the desks, on the tables, there are things on the tables that relate to the speech because they've been involved in that process.
If you are going to buy a tailor-made suit from Savile Row, it's going to cost you $5,000, as opposed to, if you go and buy a jacket off the rack which is a hundred dollars.
Not the one is better than the other, but they just required different amounts of time to prepare and to kind of deliver as well.
So think about yourself, where do you want to sit?
Do you want to be that high volume?
You know, it's Nordstrom and if you're in America or TK max, where you're just like putting volume, I know speakers that's what they're focused on, is volume or do you want to do few dates and be more tailor-made for that client, and maybe your salary, your fee is going to be a bit more, a bit higher than the other way.
Ryan Foland: # James Taylor made, it should be a TM. Not a tailor-made, but a James Taylor made. I like that.
I want to jump into your thoughts on 5G, The Metaverse, NFT, Web3 Because we're really on the cusp of that right now.
This is a newer conversation, I would say 98 of the last 100 episodes we weren't talking about all of that because it just wasn't in our mind.
Talk to me about your thoughts. Are you bullish on this? Are you bearish on this? What should we expect from a speaking perspective?
James Taylor: Yeah, it was interesting, I had an inquiry this month from a client offering to pay me for an event in I think it was in San Diego, in Ethereum.
So I have Ether and Bitcoin, another cryptocurrency.
And so you started to see things like that coming through on the payment side.
NFTs, I find really interesting as a creator, I think we're still in that kind of a little bit of the hype cycle thing is kind of going on with it.
I want to see how it develops and where it goes.
I think there's a lot of really bad art being created with NFT just now.
But it's the thing everyone's trying, everyone's experimenting and that's kind of what is. Metaverse I'm very interested in and I was doing an event not so long ago, and one of the speakers that they had actually just after another part of that event was a speaker called Cathy Hackl from America, who is probably the best speaker on the Metaverse.
Ryan Foland: As in, on the topic of or actually?
James Taylor: On the topic. She is fantastic. And she's great.
And so I'm seeing lots of new speakers who are not, you would think of Nestle as professionals, they're probably not going to be members of a speakers association but they have deep domain expertise on this thing.
And so Metaverse I'm very interested in.
I got a call last week, I am doing another, a co-keynote program with myself and Alison Burns, who you've met, my wife, who is a jazz singer but also a lawyer and she has a real passion for sustainability and ethics.
So we have this program called the Ethical Futurists where the two of us are kind of doing this co-keynote together.
So I got a call from a client last week, saying we're interested in bringing you to speak at this conference that we're doing.
As a company, they make ingredients like chemicals for different products.
But we're trying to make this a really low carbon event.
So I said, "Okay, let's get creative on this. What about if rather than me and Allison flying to, I think it was Amsterdam this event rather than us flying over to Amsterdam, what about if we did it as holograms instead?"
So that just requires us to get in our car, which is an EV, electric car, a Tesla. So that's going to be low carbon in there.
And we drive to a studio and we go into this room and we're basically, we give our presentation and we are then projected onto that stage in Amsterdam and it's live, so people can ask questions.
And that's kind of interesting. I think that's almost like the bridge into the Metaverse space.
I think where that kind of goes next is that we're going to take a Ready Player One type of world.
If anyone checks that movie I remember reading the book a couple of years ago and then seeing the movie, if people check out the movie, I think we're partly moving to that.
But once again, it kind of depends on your audience.
If you're a speaker who speaks on a topic, which would work really well for a kind of broad audience or kind of entrepreneurial tech audience, if you're Gary V for example, absolutely makes total sense.
A lot of my audiences I speak to are smaller rooms, 150, 200 senior people.
These are people that read the Financial Times, The Economist, they actually value coming to events for networking as well.
And until we kind of really get on the Metaverse, kind of I get that bit sorted and having deep conversations over dinner, over some drinks or whatever, I still think there'll be, there might be a differentiation of the type of events you see on the Metaverse.
Ryan Foland: Interesting.
I think it's a really exciting space to explore.
I'm one to learn by doing, so I'm playing around with NFTs, you know, me and my stick figures.
So one thing I'm excited about is I illustrate all my keynotes with stick figures.
And so one of my ideas is taking a lot of that artwork, turning those, a piece of art that represents what you get from the keynote and then the utility behind that keynote is what actually allows you to hire me through the smart contract and things like that.
It's just a fun excuse to look at how to incorporate.
James Taylor: I think the other interesting thing about NFTs is this collaborative nature that you can have in terms of editability.
So one of the things I've always thought about is when I design a keynote or some type of presentation or any piece of content, really, I want someone to take that and I want them to add to it.
I don't want to just kind of go [ 31:39 ] I want them to look like maybe this is the musician in me, is I want someone to listen to that track and go,
"Ah, that's great, I want to sample that, take that a little bit and put it into my own thing and then add this new thing on."
With NFTs, you can kind of do that because it has that nature to it. So that's the bit I'm personally really excited about.
As a pure distribution method, it doesn't excite me that much, but as a way to potentially collaborate and to co-create, I'm very excited about that.
Ryan Foland: Very cool. Well, it would be interesting to see how that plays out over the next hundred years.
James Taylor: Yeah. But who knows this could be the Clubhouse of 2022, and everybody would be talking about in 2023.
Ryan Foland: Yeah, where everybody's on it and then all of a sudden they're not, and now they're sort of on Twitter spaces and then they're sort of not.
It is interesting to see these different digital channels where everybody's jumping to and the audio channels or platforms, audio specifically really gives a chance to flex your speaking skills without the pressure of being on camera.
And it's interesting to see the hopscotch, I guess that's happening.
James Taylor: Yeah. I love hearing different voices, especially if someone's not a native English speaker and there's something quite, and then they speak in English, there's something quite nice about that.
I quite like hearing that difference.
And this was something that Sylvie di Giusto I think it was, maybe it wasn't Sylvie, maybe it was Heather Hansen is a speaker from Singapore.
She says something very interesting. She said 95% of conversations, business conversations that are in English are between people that English isn't their first language. So this is a really important point.
I think it was Sylvie said this is that when she first came to America, because obviously she's a German she speaks great English, but as German, what you tend to find is if English isn't your first language, you're a little bit, you use less words, less floweriness, you're a bit more direct.
So therefore it can generally be understood by more people.
So one of the things I find, and this is, I would say, especially British speakers are we're really bad at this because we're so focused or Irish speakers, we feel so comfortable in the language we're speaking.
When we go up on stage and if you're speaking to an audience in Kiev or Tbilisi or some other place, the English isn't their first language, you kind of have to stop, pause a little bit and you have to think,
"I can't use that series of words, those phrases like that because they're just going to get in the way of the message I'm trying to deliver".
So if English isn't your first language, if you're from India, Pakistan, if you're from Ecuador and you're getting into speaking, I think you have a disadvantage, because English isn't your first language. Don't.
I would argue you possibly have an advantage over us, the native speakers.
Ryan Foland: That's interesting. That's great.
Well, let's transition into what maybe we can look forward to from a speaking business building perspective, with really understanding where we've been, where we're at, where we're going to go.
Things have obviously changed.
Maybe you can share some of the things that have changed the most that stick out. And then we can talk about some of the tried, true, tested things that are still working for you.
James Taylor: Yes, so 2019 I gave I think 52, 53 keynotes in 25 countries. Lots of planes, about 300,000 air miles in that year.
2020 I think I gave 40 keynotes as well, but obviously, in one place, I didn't go anywhere.
2021, I did probably maybe 75, 80 keynotes and went to three countries.
And so now this year, and we're now recording this in 2022, there's an interesting series of decisions I think every speaker has to meet now.
Because you now have this new product line called virtual and you're now thinking, "Okay, if I take that virtual, it means I can't necessarily go and give that in-person."
Or "If I give that in-person means I can do that virtual because I want to be back at my studio in my own setup".
So we're now thinking in terms of opportunity costs, and this may not feel like this right now as we're recording this, because things are just still starting to get back, but I guarantee you come the second half of this year, you will be thinking if you're a speaker, an active professional speaker,
"Do I want to take that gig? That gig that's a new piece a little bit, maybe 30% less because it's virtual because that's a date I think I could probably get an in-person."
So that's going to be interesting, that's a little bit of a difference, I think.
And some of the other things, the classics, you know what hasn't stayed the same on the business, I would still say it's thinking about your lead sources, what they are, and really kind of drilling down into those lead sources and being pretty kind of relentless on that, tracking your numbers, we track all of our numbers in terms of numbers of inquiries, leads, outbound, gigs, you know, the average fee per engagement.
So we're always kind of tracking that.
And so I think if you keep your focus on those numbers, you might start seeing a little bit more inquiries coming in from event companies again, as they start doing in-person, maybe you've been doing quite a lot of stuff for direct for companies or with bureaus, for corporate clients.
You're going to start seeing probably more of those association events, start to come back more of the, what we call incentive trips, where they take a group to Thailand, for example, to go and have a weekend they'll bring in a guest speaker to speak at it.
So I think we'll start seeing some of those.
You know, in terms of lead sources, pretty much they have stayed the same. The blend might be a little bit different.
So you have referrals from maybe previous engagements that you've done, someone seeing you, and then they refer you to do another event.
That's been very difficult if you started your speaking career during the time of virtual. Referrals were a little bit more difficult because you don't get to have that hang time with a client, which is sometimes a bit of a problem.
But you know, the referrals start coming back. SEO is an evergreen one and we invest a lot of money in SEO and focusing on our SEO efforts.
PPC or we kind of dropped a lot of our pay-per-click ads when the pandemic happened because we just couldn't get the return that we could get if we were doing in-person where you're getting slightly higher fees than virtual, but we're now kind of ramping that back up again.
Bureau, you know, the bureau channel, who knows what's going on with them.
I don't know if you've noticed this, Ryan, but I get a lot more kind of autoresponders coming back, this person no longer works here from a lot of bureaus.
So I think they're really trying to find their feet.
And my sense is there'll be a little bit of a, I find I'm already seeing this, there might be a little bit of a consolidation going on within the bureau industry.
So that will be interesting to see where that goes.
Social media, another lead source.
I personally don't think of, I mean, I think we calculated it one year and I think we got 3% of our bookings from social media. It was a very low number.
However, outbound using social media, things like LinkedIn, which I kind of think of that type of social media, that's still really valid, even more, valid now.
And then your outbound campaigns, so we run different types of outbound campaigns. So they're just a couple of lead sources.
And I do think they're really going to change significantly, certainly over the next couple of years. So I will be deciding what your lead sources are and really kind of figuring out how do I need to be relevant today.
And that's before you even get on the topic of the actual content.
Ryan Foland: Yeah.
Well, I was going to ask you about your content marketing and how that's working.
Because I know you're creating a lot of content, you're writing regularly in Forbes.
I enjoy your newsletters, you have your whole support system for speakers as well.
But is there a certain type of content that you feel you're creating that you're getting the maximum amount of, whether it's articles, are you on the podcast syndicate, things like that?
Present podcast excluded, of course.
James Taylor: Yeah. So I mean, I do, we have a podcast. We have two podcast shows.
I do a live stream every week with myself and a speaker bureau agent Maria Franzoni, and we're constantly putting out new content videos and short-form Tik Toks, all these kinds of things.
Here's the thing.
I could stop all of that tomorrow, and I believe it would have no impact whatsoever on my inbound inquiries.
Ryan Foland: Okay. Share a little bit more about that.
James Taylor: Okay. So if I was really wanting to be a speaker who did a podcast, let's say, and podcast is as we know, incredibly competitive now, all I would do is I would just go and interview my clients or prospective clients. That's all I would do.
But that's kind of boring because I speak on creativity and I'm interested in lots of wide areas.
So for example, last week, I had in the show the CEO of Cirque du Soleil, a really interesting perspective in terms of how teams.
This week I think we've got on a woman, Julia Hobsbawm who's probably one of the leading thinkers in remote work.
Next week I think we have on Sebastian Mallaby who writes for the Washington Post, who is one of the top thinkers and did an amazing book about venture capital.
That doesn't make any sense from a content perspective, but here's the thing — it keeps me learning. It keeps me interested.
And loads of people listen to the shows, but not necessarily the people that are ever going to pay me to give a speech.
If I had other products, if I had courses, I could monetize it. That is so much easier.
And I don't really have anything specifically for those audiences, when I come up with books, then there'll be books and things.
So here's a thing. If you're a speaker, frankly, you don't have to do any content marketing at the stage.
You could just get super, hardcore focused on outbound sales, SEO, PPC, just stick to those. Don't do any content.
If you want to be an interesting person and have content for your speeches and your presentations, then podcasts are amazing.
Because I learn something new from you, maybe you learn something from me. Fantastic. Amazing.
And so I might use something of that in a presentation.
So where we use content is new ideas, finding new things I could potentially use for the content in my keynotes or presentations.
The other thing that it does is a little bit further in the funnel.
So let's say if I'm having inquiry from a, let's see, who'd be a good example, like, maybe it was a VC firm, like someone at Sequoia capital contacts me,
"James, we're doing an offsite, we're interested in maybe bringing you in to speak".
I've got a perfect thing to go back to say, "Oh, I actually, we, I just did an interview a couple months back with this guy and he wrote the book on, let me show you that with me."
And it's me interviewing him.
It's not him interviewing me in this podcast, but it shows I'm kind of connected with it as well.
The one I would say and then the other thing you tend to find is when you go and speak on stages, I often will mention my podcast and then you'll get a lot of followers and a lot of people will be listening to the podcast after that, who in the audience, they're not the buyer, they're not the person that's giving you the check or sending you the money, but they're in the audience.
And so they're a big part of your community, part of your network as a result.
And then the one bit of content I find has probably the highest value for us, and I'm amazed at how few speakers do this.
And I think this is hugely underutilized and I learned it from the SAAS industry and the enterprise business clients I have is case studies.
How often does a speaker once they have spoken for a client, go and say, "Listen, I'd like to do a case study, a really in-depth case study with you on why you brought me in first of all to speak, and what your challenge was, the conversations we went back and forth, how we designed that presentation together, what the results were. I'd like to follow up a couple of months later, see what you actually implemented, was a dollar amount on that in terms of how that improved. I'd love a testimonial from you as well."
And so what we do is every week we create a new case study.
So this week, it was Intuit one of my clients who make, TurboTax, when the software and products. Last week, it was for a private bank.
The week before that it was for a law firm in the UK.
Where there are great pieces of content is that when you get an inquiry, let's say tomorrow you get an inquiry from a company in the healthcare space, making medical devices, you say,
"Oh, that's great. Yeah. I actually just did this work for these three other medical device companies. Let me send you the case studies for these."
Or maybe they say, "Oh, you've got this particular challenge. I just worked for one of the big banks, had exactly the same challenge like your company. Let me send you that case study as well." Then these things are gold.
So these things help you improve your conversion rate. They don't drive in traffic at the front end.
Ryan Foland: Well, I think everybody's writing that note down and they're all going to figure that out.
Are these cases, are they something that you keep internal and then you share to the companies? Are these also public-facing that everybody can access?
James Taylor: You can go on my website, you can go to jamestaylor.me, go to my website and there's a thing at the top that says Clients drop-down and we actually segment them by industry so you can view all the ones by a certain industry or audience type.
So whether it was primarily like maybe marketers that were in the room or lawyers or whatever the thing is, so you can go and see them publicly.
And then the other thing that we do is all the bureau partners we work with, we give them their own kit of case studies with their branding on it.
So this is going to have like 40 case studies.
The problem that you have to find with bureaus though is, you then have to educate the bureau agent on what's actually in there because there's so much in there.
So you have to say, listen, and they'll come to me, James, you know, we've got this client, you know, which of the case studies do you think is the best one?
Oh, just share this one. Share that Cisco one, for example.
So that takes a little bit of time, but these are really invaluable, but you wouldn't see me kind of promoting these on social media or anything, but they are there.
Ryan Foland: Well, I think you have outlined a very creative yet practical approach.
And I think that the combination of finding things that have traditionally worked with looking at new opportunities, to look at things differently, that is the magic formula for the future, whether it's giving a co-keynote, whether it's looking at sustainability, whether it's looking at being a hologram, whether it's something as old school as a case study all the way to just investing in your setup so that you're giving yourself those tools to jump out of the audience, literally like I can imagine you giving a talk where an AR dinosaur comes from the back and, you know, incorporating all these different things.
Well, James, if somebody does want to learn more or connect with you or hire you or work with you, you mentioned your website. Is that the best way to connect? How can people get ahold of you so that they can get a piece?
James Taylor: Yeah. So if you're just interested in my podcasts and all that, the speaking side of what I do, just go to jamestaylor.me.
And if you're interested in learning about how to do the stuff that I do and be a professional speaker, then we actually have a separate academy we created for that called SpeakersYou.com, just go to speakersyou.com.
And that has a whole bunch of free training and a little bit about our program as well.
Ryan Foland: Well, on behalf of SpeakerHub who powers this crazy adventure that we've had for 100 episodes, you've always been a great supporter of SpeakerHub and I think you're one of those sorts of founding members who've helped to kind of guide it along.
And so it's just exciting to bring you back. It's crazy to have the 100th episode, essentially, almost in the bag, but if I look back the thing that I've enjoyed the most is, as you said, meeting new people, keeping the ideas fresh and I think that speaking like sailing, is something I'm so interested in because you can learn how to do it relatively easily, but to master it fully can take an entire lifetime.
So I always look at it as a rabbit hole that just continues to find its way in different branches and it's through advice, people like you, and the 99 other guests that have really helped me to create a foundation where I can take those pieces of information, what works for some people, get creative and blend it into the thing that I'm doing.
So on behalf of SpeakerHub and the World of Speakers and everybody else out there like you, who is willing to share their advice and just to believe in a world of abundance, because I think if we all can learn from each other, we can all be better from the stage.
And it just has to do with whose story are we going to tell, how are we going to tell it, and how much impact will that make on people's lives?
Thanks again, and thanks to all of our listeners.
Oh my gosh.
If this is your 100th episode, how exciting; if this doesn't motivate you to give a review or something on iTunes to let everybody know or to share with your friends, then I'm not sure what a good excuse is.
James, any final encouraging words for people who have struggled through this recent past, and as we're looking into the future, what do you see for the future of the World of Speakers?
James Taylor: Well, the future is brighter, now.
Maybe if you'd asked me that question a year ago, maybe I'd have a different answer for you, but it's much brighter now, the world is starting to open up again.
And especially if you're as passionate as I am in terms of being a global speaker and traveling to interesting places, hearing new stories, sharing your stories with new audiences, then there's never been a bad time to be a speaker.
Ryan Foland: Well, you heard it.
There's never a better time to plant a tree than 25 years ago, and the second-best time to plant a tree or start your speaking career is today!
So use this as an inspiration to stand on the shoulders of giants from whatever stage, whether it's in person, in hologram, in the Metaverse, maybe as an NFT, or just old school in front of an audience, but whatever you do, remember what my mom said— It only takes one person, Ryan.
So even if you're just helping to share your message or a story with one person, you're still speaking. Because if you speak in public then you are a public speaker, it's a scientific fact that you cannot argue either.
We'll see you out there in the Metaverse or somewhere.
James Taylor: Thank you, Ryan. Can we open the 100th episode bottle of champagne now?
Ryan Foland: Yes.
[Sound of opening champagne]
I just did.
Excellent. All right.
Well, I'm full of smiles here and I probably got a couple of extra freckles just as a part of this, but it's been a lot of fun.
And James, thank you again for your support and for all you're doing to spread people's stories.
A bit about World of Speakers
World of Speakers is a bi-weekly podcast that helps people find their own voices, and teaches them how to use their voice to develop a speaking business.
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