World of Speakers E.65: Shep Hyken | Tips for taking your speaking business to the next-level


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World of Speakers E.65 Shep Hyken

Ryan Foland speaks with Shep Hyken, a customer service expert and thought-leader. He is a National Speakers Association hall of fame speaker, and a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author. 

Ryan and Shep talk about how to progress your career as a professional speaker, with a variety of ideas on how to build you business depending on what level you are (entry level to seasoned pro).

Listen to this podcast to find out: 

  1. The different types and levels of speakers, who makes the most money, and how to take your business to the next level
  2. The newest trends for the speaking industry (Spoiler: it legit includes holograms)
  3. How to break an audience from their preoccupations when you first get onto a stage
  4. A technique on how to memorize your talk (that will make it seem seamlessly natural)
  5. Niche or broad? How and why you need to hone in on your messaging


If you enjoy this interview we’d be honoured if you reviewed us on iTunes. Just follow this link.


Shep Hyken: Hey this is Shep Hyken. I had a great time talking with Ryan. We talked about almost everything that has to do with the speaking business. I know you're going to love it.

Ryan Foland: Ahoy everybody. Welcome to today's show and onboard we have Shep Hyken, the man who has been hiking up hills, proverbially, to become the customer service experience, not only expert but EXPERT. 

He is also an award-winning keynote speaker and to top that, he is a New York Times bestselling author. 

I won't give it away completely, but he does look like one of my favorite action heroes in the history of the world. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the ship Shep, how are you doing?

Shep Hyken: Welcome to the ship, Shep — that's not easy. And now that you've intrigued them, since this is audio, you ought to probably tell them who I look like.

Ryan Foland: Bruce Willis.

Shep Hyken: I'm glad you didn't say it was Uncle Fester.

Ryan Foland: Oh no, no, no.

Shep Hyken: Bruce Willis, yeah I get that a lot. 

And true story, I'm out at Sundance Film Festival a few years ago and famous actor, Rutger Hauer (I don't even know if I'm pronouncing his name exactly right, I believe he's from Sweden) he was in Blade Runner, I don't know if you know who he is or not. 

Pretty famous over there, kind of a B-List actor over here. I'm walking by and everybody is taking pictures of him and I look at him. I don't even know who he is, but the guy I'm with says, "Oh you know who that is?" 

I go, "No," and I still didn't know who it was when he told me his name, but the guy looks at me and says, "I want my picture with you." 

And I get up and I go, "Sure". He goes to take a selfie with me and after he takes a selfie he goes, "You're not who I thought you were." He thought I was Bruce.

Ryan Foland: Well, way to just kind of go with the flow. 

I think that from the experiences that I've had with you, you could very likely be someone that everyone wants to take a picture with, because your energy is quite infectious, I'm not going to lie. 

Shep Hyken: Thank you.

Ryan Foland: I had a chance to meet you a few times, virtually, through Josh Linker's community of 3 Ring Circus, and you're always providing so much value and insights, and you're always so busy at the same time.

I’m just appreciative to have you here to learn a little bit more about you and share your insights with the World of Speakers.

Shep Hyken: Well, thank you. The 3 Ring Circus program is great, I'm honored to be on that board of advisors. 

I've gone to 5 of those events, and even though I've been doing this for almost 36 years, believe it or not. 

I look much younger, that's the other thing about being bald is you can't see the gray hair. We look good, we look the same for like 25 years and then one day it's like, "What happened to that guy, he just looks old now." 

But who would have thought that I went to the first one and said, "Josh this is great, I had feedback." 

I went to the second one, I go, "I actually learn things by coming here." 

I went to the third one, and every time it reinforces things I need to do, things I should be doing, and even occasional nuggets pop out. 

And you know what else is cool about the 3 Ring Circus? It's that there are people in the audience that are somewhat seasoned professionals that are attending this event, not everybody is, obviously, but the few there are, and they throw out their 2 cents' worth and it's an amazing exchange. 

Anyway, I can go on and on about that, but that's not what we're here to do, we're here to talk about what you want to talk about.

Ryan Foland: Yeah, and what I want to talk about is about you. 

So if you had to pull a story off the shelf and you had to deliver it to me here, now in about 10 seconds, and that was the only story that I had to introduce you to somebody. 

I'm like, "Hey, you got to meet this guy Shep, this one time..." What would that be?

Shep Hyken: Wow. Let's go way back to when I was just a little kid, about 12 and started my first business — a birthday party magic show business. 

It was a Wednesday afternoon after school, my mom picks me up from school and has my props in the car and we drive over to this house and I go inside, I perform for 45 minutes. 

You might say that's the first speech I ever did, but it gets better than that because I got paid a whopping $15 + $1 tip, wow, that was exciting. 

And when I got home that night, my parents were at the dinner table, my brother, sister, my mom, my dad. And my mom says, "What are you going to do after dinner?" 

And I remembered it was a school night, so I thought the correct answer was, "To do my homework." But I was wrong. 

She said, "No, you're going to write a thank you note to the people that just paid you that $16." 

This was a long time ago, so $16 back then is worth like $2,803 today. Not really, but you get the idea, it was a lot. 

And so my mom was just teaching me the very first customer service lesson I'd ever learned. 

And my dad said, "Great idea, follow it up with a phone call in about a week, thank them again, and ask them, 'How did you like the show?’

And when they tell you they loved it, of course, they are going to say they loved it, ask them what tricks did they like the best? 

And when you listen, if you do this a number of times, you do a bunch of shows you'll start to hear some of the same tricks over and over again and then you'll hear— you won't hear tricks that they don't talk about because they're probably not that memorable." 

So he said, "Get rid of those tricks, replace them with tricks that are really something they'll talk about."

And I thought, "Wow." 

Now, little did I know, my mom was teaching me appreciation, my dad was teaching me get feedback and then process improvement and all of this at the age of 12, not realizing it was customer service. 

And then I just got better and better at that, and when I finally did decide to do what I do now for a living, which is a lot of speeches, that's a big part of our business.

The way that happened was I got out of college, I didn't have a job, I saw a couple of motivational speakers, and because of my entertainment background— 

By the way, I graduated from birthday parties to night clubs and some special corporate events, like a special party or a sales meeting or whatever. 

So I graduated to the adult performances, but when I saw those speakers I said, "I can do that, that's what I think I want to do." 

I went to the bookstore to find out what I can learn, I'm in the business section and I looked at all the books and I gravitated toward the books that focused on customer service basically, because that's what my mom taught me to do, my mom and my dad. 

And it's what really built my business over the years. So that's the story, and I hope it's what you wanted. 

Ryan Foland: That's great. I mean, we learn that you're a mu— I almost said "mu", but MAgician.

Shep Hyken: I do that too, I'm also a musician.

Ryan Foland: Okay, good.

Shep Hyken: Magic, music there's only two letters that are different, it's the “u” and the “s”, that's U.S., baby. 

Ryan Foland: I like it, and you're also a comedian, apparently, this is good. You got it all. 

But what I always enjoy learning about, especially the first business that you start. The first business I started was a Christmas light hanging business because my parents were big into Christmas and especially lights.

I was 20 feet up on a ladder when Mrs. Kawaguchi said, 

"Ryan, can you help me?" I'm like, 



"I'll pay you $20 an hour." 

"Be right down."

As we see these early exposures to kind of discovering that there is value in helping to solve people's problems, I think we get to know people really well. 

And the fact that your mom and dad sort of secretly started you on this path, but the fact that you found it yourself is really a testament that it's probably in your blood.

Shep Hyken: That's what happened. 

It started at such a young age and I had no idea that I would be a performer, if you will, because that's what speaking is, it's a performance. 

Every time you get up there you've got to think, "This is it, it's a command performance they are paying me a lot of money to do this." 

I could be sitting behind a desk at many different types of businesses, probably not doing something nearly as exciting and exhilarating and fun and maybe challenging would be a good word, many times there are challenging opportunities which make you grow.

And so I'm very, very lucky to do this and you've got to accept everyone and manage it and embrace it.

Ryan Foland: Now, I'm curious about the connection between the magician and the “speakician”, I just made that up.

Shep Hyken: Yeah, I like that. The speakician. 

Ryan Foland: The speakician. 

Because when it comes to magic, you really have to be conscious of the audience, where they're looking, you've got sleight of hand, you've got sort of setting them up, you've got tension, you've got release. 

Do you find that you are actively playing some sort of a speakician role while you're doing this? 

Because I mean, magic goes so deep, do you look at your talks and the experience that you create, as sort of with that magical underlining?

Shep Hyken: I think that a speech is a performance, the same way a magic show is a performance, the same way a singer or a band gets up and delivers a performance. We all have our expertise. 

You're right about you've got to prepare, and preparing as a magician means you practice your tricks. You develop the sleight of hand, you know we want to make people look over here when they could be looking over there, the misdirection. 

And it's all part of the routine. When you go to write a speech, you've got to have a strong opening just as any act of any kind, music, magic, comedy has something that's going to break preoccupation. 

This, by the way, some of this I learned as a speaker, but as I look back, I was doing things. 

Breaking preoccupation is the first step when you get onto the stage, and that is that whatever they were doing before, you now need to get them to focus on you

Ryan Foland with Shep Hyken - Quote on breaking preoccupation - World of Speakers Podcast (Navy) Powered by SpeakerHub

What's that first sentence out of your mouth going to be that's going to cause them to do that? 

It shouldn't be, "Hey...uh...St. Louis, it's great to be here today, man, thanks for inviting me to come over here and..uh...speak." That's not where you want to be.

You could say, "Hey, thank you for the applause," and then launch into what gets to break their preoccupations. 

And so for example, in a magic show, I always started with a trick where I say, "I want to show you something I learned when I was very young." 

And I pull out these ropes and then I throw the ropes into the audience and people are like, "Well, he just put something in the audience." 

And immediately people start looking at the other audience members, and then they start looking back at me as the ropes are sent back up to me, and that was a great trick to break preoccupation. 

When I do a speech, I do the same thing but I do it with words: "By a show of hands, how many people here believe it's important to satisfy your customers? Raise your hand if you believe that to be true." 

And what happens is everybody's hand goes up.

One of the reasons though that many of the hands go up is because their neighbor's hand went up and they're just following along. 

So I've got to say a little bit more to get them to engage and understand why they just did that action, but what I did is I forced them to do something else. 

So when I did the rope trick, I did something also called “crossing the lights” which is the same thing, it helps to break preoccupations and that's a showbiz term, where if you're somebody famous like—

Ryan Foland: Bruce Willis. 

Shep Hyken: Yeah, like Bruce Willis, and he walks out on stage, you already know who Bruce is and you're engaged with just that fact, "Hey, there's Bruce Willis." 

Well, I'm Shep. And not many people know me, so I've got to do something and “crossing the lights” means I'm going into the audience with the rope, okay. 

I'm forcing everybody, because I gave it to the audience the attention is no longer on me and the audience is more interested in the audience at that point than they are in me, which is good, because I still got them to move off of whatever they were doing and thinking to now they're a fellow audience member. 

Then when it comes back to me and I do the trick, I start to win them over. And with that line that I open with, it's the same thing. 

You can start with a story, "I was 10 years old and I was doing this..." 

You start with a story, and if the story is entertaining and it gets somebody to pay attention, maybe laugh, maybe even get emotional, you've now created that moment that breaks that preoccupation.

Ryan Foland: So I want to get a little look at this attention word because you even said "pay attention" and I like to think of people's time as currency, and this idea of sort of breaking the frame to get them to pay their attention to you. 

But in a general sense, for people, if you think about it, you have like someone that is giving their attention or someone who is getting attention. 

And I think that like a magician and a musician and someone who's an entertainer, there's maybe this idea that like the attention is on them, but it's not about attention on you, it's about getting their attention. I guess I'm trying to find—

Shep Hyken: I know what you're saying. 

It's: rather than make yourself the focal point, connect with the audience. That engages to where it's not about you being the focal point, it's about the experience being the focal point. 

As speakers, that's one of the things we have to do. Recognize this: if all they want is information, they can buy a book. 

Ryan Foland with Shep Hyken - Quote on engaging the audience - World of Speakers Podcast (Grey) Powered by SpeakerHub

Ryan Foland: I like that. 

Shep Hyken: So that's why you're giving them the experience. 

So if you show up and just phone it in and have no real connection — by the way, I learned this way back when I did a lot of magic, I would do nightclubs where I would do a couple of shows a night, but I might do that for 3-4 nights in a row. 

And maybe I would do close up magic, table to table to table to table, and I would do that 20 times in a night. 

I recognized that each time I did this for every audience it was a new audience, they deserved the best of me. 

Ryan Foland with Shep Hyken - Quote on recognizing the audience - World of Speakers Podcast (Navy) Powered by SpeakerHub

I used to do auto shows. This was great, I don't know if you've ever been to an auto show where the beautiful women, models, stand in front of the cars? Now there are male models too, but way back when I did it, it was primarily women. We can talk about the car, they'd be in beautiful gowns. 

I was actually hired by General Motors. In the morning I would do a speech to the dealers and in the afternoon I would go to the showroom floor and I would perform magic on the stage to draw people in, and I'd talk about the cars. 

So at the end of 10 days, some of those auto shows run from Friday until Sunday the following week, okay, that's 10 days, 12 shows a day, 120 shows in one week, and the shows were about 20 minutes or so long, every 45 minutes. 

I got good, and I could get very bored, but I also recognized, "Man, I'm getting paid a whole lot of money to do this, I better be damn good." 

I wanted to be so good that they want me back next year. 

This is one of my philosophies in customer service: Be good at this moment so that the next time they need whatever it is that you do, they choose to use you instead of a competitor. 

Ryan Foland with Shep Hyken - Quote on customer service - World of Speakers Podcast (Black) Powered by SpeakerHub

I'm thinking that way at the very beginning of my career. On show number one I don't want the guy to say, "Hey, I don't want you coming back tomorrow, let alone next year." 

So I'm going to do my very best, and one guy even said to me, I remember after a couple of years of doing this, his name was Bob Gardina, I believe. 

Anyway, he said, "Shep, you do 120 shows a week and that last one seems just as fresh as the first one. How do you do it?" 

Now he was my client, so what I said to him was, "Well, I'll tell you, it's easy, do you know what you're paying me a day? I divide that by the number of shows I do and I realize, 'This is a darn good job I want to keep it.'"

And we laughed at that, I said, "But seriously, if I'm having fun, the audience is having fun. If the audience starts to have fun, I feed off that energy, I'm now having fun again. 

I'm not phoning it in, I'm going to give them my best every single time."

Ryan Foland: Yeah, that's just such a simple, great piece of advice that if you're having fun then it will go well. 

I think sometimes we get so caught up in the mechanics of the talk, or there’s so much training behind it that sometimes you lose that fun element and it becomes just a job. 

But that's a great reminder too, I love this not phone it in because people can just buy the book if they want the info.

Shep Hyken: Yeah. You talk about getting into the technique. I have a speech coach, I use Patricia Fripp, she's phenomenal, I love her. 

And she works with me on certain phrases and certain words and just because I'm scripting things out or I am looking a certain way doesn't mean I am doing it by rote, or doing it strictly by memorization. 

I just think that what that does is when you're really, really good, or you know what you're supposed to do, you can then improvise and come back into where you're supposed to be as opposed to just go through it like a memorized speech. 

I saw Jason Alexander who is on Seinfeld, you know who he is? Actually, and they claim Curb Your Enthusiasm is based on his role from Seinfeld, and I saw him do a magic show, he's a magician. 

By the way, he's a Broadway actor, he's a singer, he's a dancer, he's also a magician. The guy does everything, it's George Costanza on Seinfeld. 

I saw him do a magic show and he was brilliant. And afterward I went up to him and we had a chance to chat and I said, "I just need to know how much of that was scripted? Because none of it seems scripted, yet I believe almost all of it was scripted." 

And he said, "100%". 

And he says, "You know when I break the character because I improvise and interact with the audience members, but otherwise it's 100% scripted." 

He was so good and so connected with us that when he went to break his script and go into the audience it seemed very natural, and then he would come back to where he is supposed to be. 

And man, here is the actor and they say, "A magician is an actor playing the part of a magician." 

And I'll say that if you're really good as a keynote speaker, I'm not going to say you're an actor playing the part of a keynote speaker, but I believe it really helps to think a little bit in that mindset.

Ryan Foland: Yeah, I'm feeling you on this one. 

I draw a lot of stick figures. I am a semi-professional stick figure artist, and one of my favorite quotes is, "Don't memorize, prepare and improvise." And it's all right there. 

But you kind of have to have such in-depth knowledge that it technically is memorized, but you're not trying to memorize, and I think a lot of people early on their speaking career get really stuck on that. 

Shep Hyken: So Patricia Fripp and I work together on a particular speech, and I have my set-up, my main points of which there are 6, and I like to give lists. I believe in this very traditional style.

You set up what you're going to do, and then you tell them exactly what to do, "Here are 5 ways to do that, here are 8 ways to make that happen, here are the 4 best ways to do whatever," and then you have your quotes. 

And so Patirica and I worked on my 6 steps that I was going to create for this particular speech, I had the content. 

And she says, "Now do you want to get good?" She says, "I would suggest memorizing it to start with, and realizing that memorization will probably seem memorized, and then take each of the 6 steps, do them backward and then do them out of order. Do 1, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, then do 2, 4, 6, 5, 1." 

And she says, "When you get good enough to not even think about doing them in backward order or reverse order, middle order, whatever, you've got it down well enough it will never seem memorized and you can break away, improvise, have fun, come back in where you're supposed to. If you lose your train of thought you just come right back where you were before." 

And it was a brilliant lesson, and I did it, and I think the speech came off rather well. 

And I tried to use that. Many of the speeches I do today are one-offs the client asked me to do it, but that doesn't mean I don't prepare. 

I may at least do my bullet points, and have that ability to just talk to those points, but I've got to make sure I cover all of those points.

Ryan Foland: Yeah, those are some good points, Shep.

Shep Hyken: Speaking of points, no pun intended. Did you get the point?

Ryan Foland: Did you get the point? Yeah, I am going to tell you what I'm going to tell you, then I'm going to tell you, then I'm going to tell you what I told you, right?

Shep Hyken: And do it again and again. 

Ryan Foland: When it comes to the keynote, this proverbial keynote that people talk about, I want to sort of get your impression of where the keynote is in this day and age? 

Because we're in a time where I'm hearing about Josh getting, "keynotes" through Zoom, and when a webinar can be just as powerful to deliver a message, but then there's this classical keynote, but then there's the workshop. 

What is the current state of the keynote as you know it today in the marketplace?

Shep Hyken: Well, first of all it's very interesting. I am a past president of the National Speakers Association and a small percentage of our general membership are true, straight-up keynoters. 

It was 35%-37% I think were the stats, I can't remember the exact number, I think it was like 30 something percent.

Wow, that's the National Speakers Association because many of us are doing training, we're doing webinars, we're doing even telephone consultation seminar type things, and we figured out how to leverage the spoken word in multiple channels.

I mean when the Speakers Association started many, many years ago there was only one way to make money — you got on the stage and you spoke. You didn't get to do a webinar. 

So what you're referring to with Josh is he and I both had the wonderful experience of speaking to an audience live, but never seeing the audience, although now there's something called Geniecast where you can actually sign up, put in your expertise, and it's like a platform for a buyer of speakers to go, choose a speaker that they want, not to do a live presentation but to do a live online presentation. 

And what's cool is that it's two way, I can actually, just like a Zoom call or a Skype call, I can actually see the audience, talk to the audience and interact. 

Now, my most recent experience with Geniecast, by the way, you deeply discount because the last one of these I did you couldn't see what was below the waist because I'm sitting at my desk, in front of a microphone, I could be wearing nothing for all they know, just don't stand up if that's the case. 

I've done them from my hotel room where I'm speaking right after launch and it's 10 o'clock in the morning and I'm making an extra few dollars. It's a percentage of my speaking fee. 

The way I have it set up, if you go on Geniecast and you look at my description it will tell you it's not even in the fine print that you can't book me more than 3 weeks out without me having the right to move the date or cancel the date because I'm not going to do a discounted online presentation that precludes me from taking a speech. 

Now that said, I've done a number of these Geniecasts, and about a month ago, well actually several months ago, I was called by a client who booked me for a Geniecast who had me come in and pay me my full fee, just about a month or so ago from the time we're recording this, to do that similar speech that I did because they wanted to see it live and engage. 

But it was perfect for what they wanted, initially. So there's a great place for this. But my last experience with Geniecast was really cool because it was in the form of a hologram.

Ryan Foland: Wow. 

Shep Hyken: Yeah. I was in a studio and it was really cool, I was like in a black box, if you will, it was just a black background in the studio and I was well lit.

I don't know why they call it, it's an acronym but the word is APi-R like he appears live A-P something something R, and it's basically a very thin scrim that you can see right through but when you project the video onto it, it becomes 3D hologram-like. 

And now I'm a hologram in front of this audience and they swear they're looking at a real person because it's perfectly formatted for the right size, for how tall I am, and my only issue is I couldn't wander around because I mean, I'm locked in. 

But I got to see, there's a camera focused on the audience so I'm talking and interacting with the audience and going, "Ryan, yeah you, yeah you in the yellow shirt, Ryan, right? Yes, stand up."

Ryan Foland: Me, me?

Shep Hyken: So they knew they were watching a hologram, but now I'm talking to him like I'm in the same room and it was really for them, it's like that was almost cooler than the speech.

Ryan Foland: Yeah, wow. I know things are changing and there's this legacy keynote but there are so many different ways to take the stage and I challenge people all the time, one of my favorite questions in front of an audience and I set them up for the answer that I want, and I'm like, "How many public speakers are in here? How many?" 

And maybe you just get a few hands here and there. And I turn around, I say, "How many people spoke in public today? Raise your hands." 

If you speak in public then you're a public speaker! And it's like there are so many chances to practice, so many people that I talk to think that you have to have a stage when really I think all the world's a stage with technology, it's just getting crazier and now you're a hologram, I love it. 

Shep Hyken: Right. It's true, it's true. Hologram, it looks like you're right there. 

Simon Sinek did one, Steve Wozniak is getting ready to do one for a similar group that is over on the other side of the world. None of these people want to get into a plane and fly over, and even though they're getting a big fee they don't want to have to deal with all the issues. 

And it's a keynote speech, and so it's a really cool thing. I think Josh did a hologram recently as well, which was pretty cool. 

Ryan Foland: I wouldn't doubt it. So quick question as we have a couple of minutes just in this section. 

When you're talking about "customer service" one of the challenges that I hear from people is how do they stick to a niche? 

And in something as large as customer service, how have you navigated that, or what is your strategy or advice for people to take this big topic and then still seem to have some focus within it without going too wide and wanting to speak on everything? 

Any tips on honing that messaging? 

Shep Hyken: Yeah, so I chose that topic back in 1983. You can do the math where we are today, it's a long time. 

I've never wavered from that topic, and that's served me very, very well. 

This is a topic, my particular topic is one that almost anybody can do a speech on — it's not hard to do a customer service speech. 

It's hard to get somebody that's truly the depth of the level that I get into, and there's a number of us who are really, really good, and my colleagues and I call them my arch enemy competitors; who I hang out with have dinner with, and share leads with. But these people are awesome.

We've excelled in this area because we go really deep. 

I mean, if you ask me— gosh, I just last week did a speech and it was in front of a bunch of IT people and we talked about the complete digital experience, how artificial intelligence is impacting the customer experience, the ways to balance digital and human interactions. 

I would never have thought that that's what I would be talking about because to me customer service was, "Hey just be nice to people and get them to come back." 

But it's so much more than that, so when I get into that level, well that's pretty big, that allows me to talk to different groups, and when I talk to support centers I don't do my traditional speech. 

I talk to them about what their customers are expecting, and the changing expectations they have today based on what I call the “Amazon effect”, which impacts every business. 

Maybe that's another way of coming at it, it's a non-traditional customer service approach, but maybe that's by reading as much as I do, that's what happens. 

So my suggestion is they say the riches are in the niches, you can niche into a category like “customer service and experience” like I have and get well known. 

Or the most successful people have niched into a specific industry and they're that expert, and they're a little bit more nimble than just a single focused topic. 

By the way, I'm gleaning this information from my friend Mark Leblanc,  who said there are speakers that are:

  • General jack-of-all-trades speakers

  • Expert in a particular topic

  • Expert in a particular topic in a particular industry 

  • Expert who's a general practitioner in a niched industry

Who do you think makes the most? 

And he said it's the fourth one because the fourth one can hit when it's really good times, they know they can hit this topic. 

When times get tight due to economic constraints for example, they can go to this area over here but they're the expert in the industry about a number of things. So that's another way to go. 

So there are so many different ways to skin a cat and it's the same as that in this business as well.

Ryan Foland: Yeah, that's great. Okay, so let's change gears into creating and finding opportunities to get more stage time. 

We could probably talk until the sun goes down about this but if you had to pick let's say a low level, and then a medium level, and then a more intense level, and by level I mean maybe the amount of work and brain damage and effort and prep that goes into it. 

So what's a low-level opportunity for people to get more stage time?

Shep Hyken: The lowest level would probably be just get out there and speak as much as you possibly can to get better and better and better and hope you're in front of an audience where there's somebody that can hire you.

Ryan Foland: Gotcha. 

Shep Hyken: And by the way, I believe you do all of these, and even though I say low level, I'm still today doing speeches at no charge because I know it's the right audience to be in front of to get me much more business. 

Ryan Foland with Shep Hyken - Quote on doing speeches for free - World of Speakers Podcast (Blue) Powered by SpeakerHub

Ryan Foland: Okay, so yes, so removing the word low to have any connotation with starter or lowness or low capacity, but I like that you are speaking for free because I think speakers are afraid about talking about speaking for free, and there is this huge uptick in speakers, and so there's this excess supply, and not as much demand. 

But what you're saying is that an easy entry level to get more stage time is the act of speaking for free, with the caveat that you have the right audience, hopefully, with somebody who can hire you.

Shep Hyken: Yeah, and even in the beginning, just speak, speak, speak, and if you're lucky there's somebody. 

But I've been back in front of a particular audience 8 years in a row, and the first time they paid me, and the second time they said what if I were willing to do it at no charge? 

"What do you mean? I got so much business out of this I'd be willing to come back and do it again and I wouldn't charge you? Sure." 

So, I have done 8 events for them now over the past 7 or 8 years.

Ryan Foland: So that's a reverse switch, that's getting paid and then coming back in a free, that's kind of a new spin on it.

Shep Hyken: Right. But I get called all the time and asked, "Would you be interested in doing a free presentation?" 

And I think to myself, "Sometimes I will." 

I just created my online courses and I had them dubbed in, I've had online courses for a while but I recently had them dubbed in Spanish. 

I have an opportunity to go onto the Spanish market and do a speech in Mexico for a major association and they have a little bit of a fee, but not much. 

It's not about the fee at that point it's about getting in there and getting some exposure in that Spanish market, and hopefully selling something. 

That's level one, and again, it's not that it's the easiest level, it's just a good level and you can do all of these. Level 2 is using the phone, it's very traditional.

Ryan Foland: Wait, what? What's the phone? The phone before the smart part, right?

Shep Hyken: Right. So I will say that I think LinkedIn is probably a version of the phone that's online, and I'm not talking emails, I'm not talking inmails I'm talking about really connecting with somebody and trying to start to have that first conversation beyond, "I'd like to link with you." 

And here's why: begin to get that relationship going. But when we called somebody back in the day I started, I said, "Okay," and I was lucky, I just knew smile and dial. 

One of the speakers and I saw that I mentioned at that first group, I saw 2 speakers Zig Ziglar and Tom Hopkins. 

Tom had a book called "How to Master the Art of Selling" and you had to make your prospect list and you had to go and work it, and I did exactly that at age 22 or 23. 

I went to the newsstand, I pulled out every newspaper, every magazine that had an article that was a full-page ad or something. I said, "They're selling something. I know that I can talk to them, maybe they're having a meeting." 

I would just get on the phone and I went to the library and researched all the phone numbers. 

Now back then there was no internet, so it sounds like you could research through Google, no, you had to go to the library.

But 25 calls a day, I didn't really start managing the metrics of that until probably a number of years later, but I figured if I made 100 calls I might talk to 12 to 15 people and about 15% of those people were actually interested in me speaking. 

And that meant maybe out of those I might get 4 or 5 that would actually book me for a speech.

So it could take 200 connections to get to a point where I had a group of people that were fairly interested in booking me, and as long as I kept doing that over and over again, I was in good shape. So that's how that worked.

And I believe today, while I don't jump on the phone and make the outbound-call all that much, when the economy gets tough again, it's been almost 10 years, that's the first place I'll head to, it's the phone or on LinkedIn trying to make direct connections the same as I would over the phone. So that's level 2, if you will.

Ryan Foland: Okay, I dig it. 

Shep Hyken: Level 3 is more advanced and takes a little bit more time but it takes you off the phone and exposes your expertise to a greater number of people and that is using social media and content marketing to position yourself. 

If you become known as an expert, and the way to do that over time is you just stay in your lane, if you're going to be a leadership person, a salesperson, a customer service person, change management, whatever your discipline is, an innovation expert.

Then what you'll do is you'll stay in that lane and you'll write, and you'll tweet, and you'll do videos and you'll do everything in that lane and stay there until people start saying, "Hey this guy keeps showing up in this lane." 

And all of a sudden I say guy — I'm a guy, it could be a girl too — but we do that, and after a period of time you start to get recognized in your lane, and that is a great way to do it. 

It takes a little bit of time, but when is the best time to plant an oak tree?

Ryan Foland: 20 years ago!

Shep Hyken: Or today!

Ryan Foland: Exactly.

Shep Hyken: Exactly. You might as well plant it today. 

So it's not going to take 20 years, but it'll take a little bit longer, you won't get the instant gratification unless you get lucky. 

The same thing with the phone, by the way, I mean, you play the numbers enough you'll get lucky quicker, but if you’re on your first phone call and you happen to hit the person right in the time that they were deciding that they wanted a speaker — boom!

And that happens once in a while. You're going to get that speech, so it is right place, right time, sometimes.

But with content marketing, the next step is not to just put out the content, but to be so consistent in how you put it out. If you're going to do it once a month, that's always once a month. 

If you're going to do it once a week it's always once a week. If you’re going to do it every day, it's always every day. You can't skip. So, that's your choice.

Ryan Foland: I like it. Those are great 1, 2, 3 levels. 

So I'm going to say the fourth dimension I want to pick your brain on, just for the few minutes I have left with you, is this speaker bureau dimension. 

Josh did a great job at educating me way further than I had ever thought in that one session, but this idea of being speaker-bureau-ready was a new concept and I haven't actively gone out. I've got my new book and McGraw-Hill is putting me in touch with some so like I'm almost there.

But talk to us about this idea of joining the speaker associations (you've been a president of one) what is the value of that right now in today's world? 

Because the perception that I have is, sure you can join them, but if you're not one of the top picks, like is it all for naught until you're ready?

I'm curious about that fourth dimension.

Shep Hyken: There's like 17 questions in there, I'm going to try to answer all of them. 

Ryan Foland: All of them in one answer, yes. 

Shep Hyken: Let's talk about the bureaus first, which are a great channel of opportunity for speaker and bureau. The bureau now has a lot of speakers they can choose from, and the speaker has different channels and different bureaus that are going to be booking them. 

And when times do get leaner, they get leaner for everybody, but to have a half a dozen (or many more) bureaus out there that are occasionally putting you out there when it's appropriate is an extra channel of distribution. 

Building those bureau relationships is really important. 

How you get there is you have to be good enough for them to want to book you, and there's an old adage out there about they don't want you until you don't need them. 

Ryan Foland: It's a good one. 

Shep Hyken: That's a terrible way of putting it, but basically, what you're saying is that you've created enough success on your own that you're pretty successful and they start to notice you, finally. 

Ryan Foland: Right. 

Shep Hyken: Because when you're right out of the box, they don't want you, you're not proven yet. 

Ryan Foland: So it's really, it's a result out of the level 3, right, because at level 3 the content marketing you're getting to a point where they're actually finding you, it's more of an inbound kind of thing. 

Shep Hyken: Yeah, and there's a pretty good chance if you're at that level where they're finding you, other clients have found you too so you're probably getting to be a little bit more experienced. 

That's the first step, is to understand that you've got to build that relationship. 

The next thing you talked about, and you used the exact words "bureau-ready" — very important concept. 

Having a book is nice, many people have books today. 

The thing that you have to have more than anything out there is, well really, it's 2 things — it's a great website and a good video, and those two together are what are going to get you the bookings. If you happen to have a book, well that's just like an additional part of your brochure, you can send them something so they see what it is that you talk about and what you do. 

Ryan Foland with Shep Hyken - Quote on having a great website and video - World of Speakers Podcast (Black) Powered by SpeakerHub

But a great website that's clear and easy to understand, this is what this speaker does and a video that's not so sizzling hot that it makes you look so good that when you show up they go, "Oh that's not the same person I saw in the video," but one that grabs their interest. 

Something that I don't think has been talked about much at the 3 Ring Circus, but I think it's important: my videographer did a study and he learned that in the first 30 seconds, it's decided whether or not you are going to be considered or not. 

Ryan Foland with Shep Hyken - Quote on demo reel - World of Speakers Podcast (Grey) Powered by SpeakerHub

So he believes you really only have about 1m 30s to 1m 45s to sell yourself and be booked. 

Now, my video is 5 minutes long. 

The short video that I have is about 1m 40s. It's 1m 40s of the 5-minute video, it just stops after that and it closes out because we know that most people will drop off between a 1m 30s and 2 minutes. 

By that time they've decided if they're going to book me. Not even half the people that hire me watch the entire video.

But that first 30 seconds probably the first 20 seconds, they decide, "No, go on to the next one," and they're doing this either online, they're not looking at actual videos, they're looking at the online and they go, "Who's next, put the next url on and let's get to that video." 

But after 30 seconds they say, "Okay, this one is good, put them over in the A-list, we'll get back to them and watch a little bit more."

Ryan Foland: Hm, that's some pretty good insight there. 

Shep Hyken: So anyway, a good bureau-ready concept is a great website and good video. and from there you start to build your relationships. 

Now let's talk about associations. There are two, the International Association of Speaker Bureaus. and unless you're a speaker bureau you will not be invited to be a member. 

You might, if you're lucky, get invited to be a speaker at one of those. I was actually there the year Josh did his presentation, out in Seattle. 

He may have gone back since, I don't think so, but I've been lucky, because of my position at the National Speakers Association, to be invited several times. 

That's the next group, the National Speakers Association. 

If you are speaking and you're not a member of this association, don't even bother emailing me with a question if you ever want to ask a question because I got to know you're serious about the business. You need to be a member of the only true organization that's an industry association that's dedicated to what we do for a living. 

And if you join, that's one thing, but if you join and participate, participation means every month they have online content that comes out, every month they have a magazine, almost maybe every other month now, they have a mid-year meeting in a big annual meeting called Influence

If you don't go to these, plus they have little meetings in between, you're missing the opportunity to grow your business and cut the learning curve, sometimes not even in half but maybe you cut it by 75%-80% percent. 

I was in my business, I went to my first meeting in 1988, so I'd been in business for almost 5 years and what I learned in that one conference, that annual conference, I went, "Oh my God, if I’d learned that my first year, I wouldn't have wasted..." by the way I was fairly successful, I would have been 5 times more successful. I did a lot of wasting of time in those first few years. 

Ryan Foland: You didn't know what you didn't know, right?

Shep Hyken: Yeah. And so NSA speaker, as a National Speaker Association, we're the NSA, we're the ones that talk, the other guys listen.

Ryan Foland: I like that. This is profound and simple which is sometimes my favorite type of advice, the things that are hiding in plain sight. 

I guess the final kind of question that I have for you is the idea of abundance. 

Would you encourage speakers to believe in abundance and help support each other? 

I am kind of setting you up because I know that you're very supportive like that, but I feel speaking to be very lonely if you don't have that attitude of abundance. 

How crucial is that working together, sharing best practices, going to these 3 Ring Circuses, giving all your secrets away, while you're still getting secrets from others? 

How pivotal is that in today's day and age, to be successful as a speaker?

Shep Hyken: Wow, what are we doing right now? How much are you paying me to be on this program?

Ryan Foland: Unfortunately nothing. I wish I could pay you a lot more. 

Shep Hyken: Exactly, and yet am I happy to share with you every single thing that I'm doing to make myself successful in my business. 100%. 

I'm happy to do it. You know why? Because dozens, if not hundreds of others have done the same for me. 

I am where I am today because of the generosity of others, and I will continue to do what I do, which is to be generous and give it back. 

The other speaker I mentioned already told you my lesson from Tom Hopkins about creating that list and going after that list. 

The other speaker was Zig Ziglar. Zig used to say, "If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want." That is the law of abundance. 

And the more you give, the more you get. And I firmly believe that. Cavett Robert, the founder of the National Speakers Association used to say, "Hey, let's build our association up because everybody deserves to get a slice of the pie so let's make that pie bigger."

Ryan Foland: Awesome. Well, bringing it all the way back to the beginning about the birthday party magic, there's no denying the magic of sharing the birthday pie, whether it's a pie or a cake, there are slices to go around. 

So hey, I've had a blast getting to know you a little bit more here, meeting you in person, and being part of the 3 Ring Circus community. 

I look forward to sharing the stage with you soon, and maybe connect with you again and continue to learn. 

I am just honored that we got to have so much fun today. 

We made up a couple of words in the meantime and yeah, I think that your customer service skills to have them start with your mom and then you turn around and be a mom to others to tell them what to do is great. Everybody eats at the table. 

Shep Hyken: Well thanks for having me here, it's an honor, a pleasure, and I'm glad that we had this conversation because it was a lot of good things we talked about.

Ryan Foland: Yeah, it really was. Now you're listening to this and you feel that you are convinced that abundance and like Zig says to get what you want is to help others get what they want, than share this episode, tweet up Shep, hit him up on social media, see the kind of content that he's creating because it's not there for a vacuum, it's there to be shared so that everybody can just get their piece of the pie. 

And Shep, what kind of pie is it, if you had to choose your piece of pie that everyone is sharing, what's your favorite type of pie?

Shep Hyken: Well, you know, I love the Baskin Robbins ice cream pie with the chocolate bottom and the mint chocolate top with a little fudge ribbon around there, but if it had to be a real pie, it would have to be banana cream.

Ryan Foland: I was sold on the on ice cream. That's good. But whatever your pie is make sure you not only eat it but share it. Shep, this has been great. 

And Shep on the ship we are now coming back to the shore and for everyone else check out other episodes like this on 

There's a lot of info to share so you can stand on the shoulders of giants — even if they are holograms. Shep, thanks so much, buddy.

Shep Hyken: Thank you.


A bit about World of Speakers

World of Speakers is  a bi-monthly podcast that helps people find their own voice, and teaches them how to use their voice to develop a speaking business. 

We cover topics like: what works versus what doesn't, ideas on how to give memorable presentations, speaking tips, and ideas on how to build a speaking business.

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