Ryan Foland speaks with, David Meerman Scott, a professional speaker and marketing strategist. He has authored several books on marketing, including “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” and is one of the forefront thoughts-leaders on using content marketing to connect with audiences.
In this jam-pack podcast, Ryan and David explore how to connect personally and individually with audience members as a strategy for growing your fan base. For high-level speakers, David shares his insights on using speaker bureaus to get more bookings.
Listen to this podcast to find out:
- What David learned about being a speaker from going to 75 Grateful Dead concerts.
- The neuroscience of audience interaction, and how simple things like walking directly into the audience or live streaming videos can help you build a strong connection with your audience.
- How to incorporate audience engagement into your talk naturally.
- A surefire way of building a loyal audience by cultivating fans one by one.
- Should you go exclusive with a bureau or not? What can you do to stay top-of-mind with bureaus and agents?
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David Meerman Scott: Hey, it's David Meerman Scott.
I just had an awesome conversation with my friend Ryan at World of Speakers.
We talked about how you can develop fans of your speaking and the rest of your work.
What a great conversation, Ryan, I can't wait to listen to it again myself.
And a special bonus: if you listen to the end we have a tweet challenge. If you're on Twitter, which I’m sure you are, the tweet challenge is for you.
Ryan Foland: Ahoy everybody, we are back, and we have, as always, a special guest today. And today we've got David Meerman Scott.
Now, I have seen him on stage, I have read his books.
He is best known for "The New Rules of Marketing & PR", and he is making a transition into something that he calls fanocracy.
Now, if you know me, you know I love to make up words and I am super excited. I am sold on the word fanocracy.
We're going to talk today with David about what he's done, what he's doing, and where he's going. David, welcome to the show.
David Meerman Scott: Thanks, Ryan, awesome to be here. It's always great to be talking about speaking, which is so much fun, isn't it?
Ryan Foland: Speaking inception. And I was just saying before we started recording, it's fun seeing you at these different conferences, and we had a fun little chat just outside of the hotel at Inbound.
I always appreciate your look at how things are always on the new.
I am a fan of your first book that you've been speaking about for 10 years. It's still as relevant, but I am excited to dig into this fanocracy because I am a fan of making up words.
Your concept is turning fans into customers, and customers into fans, and as speakers, we have our own set of fans, and to build a business it's important to leverage that.
But before we go there, let's take, like Janet Jackson says, “2 steps back,” and I want to put you, kind of throw you under the bus. It's a love bus, no big pressure.
If I asked you to come up with a single, standalone story and that is the only thing that I had to introduce you to somebody like,
"Oh my gosh, this guy David, he's awesome, this one time—"
What story would you pull from the multitude that you have to pull from?
David Meerman Scott: Oh my, asking a storyteller to choose a story.
So, I think it goes back to 2002. I was working for a company in the technology business.
I was marketing my ass off for this company and doing a great job and using what I now call the “New Rules of Marketing and PR,” not buying advertising.
The company was acquired by Thomson Reuters and they gave me a little look over and a bit of a sniff and said, "Dude, you're out, you're fired. You no longer have a job."
And I am like, "Oh my god, what do I do now?"
Fortunately, it was a horrible job market because it was just a couple of months after the 9/11 disaster.
I ended up having to, no choice, start my own business. And I have been happily unemployed for 17 years now.
Ryan Foland: Okay, are you a gambler, do you play the fate card a lot?
David Meerman Scott: I don't gamble, but I do believe in the airy-fairy kind of faith idea that the universe sort of sends you the things that are important for you to have, and it's up to you to figure out what that means and then go with it.
I guess you could say that I believe in fate. I believe that you are given many, many gifts in life, and it's up to you to figure out how to make use of those gifts.
Ryan Foland: Okay, I smell your third book as "Fateocracy."
David Meerman Scott: Nice. That's awesome, yeah.
Ryan Foland: The reason I asked that is just trying to get to know what makes you tick, and you used words like "Fortunately, it was a horrible market," and you “had to” start your business.
Do you see the sequence of the steps that you find were a success, this combination of life happening to you, and then you just essentially making the moves to deal with it?
Because your whole book is a new way, like new rules. Are you always looking to create new rules based on the environment changing?
David Meerman Scott: Well, I think that there are some aspects of that.
But what I found has been the most successful for me, as I am thinking about new ideas from a big-picture perspective, is that I am constantly on the lookout for a set of patterns that I see in the universe very, very clearly, that other people for whatever reason either do not see, or more likely perhaps, have seen but don't act on.
With "The New Rules of Marketing & PR" I feel like I was given an unfair advantage.
And so I was working for companies doing electronic information prior to the internet, actually the web revolution.
When web communications came and marketing went to the web, I had this massive set of patterns in my brain that I didn't feel like anyone else was seeing, that was that marketing on the web was about content creation, not about advertising.
I started to write and speak and talk about that way back in the 1990s, late 1990s and at first no one paid attention, and then a few people paid attention.
I wrote a book that did okay, but then "The New Rules of Marketing & PR" came out, almost exactly the same time that Twitter launched, a little bit after YouTube launched, and it was a rocket ship because all of a sudden, people said,
"Woah, this guy identified what is going on."
It was because I saw this set of patterns that I feel like other people didn't see.
And that book is now in the sixth edition, it has sold over 400K copies in the English language and has been published in 29 other languages, so I guess I did see a pattern that was important.
I've seen a number of other patterns along the way, and generally, those, if they are important patterns, become books for me, and also ideas for what I can do on stage as a speaker.
Ryan Foland: Okay, so here's a question going back to your youth: were there any type of sports that you played or that you were a fan of?
David Meerman Scott: No, absolutely not.
I was a massive, massive live music fan, not playing, but going to shows. Massive.
And I am actually such a geek about it, I keep a spreadsheet and I've been to, as of this week, because I did go to a show this week, I've been to 790 rock concerts, including 75 from the Grateful Dead.
I just absolutely love going to these shows, starting from when I was age 15 I've been to some epic ones because you sort of stumble into history sometimes when you go to shows.
For example, I was the only photographer at Bob Marley's last concert, and the photographs I took are really historic and appeared in the Marley documentary.
I was just a really, really big fan, and still am a really big fan of live music.
Ryan Foland: It's interesting because I'm trying to figure out where your heat-seeking radar of patterns is, and I wonder if something to do with music has sort of preset you for paying attention and listening within.
I'm going to take a stretch here, but in these live events and just in music in general, are you really more into the lyrics or are you really into the baselines, are you into the whole thing?
I just want to understand and pick apart your pattern predictiveness.
David Meerman Scott: I think, I've actually given it a heck of a lot of thought over the last 5 years because I've just really dug into this whole idea of fandom and what makes people a fan.
I really wanted to understand my own fandom around live music.
I think what it is is that I felt when I was younger that I was a bit of an outsider.
I was somebody who would tend to hang in the background and watch rather than participate.
And I found that the live music scene was something I fit into.
I went to shows with really good friends of mine, and we became really close because a couple of times a month — I lived in Connecticut — I would get on the train and go to New York City and go to one of the clubs. Go to Madison Square Garden, or go to the Palladium, or one of the places there and see live music.
It was something I understood, it was the whole scene, it was other like-minded people getting together.
It was a shared emotional bond over what was going on, and if it was a band I knew really well, I new kind of what was coming as they were playing certain songs, especially true over time with Grateful Dead.
And that became something that kind of defined me in an interesting way, and I loved it and I still love it, and I'm still going to shows even 40 years later.
Ryan Foland: Okay, book number 5, "Fitindom."
Okay, so it's interesting that, for me, this idea of a “fan” and this idea of “fitting in” really sort of ties into one of the challenges that I think speakers face, which is how do they get the audience to fit in. How do you speak to a certain market without feeling like you're leaving everybody else behind.
I haven't really thought about fandom when it comes to speaking and fitting in, but I think I've got a nice, a better picture here of your live music experience as really an anecdote to fandom, really at the end of the day, right?
David Meerman Scott: I think so, yeah. My live music fandom is really important to me because that's what I love to do.
But also as a speaker, I watch what does Mick Jagger do on stage, what does David Byrne — who I saw 3 times in the last 2 weeks by the way — what does David Byrne do on stage.
What do these iconic musicians do. How do they put a set-list together?
Because the set-list becomes much like how do you put a great speech together, when do you bring people up, when do you take them down?
How do you interact with the audience, how do you make them part of the event?
I've seen rock stars go into the audience, I've seen rock stars get on top of speaker cabinets.
I've seen rockstars do all kinds of really interesting things, and I've experimented with all of those things.
And then when I was talking to my daughter Reiko, she's now 26 but we first started talking and geeking out about this idea of fandom when she was 21, 5 years ago, and I said,
"Reiko, what is it with me going to 75 Grateful Dead shows? Isn't that ridiculous?"
And she said, "Well that's not as ridiculous as me. I love Harry Potter so much, not only have I read all the books multiple times and seen all the movies, and gone to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and gone to London to go on the studio tour, but I just finished a 90,000 word alternative ending to the Harry Potter series where Draco Malfoy is a spy for the Order of the Phoenix.”
“And I put it on a fan-fiction site for free and there have been thousands of people who have downloaded, and hundreds of people have commented on it.”
“Maybe we're just geeks."
So we ended up researching and writing together what turned into a book called "Fanocracy."
And as I was writing the book, researching and writing the book over the last 5 years, I was also very conscious of how some of those ideas could make me a better speaker — make me better at what I think of as my art of being on stage, and also maybe make it easier for me, not easier, it’s not the right word, but make it more possible for me to develop more fans of my own work.
And so it was kind of an interesting dual-experiment to not only figure out how organizations of all kinds can develop fans, and what we can learn from things like Harry Potter and Grateful Dead, but then how I can personally use those ideas myself.
Ryan Foland: I love it. And book number 6, by the way, "Geektocracy"
David Meerman Scott: You know what you have to do before I do it, is buy some of those URLs.
Because I found that when you name something, I guess the one I'm most successful with so far I named Newsjacking, and I wrote a book called “Newsjacking” and did a bunch of speeches on newsjacking.
I have the URL newsjacking.com and very recently the Oxford English Dictionary added newsjacking to the dictionary and they mentioned me along with it.
So when you create a name like that, it's essential number one to let people use it, don't try to trade market, and number two: buy the URL!
Ryan Foland: I want to transition, I think we've got a good idea of your geekiness, which is on point and your daughter's a geek, and it's all in the best, non-pejorative way.
And your geekiness is going to help all of us geek out on all of this.
But when it comes to speaking tips and tricks, let's maybe kind of go back to some of what these rock stars are doing, I love this concept.
What are some of the things that if you had an unlimited amount of time for an upcoming, or more importantly, a well-seasoned speaker, to sort of refresh and rattle the cages of what they think they should be doing?
Where would you start with them, what are some of the things that—because obviously, you see a lot of speakers—what are some of the things that are missed opportunities that a rockstar is teaching that you're just not seeing, or how do you tap into this fandom from the stage?
David Meerman Scott: Well, there is one particular technique that I really have had quite a big success with recently.
I learned it, actually, from a couple of different rock stars.
The first time this kind of entered my brain, I had seen it before—but the first time it entered my brain as something that I could do in my own work, was at a Rolling Stones concert, and I saw Mick Jagger, he was very close to the front of the stage.
And he gave a fan a high-five.
And I'm like, "Oh, wow!" that struck me as being interesting, I don't know why, it just sort of got filed in the back of my brain.
So, I went early to that particular stage. There was nobody playing there at the time and I got way upfront and waited.
And then the music started. It was great, I loved it.
I took a picture, posted it on my Instagram, I got a bunch of people talking about it.
But then, about a week later, when all the different news articles came out about that particular festival, that moment, that one single moment was highlighted as one of the standout moments, not just of her set, but of the entire festival.
She was close to us and the photographs of that became really viral, it went all over the place.
So I thought to myself, "What the heck is going on here,"
And I researched this idea and we spoke to some neuroscientists, and it turns out that the idea of proximity to other people is something that's important to understand, because we humans are hardwired to have a stronger emotional bond to other people, the closer we get to them.
So what that means for a performer is, is it possible to get closer physically to the people in the audience?
There are some speakers who kind of go out into the audience, but I'm not sure if it's purposeful from the perspective of actually having a closer connection to the audience.
And it turns out, from speaking to some neuroscientists that there are several zones of influence, there's the zone of influence which is the furthest away, that's public space that's further than 20 feet (6 metres) away and we humans don't really pay attention to people that are that far away.
But guess what— that's how far away the audience is from a speaker who's on stage.
But the next zone is called the social zone, that's from about 4 feet to about 20 feet (1 to 6 metres), that becomes a more powerful emotional bond.
And then from a foot and a half to 4 feet (half to 1 metre) is even stronger, and that's called the personal zone.
So it turns out the closer you get to someone—and this is very important—if they trust you and see you as somebody who's a friend, or somebody who can be helpful to you, that enables a strong positive emotional bond.
But if they see you as somebody who's a threat, it makes an even stronger negative reaction.
That's why when you get into a crowded elevator you feel a little bit weird because you've got people who might be a threat who are next to you.
Now what's important from the neuroscience perspective is that this is non-negotiable. This is hard-wired into all of us humans and it doesn't matter what nationality or what background you're from, it's constant over all humans.
What does that mean for a speaker?
It means that as you've built up a rapport with your audience, and as they begin to trust you — don't try to do this at the very beginning of the talk but towards the end of the talk — can you go into the audience?
Can you get into the personal space and the social space of some of the audience members?
That's going to be incredibly powerful for those audience members, but here's something even more interesting — because of the power of mirror neurons, something else we learned from some neuroscientists as we were researching the book "Fanocracy" is that that power for human connection is also delivered to people who are seeing you on a screen.
Now this works in the bigger events when there's a large screen. It also has the potential to work when people are seeing you far away going close to someone but not as much as when you're on the IMAX screens at a bigger event.
So that's one of the reasons why we feel like we know movie stars personally, because we see them on the big screen and feel like they're in our personal space. It feels like they're a foot and a half to 4 feet from us.
It feels like we're having a cocktail party conversation with them, and we trust them and it feels good and we have an emotional connection.
So the simple act of getting close to several people in the audience has a multiplying, magnifying effect to everyone in the audience. If you're on video and if the camera person zoomed in in such a way that they feel like you're part of that audience.
Ryan Foland: I love that.
So kind of an interesting question on that— if somebody brings somebody up on stage for say a demo or a live demo? Part of my talks I'll bring people up on stage, does the sign say anything about getting into that personal space with an individual and then you and that individual are still 20 feet away, does that help to trigger more of a connection or is it that you're going into the audience to really maximize it?
David Meerman Scott: It works either way, and what you're doing works brilliantly well because you are having a personal connection with one person in the audience, within each other's personal space, presuming you're within 4 feet of that person.
And that's what you want to do.
The conscious thing that you need to do in that situation is position yourselves so that you're within 4 feet (1 metre), because 4 feet is kind of the dividing line between what's called social space which is 4 feet to 20 feet and personal space from a foot and a half to 4 feet.
So you want to get within that 4 feet and then especially if that goes on camera then other people are seeing it.
They can see it from far away if you're not on camera and they can still have the sense that through this concept of mirror neurons that you're in personal space with them, because they're projecting that even though they are not the one who's on stage, they feel as if they are on stage with you.
Just like when Mick Jagger did that high-five to someone in the audience, I kind of felt like that high 5 was going to me too, in a weird way.
It's just like if I take a bite of lemon, "Oh my gosh that lemon is so tart, it makes my eyes scrunch up, it makes my mouth pucker, I can feel the saliva in my mouth," and maybe you did too?
Ryan Foland: Yeah, I winced just a little bit.
David Meerman Scott: That's again because of mirror neurons, because our brains fire when we see somebody or hear somebody doing something like that.
That's why we might cry at a movie or get scared in a movie and so on.
So yes, your technique absolutely can work.
The more you're conscious of actually positioning people, so number one that you're together, make sure that that person is comfortable, that they're laughing and smiling and mirroring what you're doing and that can be incredibly powerful not only for that single person but for everybody as you're delivering that talk.
Most people, most public speakers, they are up on the stage 20 feet away from everybody and they don't create a place in their speech where they're physically close to anybody, except for maybe the person who does the introduction of them in the beginning and then shakes their hand as they are walking off stage.
Ryan Foland: I love it. All right, so you got the moves like Jagger, mo-mo-moves like Jagger, I will always remember that now.
And I like what you said about inserting a place in your talk where you know that you're going to facilitate that, that's awesome.
David Meerman Scott: Yeah, it's making this consciously part of what you're doing because if you build it in and you make it conscious — and it has to be natural, that's a critical component.
I've done this now for 10 years. I made this part of my speech for 10 years.
I didn't really know why in the beginning, and I have really come around to analyzing it from all these perspectives of neuroscience.
But the more natural it feels, it's not like “Now I'm going to the audience because I was told I need to do that,” because that'll come across as actually being a negative aspect of your presentation, because people are questioning from the body language respect, "What the heck is this person doing?"
But if you're doing what you just described, naturally having someone come on stage to do a demo. One of the techniques I use is that I go into the audience and ask a series of questions with shows of hands. Then I call on a couple of people who have their hands up to relate to me, and I have a handheld mic that I carry with me, and I give them the microphone.
So I when I speak in a big audience like 1K or 2K people, I'm still the mic runner, I'm not using one of the mic runners in the production team and I'm not asking the audience to walk up to a microphone on a stand.
I'm actually carrying the mic myself because that gives me a natural way to hand the microphone to someone and presto! I'm within, I'm in between a foot and a half and 4 feet of them by doing that action.
Ryan Foland: That is your Mick Jagger giving the high-five right there
David Meerman Scott: That's right, that's right.
Ryan Foland: It's a mic-five.
David Meerman Scott: Yeah, I've done it enough times now that it doesn't feel dorky and it's a natural sort of thing to be able to do that.
Ryan Foland: Now the real question is when you identify somebody, do you do a little half jog hustle to get over there?
David Meerman Scott: I do, no, I run really fast because sometimes in some really big rooms, I have done this at some Tony Robbins events with over 2K people and the person who I want to call on can be, I don't know, 100 feet away, and I got my running shoes on quite literally, I'm wearing sneakers and I run.
And people kind of laugh but I'm actually pretty fit, I focus a lot on my fitness so I don't get winded when I run over there.
And people like always comment, "Oh, high energy speaker, high energy speaker."
Well, yeah, because I ran around a little bit.
But I build it in naturally, it's not like I just went for a jog in the middle of the speech.
So it's all about making this stuff natural I think, the Mick Jagger high five. I wouldn't doubt it if somebody told me that, "Oh, yeah, Mick Jagger only does one high five every show and it's in the same place," I wouldn't doubt that, but it felt so natural.
Ryan Foland: Right that's interesting. So you mentioned Tony and you know he's made a huge impact on my life from afar, from 20 feet away right, somebody bought me a ticket to the “Unleash Your Power Within”, I didn't know what I was getting into and, long story short, for days you walk on coals, and the biggest takeaway that I got is that it challenged me to do something simple every day, but do it every day.
And then something that's a big, hairy, crazy goal that it's going to take you 3-5 years.
And so I started drawing stick figures that day, I've drawn them forever but I decided to draw them every day, and it was 5 years ago, and now I have thousands of stick figures, it's part of my brand, it's like my daily routine.
And secondly the big, hairy goal was this book that I wanted to write 5 years ago and it comes out, it's called "Ditch the Act," so it's amazing.
So I have mad respect for him and talk about high energy, he's like the Tony Robbins of Tony Robbins, right?
David Meerman Scott: Next time I see him I'm going to tell him that.
Ryan Foland: Tell him, "Somebody who you inspired 5 years ago when describing you used yourself in your own brand to describe you".
David Meerman Scott: He is the Tony Robbins of professional speakers.
Ryan Foland: But he actually wrote the foreword for "Fanocracy," right?
David Meerman Scott: He did, yeah, because I've spoken at all these business master events and he's a big fan of the idea of building fans.
I of course knew that. and so when I told him I was doing a book on fandom, I didn't have the title at the time so I used the word fandom, I said,
"Would you be willing to do the foreword?"
"Oh, yeah, of course, I am happy to do that dude, it's a topic I love, I love your stuff, I love what you've been doing on my stage, and I'd be happy to do it."
So yes, he was very kind to be able to do that.
Ryan Foland: Well awesome. For all those Tony fans out there, this is another chance to sort of fan through the fandom.
So if one of those SAT tests, if something is to something then something is to something, so like, if Tony is to your inspiration then David will be to your fandom. It's all connected.
David Meerman Scott: Nice, I love it. It feels like there is a stick figure diagram of that coming on.
Ryan Foland: Yeah I actually didn't see it, but I just bit my finger which means I was thinking and yeah, it is going to happen.
David Meerman Scott: Nice.
Ryan Foland: Okay, so that was great, knowing to be conscious and make a natural attempt at getting closer to your audience to fire the mirror neurons and to create this space that makes it more personal, all while hustling to get the microphone there—
David Meerman Scott: And making it all feel extremely natural as if none of it was planned.
Ryan Foland: Absolutely. Okay, so that's enough to chew on and to integrate.
I want to transition now into the business of speaking, and just the fact that you're speaking at Tony Robbins events, that he's writing your foreword, that you've been doing this for 10 years.
You've had phenomenally successful publications.
Where would someone start to take some of that and be like, "Wow, here's a couple of things I can apply to my speaking business."
I believe in abundance. I love speakers who believe in abundance. So what's your best advice for growing that speaking business, getting in front of more and more people more often?
David Meerman Scott: I have 2 things that I'd just like to riff on for just for a moment.
The first one is, we touched on this at the top of the show, which is this idea of seeing patterns.
I think for me, I'm going to do another music metaphor here, I think for me, when I discover a pattern in the universe no one else is seeing, and I create something original, that's a musician who's creating original music, I've been the most successful doing that.
When I've sort of piggybacked off someone else's ideas, I never copied anyone, but when I sort of thought, "Oh yeah, that's a great idea, I should do that too."
That's again, the music metaphor, that's like a cover band playing somebody else's music. I've never been successful with that.
So I think, from the business of speaking, whether it's creating books or creating a speech, or creating your own style or whatever it is, sure, you can check out a few experts, there's a ton of stuff on this podcast that is so valuable, but ultimately, being a cover act isn't going to do it.
If I just copy Tony Robbins and try to be a mini-Tony Robbins, that wouldn't work for me.
Creating my own saying has been incredibly important to me and to my business, so that would be my biggest advice.
My second advice actually really comes from this idea of "Fanocracy" where my daughter and I studied what it is to be a fan and how organizations or people or speakers like us can develop fans, is that do whatever you need to do to pay attention to every single person who reaches out to you.
When you have a book, or when you get off of the stage, you will have quite a few people who will want to have a moment, shake your hand, take a selfie, they'll send you an email, they'll include you in a tweet or whatever, and I think it's really, really important to acknowledge those moments and respond to them.
And I come at that from the perspective of a fan.
On Twitter I will often reach out to rock stars, to authors, to people who have written a news story that I liked.
And I'll tell them, I'll say, "Hey, (insert Twitter ID here) I loved that show, it was great, thank you for doing it." Something like that.
I get a response less than 10% of the time and sometimes it's so silly, it's like I'll tweet to a band that has like 20K followers on Twitter or something else.
I'll say, "Hey, I loved the show, thanks, I can't wait to see you guys again," and I won't get any response.
And I am like, "Freakin' heck, what is going on here? I have 125K followers on Twitter, you're not going to respond? What in the world are you thinking?!"
If there's a line of people and everybody wants you to sign the book, wait until every single person gets a moment with you.
When I get off a Tony Robbins stage, just as an example, there might be 300 tweets that have mentioned me when I'm on the stage.
I will that night for 2 hours sit there and respond to every single one of them, in some way or another.
And I think that's incredibly important to do that, and especially as you're coming up.
Every single one of those people then has an opportunity to become the kind of fan that buys everything you put out, buys every one of your books or says to their boss or says to the head of their association, "This is the speaker we should hire this year."
Ryan Foland: I love that, attention to everyone, and I am living proof of that. I remember seeing you speak at the Content Marketing Conference, and I tweeted you up because there were so many cool little nuggets, and you tweeted me back.
David Meerman Scott: Good thing I tweeted you back, otherwise you'd call me a liar.
Ryan Foland: Totally. I think that's important and it's sometimes hard to forget how important some of those fundamental, foundational fan building activities are.
One question I have for you— so SpeakerHub, for example, it's a place where speakers can go and highlight who they are and what they're after and people will reach out to them through the platform, but they also have a call for speakers.
So I'm curious, with you, did you leverage call for speakers?
Were you out there actually applying as well?
Or did you focus on just the inbound, right like this idea of reaching out for opportunity versus building the brand that brings the opportunities to you?
If you could speak a little about that, I'd love to know your path?
David Meerman Scott: Yeah sure, of course.
So I don't know if my path is emblematic of other people's, we all have our own journeys, but when I first started speaking after I was fired in 2002, I really didn't know much about the business, and I did do some proactive outreach to the sorts of conferences that I knew.
At that point, I either didn't have a book or when my first book came out it didn't get much notice, it was actually called "Cashing-in With The Content," it was the first book about content marketing that suffered from a horrific title.
I didn't use the word “marketing” in it, dumb me.
And that came out in 2005 so that was pretty early.
And I would reach out to conferences, and some of them booked me, but I wasn't very good, I didn't really know enough about it, there was no SpeakerHub then to sort of aggregate all of it.
But then in 2007, "The New Rules of Marketing & PR" came out and it was a massive instant hit, it just sold crazy numbers of copies, it hit the business week bestseller list and remained on that list for 6 months.
It just really did extremely well very, very quickly.
It was kind of like, "Oh my god, here comes the one-hit wonder," you know, another music metaphor.
And I was getting a ridiculous number of inbound inquiries, I averaged more than one a day, qualified inbound inquiries.
And I had to sort of pick and choose because I couldn't fit them into my calendar at that point.
But that was early, and that sort of dropped off. I still get lots of inbound inquiries, still to this day, 12 years later, but at that time there were so many.
And I focused more on my inbound.
And I heard a speaker manager, his name is Tony D’Amelio, and he's an interesting kind of almost hybrid in that, he came from the bureau business, he ran a Washington Speaker's bureau for a time, he was the Executive Vice President there.
And then he decided to start his own business to represent speakers as opposed to representing the clients which is what the speaker's bureaus do.
And so he does a lot of my proactive speaker outreach for me, but I definitely will think, "Oh, here's somewhere that feels like a good fit", and I’ll reach out, while that's pretty rare for me.
Ryan Foland: Yeah, at this point, but I was more concerned about as you were coming up so I'd love the answer.
David Meerman Scott: As I was coming up, I did, yes.
Ryan Foland: Now here's a question, something that a lot of people are trying to become more informed on and people have their opinions. Bureau or no bureau?
And at what point do you decide to make that jump?
Do you need to be bureau ready before you jump?
And I know it's a complicated answer, so you could probably just say what patterns you see in the value of joining a bureau and what timing in your speaking career trajectory?
David Meerman Scott: I think that bureaus are amazing and fantastic, and I love that I work with multiple bureaus, I have probably been booked by, I don't know 40 or 50 bureaus over the years, I'm just guessing, I don't know what the number is, perhaps it's a little bit less than that.
As we're recording this, I'm speaking in 5 days in Cartagena, Colombia and that's through a bureau.
So a bureau hired me to speak in Colombia, I am actually bringing my wife's on this particular one, she goes with me when we go to cool places.
And so for me the bureaus have been fabulous.
I did at one point give a little bit of consideration of whether I should go exclusive with one bureau or not and I decided in the end not to do that because I was getting a lot of business from multiple bureaus.
But what I did do was I ended up going with the speaker manager I mentioned earlier, Tony D’Amelio. He works for me as opposed to working for the clients.
And he works with all of the speakers' bureaus, so he's kind of my interface with the speaker's bureaus.
So I think what my advice would be is, if you do a great job on the stage, if you have a book that has some traction, gets some popularity, maybe hits the bestseller lists, speakers bureaus will be interested in you, and then the challenge is do you want to go exclusively one bureau or not.
I think what my advice would be is if you do other things besides speaking, if you're the CEO of a company and I have a number of friends who've gone exclusive who are CEOs of companies because they only want to do 10 or 20 paid speaking engagements, and they want to focus the rest of their time on running their businesses; or if you're famous for something else and speaking is a side business, an exclusive arrangement can be great.
If you're somebody who just doesn't want to deal with the minutiae, hates doing contracts, hates doing the business of speaking, doesn't like to negotiate, doesn't like to collect money, an exclusive arrangement with the bureau can also be good for you because you can have someone else to do all of those things for you.
So there are a number of different scenarios for which, in my experience, going exclusive with a bureau, or hiring somebody like I have as the speaker manager, can be a really powerful thing.
And I think that it does take a lot of very careful consideration before you choose one of those paths.
And I know a bunch of people who have done multiple different versions of paths like that,and some of them are really, really happy with the decisions they've made.
Ryan Foland: And connecting the dots, I'm a doodler, so I've been doodling and taking notes this whole time, and I have this kind of like dot connection all the way back up to the Fanocracy at the top.
It's almost as though the way you just described that you're treating these bureaus and individuals who are potentially representing you, you've got to make them your fans.
Then essentially you turn them— like when they become a fan of you, you're going to come top of mind, you're going to get booked and then technically that's the customer element.
But then taking those customers, the people who you speak at that next level, your fan gets you on a stage, and now that customer, you get them to become a fan, and it's this like cyclical connecting the dots, fans to customers, customers to fans, as a speaker with bureaus, people who come up to you afterwards, kind of a nice, full cycle there.
David Meerman Scott: That's the way I look at it, that's exactly the way I look at it. And I'll give you a very specific example of that.
As I was launching the new speech and the new book and talking to bureaus about it, I actually created a webinar as well as an actual printed, I think it's a 16-page guide for speakers bureaus on how to create fans.
I took the ideas in the book, and turned them into a purpose-built webinar, and I think I had 100, something like 100 bureau representatives participated in the webinar which is a remarkable number.
And then we sent out, Tony and I, my speaker manager Tony, I think we sent out about 50 or 60 early copies of the book so-called "galley proofs of the book" together with the guide and it's called "How to Create a Fanocracy in Your Speakers' Bureau."
I also sent a version of that to some event planners and "How to Create a Fanocracy at Your Event".
So the way I look at that is exactly what you just said, is that I'm trying to make those bureau representatives my fans, and just doing what everybody else does which is send a book or send a speaker reel and say, "Please book me," you're just like everybody else.
But if you add some value, provide something of interest, how do you create fans?
Here's how you do it: can you create something that will be of value to those bureaus, so that they'll remember you when they have to think about hiring somebody to speak for an event coming up.
And I've done that a number of different times over the years for bureausI I ran up a webinar about newsjacking some number of years ago also for bureaus.
So it's not about me, it's about my fans, it's about the bureaus, it's about having something of value that they can use.
Ryan Foland: And we call that here on the show Fanocracyception.
David Meerman Scott: Buy that URL right now.
Ryan Foland: Oh yeah, I've got a list here.
And then also, back to what you said right when we started talking about building your speaking business, you said the only times that you really found the large wins is when you're doing things that are based on patterns you see that are original.
And you're right, everybody tries to do the same thing, the outreach.
So it's a great sort of final challenge here for everybody to look at those who are representing you as fans, look at those stages that you stand on as your customers, look at the audience members as your fans, and then have that cycle continue for a fanocracyception. All due to David and Reiko, his daughter, who wrote Fanocracy.com. Is it a “.com”?
David Meerman Scott: It is fanocracy.com which is a good place to go to check out what's going on there.
And yeah, it really is a fun kind of full cycle to have written the book with my daughter, talk about the idea of fanocracy, and then use the ideas to build my own business, it's kind of neat.
Ryan Foland: Love it, Hey, well there's a lot to dissect here.
I'm going to listen to this a few times myself. Maybe I'll write a 100K-word alternative ending to this.
But yeah, in all seriousness, I really appreciate your time today, and I'm excited to be bumping into you at these conferences as I continue to build my business.
And it's great, it's fun, fundamental information.
If I think the biggest thing that I have taken away from here is just being conscious about proximity and making sure you're really paying attention to every single person who wants to be a fan, you've got to give them that opportunity and it's a 2-way street. Really in the light you shed it, it's not about somebody being a fan of you, it's about you also being a fan of them.
And you mentioned Twitter?
Well, first of all, people are going to go to fanocracy.com, that's a given. But what's your favorite platform for them to listen to this to then shout out?
Is it Twitter, if they say, "Wow, that podcast was great."
David Meerman Scott: Yeah, Twitter is where I am frequently, and I am @DMScott.
Something we didn't touch on but I'll mention here really briefly is that you need to stand out when you create a book title like we talked about with Fanocracy, but also your name.
I use my middle name Meerman professionally because there are a whole bunch of David Scott's out there, and some of them are speakers including the commander of Apollo 15 who walked on the Moon, including a member of Congress from Georgia, including an Ironman triathlon champion, none of those are me, so I use David Meerman Scott in my business.
So if you Google my full name you get me and only me. A lot of speakers if you Google their name you get all sorts of other people.
Ryan Foland: Right, look at that, dropping nuggets after the curtain has closed, that is a look behind the curtain.
One tweet for the sake of 2 tweets and we'll just continue to share this great information.
David, it's been a pleasure, have a good rest of your day, night, evening, year, all that stuff, we'll see you soon.
David Meerman Scott: Thanks Ryan, I really appreciate it.
Ryan Foland: Alright, adios.
A bit about World of Speakers
World of Speakers is a bi-weekly 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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