Secrets in Speaking and Consulting

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There are a lot of people that are employees somewhere and want to break out and start to do something in the line of Public Speaking and Consultancy however just the thought of breaking out of corporate America and becoming a speaker, an author, and being able to charge to do workshops seems very intimidating and scary.

So in this episode, I have invited Branden Kelley to share with us what you need to do if you want to pursue the speaking and consulting path. 

I’ve been with Braden probably 15 or 20 times and I’ve witnessed him in a mastermind group. He’s the author of two bestselling books, Charting Change and Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire

What does it mean to be a thought leader and how to become one? Here’s how:

Pick a focus

It’s almost impossible to focus on everything and for somebody who’s interested in a lot of things, that will continue to be a challenge– to bring the self back and to remain focused. But the first thing is to pick a focus and write about what you know about that focus.

Make sure that you’re well-informed on the topic area, and that you’re bringing something new to the topic area and just start, because you can’t really call yourself a thought leader, you can’t really call yourself an influencer when you haven’t contributed to the community of the topic you are interested in. 

Contribute really great work and eventually be recognized for that work. And it takes time, it takes investment, and it takes having a unique voice and something unique to help expand the field, to help expand the topic, to bring that passion to the topic area, and bring your unique insights to that topic area.

Start Writing

Start writing and start to get recognized for your writing. As you started to build up a body of work and some unique thoughts in the area of your choice, then you will start to get invited to speak at conferences. Then you have the ability to start charging to speak at events, but remember, it’s a process, and you have to see it that way and you have to go into it with open eyes. 

Want to get started in the writing field this weekend? Here is an Office Hour Episode that will teach you how you can write your book on a weekend using AI.

Start speaking at a local event

Just start. You don’t necessarily just come out of the gate as a paid speaker all the time, so check for local events and start speaking at local events.

Speak for free

All of those things are not going to happen immediately, and you have to be willing to make that investment. Do those first few speeches for free because not only are you getting a chance to test your material, but you’re also getting a chance to develop your style and your skills–to get better as a speaker and to learn what resonates with the audience and what doesn’t.

First Stage Speaking Gig

It may be stressful because you’re constantly worried about imposter syndrome, which looks like, “Am I good enough? Am I smart enough? Will people find value in the message that I bring?” and those doubts creep up, and the only way to overcome those doubts is to be well prepared and well rehearsed.

And when we say rehearse, we mean, do you know your material? Do you know what that next slide is going to be?  And what I always suggest is to walk through things. Some people will stand up and do dry runs and things of that nature. You can go over your slides over and over again until you know what the second, third, and fourth slides are so you can make better transitions.

So the first paid speaking gig can be scary because there is that pressure that you’re being paid to do something, and you want to deliver and make sure that you’re well prepared, that you have a good story, and that there’s value in that story. 

Overcome the fear.

Prepare so that you don’t make the mistakes that most speakers do.

Start with having multiple conversations with the client because speeches are not supposed to be off the shelf, and you should try to deliver as much value as possible for each client. 

The way to do it is to make sure that your speeches are tailored to their unique needs. So start with multiple calls to understand the topic within the topic and see what items would make the most impact for them and help them achieve their goals.


You have to know in your mind how you want to price your speeches. Do you want to have a bundle price? Do you want to have a stand-alone price for a keynote and a workshop or keep them separated?

If you’re doing multiple things for one client in one visit, bundle it to give them more value. 

How do you decide how much to charge? 

That’s always a challenge, and I think part of it is deciding what you feel people are going to be willing to pay, and their ability to pay sometimes comes from factors. So it’s kind of a push and a pull. 

So try to find out what the budget might be, where you can flex and where you can’t flex, and what you might be giving up by booking this particular client because once you book a date on your calendar, you can’t give that to someone else. 

So you have to make a trade-off, and sometimes you have to turn down interesting opportunities because they just don’t make financial sense. 

Which conferences do you speak for free versus charging?

Look at it as a value exchange, and sometimes the value exchange is money, and sometimes there’s a value exchange of other things that have value. And so, when you’re at a place where you can’t charge, another value exchange may be who’s going to be in the audience.

So it’s all a question of, “Does this seem like I’m getting enough value in return based on what I’m giving up?”

Because you’ll always be giving something up—your time, the wear and tear of traveling to the event, and time away from your family. And so you just want to make sure that the value exchange works.

When do you just charge more?

I think that’s an individual decision. Sometimes not putting forward the price right away allows you to have some of those necessary conversations. 

The difference between Virtual Events and In-Person Charging 

It all depends on the situation. So if an organization is looking at a virtual event and they’re potentially having a larger audience, or they’re feeling like they can have more people, then the pricing may look very similar. 

If the organization is looking at the potential cost savings that they might have from having a virtual event versus a live event, look at it in terms of how much work they have to do and how much time they are going to spend. Again, go back to the value exchange equation. 

Presentation Materials

Start by trying to define what the topic within the topic is going to be. 

Start to ruminate around, start to outline, and then fill in the outline so as to create a messy PowerPoint deck.

Start looking for images too. One slide, one message. 

Figure out what the messages are going to be first, and then focus on trying to find the most impactful image for that message. That image will not only help solidify the message in the audience’s mind, but it will also make you remember what you intend to say when you see that image pop up.

Preparation time per client

Work on things that you have a clear idea of, and use the time in between doing the actual work for planning. When you have a very clear picture of the two or three things that you want to add, sit down and just do them. Continue advancing your presentations until you have a very clear picture of the two or three things you want to add—that is when you do the work; sit down and just do it. 

And as you give more speeches, you may think to yourself, “Oh yeah, there are these three slides in this other deck that I think would be really good because this topic does fit with the needs of this client, so I’m going to pull over these three slides, a section, and so you can get more efficient over time.”

So the dirty little secret of speaking and consulting is reusing a lot of slides. 

When you’ve customized it enough based on the topics and sub-topics, you can easily tune these slides for the kind of client that you have. Like a lot of courses, you want to reuse the frameworks because that’s what people know you for, and the way to identify if you are doing it right or not is whether the story flows and makes sense. 

Fear of meeting CEOs

One of the things that scare the heck out of most people is working mostly with huge corporations and C-level executives. And the idea of walking into a boardroom where there are CEOs—CEOs of publicly traded corporations—is intimidating. How do you overcome that? 

Consider the imposter syndrome: “These guys’ time is so valuable, they work for a multibillion-dollar corporation.”

 But to conquer that, add to that thought, “I have my framework, and I have something that I’m good at that I’ve rehearsed and prepared for.”

Start to see that they are people too, just like you, and start to understand the things that are important to them. That way, you can properly plan how to create your interactions with them. By then, that fear will start to go down a little bit.

Go back to your experience to help you realize that we’re all people—everybody’s just trying to achieve certain goals, and the better you can understand the goals that an individual is trying to achieve, the better.

We do occupy different levels within an organization, and what changes at each level is the level of abstraction, the level of strategic versus tactical changes. And as you learn that, it allows you to better communicate with those individuals because you better understand what language they want to hear and what they’re used to. And the better you understand what they’re looking for, the more you’re making yourself visible and adding value to the topic community in the digital channels as well.

How is having two best-selling books contribute to your personal brand?

The value of a book is like a large business card. 

So the fact that you have a published book is seen as a key reference point in terms of this person knowing what they’re talking about in this topic area.

The Endless Journey

Just remember, you’re never a finished product as a speaker. There are always things that we can learn from other speakers, and there are always things that we can learn from how the audience reacts to different things and what they show interest in and what they don’t show interest in because it’s all about challenging your own assumptions. It’s all about relevance and resonance and then factor in the number of different areas when speaking as one of those areas. 

Dennis Yu
Dennis Yu
Dennis Yu is co-author of the #1 best-selling book on Amazon in social media, The Definitive Guide to TikTok Ads.  He has spent a billion dollars on Facebook ads across his agencies and agencies he advises. Mr. Yu is the "million jobs" guy-- on a mission to create one million jobs via hands-on social media training, partnering with universities and professional organizations.You can find him quoted in major publications and on television such as CNN, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NPR, and LA Times. Clients have included Nike, Red Bull, the Golden State Warriors, Ashley Furniture, Quiznos-- down to local service businesses like real estate agents and dentists. He's spoken at over 750 conferences in 20 countries, having flown over 6 million miles in the last 30 years to train up young adults and business owners. He speaks for free as long as the organization believes in the job-creation mission and covers business class travel.You can find him hiking tall mountains, eating chicken wings, and taking Kaqun oxygen baths-- likely in a city near you.