Speakers and Speaking Businesses

23rd August 2022 | By Anthony Stears, the Telephone Assassin

When I first attended a PSA event, I remember being quite excited and intimidated at the same time. I knew it was in the right place to hone my craft of professional speaking. Everyone seemed so friendly and down to earth, despite some being Olympic and Paralympian champions, adventurers, doctors, psychologists, comedians, serious experts in their field, magicians, successful business owners, lawyers, motivational speakers … and the list goes on!

Early on, I learnt that you wouldn’t struggle to find people happy to share their opinion – and call it ‘advice’! It is usually very well intended, but when I noticed that some of the advice I was given contradicted what other people said, I realised I needed to ask more questions from each speaker offering me advice to better understand the context. I needed to know about their speaking business, to see where their advice was coming from. Each ‘adviser’ was different, depending on their topic, market, ability to run interactive sessions, their desired earnings, their expertise in marketing and so on. Different people will give different advice based on the type of speaking they are doing.

After asking more questions, my observations were that there was a sliding scale of speaking business models. At one end, we have the ‘Thoroughbred’ keynotes like former PSA member Geoff Ramm – undoubtedly one of the best storytellers out there. He says that as speakers, we shouldn’t sell our time for less than other services, like coaching and training. Geoff pointed me to Sean Weafer (PSA Regional President in Ireland at the time), who was charging €25,000 per person on his Leadership programme for a minimum of 6 people. Sean wasn’t charging clients for speaking at their events but would offer speeches as part of the programme.

Both Geoff and Sean are very good speakers and make very good money but in totally different ways. One sells speeches and the other sells programmes.

As I looked closer, I could see why certain speakers were recommending different strategies to me for building my speaking business. Nigel Risner (another former PSA member) pointed me to Vistage, where he has earned over £1 million in fees from them over the years.

Another member, Heather Townsend, seems to have one of the most robust business models I’ve come across, as you would expect for someone with an accounting background. She was one of the first to really utilise webinars to fill her funnel and group programmes, then encouraging clients into a ‘retainer’ model. Bryony Thomas, the marketing genius behind Watertight Marketing, uses a licensing model to allow Marketing Consultants to work flexibly and independently, while Bryony is the face of the business, driving enquiries and constantly creating great content for her licensees.

Simon Hazeldine is a good friend and another fantastic speaker with a well-researched topic. He delivers training to corporate clients through a global training organisation, telling me that his clients wouldn’t touch a small independent training consultant.

Lots of different speaking models, and I’ve not even touched on the ‘motivational speakers’ or After Dinner speakers and comedians, or the sports heroes and celebrities … There are so many ways in which you can run a successful speaking business, and you don’t have to rely on just delivering keynotes. Very few speakers make the majority of their money from keynotes. More do it through a combination of training, virtual courses, books, open workshops, coaching …

Hopefully, this blog will help you find your way to building your perfect speaking business. It’s about you and your business – don’t be intimidated by anyone else, and don’t think you have to do exactly what another speaker does to be successful. It’s your business – make it as unique as you are.

Anthony Stears


07887 798 033

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