Speak for Free? When to Say Yes (or Gracefully, No)
– Transcript Ep #209
Well, hey there and welcome back to another episode of a Hint of Hustle podcast where you’re here for episode 209, coming at you today from my home studio in Bend, Oregon, second full episode here in the studio. I have the boys listening to the audio tapes of the Boxcar Children. James had to go back to Portland for the day for some meeting, so we’re making it work around here as we always do with with business.
Today’s episode comes off of a topic I have talked about inside other episodes before but I’ve never really addressed and tackle this head on and it comes from the conversation around exposure, the word exposure, the idea of speaking for free. I guess you could also say blogging for free or providing resources for free in exchange to, air-quote, for exposure.
Now I have seen a lot of really meaty opinions by meaty, I mean, they’re like weight, as in this isn’t a topic that a lot of business coaches, a lot of influencers, if you will, in the online marketing space have some pretty clear opinions on.
And I also saw this really take an uptick in the pandemic where people started, especially professional speakers sort of transitioning over to virtual speaking. Virtual speaking became a main thing. People were looking for presentations, people to come into their organizations and people were kind of uncertain this whole, this virtual speaking thing actually worth paying for.
And so this is just a, it’s not just a topic for online business owners with membership sites, or consultants, or anything like that. This is something though that you really have to make a decision for yourself because in my experience is big meaning weighted opinions are typically entrepreneurs saying exposure is a dirty word.
You don’t want to be exposed. People are mooching off of you, taken advantage from you. Get paid your worth. I don’t know all these other taglines which I have some pretty heated opinions on myself. But I think it’s very difficult sometimes in business to say yes to strategies confidently when you’re unsure if they’re the right move, and more specifically, are they the right move for you?
So my friend, I’m not going to hold anything back today. This conversation is going to help you make a smart decision for yourself on whether or not adding free speaking to your mix of ways that you market your business and get out your ideas into the world, is that a smart move for you?
Now I really want to distinguish this because again, the recommendation that I would have for you specifically about your business is going to be different than the person I would have sitting and having coffee right next to you. Everyone has a very unique skill set. They have a unique niche, they work with different people, they offer different resources and have a different product mix, ways that they work with people and their business, so each business is unique. So when people come out with this big swelp, swelp. Is that a word? You know like that’s swelp, Poof, poof, swelp. Oh my Gosh, what is that expression? What is self soothe? Soothe? Swoosh, swoosh. That’s the word. That’s where we are today.
This is like the epitome of what you get around here on this show is, y’all I’m a professional speaker and I teach you how to do the same but then like my brain farts and I don’t edit it and I don’t cut it because that’s not, I mean, this is the real talk on the show. Okay, the swooshy felt, whatever thing. This sweeping, sweeping declaration, there’s a different way to say it of saying like free speaking is not good, or I don’t know. You know what I mean, right? People make these big sweeping declarations about business strategies and I think it’s a lot more nuanced on that.
So my goal and intention for today’s episode is to help you make a competent decision so that you can have a full ass yes behind it and teaser, stay tuned for the end the episode I’m going to teach you how to say no whilst not feeling like a total A-hole when you turn down opportunities that aren’t a great fit for you. This is the hot seat question I just got recently inside my membership, The Speaker Society, and the script that I gave the group they friggin love. So I figured, you know what, let’s make this episode extra, extra lovely for you today and I’ll share with you the how do I do the decline no’s?
Okay, so here we go. So let’s talk about what specifically is free speaking? What am I referencing here? So if you are an online business owner or entrepreneur of any degree that’s participated in business classes, coaching podcasts, like any of that, you know there is opportunities in front of you for how you can market your business.
Some of the common ones which would include you speaking to audiences would be podcasting, right, specifically being guests on other people’s podcasts, participating in virtual summits, participating in other people’s virtual or live events as a speaker or workshop facilitator. You could guest speak inside someone’s membership and someone’s programs, etc. There is an entire episode where I broke down the 10 stages that you could be speaking on right now in your business, totally for free, no cost for you but also, you probably won’t get paid for that, holding to that episode down in the show notes for today.
But essentially, free speaking is you coming to use your voice live with an audience to someone else’s audience for free, and what I mean by for free is I don’t want to be confusing here. It actually costs you money, my friend, to speak quote-unquote for free to another person’s group which you might not have thought about that before. We’ll talk about that here in just a moment.
So these opportunities to get in front of other people’s groups is often deemed as in exchange for you sharing your expertise with a group. We will provide you exposure and access to our audience. That is the barter, that is the exchange that is mutually agreed upon is I will come speak inside your program for free because you’re giving me access to your people.
Now, where the beef comes in where people get really frustrated by this exchange, and it’s just like any exchange of monetary value or many other kinds of value, right? What you want to do is make sure that for both parties, it feels like a winner.
So for example, if you were to go to the store and buy a pack of gum, but it cost you $100 to get a pack of gum. You would feel like so annoyed by it. Now, let’s say that for some reason, I don’t know, let’s make up a story here. But like, lest you die, you had to have a stick of gum. You would pay whatever money on the planet, right? But you’d kind of be annoyed by the fact that you’d pay $100 for a pack of gum.
Now the exchange of money towards the to get the product, ie., the value you receive from it, it was not a fair exchange, right? $100 for a pack of gum, it’s kind of ridiculous, but going to the store and paying a buck or even two bucks for a pack of gum, that amount of money feels pretty fair for what you’re receiving in return. This is the law of reciprocity. This is the law of so many things around as business owners. We have to have some kind of even exchange because as people it feels weird when there is an imbalance.
Coming back to quote-unquote free speaking, the reason why a lot of people have a beef with it and you should at times too is when there isn’t that balance of what I’m giving versus what I’m getting.
Now, I want to be careful in when I say that because free speaking isn’t about like gimme, gimme, gimme, give, get like get all this stuff. There are other ways that you greatly benefit for specifically, I’m going to dive into today but you have to really be intentional around what is that value? What does that return back to you? What is the return on your time investment for these free opportunities?
Okay, so we’ve know what free speaking is, if you’re really wondering, alright, should I do it? The question you’re really asking is, on that balance scale, is the effort worth the outcome? And that is the question I’m about to help you answer. Let’s first start by talking about effort. So is the effort worth the outcome?
Okay, so let’s talk about what the effort is because I think a lot of times, we have this rose colored glasses thing on. Let’s say, we’re the course creator and we’re asking other people to come in and speak into our groups for free. And in our brains, we’re thinking, well, heck, like, I have an amazing group. I have all these great people that are gonna love them and I’m giving them all this great access. I’m going to talk them up, whoopt, doopty, and we’re thinking, oh, it’s just an hour for them to jump in, do a little mini presentation. This is a topic they totally know, front and back, like low lift for them, big upside of great group of people, right? We think about that when we’re in their seat of making the ask, but let’s flip it around.
When you’re the person being approached to speak for free to a group in a summit, in an even, at any of these kinds of things, then there’s a difference between virtual and in person. But if you’re being asked to speak, you really need to be able to answer the question of what is the true cost?
Now, a lot of times this comes up when I’m coaching one on one clients or clients inside my programs, the Signature Talk Accelerator and The Speaker Society, people are asking these questions around what should my speaking fee is for in person events, and a lot of times when I’m helping them calculate, I’m asking simple questions around well, is airfare covered? Are they paying for the hotel? Who’s paying for your parking at the airport? How are you getting from the airport to the venue? Who’s paying for your meals every day? You don’t have the luxury of making coffee at home so who’s paying for that coffee every day?
Little questions like this, there’s an actual cost required when you travel somewhere and speak to a group and a lot of times people offered to pay for airfare and hotel but there are more cost for you on that. So there’s true actual costs that you put into place when you’re speaking in person but where these often kind of go by the wayside is when we talk about virtual.
So what are the other costs, the intangible costs that vary so much cost you in your business that you need to factor in to be able to say heck, yes, or heck, no to a free speaking opportunity? Side note, I’m really making it sound like you shouldn’t speak for free and you’re gonna see me like you turn it back around and say, I think free speaking is a, it is such an incredible way to grow your business. I think it is the fastest way. It is what I teach. It’s why I have my entire business as I do.
However, where you get in trouble is knowing when to say yes or no. It is that good yeses that make it pay off, but the no’s just fill up your time and it becomes a lot of busy work. So going back to the effort here, other things you have to keep in mind, are you creating a custom talk? Is this a topic that you’ve spoken on before? Are you creating new content? Do you have to create a slide deck for this? Are you committing to creating a workbook? So the actual talk creation time, what does that look like? Do you have to do some time to research the audience, to research the host? You need to understand their podcasts, listen to other episodes, look at other replays. You don’t have to do these things but I’m asking would you be doing these things? This is time investment.
Other things a lot of times I see people when they have a big exposure opportunity. They’re doing things like tweaking their apps, their website, or their opt ins, or maybe creating a new opt in or refreshing their social media, their bio, potentially, they’re committed to promoting an event like a virtual summit, making a certain number of posts, sending a certain number of emails to their audience. These are all things that require time.
Now there is a return on that time. That’s where we’re going to go on the outcome side. But it’s still really important for you to enter these agreements verbally or contractually with your eyes open because the worst thing that can happen that I see over and over again, people say yes thinking oh, no biggie. I’ll just show up for an hour and then the day before or two days before they’re going, oh my gosh, what the heck did I commit to? I have to start from scratch. I can’t find my old Canva file. Where is that document where I saved the XYZ? And it just becomes a stressed out frenzy and underneath it all your little resentful because you’re like, oh, what’s the frickin point? What’s the frickin point? I’m not even getting paid for this.
So if you know you have a, you have a history of waiting until the last minute, you gotta remember that. Now side note, I’m totally going to do a plug here. You know that I’m a huge fan of creating a signature talk as a business owner. It really eliminates a huge mess for a lot of these last minutes, what the heck am I talking about? I think every business needs to have a speaking ecosystem where you actually have a series of three core talks in your business. One of them is your signature, two others, complement your signature and they all go back to your products and services, creating demand and desire for what you do, really positioning you as that well known expert in your niche.
So the signature talk piece, it helps you do the work one time so that you can pull from it over and over again and it really makes prepping for these free opportunities go way faster. It also makes prepping for paid opportunities way faster, too but we’re talking about free opportunities today.
So just a side plug, if you want to get information about the next round of the Signature Talk Accelerator, that’s coming up soon. Head on over to the link in the show notes for the most up to date, jump on the waitlist, or depending on when you’re listening this, doors might be opening very soon, or depending on when you happen to be listening and they might be open right now. So grab the link in there if you want to save some time on prep there.
But we’ve talked about now some of the costs, if you will, the effort that is required for free speaking, and I haven’t even mentioned you going out and finding opportunities, right? These are just under the basis that opportunities are coming your way. If you want help with pitching, we have other episodes dedicated to that we’ll put a link to a resource or a link to a couple episodes around how to find speaking opportunities in the shownotes too.
But now let’s talk about the upside, right? Because that was just like, oh my gosh, it’s so much work. I got to do all these things. Now, sidenote, you also might be thinking, I do none of those things when I speak for free and that very well might be true. You have to figure out what works for you. But for me, I’m all about how do I maximize the opportunity in front of me. Last year, I made the declaration that moving forward if I was going to say yes, it was going to be a full ass yes to the things that I say yes to which means that if I speak for free, I’m not going to be like quarter cheeky assing it.
I’m going to be going to how do I make the most of this opportunity and make it a slam dunk for the audience who’s coming? Have the host totally be like holy crap, that was the best damn training we’ve ever had in our group because I want the referral effect. I want people talking about me for years as the speaker who got them into action, the speaker who knew how to tell stories, who captivated their attention, who made them feel like doing X, Y and Z, whatever I was speaking on, was possible for them. I want to get people fired up which requires for me a full ass which means I have to be choosy with my yeses. So you better believe the upside of those opportunities has to be great.
So let’s talk about four specific advantages that free speaking could bring your business. These are the lenses I want you to think of number one, it’s the obvious one that people talk about and usually the one that people evaluate their time worth to. So is this worth my time? The upside is, number one, access to an audience. That is the first advantage of speaking for free is you get to have access to the audience.
Now, the disclaimer here is what does that even mean? An audience is an audience of 10 year olds, but you are in business to business coach, not going to help you. If you are a, let’s say you’re, I know someone in program I’m in. She helps dance teachers scale their programs, but specifically working with like dancers under the age of 17. Her speaking to a group of I don’t know college students or even grownups that don’t have kids in that age bracket, like, sure that would be fun to be on a stage but is that really going to be worth it?
So what you have to think about is sure, access to an audience is just the first question. You got to understand, but who is the audience? Is this my ideal client or is this someone of influence to my ideal client? For example, is this like the spouse of, or parent of your ideal client? Is this a, let’s say, for me, I work specifically with online business owners who have like they do consulting, they do speaking, they have digital courses, memberships, that kind of stuff. I also have service providers in my group, so people doing like copywriting, bookkeeping, doing those types of things. But what I also find is I attract people who also have virtual assistant businesses and other very specific one on one services.
Now guest speaking in a very specific way can be stellar for service based businesses. The cool part is you don’t have to have a ton of opportunities to get a lot of clients because you don’t need a lot of clients when you’re working high ticket one on one. But what I found, circling it back to axe the audience, for me, service providers who work with other online business owners, that is like a double woohoo, because they say, oh, my gosh, you have this webinar coming up. You need Heather. Oh, my goodness, you have this thing coming up, you need Heather. So they become little mini brand advocates for you.
So access to the audience, I really want you to first say, and this is for you, if you’ve ever been in a Facebook group and you see somebody post, hey, I’m looking for speakers for my podcast who wants to join? If you’ve done this, it’s okay. You now know better. Not the question, the response, I’m gonna tell you in a second. You’re going to also notice other people doing this. Instantly jumping in and saying, I would love to speak on your podcast, I would love to speak to your group. I’m typing. I’m typing with my nails here. Can you hear that? This is me being you. I would love to do that right now. Not that you’re probably on your keyboard, you’re probably on your phone but whatever circling back, here we go.
What’s wrong with this responsible? Well, what’s wrong is there’s no qualifying question. Tell me a little bit more about your show. Tell me a little bit more about the types of people who listen to your show. What are you trying to achieve? What are they trying to achieve? Now you don’t have to be bantered them with questions because you don’t want to be like super all on top of them. They’re not gonna want to have you on if you pepper them with like 90 questions, but asking a couple clarifying question around who the host is in their audience, that’s going to tell you whether or not this is going to be worth your time, like what I mean by that is not the, worth your time is a haha, can you sell them?
But also, I’m going to like give you the ego check question. If your mind went there first, that’s fine. You’re a business owner, we look at the return from a financial perspective but I also want to come from a service perspective because if this is not your ideal fit audience, the question is, are you the right person for the job? Oof, oof. Meaning you can talk about a lot of things. But are you, if you do say yes to that stage, are you taking the mic from someone else who really could make a bigger impact for the people in that room?
Now this is a humility moment, because for me, I’m gonna tell you this. I am, I will say this confidently. I am like the Swiss Army knife of business coaches and it specifically from the career that I’ve had which most likely can never be duplicated, a very specific career, a very specific history and an organization where I wear a lot of hats between business consulting, operations, learning, development training while teaching sales and operations to business owners, like there are so many things under their umbrella. It makes it really difficult for me to describe what I do and how I know the things that I know. You probably have a version of that too, right? We collect a series of skills in our lives, in our careers.
And then what happens is when you have the opportunity to speak and people say, oh my gosh, Heather. You know so much about leadership. Could you come and talk to my group about leadership? Well, I could. Oh, Heather, you’re really really good at video coaching. Are you really comfortable being on video? Or hell, you’ve been really good at Instagram reels. I’m laughing because I just feel like I’m flopping on my face constantly in Instagram reels, so that was kind of a sarcastic comment but I’ve pulled it off. I’m pulling it off. Anyway, somebody were like, Hey, would you come in and speak to that? I’m like, yeah, I could talk about how I’m fumbling my way through reels but should I? These questions, you have to ask yourself as sure you can talk about a lot of different things but are you the right person? Are you the best person for the people in the room?
Now, some of you listen to this are going to go down the rabbit hole of now questioning and self doubting yourself and say, hey, I’m not good enough. This is not a conversation or question around do you have enough experience in your topic? Are you qualified enough in your topic? I’m talking about is it on the nose with the area and your expertise of what you want to be known for? If it starts getting kind of outside the lines, we’ll then use have to ask some additional follow up questions of yourself to say is this the best opportunity for me and for this group?
But coming back to it advantage number one is access to an audience. This is not just one person. This is not just a like throw you up in an algorithm to have people see your posts. This is you standing on a stage or physically being on a video screen in front of a captive group. That’s the thing I love most about speaking is you have the room which is frickin powerful so access to that is an advantage. It’s up to you to qualify. Okay, that is checkmark number one, who’s in the room. Now let’s talk about the other advantages of speaking, the other outcomes.
Number two, alignment. Okay, what I mean by alignment is alignment with other speakers. A lot of times speaking for free will put you on stage with other people who are probably a big deal in your industry. This is why virtual summits do so well, they typically try to get a couple big names on the lineup virtual summit because that helps with promotion for the entire event which helps raise the outcome for everyone who participates in the event as speakers. Being onstage, rubbing shoulders with other big names or people that you aspire to be more like peer like in your niche in your industry. This brings you more clout.
Now, this will pay off in a lot of different ways but think about the the warm introduction of saying, hey, we recently spoke together on X, Y, and Z summit or saying hey, I recently spoke at XYZ summit alongside names like X, Y, and Z. Those tend to grease the ask, if you will, when you are pitching other opportunities or you’re looking for a little bit more clout on your social media to your audience. I recently did this. I talked about it last week. I recently got to speak in a very, very small way on a panel at Amy Porterfield’s Momentum membership, but just saying that it was her membership as the host, that alignment with the host and the other speakers that were on that panel, that gives you some street cred, some clout, so that could be worth it.
Advantage number three of speaking for free is the opportunities to create with those other speakers and where the host. Now I think a lot of people bypass the opportunity for collabs because they think of like, a collab with, I don’t know, Reese Witherspoon and and Target for books. I don’t know if that’s an actual collaboration, but they think celebrity collab or influencers. When I’m talking about collabs, what I’m really talking about is ways that you can work with another speaker to either grow your audiences together or serve each other’s audiences together because you have complementary niches.
So a great way that this happens is I when I had my evergreen program years ago, I would leverage my guest speaking opportunities as a way to, like qualify the group a bit, like get in there talk with people. I kind of do the first level one on one with my stuff, kind of be a warm introduction, get them to love me, serve them, have really great results and then the host would have me come back and do a webinar and it was a joint venture webinar to my program.
Now simply if you haven’t heard about it before, a joint venture webinar essentially is where you take your launch webinar, customize it slightly, for a very specific audience and that audience is the one of the person you’re collaborating with. So their job is to market the webinar to their audience, to their email list, your job is to show up and knock their socks off, sell and do the follow up emails, not going to get the technicalities, the registration page, and all those pieces. But essentially, you host an event to their audience and then you pay a commission to that host for each sale of that program. It can range anywhere from 10% per registration up to 50%. It’s totally up to you. It’s essentially a version of an affiliate program, but it’s you doing specific live trainings for other people.
Now, other ways to do this, if you don’t want to do joint venture webinars is you could enroll these other speakers as affiliates of your program or the host. So that’s a simple, straightforward way to do it. By the way, these are one of the opportunities to monetize your time off stage. I have quite a few more and I’ll tell you how to get those here at the end of the episode. But the thing you have to think about is not only access to the audience, but access to the other speakers and the host. It’s not always an immediate, how do I get my now. Sometimes you’re making the investment in relationships and you’ll start building those relationships over time to really sort out who do you want to be aligned with? Who do you want to create opportunities with? And that’s when business gets really fun because then you can start growing together with other people.
So I find in business that so many people have developed great relationships with their peers through guest speaking. Also, peer relationships create more guest speaking opportunities so it’s a really, really great cycle in that way. People just love you, refer you, want to talk about you all the time. So from a relationship perspective, for collaborations and just overall peer connections, I think it could be a win.
The fourth advantage of speaking for free, I’m also noticing, I’m getting really winded. Stage of my pregnancy. And I’m not I’m still like just I’ve been over halfway there but still, I feel like I should not be as exhausted and winded I am right now, but buckle up the next few months are going to be really fun for you and I my friend
But number four advantages of speaking for free, this one, I think gets shit on way too much and I’m going to tell you how powerful is. Number four advantage of speaking for free is experience, fricking experience. This is the thing that has been the game changer for me. I’m talking about hundreds, if not 1000s of experiences in the last 20 years of being able to show up and talk to an audience. That is how I am so good thinking on my feet. I am so good at holding the attention of a room and being totally myself and telling stories and being effective with everything that I do. Obviously, there’s a lot of things that have gone in to how I speak the way that I speak and how I am so damn good at what I do, but nothing has replaced experience.
Now I think a lot of times in business, when we’re really good at our topic, it can become kind of a blinder for us thinking, I’m gonna say this very gently but you know I’m the tough love coach. But I think a lot of times we think we’re better than we are talking about our expertise, just because we’re in it all the time. We know it, we’re passionate about it, we love it. But when it comes time to talk about it with people who do not share our passion or level of understanding, we kind of start talking like robots and or over their head and or can be a little pretentious about our topic. Woof.
So experience comes from a place of understanding how your audience lands with your message, like how your message lands with your audience. I said that backwards. But experience is you getting comfortable speaking to a camera lens. Experience is you getting comfortable how to use your hand gestures with intention. Experience is you learning how to tell stories that actually sell your products and services, that really serve the people in your room that aren’t just fun shit you want to talk about. Experience is you understanding how to gracefully handle snafus or disruptions in your talks. Experience is you understanding when you talk about something that you were super passionate about, but really didn’t go over well with the audience. Experience is seeing how your audience face lights up and they go off on all these questions on something that you thought was so basic and so stupid but to them, it was mind blowing.
Having this real time feedback with eyeballs in front of you, even when they’re in the Zoom, there is nothing like it. And I think so many business owners are trying to be in a hurry to skip over the part where they put in the work and kind of grind a bit and kind of do the free shit, do the whatever blow what they think they should be doing because they want to get to the part where they look fancy. They want to get the part where they get asked to speak on the fancy stages and to be in the in crowds and to be in the peer mastermind that everybody sees on Instagram but all of the people that we follow go to and it’s like, we want to skip and be there. But let me tell you the people in that room, the people who get invited to those rooms, the people who get invited to those clout worthy stages, they are the ones that have put in the work. They know how to cadence their conversation. They know how to tell really engaging stories, they know how to be authentic while staying professional and aspirational to their audience. This experience cannot be read in a textbook. It cannot be consumed with your eyeballs on YouTube or in digital course. The only way to do it is for you to get your ass on a stage, virtually or in person. Rant, here we go. You can see a passionate about this, but there is no shortcut to experience.
Now on the other side of this experience coin, I know there are some of you in my audience who think that oh, I just have to keep doing something for free. I have to create free content. I have to speak for free. I have to just show up. I have to blog. I have to do my podcast. I’m just giving, giving, giving giving and you’re using this exclusive experience as your badge of honor saying one day I will earn it. Well friend, just know when I’m saying experience speaking for free, I am not talking globally in your business that you should be working for free. I’m not talking globally that you should just be cranking out content and doing free stuff all the time.
In my business, we prioritize making money from day one. I’m not shy. I talk about this oftentimes. So do not confuse what I say experience as permission to hide behind free content and simple, busy work in your business avoiding making sales. That is not what I’m saying here. So please do not try to confuse that. But what I’m talking about as experience is looking at free speaking, those could be your biggest opportunity builders. Now, podcasting is really, really a great way to do this because it’s low barrier. You don’t have to get ready. I mean, they might have video on but you don’t really have to fluff off much you can really just focus on what you’re saying, what your message is, get better at telling your story, answering the question of who are you? How did you get into this? What do you do? Why should people care? One of the biggest mistakes. I mean, people have a cadence in podcast depending on on the show but you can get good at. Use podcasting for that. Sort of saying yes to speaking opportunities, but you really want to be intentional around what is the goal for you?
So hear me when I say this? Are you doing this free speaking opportunity? Let’s go backwards in order. Are you doing it for the experience? Are you growing your specific communication and messaging and presence skills by speaking? And for you is that valuable enough, is that experience valuable enough for you to say yes? That’s checkpoint number one.
Number two, are you doing this free speaking opportunity because you’re looking to increase your level of authority and awareness to position yourself in the marketplace as the kind of person who speaks on stages, this kind of person who speaks on stages alongside XYZ person. You could be saying yes to the opportunity for that credibility crowd authority markers. Number three, you could be saying, yes, your goal might be I want to do speaking for free because it is an aligned audience and I’m going to drive leads into my programs. Asterisk, I have a way to drive leads into my program. If you do not have a sales system, that might be a challenge if you’re looking to make sales on the back end of speaking. But if you’re maybe not there yet, you still could be list building as long as you do not kick the can down the road too far on that monetization front. But you have to be able to answer that question, what is your specific goal related to this opportunity ahead of you?
And the conversation that we’ve had so far in this ramble today on the podcast have given you things to think about to say, hey, when somebody approaches see for the opportunity, you want to start by saying, all right, what is the opportunity? Who is the audience? What are they wanting from me, right? What are the expectations so that I can serve the audience the best? Now let me think about how does this opportunity fit into my business goals. Then you can start asking the question and confidently saying yes to the speaking opportunity because you’re evaluating the success, the opportunity off of that goal.
So for example, if you say, yes, go and kill yeah, I’m gonna get a lot of leads but you didn’t really vet the audience, you didn’t really have a game plan, your content was kind of winging it all over the map, you were rambling quite a bit, you were sharing stories, but they didn’t really connect to what you wanted the audience to do so you walk out of the speaking opportunity, and you don’t really have the leads. Well, based off of if your goal was leads and you get leads, you’re gonna feel kind of like, oh, that was a waste of my time. But if you had a plan going into it, but didn’t actually optimize your talk and kind of go in with a game plan of how am I going to generate quality leads from this talk? Well, that’s on you, my friend.
But it comes back to you being really clear, what is the goal? Honestly, this is one of the huge, overlooked parts of speaking that, it no longer shocks me anymore, over and over again when I have conversations with business owners. So the very, very first question, I asked them, when they book a gig, I said, okay, what’s their number one goal for this? And most the time, the number one goal is I don’t want to flop on my face, or I just want to like nail this, like, cool, but what’s the business goal? Right? So getting really clear around what, which four of those strategic goals are you really, really working towards so that you can say hell yes and then create a plan according to that.
So let’s come back to it and say, all right, so let’s say you get an opportunity for somebody to speak in your group and you find out, it’s actually happened to me recently. It was someone who approached me to speak in their mastermind this summer and it was via Instagram DMs is how most people contact me and ask for requests. They’ll say, hey, I just love your work. I love your show, and I say thank you, love you too. I have so much out the show. I love people listen and they go into the ask. And she was having a mastermind coming up and it sounded really fascinating. It was seemed like a really cool group of people. The business owners were relatively early on in their business and the work that they were going to be doing inside of the mastermind. It was aligned to my programs, but it was very early so meaning that the work that they would be doing, it would probably be a while untill someone in that group was really ready for my program.
So after asking some qualifying questions around the group and what she was looking for and what motivated her to reach out to me and the topic that she requested, I evaluated and realize that, you know, this opportunity is I’m not going to be the best person for it and how I arrived at that was, number one, I need to think about the other priorities and commitments I’ve already said yes to. So first and foremost, summer time, I have two kids home and we were moving across the state of Oregon. I had no idea what life was going to look like and I knew I had a launch coming up in September that my team needed me to be present for the prep, so I was already under a time constraint. So saying yes to this opportunity inevitabilITy meant I would be taking time away from my family or away from my upcoming launch.
Now, a lot of times in business if you one, don’t have kids or two, if you have full time child support which I typically do during the school year, I really wouldn’t think much about a one hour speaking opportunity, like that’s not a big deal. But when you’re really crunched for time, every hour counts. For me, even getting this podcast recorded today, having this dedicated time where I do have kids playing. I do have dogs playing and I don’t have shit breaking, I don’t know, right? I’m really late recording this. In fact, it’s Tuesday night and my podcast editor, hey, Max, I love you, thank you. He’s ready to kill me in the most nice way. He’d never say that because I’m so late on this that is how impressed I am for time. So that’s my scenario that might not be yours and that is not my scenario all season long.
But coming back to this opportunity right here to speak into a mastermind, it was a fan of the show, someone I respect and admire. The group wasn’t perfectly aligned to my programs now and secondly, my time wasn’t very much aligned. So when I evaluated those and I evaluated the other kicker of going all right, well, what about the experience? Well, my friend, I’m always looking for ways to grow my speaking skills, but I don’t necessarily need more guest speaking opportunities for me to hone and refine my message right now. So the experience for me that’s pretty low on the value return chain, I’m looking more so from alignment opportunities and potential collaborations down the road, and of course, fit with the audience.
But those in this specific scenario, the time card trumped everything. I am so limited for time right now in my day, I had to say, no. Did it feel good to say no? So I want to be liked. I do. I’m a kind of person. I love people to tell me that they love me. I like to be liked. I don’t want to be the A-hole, I don’t want to be the projector but there are situations where you have to do it. You’re gonna have to do it too, right?
So figure out your own way. But when you arrived, that decision of this needs to be a no, how do you decline someone gracefully without sounding like Mariah Carey on New Year’s Eve demanding only green M&Ms in her dressing room, right? I don’t remember if it was actually green M&Ms, but there’s a very specific story around her demands for her dressing room. Anyways, but how do you say no?
So here’s what I do and what I recommend to my clients. I call it the graceful no. You’re going to acknowledge them and acknowledge the request, so thank them. Oh, my gosh, thank you so much for reaching out to me, I really appreciate that you thought of me for this opportunity. Acknowledge the request, then you’re going to do a clear decline and you can blame it on your prior commitments. I mean because that’s what’s true, but due to my other commitments I have going on right now I unfortunately do not have the ability to say yes to this opportunity. You could say at this time, if that is true and you want to keep the door open, but do not say at this time, if this is definitive know that you do not want them following up with you down the route. Okay, just a nuance there. So specifically because of the other obligations or obligations or opportunities or priorities of or what I have on my plate for the next few months. I am unavailable, I’m not available to for this opportunity.
See I’m getting little fumbly saying this. This is exact reason why you practice these things out loud. The good news is you’re probably doing this by email or DMs, so you can type it out. But you’ll do the clear decline. and then if you have an alternative suggestion for them, you can just use it in a couple different ways. Offer it. So this could be you have an alternative way for them to consume content from you. And you might say, hey, as an alternative, I know this topic is important to your audience. Here’s three podcast episodes that would be really valuable for them to get started with. That could be one, point them to a resource you have. Number two way, if you do want to have some kind of relationship with it, you could even offer to do a little like loom video for their group and then reference those pieces. But honestly, I probably wouldn’t commit to that. But I’ll alternative, give them an alternative. The other option is you could refer to another speaker, coach or someone that you know of who might be a good fit for that time slot. Only make that referral if you can stand behind that person. If you don’t know them very well, say that. Just say hey, I haven’t heard her speak or don’t heard her content, but I’ve been hearing good things. Give them their name, and then gratitude, best wishes on their way.
So again, thank you so much for this opportunity. I’m wishing you all the best of your upcoming summit. CHeering you on, xo, Heather. So a graceful no, again, those components are. You want to acknowledge the request, clearly decline, offer an alternative, either one of your other products, or free resources, or make a recommendation for another speaker and other guests and then four, closed with gratitude, wish them well, cheer them on. That’s how you do a really graceful no and you could practice at it, right? Just practice with it and you’ll get good at it. But I will tell you, you’ll get good at it. But if you’re like me, you’re still going to like, ugh, feel a visceral reaction when you do need to say no, and there are going to be many times my friend where you do need to say no.
Okay, so I hope this has been a helpful conversation today. Hopefully you now have some clarity around. Alright, so free speaking opportunities are great opportunities for more visibility, more exposure to your potential clients, to create incredible collaborations to be able to get more experience, more opportunities in front of you, the more that you speak, the more speaking opportunities you get. But there is still the big questions around here and we talk about how to get seen heard and paid for your expertise.
So if you want to learn a little bit more around how you turn those free speaking opportunities into profit not just profitable, like speaking as in booking paid speaking gigs, but more specifically, how do you take the free ones you say yesterday, because you’ll confidently say yes to the right ones after this conversation. If you, I shared a couple of the strategies niggling in today but if you’re hungry for a little bit more, I have a new free guide that I just created and released this week at the time of the recording. It is the Purposeful and Profitable Speaking guide for Entrepreneurs with seven specific strategies for taking unpaid or low paid exposure to the frickin bank. So I’m going to teach you the exact approaches that I walked through with my clients around how to turn those opportunities that are seemingly low value into high value returns for you and your brand.
So if you want to grab that free guide, check out the link in the show notes. You’ll get access to that. I cannot wait to hear what you think. I also want to know is there anything that I covered today that got you thinking a little bit differently about evaluating these free speaking opportunities? I’d love to hear from you send me a direct message on Instagram @theheatherSager and if you think other business owners would benefit from listening to this conversation, or anytime you hear anyone doing the whole debate around free exposure, send them a link to this episode here, episode 209 of the Hint of Hustle podcast and I will see you again next week, friend, Bye.