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Caitlin Delohery’s Interview with Mike Wittenstein

When in the role of content strategist at the Growth Company, Caitlyn needed to know what a professional speaker’s life was like. So, she turned to Storyminers and spent some time with Mike Wittenstein, a certified speaking professional with hundreds of engagements in dozens of countries. Mike’s comments from 2017 are still pertinent today.

Describe the day-in-the-life of a professional speaker.

A professional speaker doesn’t just speak, they run a business. Often, they run every part of their business. Each day, you’ll be involved in all the things that matter – from finding clients to building new content, from staying up to date on current trends to providing thought leadership for your audiences, and from setting up your back-office Web services to handling mundane accounting chores. Most days, you do a little bit of all those things in some of the unexpected which always seems to appear.

What are your top day-to-day challenges?

Professional speaking is no longer a job for the meek or weak. Why? Because everything – and I mean everything – is in a constant state of flux. Clients’ needs are evolving faster than ever. Technology, with the capabilities and frustrations it brings to your business, demands more care and feeding.  Staying at the leading edge of your industry and keeping up with the many prospects, clients, and colleagues you need for your voice to matter is also essential.

What unique strategies do you use to tackle these challenges?

I’ve learned that professional speaking is no longer a one-person business. I’ve got people who help me with web/social presence, admin/process management, content/service development, and finance. That may sound like a lot, but you step into it gradually. Find the right person/people who can give you a little time to help you grow the capabilities of your business. My happiness factor shot up when I used people not to do what I didn’t want to do but to use them at things I didn’t know how to do. Also, I’ve been careful to build business assets with others time (processes, templates, content distribution connections, etc.) so that the value of the investment continues to pay back over time.

What your secret to your success as a professional speaker?

  1. Take care of your clients.
  2. Remember that audience outcomes take precedence over your own ego.
  3. Don’t just share knowledge through stories, provide complete experiences.

What’s your biggest career accomplishment?

I hope it’s still to come! There are a few things that come to mind. My first international assignment in 2010 led to dozens other overseas assignments. The first retail makeover I managed led to some fun retail projects. Helping save a $1.1 billion account at IBM gave my confidence a big boost. So, I’m learning that big achievements often come from apparently small starts that pave the way for what’s next. You can’t predict the future, so most people just package their past.

What online resources do you turn to for industry information and career inspiration?

The National Speakers Association and Toastmasters are two great organizations aimed at improving the lives of their speaking members. SpeakerHub is doing a great job of educating rising professional speakers. Andrew Lugan of Six Minutes captured his learning journey as a publicly available learning resource for speaking. It’s got massive amounts of helpful content. I’m still a subscriber and am still learning from the content and examples.

What resource for professional speakers do you wish existed?

I’d like to see a directory of places where speaking can happen. Meeting planners can pick a ballroom anywhere in the world to have a meeting. Why hasn’t someone captured the small theatres (and the big ones), the town halls, public venues, extra meeting rooms at banks, and other places where speaking can happen. With such a resource, many of us would have an easier time of creating events. SpeakerHub, you’ve got the crowdsourcing thing down. Are you listening?

What are your predictions for the biggest trends in professional speaking in 2017?

If I knew that, I’d be booked 100% more than I am now. My gut feelings (translation: don’t ask me to prove it with hard data) are that:

  • fees will stay flat
  • companies will accelerate their use of speakers as agents of change
  • speakers will be chosen more frequently based on their ability to implement what they talk about
  • there will be more first-time clients in the market—desiring outcomes over topics

This article was originally presented on TheGrowth.co’s website

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