Caitlin Delohery Interview with Mike Wittenstein

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While in the role of content strategist at Growth Company, Caitlyn needed to know what life was like as a professional speaker. So she turned to Storyminers and spent time with Mike Wittenstein, a certified public speaking professional with 100 appointments in dozens of countries. Mike’s comments from 2017 are still relevant today.

Describe the daily life of a professional speaker.

A professional speaker doesn’t just speak, he runs a business. Often they manage every part of your business. Every day, you exist, in all the things that matter – from finding customers to creating new content, from keeping up-to-date on current trends to providing innovative leadership to your audience and from setting up your back-office web services even handle mundane accounting tasks. Most days, you do a little bit of all of these things in part of the unexpected that always seems to pop up.

What are your main day-to-day challenges?

Speaking professionally is no longer a job for the meek or the weak. Why? Because everything – and I mean everything – is in a state of constant flux. Customer needs are evolving faster than ever. Technology, with the resources and fr assigned to your business, requires more care and nutrition. Staying at the forefront of your industry and following up on the many prospects, customers and colleagues you need to make your voice matter is also essential.

What unique goals do you use to meet these challenges?

I learned that speaking professionally is no longer a one-person business. I have people who help me with web / social presence, administration / process management, content / service development and finance. This may sound like a lot, but you step in gradually. Find the right person(s) who can give you a little time to help you grow as a resource for your company. My happiness factor skyrocketed when using as people not to do what I didn’t want to, but to show them up in things I didn’t know how to do. In addition, I’m careful to build business assets with other people’s time (processes, templates, content delivery limits, etc.) so that the value of the investment continues to pay off over time.

What is your secret to your success as a professional speaker?

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

What is your biggest career achievement?

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

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

The National Speakers Association and Toastmasters are two great associations designed to improve the lives of their speaking members. SpeakerHub is doing a great job of training rising professional speakers. Andrew Lugan of Six Minutes has chronicled his learning journey as a publicly available learning resource to speak. It has a lot of useful content. I’m still a subscriber and I’m still learning from the content and examples.

What resource for professional speakers would you like to exist?

I would like to see a directory of places where talking can happen. Meeting planners can choose a ballroom anywhere in the world to hold a meeting. Why hasn’t anyone captured the small theaters (and the big ones), city halls, public places, extra meeting rooms on benches and other places where you can talk? With this feature, many of us would find it easier to create events. SpeakerHub, you’ve solved the crowdsourcing problem. Are you listening?

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

If I knew this, I would have 100% more reservations than I do now. My intuition (translation: don’t ask me to prove it with hard data) is that:

  • how rates will be stable
  • how companies will accelerate the use of loudspeakers as agents of change
  • speakers will be chosen most often based on their ability to implement what they speak.
  • there will be more first-time customers on the market – wanting results on the games

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