What Is Speaking On The Side?

From the first chapter:

Defining the topic of this book is kind of a slippery exercise, like running through a marble hotel lobby right after swimming in the pool. So, if you don’t mind, first I’d like to explain what speaking on the side isn’t.

Consider Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York and one-time presidential candidate. He is represented by the Washington Speakers Bureau. He speaks globally about leadership and crisis management, recalling his experiences from the aftermath of 9/11. Cornell University paid him $75,000 to speak at the school’s graduation. A few years ago, Forbes reported that he earned $270,000 to address a private equity firm.

Giuliani does not speak on the side.

Next, consider a real-estate agent I know—let’s call her Jean—who is a prominent member of her local suburban chamber of commerce. To drum up business,she volunteers to speak at chamber events, as well as at charity lunches, statewide networking groups, and area churches. She sees these engagements as a vital part of her marketing strategy. Although she wouldn’t turn down the extra money, Jean has never been paid to speak.

Jean does not speak on the side, either. Public speaking is actually a task required by her day job. If she doesn’t speak (for free), she might lose real-estate business—her primary means of income. What she could do is parlay her speaking experience into an additional revenue stream … like my friend Jessica did.

A marketing coach and event planner, Jessica consults with businesses and organizations to help them use social media and events more effectively. Jessica is also a speaker. While she sometimes speaks gratis to targeted audiences as part of her marketing strategy, she also markets herself to meeting planners as a keynote and workshop speaker. And she’s landed paid gigs—many of them—to supplement her consulting income and open the door for additional projects. To be sure, she’s not in Giuliani’s tax bracket … but she might get there if she keeps this up.

Jessica speaks on the side.

She’s not alone. Speakers on the side are all around us in small business, medicine, law, fundraising, education, marketing, finance, real estate, and many other disciplines. Trends suggest their numbers will climb.

In the wake of the Great Recession, many professionals have found themselves struggling financially. Sound familiar? Perhaps you haven’t gotten a raise in years. Or your small business has been impacted by the housing bubble or the rise of social media or tiny web-based competitors from China and the Philippines. Downsized by employers or clients, some of you have become revenue seekers, hustling for opportunities to help make ends meet. Speaking on the side can become a lifeline. (It was for me.)

For others, it’s demographics that will pluck your speaking string. Are you a baby boomer? Then you’re reaching retirement age healthier and more active than any previous generation. Boomer IRAs are down, yet projected lifespans are up. Many of you have decades of expertise in a field and are blessed with some time to convert it into a marketable commodity. Studies conducted by the AARP in 1998 and again in 2003 found that 80% of boomers expect to continue working at least part-time after their retirement age. Speaking on the side will help a lot of you boomers ease into your nest eggs.

And then there’s the rest of you. Maybe you’ve always longed to travel, but never gotten around to it. Or your company is “okay,” but you’ve kind of felt penned in. Maybe you even make a good living, but you wish you had a little more at the end of the year to splurge on the kids.

The point is: you’re reading this book. For whatever reason. Whether you own your business or work for someone else, whether you’ve spoken a lot or a little, whether you’ve written a book or a blog, or neither, some part of you envisions yourself standing up in front of an audience and speaking on the side.


As you dive into this book, I only ask that you keep one thing in mind: speakers on the side do not earn a living from speaking. You earn a better living. In some cases,you earn a much better living. And you don’t need a speaker’s bureau, “connections,” or a stint as New York’s mayor to do it.

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