Niche Speaking: Cash in with fewer (but more devoted) listeners

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The following excerpt beginning my chapter “Niche Speaking: Cash in with Fewer (but More Devoted) Listeners” first appeared in print on July 1, 2012 in a new book called Speak More! Marketing Strategies to Get More Speaking Business. I thought you might enjoy it’s message as a blog post:

When I was new to public speaking, in the 1980s, every speaker seemed to have a different slant about what worked best, got the most and highest-paying bookings, and guaranteed fame and fortune—a few even hinted that, done right (their way), lots of fame and fabled fortune could be achieved within a year or two!

Yet most of their suggestions reminded me of an acquaintance living in Santa Barbara, California. He was a brain surgeon, and his favorite hobby was repairing Venetian blinds! He asked me if he should get business cards printed as a brain surgeon, and add the blinds repair in small type at the bottom, or advertise his expertise with Venetian blinds, and include the brain surgery as a sort of footnote?

We both got a long laugh out of his quandary, and agreed that either card was proof that somebody needed brain repair.

What confused me when I was new to speaking was that the biggest speaking names seemed to be able to talk about anything to anyone, with a long list of titles—and they could further parse each of those topics into a main speech, a keynote, a dinner presentation, a seminar or breakout session, a bout of emceeing, even a program for spouses! A lot of general stuff for huge crowds that also included Venetian blind repairpeople and brain surgeons.

You can imagine my concern because I only knew one thing better than my listeners, and at first, that only worked well as a workshop. I felt like a pitcher whose whole repertoire was a swooping sidearm screwball. A one-talk Gordy. Worse yet, a talk that I was certain nobody would want to hear twice. I figured I’d better keep two day jobs even if I somehow backed profitably into the oral arts.

I Had One Speech!

It took me many years to actually leave the day jobs because my booked speeches were getting in the way. I’d been wrong. My one speech, one topic deep, with modest improvements and a few simple slants, brought me over 2,000 paid presentations. I had no idea that my goofy screwball, my swooper, was so special.

Except that my topic was about niches, and I really did have a singular perch (I wrote the book about it). And lots of “nichers” wanted to know how to make their niches permanent and profitable.

I told my audiences that if you know a very important piece of information—that a particular group or kind of person would travel long distances to hear you tell them how to do something better, faster, or more profitably if you were an expert and they needed your expertise—what you had to do was find out what those people had in common (like an association or specific training from applied experience) and let them know how you could help them.

That was easier to do if you wrote a legitimate book that was full of help and examples and advice; then told all of the particular associations and conventions what your book was about and that you now spoke about it.

What I talked about was niche speaking, niche publishing, and niche writing. The crucial word was niche, and the rest was what you did to and with it once you found a niche that others were eager to pay a lot to learn more about.

If I pronounced the word “niche” like leech, half the listeners said it was pronounced like witch. Or leash.

But we all agreed that a niche by any pronunciation was a unique place, employment, or status such that people resemble each other but are distinctly different from others.

For example, brain surgery and Venetian blind repair are niches. So is plumbing—and public speaking. Red-headed Porsche owners are a splashy niche, as are English Channel swimmers. Practitioners in each field do or know particular things that bind them together while distinguishing them from others not in their niche.

(This excerpt of my chapter in Speak More: Marketing Strategies to Get More Speaking Business, published by N.S.A. [National Speakers Association], continues to discuss Build Your Own Niche, Even a Humble Example Helps, Two Burdens: The Speaking and the Message, and Hidden Gold: Niche Speakers Empire-Build! The 2012 edition is available from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.)

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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