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Welcome to another episode of the Widest Net Podcast. I’m your host, Pamela Slim, and I am joined today by my guest, Amy Gray. Amy lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. She’s a Babson College grad in 94 and originally from Maine. She founded New Leaf nearly 22 years ago to offer in house personal speaker agent services for a few high profile folks who wanted to do things differently with regard to paid speaking, but didn’t have the expertise to handle it themselves.
Before that, Amy spent nearly a decade as the producer of large scale conferences and hired many speakers. Amy understands the buyer side and the speaker side of things, aiming to strike a happy balance for both. Her and New Leaf’s work offers an alternative to full, DIY self representation, which can be very lonely and has a long learning curve. As an elite in house speaker’s agent, Amy is dedicated to the best interest of her clients. She creates and implements a custom strategy for speaking that reflects the volume of appearances the speakers wish to encourage. Whether it’s a handful or a high number, NewLeaf’s work is done publicly or under private label, converting inbound inquiries into superfans, building positive working relationships, and negotiating paid appearances using kindness coupled with high effectiveness.
So, Amy, welcome to the show. Thank you so much. How much do I love kindness coupled with high effectiveness? Weaving values into the way you describe your company, so important, and it’s actually a superpower and a competitive advantage, I think.
Yeah, definitely. I love that. Well, part of what I want to explore with you today that I’m so excited about is, on one hand, demystifying the world of paid speaking, which I find many people come confused either with impartial knowledge about how it works or where they might take online classes and listen to this huge variety of experts that are telling people what to do. So I want to start with a frame. You mentioned in your introduction that you describe yourself as an in house personal speaker agent.
For those people who are not familiar with the world of paid professional speaking and different types of speaking agencies, can you just give us the high level picture about who’s in that world and how does it work? Sure. Well, I think a good place to start might be traditional representation for speaking. So a lot of people have heard of a speakers bureau or speakers agency, and that is simply you go online and you see that there are companies that have hundreds or dozens of speakers listed under various topics, and you contact them, you let them know which speakers you’re interested in, and they’re happy to help secure that person for your event. That is the traditional model.
The people you are interacting with are called speakers agents, and those who sign the contracts, they are typically the agents as well. And it’s a pretty straightforward model. You, as the event buyer, know what you’re looking for in terms of content and theme. And they help matchmake speakers around that theme. There is an emerging market, I’d say over the last ten or 15 years, called speaker management.
And that is where people are realizing, well, I actually need some help in positioning myself and marketing myself as a speaker to bureaus and agencies. So being sort of a management world is an intermediary step. It’s for speakers who don’t know how to work with all the different entities out there, all the different bureaus, all the different agencies, because in the past speakers were asked to be exclusive with a single bureau or agency. So management cropped up to sort of help people keep their independence, speakers keeping their independence, but then also gaining the amplification effect of working with bureaus and agencies. So management came into play.
A speaker’s agent like myself is an independent agent. I’m not with a speaker’s bureau or a speaker’s agency. I’m sort of like in sports, the analogy would be athletes have their own agent. The agent doesn’t work for the sports team. They actually work for the agent.
The speaker. I’m mixing up my metaphor. So if we go back a second in that little phrase there, I would say so New Leaf is the speaker’s agent. We work directly for the speakers we represent. We do not represent the best interest of a bureau or an agency like we would if we worked for one. Yeah, we are that independent expert.
So hopefully that metaphor of a sports agent following the athlete works. In this case, I am the dedicated person for my speakers. It makes so much sense. And I was following you, I immediately thought of Jerry Maguire. Of course, I love that movie.
Show me the money. Yeah. Just thinking about how powerful that is, where you do have somebody and we can think about it for actors or for athletes, as you said, that would be so powerful, where somebody really does know your body of work is trying to find the best possible fit for you in all ways, I imagine. Right. The best kind of events, best dollars.
Yes. Well, it’s what’s important to that person. So if that speaker a lot of the speakers I work with would never classify themselves as a speaker. They are something extraordinary, typically like a founder of something, a founder of a business or a best selling author or an actor or dot, dot, dot. And people ask them by virtue of their visibility to speak.
And so they don’t want to do things the traditional way because they don’t fit the traditional mold. So they would like to work with somebody that’s also kind of outside the box. That is so cool because it is a really interesting perspective. And I’m imagining a choice that you made for your own business in working with folks like that, who in some ways just have a demand. People are interested and curious about them.
As you said, because of their body of work, their visibility, their role. How did you make that choice about wanting to work with folks that way as opposed to maybe a more traditional model? Well, because I never worked for a speaker’s bureau or a speaker’s agency. That’s the traditional way that people find out about the business that I’m in of representation, because I never worked there. And I was actually asked a favor by a good friend of mine, a gentleman named Kevin Mitnick, who is known as the world’s most famous hacker.
I hired Kevin for his first paid speech when I was a conference producer, and he and I became close friends. And when I launched my company, he said, would you do me a favor and sit in on a meeting as my agent? And I said, Kevin, I’m a meeting planner. I’m a conference producer. I don’t know how to be an agent.
And so really, I didn’t intentionally go into this line of work and target this particular type of person. I simply wanted to be helpful to a dear friend who I wanted to advocate for. I wanted to be there to protect his best interest. And it turns out high profile people know other high profile people, and they all want to feel as though they are being seen for their uniqueness. They do not do things the typical way.
They zig when other people zag. So if you say you could do it the traditional way or you could do it your way, they all want to do it their way. And so kind of fell into it by accident, doing a favor for a dear friend, and it turned into a 22 year career. Who knew? Isn’t that amazing?
It is serendipity. I love it. There’s a TikTok meme right now. I am a fan of watching TikTok. I don’t yet make my own.
My teenager doesn’t let me do it. But there’s a really fun meme where somebody asks a question of, like, what is one pivotal moment in your life that completely changed the trajectory? And then people stitch it, they add their own story to it. So it makes me think about that. If you had not met him and had that fortuitous interaction, it could have totally changed direction for your whole business.
No doubt. I love to be of service to other people. I love to take care of people. And it turned out that people in that world of doing speaking needed someone to take care of them and look after their best interests and be kind about it. That was also the important thing, Kevin’s agent.
He had a Hollywood agent from a big talent agency. And that person treated me as the buyer of his services because I was a producer. I was hiring him for a speech, for his very first speech. And the agent was not kind. And when I became friends with Kevin, maybe it was a bad day for your agent.
Maybe this is what you’d like your agent to be like. But my experience was this I almost didn’t hire you. And he was horrified. And he had a couple other friends call the agent. It turned out that was consistent.
And then he said, Would you be my agent? Would you like to have the job of being my agent? And that’s when I thought, oh, my goodness. Well, kindness is important. It really is how you’re treated it reflects on the person, it reflects on the speaker.
Absolutely. Which is an interesting way when I think about differentiation within a professional services agency or the kind of business that it is, something that is often well known. There can be certain ways of behaving when we think of agents putting pressure, like having a bit of bravado in some ways, having this balance, almost Jekyll and Hyde right, where you might have a very kind, thought leader who everybody loves, but then you need to have that really tough negotiating person on their side. And as you said very often, that’s really not effective in the long run. When we look at your role as being the buyer of said services on the conference side, it’s actually quite jarring, probably.
Oh. If I was hiring speakers for my event, which that was my role for almost a decade, hiring speakers for my programs, if I found out that someone I was interested in had an agent, I would immediately brace for the condescending and confrontational interaction that I would have with that person. And yes, there is a certain stereotype of agents, particularly agents from big, well known firms that are specializing in movie deals and book deals and licensing and not necessarily speaking. Speaking is sort of the forgotten piece of that, that a lot, probably of those agents don’t love because they’re lower ticket items. When you compare it to, like, a movie deal, for instance, but yeah, you can still be kind while also being a very good negotiator.
It’s harder. It’s actually much easier to be a knee jerk jerk. But when you can add the kindness in there and the tact and the warmth, people do respond to that, and they also feel that that attitude that is displayed is reflective of the person I am representing. I am that person to the person that’s inquiring. So if they want to be perceived as a kind person, they better have a kind agent I love.
So with that, it’s funny, I’m going to almost address different parts of Amy here because you’ve had these different roles, which I find are very helpful if for a second I think about you in the role of being a producer of meetings, right, an event planner and a person who hires speakers. Share with me how you identify when a speaker really has talent or skills that you get excited about, like, what are the things that you’re looking for in that situation when you are the one that was hiring speakers that tells you like hoohoo, we have a live one, this is going to be amazing for my event. Sure. Well, that’s a very good question and I think what I would first start with was my conference theme. Always, what’s the event going to be about? And these were for profit events, so the topic had to be timely and relevant to a business audience.
So starting there, I would research who’s got a book coming out actually around the time of my conference. So I might be the first person or one of the first people to hire this person. So freshness of content for sure. And relevancy to my theme, I would also look to see who is being profiled in popular media, who’s being written about on the cover of a magazine. That’s important to my target audience.
So if it’s a general business audience, it might be your typical Forbes, Fortune, Inc., Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, those types of things. So who’s being interviewed? And many times, if it was an industry practitioner, I got really excited because A, I knew they wouldn’t have an agent, which meant I could deal with them directly, which I liked, or their assistant. But I also felt like they would have that in the trenches experience.
So what lights me up when I was, if I put on my hat of event producer or event planner, relevancy clear message absolutely has a niche, not a generalist. These are not people that have ten topics on their website. They can speak on all of them or none of them. Just tell them whatever you want. And I sort of think, oh, are they really an expert?
And do they have the expertise from being in the trenches of doing that work? So they’re bringing out content. They’re an excellent speaker. That’s kind of a baseline, of course, but they’re not overly slick and produced almost like there’s a stigma around sort of professional speakers in air quotes because they can be perceived as almost like too slick, too polished, too hey, almost like a salesman or a saleswoman. And people respond to, and I responded to, was that authenticity that they’re humans, they are not giving this speech word for word the same way they delivered it yesterday, the day before.
Maybe they are, but it’s not coming out that way. It’s coming out very authentic and ideally someone that is always sharpening their saw. So they’re doing work that reinforces the concepts of what they’re teaching or what they’re speaking about. So their credibility factor is off the charts. So really it’s that that is so helpful.
And I’m feeling a bit vindicated because I did an intensive session with a client yesterday where we chopped the list of possible keynotes down to the one that she literally is a world’s expert in. So thank you for making me feel like a great business coach. Good job. One or two. Honestly know your need.
Yeah, it’s very helpful. And I love that. I tease sometimes, I know can be judgy from the speaking side, but I call sometimes the yes and yes people. There was some technique sometimes that’s used where people from the stage are like yes or yes, trying to get the audience engaged in, to me, a very jarring way. And so at a certain point, if that ever starts to happen, I just try to be very quiet and not to disturb people.
But I just slip out of the room because I feel like that is an example of a technique that’s just artificially riling people up as opposed to the way that you’re talking about it, which is this very human like, really drawing people in to great storytelling and deep connection and real life situations and all of that. So that was one of the first things that I thought of, of, like, no, yes, and yes. People just telling the same old stories in a disconnected way. Absolutely. And of course, I just responded yes.
See, it works. It definitely does. That technique that you described is very jarring. And the other one, what was it that I was telling to someone the other day when I’m having a little brain moment? Here it is.
Oh, when they want you to get up and dance, like, they put on music like, everybody get up and dance. They’re like, Dance with your neighbor. And I was like, no. Introverts everywhere are just mortified or people that just are uncomfortable in that it’s not a dance party, it’s a speech. Talk to me.
Teach me. I will choose if I want to get up and dance with my neighbor. I mean, it happens a lot, though. People say people love that we play a video audio clip and everyone just wants to get up and dance. And I was like, not everyone.
That is so true. I spent a very delightful 18 months working with Susan Cain, the author of Quiet, about the power of introverts. Talk about a deep soulful, amazing thought, leader and speaker. She is amazing and wonderful. And I’ve said this so many times on the podcast, people are probably tired of hearing it from me, but I am the only extrovert in my entire family.
Mom, dad, sister, brother, my husband, all my kids are all so and even with all of that in the time that I spent with Susan deeply into the research about it. First, I had to say thank you to all. My family members for putting up with me all of these years. Because as an extrovert, I am the first person on the dance floor. Like, throw on some good music. I’m dancing in the aisles at Target.
Right? When good music comes, it is, I think about it from a terms of consent of where you can have space in a room where people are really able to be excited and engage. And it is exciting to think about an audience stretching right. Like both feeling what it’s like to have their mind expanded by great ideas and to have an invitation in some ways, maybe to do things like move their body if they feel so inclined, but it’s so different if it’s really not with consent. Everybody has sovereignty over themselves, of course, but there can be that social pressure, especially in a work context of…. is your boss looking over to see if you’re air quote, like “engaged as an extrovert”?
So I really appreciate that and I think that’s useful just thinking from so many different dimensions where there could be somebody who is super dynamic and gets excited and maybe they have a background in dance and it’s part of what they do. But recognizing as a speaker, I think you can have that happening but still do it within the context of consent or maybe checking to make sure in that environment that people are aware of what might be happening so they know to sit in the back and stay sitting as opposed to dancing out in front. Exactly right. That’s absolutely true. Absolutely true.
Really helpful. Okay, so there’s so much richness, I think, in the things that you were describing in terms of what you’re looking for, for expertise, obviously, having a back baseline of being a great speaker, being able to engage an audience for those folks who might be looking to work with a speaker’s bureau. There’s a whole process, almost like as an author looking to find an agent to represent you, how do you advise people about what might excite a speaker’s bureau or an agent when they’re looking at potential speaking clients to represent? Is part of it just all the stuff that you said before about what a meeting planner would look for? Is there anything else besides that?
That they would look for? Yes. So they would be looking in many of the same places I just mentioned to find sort of budding talent or people that are sort of not already represented. So nontraditional speakers that don’t consider themselves to be professional speakers are often looked at very favorably by a bureau or an agency. But they are looking for that extra bit, which is that this person has something of high interest, typically to a business audience that is on the horizon.
That is the hook, if you will, that the bureau will be able to wrap their messaging around to get event hosts excited. So maybe in the case of an author, it’s that new book that is coming out. So if you are someone that enjoys speaking and wants to be taken seriously and command solid fees, that requirement of the book is not new. I’m sure everyone says that, but it’s not just any book. I actually spoke to a woman last week that said no one told me that the book should be nonfiction.
And I said, well, nonfiction books drive speaking engagements because they are practical tools. A fiction book is very unlikely in most cases. There are some exceptions, but in most cases not going to drive a lot of speaking. In addition, the genre you’re in, if you’re in self development, self help, those speaking fees are generally a lot less than corporate audience speaking fees because someone might be investing in themselves to go to a personal development event at 1440 or Chopra Institute or dot dot, dot Kripalu. But if Coca Cola is hosting a giant event and they want to teach people about innovation, creativity, sales, marketing, the evergreen topics, so the bureaus and agencies are looking in those genres that business audiences find to be evergreen, and they are what I just mentioned creativity, innovation, sales, and marketing leadership strategy.
If your niche that you’re passionate about and you have expertise in doesn’t slot into one of these buckets, it’s unlikely that a bureau or an agency is going to have a good demand from event hosts for you. Right. So I find that there’s some disconnect between what people are thinking, well, if I get an agent, they’re going to suddenly get a lot of speaking. Well, the other thing the bureaus and agencies are looking for is that you already have inbound demand coming your way. They don’t start with you with zero demand.
You have to have some inbound demand to make them realize, wow, if that’s what’s coming in already, I bet you some of my event hosts, which are the true customers of speaker bureaus and speaker agencies. I want to point that out because there’s no apostrophe in speakers bureau or speaker’s agency. There’s no possession by the speakers of the bureau. They are speakers, meaning plural of speakers. So I find that a lot of speakers find that speaker bureaus aren’t really advocating for them, pitching them, selling them.
And I’m like that’s not their job, actually. Their job is to collect an assortment of various excellent speakers in all kinds of price ranges in all kinds of topics because their true customer is not the speaker, it is the event host. So you need some demand from event host before any bureau is going to be interested. And I will add this other thought, which is you should never proactively go out and pound the pavement and try to find a speaker’s agent. Honestly, I think that is the worst idea ever.
Because when you are at the level that you need one or that you should be considering one, they will come to you. They will see you. They will come to you.
Yeah, that is so interesting. And I know it can be frustrating sometimes for people, but I love the real talk from the way that you are describing it. Because I do think about for somebody who does see the path of really wanting to have professional speaking. There’s a number of things that you talked about about making some clear decisions, about the books you write, about the audience you serve. I know as the person who wrote Escape from Cubicle Nation was my first book, I think it was very popular for folks who wanted to leave corporate.
Probably not so popular for corporate event planners who would say, I’m going to lose my job if I bring this lady in, even if I never have been anti corporate. There is a way to bridge the message of saying if you don’t want to lose amazing people who don’t really want to leave corporate, you need to do this. But it was an example that really for my own interest in my body of work that did lead me through my next book, Body of Work and then The Widest Net to have content that was more accessible and applicable in other areas. And I think it’s the choice, I think, for speakers and creatives that they make. I’m so glad that I wrote that book.
I needed to write it. I know it has been very useful for people, but it’s an example that were I to say I want to activate a very serious revenue stream in paid speaking and that’s a primary way in which I want to be driving business and then maybe have book sales to go along with that. Maybe some consulting things like that, that there are specific choices to make about content. 100%. And I should say I generally don’t advise people to write a book just to drive paid speaking because that book will come out hollow.
So you really have to start from the wellspring of what it is that you are passionate about and that you have expertise in and you want to write that book. And if there’s a way to kind of nudge it in a direction that might encourage paid speaking, if that’s what you want, that’s fine. But I find altogether too many people that are saying I want a highly paid speaking career. What’s the topic that I should be writing a book on to make myself be a very well paid speaker? And I’m thinking whatever you write with that mindset is not going to ring true and authentic and genuine.
People sense that and won’t respond to it the way that they are hoping. It’s putting the cart before the horse.
I so appreciate that. I say the same thing often in my world where sometimes people will think that a marketing strategy is a business model. So it’s like I’m just going to create a bunch of online courses or let me create a membership site. And I’m thinking from my training and development, performance improvement, body of work perspective, what audience are we serving and what problem were we trying to solve and does that particular product or service actually solve their problem? It’s very similar as to what you’re saying.
You’re just trying to do everything to position yourself to be accepted by a market. But then there’s this hollow feeling of like, what’s the here here, what’s the there? There 100% people want that genuine enthusiasm and passion. So you should speak where you’re special. You should have that edge and that uniqueness.
It really shouldn’t be driven by a panic for money or paid speaking or what have you. It’s really got to start from, yes, what problem are you solving? Also, why are you the best person to be writing that book? Why are you the best person to get on the stage and have the benefit, the gift of the time, of the people in the audience? That is a gift.
Time is the most important thing to people, how they’re spending that time. You’ve got the stage, that is an honor. What is it that they need to hear from you? And why are you the person to deliver that and no one is you? So how you answer that is really going to dictate your credibility.
A lot of people panic like, I don’t know if I’m the best person, maybe I’m not the best person. Well, you have to think about it from the perspective of you are you’re the most uniquely qualified with your background to address that topic. So come into that with that energy.
So helpful. So I think about it backing up a little bit as people are at different junctures in their own career, in their own body of work, where they’re always in my own language from the framework of the book they’re grounding in the mission at the root, they’re making sure they’re doing work that’s deeply meaningful. They’re using their unique ingredients, things that are really unique to them, skills and strengths that they have and where they might be at a juncture of saying, Can I go this direction or that one factor if they’re wanting. To have paid professional speaking as part of it is what might be one of the two choices that is grounded in your expertise and your desire and your purpose that also is leading down that path in terms of a topic. The other thing, I’m curious where you said that you’re waiting for people to respond to you becomes a little the chicken or the egg, right?
To get more media. Like, just beyond Good Morning America. And then one is thinking like, well, how do I do that at first if I don’t have somebody doing it? So from the DIY side, that could be the place that people start with. Are there any strong recommendations you have that would position somebody to be getting paid speaking themselves before a bureau or an agent would reach out?
Well, simultaneous with creating the writing, which is the book, a book simultaneous with that is well, there’s a couple of things I would recommend. One is there is a service called Help a Reporter Out it’s haro. Haro.com, I believe haro.com. And you can sign up for free. And you can get alerts when they are looking for expert commentary on particular topics or areas.
And so you could subscribe to that and get the alerts. And now they’re very time sensitive and you would have to educate yourself a bit on writing an appropriate pitch back like, okay, I would be a good person to interview for that article that you’re writing under a timely deadline. So positioning yourself as an expert so that you’re featured in press, that’s help a reporter out. The other thing, which, again, when I put my event planner hat on back in the day when I was hiring speakers, if someone approached me as a conference producer and said, I was looking at your agenda for your event coming up in October, and I noticed that your theme is artificial intelligence, let’s say, and you have a spot that’s not filled with a speaker’s name. At 01:00 on Tuesday.
My content is about that theme related to artificial intelligence. And for this audience, which I see is the profile for your audience for this event, could I give the speech in that spot for you solving their problem? Right? The problem for the conference producer is I need to fill this agenda with qualified people. And of course you still have to be an expert.
So you’ve got to have your bio ready, your session description written from the perspective of what the heck people are going to get out of it, and compelling problem that you’re solving in the title so they don’t have to guess. And you’re basically offering to do that appearance in exchange for recorded speech. Maybe they’re going to record all the speeches. So you’ll have some highlight reel testimonial that you stood on that stage and you had that captivating message for the audience. You are not asking for a fee.
You’re basically just saying, I am trading my expertise on that stage in return for you allowing me to see this audience, meet them and deliver my content. Maybe there’s a slide at the end that says if you want to stay in touch, you can scan this QR code, but you get permission from the host before you do that. But offering to speak for free in return for something of value to you as a speaker is huge. So once you’re on that stage in that agenda, the audience does not know that you spoke for free. If you deliver every single time you stand on a stage in front of the right audience, you should be getting a paid speech.
So it’s a little give before you can get. But I always say do that selectively. Don’t just willy nilly say, yes, I’ll speak everywhere for free all the time. No, this is a laser focus. Who is your audience?
Who needs your content? Study the agenda. What publications are your target audience reading? Are they doing an event? Great.
Do they have a hole on there? Be the problem solver for that event producer, and you will be given again, if you’re not asking for money, because that does not result in paid speeches, by the way. You cannot proactively pitch yourself for a paid speech. In most cases, you might get lucky and get travel and expenses. That’s really helpful, as you’re saying, in being visible, being on the right stages in front of the right audience and planners.
Does the paid speaking then come from people seeing you, approaching you and then saying, I’d love to have you at my conference? What’s the process? Is that kind of the natural 100%? Again, nobody in the audience knows that you are not being paid, and that would be a term of your agreement with the event host. This would have to remain confidential and written into your contract, even though you’re not actually being paid.
There should be a contract and it should state normally my fee would be X. I’m waiving that entirely in exchange for ABC and full confidentiality that this is the fee arrangement with your group. People honor that. They feel like they’re getting a huge bargain, which they are, but you’re also getting so I really appreciate that. Yeah.
And I do think about it strategically in the widest net context, whereas you said you have been very strategic in choosing the right watering holes that, you know, have multiple benefits where you can be seen also from the audience’s perspective as the amazing expert that you are alongside other people they respect. I know there’s a huge referral network among speakers themselves. In some cases, people who couldn’t do a gig, who would refer somebody else, or when you let them know what your area of expertise is and they know, like and trust you, then they can be referring you to other event planners. Absolutely. I’m so glad you mentioned that.
The follow on effect, if your content is resonant with someone that is currently a very sought after speaker, but your price point is much less or not the same, you’re not necessarily a peer with them. You’re sort of someone coming up, if you make an introduction to them yourself, you reach out and say, I love your content. My content goes hand in glove with your content. If there’s something that you can’t accommodate, whether you’re too busy, the topic is not quite right. If you refer to me, I will send you a kickback of a commission of a percentage, whatever have you.
And oftentimes those become huge sources of referrals because a lot of highly sought after speakers have to say no all the time. That’s part of my job. Now. The people that I work with say no most of the so yeah, I love that. And that can be a highly complimentary, like, non competitive kind of topic.
I think of my friend Todd Henry, who’s a dear friend who wrote Die Empty, a really popular creativity speaker. He’ll joke sometimes with Scott Belsky, who is the founder of Behance that was sold to know that he’s like, I’m the little bit cheaper version of Scott, so if you don’t have Scott’s budget, then you want me. And it’s fun just in the spirit of collaboration. Like people tease each other a little bit, but literally, the way that you’re describing an audience, there could be a conference that doesn’t have the Scott Bellski budget, but they want somebody who is really great in that same area, which in the context of a speaker’s bureau, could be the speaker that the bureau might represent at maybe a more reasonable fee. But it also can be the way that I’ve seen.
As long as you are aligned with a person and you have a good relationship, they could be referring you gigs that they are unable or unwilling to do at maybe a lower rate that for you as a paid speaker at that point could actually be an amazing amount at that point in your career. 100%. That’s a perfect example of that sort of waterfall cascade effect and it builds up other experts. So I represent Blake Mycoskie, the founder of Toms. He is incredibly selective about what he says yes to because he’s got ten other irons in the fire at all times speaking.
If he’s not a speaker per se. He does get asked to speak. So I actually have been on the hunt for who’s someone that does sort of in that conscious capitalism realm. They’re for profit, but they do tremendous good in the world. They are a successful company, but they’re probably not at the Tom’s level.
They’re coming up because I have so many times I have to say no, and I would love to find somebody that does that. So maybe there’s somebody in the audience that, oh my gosh, I do that. You’ll get 57 emails from the next. That’s all right. Well, and I do want to ask, kind of as we finish up, you personally have represented some really amazing speakers in your career for you.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Favorite part of my job, I would say, is protecting the best interests of people that others might think have it all. And they do in many ways, sort of on the surface, but they’re constantly being asked for more. And I am the kind, nice, effective gatekeeper who does not burn any bridges or create any enemies. I allow my clients to rest and focus on their priorities. So I love being that sort of protection around them so they can create their magic while also still treating everyone that’s trying to get in with respect too, because those people remember that treatment.
So again, I guess we’re circling back in the end of this conversation where we started, which is on kindness. I love that my kindness toward my clients and towards the people that want to hire them is actually a hugely valuable skill to have in this work. I love that. And it also speaks to the importance for people who are in some cases very famous, wealthy, in demand. I feel one of the most passive aggressive phrases in the English language is must be nice whenever somebody said, oh, that must be nice to have everybody knocking on your door paying you hundreds of thousands of dollars.
So we understand in a context of privilege, for sure, people can have a lot. And there is a unique thing, you and I, I think, know a lot of people that happen to have a lot of visibility in that case. And it can be very challenging on the human level for somebody who does want to connect with people, does want to share opportunity, that literally you will be swallowed by the demands of the world if you say yes to everything. So I imagine for them to have somebody like you who is making sure the integrity of their brand is maintained by being resonant with their own values, but it is essential that somebody else can be helping them to be very discerning because otherwise it’s actually quite miserable. And I’ve seen sometimes folks get very overwhelmed and kind of discouraged where it feels like the only reason anybody is ever reaching out is to be asking for a, you know, even above and their expertise.
So that, I imagine, is very important to them. Absolutely. Well, there was a book that I read recently called Wonderhell. Have you heard of this? Laura Gassner Otting is one of my past clients, so I did some work with her in Building a Course.
Isn’t it a great book? It is a great book and how that success can feel not like what you expected. And you do need to have a core group around you that are protecting your best interests and your time and your priorities, but are doing so in a way that also still allows good things in. Because the knee jerk reaction when you’re used to being bombarded by constant requests is to just tighten the door and lock it tight and nothing gets through. And that’s not either a good way to be because you don’t know what value is on the other side.
So you need someone that’s almost like a selective sieve anyway to be respectful of the time here. I totally understand what you’re saying and fully agree. Well, and it is just to reinforce something, I talk about it in the widest nut and I practice it myself. I am not in any professional capacity, as you are being hired for folks that might have people coming to them, but people might notice, maybe somebody who blurbed my book or that I might be friendly with somebody who I’m talking about my body of work and would say, could you just make an introduction? And I have learned first always to ask that person if there are interesting incoming inquiries.
What is the process that you use that is supportive, where they might have some kind of a screening structure. But I also know that and I’ve learned in my own people pleasing that I’ve been working on probably my whole life of trying to tune it out. Really. I literally would burn up all the relationships that I have with folks because who live in this area of constantly having demands. If I was just making all these introductions directly to, you know, I will often know that I totally appreciate you want to connect with this person.
Here is the way the path that they’ve set up actually where they can discern it. Because Guy Kawasaki is an example of somebody who I love the way that he models this in, I think the spirit that you’re talking about of always looking for people who are interesting and new and up and coming. He gave me a huge break personally way back when I first started blogging, where he posted one of my blog posts on his blog that really cracked open. I feel like the world to me because he took the time to get my email that I sent at 10:00 at night and liked what I wrote and was open to that. So I love the fact that he is open to it.
But it’s also because people who are busy journalists and speakers, bureaus and agents, we can’t ever forget you are looking for the next new big idea and talent. Which is why I tell folks that I work with never hesitate to make a strong case if you want to be reaching out. Like you never know when it’s going to hit at that right time, right. But it’s less of waiting for somebody else to make that introduction or make that engagement for you, realizing that that would put the person who you’re asking to make the introduction in a bad place and rather do a lot of the things I’ve heard you talk about here, where you’re really focused on showing up in an excellent way, making sure you have visibility, media and all of that. And then people can’t not pay attention to you because you’re in the places where you’re providing value.
Exactly. And your flag is up and your signal is clear as a bell. This is what I stand for and those that are resonant with that, they are going to gravitate towards you. I do believe that that energy signal, though, has to be very clear. So you have to put the flag up for them to even know that you’re there.
But once that flag is up and you’re clear, that’s where people approach you and it is synergistic. And then you might notice, oh, I should connect these two dots together, but let me check in with the key person. What do they think of this person? Okay, great. And then go back.
And so before you’re even making the intro, you’ve already cleared it with both ends and there’s just an eventuality at that point to connect. So that’s so right in my ongoing quest to connect with John Legend. So by the know, if you ever meet him after we’ve had this whole speech of never make a we’ll we’ll we’ll talk offline but I tease. I’ve written about him in every always I have a dream always in a vision of doing work with him because I love his body of work. I wrote about him in Body of Work and talked about him in my Ted Talk.
But it’s an example where I think it’s really kind of a joyful path that I have where it’s some eventuality I’d love to meet him in a context of doing interesting work. And so as you’re saying, where you are raising your clear flag of here’s who I am and here’s my expertise, it’s also thinking about how you strategically put yourself in places where you might be more likely to run into somebody like that. And there’s been a conference actually. I’ve had so many near misses with him, it’s really funny. We spoke at the same conference because somebody knew that he was speaking and so I spoke there.
We actually were on our way to meet each other. His schedule changed, so I didn’t, so we’ve had these kind of fun like near misses. But it is where from the perception of your ideal audience or people who you want to see your work, they might feel like you are everywhere when really you strategically have placed yourself in the places you know that they are looking. And that to me is like the strategic part of what you do for visibility. Absolutely.
You’re facilitating that luck because sitting at your house and raising the flag in your front yard isn’t going to get the attention of someone in California. But if somebody I’m interested in, say, is hosting an event and I know that I could add value there, even as a volunteer like staff person, I have no problems at all showing up. And yes, I’m rolling up my sleeves doing the work. Guess what? The person that I’m hoping will want to work with me sees how I am.
So yes, if you can find an authentic way to show up in their world that demonstrates support of what their priorities are absolutely going to be a winner. How could you not? I mean, eventually yes. I love it. Well, it’s so helpful.
I so appreciate the insight. It is really nuanced and deep and I think it’s going to be really helpful for folks that are listening. So for those who want to learn more about your work, what’s your preferred way for people to connect with you? Absolutely. Through the site the newleafspeakers.com and there’s a contact US form.
So let me know how I can be helpful in their work. It’s sort of open. They can write whatever they want, but I would welcome them to come to the website or follow new leaf on Instagram and that has a bit of a tricky Instagram handle. So maybe we can put it in the comments. We will put it in the notes.
Yes, don’t worry about that. We’ll have a direct link to it in the show notes. Thank you. Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for joining us.
I am excited for those listening to make sure to check out the show notes. As we said, we will have direct links so you can follow Amy and her work and that’s all going to be at pamelaslim.com under the podcast. I want to thank my 31 Marketplace production team La’Vista Jones, Tanika Lothery, Jose Arboleda and our award winning narrator Andia Winslow. Until next time, be sure to leave us a review on iTunes and enjoy building partnerships, organizations and communities that grow our ecosystem. Bye.