Are you a writer or a speaker? If you are, what can you do in this time of uncertainty? What new ideas can you write about during this time? Speaking events in front of a packed audience isn’t the norm anymore, so how will you adapt? Learn how to generate income in this challenging times with speaker and author Orvel Ray Wilson. Orvel is the co-author of six of the guerrilla marketing books. He has been voted one of the world’s Top Five Sales and Marketing Speakers for five years straight. Orvel joins Robin Colucci in this lovely conversation about business during the pandemic. Learn the importance of internet marketing and how to go virtual. Also, discover tips that aspiring speakers and writers can do in these rough times. Make sure to take some notes because the advice that Orvel is offering is timeless.
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Speakers’ Reboot: Income-Generating Innovations For Author/Speakers In A World Still Impacted By COVID With Orvel Ray Wilson, CSP
I am very pleased to present to you our guest, Orvel Ray Wilson. He is the co-author of six of the legendary guerrilla marketing book series which have been translated into 63 languages and boasts more than 26 million books in print. For more than 40 years, he has been traveling around the world, helping people like you and me learn to get the edge that we need to win in a competitive market. He has spoken in more than 1,000 cities in 47 countries on every continent except Antarctica. In an international internet poll, he has been voted one of the world’s Top Five Sales and Marketing Speakers for a record five years straight. As an Executive Speech Coach, he helps professionals discover, develop and deliver their unique message to the world.
He also happens to be a dear friend of mine. We met back in Colorado over ten years ago and developed a great friendship. We’ve had an opportunity to collaborate on a couple of different projects at various times. It is with great pleasure that I introduce him to you. If there’s one thing I can say about Orvel Ray, he is a survivor. He has weathered many ups and downs in his own life and the economy. I invited him because he had some terrific ideas to share for authors and especially for speakers who may have experienced a dip in income over this past year when we were dealing with the COVID 19 pandemic. I will tell you right now that the advice that he is offering in our conversation is timeless. This is one to make sure to take some good notes. I’m sure that there will be at least a few actionable tips for you in this interview. Enjoy.
Welcome to the show, Orvel Ray.
It’s a pleasure. Thank you, Robin.
It’s so great to have you.
It’s great to be had. I appreciate you.
I’ve been looking forward to this talk because when we were chatting, doing a little reconnecting, we were talking about the pandemic and some of the things people have been experiencing. You had a record year. We had a record year. We’ve been very fortunate to have had successful years. What I was curious about is when you shared with me how many of your clients had had record years because, as our readers now know from hearing about you, you are a coach. You help people develop keynote speeches. You help them develop all kinds of speeches. You help them have stage presence. You help them give these outstanding talks.
Before we get into all this success, share with our listeners a little bit about what was going in the industry. You’ve been a key member of the National Speakers Association for decades. Anybody who knows a speaker knows it was rough in the speaking world at this time, especially in March, April 2020. What are some of the insights that you might have come across directly or even in your own direct experience from that period?The process of writing a book will double your business even before the book is published. Click To Tweet
This is the biggest collapse of the industry since the Great Recession in 2007 or so. That was the year I slid off of a roof, fell 25 stories, and had a spinal cord injury that prompted a career change. I went back to school and got a coaching certification together with my CSP. Since then, I’m not touring around the world speaking on guerrilla sales and marketing but coaching other speakers, authors, and people who want to do that or do that better. As you said, I had a record year. Back in March 2020, before the shutdown, I was planning a retreat here in Denver at a boutique hotel at the airport. I had ten seats at $2,500 each. It sold out in two days.
We started hearing the news about this thing coming out of China. I went back to the hotel and asked him for a force majeure clause in the contract. They reluctantly agreed to that. It was a good thing because eventually, we had to cancel it all. When I sent the cancellation notice out to this group of clients who had registered, they came back and said, “We’re looking forward to this. This was going to be all about marketing. We need that now. Isn’t there a way we could do this virtual?” I didn’t know how to do virtual, but it forced me along with everyone else to adapt to this new environment. We set up a series of sessions on Zoom over a span of about eight weeks. About half of that group decided to continue as full fee one-on-one clients. All of a sudden, I had a full practice in Benson.
One of the examples is Jeff. He is an executive coach living in Glenwood Springs. He has an office in Aspen. His clients typically fly in, often in their own jets, to meet with him twice a month. He initially engaged me to write a book about this expedition he had been on. They climbed the tallest mountain in South America, Aconcagua. It’s one of the eight highest mountains in the world. He nearly died. That’s quite a story. A movie was made about it. We were in the process of writing this book. I spoke with him. We’re finally getting to the final edits on this book a few years later. In the meantime, he has tripled his practice. He has bought north of a million-dollar house on the Roaring Fork River, outside of Aspen, which is Gold Medal trout fishing water. It was something that was a lifetime dream of his. He and his wife had two children. He’s had a busy and productive quarantine.
That answers the question of why does it take four years to write a book.
You taught me this. You said that the process of writing a book will double your business even before the book is published. You said this many times. It’s so true because it forced Jeff to re-examine all of the things he was unconsciously competent at. It forced him to look at, “What is my process? What is my methodology? What problems do I solve for my clients? How does that work? How can I make that work better?” Having to quantify and articulate all of that in the book, his practice transformed. The experience that his clients had was transformed. Simply by direct referral, he has done zero marketing. He has tripled his practice. Hats off to you and your marvelous book, How to Write a Book that Sells You, which I use as one of the many biblical references here. I go to the library.
Thank you for being such an incredible ambassador for my book. I have to tell you. This is a little off-topic. I have a fellow in a masterclass that I do who is a member of NSA. I mentioned that I was going to be doing this interview with you and that he will probably find it of interest because he writes about selling and I’ve referenced your book. When he made the connection to your book, he got a clear mental picture of you. He saw you speak at his NSA chapter in Upstate, New York. He is like, “I think that’s why I ended up getting your book.” I said, “I’m going to be sure to tell Orvel Ray that.” Most people who don’t know me directly got my book is because you told them to buy it. I thank you for that.
You’ve heard in NSA. You got to write a book. Authorship equals authority in this field. That’s more true now than ever. Two of my clients are lawyers. One of them is a specialist in intellectual property law, a former Patent and Trademark Office examiner in his mid-’60s. The problem he came to me with is he is getting to that age where these young guys in the firm want to push him around. “As long as I’m bringing in business, they’ll let me do whatever I want. Now that it’s COVID, I can work from home. What should I do?”
He mentioned that there was a skinny little reference thing, coil-bound, 8.5×11 that some lawyer had given him years ago and he still had that in his files as a reference. “Maybe we could do something like that.” I said, “Let’s write a book that is going to be the book that people are going to keep and refer to over time.” Where do you get most of your clients? Most of my clients are referred to me by other attorneys who aren’t specialists in intellectual property, copyrights, trademarks, and patents. It can be very complicated. It’s very esoteric.
“Let’s write a book for lawyers who have clients who own businesses and give them what they need to know about intellectual property law, enough that they know it’s hard, but not enough that they can do it themselves. You become the go-to resource in the legal community nationally.” He very quickly became one of the top-rated speakers on Vistage after doing about 40 Vistage programs, keynoting with this book. He added more than $1 million to his law practice, which is a bump of about 25% in the first year after writing. It’s not the Encyclopedia Britannica. I was looking for a copy of it here and I can’t put my hands on it. I probably loaned it to a client.
It’s a skinny book. It’s 80 pages. It’s 7×9.5. It’s an unusual format. It’s A Business Owner’s Guide to Intellectual Property Law. Everyone reading this program right now should get it and read it. All as speakers, and authors, we all have intellectual property. It’s all interconnected. It can get you into very expensive trouble as I found out when I couldn’t produce the license for a cartoon that I had bought from the New Yorker years ago and used it on my website. The outcome is that Bill is living in a second home in Florida. He hasn’t worn a pair of long pants in six months. He’s making money hand over fist.
What I’m hearing you say for speakers whose careers have been disrupted by the pandemic, the thing to do is write a book?
That would be a very good use of their time. Terry, who is another attorney in Minneapolis, wanted to grow his legal practice. He particularly enjoys these cases where you have partners that are in conflict. Two guys get together. They form a business. They work together for 10 years, 20 years. They build it into an empire and then one of them develops a drinking problem or starts cheating on his wife or gambling or for whatever reasons things go south, as they often do, in marriage and business. He wanted to position himself as a specialist in this particular case in the two states where he’s licensed to practice law.
He’s written a book called The Bulldog Guide to Business Divorce. It’s following your models with 3 sections and 4 chapters in each section. The first section is what to look for in a good partner. What are the yellow flags and red flags you should watch out for to tell you if your partnerships in trouble? The third thing is how do you unravel a long-term business partnership, still walk away with a check, and preserve your equity without losing your life’s work? He has already been invited by bar associations across the country to come and speak on this topic.
How does that look like? Are these virtual presentations or are people now going to these locations again?
That brings me to the second point and answer to your question. Like everyone else, I had to take my retreat virtual. A lot of my clients are doing the same thing. Don, who wrote a book called The Compassionate Geek is a member of the National Speakers Association. He’s a CSP veteran in the industry. His keynoting business, his training business just flatlined. He did two things. One, he took and converted his book and his training program to an online course. It was bubbling along a little bit. He’d sell a few hundred dollars’ worth each month.
We did several things. One is we started aggressively marketing the courseware first by going all the way back to the beginning of his businesses, his oldest database, and merge everything together and told everybody, “If you haven’t heard already, I have a new book. Now, it’s available as an online course. Click here to enroll.” All of a sudden, he started getting enrollments. He also started getting inquiries from people who said, “It’s $195 a chair. What if we want to enroll ten people or 50 people?” He hadn’t thought about that. Now, we had to come up with a multiple-seat pricing package. We did that and his revenues doubled again.
He was having a conversation with someone, and the question came up, “Could you do a kickoff, a keynote, or something that would introduce our team to the course?” We talked about it. I said, “You should do one better. Do graduation as well and offer that with the bundle for anybody that buys 50 seats or more.” That took off like a rocket. Not only did his large group enrollments increase, but the completion rate for the people enrolled in the course skyrocketed.
Was it a speech or was there a keynote and closing speech?Be consistent with your messaging across all your social media touchpoints. Click To Tweet
He starts out at a particular time and date on Zoom. Your attendance is required by email. You’ve been enrolled in this course. You meet the instructor, date, and time. Everybody shows up on Zoom. He talks for 20, 25 minutes, introduces himself and the concepts. What do we mean by compassionate geek? Why is customer service in IT such a problem? Why has your boss enrolled you for this course? This isn’t optional. This is going to be good for your career. You can reach out to me with any questions or comments. Here’s my email address. I’m here for you. At the end of eight weeks, the prescribed length of the course, they do another all-hands meeting where he congratulates them, talks about the progress that they’ve made, and sends them back off into the world with a printed certificate. We all want that thing hanging on the wall and it’s been a very successful formula for him.
Now he’s in the process of using a tool called SEMrush and doing keyword analysis. One of the things that SEMrush can do is to suggest topics for blogs that have increased the traffic to his website. I’m looking at a note here from a conversation we just had. It’s at SEMrush.com. This is a tool that our mutual friend, Heather Lutze, taught me about. The queen of SEO and the queen of findability. Google her. She’s brilliant and amazing.
This takes the data from Google search, lets you look under the hood, and see the numbers and words that people are looking for when they’re looking for people like you. What does the data say we should be talking about? That’s another thing that all of my clients have been doing. We all started by stepping back up to the 50,000-foot view. Let’s look at every touchpoint. Let’s look at your website, your LinkedIn profile, and your Facebook page. Are you using the same header graphics? Are you using the same photographs?
One client had a picture of his dog on LinkedIn. It’s a nice dog but no. They call it Facebook, not dog book. Put a professional portrait of yourself up there. It was just dumb stuff like that. Let’s get consistent with your messaging across all touchpoints. I had to make a list of twenty keywords. Words that you would hope that they would use to describe them when talking about you. Robin Colucci is amazing. She’s smart. She is a master grammarian. She is friendly. She is generous to a fault. She will give you her time and her advice, sometimes even if you don’t ask for it.
You get the idea. What reputation would you like to have? Let’s build a shopping list of vocabulary that points to that reputation. Don’t leave it to chance. Let’s replicate that across all of the touchpoints, all across your marketing. That was a big part of this. Everybody’s now going to go on to the internet. They’re not going to meeting planners. They’re not going to speakers bureaus. They’re going to YouTube. That was the next step. Do you have demo material on YouTube? Do you have a channel? Do you have a video blog? Everything has become video-based. You can’t just sit down and crank out 200 words every day like Seth Godin and have a popular blog.
You’ve got to get comfortable in front of the camera. You’ve got to learn at least basic editing skills like iMovie or Camtasia or even use Zoom and record. It’s just like Skype, except it works. They started generating this ancillary content and linking it up across all of these different touchpoints. The indirect ripple effect of that has been created all kinds of different opportunities to expand their platform, to extend their expertise, and to reach new audiences.
Is it changing again now that we have about half the country vaccinated? It seems like people are on the move again. I’m booking travel again. I canceled my trip to Italy.
Denise and I both got the second shot a couple of weeks ago and we started traveling again. We went to the grocery store. Let’s give those folks at Amazon Fresh a little break. For $15 an hour, they work way too hard. We can get our own groceries now. Life is returning to normal gradually and sort of. Let me unpack both of those ideas separately. It’s returning gradually. For example, I lead this Batman-like double life at night as a jazz musician. I lead an eighteen-piece swinger, a big band called The Flatirons Jazz Orchestra from behind the drum set.
We were booked for a big event last summer, the World War II Ball, which is about 4,000 people at the airport Boulder. That was canceled. There was a lot of talk about doing it again. They set a date. They had to push the date back and then they canceled it altogether. Now, they rebooked us again for next year. However, a nightclub that we perform for every month is opening its doors to swing dancing on June 6. We’ve been invited to play that. What that’s forced me to do is to impose a vaccination-required policy. There’s no way that eighteen of us can fit shoulder to shoulder on a stage and play trumpets, trombones, and saxophones through masks. It’s a jazz band. It’s a big band. We had two people resign rather than get the vaccine. If you know any good piano players, let me know.
There’s that whole dynamic going on. Meeting planners are struggling. My wife is the events and marketing coordinator for the Colorado Native Plant Society. Every fall, they have a conference. This September 2021, the conference is scheduled to be held in Trinidad at the community college there. They move it around the state from year to year to be fair to everybody. We’ve just visited the campus to get a look at the logistics. They still don’t know whether they have a capacity of 180 people, which is how many seats are in the theater or 100 people, which is the current limit on a large event dictated by the county or 86 people, which would be the capacity of the theater with everybody six feet apart. Everyone is trying to make decisions. Some people are scheduling things anyway and just hoping that the numbers continue to decline. The same thing is happening to the speaking business as well.
I heard NSA is doing their event in Vegas this summer.
Right, but with a limit of 500 people.
That would be significantly less. I don’t remember what the headcount was the last time.
Typically, they get 1,500 people at a convention. The original limit was 250. The county changed restrictions and opened up a bunch of seats. There’s a lot of confusion.
What advice do you give people who already had built a speaking career or maybe even worse of trying to build one? As we’re in this period of such uncertainty, what do you think is the best route? Do you think it’s some of these things we talked about? Is there anything that you haven’t said that they should be thinking about?
If I were to articulate a strategy for coming out of COVID, start with number one. What’s new? Have something new even if it’s not new. Take your content, retitle it, rebrand it, refresh it, rewrite it, or re-release it. New is one of the ten most persuasive words in marketing according to Ogilvy & Mather and announces the new thing to the world. “I have this new book, keynote, breakout session, half-day seminar, or online hybrid course.” Announce the new thing, not to your A list, but your B and C list, friends, and family plan list. Tell everybody about the new thing that you have because that’s what planners are going to be looking for. It’s not the same old. The book that you released two years ago, it’s not new anymore. Wrap everything in new.
The second thing I would suggest is, hybrid is the next keyword to remember. Follow Don’s example and offer either live presentation or online virtual or hybrid where there’s some offline content and some online content. If you have any other courseware assets or YouTube channel assets, bundle them into your offering and include them in your fee. The third word I would recommend is fee. As soon as they start talking about fees, “If it were local and I didn’t have to get on a plane, then that’s less. In my old program I used to and because of COVID, I was doing these online things. The fee for that was only,” and you can hear the client on the other end.
I would say streamline and simplify your fees, not more than three numbers, maybe just one number. The script to use when they ask about fees, “We start the conversation at.” I’ll use myself as an example here. We start the conversation at $15,000 up to a full day inclusive. We start the conversation at, insert the biggest number you can say out loud without choking on it, up to a full day inclusive. Let me unpack that. We start the conversation at. This is not a fixed price. This is the beginning of a conversation. We haven’t talked yet about your group, the length of time, or any of those details but they’ve opened with the fee question, so we’re going to answer. This is going to be a negotiation and we’ve flagged that already. $7,500 is as low as I would suggest that you go and still have any traction.“New” is one of the ten most persuasive words in marketing. Click To Tweet
If you’re an author, you’ve written and published a book. If you’re an authority in your space, that is the starting point. Anything less than that and you’re too cheap to be good, is the perception in the market. The top end of that model is around $15,000 for a CSP-established speaker. You’ve been at it ten years. Maybe up to $25,000 if you’re a celebrity speaker, somebody like Steven Johnson who has his own program on PBS. It’s somewhere in that bracket. If you’re a beginning speaker or just starting to keynote, I wouldn’t quote anything less than $5,000. Again, that’s what the industry expects up to a full day.
“Wait a minute. We need you for the keynote.” “I understand, Robin, but I have to pack. I have to get on a plane. I have to fly there or stay overnight. I have to get up in the morning at 6:00 and be there with the deck crew for soundcheck. I have to watch all of the other presentations so I can incorporate all of those notes into my presentation. I then have to stay at the end and do the closing keynote. You’re going to want me to stay for dinner or stay for reception or at least have a Q&A session. I have to be there all day anyway so you might as well use me. Can I do a workshop for your board the night before? Can I do a breakout session in the middle of the day? I can promise you. If I do the launching keynote followed by a breakout session, that session will be standing room only. I promise.”
“We do have a budget for a breakout session. What about your expenses? You said inclusive. What’s included?” “Everything.” “What do you mean everything?” “The airfare is included. My hotel room’s included, meals, transit, ground transportation, Uber, and airport parking.” I hate keeping receipts. It’s too complicated. It’s not even worth keeping track so we include it in the fees. “Everybody gets a copy of my book.” “What?” “The eBook is $25.” “Yeah, but you wouldn’t send your kids to college and not give them the textbooks, would you? The books are included. They’re not optional. It’s required. I want everybody in that room to have a copy of my book. It’s part of the training.” Now they’re doing the math and going, “This guy is actually a bargain.” They get to go and brag to their board.
You load up the table like it’s Christmas dinner and include everything. When they come back and say, “We only have $10,000 to work with.” “Okay. We can almost always come up with some combination that will work for everyone. Do you have a separate budget for travel?” “Yeah. We have a deal with the airline.” “If you could cover my airfare and regular travel expenses like you normally do, then we can agree to that.” The breakout session for their board, you take that off the table. Instead of that being a negotiation about your price, it’s a negotiation about what combination of services is going to serve them better. Now, you are the number one, “We have to hire this speaker,” on their list of potential speakers.
Thank you, Orvel Ray, for sharing that because this is the result of at least three decades, I’d say. How long have you been doing this?
I was one of the founding officers of the Colorado chapter in 1982. I had already been speaking for several years professionally at that point.
That is gold and I know that there’s a lot more gold. I know you have other programs. I’ve taken your workshop on speaking from the stage. There are aspects of it that I still try to get myself to remember to do and sometimes it works.
I did one of those, The Magic of Storytelling. How do your stories sell from the stage? I did one for the Nevada chapter in Las Vegas.
Tell us a little bit about it because it’s so good. I loved it. I got so much out of it.
I had wonderful and good luck to be coached by a woman in Los Angeles. This is all the stuff that they would teach you in the actor’s workshop. If you went to New York or LA and invested $10,000, they would teach you about staging, blocking, voices, mime, how to move on stage, how to do characterizations and all of that stuff that they never teach us in speaker school at NSA that professional actors have been using since Shakespeare’s day. When you start incorporating some of these elements into your speaking, it brings a whole new dimension. Instead of being a voice behind a microphone, you’re a one-person show. It makes your material more engaging, funnier, more memorable, and much more valuable.
Some of the rules are simple, like act out the verbs. If there’s a verb like, “We were walking down the street.” If the verb is walk, take two steps to the stage as you’re telling the story. Lou Heckler taught me this technique. He says, “Give every character in your story their own voice.” Most people have trouble doing voices because they try too hard. If you’re trying to do a Southern accent, all you need is a hint, just a little bit. Now, you’ve told the audience that this is a different voice. This is a different character in the story doing their part. It’s a whole day of one idea after another, little things that are easy to incorporate into your work on stage that brings you alive with dimension and color. It’s a lot of fun. I love to teach it.
It’s fun to be in the class. Is this something you’re teaching virtually now? What are you doing with it?
No. I use to offer it periodically here at my studio in Colorado. For the last few years, I’ve been offering it to NSA chapters around the country. If you’re an NSA chapter and you’ve seen this, reach out to me. We can talk. I don’t have dates on the calendar yet, but as we get into post-COVID, you can watch your email. You’ll be invited to the next one that I do here in Colorado.
We have an NSA chapter here in Connecticut. I happen to know the president. She’s my neighbor and a good friend of mine. She’s a good president who’s outgoing. We better get you connected.
You might be working on your new calendar. If you’re like most chapters and you had your board meetings, let them know.
That’s okay. She’s got cool with the incoming president.
I had a great run. I have sold millions of books. I’ve traveled around the world, racked up millions of miles on multiple airlines, live in a spectacular place in the mountains, raised two beautiful kids and I owe all of that to the lessons that I’ve learned and the friends like you that I have made through NSA. I’m at that stage of my career now, where it’s my privilege to give back as much of that as possible in the time we have left.
Speaking of giving, I know that in the past, from the stage, I’ve been on stage with you. I’ve been in the audience and heard you say that you’d offer this free-hour consultation to anyone who asks for it. Is this something that is still an Orvel Ray box of gifts?
Yes, that is not a spurious rumor. You have heard correctly. I’ll give anyone an hour on Zoom just for asking. Email me at OrvelRay@gmail.com. I’ll send you a link and you can get it on my calendar. Let’s get acquainted.
You are such a treasure trove.
I’ve always enjoyed working with you and I can say firsthand, having heard from clients that you’ve worked with, the results that you produce are at least as apparently miraculous as some of the people I’ve worked with as well. I can recommend you without reservation, five stars, gold seal, all of the above. Expensive, but cheap at twice the price.
I can’t believe how quickly this time has flown by. Thank you so much for sharing with our readers so much important and valuable information. For those of you reading, if you take one thing that Orvel Ray shared and implement it, my prediction is you’ll see a massive return. Thank you again.
It’s my pleasure. Thank you.
- Orvel Ray Wilson
- How to Write a Book that Sells You
- A Business Owner’s Guide to Intellectual Property Law
- The Compassionate Geek
- Heather Lutze
About Orvel Ray Wilson
It’s a jungle out there. Running a business in today’s economic environment requires the imagination and initiative of a commercial mercenary.
Our guest speaker is co-author of six of the legendary Guerrilla Marketing books, translated into 63 languages and more than 26 million books in print.
For more than 40 years, he has been traveling around the world, helping people just like you, learn to get the edge you need to win in today’s competitive market. He has spoken in more than 1,000 cities in 47 countries, on every continent except Antarctica.
In an international Internet poll, he’s been voted One of the world’s TOP 5 Sales and Marketing Speakers a record five years straight.
As an executive speech coach, he helps professionals discover, develop, and deliver their unique message to the world.
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