121 Former Yahoo! Executive Tim Sanders Talks Building Long-Term Client Relationships

On today’s episode of Steal the Show, we’re uncovering why some speakers’ careers plateau and how to fix it or prevent it altogether.

Tim Sanders—former Yahoo! Chief Solutions Officer, bestselling author, and top-rated leadership keynote speaker—shares his best practices for switching from one-off speaking gigs to cultivating a few accounts that hire you again and again.

How You Can Steal the Show

  • Turn your public speaking career from feeling like a series of one-night stands to a long-lasting profession.
  • Learn how an account-based approach brings you repeat business.
  • The 2 reasons why you should say “no” to work that’s outside your throughline.
  • Stamp your digital footprint with this instead of that.
  • Discover how to deliver your message to multi-faceted audience members with varying needs without confusing anyone.
  • Evolve from storytelling to moving audiences to action.
  • Uncover the different roles that “butts in seats” and “takeaway” speakers must take to make an event successful.
  • Note the 3 things you should supply to your audience after your speech ends to add value and encourage behavioral change.
  • Why it’s important to develop humorous bits that don’t “punch down.”
  • The 3 must-read books for learning to create memorable experiences on stage.

 

Learn more about Tim and follow him on social media @sanderssays.

 

Tim’s Talked About Resources:

 

If you enjoyed this show, you may also want to hear:

Episode 120: Alison Levine on why it’s your message, not your experience, that matters most on stage.

Episode 110: Andrew Davis on obsessively tracking your career, how to create the speech people talk about, and why you can charge more than you think with the FEE model.

Episode 104: Jordan Harbinger on starting over, building a business from scratch, and what bees can teach us about performance.

 

Michael:
In the last episode of Steal the Show, Alison Levine illuminated why it’s important to look past fee sometimes. And today, we take this a step further, discussing best practices for switching from one off speaking gigs to a referable speech. And today’s guest is Tim Sanders, former Yahoo Chief Solutions Officer, best selling author, and top rated leadership keynote speaker. Along with his experience in building a referable speech, Tim shares how to deliver a clear message to an audience with varying needs and how to get your audience to take action.

Tim:
What’s interesting is the call I just got off of. Just to give you food for thought. The call that I just hung up from was a one hour discovery call with a company called OCLC. I’m going to speak at their sales conference in September. And what I did is about three hours of research on them and their market, and then we just got on the phone for an hour. I verified some of the things I found. We got them to unpack more. We agreed on a delivery day, which will be August 10, when I’m sending them a detailed outline of my talk. And then we’re going to do a video zoom on August 14th with a larger piece of their team, actually moving through the outline with me showing visuals as needed to collaborate on a final talk, September the 11th. And I mention all that to you Michael because that’s the new state of the world in corporate in association. And it’s not just me, it’s a variety of people. Peter Sheen and a variety of others, that have started to kind of morph the motivational speaking service into something more like what we call public consulting. So it’s kind of interesting and it’s the secret to why I’ve been doing this 17 years.

Michael:
So tell me a little bit more about how you prepare for that.

Tim:
I use researchers. The best ones you can get on, a service called Upwork. And so OCLC is in the library services market, so I go get a brief done, costs me about 150 bucks. And it’s about a five page brief that I got back on everything you’d want to know about the library market. Where it’s going, who the players are, what are some of the disruptive technologies, et cetera. And then that’s a brief that I’ll use on my first call so that they’re not spending the hour educating me on their business. Instead, they’re spending the hour helping me understand their learning objectives and how those vector to my expertise.

Michael:
And what do you do to demonstrate to them that you have this institutional knowledge?

Tim:
Well, as we move through some of their problems, I say, “For other groups like this, here’s some of the things we’ve talked about to address those lookalike problems.” And that usually gets them pretty excited because they can relate to that. So I think a lot of times if you do enough preparation and you’re really organized around, for a lack of a better phrase Michael, your bits, your chunks, then it’s easier to pull one off the shelf. And I did the first call without doing visuals because I really wanted to hear them more than anything. And the next call, I’ll have all those loaded up as images. And I’ll say, “Okay, what we’re really talking about is what I call the value space. Take a look at this graphic. Does this look right to you? Here’s what I’m talking about your people starting to do. This instead of that, et cetera.” So that’s where we’ll end up going on the next call.

Michael:
And how much of your presentation do you find that you adjust or customize based on those types of collaborative development sessions?

Tim:
You know, it really depends on the client. Sometimes I’ll get a client, I call them core clients, and they say, “Tim, we want you to talk about your collaboration method to our team. We want you to walk them through those seven steps. We want you to use those couple of case studies we saw on your YouTube video to get them motivated.” If it’s a core client like that, that just wants to take my expertise off the shelf, then I would suspect that customization’s maybe 20% of the talk. Maybe a little bit more, where I try to find some in market examples or I’m applying it to some broken part of their collaboration process. So 80% in that situation is from my “repository”.

Tim:
Unfortunately Michael, that’s not all my gigs. That’s less than half of my gigs. Oftentimes a client comes in and says, “I like this thing you said on this video.” You know, we call it a sliver of prospective. But when you talk to them you realize that’s not an hour. And you also realize that that’s not the real higher order problem they’re trying to address. In that case, especially if they’re paying full fee, which is 25 grand, in those cases I’ll do up to 80% custom for them. And I’ll spend up to $2,000 or $3,000 on research analysts to go find the great information to support that. But a piece of that has to do with, are they a $25,000 client and is this an account worth building? If it’s an account worth building, I’m going to over invest. And we’re going to customize so much they’ll push back and say, “Oh gosh, that’s too much in industry.” That’s when you know you really got it right.

Tim:
And that’s the other thing too, is that I think about everything I do now in terms of account management. So the problem with speakers is that they’re like one night stands. You know, you get brought into an event, you tell your story, you’ll probably never be back there again. You kind of hope you are. But you can’t imagine why they’d bring you back to tell your story a second time. Those are one night stands. And you can be in our business three or four years doing one night stands. But starting about year five, if you really want to do 50 gigs a year at full fee, and that fee’s higher than when you started, you better be building accounts. So like this year for example, 40% of my revenue comes from two accounts. And I’m talking about the volume of my gigs, not consulting services. I’m doing one account eight times this year in Rochester, New York. A hospital. And I’ve grown that account. And next year they’re going to renew for six more events at a higher price point, and that’s an account. And then I’ll revisit old accounts, so yeah.

Michael:
Yeah, we’re seeing more and more of those kinds of relationships developed with folks who are experienced. It may be something a little bit … Take a little bit more challenging to earn in the beginning of your career, but once you get to a point where you’re pretty well established, it seems that these larger organizations feel much more comfortable booking an individual speaker to do a tour, rather than taking a bunch of small bets on different folks hoping that they’ll all work out. But if they find somebody they feel like, you know what, this person is really dialed in to our world. They understand the way the world looks to us. They’ve got very specific protocols, methodologies to help solve our, what we feel are unique problems or issues. Let’s just put all our chips in on Tim Sanders.

Tim:
That’s a piece of it. Absolutely. And they become more comfortable with it. You become more candid with their audiences so you become an insider. You’re a fraction of the cost of a consulting firm. You’re a fraction of the time required of a consulting firm, but they’re getting all the value. But from my standpoint, let me tell you why this account based approach is so important. As a speaker, many of us leave our business job, like I was an executive at Yahoo, and we begin to speak. And the day we begin to speak is the day we become cut flowers. So when I was at Yahoo as the Chief Solutions Officer, I was part of a bush and we had deep roots into the ground, and we were fertilized often. And when I stopped being the Chief Solutions Officer at Yahoo and started to become the speaker, even though we have a research company, which mostly is just research for the speeches, all of a sudden, my relevance starts to wane just like cut flowers start to get a little bit yellow and they get kind of brown.

Tim:
And you got two choices. You either got to go back to work for a few years and get more expertise that’s current, or you’ve got to dive deeper into accounts, taking on assignments that require you to do rigorous research and harder work than you ever thought you were going to do as a speaker. And it keeps you relevant. So here’s an example to illustrate this Michael. So hospital at Rochester, New York, hires me a couple of years ago to come in and talk about my work from the likeability factor. You know, specifically around emotional intelligence. And so I do it. And so they say, “We really like it. The doctors like you, they hate most speakers. Can we do something more?” And I said, “Well what are some of the priorities you have for change management next year that communications can be a part of?” And they said, “Well, we’re really trying to develop a wellness curriculum for our top 400 doctors.” And so we kind of brainstormed a little bit and they gave me some assignments. And I ended up bringing in one person, Dr. Bob, which Amy suggested. So he’s the guest star.

Tim:
So we ended up figuring out a four part wellness program. $100,000, four part wellness program. And part number one was stress management. Part number two was burnout, which is something I’ve been researching for my new book. Part number three, which I’m delivering in a few weeks in incivility, which we call low level bullying. And part number four is going to be joy in performance, finding joy in your work and that’s what Dr. Bob’s going to come in and do. Well, what’s been interesting to me is that, in doing all this work to prepare 90 minute sessions on stress management, role based burnout, and incivility, I have dramatically increased my IP around subjects that I only had tertiary knowledge of a year before. So now Michael, I could tell you the history of stress management. I could explain to you the balancing act we have with our job from a design standpoint. I could actually give you two or three laser specific pieces of advice to live a low stress life based on a very wide literature review of what actually works. And I could go through the same process with you on burnout and I could do the same thing on incivility now. As a speaker, this makes a big difference to me. Because that comes into my arsenal. And this is just one account.

Tim:
And I’ve learned that as you get deeper and deeper into the accounts, you begin to take on assignments, and the assignments force you back into research and all of a sudden I’m a bush again and I got roots. And my roots are the account work that I’m doing.

Michael:
When you’re going into this type of development process, do you take some time to also consider how the fruits of this research and the fruits of your labor will apply to the other work you’re doing or future projects so that you can see how you might leverage it over time?

Tim:
Absolutely. So for example, I think I mentioned before, my core topic is collaboration. That’s what we’ve been doing work on for years now and I’ve got this proprietary process. That’s what I love to talk about. We’ve literally got over a hundred case studies. So it’s a really good deep arsenal for us. Well guess what? The work that I’m doing on incivility, low level disrespect, little insults, is actually really feeding my advice point on how to run magic meetings with people that don’t like each other, which is a big part of corporate collaboration. If you’re really good at corporate collaboration, you know how to take the sales team, the delivery team, and the engineering team, who are all at war with each other because of broken promises and get them to actually collaborate. Well guess what? Now that I understand the signs of incivility, now that I understand how to explain the negative impact of incivility on creativity and engagement, and then most importantly, talk about some of the solutions to incivility. Cognitive rehearsal for example for pushing back. Using video based interventions for taking repeat offenders and showing them the error of their ways.

Tim:
Now I have that to add to the nuance of my collaboration talk. Especially when my collaboration talk is just like the one I got of the phone, which is focused on competitors collaborating with each other. Well now I can talk about hey, Downtown Abbey, The Office behavior, will blow up your collaboration project for these three reasons. And here’s how to recognize it, simple things. Eye rolling for example, believe it or not, is the gateway drug to harassment and bullying. And you have that, because look at this video tape from your last collaboration process. So you can see that, if I’m always trying to connect the dots and I ask myself, what do my fringe programs do to inform my core program, then you grow. But this bleeds to the point though Michael that sometimes you got to say no to work that’s outside of your through line.

Michael:
So that was my next question, is what’s the boundary for you?

Tim:
Well, to use a Tamsen Webster analogy here, you know, from The Red Thread. The thread that pulls through all of my work is the power of human relationships and the complexity of navigating them. Okay, everything I do has to do with that. Love is the Killer App had to do with that, Likeability Factor has to do with that, my collaboration topic is entirely centered on that. So when I take assignments I always ask myself, does that fit my through line? So when they came to me with wellness and they focused on how do we deal with stress, well stress is a huge part of managing relationships. If we are stressed as individuals, we will not be relational. Burnout fits the through line of the new book I’m working on called Fuel. About how somebody can do something thousands of times well at a high level. And the constant struggle we all have with burnout and how burnout affects our relationships. Well that fits my through line and incivility was just a spinoff of Likability Factor as far as I was concerned. So this assignment as audacious as it was, kind of fit the model.

Tim:
Whereas one of my other accounts, which is a software company, wanted me to do some work with them on the buyer’s journey. And the buyer’s journey work wasn’t so much about the relationships between a sales person and a customer, but instead thinking about different ways that we can jump over procurement, get involved in the process earlier with content marketing. I ended up referring that to somebody. Because that just wasn’t my through line, so all the extra work I would do to go through all of that learning curve wouldn’t have long term value for me and I’d lose money on that account. And furthermore, there’s a chance I wouldn’t deliver at the level I’m accustomed to delivering at because if it’s part of my through line I have enough background knowledge to be a really good student and to pick things up really quickly, and to notice things that other people usually don’t notice so that I can add some real value at the insight level. So I am kind of picky about it. But the good news is, if your digital footprint is big enough and it’s based on video like mine is, people know what you talk about. And they come to you with assignments that have some connection to what you talk about.

Tim:
If on the other hand all of your marketing is verbal, and it’s just a bunch of I’m a great speaker and testimonials and pictures of you in front of a thousand people and in your room humbled and honored to be in a suite, then we really don’t know what you talk about, we just know that you talk a lot. Well that’s when you’re going to get assignments that don’t fit. That’s why I tell everybody now, your footprint needs to be almost all video, it needs to be demonstrative, it needs to be all about your perspective. I no longer market testimonials and humble brags and those other kind of things that most people do.

Michael:
So we touched on in the beginning of the conversation, a bit about your preparation plan. In terms of being able to connect with the stakeholders and understand what their key objectives are. Now, when you’re speaking to an audience, you have a number of different types of audience members. So let’s say it’s a corporation. Well you’ve got, your frontline folks, you’ve got the middle management, you’ve got the C-suite, you’ve got folks from the meeting planner, whoever the meeting planner is. There’s a number of different types of folks that are in the room. Do you have a particular approach to supporting or serving all of those groups in one speech?

Tim:
Well yeah. It’s a very good question Michael. So, one of my early influences … I wouldn’t call her a mentor because we only had about a half dozen conversations, Peggy Noonan. And she talked to me about Reagan and the Challenger speech. One of his most famous speeches. And what made the Challenger … You know, the Challenger tragedy and the speech that Reagan did after the tragedy. And what makes that such a special speech was his ability to speak to the different constituencies in an effective way that didn’t confuse the others. So he was able to speak to the educators who’d lost their own. He was able to speak to the general public who was fearful. He was able to speak to the teams at NASA who were going through tragedy. And in a single speech he spoke to them all. And that’s really an interesting talent set. And she said to me, “Your ability to speak to them all without confusing them all is the trick to writing a really good speech, unless you have this monolithic audience that you do get every once in a while.”

Tim:
So if you speak at a sales conference, sometimes your instructions are to speak to the sales people about behavioral change, while their bosses and their coworkers watch them be educated. That really can be an assignment in many situations. If you speak at a trade association you’ve got an audience of trade association members, so that’s more monolithic. I get a mixture. Sometimes I get a monolithic audience assignment and sometimes I get a multi audience assignment. So like the call I just got off of, there’s going to be 100 sales people and then there’s going to be 200 of their coworkers that handle everything from delivery to corporate com, to marketing, to the staff, to the engineers who work on the tech, and even some supplier partners. I’ve got to speak to them too. And so what I find is that when you’ve got a multifaceted audience doing what we do, you have to have a message that takes the whole room from me to we. So what I don’t do, is try to tailor to each one of the audience’s objectives, because it’s going to create friction between the audience members themselves. What I try to do is find something bigger than everyone, that we can all agree is where we want to go.

Tim:
So in the case of the company I just talked to, the bigger thing they’ve got to do is go up market. Because if they don’t go up market, their business is going to die for a variety of reasons. So that’s the one thing I can talk about that brings together engineering and sales and delivery and marketing together as one. So I think that’s a big part of the solution, is to look for those higher order value propositions that get people out of their team and make them members of the one team in the room. And I think that’s the easiest way to do it, but you can also do it the hard way like Reagan did and tailor. But you know, Reagan didn’t need to deliver takeaways and insights that people acted on and I do.

Michael:
Correct. And he had speech writers working on it.

Tim:
He did, and he was allaying fears and sadness, and that’s just a whole different animal altogether. But you know in our business, the one thing I learned early in my career from Nick Morgan, who I know you know well-

Michael:
Yeah, good friend.

Tim:
Is that if you want to do this for 20 years, you’ve got to evolve from being a good story teller to being a person that moves an audience to action. Because the only way you get brought back a bunch of times is behavioral change. Storytellers get brought in once. I heard his story, that’s it.

Michael:
Indeed.

Tim:
Yep. And I think, kind of transitioning here a little bit, when I look at the arc of a speaking career, usually it begins with a person who has a really compelling story. And their background story, how you describe her, makes them a butts in seats speaker. You go wow, she was the first female jet fighter ever. You go, “Wow. That must have been really difficult. That must have been really hard. To get the respect, to get people to mentor you all the … Yeah, bet it is.” And then she tells her story. Here’s how I become a female jet fighter. And that’s going to work for a period of time. And then what she’s going to begin to transition to over the course of the years is how to break through the glass ceiling. How to deal with people that don’t trust you. How to establish rapport and communication in a world that’s divided. And so where her story becomes the background as opposed to the foreground. So I think for speakers, what we have to understand is that we all kind of start out telling our story, how I did it. That’s how I started. That’s how you started.

Tim:
Book Yourself Solid starts with a premise. You booked yourself solid, how did you do it Michael? I’m going to tell you. Love is a Killer App. I went from sales guys to CSO at Yahoo in four years. How did you do it? Well, I’m going to tell you. But I couldn’t live on that. Not for very long.

Michael:
Yeah, it’s interesting. That’s something that is similar to what we just did with Alison Levine.

Tim:
Exactly.

Michael:
I interviewed her for the podcast, and she was speaking about this on the show, so it’s not confidential information. But, she built her career based on what she had done as an explorer. And she’s been doing the same speech for about eight plus years and she’s ready to do the next speech. But she said, “Listen, I’m at a place in my career now, where I do 100 gigs a year. I can’t show up and work on this speech on the stage in front of audiences for the next eight years to get it to where my current speech is. Nobody’s going to accept that. They’re not going to go for that.” And she wanted to accelerate that process considerably, but that was a big part of our focus was, how do we take these experiences and make them actionable and much more universal? And she does it very, very well.

Tim:
Yeah, and I think that’s important. And I think that if I looked at our career, I think about it. An analogy I would use is like a tree. And there’s low hanging fruit, there’s mid hanging fruit, and there’s fruit at the to of the trees. Here’s what I think after mentoring a lot of speakers over the course of my career. Really paying attention to the market. 70% of a 20 year career is middle of the tree fruit. 70%. The first 20% is the low hanging fruit that comprises your fantastic three to six years. I call it hot sauce. Every bureau agent’s like “Oh, he’s great, she’s great. It’s a great story. It’s compelling.” And it goes for a while and that’s all the low hanging fruit. And then all of a sudden, it’s gone and you drop off that cliff, that plateau. And then there’s all the mid hanging fruit and it’s the fruit that almost fits. They haven’t really ever heard of you. You’re not quite an exact fit, but you seem like you have some expertise. And you’re going to have to move to insights that are based on action. And you’re going to have to learn how to customize. You’re going to have to learn how to tailor to get to that middle fruit.

Tim:
The stuff at the top of the trees is audacious. You’re usually trying to compete with guys like Magic Johnson or Brene Brown or Mel Robbins. And you want to go get that fruit at the top of the tree and that’s out of your control. It really is. I really encourage speakers not even to approach top of the tree. It’ll happen to you if it’s supposed to happen to you. It’s that middle of the tree where you roll your sleeves up and say, what does everything I’ve learned really mean to the audience from an action standpoint and what process can I develop to scale my ability to grow and customize? And that’s really what I’ve thought a lot about.

Michael:
Yeah. When I was speaking, one of my goals was to be the person that followed Magic Johnson or someone like Magic Johnson. Because I knew that I was a subject matter expert and I could provide that kind of actionable, very relevant experiences for the audience. And they had got their sort of taste of celebrity and their excitement from Magic. And then I can come in and be much more hard hitting and it worked very well to create that kind of contrast or balance.

Tim:
Oh absolutely. And that’s a really good way to look at it. And it’s also kind of a great way to get over those situations where Magic comes in and 1,500 of the 1,200 registered attendees show up for him. They can’t get a body in the room, and then they take a coffee break and then you go up at four and it’s 350 people. And you could be devastated or you can realize that the audience just concentrated to people that really want to improve their lives and their business, and that’s your audience. And you get over that if that’s your mentality.

Michael:
So I think you get over that if you’re focused on results rather than approval.

Tim:
That is correct. By the way, I just had this situation with Magic Johnson three weeks ago in Boston. Because there’s two categories of speaker. There’s butts in seats and takeaway speakers and they’re different. They really are. And a butts in seats speaker is the one that drives registration, everybody shows up for their event, but usually they really don’t deliver long lasting value. I’m not putting down Magic here, he’s a great guy, great speaker. But there’s also the folks like you and I. We get brought in to deliver the educational value at the conference. There is some registration value to us there. Is going to be some attendants, but it’s not going to be like the butts in seats person. And again, I think one of the things in our business is you have to be okay with that. I mean, I’ve been on gigs where Obama had spoken the night before and it was a similar thing. Hanging on rafters. You come in the next day, room’s half full. It’s not a statement about me, it’s a statement about the butts in seats speaker’s fame.

Michael:
And it also helps … And I mention approval vs. results because it helps to be clear about our role. What is our role at that particular event at that moment in time? And if we want to play a different role than the role we’ve been cast in for that particular conference, it’s probably not going to go very well.

Tim:
Right, let’s talk about that. I love the concept of what’s my role? When I mentor speakers, that’s one of the things I try to get into their head a little bit, is that you need to know two things about the role. The global thing you need to understand about your role is that you’re not a guest. You’re not a rockstar. You haven’t been brought in as a reward for the fact that your book is successful or you’re on the media. You are a vendor. You are one of the vendor suppliers they hired for the conference, really.

Michael:
Agree completely.

Tim:
Okay. And your attitude should be according. So Tom Peters who mentored me, taught me that early. I told him after I did my first gig for pay, I came back and said, “Tom I love this. This is great. I want to do this my entire life.” And he said, “Sanders, then never forget, you’re just an f’ing vendor and likely the most overpaid one on site. So be gracious and be agreeable and use the word yes.” And I’ve done that my entire career. There’s a group that you and I belong to on Facebook for speakers. But it’s like fight club. Rule number one, never talk about fight club. But there’s a group that we belong to and I’m always the get off my lawn guy, when somebody posts the client wanted me to send them my slides in advance and I gave them a hard pass. And then a bunch of new speakers, they jump on their and say, “Yep, that’s what I say.” And people put GIFs on there, like no bueno, I’m not going to do it. And I always come on and say, “You are a vendor. You are an over paid vendor. If they want your slides, give them your slides. If you’re doing the gig for free, then require them to pay you. But if you’re being paid, give them your slides because that’s part of what we do in service.”

Michael:
That’s right.

Tim:
And I always say that. Or they’ll say, “Well we want you to tailor the remarks to our people.” And I’ll see people like, “Nope, nope. Don’t do that. I do my speech. If they don’t want my speech, they don’t want me.” And I’ll be right there in the comment thread. You see me all the time. I just remind people, that’s not our role. That’s what you do when the rockstar special guest that’s coming in as a favor and doing something free for your company. So the president of the biggest company in your entire market is agreeing to come on and she’s going to share some insights about how they do things. You’re going to get what you’re going to get. You can’t ask her to do anything. She’s not even on the payroll for you. So it’s really important to understand, first and foremost, you’re a vendor. And that’s what I call, the practical role you have as a speaker. The second way I think about role, is what is your emotional role as a speaker? Are you a keynote? Are you a breakout? If you’re a keynote, then you’re supposed to establish the tone. If you’re a breakout, you’re supposed to move the ball forward. That’s really different.

Tim:
So a keynote speaker needs to have an emotional through line. They need to inspire the audience to action. There needs to be a long lasting effect. Whereas the workshop or breakout speaker needs to improve on the attendee’s mechanics around some item. So that’s important. So I’m a keynote, then the last question I ask about your emotional role, is are you the opening keynote? Are you the closing keynote? Do you kick off the … Where do you fit in the realm of everything else? Because that makes a big difference. So if you are the opening keynote, you need to start off with a bang. Because you’re literally setting the tone for the entire conference. If you are the closing keynote, you need to connect the dots and put a bow on it. Because you’re literally closing the conference and having the most control over what they do when they get home. So those are two really important things we have to ask ourself going into events.

Michael:
You know, one of the things that you may not be aware of Tim, is … You know when we met. We first met in 2003 or four. And you may not remember our first meeting, but the speech that you gave when I met you was on Love Is the Killer App, which was your first book. And it was a really magical experience. I had not seen a lot of keynotes. As you know, I came from TV and film. And it’s not a world of keynotes. Like you don’t go to conferences as an actor. And then when I went into business, the industry that I was in had a lot of conferences but they were a little bit different than what most business keynoters speak at. And so yours was one of the first keynotes that I saw from a professional. And I remember sitting there in the audience and just watching as at the end of the keynote you had people stand up and find somebody to give a hug to. It was a really simple, very beautiful experience. And people were crying-

Tim:
And I played One by U2 while they did it, if you remember.

Michael:
Yeah.

Tim:
And I left the room. I didn’t ask for the standing ovation, I didn’t want to do all that. I did the whole thing. I spoke an hour, and then I said, “I want you to find someone in the room you care about. I want you to go over and I want you to connect with them.” The song came on. It created the emotional backdrop. And as they began to lose me in their own efforts to find another person. I found an escape and I left the stage, so that at the end of the song, they kind of looked around and realized they’d bonded as one. It was a confusing moment, but it was a good kind of confusing and it was something I really thought about and tried to engineer. Because I was kicking off that conference and that was my role.

Michael:
Yeah. And what you did is you made the experience about them, rather than about you. And I had that realization at the moment. I don’t know if I was actually participating in the hugging, because I think I was watching as a student and so I was analyzing it throughout. And I just remember, even watching it as a student, I still experienced what these other folks were experiencing. And I thought, wow, he gets what it means to be in service of an audience. And he also understands how to use theatrical elements coupled with educational and dramatic narrative, to create a really meaningful experience for the audience. Because what we see very often when speakers come in and they want to up level their work, is they may be very good at providing educational experiences or maybe they’re very good at providing very theatrical experiences. But the ones who are the most effective are the ones who if you made two circles and you overlapped them, the section that overlapped would be the theatrical elements plus the educational narrative or dramatic narrative together. And I think you do that very well. You’re very intentional about it.

Michael:
One of your core principles that shows up in all of your books and all of your speeches, is to put love in the center of everything you do. And you say that the more you give intangibles to your employees, or to anyone that you’re in relationships with, the more that they give in proving the value of that relationship. So knowledge, network of personal relationships, compassion, et cetera. So how can speakers and meeting planners use this concept to work together more effectively in the speaking industry?

Tim:
A very good question. So knowledge becomes the foundation by which we build relationships. We share knowledge with each other. We minister to each other’s deficiencies of insight. And we are absolutely transparent. And we take on the role of mentor, even though me may not say it in conversation. So as a speaker, we need to consider ourself a mentor to everyone we interact with at a conference, not just the CEO of the sponsoring organization. In other words, our first and foremost duty is to mentor the meeting planner with humility and empathy. First and foremost. Long before you hit the stage, if you’ve done your job that meeting planner is more confident about her meeting because she’s talked to you and got your insights, and you kind of build upon that. Then all of a sudden now she marshals together the chief marketing officer and you talk to her and then she brings together the product marketing team and you talk to them. And every step of the way, you’re transferring knowledge. How do you do that? You’re doing your homework before you get on the call. You’re very in the moment and focused. You’ve organized your repository of bits. I mentioned that before, those knowledge clusters where you can put your hands on them right away.

Tim:
And everywhere you go you’re mentoring and it culminates in a speech that mentors the entire audience. So it’s not just the speech, it’s the entire process. And by the way, that entire process makes you a better speaker. So as you mentor the meeting planner through gratitude and through trust, all of a sudden, she’s now getting you access to a wider group of stakeholders than most speakers get access to. Because she’s like, talking about you. You got to speak to Michael, he’s going to blow your mind. So now the CMO, who’s not on any other speaker planning calls, is on your call. You mentor the CMO, she can’t stop talking about you to her team. All of a sudden now, the actual product team is willing to do a 30 minute supplemental with you. Well guess what? You’re getting deep on knowledge at this point about that company. Now you’re able to stand up in front of their 500 employees a month later and rock the house. It’s a process Michael.

Michael:
It sure is. You know it’s interesting that you mention that because earlier you referenced the fact that sometimes speakers say, well I don’t want to give my slides or we often see people complain about, oh I have to do this 30 minute pre-speech client meeting, as if it’s a chore to do. My theory is, well, I’ll get on the phone with you as many times as you want, with as many people as you want. I’ll go to as many breakfasts as you want. I’ll do as many sessions as you want when I’m there. In fact, you want to make the whole conference with me leading it? I’ll do that. It doesn’t seem to be a way to produce productive relationships by limiting our interaction with people. In fact, I think we should be doing the opposite. We become institutionalized, we become part of that organization, the more involved we are.

Tim:
Absolutely. And I think we have to think of ourself as kind of a player coach instead of a diva or a rockstar. Because we do. The reason we don’t want to do all the extra work is we thought that the speech was a reward for our accomplishments. We grew up seeing those speakers.

Michael:
And also Tim, I think that’s one of the reasons that people under prepare.

Tim:
Absolutely.

Michael:
Because they see their previous work as the important litmus test for their value. When in fact, nobody really knows much about what you did before other than a couple lines in your bio. The only thing that matters to them is what is happening in that moment at that time. And so it seems to me that the amount of work that we put into something that we’re asking to be paid a lot of money for … Regardless of whether you make 50,000 a speech or 500 a speech. Even $500 is a lot of money for a speech. So, it seems to me that just relying on having experiences of substance is not enough.

Tim:
There’s always someone who’s had more experience than you, that’s sold more books than you, that’s more famous than you. And oftentimes I see people getting put in their place pretty quickly in their career when that kind of lines up, but it’s hard to see going in.

Michael:
Yeah. One of the things that you do … I don’t know if you always do this, but you create blog posts for meeting attendees after you’ve spoken at their event.

Tim:
Oh yeah, yeah.

Michael:
Yeah, what’s the goal of these posts and how have they helped your speaking and training business grow?

Tim:
So there’s three ways I do it. Here’s the whole point of it. I love to give people stuff they can use after the event and I don’t want to rely on them having to take notes. Because the more they feel like they have to take notes, the less they can pay attention to what I’m saying. The harder it is for me to make that emotional connection. The harder it is, as Victoria Labalme would say, to stop time as a speaker. So I try to give them comfort. And I say, “At the end of this talk I’m going to give you a URL where you can download everything I just said. A document with the top 10 takeaways. The key slides I’m showing you right now. Five books I didn’t write that I recommend that you read. Or in some cases, an edited version. A detailed outline of my entire keynote and I’m going to give that to you later, listen to what I’m saying now.” And then as I kind of get to the end of the talk … And I’ll show it twice. I don’t want to finish on logistics, I want to finish on a magic moment. So I do it twice towards the end. Then I put it up and it’s usually timsanders.com/. If their conference is called Connected 19, it’s that. Or if the company is called Ilineal, it’s that.

Tim:
And that goes one of the three places. It can go to a Dropbox, assuming that’s okay with their IT and how their firewall works for their employees. It goes to a Dropbox folder, just redirects. And the Dropbox folder has those things in it. Document number one, top takeaways. Document number two … These are all PDF’s by the way Michael. Never a PowerPoint. It’s a PDF. Key charts from Tim’s talk. Document three, book recommendations. And I point to there. And I do that when the client says, “Dropbox is fine with us and we don’t want you to do anything promotional.” So they would be itchy if I sent them to my actual website with all the navigation and all the links and all of the selling of books and all of that. So I go to Dropbox if they’re itchy about me being promotional. If they don’t really care, then I write a blog post that does the same thing. So we’re actually on the call right now, so I’ll summon up one of those for you in just a second. So in that case, that’ll be a blog post that says something to the effect of, “Thank you very much for coming to my talk and as I mentioned, the outline for my talk is here,” which hyperlinks.

Tim:
So for example, right now, I’ve got one here. If you go to timsander.com/eqrecruiting. That’s EQ, like emotional intelligence. EQ Recruiting. So timsanders.com/eqrecruiting. Then you’ll see a very simple little pithy blog post that just says, “Pleasure to meet you. As promised, my presentation slides are here,” linked to a PDF. “The reading faces exercise is here,” linked to a PDF. “My list of recommended reads is here. And then here’s some interesting articles you can read for more emotional intelligence for recruiting and four key articles that are all linked.” And that’s something that they go to.

Tim:
I like that Michael, because now they’re inside Tim world. They can sign up for my newsletter. They can click now on keynote speaker. Maybe bring me to their event. So there’s a lot of value there. The third thing I’ll do if the first two aren’t enough, is I’ll create a small ebook just for them. And the ebook basically utilizes simple Adobe Creative Cloud resources. And it takes all the documents that I just mentioned to you and puts them into one document. Maybe even includes a chapter of one of my books that my publisher’s okay with me giving away. So now it’s this 40 page PDF that’s been optimized to read on Kindle. And they can have that. And sometimes the client will send that out to everybody after the talk.

Tim:
So I’ve been doing that because it’s just another way to add a little bit of value. It gives you a lot more staying power, and it helps you deliver a more behavioral change. And it scales. It’s really not that hard to do those things.

Michael:
One last question. One of the things that you’re known for is sharing resources. You have great skill at being able to identify the big idea in a book and share that in a very, very simple, consumable way that gets people excited about whatever resource you’re sharing. And I think it’s beautiful. I think it’s wonderful. It’s something that I’ve modeled over the years. And I’m wondering if there are any books that you recommend our listeners read that are outside of what one would typically think of as the books you should read if you want to do more speaking? So, obviously my books, or Nick’s books, or whomever, these are all inside the disclosive space of the speaking world. Is there anything that you think folks should dive into that might be non-obvious, that would help them be better communicators or more effective presenters?

Tim:
Sure. So I often recommend The Experience Economy by Joseph Pine and Jim Gilmore because it helps us understand that what the market really wants from us is for us to create a memorable and engaging experience. But to do that, we first have to deliver benefits. But we can’t be locked into just delivering benefits. So even though on this call you and I have discussed me delivering benefits to an audience, at the end of the day I’m always thinking about okay, but how does that all translate into a memorable and engaging experience? And so I love that book because it’s outside of the realm of what we do, but it helps you accomplish that. Another book I like a lot is Made to Stick, by the Heath brothers. Because their approach to things is, how do I create a message that not only resonates with a person, not only is sticky with a person, but has a long lasting impact on a person. And what is the construction of that persuasive experience? So I love that one too. I recommend it a lot. And then, if I haven’t gone there enough, I absolutely insist that people read Joseph Campbell. And I do think that is somewhat outside of the realm of what we do. But I tell people all the time, if you want to be a good storyteller, then you must slog through Joseph Campbell’s book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

Michael:
It is a bit of a slog, but it is worth it.

Tim:
It will change your life. Hey, before we hang up, there’s one more thing I want to add I thought about that I was getting ready for the call. You really help people level up. Especially in the realm of their performance and their delivery. And one of the things that you and Amy both advise a lot of people on, is how to be better at using pause. And how to really think about your rate of speaking. Really important. I take a lot away from that. One of the things I’ve learned Michael, is that as time goes by, it becomes more important for you to watch videos of your audience, and less important for you to watch videos of yourself. So there was a turning point for me about seven years ago where I moved from reviewing stage footage of me, watching my body language, watching what I did, getting engrossed in what I said, and instead, I’m watching the audience cams. And now when I go to events, I always set up what we call a spy cam somewhere. It’s literally a GoPro camera I’ll hide in the room. And all I do is shoot the audience. I never use that footage, I don’t have permission to do that. But that’s what I watch.

Tim:
So I hear myself while I have to watch them. It is the most brutal experience a speaker will ever go through is to watch people fall asleep, roll their eyes, get board and pick up their phone, fold their arms when they disagree with logic, get lost when you’re trying to tell them a story, laugh when you tell a good joke, cry when you tell a compelling story, nudge somebody else when you hit a soft spot that no one else has spoken about in the meeting. All of that comes from watching the audience. And so I tell speakers, if you want to make the next leap to performance art, do that. And it’s hard on you emotionally.

Michael:
100% agree.

Tim:
It’s easy to watch us because we’re gorgeous and we’re great at movement and we’re eloquent. But that’s not always what the audience sees. And that’s how I refine my stories. That’s how I cut parts of my speech. I’ve eliminated sections where I go you know what, third time I’ve seen this. It doesn’t work with this sliver of the audience, I’m not going to use it anymore. Or sometimes, unbeknownst to me, some aside that I’m making during a case study is apparently hilarious to a sector of the audience. I’ll pick up on that.

Tim:
I’ve even had a recent thing where I get so many speeches back, it’s really hard to have time to do all the logging of those speeches for your social clips. So I began to look around for Upworkers. I told you, I’m a big commercial for Upwork. And I found one that specialized in batch logging for entertainers. So they take a look at all the entertainer does and they batch log it. Well the way they approached me was they just looked at the sound wave from my stuff. And every time the sound wave went up between what I said, that was the audience response. And they 100% just dialed into those. And it was a remarkably different way of looking at a speech. And they were also able to show me a plot line of like what was the gap between emotional responses of my audience. And as I began to close that gap, my speeches got better. And as I began to kind of look at that sound wave, I also realized what as really working, that I was not able to detect in real time. Anyway, just interesting stuff about the value of the tapes that we get back and how easy it is for us to create our own tapes just for the purpose of review. And what a difference that’ll make.

Michael:
And if I may, I’d love to add something else to consider in there as well. At the stage of development that you started doing that, I imagine that you, when you leave the stage, know what you did. And that’s very different than many less experienced performers. So for example, you know how sometimes someone will get of stage and be like, Oh my God, I was so pumped, that was incredible. I mean, I don’t know what I did, I’m not even sure what I said, but it was great.” And often that’s not actually the case. In fact, it often didn’t land. But a professional performer knows exactly what they did, when they did it, at what moment. They know, oh shoot, I took two steps to the left, I should have taken two steps to the right. And so you get to the point where you’re able to observe yourself as you’re performing and you’re able to recall the majority of what you did. And then, being able to see the audience is even more helpful. Because you know what you were doing when you’re watching the audience respond to what you were doing. If somebody does not yet have enough awareness to know what they were doing, if they start by watching the audience, they may not know how to translate what they’re seeing.

Tim:
Absolutely. That’s a really good point. And we point to that often misquoted research for Dr. Mehrabian. A lot of times, we think the audience reaction was based on verbal when in fact sometimes it was based on nonverbal. So when an audience got board and picked their phone up and started checking Twitter, it’s because the speaker had happy feet. And his pacing made it difficult if not strenuous for us to pay attention to him so we did something else. I mean, that’s absolutely the case. So there’s things we do with our body and space with that reptilian brain that create audience reactions. I will still go back and watch myself, especially when I see a big audience reaction. I’ll kind of log that and say, 48 minutes, 32 seconds, go back and watch that with either the cam one or presentation cam, and then I’ll go back and watch it and go oh.

Tim:
I have a recent example for this Michael. So I have this bit I do about why I like video. And I do everything over video and I don’t like to do conference calls. I think they’re a goat rodeo. And I show these statistics about what people are doing on a conference call instead of listening to us. And one of the ones I had was like the number three thing we’re doing is we’re sending email. And I say, “Number three, people send email.” And then I say, “And sometimes to you.” And the audience breaks out in a huge laughter. And when I went back and watched it, the reason they did that is because I looked back at my own slide to my right as if I was astonished. And then I looked back at the crowd and I shrugged my shoulders. And they laughed hysterically. It wasn’t what I said, it was the physical comedic impact and how much that might have reminded them, say like, that’s how Johnny Carson would have done that. Or somebody that I could follow in comedy. So yeah, you got to watch those. And I tell people all the time, no matter how experienced you are, if something big happens at a speech, I want to see it from all directions and I want to analyze it from every direction. Because you just don’t get that many.

Michael:
And, you know, one of the things that comes with mastery is the ability to more quickly analyze what made a bit successful. What made the thing work? Because your context is much broader. You have much more experience from which to draw. And that’s learning the language overtime. But that’s part of the process, is really understanding why something works when it works so that you can then learn how to repeat it if that’s something that you want to keep, so that you make it always work. And then it’s based on structure, craft, rather than just lucky timing or being in the moment and being on.

Tim:
That’s a great point. I recently sent out a compilation reel to a professional writer for comedians. He works for three very famous comedians. As you know, Michael, no one reveals their clients because you think Chis Rock writes all of his jokes. And if you found out that it was these two guys that are 70 years old you would think less of him. And you and I both know that’s the case. So I had this guy, he’s a professional writer for three major comics on the circuit and I send him compilation reels of my five biggest laughs, because I wanted to … Just like you were saying, I wanted to know where they came from. I wanted to understand why they were my five biggest laughs. This guy looked through all five of them, he said, “Well it’s really simple Tim. You set up a premise and then you surprised us by smashing it into pieces. So you set up a premise that people are on these conference calls and that they’re sending email, and then you surprised us, they’re sending email to you while you’re on the conference call with them. Well that’s surprising, that’s funny, that makes people laugh.” He says, “Next thing you did, you said this, you took them here and at the last second you had an aside, which was exactly the opposite.”

Tim:
Right, so I told this touching story about something that happened to me when I was 14 and this guy came up to me and he says, “Because you did this thing, I’m going to do this for you. And it’s going to change your life.” And he put it in my hands. And I was about to cry. And I said to the crowd, “Do you know what I learned from this experience?” And then I paused and I looked back at them, and I go, “Not an f’ing thing. I was 14. Are you crazy?” And they said good, see. So then the guy coached me and said, “Do you see what you did in four out of those five jokes? That’s what we do every day in comedy, is we set up a scene and then we smash it. And the surprise creates a nervous response in the part of the listener and it’s more attractive to laugh than to groan.”

Michael:
Yeah. 100%.

Tim:
And it’s like, wow, I never thought of it that way. So now as I look at bits I’m saying, where can I take them on a smart right turn, smart left turn? Because you know as a speaker, we’re not supposed to be comedians per se, but as Brian Palmer at Premier Speakers says, “You don’t have to be funny, unless you want to get paid.” So it is important to develop some bits that are funny and they’re never punching down. And it’s really hard. You know that Michael. There’s nothing worse than a joke that doesn’t land. But if you figured it out correctly, at the very worst case you get a spattering of response, but people go home and laugh later.

Michael:
Yeah. You know it’s structure and context. If you understand the context and you’ve got the right structure, even if you’re not somebody who feels like a very funny person, you can create humor in that moment.

Tim:
Yeah. And by the way folks, humor is not making fun of the crappy room that you were in last night that had the noise from the street, because every other attendee had that same experience and the meeting planner will just die.

Michael:
This is true.

Tim:
No punching down. Humor is about stupid things you do and stupid things we all do.

Michael:
Tim, I got to tell you, I think you’re such a delight and I think you’re such an important contributor to this community. You have helped so many people and I just thank you so much for being here. I know our listeners are grateful. And if they want to get in touch with you, how can they do that?

Tim:
Well I’m @SandersSays on every social network. And on LinkedIn, that’s the one I use the most. I’m there all the time. I’m interacting all the time. I’m taking DMs from people I’m not yet connected with all the time. So, LinkedIn is probably the best place to contact me. Just plug in, Tim Sanders Yahoo, and you’ll get the right Tim Sanders right off the bat.

Michael:
Fantastic. Tim, thank you so much for being here.

Tim:
Love your guts Michael. I always have.

Michael:
Thanks for listening to Steal the Show. I’m your host, Michel Port. We record our episodes at Heroic Public Speaking HQ. Thanks for listening and learning how to be a performer in your spotlight moments. Make sure to reach out to us on Instagram and Facebook at Heroic Pubic Speaking. And leave us a review on iTunes if you like the show. Until next time, keep thinking big about who you are and how you see the world. Bye for now.

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