On today’s episode of Steal the Show, we’re talking about the value that speakers bring to the stage…and beyond.

Simon T. Bailey is an author and the leader of the SPARK Movement whose purpose is to ignite sustainable transformation in people, systems, and nations. A former Sales Director for the Disney Institute, he shares his secrets for giving audiences not just what they want, but what they need. 

You can learn more about Simon here. And you can purchase a copy of his book here.

How You Can Steal the Show

  • Use your day job as R & D for your budding speaking career. 
  • Find out where the “money” can be found when you’re developing programs. 
  • Hear how Simon got started on writing the right message for himself. 
  • Increase your worth by setting yourself apart from a dime-a-dozen pile of speakers. 
  • Uncover how vulnerability amped up Simon’s impact on stage and led to a viral video. 
  • Rethink the business that speakers are really in. 
  • Simon’s #1 tip for success (you can apply it right away). 

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

Episode 122: Phil Jones on Getting the Gigs You Want

Episode 120: Alison Levine on How to Scale Your Story to a Referable Speech

Episode 099: Danny Iny on Creating Profitable, Scalable, and Effective Coaching Courses

Michael:
If you’ve ever considered taking the leap from your day job into a full time speaking, writing and consulting career, you’re not alone. Simon T Bailey left his job as a sales director for the Disney Institute to do just that. Ultimately developing a successful speaking career, a viral video with more than 87 million views, and an induction into the National Speakers Association Speaker Hall of Fame. The author of several books and the founder of The Spark Movement, which sets out to ignite sustainable transformation in people, systems and nations, Simon is living the dream he had while working for someone else. In this episode of Steal The Show, he shares with us his exit strategy from his job and his vision for a fulfilling future in the speaking industry. Thank you so much for being here, Simon.

Simon:
Good to be with you.

Michael:
So I’ve been trying to get you in front of our students for years now. I invited you to come to an HPS live a number of years ago. I think you had a gig at the same time so you couldn’t come, but I remember that you were very generous about wanting to come. So I finally got you here for our students.

Simon:
Well, it’s good to be with you finally.

Michael:
So I want to start by taking you back a little bit, because many of our students at HPS are in a transition from one career or job to another, often into a speaking career. And you know that place very well. You left your sales director job at the Disney Institute in, I think, 2003.

Simon:
Correct.

Michael:
Yeah, actually that’s when I left my last job. So we’re kindred spirits there, to write and to speak and train, consult, et cetera. So what gave you the itch to go elsewhere, and then what was your exit strategy and how did you make the leap?

Simon:
So I was in Disneyland Paris. Disney sent me over there to design a leadership program for 1,000 leaders out of Barclays Bank out of London. And I was on stage and lion King had just come out and I just said, “Remember who you are. You are more than what you have become.” I literally had this moment. And …

Michael:
Can you just do it one more time? Because that was so good. Just one more time. Come on, give me one more time.

Simon:
Remember who you are. You are more than what you were thinking.

Michael:
Yes. That was fantastic. That was fantastic.

Simon:
I recognized that day on stage that I had found my voice. So I went back to my hotel room, asked myself three questions. Number one, what would I do if I knew I couldn’t fail? Number two, what would I do if no one paid me to do it? And number three, what makes me come alive? And when I answered those three questions, I said “I want to speak write, train consultant, and coach.” So when I came back to Orlando from Paris, Disney promoted me to the a sales director role, but I said, “I’ll take this role with just one little twist. I want to still present to any of the executive groups that come to learn the Disney way.”

Simon:
So that’s what I did. And I created my exit strategy, which was accelerated a little bit faster when I got a call from a journalist, and whenever you work at Disney, you never talk to the media unless authorized. He said to me, “Where do you see yourself 10 to 15 years from now?” I said, “I see myself as the president and CEO of the Walt Disney World resort and chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney company. Michael Eisner, move over.” Well, this guy puts us in print, true story, no embellishment. And the article comes out, page 12 Florida Business Trend magazine, February, 2002 you see my picture with the Mickey mouse topiary behind me. And my boss calls me in the office like, “What the heck were you thinking?”

Simon:
So I say to him, Michael, I said, “Larry, I work at this company whose motto is, if your heart is in your dreams, no request is too extreme for when you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are. But obviously it does here.” So it’s funny today, not funny then, but that became the beginning of my exit strategy.

Michael:
Oh my goodness. So you had a little help that accelerated your exit strategy.

Simon:
Yes.

Michael:
So what do you think is helpful for people to consider when they have that impulse that you did, that realization when you went to see the show, but they don’t have somebody or something accelerate the choice, they haven’t actually made the choice yet, or they made it, but they haven’t actually decided when they’re going to act on it. What keeps people from following through, and what would be helpful to them if they really do want to make the change but haven’t been willing to do it yet?

Simon:
Yeah. I think three things. Number one, until you make a date with destiny, it will never … It’ll never happen. It’s never too late to become the person you might’ve been. So you’ve got to make that date with destiny and say, “Boom, this is what I’m going to do.” For me, it was February 1st, 2003. The second thing is once you identify the date when you’re going to go for it, it might be two, three years out. Then reframe how you see your place of employment and see them as an assignment that is training you and preparing you for the next move.

Simon:
So what do I mean by that? When I knew that I was going to leave Disney, I intentionally started to show up at meetings, go to different places, had a little journal with me where I kept copious notes. What did I learn? What did I see? What did I hear? What did I take away? In other words, Disney became my research and development for how I was going to launch my next career. And a lot of people don’t think that way because they’re comfortable with the paycheck. But when you start to say, “Wait a minute, they are paying me to go on the business for myself.” You have a whole new perspective.

Simon:
I think the third thing is really begin to put together a list of relationships you have both in the company, in the organization, and outside of the organization. So for me, I put together a list of 75 people that I was going to reach out to once I hung my shingle out and say, “Hey, here’s what I’m doing.” And I started calling them and I didn’t make it past the 25th person before the phone started ringing.

Michael:
Wow. So the phone started ringing after just 25 people?

Simon:
Yep. 25 people.

Michael:
And how many … I know you probably were doing a number of different things when you first left, rather than just keynoting, which is something that often takes a little time to, to develop, but what kind of work were you doing initially? I mean, did you get a lot of speeches right away or were you doing more consulting, coaching?

Simon:
I was doing more consulting. One of my first big opportunities was from a local hospital, and I just happened to run into the president at an event and I wasn’t trying to get his business. I just said, “The service at your hospital is horrible.” And he said, “Can you fix it?” I said, “Yes.”

Michael:
I wish that would happen every single time you had a conversation with a business. Can you imagine being on the phone with ATT, listen, I’ve got this issue and I feel like you guys are having trouble solving it and really, your customer service is not great. And they said, “Would you fix it? And we’ll pay you obscene amounts of money to do it, and you don’t even have to travel. How about that?” That’d be fantastic.

Simon:
Exactly, exactly. But to show you the power of relationships, one of the things I believe is relationships are the currency of the future. So I said yes to that opportunity, reached out to a friend of mine who had hired me at Disney Institute. She had her master’s in instructional design and had designed a ton of courses for Disney university and her name is DL. So I said, “DL, I got this, this opportunity with this hospital, but I have no content. I have concepts in my head.” And literally for a few weeks she just took everything out of my head and built an entire program. We ended helping them create a corporate university, had the contract for three years. The deal that I negotiated with them is that I would retain the IP, but I would license it to their corporate university. And fast forward, I brought it a couple of facilitators to do the training, because I was just starting to speak so I couldn’t show up every single day and train in the hospital.

Simon:
One of the ladies … To show you how this comes full circle, one of the ladies, she was in between jobs. I took good care of her, paid her on time, if not before time. She is now the chief human resource officer for the Atlanta Hawks and just had me come in and do an entire session for the leadership team of the Atlanta Hawks 17 years later.

Michael:
That’s fantastic. That’s fantastic.

Simon:
So it comes full circle. But we were able to use that IP to go and do some work for Walmart university, at a number of companies because what I recognized when I left Disney, the money was in the content. So that’s how we started.

Michael:
So do you do a lot of licensing of your own content now?

Simon:
You know what, I’m just now … With the new book, we’re starting to do that. We’ve already got a number of requests for that. And the new book is the book I’ve been wanting to write forever and yeah, we’re going to do that with the new book. I haven’t done it with my previous books because they skewed more to self-help, personal development. But this new book is pure business.

Michael:
So tell us a little bit about the new book, and I also would love to dig into what you just said about the book that I’ve always wanted to write because, because I wonder why you didn’t write it earlier, if it was the book you always wanted to write.

Simon:
Yeah, great question. So the new book is called Be The Spark: Five Platinum Service Principles to Create Customers for Life. And what we did is we looked at the 1,700 organizations that I’ve spoken to in the last 17 years. And we said, “Okay, we’ve interviewed high-performers, best in class in organization. Every brand has a spark, a man or woman who has decided to go above and beyond the call of duty to create an experience for that customer. And so that customer comes back to that brand because of the person first, the brand second.” So we said, “Oh my goodness, how do you create that type of culture where everyone matters and team members that the company has transferred psychological ownership of the brand to that person, and then they carry that out to the customer?”

Simon:
So organizations take care of their employees, employees take care of their customers. You know this. So that’s the book I always wanted to write, but here’s why I couldn’t write it before. And I’ll tell it to you in a form of a story. I was interviewing a chief nursing officer with American Nursing Association and she said, “You know Simon, you’re going to come and speak to our 10,000 nurses.” And she said, “Here’s what you need to know. A lot of people get out of school with an MBA, and they’re wicked smart, as they would say, in Boston. They’re really … They’ve got it going on and they’ve had a lot-”

Michael:
But I think the way they say it is wicked smart.

Simon:
Wicked smart, right, right. And she said they have a lot of concepts in their head, but they have no context for how this shows up. And the reason I didn’t write the book over the last … Until really the last two years is because I had all these concepts of what service look like, but I didn’t really have any context beyond Disney and Ritz Carlton Learning Institute to see how else is it showing up in a different industry, in a different market? Small, medium, large. So I couldn’t write the book because I didn’t have substance. I think the information that I had was a mile wide, but an inch deep, and so we had to do the work. We had to go and work with companies. So we looked at the hospital, but that was just one. We had to go and work in a number of different places to say, “Wait a minute, here is the dot. Here’s what it is.” So that’s why,

Michael:
Well, I’m really excited to dig into this book. I love your concept that it sounds like what you’re saying is your focus first should be on your employees because if you develop them as human beings and as professionals, then they’re going to do the same for the people that you serve.

Simon:
Yes.

Michael:
Would you agree with that? Is that … Am I hearing that correctly?

Simon:
You’ve literally summed it up very well.

Michael:
We found that you said that speaking is the new marketing, no matter what industry you’re in. And what does that mean for our entrepreneurs and corporate students who are learning speaking skills?

Simon:
So we are now living in a world where speakers are a dime a dozen, if the truth be told, right? And so speakers can get up and give a great speech. And I heard John Maxwell say something powerful a few weeks ago. He said, “Many communicate but few connect.” So if we are going to really differentiate ourselves in this speaking profession, thought leadership, how do we connect, not just one time, but literally create an emotional footprint in their heart where they want to bring us time … Bring us back time and time again or stay connected to us beyond the stage?

Michael:
What’s your secret for doing that?

Simon:
Yeah. So I interview as anyone, you’ll get on the phone, you’ll talk to them, but I want to talk to people in the audience. I want to know what their challenges are, what’s made them successful, and then I’m going to tie that into the objective of why they’re bringing me in. But then I don’t stop there. I’ll say, “Let’s talk about what happens beyond the speech. How do we stay connected?”

Simon:
So for instance, obviously we have the join by text, which everybody’s doing right now. But then I ask people to connect with me on LinkedIn for questions they wanted to ask me that they didn’t perhaps get a chance to ask me. And I have people reaching out to me and we’ve been able … If it’s direct, we’ve been able to get spin off business from the direct clients that we’ve worked with, and it’s been phenomenal. And then if we do get an inquiry or a request or feedback that has come through a bureau, we send it back to the bureau because I just believe that the world is too small and we need to do the right thing. So we go deeper and, and we will provide articles, podcasts, if they want me to do a webinar, executive coaching, we offer those things to them, and it’s absolutely fun. For me, It’s not work. It’s a laboratory where I’m constantly learning.

Michael:
So sounds like you’re not just selling a keynote speech, you’re selling something that is broader, more institutionalized, and ultimately more comprehensive that feels like they’re bringing you in to make changes at the organization rather than just to give a speech.

Simon:
Right. Because anybody can give a speech. Once the transformation, and transformation doesn’t happen in a one hour keynote. So what I really try to engage people in is to go beyond to stay connected with us. And we’ve had a few companies do that and it’s been fun. Actually, it’s lots of fun.

Michael:
Do you have any particular process or methodology for tracking the kind of impact that you’ve had at an organization after you’ve spoken for them?

Simon:
You know, the only one that we can point to is the hospital that we worked with because they increase their patient satisfaction scores according to [inaudible 00:16:41], which as you know is like JD Power, and they increase not only their patient satisfaction scores so much so they were acquired by another health system and that health system has now put me on their board. So I’m on the foundation board, so I really get to stay connected to them and it’s been probably about a 12 year relationship now. That’s the only measurable impact we have thus far.

Simon:
Other than I got an email the other day from a lady who said, “I heard you a few months ago and you so impacted me I quit my job and I got another job with Deloitte. And it was because of you that you became the catalyst for me.” So Michael, I’m thinking I need to add in my bio, if you hire me, people will fire themselves from their job.

Michael:
You know, it could be worse. It could be, you could get letters from people, “So listen, I heard your speech. I decided to go home and divorce my husband.”

Simon:
I know.

Michael:
I’m not involved in this. This is your decision. I just gave a speech for an hour. You know?

Simon:
You know what’s so crazy about that, Michael? Because I’ve been talking about my divorce over the last year or so, I have guys come up to me and tell me that you just saved my marriage. Like I know exactly what I need to do. And I didn’t go into the presentation to save marriages. I was just sharing my truth. But if you get it, you get it, however it happens.

Michael:
However it happens. Well you actually, you just did a video, rather, for Goalcast. And the title I believe was how to be the best parent. And it was released on Father’s Day in 2018. Now my understanding is it went viral, and it now has more than 87 million views and counting. And in it you say that by the age of 17 the average child has heard no 150,000 times, and yes just 5,000 times. Now parenting isn’t your usual genre, just like marriage counseling, it’s not your usual genre. So what led you to create this particular video and were you surprised by the response?

Simon:
You can never plan or strategize a viral video. Just I don’t think it can happen. I happened to be invited by Success Magazine to be the MC and host for a success live event they were doing and they said, “Hey, would you just share, as the opening person on a Saturday morning before you introduce, …” I think I was going to introduce Mel Robbins and I just shared for 12 minutes and I told my story of leaving Disney, building this speaking business, but I had forgot to keep the main thing the main thing. I had built a house, but lost a home. I was making money but had no meaning. I was pursuing power but had no purpose, and I told the story of my daughter who came into my home office and she said, “Hey daddy.” I said, “Hey baby girl.” And I was in between trips, busy, but I was not emotionally available to her.

Simon:
She said, “Daddy, I see you’re busy. I’ll just come back later.” And it hit me, Michael, on the plane the next day that I missed a moment to connect with my daughter. So when I came back off the road, I said, “Madison, you wanted to talk to me and I missed a moment.” She said, “Daddy, it’s okay.” I said, “No, it’s not okay. Because if I don’t change my behavior, you’re going to marry a joker just like me. And I’m modeling something for your brother to be emotionally unavailable to you like I was your mother.” And their mother said to me, “You give everybody the best of you, but you give us the rest of you. And I don’t want the leftovers anymore.” And Michael, that’s just the story. I mean, it’s just a little three, four minute snippet that the folks at Goalcast captured and, and wanted to share that. And I was just sharing my truth, my pain, my failure, my flaws. And that’s how that happened. It was truly a serendipitous, it was not planned.

Michael:
Well, thank you for sharing that. It’s so important. I was just sitting in my office talking to another speaker who is very well-respected and he does about 75 gigs a year, runs an agency that he founded, and he just recently stepped away from the CEO position because he said, “I was no longer able to be the contributor that I should be, and that I expected myself to be and, and other people deserve.” And it made me think, you don’t really want to spend your life building your reputation such that you’re so busy and pulled in so many different directions that you then destroy it as a result.

Simon:
Absolutely.

Michael:
And that’s not easy. Because when you’re working for many years in a really … Grinding out opportunities and trying to build something of meaning, sometimes it can be hard to say no. And sometimes you lose sight of what’s important because it just gets farther and farther away from where you are in the moment.

Simon:
So true.

Michael:
So how can we say yes more? Not just to our kids but to the work that we do and to, and to the way that we bring ourselves to our performances? How do we stop saying no so much to ourself and others, but start saying yes more often?

Simon:
I think it really comes down to do I want to be significant or do I want to be successful? A person who is pursuing success, could it be that it’s about me, but when I pursue significance, it’s about we, and I believe the way we say yes to ourself is how do I make it about we? How do I make it about everyone that that really matters? And not just you and your family, but the difference you’re trying to make it in the world. And I look at things through that lens right now of, so, as you can imagine, going through a divorce, literally starting over, but it is so freeing to not be tethered to things and the accoutrements of success and the big house and the cars and the fancy vacations, that means nothing. It is about, can I hug people with my words, and can I leave an imprint on their head, their heart and their hands long after the speech is over?

Michael:
You know, you were inducted into the National Speaker Association Hall of Fame and meeting planners and others rave about your speaking skills. I have had conversations about you, and it’s what they tell me. And I was just talking to Scott Stratten on the podcast just a few days ago, and he was also inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame. So how do awards and accolades shift your opportunities or the way that you approach your content creation and the performance of that content, if at all?

Simon:
Number one, it makes you work harder, right? Number two, you are appreciative and, and, and grateful to be recognized by your peers. But reminds me of something Magic Johnson said years ago. He said, “Celebrate for five minutes and then get back to work.”

Michael:
So true.

Simon:
It’s kind of like part of the reason why Disney bought Pixar is because if you look at Lion King, that was first created in 1996, it took 100 plus animators to create Lion King. Now with Pixar, you have one person sitting at a computer and with CGI can totally create that, right? However, for all the accolades and awards that Pixar has received, they realize that if they don’t stay on the cutting edge, so it is required for Pixar cast members to have four hours of ongoing learning and development weekly. Weekly.

Michael:
Wow.

Simon:
Because if they are not staying on the edge of where technology is going, they will be obsolete. So it’s nice to be in the hall of fame, but that means nothing if I’m not unlearning and relearning, and constantly … There’s a new book out called Humility Is The New Smart, and it is a phenomenal read. And so it just challenges you to continue to do the work.

Michael:
What will you … Look, you’ve been in this business for a long time. You know all the players on the bureau side, the meeting planner side, you know the cast of characters. What do you think is working well in our industry right now, and what would you like to see improved? Changed?

Simon:
Yeah. I think what’s working well is our country and our world needs thought leadership to unlock innovation, the next great breakthroughs, and our world needs our voices, because when you look at the UN, the United Nations 17 sustainable goals, the number one goal is no more poverty. Number four is a quality education. I believe we provide quality education to the world, so that that’s working wherever we are in the world. We provide that. I think where the area of opportunity is that speakers must continue to recognize that we are in the business of service to our customers. So this whole primadonna and I have to have a green room and green M&Ms, are you freaking kidding me? Seriously? Really? Let me take you out back and shoot you. That is not the industry. So I can say that because I’ve seen people who they’re one person on stage and one person off the stage and it is so about them, and they collect their check and they’re gone.

Simon:
They are not sustainable, and we will not see them long term because they’re in it to collect a check. They’re not in it for sustainable transformation. And so I’ll give you a point in case and, and I’m not trying to put myself on a pedestal, but this is just how I live. So three years ago I got hired by a president and CEO of an association that I would’ve never had access to. I mean, I was knocking at the door and they, for whatever reason, it just wasn’t time. She opened up that door for me, put me in front of all the c-suite people and, and the rest is history. I got a LinkedIn message from her a few days ago to say, “Hey, I’m looking for a job. I see that you’re connected to someone via LinkedIn. Do you know them well? Can you make an introduction.”

Simon:
Michael, I said, “Not only will I make an introduction, I’m going to do one better than that. I’m going to create a video testimonial about you and I’m going to post this video in my LinkedIn feed and I’m going to tag him in it.” Now, the guy was a third connection, he wasn’t a first or second. Don’t you know I did it, and the guy sends back a message to say, “Simon, how are you? We met each other at such and such a company.” I’m like, “Oh my goodness, I do know you.” He says, “Thank you so much for this video testimonial about this woman.” And he said, “I will make sure that I connect with the person in the c-suite to give her a favorable recommendation because of you.” And you know why I did? I was so happy he came back to me and I shared that message with her because when no one else will open the door, she did it.

Simon:
And because relationships are more powerful than transactions, speakers who will thrive in any economy will understand I have to relate to the cargo in your ship. So wherever you are going on the ocean of life, you carry me with you. She carried me into that association she worked for and I said, “You know what? Let me carry you into a relationship that I’m connected with, and how can I help you?” That’s what this business is about, because when I look at the 17 years of doing this, all the research says most businesses don’t last past five years. The only reason I’ve been able to last is because, you know what? I really, really love people. I really love people and I want to help people become better. And that’s just who I am at the core. That’s what our team understands. And the day we stop doing this, we will cease to exist.

Michael:
Simon Bailey, thank you so much for taking the time to come and talk with us today. You’re delightful. Where can everyone find you?

Simon:
Simontbailey.com, the T stands for terrific. Just kidding.

Michael:
Come on, give me that Lion King one more time. That was so … First of all, you just have a fantastic voice.

Simon:
Oh, Michael.

Michael:
Can I have your voice for a couple of days? I would have so much fun with it. It would just be … Give me one more time. One more time.

Simon:
Remember who you are. You are more than what you have become.

Michael:
Fantastic. You, my friend, are a delight and you are a fabulous performer. Thank you so much for being here.

Simon:
Thank you Mike.

Michael:
At the end of each episode of steal the show, we’re featuring a heroic public speaking alumni who saving the world one speech at a time. This week we’re profiling Dr. Lisa Walker, an executive coach who climbed up Mount Kilimanjaro and saw nothing. On her way to the summit, she temporarily lost her eyesight and her dream of watching the sunrise over Africa, but she did end up witnessing something important. The value of a good story. Though she’s long been teaching executives about resilience and perseverance, her harrowing, compelling and personal story about scaling one of the world’s highest mountains helps illustrate her big idea, that we can push beyond our limits to achieve great success. She should know. After she went blind, she kept on climbing anyhow. Yet it isn’t just the words that work so well from the stage. It’s the work Lisa put into the performance. At HPS, she learned to be clear about how she wants the audience to feel and to play actions to make sure they get a well-crafted experience.

Michael:
She stopped pacing on stage, and just like on Mount Kilimanjaro, she became intentional in every movement rather than relying on her powerful voice to do the work. Now she put even more work into her story, becoming intentional about her choice of words, her tone of voice, and even her use of silence. She built curiosity for her story to prepare the audience for the heavy emotional payoff. As a result, her speech’s opening story has become what she calls her moneymaker. The reason meeting planners hire her over other speakers who talk about perseverance. She has been rebooked by meeting planners and invited by audience members to speak at their organizations. One even hired her for a six month international series worth tens of thousands of dollars. Now, since graduating from HPS, she has doubled her fees with no pushback, and best of all? Audience members have told her she’s a source of inspiration for pushing through their own challenges.

Michael:
Now that’s a great story. Thanks for listening to Steal The Show. I’m your host, Michael 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 Public 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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