00:01 Michael Port: Okay, good, we’re recording. Welcome to Steal the Show with Michael Port. This is Michael. I have a friend who lives nearby who is also a professional speaker. And of course, we don’t just focus on professional speaking but on Steal the Show, we focus on performance in all aspects of life. In this particular episode, we’re gonna focus a little bit more on what it means to be a speaker, how one performs as a speaker, and what it means to be a woman in the industry. ‘Cause I think that’s a really important topic. So Neen James, who lives 20 minutes from me, she has an MBA, she is a CSP, which is a Certified Speaking Professional, she’s definitely high-energy, she’s definitely an Aussie with a lot of sass. I said sass, S-A-S-S, just to be clear.
01:04 Michael Port: She is an attention expert, keynote speaker, and lover of fabulous shoes. And since she is here with me in the studio, I’m gonna look at her shoes, hold on. Can I see those please? Oh, she just took them off, and they have red soles. Does that mean it’s Prada?
01:19 Neen James: [chuckle] Means it’s a Louboutin. [laughter]
01:20 Michael Port: Oh, Louboutin. Fantastic. So she definitely has fabulous shoes, and she delivers engaging programs that educate and entertain audiences with real-world strategies that apply at work and at home. She’s the author of “Folding Time,” and her latest book, “Attention.” She believes leaders profit by paying attention, and we’re gonna pay attention to her today. So you can find out more about her at neenjames.com. That’s N-E-E-N James.com. Hi.
01:54 Neen James: Good day. Nice to be here.
01:56 Michael Port: So she has an accent, you can tell.
01:58 Michael Port: And Neen is pretty interesting for a number of reasons. First, you pay attention to her right away ’cause she’s not tall.
02:07 Neen James: [chuckle] Not exactly.
02:09 Michael Port: How tall are you?
02:09 Neen James: Four ten. And a half. And the half matters, just saying.
02:12 Michael Port: Four ten and a half. Which is… I’ve always been fascinated with really big people and really small people.
02:20 Michael Port: Average people, not so much. Like me, I’m average size. Little people and big people are fascinating to me. And you can tell that she has a unique voice. And I wanna start with this, because I know it’s something that you often address right at the beginning of your speeches.
02:35 Neen James: I do.
02:36 Michael Port: And I’d like to know how.
02:38 Neen James: Okay. So I know I sound like I’m five, but if you add a lot of years to that, that’s when you get my real age. For me, in those first two minutes with the audience, so generally as a speaker I’ve met people in advance, I’ve shot a video for them, they’ve had experiences online. But when I speak in front of an audience, within the first two minutes, I make jokes about it, because it’s so obvious. But what’s fascinating is, I make a joke about it, and I might say, “Okay, I know I sound like a chipmunk,” or, “Oh my God, I know I sound like I’m five,” or, “I should have my own voice, I should have my own cartoon.” There’s so many ways I play with the audience. And then they get, “Oh my God, she actually realizes she has a high-pitched voice, she’s okay with it.” And so because I’m okay with it, I make it safe for them as well. And interestingly, a lot of gentlemen will come up to me afterwards, when you sign books and say hey to people, and they’ll be like, “I forgot all about your voice after a while.”
03:27 Neen James: So interestingly, when you address the elephant in the room, because sometimes I’ll say, “There’s an elephant in this room. She happens to be four ten and a half, she happens to sound like she’s five, and she wears fabulous shoes.” And so now we’ve just checked all the boxes and then we’re good. ‘Cause on the stage, honey, people don’t realize how little you are.
03:44 Michael Port: True.
03:44 Neen James: It’s only when you come off. I was with Mark Eaton, a basketball player, recently. He’s 7 foot 4. I come up to a rude spot on that man, and he’s fantastic, right? So it’s really interesting. They don’t have the idea of depth or height when you’re up on screen.
03:58 Michael Port: And also, you’re often speaking on very large stages, and so they’re watching a video of you, so there’s no issue there.
04:05 Neen James: Yeah.
04:09 Michael Port: But I asked the question because audiences need to get used to us.
04:13 Neen James: Right.
04:14 Michael Port: We forget that, that they’ve never seen us move, they’ve never heard us. They don’t know our speech patterns.
04:21 Neen James: Sure.
04:22 Michael Port: And I think you do a great job of addressing it, and I think that we should all be aware of this concept. Whether or not you think you have a voice that is different, or if you’re of average size. So you might not think, “Well, I don’t think there’s anything I have to address.” But I think all of us should be aware of the fact that people are not used to us.
04:47 Neen James: Right. And if you add a five-year-old voice, with an accent, right?
04:51 Michael Port: Sure, on top of that.
04:52 Neen James: And so there’s that on top. And I remember when I first got into professional speaking, and every person, including the President of the National Speakers Association, told me I had to get voice coaching. Everyone told me, “If you’re gonna make money in this business, you have to deepen your voice. You won’t be taken seriously with that voice.” And only one person that you and I know, Matt Church, the founder of Thought Leaders Global, he pulled me aside and he was like, “Nope.” He said, “That’s authentically you. Don’t change that.”
05:16 Michael Port: Brilliant.
05:16 Neen James: And he said, “You love to play and just be you on the stage.” Best advice I got early in my career. So for people who might have something that’s unusual about them, people remember that and it does make you unique, but you do have to allow the audience just the permission to go, “I’m okay with it,” and eventually you’ll be okay as well.
05:33 Michael Port: That’s right. And voice work is something that we teach a lot, but we do exactly what you’re suggesting, is that our goal is to help free the natural voice. And one of the reasons that we focus on voice work is to help our speakers breathe.
05:52 Neen James: Ah, right.
05:52 Michael Port: It’s not just the sound of your voice that’s important, but it’s the ability to use all of the air in your lungs, to take it all in, to manage your breathing and to have more gravitas regardless of the tone or the pitch of your voice.
06:08 Neen James: Yeah, and it’s fun. Obviously, when we do sound checks, I always play with all the engineers and the front-of-house and I play with my voice with all those people and make it okay with everyone else as well. And so I’ve worked with sound teams that have been on conferences with me like years before and they’re like, “Oh my God, I remember you,” because not only the voice, but because when you take the time to say to people, “Hey, this is what it really sounds like and this is what we need to do.” I think our sound engineers, the team we work with as professional speakers, it’s vital that we give them what they need as well to do their job properly as well.
06:40 Michael Port: Yeah. It’s interesting because you focus on leadership.
06:44 Neen James: That’s right.
06:44 Michael Port: One of your areas of expertise. Leadership is a very male-dominated business in the world of professional speaking and authorship. So now, you have the smaller person, [chuckle] the higher voice in a male-dominated industry focusing on a topic that they think they own.
07:05 Neen James: Sure.
07:06 Michael Port: And I would love to… And I wondered the same thing, did people tell you, “Oh, you shouldn’t get into that. That’s… ”
07:11 Neen James: Mm-hmm.
07:12 Michael Port: Yeah. Same just like your voice.
07:13 Neen James: Just go speak at women’s leadership conferences. That was the advice given to me.
07:16 Michael Port: Yeah.
07:16 Neen James: Which is awesome and I love female audiences, my God, but I make my money and I love mixed audiences in those mixed environments, so I’m not just a chick speaker. And that’s great if that’s what you wanna do. I love that. But I think what happens is, there’s so many stereotypes in this business, part of our job is to break them.
07:37 Michael Port: That’s right. In large part, the performer’s job is to break the rules.
07:40 Neen James: Sure.
07:41 Michael Port: And I love how…
07:42 Neen James: And I’m Australian, so of course we break rules.
07:44 Michael Port: Of course, you do.
07:46 Michael Port: So I just unzipped my zipper on my jacket. I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea of what I just unzipped [laughter] if you could hear that. So let’s talk about the women’s conferences.
07:56 Neen James: Sure.
07:56 Michael Port: This is something that Amy and I have been talking a lot about and asking a lot of questions about because our job is not to focus on the business side, that’s not what we do particularly. We address it, of course, because people have questions about it, but we really focus on the performance side of things. Nonetheless, if you wanna be on stage, you’re very consciously thinking about, “Where do I wanna go to speak?” And there’s a big, big industry in the conferences that focus on women. It seems to me, tell me if this is correct, that many of them are only paying a few of their speakers.
08:39 Neen James: Correct.
08:39 Michael Port: They pay the keynoter, like a Barbara Corcoran.
08:42 Neen James: Sure.
08:43 Michael Port: Or Arianna Huffington.
08:45 Neen James: The celebrity piece.
08:46 Michael Port: Right.
08:47 Neen James: Right.
08:47 Michael Port: And then the fifty other speakers don’t get paid.
08:50 Neen James: No, but they do it for so-called exposure.
08:52 Michael Port: Right.
08:53 Neen James: And we know that everyone can die from exposure.
08:55 Michael Port: That’s right.
08:55 Neen James: So, yeah.
08:56 Michael Port: So talk to me about this because it’s a little bit like the NSA which does a lot of great things for a lot of speakers. I’m not a member, but I did speak there and I remember them saying, “Well, we don’t pay our speakers.” I thought, “Well, that’s interesting because it’s an organization about speakers who’ve been trying to help speakers get paid to speak, but they’re not paying speakers.” So same thing with the women’s conferences, if their job is to help women move forward, say professionally, in their careers, but they’re not paying the speakers to be there. Is there some conflict there?
09:30 Neen James: I don’t think that it’s unique to women’s conferences. I need to say that upfront. I think that some meeting planners have a budget and if they blow it all, and I’m sure it’s well spent, but if they give it all to one particular speaker, then they’re sweet-talking others to come in and present and they’re making all kinds of promises. “We’ll give you the list. We’ll video your talk.” I mean you can negotiate a lot of things. I’m not saying don’t speak for free. Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying.
09:54 Michael Port: Yeah.
09:55 Neen James: I think though that there is an assumption. Look this is just maybe one of my… This is my opinion only, but I think if you’re a woman who is successful, there is an expectation that you will also help other woman be successful and I really support that. I think where the change happens is that people think, “Oh, you wanna be paid for that? Well, why aren’t you just doing it out of the goodness of your heart?” So one of the things that I think I see more that maybe female speakers who are listening to a podcast, maybe they could understand where I’m coming from, that there is an assumption then, “Well, you’ll just do it because you’ve already made it. And so you can bring women along with you.” Absolutely wanna be able to do that. But there’s so many pro bono hours I have in a year and there’s so many charities I support and I’m very diligent about those. And I think the meeting planners that are asking are hoping you’ll do it out of the goodness of your heart or they’re going to tell you there’s decision makers in the room.
10:47 Michael Port: Sure.
10:47 Neen James: And I’m sure gentlemen hear the same thing, Michael.
10:50 Michael Port: Yeah, of course.
10:50 Neen James: I just think I see it more with those female audiences and I think they wanna create this nurturing, relationship building, that type, and that’s lovely. But at the end of the day, we still have financial goals that we’re all trying to achieve. We work for different reasons, whatever that is for people. I really like money. I like money, I think the more money you make, the more you can give away. I don’t care if you like money or not. If you don’t like it, just give it away. It’s totally okay with me, but I also expect to be paid for the value that I bring to that room.
11:20 Michael Port: Agreed. Mitch Joel was on this show recently.
11:22 Neen James: Oh, fabulous.
11:24 Michael Port: And he said that one of his friends often says that he loves speaking so much that he’d do it for free, but he charges you so you value it.
11:32 Neen James: I heard that and it’s such a great sound byte.
11:34 Michael Port: Isn’t it great?
11:35 Neen James: Yeah. People don’t value free. And I say that to my clients all the time. People don’t value free. And so there’s a lot of people who have additional profit centers in their practice. I have an executive mentoring, so I work with very high level executives as part of what I do. That’s where I came from today before we got to catch up. And I think people confuse mentoring and friendtoring, so they’re like, “Oh, can I get some advice from you?” “Absolutely. This is what I charge for that.” “Oh”. [laughter] It’s like a disconnect. And I think because it’s not tangible what we do, you don’t go into a Ferrari dealership and say, “Hey, by the way, I just wanna take that car out ’cause I’ll look great in it and I’ll get exposure for me and my brand driving around in it.”
12:14 Michael Port: There is a video going around that was about that. It was for people who are in the service industries and they just went in to random businesses.
12:23 Neen James: [laughter] Yeah, I saw that.
12:24 Michael Port: Did you see that one? It was hysterical.
12:26 Neen James: And yet it’s brilliant because if you’ve been in this business long enough or even if you’re just starting out… Look, when I started out, I spoke anywhere and everywhere because I wanted to practice my material, it’s time on your feet. And look, I still speak for free, so don’t misunderstand what I’m saying, but I also believe that we have to make what we do tangible. We need to make people understand it. And every time we discount and every time we say, “Oh, okay. I’ll do it for exposure,” I think it actually does damage to our industry.
12:55 Michael Port: Yes. And the reason that I asked this is not just because you’re a woman, but because I do see a discrepancy in the industry and I’ve seen, and a lot of my students have asked questions about this, is they say, “Is this a theme that’s gonna continue on the women’s speaker circuit around the women’s conferences or will it change at some point?” And of course, I don’t have an answer for that, but I just was wondering if you see that happening consistently? Do you think it’s getting better? Do you have an idea?
13:34 Neen James: I’d love to say it’s getting better. There’s a speaker that I admire by the name of Connie Podesta and I’m sure you know who Connie is. And she rocks the stage, her clients love her. She is brilliant, but she’s also found herself with not a lot of competitors. She’s in a price point, there’s not a lot of female business keynoters. Sally Hogshead, who we all know and love, she’s in that same category. And she and I were talking recently about this idea and I think unfortunately some of the female speakers that I know, also don’t appreciate their own value. Where gentlemen say, “I’m 15 grand or 20 grand.” I’m just throwing numbers out there, whatever your fee is is your fee. And some of them are like, “Oh, God, I don’t if I could charge that.” But I know for a fact that there are gentlemen who may be as good or not even as good and yet they know their value.
14:21 Neen James: So Connie makes this really great point about understanding the value that you bring and I think we’ve got to get smarter, female speakers have got to get smarter about articulating the return on the investment that that meeting planner is making or that client is making. And be able to speak to the tangible, to that true return, “This is what’s gonna happen when the audience get’s to play with me or gets to spend time,” or whatever it is. So it’s all about the client, but you’re speaking in a language they understand, that has some sort of financial implications if you’re in the business. Now, for those who are pure motivational, which I’m not, I’m a business speaker, they make their audiences feel like a million bucks. And so there’s such an important need for those people. But I am a speaker who, I haven’t had a talk show, I haven’t climbed a mountain, I haven’t had anything tragic happen to me. I’m not the typical motivational speaker, I say in air quotes. Does that make sense?
15:12 Michael Port: Of course. I was just working on a new disability policy and they categorize me as a motivational speaker. [chuckle] I said, “Why did you categorize me as a motivational speaker?” They said, “Well, you’re a speaker, right?” I said, “I happen to speak on the intellectual property that I create, but I’m a business owner and I have two different businesses.” And I was trying to explain that to them, because it’s important to be categorized correctly for disability policy or else if you ever make a claim, they go, “Oh, but you weren’t doing the motivational speaking.” Whatever it is.
15:48 Neen James: And I used to fight that term a lot ’cause look, it’s the Australian in me as well. In Australia… Look, being an Australian and now a recent American citizen, I don’t know if you knew that.
15:57 Michael Port: Congratulations.
15:58 Neen James: But as an Aussie, I’m just not impressed by anyone or anything and that’s not being disrespectful. I just don’t care because Australians core value is equality. Right?
16:07 Michael Port: Yeah, that’s right.
16:07 Neen James: And so when I would see these motivational rah-rah speakers all begging for their standing ovation, I’ll be like, “Ugh, that’s vomitous.” I just couldn’t put myself in that bracket. But then what I realized was my clients don’t understand the difference between a business speaker or a motivational speaker, so I have to get over myself. If that’s what they wanna call it and that’s what I want on the invoice, that’s what I’ll put. It’s like the difference between coaching and mentoring. I’m not a great coach, but I’m a fantastic mentor. I just wanna tell you what to do. In my experience, here’s what I think we need to do. But a great coach will ask you phenomenal questions and that’s a brilliant skill set that I don’t have. But if the client wants to pay for coaching and I wanna call it mentoring, well, I’ll just put on the invoice whatever they want. I think we get stuck on words.
16:49 Michael Port: I think what you said that we need to get over it, get over ourselves is a really important concept because we’re really not that important. In the world of professional speaking at least, sometimes we start to think that the show is about us. [chuckle] And it’s not at all.
17:10 Neen James: [laughter] So not about us.
17:11 Michael Port: Not even close.
17:12 Neen James: Honey, they are filling a slot. They have 45 to 90 minutes and they just need you to show up and rock it and make the meeting planner look good and the audience feel and then bye-bye. That’s it. If people think they’re more than that… I think you can have relationships. I think you can do so much more, you can add so much value, but do not think you are that much important. I always figure people have to put the trash out at night just like I do. Same same, right? It doesn’t make me any more important or any less important. It’s just what we have chosen to do as the lifestyle we’ve created. Some people go into an office. Our office is a plane or a convention center or a hotel. It’s just a little different, it’s not better.
17:48 Michael Port: You mentioned something interesting in terms of really recognizing your value, speaking to it and asking for it. And it’s interesting because Amy and I… I don’t do much private coaching. Amy does a little bit more than I do over Skype and she really likes doing it. And I’ve been doing this since 2003 and obviously, have a brand recognition in the industry based on the work that I’ve done over the years.
18:24 Neen James: Sure, you gotta beautiful body of work.
18:26 Michael Port: Thank you. I thought you were gonna say a beautiful body and then stop there. No, thanks.
18:28 Neen James: Oh, sorry I stopped. You can edit it if you want. [laughter]
18:33 Michael Port: Somebody gave me a T-shirt once that said, “With this body, who needs hair?”
18:38 Neen James: That’s funny.
18:39 Michael Port: If you can’t see me obviously, if you don’t know who I am, I have a bald head. But we also… So we charge different rates for private coaching.
18:53 Neen James: Sure.
18:54 Michael Port: Many people who come to us at first know of me because of the books, because of my history in the industry. And people get to know Amy afterwards. But we’ve had emails from a couple people every once in a while. We had an email recently from a woman who wrote it to Amy and she was furious that we were priced differently. But she didn’t know either of us. We just were two people who were married, and in love, and run a business together. And Amy wanted to explain it to her. And I was sorta like, when you do this, after a while, as our friend Scott Stratten says, you don’t have to be the [BEEP] Whisperer. Not that she was, just, let me be clear. But you don’t always have to respond to every single question or comment or piece of feedback that you get, because it can be time-consuming. And she said, “No, no. I really want her to understand.” I said, “Okay. Well, that’s great. Let’s see if she does.” And if my prices are higher, then people will go, “Hmm, first I came to work with Michael, that’s a little high for me. Well, let me have a look at Amy. Who’s Amy? Oh, wow. She’s fantastic, now that I’ve seen her and who she is. I think I could probably pay for that. I’ll go do it.” Why? ‘Cause she wants to do it. So the framing is very important. People look at prices in a frame and if you’re looking at different options, you’ll take the option of what you think is the best value that you can afford.
20:29 Neen James: True. And I also think as speakers, Michael, that we have frames. So if you’ve grown up in the industry, you start out, you’re making less than five grand. Maybe you go from five to 75. And then there’s these brackets, 75 to 12 and then you jump into 15, 20, 25 and then you get celebrity 40 plus. So I think the challenge is that if we see ourselves in a frame as well, we’re like, “Well, I’ve only been doing this for a little while,” and by the way, I sucked at that. So I was like, “Oh, God, I gotta earn my stripes. I haven’t had anything traumatic happen. I don’t have a story,” she says in air quotes again. So like, “Who am I to be charging, whatever my fee was?” And so I think that it’s a journey that… Well, someone once said to me, “If you can say the price and don’t laugh, you’re good.”
21:15 Michael Port: Yeah.
21:15 Neen James: And what I figured with a girlfriend of mine, we were saying, “Well, if one person pays it.” Right?
21:21 Michael Port: Sure. Sure.
21:22 Neen James: So I think your fee, whatever that is, wherever it is, I think that there are certain standards in the industry. And you know what a $20,000 speaker looks like.
21:33 Michael Port: So we have a student in our graduate school right now who is a professional speaker. He’s been in the business for about five years and he does the college circuit.
21:42 Neen James: Neat.
21:43 Michael Port: So his speeches for the college circuit usually top out around six grand.
21:49 Michael Port: Right.
21:49 Michael Port: Sometimes 7500.
21:51 Neen James: That’s the high end of the college market.
21:52 Michael Port: This guy is phenomenal. The only reason I’m not mentioning his name is because we’re gonna talk about the numbers for a second. But he’s amazing, incredible talent, his material is perfected. And he wants to move into the corporate market. And he had an opportunity, had a lead. So I said, “Listen… ” He said, “What should I charge, ’cause I’ve only been making this and can I get more?” And I said, “Oh, just double it, easy. Just double it.” He said, “Okay.” So they said, “What’s your fees?” He said, “Double.”. He said, “15 grand.” And they said, “Okay, done.” That’s all it took. It was just him sort of moving into a different mind set around it and now if he does some college stuff, he might take less ’cause the budget just may not be there. But now he knows, “Oh, I have everything it takes for the corporate circuit. No doubt about it.”
22:47 Neen James: And I think we have to be careful that we don’t look at one industry as better than another. I know some amazing speakers in the youth market who will always be in the youth market. And they will be happy.
22:56 Michael Port: And they love it.
22:57 Neen James: And they love it and they rock it. And they are true rock stars in the industry. Now, I live in corporate… I grew up in corporate business in Australia. It’s what I know. They’re my people, so I feel super-comfortable there. But if I go outside to some of the other industries, whether it’s credit unions, pharmaceutical or law, even those three have very different perceptions of what a keynote fee needs to be. Especially if you don’t have a New York Times best seller like you do or you haven’t done something amazing. So I think we have to also look at the clients we want to work with. Not chase after the money, but go, “These are the people. These are my people. This is where my heart is.” I did a job for the military once, by the way, not my people. And nothing against them because they’re so amazing, but I was way too cute and the package was too weird for them. But they were paying a substantial amount of money and it was a good lesson in, “Wow, sometimes you’ve gotta really do your research. Who are your people and who do you like to hang out with?” And just go there and play with those people. Because that’s where you’re gonna have the biggest impact.
23:58 Michael Port: I’m gonna ask another question about women in the industry. I don’t wanna harp on it, but I think you just have so much history in this industry. We’ve talked about some of the challenges that women face in the industry, what are some of the benefits…
24:15 Neen James: Oh my gosh, the list is amazing.
24:17 Michael Port: Yeah, that a woman has in this particular industry?
24:19 Neen James: We’ll go back to my example of Connie Podesta, where I said Connie doesn’t have a huge amount of competitors. She speaks on sales and leadership, and she does the big, big events. I think that there’s not the competition for women speakers and that breaks my heart. And I have so often been the only female speaker on an agenda, especially in some industries. While I won’t name them, literally, I’ve had meeting planners call me and say, “Please don’t cancel.” And I would say, “Why would I cancel? I have a contract with you.” “You’re the only female, I need you to turn up.” So one of the advantages are, if you are great in this business and you know how to run a business, that makes you some of the smaller percentage I guess. So I promote the fact that I’m a female business keynoter. So I think that’s a big advantage. I think another advantage is that we look at the world differently, that’s what’s so great about it. And so that perspective is really unusual. I was working with an executive of one of the large media companies this morning, and we were taking through an event that was happening to launch a new restructure.
25:20 Neen James: And I said, “There’s no chicks in here. Where’s the senior women?” And he was like, “Oh.” So I think what we get the opportunity to do is to look at things and go, “Okay. Well, who’s the woman on your panel? How can I help you there?” Or, “Who’s the MC you’ve got? If you’ve always used a gentleman MC, would a female voice be a nice balance to that?” So I think what it does is allows us to also up our game as well. We need to get smarter about our marketing. But I think there’s some advantages also of using what is uniquely yours. Women will look at the world differently, they buy differently, the have a completely different perspective. They lead differently. They’re the things you wanna tap into, but articulate them in the conversation you have with your client, articulate them in your marketing. Make a point of how you are different. I am sassy, and I am little, and I am Australian, and there’s not a lot of us. That’s actually a huge competitive advantage. So make the most of how you are unique. I think there’s benefits in leveraging them. But don’t try and be like another boy because then you’re just the same as everyone else. That stuff drives me crazy.
26:23 Michael Port: Yeah, don’t try to be like anybody else.
26:25 Neen James: No.
26:26 Michael Port: First of all, I love that you just said sassy. My…
26:32 Neen James: Your high school prophecy.
26:34 Michael Port: Yeah. My high school prophecy was to be modeling for Tiger Beat Magazine. And it sort of came true, which usually doesn’t happen with high school prophecies. ‘Cause the first magazine that I was ever in was Sassy Magazine.
26:49 Neen James: I heard your interview with Scott and I was laughing.
26:51 Michael Port: Oh, you did. I said it before, okay.
26:53 Neen James: No, I loved that. This is something people are learning about you now that you were modeling and sassy is such a great word.
27:01 Michael Port: Sassy Magazine.
27:02 Neen James: I know.
27:04 Michael Port: When I’d walk by my friends in college they’d go, “Sassy. Sassy.” Don’t you dare. I’m not talking about you. Listener, don’t you dare do that to me now. You can call me sassy whenever you want.
27:18 Neen James: That’s how everyone’s gonna greet you at Heroic Public Speaking. They’re gonna come up to you and say that. I love it.
27:23 Michael Port: So let’s turn the corner a little bit. You are very active on social media. And yet your audience are very corporate, you speak on leadership, and you have very high level executives as mentees.
27:38 Neen James: Correct.
27:41 Michael Port: Does your participation on social media help you with booking gigs in those spaces or are you speaking to a different audience, say via Twitter, where you’re very, very active.
27:56 Neen James: Great questions. To me, social media is about being social. And it’s a conversation. It’s not about vomiting content all over people which is what a lot of people use social media for. Here’s how social media has helped me. I will write for industry magazines, CUInsights is like the Huffington Post for the Credit Union. So I write for them and contribute regularly. MeetingsNet is the meetings industry magazine, I write for them regularly. Those people, the editors, share that content online, so they’re also helping to share messaging, but it’s very customized for that audience. I got a job in the Caribbean because someone read an article in CUInsights which had been tweeted and they were reading the tweets. But what I believe it does as a professional speaker, is that… Here’s what happens.
28:40 Neen James: As soon as I know the hashtag for a conference, I always ask that in my pre-program questionnaire, what’s the hashtag for the conference? So for Twitter, that’s a place I like to play. And then I will start talking really early before the conference happens and start seeing and following the hashtag. I will literally have people run up and give me a cuddle when they meet me. They’re like, “Oh my God, I meet you in real life,” because we develop these relationships online and then you get to meet people in real life. Think about what Scott Stratten has created with a particular Facebook group in the community we’re part of. And so those people may not get to see each other very often, but when they do, they feel really connected. So for me, there’s a couple of things. Twitter is very much about my audience, so that’s audience involvement and it’s fun and it’s just short and it’s really interactive and plus I tweet through a whole event. So when I go and speak, if I can arrive early, I will tweet out.
29:30 Michael Port: So a lot of the people that are following you on Twitter, are they people that have been in audiences?
29:36 Neen James: Some are. Twitter is really weird when you look at all the stats behind my Twitter. I have many more males follow me on Twitter than I do females. But then if you take LinkedIn, which is where my corporate clients are, I contribute to LinkedIn discussion groups. So they will see something that I’ve commented on and then obviously, LinkedIn posts where you can publish blogs. So I get feedback from the post articles, they get shared. So you have to look at social media as to who you really wanna play with. So for me, Twitter is very much about my audiences and playing with them. Instagram, that’s my life in pictures. And so I just put, that’s my life there, you can follow me of if you want to, I really don’t care. There’s nothing corporate about that. But I’m fascinated how deep into Instagram my clients go. That sort of freaks me out a little bit. I don’t know about anyone listening, but when people like a photo that you published six months ago, I’m like, “Oh my God, how deep did they go?” That’s bizarre. And Facebook is just weird. I mean I have this love/hate relationship with Facebook. I love it because my family is in Australia, so I always get to see what’s going on in their lives. And when Facebook first set up business pages, you might remember they were called Fan Pages, I refused to do it.
30:46 Michael Port: Me too.
30:47 Neen James: No way.
30:48 Michael Port: I remember saying, I’m not Dave Matthews.
30:48 Neen James: That’s ugh! It’s foul. It’s so ego. I was like, “No way!” So then when an audience went to connect [30:54] ____. Oh sure, you couldn’t connect with me on my personal Facebook page, so now it’s this hodgepodge of everything. So everyone from my mom, to my niece, to my top executives, they see my life. It’s what you see. If I wanna post about where I was having brunch on Sunday at Golden Pheasant here locally, that’s what they see. If they see me on the stage, that’s what they see. So it’s the same thing, no matter whether you see me at the airport, or online, it’s the same person.
31:17 Michael Port: Well, a number of years ago, I had that same exact issue. And then of course, my profile got filled up. So there were 5,000 people and then that’s it.
31:26 Neen James: 5,000 people, I know.
31:28 Michael Port: So I couldn’t add any people that I actually wanted to add. So I just converted that profile into a page and then start building the page.
31:35 Neen James: But that came later, right?
31:37 Michael Port: Later.
31:37 Neen James: ‘Cause I have a business page now, but you can’t put people across. You know what I mean? Do you know what I’m saying? So I think you just gotta pick your social media.
31:45 Michael Port: Yeah. Actually at the time, I don’t know what they’re doing now, but I was able to merge them.
31:49 Neen James: Oh, nice.
31:50 Michael Port: But it meant that I had to close my profile, which was fine. ‘Cause I just started it again, and now my profile is just 200 and something people that I actually know, and I’m actually friends with. Then I started liking Facebook more. ‘Cause I could post things that I might not post publicly, not that there’s anything strange about them, but I don’t really share everything about my personal life, professionally. I just don’t think it’s relevant to most people.
32:17 Neen James: It’s interesting what people are attracted to. So I was with a client just last week, and they were telling me all about what they’d seen. And they were like, “You were here, and then you were here, and then you bought this.” And I was like, “Mm-hmm.” And they feel like they’re part of your inner circle, or the club, or whatever that is and that makes them feel more connected to you. So honestly, if they feel more connected, then that just deepens the relationship. I’m so okay about that. I would never post anything that I wouldn’t want my mom to see.
32:47 Michael Port: Yes.
32:48 Neen James: I think that’s a good rule for all of us. And I’m never cranky on social media.
32:51 Michael Port: Well, that’s a big one. One of the things that I often ask our students to do, is to look at their Facebook profile, and their Twitter profile, and to evaluate just how critical they are. Because you can look back at your posts and see, “Well yep, I criticized that. Yep, I said that was bad.”
33:10 Neen James: Oh, I never do that.
33:11 Michael Port: Right, and you would never do that. Nope, no way.
33:14 Neen James: No. Because what if your tweet ended up on the front page of The New York Times? And this is so possible. People can screenshot everything now, everyone has a camera now. I mean I think as speakers we have an obligation to support our meeting planners by using social media. And I have this, what we call BDA, before, during and after. We have a process mapped and we make that part of how we add extra value.
33:36 Michael Port: So that’s what I wanted to go back to. I wanted you to talk about that, because clearly, you are getting really involved in that corporation or in that event even before you show up.
33:44 Neen James: Oh yeah, absolutely.
33:45 Michael Port: So your speech really starts as soon as you use that hashtag the first time.
33:49 Neen James: Yeah. So let me tell you a couple ways, things I do beforehand for all. And this is priced according to… Obviously, this helps me get my value as well.
33:57 Michael Port: So there are different packages that are add-ons, etcetera.
34:00 Neen James: Of course. But some of the things that we do is, I will always shoot a two-minute video for my client, less than two minutes. It’s like me in my office, it’s not exciting production, it’s either a shot on my iPhone or my Mac. And it’s customized for them. “I’m so excited to see you all. Let’s start the conversation early. Here’s how we can talk: Twitter, Facebook. Hey, here’s my e-mail address. E-mail me directly. What’s your biggest challenge with attention?” or whatever I’m talking about. So the video, they love that for marketing. And then I’ll say, “What’s your hashtag?” So I’ll start posting, I’ll start commenting, I’ll start following people. I’ll start being a little cheeky with some of the people if they post something. Or, “I’m super excited to see you guys! Oh my God, what am I gonna pack?” And so shoes are a part of my brand. So people take photos of my shoes, it’s so bizarre. But we’ll talk about that sort of playful side of this. So definitely the hashtag, definitely the video. But then what I’ll also do is, I’ll go on, if it’s appropriate, I’ll like their business Facebook page and see what they’re talking about and then I’ll comment.
34:50 Neen James: I will look to see and follow them on LinkedIn, to see what’s happening in their LinkedIn profile. And what’s interesting, because I talk about attention, I sometimes challenge my clients, “Do you actually know what your clients are saying about you?” And so you can look at social media to see what is the perception of this brand, of this client, of this executive that I’m working with. So there’s some things you can do beforehand. I also will share with them, “Hey, here’s an article you may like to publish on your newsletter before I speak.” So people have a little bit of a sense of you beforehand. “Hey, is there a webinar?” When we used to do Tweet chats, I’ve done those. I like Blab as a platform, so Blab you could use and interview the CEO, or you can interview some of the VPs or whoever. And then I always interview five people beforehand. So what I do is I interview the five execs, or the Board, or the committee or whoever. Just to help me tailor my presentation and customize it based on their needs. And then I’ll say to them, “Can I use you, can I quote you?” And if they say, “Yes,” then I will ask sometimes too, “Can I quote you on social media?” That’s a different process. My pharmaceutical clients, I can’t do that, ’cause I obviously have…
35:54 Michael Port: Compliance issues.
35:55 Neen James: Exactly, compliance and confidentiality. When I arrive at the event, not only am I already tweeting in advance, “Can’t wait to see you guys. Am I going to be on at 2:00? Let’s connect.” “Oh, my gosh. Who’s at lunch?” So I will play before I even go on stage. But I tell my audience to tweet while I talk. And I say, “Take a photo. Good luck trying to get one without my mouth open.”
36:15 Neen James: And then sometimes I’ll say, “I will give books to the best tweets,” and I get to vote. And then I’ll say, “Send me your address, I’ll send you an autographed book,” or something like that. So playing with the audience, ’cause they’re gonna be on their phones anyway. But I also use a service called Leadpages where they can actually use a number and they’ll get a white paper. So giving value through technology is another way to do it. And then after I’ve spoken, I’ll send another video. “Hey! Loved being with you guys. Hey, it’s been 30 days since we got together. Did you do what you said you were gonna do? Do you remember what we talked about? And here’s some other ways we can stay connected.” So it’s what I call before, during and after. It’s a process.
36:50 Michael Port: So it’s a three-part process.
36:51 Neen James: You bet. Absolutely. It’s systemised in my office.
36:54 Michael Port: That’s fantastic. It really makes a difference. It’s something that I know I should do more of, for sure. And I know that so many of my students would be well served doing a lot more of it.
37:07 Neen James: If your fee is ever in question, if people don’t wanna… They don’t have your budget. So before we talk money and they say, “Well, what’s your fee?” and I say, “Well, let’s just talk about the process.” I say, “I don’t believe in just coming in and speaking at your event. I know there’s other speakers who will happily do that for you. Let me walk you through my process.” And when you sell a process rather than a speech, and then you tell them everything they’re gonna get and they’re like, “Wow! You would do all that?” Absolutely! By the way, this is all templatised.
37:33 Michael Port: Yeah.
37:34 Neen James: Absolutely, I would do all that. And they say, “And what’s your fee?” And then you tell them your fee and they’re like and they’ll do one of two things, “Oh, okay,” or, “Oh.” And when you hear that, you’re like, “Well, is there a committee involved in this decision?” And I’ve even done videos for committees.
37:47 Michael Port: Sure.
37:47 Neen James: “So excited. Here’s why I’d be great for your event,” blah-blah-blah. If someone doesn’t RFP, which I hate those requests for proposals, I’ll do a video. So just find ways to use social media because if you’re not using social media, you’re going to get left behind, whether you like Twitter or Facebook. It’s irrelevant whether you like it or not, your audiences use it. And so you just gotta know who your audience is and where they like to play, and then leverage that.
38:12 Michael Port: It’s great. That’s fantastic. You’re obviously very thoughtful with respect to how you develop these relationships, manage these relationships, continue to nurture these relationships.
38:28 Neen James: We call it systemised thoughtfulness.
38:30 Michael Port: Oh, is that right?
38:31 Neen James: Yeah. So I speak about this in my keynote, so systemised thoughtfulness…
38:34 Michael Port: First of all, let me make a comment here. Do you see how, when you actually speak on how you behave…
38:43 Michael Port: The world sees it without even knowing that that’s what you speak on. So I just said, “Talk about thoughtfulness,” and you go, “Actually this is what I talk about.” Shocker!
38:52 Michael Port: You do just what you talk about.
38:54 Neen James: Fancy that. Imagine.
38:54 Michael Port: Yeah. Right.
38:55 Neen James: But when you think about systemised thoughtfulness, you can put systems in place. I think a lot of speakers what they do is, they do their work beforehand. They work so hard to get the job. They go in and they rock the stage and then there’s no follow up. And so many speakers don’t stay in contact with their clients. And the reason I like staying in contact is they might not use me next year, but I can say, “Michael would be brilliant for this room.” And I always go to the meeting planner with two names. Before I go on stage, I plant one name and I say to the meeting planner, just before I step on stage, “You know who this audience would love? They’d love Michael Port.” Then I do my thing and in the speech I often use Michael’s name. I’ll say, “I was talking to Michael when I read his book ‘Steal the Show,’ he was brilliant. You guys would love him.”
39:32 Michael Port: Wow!
39:34 Neen James: Planted.
39:35 Michael Port: Yeah.
39:35 Neen James: I come off the stage and I say, “You know who else I was thinking would be good for you? Then Scott Stratten would be amazing. His book on marketing is awesome. He’s just released a new one ‘UnSelling'” And so what I’ve done is planted two names to that meeting planner. And then I go away and I write an introduction between the speaker and the meeting planner, “Michael, please meet Deanne. She runs this event in Las Vegas. I think you’d love her.”
39:55 Michael Port: Brilliant.
39:56 Neen James: “Deanne, please meet Scott.” And so I’ll leave it up to you guys to connect. Because then I’m the trusted resource for that person. And then I can say, “Here’s the social media profiles, here’s their video.” And so I do that very diligently because they can’t use me every year.
40:11 Michael Port: Yeah, right.
40:11 Neen James: But they could use my friends. And so if I know the audience and they know I’ve hit it out of the park, then they go, “Well, she knows our people. She knows our challenges.” And then I can brief the speaker, “Here’s what I learned in my research.” So you accelerate it for the other speaker. That’s systemised thoughtfulness as well.
40:27 Michael Port: It’s beautiful. It’s something that makes a huge difference and is often surprising to people that are not in the industry because most folks, let’s say, heating and air conditioning business. They’re competing with the other heating and air conditioning businesses in the area.
40:45 Neen James: Sure.
40:45 Michael Port: And they’re often up for the same jobs, fighting against them, and the client is trying to push the prices down, etcetera, and it can be cut-throat.
40:55 Neen James: Sure.
40:56 Michael Port: But in our industry, you and I may be up for the same job, but we are finding ways to bring work to each other all the time. It’s just so interesting to me that the people who are the most successful, that are the most popular in this industry, are the ones who are doing exactly what you are talking about. Friends get friends work.
41:18 Neen James: They do. And here’s the thing, isn’t it cool when you get to be on the same stage as another friend? I have this group of people that we refer each other all the time, and we package each other. I say, “I’ll open, Patrick Henry will close,” or, “I’ll open, Judson Laipply will close,” or whatever it is.
41:33 Michael Port: Yeah. Judson is a great guy.
41:35 Neen James: I love that man. But what it’s about is going to the pinning panel with a solution, so you have just not you and they realise it’s not just about you, but it’s about looking after everything else. So I will often ask, “Who else are you considering?” or “Who else is on the agenda?” and that gives me a feel for their budget, but also who do I wanna play with? I love when I see someone…
41:55 Michael Port: Yeah, so if you know if they’re considering Seth Godin, you know what kind of money they have.
42:00 Neen James: There’s that. [chuckle] Or whether they’ve blown all their budget on one big name and what they have left.
42:04 Michael Port: Sure. Sure, that’s a good point.
42:05 Neen James: So that’s another thing too, you gotta think about what do they have? You are a line item. You are one line item and they’re trying to juggle that complete budget for all the speakers that they’re having at the event.
42:18 Michael Port: Yeah.
42:19 Neen James: Same thing goes in the corporate space. I speak at a lot of corporate events, and they might be smaller. They might be 100, they might be 300. But those smaller corporate events, and I love them, but they have a different price tolerance than the meeting planner who has full production, AV, the whole thing going on. So you just gotta also know who do you like to play with and what’s their budgets like.
42:40 Michael Port: Yeah, I’ve often been surprised by the fact that those smaller corporate events often have more money for their speakers than these big budget mega events, if they’ve spent their budgets on the lighting and the… There’s so many different things to concern themselves with where the CEO might say, “Listen, here’s a 100 grand, get so many speakers for this corporate event. We’re gonna have 100 people there.” And they can spend more money often on those speakers because they’re not spending as much money on other things.
43:18 Neen James: And they expect more.
43:19 Michael Port: Right.
43:20 Neen James: Because when you do speak for those smaller, they want the intimacy. They want you to hang with them. They love it when you have lunch with them or you hang out.
43:27 Michael Port: And also, they’re really looking for specific deliverables…
43:30 Neen James: Very much so.
43:31 Michael Port: In a different way often than the really big events are. Sometimes the big events are looking for experience.
43:36 Neen James: Sure.
43:37 Michael Port: And they’re not as worried about whether each person in the audience is gonna be able to do something with the information. They just want the audience to go, “Oh my god, that speaker was amazing!” “What’d they talk about?” “No idea.”
43:46 Neen James: No idea.
43:46 Michael Port: But I loved them.
43:48 Michael Port: But in the corporate space, they’re like, “Listen, ROI, ROI.”
43:50 Neen James: Oh, yeah. Oh, absolutely. And tie in their theme, and understand the CEO’s hot buttons, and, and, and, and.
43:58 Michael Port: Yeah.
43:58 Neen James: And I think too, one of the things, this industry is fascinating to me. I love it when I lose jobs to my friends ’cause I was like, “Oh my god, you chose Dan Thurman? I love that man.” “Simon Bailey? Absolutely. Of course, that makes sense.” So when you think about, it’s okay to ask, if you did lose a job, like why did they go that other way if you have that relationship with the meeting planner. But the other thing that I always do is say, “I’d love to be considered for next year.”
44:20 Michael Port: Yeah.
44:21 Neen James: So I think that’s why systemised thoughtfulness works ’cause it actually has a… It has happened where I’ve got booked because I missed out last year, but I stayed in contact with them this year.
44:29 Michael Port: And you have a process obviously for staying in contact.
44:30 Neen James: Right. And I don’t think speakers have competitors. Like we’re so, so fiercely unique that it’s hard… I can’t be Michael Port. You can’t be me. But I think we have to be aware of what the competition is, and I think it’s more like industry speakers because it’s cheaper. Well, it cost them nothing often, to get an academic or to get a subject matter expert, a thought leader in their industry and I think that’s where money is being lost in the professional industry, is to that industry speaker. And some of the industry speakers are getting good. They used to be brilliant and then they’d suck with delivery but now they’re the whole package. And if you can get that awesomeness where they have great information and awesome delivery.
45:10 Michael Port: We’re getting a lot of professors in our training programs now.
45:15 Neen James: I could see that.
45:16 Michael Port: In our grad program, we have a finance professor from UC Berkeley, he was at Stanford for a long time. And he’s really working on his speaking.
45:24 Neen James: That’s awesome.
45:24 Michael Port: Because he want to be a highly paid speaker and not just, “Oh, he’s a smart academic. Let’s get him, but we won’t have to pay him much ’cause he’s not a professional speaker.”
45:31 Neen James: And think about how TED and YouTube has changed that for the business in that people are now being asked… I’ve been asked a couple of times recently to do 15 and 20-minute keynotes. That was a big… That was hard work for me, I gotta be honest with you. I love 45, I love 90 minutes, but 15 minutes? That’s crazy town. And so I work so much harder on those speeches.
45:52 Michael Port: Sure.
45:52 Neen James: But I think that our meeting planners, our clients, are looking for very different things now. They think it’s awesome if they can get five people to do 15 minutes, instead of giving someone a 75-minute slot or whatever. So we have to be really aware of what the trends are in our industry. Doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman. Doesn’t matter if you sound like you’re five or you sound like the gorgeous Scott McKain.
46:13 Michael Port: Oh, my god!
46:14 Neen James: One day I had aspirations of presenting with Scott. I love that man.
46:16 Michael Port: Scott. I…
46:17 Neen James: But he and I together would be hilarious.
46:19 Michael Port: Actually, that would be really funny.
46:21 Neen James: I know. [chuckle]
46:21 Michael Port: Maybe I’ll do a podcast with both of you guys…
46:24 Neen James: Oh my god, that would be so awesome.
46:26 Michael Port: At the same time. Scott McKain’s voice is like…
46:29 Neen James: It’s like velvet.
46:30 Michael Port: Covered in butter. And that’s how…
46:32 Neen James: Oh my god, that’s such a great analogy, so true.
46:33 Michael Port: I mean it’s… Yeah? It’s like bathed, swathed in butter.
46:38 Michael Port: He’s a real old-fashioned radio voice.
46:40 Neen James: A brilliant speaker.
46:42 Michael Port: So I don’t even think he… I mean, he could go out there and he could do the phone book.
46:45 Neen James: Oh, yeah.
46:46 Michael Port: And you’d be like, “Oh, this sounds great.”
46:47 Neen James: Mesmerized.
46:47 Michael Port: Yeah.
46:48 Neen James: Exactly.
46:49 Michael Port: So let’s talk a little bit about fees. I’m not gonna ask you how much you charge, but do you have different fees for a different coast, East Coast, West Coast? International? And do you, it sounded like you did, but maybe you want to talk about it a little bit more, if there are add-on packages? How you structure your offerings?
47:10 Neen James: Sure. So I was with an executive today and they had brought in a celebrity speaker and he said to me, “Neen, that’s what I want to do, ’cause look how much money we paid him.” And I said, “Let’s just unpack what you paid him. It’s cost him a couple of days in travel. He’s had to customize. He has a New York Times best seller, but he had to write that book. You’re paying for years of experience. All you’re looking at is an hour’s presentation.” So I think that we have to look at our value we deliver as that process. I don’t have a different rate for East Coast, West Coast, but I’m super conscious of time. I do a bazillion red-eyes, and I’m happy I’m little, I can sleep on a red-eye.
47:45 Michael Port: Now see, that’s what’s not fair.
47:46 Neen James: I know.
47:47 Michael Port: You can actually… Coach to you is first class to anyone else.
47:50 Michael Port: Like you could put your feet up on the chair, sit cross-legged…
47:53 Neen James: So you’re assuming I fly coach which is fascinating you would say that.
47:57 Michael Port: No, no. I’m not… I’m saying it’s a great way to save.
48:00 Neen James: I’m teasing you. I know, I know.
48:00 Michael Port: Amy and I, when we fly on our ticket, we fly coach. When we fly someone else’s ticket, we fly first class.
48:06 Neen James: I fly first class. And there’s a couple of reasons for that.
48:09 Michael Port: Your shoes, you don’t want them to…
48:10 Neen James: It’s that. And I don’t wanna fight with anyone for overhead space. I wanna be on the plain. I wanna work, I wanna go to sleep, and I don’t… I never check a bag, even for two weeks, even with my shoes.
48:20 Michael Port: That’s right. Yeah.
48:20 Neen James: But what’s fascinating, my girlfriend and I have this joke. I look around, and there’s not a lot of chicks in first class. That breaks my heart. But here’s what I do. I charge a flat travel fee. And I think a lot of people are moving to that model. We used to do fee inclusive because I never wanted to argue with my client. I’m never sending receipts. I don’t wanna do that. But so many of my corporate clients, you’re not allowed to fly first class, but I choose to personally fly first class. So even if a client was funding a coach ticket, I’d still buy a first class ticket, and say to them, “I’m happy to invoice you whatever you think it’s worth. But I’ll pay the difference.” But I’m a brat. I like staying at nice hotels. I like a car service. And I like first class.
48:54 Michael Port: Why is that a brat? That’s perfectly fine.
48:55 Neen James: But because of the lifestyle we’ve chosen…
48:57 Michael Port: Sure.
48:57 Neen James: All my energy has to go on that stage for that moment. So I can’t arrive tired. I can’t be exhausted. I can’t look not fabulous. So I think you’ve gotta think about what works for you. So knowing that every speech is two days in America.
49:10 Michael Port: At least. Yeah.
49:11 Neen James: Because you have to travel in the night before ’cause weather is insane, and air travel here is ridiculous. And then you’ve given that whole day. And then if they want additional things like an extra break out after your keynote or… What I do is I listen to what the client wants, and I know it’s never a keynote. But there’s always three options. So option one is just the speech. Option two is maybe some packaging. Option three is something ridiculous that I think they’re never gonna pay for. Guess which option most of them choose?
49:40 Michael Port: Three.
49:41 Neen James: No. Often B. But C… If I put C, if I have to do it, then I have to love it. So when Laurie Guest is a speaker, she has this really cool formula called, sweet spot pricing, and lots of people offer packages. But she has a great formula. And so what I do is by giving them these choices, they then go, “Okay. I feel… ” ‘Cause most people take option B. They don’t wanna look like the cheapest option, but maybe they can’t stretch it to the most expensive. The other thing that I do quite often is I say, “Hey, do you have a sponsor?” And a line that I use quite often is, “Would it make sense for everyone to get a copy of my book?” And then they go, “Well, we don’t have a budget for that,” and say, “Well, do you have a sponsor?” Because we could put the sponsors’ information on the book. And so I’ve had wrapped or stickers or whatever. There’s clever ways to get money and fees. International, yes of course. But I don’t do heaps of international work. I’m not that girl. I love being at home in Bucks County with my honey, and he travels as well. So I love being home. I don’t need to work a bazillion days. I do 65 to 75 speeches a year. And I frankly…
50:40 Michael Port: Which is still a lot.
50:41 Neen James: But I don’t wanna do any more than that. I see these speakers, and they’re like, “Oh, my God. I did like 120 speeches.” And I’m like, “That’s exhausting. I don’t want that.” [laughter]
50:49 Michael Port: Yeah, it’s a lot. What percentage of your revenue in your whole business is specifically derived from speaking?
50:55 Neen James: 70/30 is the split we do. So 70% of what I do is speaking, and 30% is the executive mentoring. There’s a tiny bit of product in there, but nothing to talk about. [chuckle]
51:04 Michael Port: You mentioned before, the flat fee. This made a difference for us when we moved to the flat fee, in large part because they just didn’t like the idea of having to pay for first. Even if they were allowed to, they figured, “Oh, we’re already paying all this money for the speech. And then we gotta pay for first.” So then they wanna negotiate down the fee. And this way, it’s not an issue. It’s just this is what the fee is for travel. We’ll take care of it.
51:26 Neen James: I don’t want people to know how I travel. It’s none of their business.
51:28 Michael Port: Right.
51:30 Neen James: I’m very proudly a brat. I like nice things. I love a nice lifestyle. This industry gives us the best lifestyle.
51:37 Michael Port: It does.
51:37 Neen James: I run a fat practice. I do not run a lean practice. I’m happy to spend money on stuff, but that’s my choice ’cause it’s my practice. Some people run an incredibly lean practice, and they scrimp and save everywhere. And God bless them. That’s fantastic ’cause that works for them. I like stuff. I love giving away money too, and I don’t want people to argue with me about how I’m gonna travel because we spend too much time on planes.
52:00 Michael Port: And I’m glad you do because, Neen brought me a gift, a fabulous bottle of champagne, which is not a cheap bottle. And so thankfully, she does, ’cause if she was cheap, she would have brought me some crap.
52:15 Neen James: Champagne is just one of my loves.
52:18 Michael Port: Okay. I have another question, and this will be our final topic, I think. I could sit here and talk to you all day. You talked about choosing your network.
52:28 Neen James: Right.
52:29 Michael Port: And we addressed the fact that friends get friends work, and how important your relationships are. But I’d love you to explain to us what you mean by choosing your own network, and why it’s so important.
52:43 Neen James: The people that you surround yourself with have such a massive impact on how you show up in the world. And I think if you are surrounded with people who are toxic or negative or always down about everything, then that, by default, is gonna bring your energy down. And I’m old. I know I don’t sound like I’m old, but the wisdom that comes with going, “You know what? People are not my project.” I’ve had people in my life who are very needy. And then I’ve gone, “Hmm, you know what? They’re not my project. I don’t need to be that for them.” And so I think there’s two kinds of people. There’s VIPs who are very inspiring people. These are the people…
53:20 Michael Port: Oh, that’s a nice… I like that.
53:21 Neen James: But think about it. These are the people you wanna hang around with. When you’re with them, you feel better. You feel better about yourself. You feel better about life. I always choose to surround myself with VIPs. Then there’s VDPs which are very draining people. And we all have them. Sometimes there’s family. You can’t choose your family. But VDPs, you need to minimize your time with them. So I deliberately choose who are the people that I trust. And so I also choose the clients I work with because I’m at a point in my practice where I can. So when I was first out, believe me, that was not my case. I spoke everywhere and did horrible flights and all that kind of stuff. But I think you gotta choose who you surround yourself with because that’s a representation of your brand. And so by default, the people you hang around with also say a lot about who you are. I wanna be around people who love life, who love the people they’re with, who love what they do, who adore if they have little people in their life, or furry people, that’s the people I wanna hang around with. And that’s why I choose to be a part of the National Speakers Association, ’cause some of my dearest friendships have been made there. By the way, there’re some crazies in that place, but there’s crazies in any industry.
54:27 Michael Port: Anywhere. Anywhere.
54:28 Neen James: So I think you got to choose your network. But it’s not just about the people and the friendships, it’s about the clients, because you’re giving so much of your time and energy to those people. And if you leave it all on the stage, you gotta really like those people. And those people are taking you away from people you share your life with, so you gotta choose where you speak really deliberately. ‘Cause if I’m gonna give up my weekend to fly to a client or to hang with them, I better like them, ’cause otherwise, it’ll show up.
54:57 Michael Port: Well, I like you.
54:58 Neen James: Good! I’m glad.
55:00 Michael Port: You’re fantastic. I’m so happy.
55:00 Neen James: You’re fun.
55:01 Michael Port: We’ve been trying to have sushi for years.
55:06 Neen James: Oh, my God. Let’s say years ’cause that’s true.
55:07 Michael Port: But I’m really thankful that I got you here.
55:10 Michael Port: I actually had sushi earlier today. Does that count?
55:12 Neen James: Sure.
55:13 Michael Port: I knew you were with clients, otherwise, I would have got it for you too.
55:14 Neen James: I was with clients. But that’s good, we need to be with clients, right?
55:17 Michael Port: This is true.
55:18 Neen James: We can’t just hang out all day and drink champagne and eat sushi.
55:20 Michael Port: We can’t?
55:23 Michael Port: I mean, I think it’s possible at some point.
55:25 Neen James: I think we should have champagne at Heroic Public Speaking, I’m just saying.
55:28 Michael Port: We should’ve had it here actually, while we were doing this.
55:30 Neen James: Would’ve been appropriate.
55:31 Michael Port: We’ll have to do another one of these.
55:33 Neen James: With Scott McKain.
55:34 Michael Port: With Scott McKain, exactly. Exactly right. Well, Scott was at Heroic Public Speaking Live last year. He said he’s gonna come back this year.
55:42 Neen James: He is?
55:43 Michael Port: Yeah, and I’m gonna get you there this year.
55:46 Neen James: That’ll be fun. Yeah, I just put it in my calendar. You saw me do it.
55:47 Michael Port: Good. And we can get you guys on stage at the same time.
55:51 Neen James: Oh my God, that would fulfill one of my dreams.
55:53 Michael Port: Then that’s my goal.
55:53 Neen James: That’s what’s happening.
55:54 Michael Port: My goal is to fulfill one of your dreams.
55:57 Michael Port: That’s fantastic.
55:57 Neen James: I love it.
56:00 Michael Port: Neen James, thank you so much again. Neenjames.com, it’s N as in November. E-E as in echo, echo. Again, N as in November. James, as in James, dot com. Thank you so much.
56:13 Neen James: It’s been an absolute privilege to serve. Thanks for having me on your show. It’s awesome.
56:17 Michael Port: Hey, this is Michael, again. Listen, Neen and I started talking after we turned off the recording and she started telling me a story that you have to hear. So we turned the recording back on. Here we are again. We started talking about how Neen got started.
56:32 Neen James: Right.
56:32 Michael Port: And she told me about how she… Well, I’ll let her tell you, but she relentlessly pursued a friend of ours to be her mentor.
56:41 Michael Port: So tell us about this, how did you get started?
56:42 Neen James: I got started… I was a corporate girl, grew up in corporate business in Australia as I mentioned. And someone invited me to go to a National Speakers event. I didn’t even know that was a thing, like a real job, like speaking was a job. And at the front of the room was a gentleman by the name of Matt Church, and many of you would know that he’s the founder of Thought Leaders Global. And he was giving this room of his competitors, I thought, all of his intellectual property, and I didn’t understand that. I was like, “What is wrong with him?” Like I am corporate, we protect intellectual property in corporate. So I went up to him and I asked him about it afterwards. And then when I decided to be a speaker, and I stayed in contact with him, I was like, “Okay, this could be a thing. I could make money out of this.”
57:19 Neen James: I reached out to him and said, “I’d like you to be my mentor,” and he said, “No.” And I was like, “I don’t think you understand. I’m Neen James. I’m adorable. You wanna be my mentor.” “No, no, really I don’t.” And for six months Michael, I hounded him. I literally, I’d stay in contact, we’d have coffee. I was like, “I would do anything. I need you to mentor me.” I must’ve worn him down because I presented him with a contract, and the contract said, “This is what’s gonna happen. You’re gonna be my mentor, and I’m gonna be your mentee. And for six months, we’re gonna meet. And I will sell books for you at the back of the room. I will attend your speeches. I will fly with you. I will pick you up from the airport. I will do whatever it takes to get five minutes of your brilliance.” As a result of Matt Church mentoring me, I think that he probably saved me at least five to seven years in my practice because not only is he brilliant, he’s clear.
58:06 Neen James: And for a year, even though I was building my practice, I was learning the good, the bad, and the ugly side of our business. And I think that’s what saved me so much. I think people see an hour on stage and think, “Wow it’s so easy.” But when you are mentored by truly one of the world’s best, it makes a huge difference.
58:22 Michael Port: And he is.
58:23 Neen James: He is truly. Right now, people that I love and adore who I still look up to are my peers now, but I’ve gone to people like Mark Sandborn, Connie Podesta, Scott McKain, I go to these people for advice and they’re so generous. So I think we have a responsibility too, no matter where we’re at in our careers, to also be a mentor for someone else.
58:41 Michael Port: That’s right. And interestingly enough, guess who I’m talking to today at 4:00.
58:46 Neen James: Who?
58:47 Michael Port: Matt Church.
58:47 Neen James: Shut up!
58:47 Michael Port: Yes. Isn’t that great?
58:48 Neen James: I love that. Tell him I say, “Good day.”
58:51 Michael Port: I sure will.
58:52 Neen James: He’s doing some really exciting things with Thought Leaders Business School, so make sure you ask him about that.
58:56 Michael Port: Well, that’s what we’re talking about. He’s bringing it to the US.
58:58 Neen James: He is. He’s gonna be in New York in a couple of weeks.
59:00 Michael Port: So we’re chatting about how I might be able to help facilitate that for him.
59:03 Neen James: It is a phenomenal program. I’ve seen people’s lives totally transformed, and their businesses sky-rocketed. So he’s about the commercial side. He’s a brilliant man.
59:13 Michael Port: Yeah. He’s great. So thank you.
59:15 Neen James: It’s an Aussie Day!
59:16 Michael Port: Yeah, so thank you for that little extra bonus there.
59:19 Neen James: Pleasure.
59:20 Michael Port: And we will catch everybody next time. Bye for now.