Dealing with Competition in the Speaking Industry

By Jane Atkinson

How do you feel when you lose a piece of business that you know you were perfect for? Ugh!!!  It hurts, right? But competition in the speaking industry is fierce, and I’m sorry to say, it’s only going to get tighter as more people enter the field. Understanding that is one thing. Now let’s talk about what you can do about it!

3 Tips for Navigating Competition in the Speaking Industry

Competition is a reality that isn’t going away any time soon. And I want you to know that I share your pain. My business, the business of helping speakers grow, has seen a massive shift in the last few years. Many people are entering the field. So, what do I do about it? 

Here is a collection of tips from me, psychologists, and industry greats that will help you effectively deal with competition in the speaking industry.

1. Know Your Differentiators

First, when faced with competing offerings, I shore up my differentiators. The fact that I have worked full-time helping speakers for over 3 decades gives me some peace. This is not just a side hustle for me—I’m in this for the long haul. And when people see my body of work, they’ll see the difference.

Dr. Paul Schempp shared this:

“Thinking about competition reminded me of a conversation with a world-famous golfer that I coached. For years, he would focus on ‘how great everyone else is,’ and it really hurt his game, trying to be someone he was not.  I did finally convince him that his goal and focus should be more about discovering how great he could be and less about how great others were. We achieved some level of success with it, and he went on to win major championships.”

When you focus inward, rather than outward and concentrate on what makes you unique, the competition volume gets turned down a few degrees (even if only in your own head).

Download the Competitive Advantage Worksheet to map out these homework items:

  • What are your differentiators?  
  • What do you have going for you?  
  • What’s in your background that makes you feel most credible?
  • How can you focus inward instead of outward? 

Whether you capture the business this time or not, knowing how you are different will help you relax a bit, and it will help you in the long run.

2. Up Your Game 

Up Your Game

Having so much competition has also made me up my game. I’ve developed books, courses, worksheets, templates, quizzes, and contests, all with the goal of helping a speaker build their dream business. Not to mention weekly blog posts and podcasts. So when I run up against someone who offers something for speakers, I have confidence, and I remind myself that I’m in this for the long haul.

The same goes for my friend David Avrin. Here’s what he said when I asked him about competing for a speaking engagement:

“I play the “long-game” in the speaking business. If a competitor (friend) beats me out for a gig, I am fine. I know a few things. 1. They’re a good speaker, and I’m happy for them. 2. I know I was in the running and the client was interested in me and my topic.  3. I know that my competitor won’t likely get the gig next year, so I will have a better shot. 4. I know I am on the client’s radar and I will be better next year (because we are always growing and tweaking our approach.) Too many people focus on the next gig and not the pipeline for the next 100 gigs over the next several years.”

The Competitive Advantage Worksheet has some homework that will get you thinking about how you can up your game, for example:

  • Is it time to write that next book? 
  • Should you start or be a guest on a podcast?
  • Does your content need retooling?
  • Should you try a new marketing initiative?  

Competition in the speaking industry means we all must be in a state of constant learning and growth.  If you have been due for some upgrades, now’s the time to think about it.

3. Watch Your Thinking

Watch Your Thinking

When you feel yourself going down a rabbit hole, feeling green or negative about the competition, really ask yourself if the way you are thinking is being helpful or harmful. When you map out an alternative thought process, you can keep your eyes on the prize.

My client, Dr. Marie-Helene Pelletier, says: 

“It happens to all of us, the thinking may go like this: ‘everybody is speaking on this topic – I have no chance.’ You want to catch this thinking, question it, and turn it into a more fair and realistic statement – something like ‘there are many speakers, and a number of us speak on this topic, each bringing our specific contribution. I will do all I can to bring my best, most unique contribution forward to serve the right audiences for me.’”

When you think negatively of yourself because of the competition, and when you think or speak negatively about your competition, you are not putting your energy into a productive place.  

The final piece of homework you will find on the Competitive Advantage Worksheet is the following:

“When you have thoughts that don’t serve you about your competitors or about yourself, what’s a more positive stance to take?  Write down your exact thoughts and then write down an alternative. Keep your worksheet close for when you find yourself slipping into old unhelpful patterns.”

This may seem like a pretty simplistic exercise, but there is some power in identifying your thoughts.

Keep this in mind as you are filling out your Competitive Advantage Worksheet: Competition in the speaking industry is a reality, but how you handle it is a choice. 

Creating a solid mindset for competition was a topic on my recent podcast with Rick Carson, the author of Taming your Gremlins. Check it out and refer back to it when needed.

We can’t dwell on the fact that the competitive landscape is growing bigger by the day. But we CAN take the things we do control into our own hands.

See you soon Wealthy Speakers!