With the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly evolving, we will be updating this article with new advice, expertise, and insights on an ongoing basis as the situation changes.
As the world works collectively to navigate an unprecedented time in our modern history, people and businesses across the globe are being impacted universally. Almost every person and every industry are being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s causing massive economic uncertainty and mass gatherings are being canceled the world over.
For professional speakers, whose livelihoods depend largely on events and gatherings, this is a scary time. People are being asked to stay in their homes. Events and speaking gigs are being canceled. And the challenge of not knowing exactly when things will return to normal means it’s hard to forecast what your speaking business will look like in a week, a month, or even a few months.
But one thing is for sure. Eventually, things will start returning to normal. And in the meantime, it’s important that you take steps to make sure your speaking business is positioned for success when they do.
Here are 7 things you can do to safeguard your speaking business amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Move Towards Online Sessions
While COVID-19 is forcing the cancellation of many traditional in-person speaking engagements, you can refocus on hosting speaking sessions in a virtual environment for the immediate future. This can include:
- Offering to conduct the gigs you’ve currently got booked online at a reduced rate
- Proactively marketing your speaking services to your customers in a virtual format
- Exploring, developing, and promoting new types of online speaking sessions
By moving your existing gigs online, you may be able to retain revenue from the speaking engagements that would otherwise have been canceled. And by creating and promoting new online speaking sessions, you can maintain a personal relationship with your audience and continue to keep yourself top-of-mind.
One great way to do this is by hosting webinars. You can either offer these for free as a brand builder or charge a reduced rate for people who want to attend.
You can also find other ways to build your profile, such as making appearances on podcasts, in order to get your voice out there during this challenging time. To learn more about why podcasts are great for your speaking business, check out our blog post from guest contributor Amanda Scocozzo.
2. Take Time to Review and Tidy Up Systems
With some free time available to you, one of the best ways to make sure your business is equipped for success is to review and tidy up your systems and process.
You might want to consider things like:
- Creating an eye-catching speaker one-sheet, developing your speaker reel, and designing a media page (to learn more, check out our blog post on the topic)
- Making sure your website is up to date
- Digging into the capabilities of your CRM to make sure you’re maximizing its potential (for more info, watch the webinar we recently hosted that focused on the “K.A.R.M.A.” method, a simple 5-step process of daily tasks you can implement in order to support more speaking gigs)
3. Investing More Time into Your Marketing
While forced downtime can mean lost revenue in the short term, there are things you can do right now that will translate into income down the road.
For instance, it’s wise to start focusing on ways to mitigate an inactive sales funnel. The last thing you want to do right now is to stop communicating with your customers and prospects. On the contrary, now is the time to ramp up your communication and marketing.
Reach out to existing customers and stay in touch with people you’re currently working with. Send them email campaigns with proactive updates and work towards finding later dates for canceled or postponed gigs.
You should also be working to track down or take on new leads. While the time may not be right at the moment, you can open the door to revisiting opportunities for the future and securing dates later on in the year.
You can also use this downtime to clean up your mailing list. Since email lists typically decline in quality over time, it’s wise to do this from time to time to make sure you have a mailing list full of engaged subscribers.
This can include:
- Checking for typos (i.e. writing Gmail rather than Gmail) or missed letters or misspelling (i.e. in a company email address)
- Trying to re-engage your subscribers with emails that pique their interest
- Finding and removing any duplicate email addresses
- Removing people who have unsubscribed
- Getting rid of spam email addresses (you can often spot these by looking for email addresses with weird letter or number combinations)
- The key is to make sure you’re taking this time to do things that will set you up for success as business begins returning to normal.
4. Work Ahead on Things That Are Normally Last-Minute
Everybody has those tasks that always get left to the last minute or just continually get put off until later. Now is a good time to work on getting ahead on those types of tasks.
Consider spending some time working on things like:
- Preparing speeches and speaking points ahead of time
- Getting your presentations and slideshows ready now
- Coordinating logistics, like car rentals, hotels, and itineraries for gigs that are still moving forward
In doing so, you’ll be miles ahead once in-person speaking gigs start ramping back up again later in the year.
5. Be Flexible When It Comes to Deposits
Every person and organization is feeling the financial pinch right now. In light of that, one of the best things you can do as a business owner is to be flexible and accommodating for your customers.
For instance, try to avoid being overly strict when it comes to deposits. It’s important to understand that speaking engagements are shared-risk events. When possible, try to think of deposits like escrow payments and return them if things fall through.
Connect with your customers and offer to postpone speaking engagement dates until later in the year, assuring them they will have their first choice of dates when it becomes safe to host events again.
One thing is for sure: your prospects and customers will remember the way you treated them when times were tough, and you can bet that it will make the difference between a lost gig or a long and fruitful business relationship.
6. Re-Examine Your Contracts
Given that nobody in our lifetime has ever experienced a situation like this before, it’s a safe bet that this pandemic has brought to light a number of issues and risks that you’d never considered before.
With that in mind, this would be a good time to reexamine your contracts to make sure all of your bases are covered.
For instance, you might want to add in a clause that pertains to national emergencies and decide exactly what that will entail for you and your customers. While it may not do much for your existing contracts, it can certainly help futureproof your business in the event that something like this ever happens again.
7. Become Part of a Community
In an unprecedented time like this, it’s helpful to be part of a community that can share resources and ideas, or even just act as a sounding board. That’s why we’ve created a karmaSpeaker Community on Facebook so that our members can have a forum in which to talk about what’s happening, what types of things they’re doing, and ask questions of one another.
If you want to become part of the community, click here to join.
As we try to navigate this pandemic, we’re all in uncharted territory. And with the situation evolving constantly, businesses of all kinds are in a cycle of perpetually changing and adapting.
At karmaSpeaker, we’re committed to supporting you through this challenging time and offering you every possible resource and insight to help you protect your business. That’s why we’ll be hosting our Professional Speaker Panel Discussion: Strategies for Weathering COVID-19. If you’d like to learn more, join us on March 31, 2020, for an expert panel and Q&A session with professional speakers Charles Marshall, Shawn Rhodes, Caryn Ross, and Lauren Schieffer.