4 Reasons They’re Scared to Book You as a Speaker (and what to do about it)

If you’re not getting as many invitations to speak as you’d like (or clients, or opportunities of any kind), it could be because your website or LinkedIn profile is full of red flags.

1. You don’t have video of you speaking to an audience.

Imagine you want to attend a dance class with a number of friends. You’re looking at a few websites of teachers, and they all describe themselves as teaching the style of dance you want to learn. However, only one of the teachers has a video of them leading a dance class.

You have to decide which dance class to show up to, with all of your friends. Which dance class do you choose? Knowing nothing else, most people would choose the dance class where they could see evidence of how good the teacher is first. After all, if you make a bad call, not only do you have a bad time, your friends do too.

Now, you might choose another dance teacher (even without video) if a close friend had attended the class and thought it was AMAZING, but even with a recommendation, it’s still scary to make an investment (of time, money, opportunity, social risk) without seeing a demonstration of that skill. No matter the certifications or credentials or reviews they have. 

Video also makes referrals easier — if two different friends recommended two different dance instructors, but one of them had video, the one with video is always an easier choice.

It’s the same with an event organizer choosing which speaker to book.

If all you’ve got are photos of you on stage (no video), YouTube of you talking to your webcam, or you don’t have any of this, you’re a huge risk for ANY event organizer to book. Here’s why —  if you do a bad job (even if you aren’t paid), the ORGANIZER looks bad in front of the audience too. And, if anyone found out the organizer booked a speaker with no video, it just shows poor judgment – after all, what did you expect?

Without videos of you speaking on stage, you’re treated just like a total beginner (even if you’re not). You could say you’re a great speaker, you could share testimonials, but then again, you could be delusionally-confident, your testimonials could just be people being polite (eg: you asked for a testimonial and you did “ok”, but someone is just being nice because you guilted them into a testimonial).

NOTE: you *don’t* need previous video to get booked as a TEDx speaker (my TEDx talk was my first talk ever, and the same is true for a number of my clients).

2. Your potential clients haven’t heard of your credentials

Endorsements help you trust a 3rd party far more when you trust the endorser. For example, if you see that an anonymous stranger likes a restaurant, that’s better than nothing…but if a close friend likes it, that’s much better.

It’s the same with the credentials you have — logos of past clients, awards you’ve won, certifications, etc. “One of my clients was Nike” works better than “One of my clients is ACME footwear co”.

Thing is, there may be certifications that others in the coaching or speaking industry are well aware of (like ICF), that DO make you a better coach, but that your clients have never heard of.

As a quick test, take one of your certifications that’s on your website or LinkedIn, then go out to your favorite coffee shop and ask the barista if they’ve heard of the organization that grants the certification. Next, ask if they’ve heard of Harvard University, The New York Times, TED Talks etc.

3. You have about the same credentials as everyone else in your niche

Imagine looking for a personal trainer, and they all are “certified”, they’re all in good shape etc…which one do you pick? It’s probably a confusing choice….which is why you may try to haggle them down or just look for the cheapest. It becomes a commodity. Like buying rice

So, You have a book…but so does everyone else.
You have a story of triumph…so does everyone else
You have a coaching certification etc.

In the eyes of the public, you’re about the same as everyone else in your niche, which tells them that it’s not a CLEAR choice to hire you. Analysis paralysis sets in, and either they never hire anyone, keep looking for awhile, or it takes them a long time to finally commit (or, they see someone who has a credential that they know, trust, and makes that OTHER speaker stand out…like a NYT Bestseller, TEDx talk, Ivy League education etc).

4. Your credentials are too easy to fake

You can easily write fake testimonials (or just get testimonials that could be “polite”, like “so and so did a great job”). You can get fake amazon reviews, put logos on your website or describe awards that could be real or made up, you could falsify almost your entire work history on LinkedIn as well.

And so on…credentials that are hard to fake (like an article in a well-known publication, a TEDx talk, being the author of a bestselling book, video testimonials) are always trusted more than credentialst that are easy to fake.

The lesson here — you can be GOOD, yet still not be trusted in the eyes of the public — oftentimes it’s not a matter of getting more skilled, but rather, of signaling expertise in the right way so that people trust you.

What are some ways to do it?

1. Get endorsements your clients have heard of

It’s easier to get a guest post on a niche industry site, but is probably well worth your time to try and get published somewhere well-known. 

2. Have endorsements of your output, not just your input

Learning from a smart person is good (eg: education, credentials), but it doesn’t mean you actually have any useful ideas that apply to others.

To show this, get endorsements of your output (eg: a book deal does this, as it’s a publisher investing money in a particular idea of yours. Same with an article in the New York Times, a TEDx talk etc.

3. Get credentials that ONLY an expert can get

Imagine there is a delusionally confident person in your niche, with lots of money to burn. Yet, they have zero knowledge about the proper way to do things. They think they know, but any true expert would know their ideas are terrible.

Can they write a book? Yes. Start a blog/podcast/youtube channel? Of course. None of these things require you to be good at all, only passionate/confident.

For example, I once met a guy traveling who’d published close to 30 kindle books on Amazon on various topics he knew absolutely nothing about — he basically just made stuff up about keto, meditation, and various other self-help topics. Here’s the kicker — he’s made thousands of dollars a month and is on track to sell his business for 200k+. 

So, what can you do that a confident non-expert CANNOT do? 

4. Get credentials that are hard to fake

You can get fake amazon reviews (hint: if all your book reviews are 5 stars, it’s pretty obvious your friends wrote them), fake testimonials (or at least ones that are polite, like “so and so did a great job!”), etc. 

I have even heard stories of people getting their close friends to buy copies of their book within a tight timeline, quickly taking a screenshot of their “Amazon bestseller” status, and bragging about it for years to come.

But some credentials cannot be faked. A TEDx talk can be verified pretty quickly — just look at the video on TED.com or the TEDx YouTube channel. If you say you can speak Spanish, you can really quickly demonstrate that (impossible to fake). Same with your strength level (take a video of how much you can lift), and so on (by the way, this is why I do video testimonial videos with my clients after they deliver their TEDx talk AND link their TEDx talk directly — it’s easy to fake text testimonials, but not video).

5. Get credentials that are MUCH better than anyone else in your niche

This makes decision-making easy for potential clients – you’re the obvious choice (it breaks “analysis paralysis”, so they know it’s very unlikely they’ll be able to find someone as good as you).

This is the beauty of a TEDx talk…it is:

  • A recognized brand by the general public
  • Respected as a credible source of ideas
  • Hard to fake, quick to verify, and something ONLY someone with great ideas can do
  • Much faster than spending 4 years and 200k+ at Harvard
  • A demonstration of speaking skill (better than a feature in the New York Times in this sense)

So, in one fell swoop, you get much of the advantage of going to Harvard, getting a book deal, getting an article featured in the New York Times, and having high-quality video on a great-looking stage in front of tons of people.

Plus, while the hundreds of essays and assignments you’d do for an undergrad, master’s degree, or Ph.D. are only really useful for that ONE degree, in the process of developing your ideas for the TEDx stage, you’ll improve your ideas and the way in which you pitch yourself such that it can be applied to every other stage, writing project, social media, emails, advertisements etc (so, you win, even before you get booked for TEDx) . eg: my clients use their TEDx topic/pitch to get on podcasts, 10x their advertising revenue, get book deals, speak at other summits and workshops, etc.

So – TEDx is a great way to get the credibility to open many doors for a number of reasons.


PS – there are two ways I can help with your TEDx journey:

1) If you feel like you need some guidance on the right approach (so you don’t waste time, so your message is framed such that it appeals to organizers because you need help with topic development, or anything else), you can book a call with me here to see if coaching is right for you.

2) If are confident that you’ve got a great topic and JUST want to know how to find the best events and their contact details so you can get in touch with them, my Speaker Applications List makes this extremely easy (you can try it free for 7 days). 

Ryan Hildebrandt
Ryan Hildebrandt
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