Professional Speakers: The Overlooked Essential Service Provider

“Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close up.”

No, I’m not some Hollywood diva nor do I desire to be.  I’m just a working professional speaker, trainer, consultant and author who, like most everyone I know, has had a lot on his mind recently.

Since early March 2020, most of my professional colleagues have experienced professional challenges of biblical proportions (an intentional callback to Cecil B. DeMille, Producer/Director of the movie, The Ten Commandments).

I’ve certainly not experienced anything like this in my 32 years of full-time professional speaking.  I’ve earned professional designations and have been awarded various recognitions for my work.  But in Spring 2020, that mattered little.

When it was determined that social distancing and isolation were necessary to combat mounting COVID-19 cases and deaths, virtually overnight the speaking, training and meetings industry came to screeching halt.

The Overlooked Ripple Effect

We’ve all heard about the severe economic impact visited upon hotels, restaurants and airlines.  But in my opinion, thousands of other small businesses have been generally overlooked, including caterers, videographers, sound engineers, meeting planners, bureaus and yes, speakers, trainers, coaches and consultants.

All have been completely without work or have seen their normal workloads — and related revenues — severely affected (diminished) without much hope for returning to a predictable level for the foreseeable future.

I’m guessing not many outside my industry — the professional speaking industry — would support my assertion that at this point in history, professional speakers, trainers and those who support such services are, in fact, essential service providers.

Sadly, it’s legend that when an individual company or industry hits hard times for almost any reason, the first thing to be cut from working budgets is speaking, training, consulting services and related travel.  And that’s too bad.  In fact, I believe it’s professionally shortsighted.

Leadership & Communication Is Essential When…

Throughout history, professional speakers, trainers, coaches, consultants, professional communicators of all sorts have proven themselves essential in effectively sharing critical information, education, instruction, direction, hope, encouragement, inspiration, even entertainment and humor to purposefully illuminate the path ahead.

It’s true for my area of expertise: professional leadership development.  Many would agree that leadership has never been more critically needed, yet more sadly lacking.  Leadership vision is essential for an uncertain future.  Leadership is essential in the midst of change, realignment and reorganization.  Leadership is required for critical decision making. Leadership communication is vital to stay connected with those distant and working remotely from us.  The list could continue.

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Forward-Thinking Examples

Over the past two weeks the path has brightened somewhat for me. On a personal note, during the past 14 days or so, I have led a 2-hour virtual training session. I’ve presented a live virtual keynote to a business cooperative (350 participants around the country.) And just last week, booked a November engagement (live or virtual, whichever is necessary) and recorded a keynote address to be shown in mid-October to a virtual trade association audience.  More that 1,000 members expected.

In other words, some forward-thinking organizations are embracing the need and this moment in order to move forward.  In so doing, they are enlisting the services of proven professional communicators to support their plans.

Professional Speakers Practice What We Preach

Earlier this month, the National Speakers Association (NSA), successfully held it’s first ever 3-day virtual conference in its 40+ year history.  Approximately, 700 professional speakers from around the U.S. participated, each preparing for that time when our services are determined to be essential again.

As Past President of NSA during the Great Recession (2009-2010), I am so proud of current NSA leaders and the example they are modeling for our members and clients alike, in addressing and overcoming professional adversity.  It’s a message we practice as well as preach.

The biblical Book of Proverbs, historically referred to as “the book of wisdom,” reminds us in Proverbs 15:22 “Without consultation plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed.”  Then in Proverbs 25:11 “Like apples of gold in settings or sliver is a word spoken in right circumstances.”  (New American Standard Bible)

As sure as I believe this current viral scourge will be isolated and eliminated, I believe professional speakers and our industry will once again prove ourselves essential in helping those organizations and individuals who seek our services. As we have in times past, we stand ready to respond to that call of service.

How can I help you today? Let’s talk.

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Phillip Van Hooser
Author: Phillip Van Hooser
Phillip Van Hooser, CSP, CPAE is committed to helping organizations transform their business outcomes by building engaged employee relationships. He is an award-winning keynote speaker and author on leadership, service and communication. His popular book, “Willie's Way: 6 Secrets for Wooing, Wowing and Winning Customers and Their Loyalty” recently hit #1 in Customer Relations on the Kindle store. Connect with Phil on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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