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Transitioning to a Full-time Speaker With Clint Pulver

Join Clint Pulver and me as we discuss his journey, how he made the move to being a full-time speaker, and the advice he has for others who want to make the jump.

 

In this episode, you’ll discover:

  • what to ask potential clients
  • what you should have so make solid decisions
  • following up with people who took time with you
  • the value of being flexible and offering more than just a keynote
  • what Clint sees as a crash course in speaking
  • working with corporations
  • why you want more than “good job”

 

Resources from this episode:

 


 

Peter
Welcome to the speaker station, where each week our guests share their knowledge and experience so you can more effectively speak in front of others, whether you’re speaking on stage, presenting in corporate settings or selling to prospects.

 

I’m your host, Peter George. This week, I speak with Clint Pulver about transitioning from your job to becoming a full time speaker. If that’s what you’re looking to do, you want to listen to this episode. First, let me tell you a little bit about Clint. Known as the Millennial Speaker, Clint helps organizations that want to retain, engage and inspire their people. As the president and founder of the Center for Employee Retention, Clint has transformed how organizations like Keller Williams, AT&T, and Hewlett Packard create lasting loyalty through his work and research as the undercover millennial. He understands firsthand that relationships are based on trust, service, support, connection and consistent follow through. For over a decade, Clint has dedicated his heart to helping organizations understand the younger generation, and the younger generation understand themselves through living a life of significance instead of just a life of success. It’s not about being the best in the world, he says, it’s about being the best for the world. Here’s my chat with Clint.

 

Clint, welcome to the Speaker Station. It’s a pleasure to have you here.

 

Clint
Thanks, Peter. I appreciate it. Thanks for letting me be a part of it.

 

Peter
Clint, I’d like to discuss how you get started and the progress you’ve had and you’re relatively young life, at least relative to mine. And we’ll start right from the top. Did you want to be a speaker from a young age? And if not, how did you get into it? And then, how did you actually start speaking for a living?

 

Clint
Yeah, great question. So for me, growing up speaking was never something that I aspired to be. I never grew up saying I want to be a professional public speaker. It was something that I kind of fell into the first I guess how it all started story was when I was a senior in high school, I spoke in church. And there was a gentleman in the congregation that heard me speak and he came up to me after and he said, “Hey, I want you to come speak at a leadership conference to a bunch of other high school students.” And I told him, “No.” I said, “No, I’m good.” I, I, you know, speaking was not my thing. It was not, you know, especially the other peers, other high school students. And then he said, “Listen, I’ll pay you 500 bucks.” And then I said, “Umm … okay.”

Whenever you need me, that sounds great. So I ended up I went down, and I put together this little workshop and spoke at his conference, and I loved it. That was, that was a moment that sparked a potential possibility into doing this as a career as doing this as something that I enjoyed, but it was also something that I realized, you know, you can you could make a living doing this and people do it all the time. And after I spoke at that conference, I had six schools that came up to me after and they said, “We want you to come speak at our school.” And that was the start of what is now been a career for me full time.

 

Peter
That’s a great story. Did you have any idea how you going to make this happen?

 

Clint
Yeah, and for me still, even after that, it still never clicked that to have this be a professional full time career. I wanted to be a helicopter pilot. I went to flight school. Flying was my dream. I ended up having an eye disease, which then totally ended that flying career and I spoke through college off and on, again, never looking at it as a full time career — just as something that helped to pay for school and something that was fulfilling, and I love to do it.

 

And I have a story and a message that resonated. And it also for me, I had no idea what it was really preparing me for in my future. But it was great training for me on the on the corporate level, which is now where I primarily speak. But speaking to youth was an amazing crash course into being, I think, a better public speaker. Because if you can speak in a gymnasium surrounded by 2000, 3000 high school students, man they will … I call that the lion’s cage.

 

Peter
Yeah, they’ll eat you up.

 

Clint
Yup, they will eat you alive if you are not compelling and good and engaging and entertaining and know how to take them on the journey and capture their hearts. And I don’t know, so I wouldn’t really quick how to do that because I there was no way I was going to survive in the youth market unless I did. And so it was a great training ground for me to that later lead into, you know, a successful corporate career as a speaker also.

 

Peter
When it comes to the corporations, how did you get the first major client?

 

Clint
Yeah, the first major client, it came from … my first corporate gig was Keller Williams, and that was three years ago. And Keller Williams is a big real estate company, and I was at a conference speaking to the youth of the conference, and one of the CEOs from Keller Williams came just to step in to watch the conference and heard me speak. The coolest thing I think for me in a lot of respects, sometimes these kids I would speak at a high school or I would speak at a leadership conference, and then they go home and they tell their parents. And their parents were either an event planner, or their parents sat on a board or a CEO of a company or something, and they would hear about the speaker that came to their child’s school, or their child’s conference. And then they looked me up. And so that’s kind of how it started. It all really stemmed from the youth world speaking to youth.

 

Peter
That’s amazing. It’s progressed quite a bit from there.

 

Clint
Yeah, I’m very, very lucky, very lucky. And it’s been a lot of hard work. What a ride. I mean, there is no … in my opinion … our career and what we get the opportunity to do, ah, as a professional speaker, there’s, there’s nothing like it, and I’m very lucky.

 

Peter
Well, you’re obviously doing a great job to from the early times as a kid doing it, and getting people to say, hey, come speak at our school and then having someone from Keller Williams see you and again, say, can you work with us? That’s a hell of a stamp of approval.

 

Clint
Yeah, well, I think it taught me early on. That, because I think sometimes as speakers, you we feel like we did a good job or you feel like you’re really good at a great presentation on stage when people come up to you and they go, “Man, that was awesome.” And, “what you did was amazing.” And, “that was just so compelling.” And I learned that that most good people will tell you, “You did a good job.”

 

Peter
Right.

 

Clint
Most most people are nice. When you know that you really killed it on stage … how you know, you really did an exceptional job is when somebody comes up to you after and says, “Hey, that was that was great!” But then they reach into their pocket and they hold out a business card or they hand you a website, or they give you a contact person, or they are the contact person and they say, “We want you to come and speak at our event.” “I … what … are you available on this date?” “What is your availability?” “How can I book you?” That’s … that was when I knew that we had something. That’s when I knew that I had did my job on stage is when post-keynote, we would get emails, we would get bookings from the website, we would have people that would come up. Andrew Davis calls them this. I agree with his statement. They’re called stage stage-side leads. And so when people would come to the side of the stage, or backstage or after the event, if you’re doing a mix and mingle, or you’re meeting audience members, and they, they give you a card, they ask for your availability, that … that was a great determining pivotal moments when I knew okay, I did my job as a professional speaker. It’s not really the “ataboys” and the pats on the back. It was when it transitioned to people were willing to risk their reputation and and put their their pocketbook on the line to bring you in for another event.

 

Peter
That’s a huge canyon between, “Hey, great job.” And just like you said, some coming, willing to work with you after that, or wanting to work with you after that. I have a client that, when she came to me, she said, “You know, I get an awful lot of, ‘Hey, great jobs.’ And I said, “Ooh,” I said, “that’s unfortunate.” And, and she said, Why? And I said, “Because people can’t bring anything to mind immediately of why it was good, what they’re taking away from it.”

 

Clint
Sure.

 

Peter
And I remember the first time she called me and said, “Oh, my God! what a difference!”

 

Clint
Yup.

 

Peter
“People came up to me afterwards and told me, what was compelling to them, what affected them what they’ve taken away.” And that’s a great deal of difference between the two.

 

Clint
Yup, it’s a great point.

 

Peter
All right. So in this career of yours, you must have had some early successes and then a few setbacks too.

 

Clint
I think there’s, there’s a lot of setbacks. There’s a lot of … there were times you know, when I when I burned the ships, per se, it goes back to that analogy of Cortez when he burned the ships and he jumped into the possibilities of okay we got to make this happen or, or we’re just not. And so I burned the ships, I quit all my jobs, I quit the profession … I was working in the medical field and I jumped into the speaking world full time. That was a scary moment. It was an exciting moment. But it was also I think the setbacks were there was some times where I didn’t know how it was going to pay my mortgage. There were times when I said I don’t know how I’m going to make it. And I had to consider a loan. I had to consider even like, okay, do I do I go to my parents and see if they can float me for the next month so that I can keep working to get that next gig? Yeah, so I think I think on a financial note, there have been many setbacks and especially when you’re trying to grow and survive and pay the bills, but then also invest in your business. And figuring out what what to invest in what not to invest in. And I learned really quickly there are there are definitely some places early on in your career, to put your finances when it comes to a return on your investment or a return on your money. What’s going to bring them out the best ROI in your speaking business and what’s not. And I learned really quickly what that was for me.

 

Peter
It’s good that you learn it soon because a lot of people spend money on things, ton of things to spend money on.

 

Clint
Right.

 

Peter
There is a relatively few that are an investment, a true investment that’s going to give you that ROI that you’re not only looking for, but like you said, need to pay a mortgage and put food on the table. Everything that comes with life.

 

Clint
That’s right. Yeah, that’s 100% correct.

 

Peter
I’ve seen people when they make that jump, it becomes very stressful on relationships too. Because, you know, let’s face it, one of the biggest things about stress relationships is money.

 

Clint
Yeah, and in my business — in our business — my wife and I are a big we have we have one other person and we’re actually in transition in our business right now, but for the most part, it’s been my wife and I. And so just the burden of of figuring out the balance between the relationship and when do we turn the business off? And when are we husband and wife? And when are we growing a business? And okay, we’re at dinner, and we’re out with friends. Like, okay, we don’t need to send that contract, or we don’t need to talk about, you know, who’s were in the in the sales process? And what am I speaking about on Friday, I mean, it’s just, it’s a very hard balance to maintain and learn.

 

But, but we’ve … I — also on the flip side — will say it’s one of the best things that we’ve done in our marriage, because we learned really quickly, and I’ve only been married for two and a half years. So I’m still a young spring chicken in the world of marriage, let alone speaking and so I think it taught us really quick, out the gate in marriage, how to communicate, and how to listen and how to solve problems together. And we got to make it a win-win real quick because not only is our marriage going to suffer, but then our business is going to suffer as well. So it has been a total crash course for obviously the business of speaking but also in marriage and in life.

 

Peter
How do you separate yourself from other speakers? What makes it that people want to come to you to present your … your … in your particular way to their particular organization?

 

Clint
It’s a great question. I think it is something that every speaker needs to ask themselves because it is, I would say now more than ever, it seems like everybody’s a speaker, or everybody’s a coach or everybody’s … and event planners and bureaus and corporations are bombarded with emails and demo videos and book me, book me, book me. And I think the first and foremost, any speaker that has a marketing strategy or that says, this is what you need to do, there is no one set way. But one thing that is is fairly certain is having an amazing speech. I feel like any great speaker that is successful has differentiated themselves, just simply by being absolutely amazing on stage. And that can entail a lot of things like your entertainment value — do you juggle? Do you swallow a sword? Do you … have you gone into space? Have you climbed my Mount Everest blindfolded? What’s your messaging? What’s your content? Are you an expert in something? What makes you an expert? Are you an author? There are so many things that can differentiate you. And I think the three categories are … are you educational? Are you an engaging speaker? And then do you have some form of entertainment? And that’s aside from being a celebrity speaker. If you are, you know, actor or a famous person or a famous athlete, we call that you are celebrity speaker, where people, they want to hear who you are, they want to hear about you. They want to hear your story. They want it because you’re the celebrity, you’re the one that fills seats.

 

But for most people, and a lot of the professional speakers, they have learned to create that engaging experience on stage. And I’m speaking to, you know, the keynote speaker, not someone that necessarily goes in and does four or five hours of a workshop or is a consultant. If you’re a keynote, or if you’re the person that sets the tone, if you’re the person that opens the meeting and closes a meeting, opens a conference closes the conference, you need to be compelling, you need to have that entertainment factor. More and more corporations are looking for people that are diverse. They’re looking for females. And that’s one thing that we get asked as we refer speakers in our business, they asked for females. And then they asked for some of the culture, they’re asking for people and speakers that are young. And so in relation to your question, me being young is is a is a big reason why we are getting booked. Me being a professional drummer, we … we do … I have a drum set on stage, and I have a story that correlates with that. And then we involve the audience and everybody has buckets, and everybody has drumsticks. And I think the old adage of being a speaker on stage that just delivers a speech is not quite as competitive as a speaker that creates an experience.

 

Peter
Everything’s about an experience now.

 

Clint
It is. You have … you have to create some sort of compelling experience. And you can do that some storytelling. You can do that through great craftsmanship on stage. But really, it is a mixture of entertainment, engagement, getting people to be a part of the story … be a part of the message. And there’s lots of ways to do that. But we have done that through music. I’ve done that through drumming.

 

And and then also I, we started. It’s called the undercover millennial program. And five years ago, I started interviewing millennials in the workplace as a millennial. And I would get hired by corporations to go in and kind of do like an Undercover Boss type of a situation, if you’ve ever watched that TV show. And I would go in as the undercover millennial, and we’ve worked with 180 organizations, and we’ve interviewed over 10,000 millennials undercover. And so that kind of a … it’s different, … it’s unique, and we offer a perspective that most people, they don’t get through a survey, they don’t get through their one-on-one management meetings. It’s a different, unique twist into something that gets them results that can help better their business. And then we do it in a compelling, exciting, experiencial learning type of a of a keynote that just sets us up in a place in the market to to deliver a wonderful experience for their people.

 

Peter
And you don’t just come in deliver a speech and leave. You wrap it in the program, correct?

 

Clint
Oh, yes. 100% every keynote is tailored, every keynote is customized. We have post keynote implementation. We have workshops that we deliver. We also do all the all the pre-consultation work, and then the undercover work. If a company chooses to do the undercover program, then we’re partnering with that company for three to six months just to compile the research that’s specific to the organization. I would say more now we’re getting booked to come and just deliver that research. We have a book that’s coming out in the fall. That’s called “I Love It Here: How Great Leaders Create an Organization Their People Never Want to Leave.” And so a lot of corporations are now booking us to come in and just talk about that research. And what we found and how great leaders created organizations that people loved themselves when they were there. They loved the experience. They loved what the manager did. And we talked about what those things are and how they can do that themselves.

 

Peter
And these are more ways that you differentiate yourself from others who might just come in, do a presentation and the company never hears from them again.

 

Clint
Correct? That’s exactly correct. We look at it as a partnership. We look at it as a relationship. And then we’ve got a second additional keynote as well. So that yeah, we had Clint last year, but we could bring him in again next year. Or we could bring him in, you know, in a few years. Just again staying diverse. We even do MC, right, we’ve got a new MC demo reel that comes out. And again, you have to be careful because you don’t want to be the guy that does everything. You need to be specific. You need to be very focused. But also I do believe that versatility and being in a sense being the Costco being the Walmart being that one stop shop that man, he can keynote, but he can also MC, he can also do a workshop. We’ve worked really, really hard to get to that point.

 

But, but for us, it’s about value, you have to scream value, because you’re competing in an industry where they’re looking at 10 other speakers that are doing the same thing. And if you aren’t more valuable, if you don’t scream, more opportunity, a better experience, a better ROI, then they’re going to book the next guy. They’re going to book the other woman. They’re going to book the other speaker, and so you have to thinking how can I bring as much value to the table while still being authentic and true to yourself, your area of expertise, and still being focused. And we’ve tried really hard to do that in a balanced and still stable manner.

 

Peter
I’ve got to imagine it’s paying off.

 

Clint
It is extremely. Yes. We’ve been very lucky, very blessed. And yeah we’re not homeless yet.

 

Peter
I’m sure you will not be. You have a tremendous amount of energy on stage. I haven’t had the opportunity to see you in person — I hope to someday — but I’ve watched you on your website and anybody who goes to your website is going to see that energy immediately. How difficult is it to be that up, if you will, for every presentation.

 

Clint
It’s a marathon. After every keynote I, like a lot of speakers, I like to go out and have drinks with people and I like to go, like, I go to my, my hotel room and I pass out. And I, I go to bed or … it’s … it’s exhausting. It really is. I’m a sweaty mess. It’s … I’m all over the place and you’re up on stage and you’re under the lights … and just doing the seven minute drum solo in a suit. It’s hot, and … and then you’re trying to create an experience for you know, 500 to 3000, 4000 people. And you’ve got to create that energy. You got to bring people in. You got to capture their mind. You got to capture their heart. And it takes a lot of energy. And I’ve worked really hard to … to … to pace myself. I’ve worked really hard on timing. I’ve worked on where I’m now on stage. I’ve worked on pacing and to control that when to go high … when they go low. I’ve worked on voice control, because there’s times now where I’m speaking, sometimes four times, five times a week, and then doing workshops in between there. And so I have to preserve my voice. It’s all the the physical and emotional side of things to just keep your health up. And to be able to do that again and again and again … in each show.

 

Peter
With any talent, sometimes it creeps over into your lifestyle, and that’s what you’re saying, right? You have to stay fit. You have to eat the right things. Take care of your voice. It’s not just the craft of getting up on stage and speaking. It’s all encompassing for you.

 

Clint
Absolutely. I think every speaker should have a code of health. Every speaker needs to … I think there’s a level of fitness. I mean, the privilege of the platform. You’re up there as a speaker, telling people how to live their lives. You’re recommending and talking about ideas and to be looked at as a thought leader, and as, you know, as a performer, as an entertainer. There is that level of … of help emotionally, physically, spiritually, meditation, getting enough rest. What are your … what are your rituals? What are your habits? What are the things that you do when you’re home? And what are the things that you do on the road to make sure that every speech is the Super Bowl. It doesn’t matter if there’s five people in the audience or there’s 5000, actually every speech as a Super Bowl, and I have to maintain that level of mental and physical, just focus to be able to do my job. And it just helps me to be a better speaker. It helps me to have that confidence in myself, to be able to perform at the best ability that I can on stage.

 

Peter
Hey, knowing what you know now — and you’re learning on this journey of yours — what suggestions do you have for speakers who trying to transition from their current jobs?

 

Clint
Yeah, two things … two things I would recommend. First is if you’re trying to craft your keynote or your trying to craft your message and figure out what what are you going to speak on? What are you going to talk about? The best thing, in my opinion, and what has worked for us and for me and our business, is I went out and I asked the potential buyers — my future buyers, the future clients — I asked them first off early in my career, what would you pay a speaker 3000 $4,000 to talk about. And at the time, this was in the youth market. And as I transitioned into the corporate market, I went in and ask the same thing to the CEOs and to the event planners and the HR directors. And just simply doing that, taking the time to go and ask the people that will eventually book you what they would actually book you for. What are they looking for? What do they want? I think sometimes as speakers we go into this career, saying, I know what you want. I know what message you need to hear. I’m the leadership guy. And it’s like, well, maybe they’re having budget problems, or maybe they struggling with not just maybe leadership, maybe its management issues or its retention issues. Or maybe they’re struggling with their marketing efforts, or they have no idea how to create a social media strategy. Whatever it is, I mean, listen, listen to what they want. I’ve seen so many speakers that jump into this career, and they put thousands of dollars into a website into a demo video into a strategy plan. And then three years into it, they go, I’m not getting booked. Nobody’s booking me. And I always … I always ask the question, “Did you ever think to ask the people that would book you what they would actually book you for?”

 

Peter
Little bit of marketing research can go a long way.

 

Clint
Huge. And so … so that would be my first recommendation is go and ask buyer what the buyer wants, and then figure out with who you are and what you have, how to craft a message around that. And you’ll be surprised that those people that you just take the time to go and listen — you’re not there to get the speech, you’re not there to sell something — those people will eventually turn into your first clients. Everybody asks, “How do I get a speech? How do I get a speech?” Go ask the people that book speeches what they want. Craft a message. Thank them for their time. And then go back to them and say, “Hey, I’d love to give this message. I’d love to … I love … I … I appreciated everything you said. And I put something together that I think has some value. Can I give it a … Can I give it a try with your cooperation with your sales team, with your HR staff?” And it’s amazing what that will do. It’s amazing how that will open up doors. So that’s number one.

 

Number two is … I would call it … I would say create your speaking board of directors. Create your tribe. Create … any successful corporate management, company, organization, they have a board of directors. And it’s people that they trust — mentors, advisors — people that are experts in the world in the field or whatever it is that they’re trying to accomplish. And they create this board. And anytime there’s an important decision, it goes to the board and the board is there to help guide the company — to help guide the organization. Same thing in the speaking world. You, as a speaker, you are — if you’re starting out in this field — you’re the you’re the rocky story. You’re the rookie. You’re the person that is trying to learn and trying to grow. And one of the greatest ways to learn and grow is go to the people that are killing it. Go to the experts. Create your board of directors. Find the people that you go, man, I want to be that … I want to be like them.

 

And then I have always believed that you should do whatever it takes to associate with extraordinary people. Whatever it takes to associate with extraordinary people and, again, if you’re listening to this, and you’re in that rookie mode, if you’re starting out, most people, if you’re kind and you’re sincere, and you’re respectful, most people will give you their time. Most people will help. And at least, I believe, everybody deserves a phone call. Everybody deserves a phone call. And I had so many people in my early career that gave me a phone call. And that those phone calls changed my life. And it was that small little bit of effort, that small time that they gave me, and it changed the course of forever. And within this, this board of director concept, here, there’s a … there’s a very important thing that I need to say. If somebody gives you their time, if somebody is willing to have a phone call, if somebody is willing to to go out to lunch with you, or you call up somebody and you go, “Hey, I just have a few questions,” and they give you their time, make sure that you say thank you. And it doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. But just I think sometimes we forget to just simply say thanks.

 

And I, when I did this, I was the king of the Jamba Juice gift cards. I would send Jamba Juice smoothie gift cards to everybody and anybody that gave me the time of day. It was like 10 bucks … 15 bucks. And I’d hand write a thank you note. And after the end of the call, I get their … their information, their address, and I just … I just wanted to thank you. And just simply saying thank you has opened the door to guidance and mentorship and friendships and relationships, that … that … that I will cherish forever. And so much of my success has come because of that. And so, yeah, go to your clients, ask them what they really want. And then create a board of directors and be willing to invest and thank them for their time. Thank them for what they give and the time they spent with you. And those … those … I think those two things that really sets you up for an opportunity for the best success.

 

Peter
What it comes down to is running this like a business.

 

Clint
100%. It is a business.

 

Peter
Clint, where can our listeners learn more about you and the services you provide?

 

Clint
Yeah, you can just go to clintpulver.com is my website, and then I’m also on Instagram. Instagram, the handle’s just ClintPulver, C-L-I-N-T-P-U-L-V-E-R, and anybody can shoot me a message, hit me up there and follow the journey.

 

Peter

Thanks for sharing part of your journey with us, and I wish you continued success. And I appreciate your being with us today.

 

Clint
It’s been an honor. Thanks again for having me.

 

Peter
That’s it, my friend. I hope you’ve enjoyed and learned from our time with Clint pulper. Join me next week as I discuss the myths of public speaking. Until then, be sure to visit PeterGeorgePublicSpeaking.com, where you can find all episodes of the Speaker Station and learn how I help people be calm, confident and credible every time they speak in front of others. Until then, be happy and healthy my friend!

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