It was a very dark day in April 2010 when the recession caused Frank King to lose 80% of his business. He was forced to file bankruptcy. He lost everything. He was very depressed and distraught that he was causing his wife a great deal of pain. Between her grief and his own, he felt like he was a burden to her, and she would be better off without him. He even thought that suicide might be the answer. He had a life insurance policy worth $1 million, but as he read the suicide clause, King realized he’d only taken it out 22 months ago and for her to collect the money he had to survive two more months or she would be left penniless. “I can’t leave my wife broke. That is what stopped me from doing some drastic,” he said.
King, 62, had a steady career as a comedian. He also wrote jokes for the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, for Joan Rivers and Dennis Miller. Writing jokes is a pretty low paying job, but the goal is to be hired as a permanent writer. That never happened to Frank. He did do standup comedy and worked a lot until the recession hit then just being funny wasn’t enough.
He started reading books looking for new meaning. He knew he needed a different career. “I suffer from depression and now realize I can’t beat it. I also suffer from thinking about suicide and that it is always a possible solution to any of my problems. I realized in my research on depression and suicide; I wasn’t alone with this affliction.”
King decided he wanted to make a difference in his future career, but he kept asking himself, what can people learn from me? “I needed a message when it hit me. My family struggled with generational depression.” He had found his message – suicide prevention. Now he needed content. He researched the topic and read books, as much as he could find, on suicide prevention.
So he started his new career. He became a speaker who was funny with something important to say. That led to the first of several TEDx talks on suicide prevention, which had now become the foundation of his new career. King says, “There was a great need for someone to get out there and talk about suicide prevention. In 2017, 47,173 U.S. citizens committed suicide with an estimated 1,400,000 suicide attempts. That is one suicide every 11 minutes, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.”
Today King shares his prevention message with college students, employees of corporations, and through associations meetings. If you want to change your career and become a speaker with a message, here are a few of King’s tips.
· Passion. You must be enthralled with your topic. Sometimes, the issue picks you as it did in King’s case. It needs to be your purpose and the reason why you’re going to spend all your time trying to reach audiences to deliver this message.
· You need to master delivery. You will want to add humor into any topic you discuss (which is why King is so popular as a speaker). You need to know when to be serious to make a point, and when to lighten up the room and make them laugh. You must be powerfully persuasive, so taking speaking classes will be a good start.
· Pick a lane. It is easier to get booked if you have a niche you’re going to talk to, like not generalized professionals, but specific job titles, such as dentists or financial planners. Research what person and profession are most likely to want to hear your message. By drilling down and going after that niche audience, you will become more sought after as you make your way through regional, state, and national events. You can find those niche groups on the Internet, and you’ll be able to discover who the meeting planner is and start marketing to those people. By niching your talk, you will find it faster to get booked as a paid speaker.
· Keep your day job. Speaking with a message is usually a part-time job. Think of it as a side hustle where you can make some money. It is a terrific way of laying the groundwork for retirement. You can be ramping up your next act before you retire so you can jump right in once you do stop working. You are an entrepreneur and salesperson who speaks. You must focus all your energies on sales. You need to find meeting planners and convince them to use you. Typically, you have created persuasive marketing materials and an enticing website. You will spend 85% of your time marketing and booking events with only 5% spent speaking, another 5% on traveling and the final 5% working on content development. If you hate to sell yourself, this is probably not the business for you.
· You’ll get to travel a lot. Most of your bookings are not going to be local. That may sound glamorous that you can go to different parts of the world until you spend hours waiting for a plane or 14 hours in coach in the center seat.
· Continually learn. Become an expert about your topic. Become an expert on the information and develop a network of people who work in the field.