Are you imagining building an amazing speaking career for yourself? Are you thinking about how to get more paid speaking gigs or just get up in front of people for free and talk? Are you wondering how to build a business out of it and transition to making it your life? Read this interview with Terry Brock.
Terry Brock’s Speaking Career Path from MBA to Professional Speaker!
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Terry Brock is an internationally recognized hall of fame speaker. He just in 2018 won the Cavett award, the same award Zig Ziglar won from the National Speakers Association.
Terry Brock has been speaking for longer than I’ve been alive. He shares in this one interview some incredible advice. He answers all the questions that I’ve been wondering about as someone who is trying to build their career, speaking in person after already building an audience online.
Terry gives incredibly valuable information here that I’ve struggled to find looking around for it myself and he kits it in nice, compact stories and answers.
I go through and ask Terry everything I want to know and I think you will love and enjoy hearing the answers to all these questions.
Without further ado, let’s get started with the interview here with Terry Brock.
Edited transcript of the interview with Terry Brock.
Terry: Jerry, it is great to be with you. Great to see you again my friend.
Jerry: Yes, Terry. First, how if people want to contact you or get a hold of you, what do you recommend if someone wants to hire you to speak at their event?
Terry: Well, I’m on the social media platforms that you would understand are out there, but probably the very best is going to the website, which is at TerryBrock.com and that’s spelled for those who are listening on audio, T E R R Y, and Brock is spelled the right way, B R O C K, so that’s TerryBrock.com and you’ll get all the information there.
Jerry: Excellent. We showed that in the intro here, TerryBrock.com beautiful website. Terry, my first question is I’m thinking about getting into speaking myself and we started this call before asking about how do I start speaking in front of people?
How did you get to where you’re at today as one of the top speakers in the world? How did you get started on that and get to where you’re at today?
Terry: Well, I started long ago actually, I was just a freshly new man with an MBA out of the program and wondering, “God, what am I going to do? How am I going to get by here and do something that’s practical?”
And I started seeing what was happening at the time. At that time, there was this new-fangled thing called spreadsheets. They were coming out and we saw VisiCalc and SuperCalc was there, and then there was this other one called Lotus 123 that came out, and I looked at all that was going on. There was no one called a MBA from context management systems, and I looked at those. I thought, which one’s going to go well?
It looked like it was going to be Lotus 123 and so I got in there, taught myself how to do it. We didn’t have YouTube back then.
We didn’t have training schools and all that like we wanted, and so there was an opportunity to create some spreadsheets for people and to do a lot of practical real-world applications. In the MBA program, they teach you about cashflow statements and pro forma income statements and all kinds of nifty groovy things like that.
But what I did is I took what we had done on paper and put it over onto the computer. I had to teach myself how to use the computer, and then how to put those concepts onto the computer.
Once I did that, I started showing some people what they can do and I would show them this. I would show them that, and they got really excited. I started working with a lot of CPAs and eventually ended up speaking to a lot of CPAs.
I often say Jerry, that what happened is I would show these CPAs how to do something and change one number here and it would ripple all the way across the spreadsheet. That was big news back then. I was pretty excited, you know, and I say several of those CPAs came dangerously close to actually having an emotion.
So what I did is I just started putting that together, and then there was this place that was doing microcomputer training and I thought, “Oh, that kind of interesting. I wonder if they could use anyone that knows Lotus 123” because I’d started learning about it and still learning more.
And they said, “Hey, we’ve been looking for somebody like that. Can you do it?”
I said, “Sure. I’ve been doing a lot of work with it, let me put something together.”
So I put together a class on it and they had people come in and I flopped completely Jerry. It was a disaster. People were getting up and walking out. So, you know, don’t think, “Oh, it’s always good.”
Oh no, no, it was terrible. I realized that I just wasn’t communicating right and I wasn’t taking the concepts that were really tough and foreign to people.
They sat down at a computer and they didn’t know what to do. They didn’t know how to turn it on. That was the big joke, “I don’t even know how to turn it on.”
I go, Sparky, we’re not laughing at that one.
And so I showed them what to do. But then what I did the next day I did another class that had already been booked. So I did that. And what I did is that they stayed all the way through. I had tweaked it and fine-tuned it.
So what I did with speaking is, I started out as you asked us by blowing it, but I stayed with it and went back and kept studying, kept persistently going back and eventually got better and better, and I became one of the most well-known speakers on Lotus 123 within that industry, and doing what I was doing and started working with a lot of CPAs by the way.
And so that was a good thing. And then as the market changed, which it does in technology, I learned I needed to embrace other applications. So it was using DOS, the disk operating system, and then it was using the X, this new-fangled thing called MultiPlan, which came out, and then it was superseded by a thing called Excel from these kids over at Microsoft.
Well, it kept growing and growing and so for me, I was constantly changing my message. And today, it is morphed after all these years into talking about how businesses can execute technology using it in a profitable way to build relationships.
So I do a lot with relationship marketing using technology and tools like Zoom, showing people how to use that, so that they can build their business and do more with it.
I do a lot of courses, a lot of coaching on that.
A lot of coaching on how people can speak better, how they can get out and get more business, how they can start booking and getting booked in speaking.
So these are the kinds of things that I get to do now, and there’s a market for it around the world doing it. Many different areas. What are the most recent?
I did just a few weeks ago, actually, Jerry, I was asked to go down to Colombia, to Bogota, Colombia, and I’d been there before by a guy named Carlos Slim.
Carlos Slim was the richest man in the world from 2010 to 2013 and he puts on this big conference now he’s the richest man in Mexico and all of central and South America. But he asked me to come down and be the opening keynote speaker for a big conference with some of the wealthiest people in central South America.
I know. I work with them. Just wonderful, wonderful people.
Oh, and by the way, the closing speaker, I was the opening, the closing speaker was scheduled to be Yvonne Duquesne, who is the current president of Colombia.
So it was me. Then they had a change in plans and another president of Colombia, past president, Mr. Uribe came in and he had to go spurs because he needed to get back to the Senate.
He’s now in the Senate after being president. And so I just switched over. I’m glad to do it. And it was so nice that President Uribe. It’s kind of going, “Terry, thank you so much.” For sure. We really appreciate and having a great time.
And the thing is with speaking, you get a chance to meet all kinds of people, wonderful people like that. And spending time with a man like Carlos Slim, really getting to know him, talking with him and seeing what he’s like, how he thinks.
A brilliant man. And so I think speaking is a matter of connecting with people, finding out how you can help them make their lives better by solving a problem, by informing them of something very useful, by helping them do enjoy themselves for a moment.
Sometimes just laughing is very good and therapeutic and even sometimes needed. I know that some of my friends who are humorous and who speak professionally and they have a humorous message, they’re funny. They were in demand a lot after tragedies like a 9/11, because people said, “Why are we so depressed? We need someone that can come in here and pick us up in a good way. Not in some tacky way, but in a professional way and help us to get through all of this.”
I think when we all go through life, we want to hear that. So speaking to me is a sacred gift. It’s even a privilege. A friend of mine, Naomi Roadie talks about it as the privilege of the platform. That when we’re there, we have a privilege that we’ve got all these people watching us, viewing us either onscreen or they’re in the audience slide.
We’ve got to make sure that we give them something that’s very relevant and helps them out to solve their problems so that they can justify the time, money, and energy they put into putting their presence right there in that room.
Jerry: Well, Terry, I’m so grateful for you sharing your experience with us and I’ll summarize here to make sure the viewers and listeners heard what I heard.
I heard that you started out, you went to school, you got your MBA and you took it upon yourself to learn an in-demand skill or to learn something new, and then teach it to other people.
You started out by speaking in front of classes of people teaching something you learned yourself that was in demand and you even bombed, right when you got started, it didn’t go very well. Then you just kept trying and kept iterating on that basic process, learning new technologies, new programs, teaching those and building your relationships along the way.
I imagine 30 plus years later you’ve worked your way into some of the best speaking engagements in the world that those are the kinds of things people look at and say, “I want to get there. I want to be there. How do I get from where I just got an MBA or I’m doing my business online? How do I get from there to here?”
Terry: Yes, I think that’s true, and I think we can short circuit that by getting involved with people. One of the things that helped me enormously was after I’d been speaking about five years on my own, I ran into someone who I had admired from a distance, and then got a chance to meet him personally. He had produced some audio cassette tapes, that’s what they were using back then.
The audio cassette tapes, I knew what it was, and I was at the same venue where he was. So I came up and saw him. He introduced himself. I introduced myself to him. We were talking and I said, “Yeah, I’m here also speaking at this conference.”
He was doing the closing session that day and he said, “Have you ever heard of the National Speakers Association?”
I said, “No, what is that?”
He got a paper and he wrote down the number. I realized at that point I had to make a decision, will I get involved or not?
It was the smartest thing I’ve done in my life to get involved with that group at the local level and the national level because then I was able to work with other people that helped.
And that man, Jim Cathcart is a professional speaker. He has helped me enormously and many others and I’m so grateful that I happened to bump into him that day.
So I would say to those of getting started, find a group that can support you. Jerry, you and I have talked about some of the groups that you’re involved in that support you and help you in different areas of your life.
And for me, groups that support me, I find NSA, the National Speakers Association is one of the best for me because you learn from people on what to do, how to do it on both the speaking side, how to speak, how to speak professionally and eloquently as well as how to run a business, how to make money, what the market is looking for right now, how to market yourself more effectively so you actually make money and treat it as a profession.
So I would say get involved with people, get coaches, get someone that can help you. I’ve gone to many coaches in my life where I’m glad to pay them. They helped me on specific areas, and then I get better.
This is how we get ahead today because you can probably do it in this much time. Actually this much Jerry, notice my hands are off the screen. You can’t see them though. That’s my time. But with a coach, you narrow that down.
You say, “Okay, I’m going to pay this coach, but I’m going to learn this amount really fast and be able to apply it and make even more money that way.”
So that’s something I wish I would have done sooner and I encourage everyone that’s watching this that wants to get into speaking, find a good coach that can help you.
Today the nice thing about it is, it used to be it had to be someone in your area. You live in East Squawka Hoga, so who’s in there?
Today, you can find people that are really, really good and you get them to help you over Zoom like you and I are using Zoom right now. They could be anywhere. They can help you on that and you’ve got someone that’s right there to help you with those questions like what do I do about this or what should I do there?
They can come back and record it, and then watch your message presentation, pause it and say, “Okay right there you use the word dah-dah-dah-dah, but it would have been better to go doodle-dee-dee” or whatever.
They can change the word, they can pause it right there or they can say, “Cut that third point out. The first two are really good and do that” or “You need to pause a little bit more right here” or “Slow down” or “Speed up,” someone that’s a professional that can watch that and objectively help you on it is worth the gold being able to get that kind of help.
Jerry: I remember saying that for my business several times and using that to sell my own coaching services that the one thing if I had to start over eight years ago from my online business, I’d get a coach right away.
Because the coach can help you avoid so many of these mistakes and get you, like you said, shrink that learning time down. I’m wondering, you said two things I’d like to hear more about.
You said the first five years you were speaking on your own, will you tell us more about what that was like? Do you mean on your own just with your own business, your own speaking events?
Terry: Yup. I would find clients that would hire me to come in. I spoke at places like CPAs. I also did a lot of work with Coca Cola and I was in Atlanta at the time, and I get a lot of work with Coca Cola there. And then with their people overseas as well, over in Singapore and Hong Kong, Thailand and Indonesia, those countries.
Then, a lot of work with banks, major, large banks, there in the Atlanta area and elsewhere, and the Federal Reserve bank. I got a chance to do that, but I was doing that all on my own by just me going out and doing it.
The speaking business really is kind of a lonely business. You’re on your own, you got hopping on airplanes, you’re in the hotel room, you speak in front of a bunch of people, but then you gotta deal with all the issues.
So that’s where getting together with a group, joining an organization like the National Speakers Association for me was the thing to do. I think each person’s got to find that group of support system that works for them.
Wherever you are in the world, there are many speaking associations. I just got back from speaking over into a PSA, the Professional Speaking Association of the UK. I also went over to Ireland and spoke there.
This is my seventh time speaking to the PSA in England and I was hoping this time I can get it right, but they’re telling me they might have been with me, come back over and have them try it again, you know, to get it right.
So it’ll be a good experience either way, but the worldwide organization of the Global Speakers Federation is really good. The National Speakers Association is plugged into that with the US and matter of fact, last week Gina and I, my partner Gina and I spoke for CAPS, the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers.
They had their big annual convention up in London, Ontario, and we spoke to them via Zoom explaining and showing them, having some fun, laughing and joking, having a great time and giving them a lot of value.
Jerry: Well that’s the second thing I wanted to know some more about, the National Speakers Association. I’ve watched several videos on YouTube, how to build your speaking business and get speaking engagements and nobody even mentioned the National Speakers Association.
And to me that seems like an indication that you really know what you’re talking about, that you need a support group like the National Speakers Association and what is that like? What does it do? Are there meetings like what are the details? What does it involve being in a National Speakers Association.
Terry: Yeah, it’s an organization of people who are professional speakers or some who are just beginning and they want to get into that position and it has national meetings, it has local chapter meetings also.
I’m a big fan and a big attendee of, member of, the local National Speakers Association of central Florida that meets over in Tampa every month.
So we go over there and I learn a huge amount there, and matter of fact, we got one of the best chapters in the country.
Yes, I’m a member of it and I’m a little bit biased, but we really do.
We got some people there that are just incredible where I learned from them and I see it. You can do that that way.
NSA nationally has the convention regularly every year. This last year we, or I shouldn’t say this year, were in Denver, Colorado.
Next year we’ll be in *Washington, DC, for the big meeting, and then they have conferences throughout the year. It will be a special marketing conference in *Houston* coming up in I think March, and then there’ll be some other labs on a focus topic in April.
We’re speakers, so we like to speak, and then there’s a lot of the events that are held online.
Just yesterday, matter of fact, Jerry, just yesterday I did a Zoom meeting for all of the NSA members called “the VIP Suite.”
And, of course, VIP stands for Virtual Interactive Presentation.
That’s what we did, thanks to Roger Corvel, one of our members who gave us that. But that’s what we did. So we were interacting with people, they’d come on the screen and ask questions.
I had two people that were there that I interviewed, yesterday happened to be our current president and the person who will be leading it, the chairman next year.
And so those two talking about the National Speakers Association, how they got ahead, their personal life, where we’re going with speaking, where the industry is going and what to do to be successful today, and throughout that we use it a lot.
So NSA gives me those kinds of resources for virtually as well as in person throughout the year, and then, of course, the big convention of the year. Anyone I think is in speaking and wants to really become good at that and you get a business going with it. It would be really good to go to that convention just to be there to learn, hang around and find out what’s going on.
Jerry: Well, thank you for that. That’s a great concrete tip.
Read the second part of this interview in our next post.
I love you.
Edits from video transcript by Michel Gerard at www.michelgerardonline.com.