Getting paid as a college speaker was the last thing on my mind when I started my magazine, Mad Rhythms. But, as Mad Rhythms grew and got better, I wanted to share with students what steps could be taken to follow their dreams. Two years into the business, I gave birth to the How To Get Into The Entertainment Business tour which taught me how to write speeches, jokes, and time my commentary in a way to connect with the audience. In other words, launching a college tour and becoming a college speaker made me learn how to be a speechwriter with joke writing experience.
This is part five of the In My Lane series where I detail the choices I’ve made in my career.
The idea of speaking on college campuses came to me as many of my ideas do—while I’m exercising, doing yoga or at the gym. Giving back to others has always been a part of my modus operandi. So the tour would give me the chance to give back in an informative, instructional and impactful way. I wrote up some general ideas of the topics I wanted to discuss. I came up with topics such as: networking, interviewing, highlighting your skill set, and of course, connecting people to your personal story. I didn’t know any professional speakers and I didn’t have a blueprint on how to become a college speaker. Armed with my desire to truly connect with people, I started picking up the phone and making it all happen.
I didn’t know any professional speakers… I didn’t have a blueprint on how to become a college speaker.
I remember calling student leaders, student unions, student activity boards and pitching the idea of the Mad Rhythms How To Get Into The Entertainment Business tour. For a completely brand new idea in which I had absolutely zero experience as a college speaker, the calls were received rather well. I pitched the tour as part educational and part entertainment and the students loved the idea. They loved that someone who spoke their language, shared their experiences and who had made moves in the entertainment business was willing to talk to them and share.
I had absolutely zero experience as a college speaker.
As I sat down to write my first speech, How To Get Into The Entertainment Business, I wrote about my personal story. Here’s an excerpt from one of my first speeches: “Have you ever watched Entertainment Tonight and thought I really connect with those stories? Have you ever watched a movie, read a book, or watched a television show and thought, ‘I have a story to tell? (There would be head nods and ‘yeahs’ in the crowd.) And then I would say, ‘Well, me too.’ A lot people grow up feeling connected to what they see on television, but they tell themselves they don’t have access to work in the field of entertainment. I could have believed that. I grew up in Delaware, you heard that right. And I knew absolutely no one in the entertainment business. If this business is about who you know, I can tell you that I absolutely knew no one. So how does a girl who knew absolutely no one get Sean “Puffy” Combs on the cover of her first magazine? (I’d wait a few moments to let the question sink in.) Then I’d say, altering my voice ever so slightly, ‘I’m gonna let you all in on a little secret. Just because you don’t know anyone today, doesn’t mean you can’t get to know a lot of people. There was a time when even Puffy didn’t know anyone.”
Just because you don’t know anyone today, doesn’t mean you can’t get to know a lot of people.
My speeches were a blend of personal story, passion and telling the backstories of people in the entertainment business who had already made it. And as much as I enjoyed telling my story, I also conveyed to the students that everyone has their own story to tell. I told them how I’d watched Entertainment Tonight and thought I belonged in Hollywood somewhere. I explained how I always felt I had a calling that was beyond where I was. I told them about being bold, believing in yourself and trying. Telling them to be bold enough to pick up the phone to connect with people, I encouraged them to also have the gumption to believe the person you’re calling will want to listen to what you have to say. I let them know every door that you knock upon won’t open on the day that you want it to open, but knock on it anyway. What I had found in my short time of being an entrepreneur is that the door may not open when you want it to but it will eventually open.
Everyone has their own story to tell.
I went from not knowing anything about public speaking to doing thirty college speaking engagements a year. I was an official college speaker! Remember, this started with a desire to write and connect with people. Don’t forget this started when my first intern encouraged me to publish my own magazine. Now, a lot of people will say, “How much did you charge for your first speaking engagements?” A lot of people will say, “I can’t become a public speaker because I don’t know what to charge.” I did my research on what other speakers charged and when I went to the college campuses I asked them what their budget would be for a program such as mine. That’s how I knew what to charge and that’s what I did. CaChing.
I did my research on what other speakers charged.
The greatest part of becoming a college speaker was that it helped me to further believe in myself and it continued to make my business successful. I was not limited by what I knew, I was empowered by what I continued to learn. Truthfully, I was learning a lot and in record speed. I continued to conduct How To Get Into The Entertainment Business tours and secured lucrative sponsors. The US Postal Service was one of my biggest and earliest sponsors. The tour grew into fashion shows and sampled hair care products. The day Luster Hair Company dropped a tractor trailer full of Pink Lotion and other hair products to the Mad Rhythms office is a day I’ll never forget.
Four years of college tours gave birth to the next step in my writing career, becoming an author. To learn how the questions from the How To Get Into The Entertainment tour helped me create my first best selling book, The Blueprint for My Girls, check the next installment of In My Lane.
The series so far includes: