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Living the dream? Behind the scenes as a professional speaker


In the last 7 days I have been in 5 countries, on 3 continents and living the Jet Set life – the one “so many” people dream of and I think it is important to know that seeing the updates of glamourous cities, stages and lights, beach views, fancy cocktails and airport check ins is not always all it is cracked up to be.

Behind the show-biz of life as an “international speaker” are a number of very real and very challenging obstacles that make the “best job in the world” also one of the “hardest jobs in the world”.

Yes we get paid well, and yes I choose to do this, but just be aware that its not always a beautiful experience.

I am sharing this for a few reasons.

You or someone you know may be thinking of entering this profession without visibility of these facts.

There is a big part that you can play in supporting those who spend their time travelling and helping others.

Because I really felt that I wanted to.

For me there are 8 BIG reasons that make this work really suck.

1 – The travel

When you find your local airport is more familiar to you than your own home and your favorite creature comforts are your priority access status and your compression socks, you realize you may be travelling too much. Airports lose their charm very quickly and delays, crowded bathrooms and standing in lines quickly become the way of life.

2 – The travel

Not only does the physical travel really suck. But also the desire to travel for fun can quickly recede and the most desirable days are just lazy days enjoying time with your family and loved ones. Every time you visit a new city you receive advice from others of the things you should see, places you must go and people you must meet. Instead the norm is a flight, a taxi, a soulless hotel and then a windowless conference room the next day before the journey reverses. On Wednesday I was the closest I will likely ever be to Machu Picchu and still, I failed to even get close.

3 – Emotional rollercoaster

On stage you are a rockstar. The energy is electric and the attention is often overwhelming. 60 mins later you are all alone in your hotel room, or in an airport lounge without company and insignificant in relation to the moments you just created.

4 – Bad days are not allowed

Regardless of how tired, how emotionally challenged or whatever else is happening in your life – being anything other than awesome is not allowed. You need to bring the energy and carry others, regardless of how you are feeling. It is your responsibility to bring your best. A bad day could ruin your career and there are no understudies.

5 – No routine

Inconsistency is the norm and trying to get into a groove with diet, exercise, hobbies and more is virtually impossible. Time zones add a further dynamic and the result is that you eat when you are hungry, sleep when you are tired and exercise when you can. Running errands requires huge effort and scheduling routine healthcare is a freakin’ nightmare. Planning for future social events is virtually impossible and you live with the feeling of permanently letting yourself and others down.

6 -Eating alone

Unlike a musician with their band mates and roadies this is largely a solo effort. This means nobody to reminisce with after the fact and meal time is often a isolating experience as you re-run your efforts of the day suffering the appraisal of your harshest critic – yourself.

7 – The prep work

Every event is different and to be professionally prepared requires deep research and deep understanding of each and every audience. This is effort and pure energy poured into learning the nuances of something brand new can be exhausting. In the last 4 weeks I have had to develop deep knowledge of hearing care, bowel prep medicines, the gambling industry, insurance services, trucking recruiters and even farriers! This is not including the cultural differences and specific nuances, acronyms and internal language attached to each client – it may look like a simple repetitive speech on a stage, but that’s the same as just saying your favorite sports star is just a human prancing around in a field

8 – (fo)MO

Forget the “Fear of” – In my life I know that I am “Missing out” on tons of stuff. Many an unmissable moment is missed from being out of the loop and away from the action. This hits its worst when you reach the assumption of “not being around” from your loved ones and then just stop being invited.

All this aside…

Would I change it?

Some it – Hell YES and I am working on just that.

But for all its challenges I LOVE this work:

  • I LOVE the results others go on to achieve from my work
  • I LOVE the rush I receive from performing on stage 
  • I LOVE the challenge of just how freakin’ hard this work is
  • I LOVE the recognition from others following the work 
  • I LOVE the amazing people I have got to meet along the way
  • I LOVE the responsibility entrusted to me by event planners
  • I LOVE the stories left behind and repeated once I am gone

Please know that every time you see a business traveler share a airport check in, they may not be showing off – they may be expressing their sadness for leaving their loved ones and hoping their is a friendly face in the location they are travelling to.

Please know that every time you see a business traveler sharing a photo of their amazing view, they are not looking for you to feel jealous. They may be simply enjoying a magnificent moment that they wished they had someone to share it with but instead can only share it with you.

Please know that when you see a speaker share photos of them on stage doing what they do, they are not looking for you to be impressed. They may just be cataloging their own experiences for their personal scrapbook of events and dates and thanking their client.

Please know that when you see an author excited by the success of their book, they are not trying to wow you. They may just be privately celebrating in lieu of their company annual conference or team meeting where their commercial success can be recognized.

Thanks for caring,