Scott Stratten: Speaking
In Matthew McConaughey’s famous oscar acceptance speech, he mentioned that you need 3 things…
- Someone to look up to
- Something to look forward to
- A Hero to chase
In my world, I have a friend that delivers me all 3 of those requirements in one human. He is a role model in both my personal and professional life, I look forward to every time I am in the presence of him and his incredible wife Alison and damn I wish I could catch up with him.
The man is a living legend and I was tempted to speak with him about a word that included the letters “UN”….
Why? you may be thinking…
Well Scott and Alison are the creators of
- and the brilliant Unpodcast
So instead of talking about any of the UNbelieviable obvious words, or freaching for the comedic “manbun” option, instead…. In Episode 6 I talk to Scott Stratten who shares his insight into the word “Speaking”. Listen in on our conversation and enjoy being a fly on the wall to our discussion. Scott and Allison are worth looking into and a great place to start is www.unmarketing.com.
The full transcript
Phil Jones: So here we are for another episode of “Words with Friends”, and today I’m here with my good friend Scott Stratten, and being as I’ve been at home for five days, I’m trying to envy him on the beard front, and failing miserably. Scott welcome.
Scott Stratten: Dude that’s how this beard came about. I was home for a summer and literally forgot to look in a mirror, and then it just grew, and in the fall, I went, “That’s not bad.”
Phil Jones: I think if I stayed at home for the whole summer with this, it would look just about like this. I think that’s where it gets. I gets to here in about five days and then never changes. It just gets progressively itchier.
Scott Stratten: Our double word of the day is “facial hair” [crosstalk 00:00:41]-
Phil Jones: That’s two words.
Scott Stratten: That’s why I said double word of the day.
Phil Jones: Ah, okay, well then that’s not the word we’re going to talk about because that would be a pretty boring episode, and it’s not even the receding hairline you just pointed to. What we’re going to talk about today: we’re going to talk about the word “speaking”. So Scott, in your mind, what does the word “speaking” mean?
Scott Stratten: “Speaking” for me, since I am a speaker, is about story-telling and being on stage.
Phil Jones: Okay. Now it’s this aspirational career for many right now. If I look across on social media or see anybody run a Facebook ads, et cetera, there seems to be this desire to want to be a speaker, or involved in the speaking profession right now. Why do you think it’s such a sexy thing?
Scott Stratten: Well, I think because it looks easy. If you can get on stage, if you’ve done it yourself … it’s one of the things I hear, I’m sure you do to when you get off stage sometimes, you’ve just delivered a talk for a few hundred or a few thousand people and somebody goes, “I speak too. I just did a meeting at work yesterday with five people.” What they’re saying is, “I could do this too, you know?” And so it’s an interesting thing to me where people … because it really is I speak for an hour, and that’s it. I get paid to do that, and there’s travel, and there’s hotels, and there’s all that type of stuff, but my job is on stage for an hour, and so people like the thought of that. They don’t realize the path to that or what it takes to do that, or the craft of it, but they’re like, “Yeah, that is a better idea than 8 to 12 hours a day, five, six days a week for 40 years,” and you’re right, it is much more enjoyable.
Phil Jones: Yeah, I agree with you. I think it is way more enjoyable, hence why I guess the pair of us now use it as a career choice. And I find it crazy ironic, though, that people think about this as an easier option. They want to jump on the bandwagon to find the silver bullet towards that easy option, yet still there’s this mass of people that think of speaking to an audience as the most petrifying thing on the planet.
Scott Stratten: It’s quite a contrast, and I think one of the reasons why I think that you and I can do it for a living is one thing is that most people don’t want to do it, so it creates scarcity, and then there’s a fraction of people who want to do it, but don’t necessarily have the skillset or the background or something to then bring it from the stage. Speaking for me is you have something to say that people want to hear. You have the right to say it because of the experience you have, and people are willing, that you’re so good, they pay you for it.
That’s really the equation for it, and I think when you put all those factors together, it leaves you with a fairly small pool of people comparatively to the population size, so the fear of it is what I don’t have. And the thing is though it’s not a confidence thing. It’s not a skill thing. I’m missing a synapse in my brain that says, “Wet your pants before you go on stage.” I have no … you can hook me up to a heart monitor and there’s no blip. I might be flat-lining before I go on stage. That is my most calm. In my life before … and I’m a professional relaxer. I can do nothing. I can sit in this chair right here, right now all day, but I am most calm right before I walk on stage, which is funny because I’m a very animated, and an energetic speaker, but it’s not a skillset for me. It’s just natural.
Phil Jones: Okay. Have you always been like that?
Scott Stratten: Always. Always from grade school from … that’s how I graduated high school. That’s how I graduated college, actually, is that any class that had a mark of 30% of the mark was a presentation, I knew I’m good, so I could get a D on the midterm and a D on the final and ace the presentation. I’m good to go. It was always my thing. The thing is was, noticing that, was realizing that that was my talent, and that that was my . . . a unique skill comparatively to the majority. There’s other people who could present in my classes and do that as well. They did a huge amount of prep and rehearsal. I’ve never rehearsed a talk in my life. And that’s not a good thing, by the way. I’m not advising people to do that. I don’t say, “Wing it,” for everybody, but I realized that that was my skillset early on.
I wanted to be a speaker on-stage since I was 12. Most 12-year-olds wanted to be a firefighter, or a police officer, or a doctor, and I wanted to be a speaker because I saw Les Brown on TV doing a motivational talk, and I’m like, “Ooh, whoa, that’s a thing.” And I knew. I knew, and it sounds cheesy now, when it works so well for me now, but it was … 12 years old, I remember where I was sitting in my childhood home, and I’m like, “That’s what I want to do.” And that’s what I do.
Phil Jones: So you now are Les Brown.
Scott Stratten: I am in one way or another.
Phil Jones: Okay-
Scott Stratten: Fast-forward, though, fast-forward 20 years and I spoke at his event. I spoke at Les Brown’s event in Orlando, so talk about a full circle crazy thing for … and he’ still going. It’s amazing.
Phil Jones: It is awesome, and I think that’s a beautiful thing with it as a career choice is it could run for as long as you have air in your lungs, right? It really does have that power to stay relevant. I want to touch on something you just said a second ago that really intrigued me, is when you go and you look at your high school or your college results, a significant percentage of the grade was placed on your ability to be able to speak. Your ability to be able to present an idea or get people to come round with a way of thinking in group environments. That’s like a real thing, though right? Because that actually equates into real life too is that your ability to be able to influence from the front of a room of people whether you’re being paid for it or not is a skill that perhaps should be higher rated as we step out of kind of college environments too. So what are some of the things that people could do to maybe get past that fear point and maybe just have themselves being more comfortable like you are of addressing a room full of strangers towards an outward purpose?
Scott Stratten: It’s a great point because it should be taught a lot more where it always benefits you to be able to stand up in front of people, again that could be five people, and to get up … even presentation skills you could be sitting down for, the ability to captivate somebody with your ability to speak is always an asset. It shows people will follow leaders in workplaces that have no business being the leader … if orate well in front of a room, and to the point where I actually ended up teaching at the college I went to, and one of the courses I taught was Business Communications, so I taught first-year students how to speak. Talk about nerves. The majority of them would be just freaking out and the curriculum said they had to present on a business communications topic like “How to Write a Memo” and “Email Etiquette”.
And I threw it all out, and I said, “I want you all to pick one topic that you love. I don’t care if it’s Xbox, I don’t care if it’s Ferraris, I don’t care if it’s Desperate Housewives the show, Lord of the Rings. Take a topic you love. And I want you to speak about it for five minutes.” And we helped structure it, and they got up and every single student that talked, 42 students a class, three classes in that semester, gave a talk, and after they were finished, still standing up front, everybody in the room, fellow students, gave a thought of what they did well, and what they could work on for the second one, because there was two presentation that semester, and your mark was based on simply this: not that you were an “A” presenter, not that you knocked it out of the park, is that your second talk needed to be better than your first talk.
Phil Jones: Love it.
Scott Stratten: That was it. So when they talked about something they loved, they changed because they knew the subject, and that’s what did it different, but that’s what snuck in the lesson about studying your topic, rehearsal, even though I didn’t do it. The more you know your topic, the less they nervous they would … so they learned that through … just by default. I love when people learn without realizing they’re learning. And so when you then throw up and say, “Talk to me about about how to write a memo,” you just trip up “blblblblblb” you wouldn’t be able to do it, nor were you into it. And that’s how you get the lessons of presenting in there. So one of the things I taught the students was: realize the biggest things … this is the biggest contradiction in presenting, is that it’s not about you. Which is such a contradiction, right?
Phil Jones: It’s huge.
Scott Stratten: Because you are the main focal point of everybody’s attention, and the point is that it’s about what you’re telling them, it’s about the content, and if you make that your focus, you do get less nervous. And the second tip I gave them was nobody is hoping you fail. Right? And nobody cares if you do. You just keep going, and I give an example of you only will make a mistake a focal point if you make it the focal point. And you just keep going where … I remember when … when something goes wrong and the slide doesn’t come up, and the biggest mistake I see some presenters make now is like, “You know, we had a video to play now, but it wasn’t working, so we’re not playing it,” and the whole audience didn’t have no idea there was supposed to be a video in the first place, and now they’re like, “Well, no matter how good this is, what was the video?” Right? And they’re all just on top of that-
Phil Jones: “I’m missing the video, man!”
Scott Stratten: Right? “I don’t even know what it was, it could have been terrible.” And one of the side things I noted was everybody has a tell. Right, so in Poker you have a tell. Everybody has a tell when they know they’re reaching for something, and that’s usually an “um” or a “like”, it’s those filler sounds, right, between pauses. I became a much better speaker when I embraced the pause, that it’s okay not to have just filled with words all the time. So what we did was we consciously … I ticked off people’s tells while they were speaking, so when somebody stopped their five minute talk, I’d asked the class, “How many “ums” do you think they said?” People were like, “Five” or “Four” and I’m like, “14.” And when you consciously can recognize you’re doing something, then you could say, “Okay, well I can stop myself from doing it,” and that’s why I always advise people who are actual speakers from stage and stuff is to watch themselves on video. It’s mostly really hard. It’s just terrible-
Phil Jones: It sucks.
Scott Stratten: I love watching myself on tape, but most people don’t. But I can watch … and here’s what I did. So I’m a speaker, right? I was born to do this. I do this for a living. Ten years ago, I watched a video of myself, and I had no idea I was doing this. I was wiping my nose for no reason. It was just that habit I had on stage. I didn’t have nerves, I wasn’t doing it as a tick. I was just doing it … because it was my comfort, and I would do this, and would cover my mouth, and so it would change the sound of my voice. Even if I could get away with that which was not … it looks like I’m on coke, but I got to stop doing that. So when you do that, I watched it and said, “I’ve got to stop that.”
Phil Jones: That’s great.
Scott Stratten: Hands down.
Phil Jones: I do a thing as well, which is, I’ll record the audio of a lot of speeches. Certainly did this in a lot of early days, and then transcribe them, and then read them back, and what was also interesting with the transcription, particularly when you push it out of transcription services, is when you get the parts that they say “Inaudible” and you’re like, “I need to slow the freak down here !” or I need to announce … That was somebody who was paid to understand what I was saying and still couldn’t understand what I was saying.
Scott Stratten: Professional transcriber could not hear you.
Phil Jones: Yeah, so there’s so many things …
Scott Stratten: Who has the ability to pause …
Phil Jones: And replay-
Scott Stratten: Yes.
Phil Jones: To write “inaudible” they tried at least a dozen times to consider what that word could have been, and still I got nothing.
Scott Stratten: And that’s a big thing for me was you had said there which was for me was slowing down. I get very excitable on-stage. I get very revved up. I get more revved up the more the audience gets into it, realized getting revved up doesn’t mean I need to speed up. And you’ll notice that … and when I was teaching the class, that was the more nervous somebody was, the faster they talked because they wanted to get it over with.
Phil Jones: Yeah, yeah, I hear that.
Scott Stratten: They wanted to sit back down, and I’m teaching our kids that right now too where our son, Owen, he’s really good at talking, but he goes fast when he gets in front of the class, so we’ll time it here, and if it’s a five-minute talk, it’ll be a minute faster in class, and we talked about why that is. He also says he’s going to work for us when he gets older. I’m like, “Doing what?” I don’t have a job. I don’t know what you’re going to do, but you will always speed up. So that’s why I said when you rehearse, always understand you’ll go a little faster than you would in a rehearsal or a practice, and on the flip side of that, if you are an actual speaker, or going to be doing that, or doing a speaking part of a meeting, never, ever, ever go overtime. Ever.
Phil Jones: Yeah. I think what I was saying, though, is in the corporate workplace, what often happens is people can go overtime, but can definitely go under time as well, and that you see somebody with a 25 or a 30 minute slot, and seven minutes in they’re like, “So I’m done,” and the whole link goes, “Whaaaaa!”
Scott Stratten: So I had a gig last year where they said … you know the thing, “to come down at 9:30, you’re on at 10:00. Gives you time to get mic’d up,” and I’m like, “Yeah no problem.” So I came down at 9:00 instead. I think I just misread the time, and I came down at 9:00. I was just listening to the guy, and at 9:20 … 9:20, the MC gets up and goes, “Scott Stratten is the president of UnMarketing, he’s the,” … Nobody looked if I was in the room. I was going on at 10:00, but somebody did exactly that. They were supposed to speak for 40 minutes, and they spoke for 10 minutes?
So I look at the sound guy, and he just runs towards me with a laugh and we just whoop it up my shirt, clip it on, and as he finished the bio, I just put the pack in my back pocket of the mic, and I’m on stage. And you just … they would have announced me, and I would have been in my room with no pants on, oblivious to it, and so running too much under time is also obviously a big problem, as well. I’m not a fan of anybody filling time, but I think that when you have an agenda, especially in a day-long conference, or retreat, or meeting, we need to stick to that time.
Now as you and I both professionals, there’s a certain skillset to be able to accordion your talk, right? To be able to shorten it on the fly or lengthen on the fly, because most places are like, “You have less time than we said,” but once in a … “Instead of 60 you have 80. Oh, and you’re going on stage now.” And your job is to get them back on track. You can’t go to lunch early … the catering’s not ready, the stuff isn’t set up, but also falling behind. I had a gig in Portland, Oregon, where they said I have 20 minutes. They’re paying my full keynote fee for 25 minutes. I’m like, “All right.” Flights there, I finally get there on the other side of the continent. They’re like, “Okay, so you have 25 minutes, and before you, three people are speaking for two minutes each.” The presentation, the governor of the state, and the sponsor. None of those people have spoken for two minutes in their life. And I said, “Do I have a hard stop at 2:00, or do I get my whole 25 minutes?” She’s like, “It’s a hard stop at 2:00. We have a marching band coming in.” I had 12 minutes.
Phil Jones: Yep. Been there.
Scott Stratten: I had 12 minutes to do a keynote talk, and I told my Ritz Carlton story, I told Joshy, and I’m like, “Thank you.” And that was it.
Phil Jones: I have one of the same ones this year, as well where it was, “We want to do this big production thing, with light shows in between, and what we’ve got is we’ve got six of the internal people at the company, and they’re going to pop up on one light and do one three-minute talk, and then somebody’s going to pop up on the other stage, and do one talk for three minutes, and this is going to repeat around the arena for … well, three-minute talks times six and then what you get is 12 minutes at the end of that to wrap up everything that everybody’s delivered, and you can move between the stages.” I got a …
Scott Stratten: “Oh I’m going to throw up.”
Phil Jones: But I guess that’s the point that when it’s our profession, we have to make that stuff work.
Scott Stratten: Yes. A hundred percent. You show up, and they’ve put a stage in the middle of the … because this happened … they’ve put a stage in the middle of the conference room, and you’re going to stand up in the round like you’re Def Leopard, except the stage is six feet off the ground, and everybody is sitting at round tables below you, so it’s kind of like you’re the Pope crossed with Cobra Commander from G.I. Joe, and you’re just dictating down to people, and you just roll with it. What you want to say was, “Why are you being stupid?” What you say is, “Of course,” …
Phil Jones: Of course, this will be fun. I’ll love this.
Scott Stratten: The problem is people are like, “Well, the problem with conferences is we got to spice it up.” No, the problem with conferences a lot of the times is you don’t have content that is relevant that works with the frame of reference … the basic adult learning principles for people. We had too many, let’s say, vendor-driven talks, or we have ones that just aren’t applicable where nobody walked out of a conference and said, “The content was the best I’ve ever seen, but I wish they’d did in the round.” “I wish they did with spotlights going off in the corners and different,” …
Phil Jones: “I was missing the laser beams. It needed more lasers.”
Scott Stratten: “I wish the executives did a cheesy video that only they found funny. That was what I was hoping for.”
Phil Jones: “Yeah, which clearly was thousands of dollars in budget, but we couldn’t do coffee in the break, but we did the video.”
Scott Stratten: “We haggled the speaker on his fee, but we brought in a production company to film a “Take On Me”, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with the executives.”
Phil Jones: Yeah, perfect. Let’s pivot in another direction. You said that you don’t rehearse, you’ve never rehearsed, but you also said that people are comfortable when they’re talking about something that they know remarkably well. I’m going to throw a curve-ball at you and say that perhaps one of the reasons you feel like you’ve never rehearsed is that you’re actually delivering stuff that is so familiar to you and so commonplace to you, that what I know about you is you’re not afraid to share an opinion in a moment if you feel you have something that would add value, and that’s all that a speech is, so my guess is anything you’re sharing in front of an audience, you’ve shared it at least once before, even if in just your mind’s eye.
Scott Stratten: A hundred percent. I think one of the benefits is my rehearsal is every talk I give. When I do 60 or so year, and I’ve done 400 keynotes in the past seven years, every talk is a rehearsal for the next one, and so I slowly introduce, let’s say, a new bit, and I see how it resonates, then you work on that bit, and that’s my rehearsal for it. So then you have ones that are just polished, solid sections or bits, and you have ones I’m working on. So I’m always doing that. For me too, it is different because I’m giving a keynote, I’m not giving a workshop. I’m not giving it where I’ve got to provide 17 steps something, or I’ve got a lot of data going on this screen. The talk’s my opinion, and I don’t need to rehearse my opinion, now I need to maybe make it sound as good as I possibly can, and that’s when each talk … and I’m not, by the way, I am not advising anybody to do talks about rehearsing.
I’m doing the bad parent, right? Do as I say, not as I do. Because I’m in a very poor position that I just took what I was yelling online and moved it on stage. I test everything. I used to test tweets to see what resonated well. I would take from Kindle, this is a great author tactic, with speakers too, you go to Kindle and you can find out what people have highlighted of any book, and go through what was highlighted the most, right? And so I looked at what resonated the most in our first book and made sure to say those lines on stage. I can wing it 100%, and I’m not remotely winging it.
Phil Jones: No, but you just have a unique rehearsal process. I think that’s what I want to try and put across is the … your daily conversations, your online interactions, your written medium, have become your testing place for spoken or orated words, but you’ve become so comfortable in the delivery of the spoken word that you have a unique rehearsal process that is different to most.
Scott Stratten: And it’s different for me because I … speaking on stage for me is much easier than writing. I find writing tedious, I find it boring, and I am lucky that my partner of my business, and the co-author of the books is my wife Alison, and so she’s the writer. And so she can write. I speak. And it works so well, I don’t have to do that tedious … but so if people think they hate, let’s say rehearsal, but they love writing, that’s the reverse for me. Right? So that’s how I write is I speak.
Phil Jones: You know when you’re traveling on a plane, and you’re surrounded by strangers, and somebody decides it’s a good idea to talk to you, and asks you the question, “So what do you do?” What is the real answer that Scott gives?
Scott Stratten: It depends on my mood. I have two answers. It’s either, “I’m an author.”
Phil Jones: Yeah, that’s the easy one.
Scott Stratten: That’s just, “I don’t want to get into it.” You understand … and ask, “What do you write?” And I’ll tell them. Author sounds fancier. When I say, “I’m a speaker,” they’re like, “Oh, you’re like a motivational speaker?”-
Phil Jones: Yep.
Scott Stratten: And I’m like, “Okay, yeah.” Luckily I wear my headphones the whole time usually, so we don’t usually have too many conversations, but and here’s the thing about it, I’m all curmudgeoned, and every time I do have a conversation with somebody beside me, it’s always fascinating, it’s always great, and …
Phil Jones: It’s awkward, though, right? It’s awkward to be a speaker, because that’s what often happens, is when you say, “I’m a speaker,” or “I’m involved in the speaking business,” the preconception out of the box is, “So you’re a motivational speaker?” And you go also, “Kind of.” And they say, “So what like Tony Robbins type thing,” and you go-
Scott Stratten: One hundred percent.
Phil Jones: “Yeah, yeah. Yeah he’s a little bit beneath me, but yeah, kind of.”
Scott Stratten: That’s why I lead with author, and then I’ll say, “My wife and I write business books and I speak around the country about it.”
Phil Jones: And the crazy thing is … my wife has a funny thing … because people often ask, “What do I do?” I can be at home a lot, I travel a lot, and then her social circle asks, “Well, what does Phil actually do?” And she struggles with the answer to the question, and she says things like, “Oh he’s an author,” and then people feel bad for her, and she’ll say, “Oh, he speaks,” and she thinks, “Oh, isn’t that cute,” type thing. The world doesn’t have a particularly comfortable box or lens to see the speaking professions through, which I find kind of unusual versus almost every other profession.
Scott Stratten: Yeah, because it’s considered a soft skill, though too, right? There’s no barrier to entry …
Phil Jones: So there’s no perceived barrier to entry. There’s no perceived barrier to entry.
Scott Stratten: Yes, a hundred percent, and that’s all it is is perception. Just like when I say I’m a speaker, people think Tony Robbins. They also think well anybody … I’m speaking right now. Right, so I’m a speaker right? Fishes don’t say they’re swimmers. It’s just there. We can do that. My real answer is I just try to avoid all conversations with people.
Phil Jones: And I’m with you. When I’m on the road it’s anything I can possibly do to avoid a conversation because we are products of our product, right? But it’s in our off time. People don’t need to be … at their day job when they’re sat at home in their sweat pants. That’s the way to get interrupted. But our travel time, the time you normally find yourself bumping into strangers, is our sweat pants time as such, and the second that you have some sort of open profile, but you’re not really famous, but you kind of have this accessibility and then a perception attached to that, you think, “Well, the second I give an answer here, I’m going to be judged.”
Scott Stratten: And connected where I’m going to have to continue the conversation, and I don’t want to be that old guy sitting on my front porch telling people to get off my lawn, but you’re so “on” when you’re on stage. You’re so “on”. Look, I really believe that speaking is a performance, and to perform, for me at least, I need the time not performing.
Phil Jones: You know this world so well … like so, so well, you know this world of speaking, and what are some stuff that people should know? Maybe some preconceptions that need to be debunked. What’s some stuff that you wish you knew when you were starting? What are some of the myths that people see that we really should try and clear up a little?
Scott Stratten: I think one of the biggest things is that it’s really hard living, doing it, on it’s own, that it was sold to me when I started as “You just do this, or just do that, and you can make a million dollars keynote speaking in this industry.” Be careful whose selling you the tools, and be careful who you’re looking up to … there’s a lot of gigs, there’s a lot of gigs and places and things. The problem is you’re competing against people who do it for free, and I’m talking about just conference keynotes here, not even about your meetings or anything else, but conferences and professional speaking in general.
We have different competition silos, you and I both, so there’s the free speakers, who are industry speaker or speaking doing for it exposure, whatever it is. And there’s nothing wrong, by the way, with any of these silos. There’s people speaking for business development, so you’ll speak in front of an audience for free, and in exchange you’re getting exposed to your target market. There’s people who get paid less, and they get exposure, and they want that for their business, then there’s professionals who make money … make a living speaking. And then there’s celebrities, athletes, who then realize we can make a lot of good money speaking for an hour doing this, so and I’m floating in this world, competing with all those, not just my peers. It’s not just me competing for a gig against Phil, it’s me competing against Phil for a gig and Daymond John from Shark Tank, and the last Olympic gold medal winner.
And so you realize it was a lot of competition sometimes for those paid spots, and I was told, “Just do this.” And this is what I realized, and this goes for any business, but especially speaking: there’s no “just”. There’s no “just”. There’s not just … maybe you’re not just using your hands enough, you’re not just doing this. There is 100 of factors that go into a speaker being chosen, and yeah there’s core things, right? You know the best way to get gigs is having a great video really helps. Having testimonials helps with social proof, but there’s so many factors that are involved in this world that I think that we do it a shame by saying “just”.
Phil Jones: What does the future have in store for speaking?
Scott Stratten: I was asked this 15 years ago, I was asked this again eight years ago by an industry magazine, and I still get asked this now and I … I don’t see a huge shift, and this is funny because one of the things that I talk about is disruption, and I always say, “If you don’t think you’re ripe for disruption, that’s when you’re ripe for disruption.” And the problem is where can we go with our stuff? So is it the hologram? The Tupac and the Tony Robbins hologram, and where are we going to go with that? People said look when streaming video blew up, they’re like, “Well, we’re no longer going to hire speakers because we’ll just play your YouTube video.” Yeah it’s not going to happen. The only difference … and I don’t see it because I have an HR background, so I remember back 20-something years ago when they said we’re moving to a paperless society, and I don’t know if you’ve seen the paper around, but we haven’t even gotten remotely close to that.
So if travel changes, so if people smarten up and realize they don’t have to travel so much for things, that they can do so much more virtually, and I don’t mean holograms. I mean this. Right? That might make less meetings, but nothing beats the face-to-face. And when you have that, you have one conference a year, you still want to do it. Even when the recession hit, they still had conferences …
Phil Jones: Even more so.
Scott Stratten: Right, they just didn’t make them crazy far away maybe, or too exotic, or … they were still bringing in speakers, they were still holding conferences, so I think the future is not on the actual industry part itself. I think it’s the marketing of it. Right. And you and I have talked about this a lot of how are people finding speakers because it used to be … I remember mailing VHS tapes in a bubble envelope, with a one-sheet, and I just found one of my testimonial sheets yesterday. I was cleaning out the furnace room, and I found a testimonial sheet that I printed off four-color processed glossy, and we’d stick in a bubble mailer and send out to a committee, and now we’re looking at the trailers that you and I both have for our business. That’s where I see it coming. That is a production. Not just a clip, and how that would work, so that’s where I see it, looking at the marketing of it more than anything else.
Phil Jones: Yeah, and I think obviously what now exists is people … that book speakers now have more transparency to what exists in the world, so the days of, “I’ll go to my bureau, my agent, and listen to the selection,” … there is a greater awareness and transparency of what exists in the world, so …
Scott Stratten: There’s much less gate-keepers for sure, right? Where, “Here’s the speakers you should pick,” where I got … now you can do different things with even advertising online and YouTube pre-rolls and Facebook videos, and so I think us marketing ourselves is not just, “speak”.
Phil Jones: Yeah, the ability to do a good job on stage is a fraction of it, right? That needs to be a given. It’s the other stuff that actually goes to having a successful speaking business.
Scott Stratten: Right.
Phil Jones: I asked you what you think is going to be different. I now want to ask you the same question slightly differently. What do you wish was different?
Scott Stratten: I love what I do. We’re in one of the few jobs that gets applause, really, right? I don’t like being away from my family. I have a clock that ticks in my head, and it gets louder, and louder every year because the kids are getting older, so there’s a famous saying in our business, which is, “You don’t pay me for the hour. You pay me to leave my family.” And that’s big for me, so I do wish we had a hologram. I wish I could beam in like Tupac at Coachella, and talk to you from this room, my front sitting room at home, and do that and click off and I’m done.
And I don’t mind traveling. I don’t mind planes. I don’t mind hotels. I’m very good on my own. I can do that, but I love home, and I’m lucky that I’m away 130, 140, 150 days a year, but that means I’m home for 200 and plus, and I’m home. I’m not doing client work. I’m not doing … I stopped consulting six, seven years ago because of this, because I wanted to be mentally home when I was home, so that’s huge. I’m home right now, it’s summer, so this afternoon we’re going to go downtown and walk around the lake, and our kids are home, and because our kids are 12 through 21, so I’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the travel, but right now, I do not.
Phil Jones: Okay. That’s a fair wish. Scott, I have three more questions for you. First one is, if you wanted to flip the script right now and ask me a question in and around the word “speaking”, what might you want to ask me?
Scott Stratten: I want to know if you look the same as me and find that speaking is always a performance.
Phil Jones: Aw, damn, without question. It’s an hour performance and every single one of them is different. And I feel so much responsibility towards every person that is in that room and every person that was a stakeholder involved in putting me in that room. It feels like a duty, a duty of multiple factors of I got to be on time, I got to get the message across that they want, it needs to be entertaining, it’s got to be fun, it can’t be too high, it can’t be too low, the pacing and the flavor needs to be just right for this group of people. The same joke you could tell four different ways, and it can land at different volumes. The changing dynamics of it is the toughest puzzle to crack in the world, and I think I established one of the biggest reasons that I got involved in it as a profession is that it is the stupidest business model in the world. You’d never pitch it on Shark Tank and expect anybody to be able to back it. It is not scalable, it is not sale-able. Every time you have to reinvent, every time you have a new puzzle, a new challenge, a new puzzle that is in front of you, and every time you have the responsibility and the weight of the world on your shoulders to be as good or better than the last time that you performed.
It is a thrill that … it fires up in me some emotions and some synapses, to quote you were saying you were missing some earlier, that I don’t get any other way. And you say that you wanted to do this from when you were 12. The second I saw somebody perform professionally in a live audience session, I was maybe 17, 18 years of age, and I saw a guy called Richard Denney perform, and he blew my mind. I later got to be able to work with him and was CEO and adviser to his company, which was a cool thing at a later point in time, and then a later mentor of mine called Nigel Risner perform, et cetera, all in my teens, and I’m like, “I want to do that.”
And what I saw them deliver was a performance, and the only reason I still remember the content that they shared is because they performed the content. They didn’t share me the content because everything that was delivered by those two individuals, I’d heard other people say before, I’ve heard thousands of people say since, but it was their performance of that material that means that I now attribute that lesson to that individual even though it’s been shared by thousands of people since. And I think that to your point on what speaking is at the level of the professional end: it’s the ability to know your content so well that you can enjoy what it takes to be able to perform it.
Which is why when you look to the music industry, which is where I draw more comparisons for our industry now than anything else, and I think the music industry gives us all the clues for what our future’s going to look like, lots of people are great at writing songs, don’t perform them. And I was in Nashville. Buddy of mine took me to a song-writer concert, and this was the song-writing awards for country music in Nashville. It was a cool thing to go to. I’m a British guy, had never been in a room with that many boots and cowboy hats in it before. But what happened was the song-writers would perform their songs, and they were really good. And then at a number of points, the performer that then performed that song … Garth Brooks came out at one point and took over, took the baton from the people that wrote one of his songs and did the final third. And it was embarrassing for the people that wrote the song just the difference, but it was the same song.
And the first song was good, and it was like, “Ah, that’s what we do to our material, if we get it right, is that we bring that point that moves people, or it creates a moment that’s remarkable. The performance is key at the top end, and I think the performance can still be key when you’re a student performing to your classmates in order to be able to get the outcome that you’re looking for and … I think Maya Angelou said it best, right? Or Vinh Giang is his speaker reel … I don’t know who said it first, but it’s … What was it that Vinh said?
Scott Stratten: “People remember how you made them feel,” that line, yeah.
Phil Jones: Yeah, yeah, I couldn’t remember who said it first.
Scott Stratten: Shout out to my man Vinh.
Phil Jones: Yeah there you go. Okay two more questions. If people were talking about Scott Stratten, and you weren’t there, but you happened to hear in on the conversation, and they used a word to describe you, what would you hope that word would be?
Scott Stratten: Other than “man-bun” … because that’s usually the one … It really is, it’s, “relevant.” That’s what drives me. The fear of being irrelevant with my knowledge is what drives me to keep going. That I think that’s when we start not getting book … that what we say is not relevant to our audience. Relevance is one of the key adult learning principles. That they’re sitting there and saying, “I get why I’m here. I get why he’s here” And it’s not about motivating or inspirational, or anything like that. But in a business sense it’s “relevant”, and in a life sense I think it would be “loyalty”. That’s my world.
Phil Jones: Okay. Well I can see both those words being regularly used to describe you, so I think you’re pretty much on point there, and that “relevant” point is huge too because it’s not just relevant as in, “The topic was relevant to us and our needs.” It’s relevant to the timing, relevant to the size of the room, relevant to the energy, relevant to the cultural feelings of what’s happening in the world at that moment in time. Relevant is a moving target, isn’t it? It’s not-
Scott Stratten: Always.
Phil Jones: It’s not something that is given or evergreen, and loyalty is a choice. Okay?
Scott Stratten: Yep.
Phil Jones: Final question is what’s Scott Stratten all about? Where can people find out more about you? If they’re interested in anything you’ve had to say today, where shall I send them?
Scott Stratten: Everything centers around the company name, UnMarketing, so you can find that on all the platforms pretty much. Tour dates are on the website there, which is all conferences, so but that’s it. And I’m all up in YouTube everywhere. A bunch of talks are there. Short hair, long hair. Goatee, beard, whatever you want, and that’s my world. And I love … and then doing this, which is sitting down, hanging out.
Phil Jones: Sweet, or hanging out with your family doing the cool stuff there, and to everybody listening in right now, if you haven’t yet seen it, watch Scott’s YouTube video where he talks about Millennials, and then also watch Scott’s YouTube video where he talks about what he does with the pencil. I think that’s what I’m going to do. I’m just going to leave those things out there, and see if you can go looking for those two things and when you watch one of those videos is your going to be questioning yourself of, “Am I watching a Netflix comedy special, or am I doing something that might help me in my work or my profession.” But Scott, thank you for being on “Words With Friends”; thank you for being an inspiration in my world, and helping me raise the bar in my speaking business, and, yeah, keep striving to be more, more relevant and let some of us chase you up that pole.
Scott Stratten: Thanks, Phil.