How my business was saved by the stage—and how it can save yours

richmullhollandContributed by Rich Mulholland, an EO member in Cape Town and founder of Missing Link.

On 15 March 2020, South African president Cyril Ramaphosa–like many other world leaders–declared a national State of Disaster. This meant that there would be no public gatherings and that a lockdown was imminent. That’s bad news if you make your living from live conferences, like we did.

By the end of the day on the 16 March, 100 percent of our upcoming jobs were cancelled, and we hit revenue-zero.

I don’t remember being more excited in years!

With challenge comes opportunity

This was opportunity. You see, what I realized that week was that for the first time in my career, there were no experts. Nobody knew where to look. So I stood up.

Don’t get me wrong: I had no idea what I was doing, but I decided to figure it out in public. Not only did that decision save my business, but we’re in better shape now than we were this time last year. I recommend you consider doing the same.

Here’s the deal: There are more stages available today than at any point in human history. The meteoric growth of webinars and online meetings has created a supply vs. demand problem for quality speakers. People are saying that they have webinar fatigue. In truth though, what they have is bad webinar fatigue. This presents an opportunity for you to step up, too.

It’s my firm belief that the next breed of thought-leaders are being forged today on the world’s virtual stages. The term “virtual” doesn’t do it justice, because these online stages are as real as if they were crafted out of wood and steel. The auditoriums that they serve, however, are infinitely bigger. And they’re filled with what could and should be your audience.

Stages are the launchpads of leadership

Think of a thought-leader you admire. Now, picture them delivering a talk. It’s easy to do, because stages are the launchpads of leadership. There is almost no other medium that conveys such instant high intellectual authority as that of a stage.

Back to my journey: I realized a few things during that terrible mid-March week. The first was that COVID-19 was not the enemy. My real nemesis was people canceling their events. COVID was like a fire in the corner of the cinema. I wasn’t getting burnt, but I was getting crushed by people running for the door.

Brené Brown has a great line: “Uncertainty can be weaponized.” And that’s what I needed to do. So, I wrote talks and delivered them to whichever of my clients would listen. I spoke about the power of vocal and visible leaders in a time of crisis. I encouraged people to step up.

Oh–and I did this for free. Why? Because as all great speakers know, you either get paid for-a-talk, or you get paid from-a-talk. And when you get paid from-a-talk, the invoice is almost always bigger.

Pretty soon, people started to recognize the value in these stages, and they looked to us for help maximizing that value. Not because we were experts, more because we made ourselves impossible to ignore. All we did is look for the most immediate problem that we’d be able to solve, and make sure that people saw it. We didn’t sell the ambulance, we sold the accident.

You can’t slay what you don’t see

As an entrepreneurial speaker you have two jobs. Job No.2 is to help your audience slay their dragon.

Job No.1 is to help them see their dragon. You win when the dragon that they acknowledge is the one that you can give them the weapon to defeat. Forget USP (unique selling proposition) and embrace the UPS (unique problem that only you can solve).

Is there a dragon that your customers need to slay? Can you help them do that? If so, I’m calling you to action. Step up.

Create your trademark talk. Write it, design it, then deliver it. Deliver it to customers, deliver it to industry groups, deliver it to anyone that you want calling you after the applause dies down.

That was my 2020: I wrote, I designed and I delivered. Dragons were found, dragons were slayed. As a result, my business was saved.

By June, our revenue was back to 100 percent. August was our best month in 18 months. And September was our best month in 23 years! All because we used available stages to weaponize uncertainty.

And I’ve got news for you: That uncertainty? It’s about to get worse. People are going to be shocked when things don’t “normalize” in 2021. That’s where you come in.

You’re an entrepreneur. You fix problems, and you fill gaps. You need to step up now and see this uncertainty as the opportunity it is. Stage-marketing is an untapped well, one that I encourage you to drink from. It’s your time.

Lead loud!

For more insights and inspiration from today’s leading entrepreneurs, check out EO on Inc. and more articles from the EO blog



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