SpeakerNet News Compilations


Kathy Kerchner

I am interested in hearing from anyone who has become a Vistage speaker. Has it been worthwhile? Have you gotten other business from it? How often have you spoken? I would appreciate any feedback.

— Rick Farrell

Be prepared for the toughest critique you’ll ever get. I do sales training and I got a 2.5 out of 5 but did get back-end biz. They are a tough and fussy crowd.

— Marti Barletta

I’m a registered Vistage speaker. My first Vistage presentation was a group here in Chicago. Following that, the Chair recommended that I register with Vistage to be considered for similar opportunities elsewhere. It was positioned to me as an honor to be selected to be on their registered speakers list, so there must have been some sort of screening process, but I don’t recall anything about it.

I believe whether it is a valuable business opportunity or not depends entirely on what kind of business you’re in and what you seek to get from the gig.

Personally, I haven’t found it to be worthwhile. I got no follow-up business from that first gig. Although 3 or 4 of the CEOs who saw me speak were interested in my topic for their companies, and I did follow up with all of them, it turned out that none of them had the budgets to bring me in either as a speaker or as a consultant.

I have had one request since that first one, to speak for a Vistage group in Alabama, which I turned down. It makes no sense for me to commit two days, including travel, to a group that pays only a $500 honorarium (and, I assume, expenses), unless I’m highly likely to get at the very minimum one full-fee gig out of it.

The barriers to the likelihood of my getting hired by Vistage members are:

  • Most of their companies are small to mid-size, so they have pretty small budgets. (Most of my clients are F500 companies.)
  • While my subject area of expertise is highly relevant to any company that sells to consumers, in any category, and in many b2b categories as well, as it turned out, at least in the Vistage group I spoke for, at least 12 of the 20 or so companies were in hard-core construction or manufacturing of component parts. If that’s typical, my odds of getting a gig slide even further.

Moreover, since Vistage groups are limited to no more than 20 members, you don’t really get any exposure from speaking for them. There’s no event publicity for you to be included in, no trade publication to interview you afterwards, and very small potential for word of mouth.

All that being said, it is a very classy and impressive organization, which has just undergone a very well-done re-branding about two years ago. And it doesn’t cost anything to be a registered speaker for them. So there’s not really any downside to getting registered with them.

You might consider finding some other speakers who work with them (perhaps listed on their site? Or you could call and ask?) to ask them directly what their experience has been, and ask if they have any advice on how to convert a gig into follow-on business. I’m sure there are those who have been much more successful than I was at making this work.

— Doug Wolf

I found it to be very difficult to get invited. You do the first one for free but you can charge after that. They can give you the statistics on what topics are the most requested and find out if your specialty is in demand.

— Charlie Hawkins

I heard of TEC, which is now known as Vistage. I first thought I would connect with the organization as a speaker, and later investigated becoming a chair. I have now been a chair for five years, and it is a great way for me to “do my thing” without ever getting on an airplane.

With that (rather lengthy) prelude, I have had the opportunity to observe dozens of speakers who have come to present at my meetings. Here’s how the system works:

  • Speakers generally get in touch with a chair in their local market; even better, with the area chair group. After discussing your material with the chair, the speaker prepares a write-up on his/her presentation — description, value to members, etc. The usual time for a speaker presentation in a Vistage meeting is three hours, including Q&A.
  • The speaker delivers a presentation as a freebie to a Vistage group. Each presentation is scored on a 5-point scale by each member attending. The scores are compiled, and any score below a 4.0 average generally means the speaker won’t get asked to speak at other groups.
  • Assuming a reasonably high score, the speaker then connects with Vistage HQ through a chair operations advisor (COA), to get “into the system.” About quarterly, COAs send out a broadcast email to chairs highlighting new speakers on the circuit.
  • The audience for a Vistage presentation is tough. Each member of a CEO group is either an owner, CEO or company president. S/he has little tolerance for fluff or canned presentations. The key for speakers is to work WITH the group in an interactive workshop session, rather than speak TO the group. Any theory or principle must be brought down to the Vistage members’ world. Speakers are encouraged to field questions, do exercises with the group (sans fluff) and involve participants throughout. Of course, humor helps. A canned keynote will usually fall flat — the audience is too small and intimate.
  • The speaking fees are low initially, around $500 per outing after the first free presentation. After X presentations, fees may be increased, and the top-rated speakers earn $1500 at the high end. Expenses are always covered.
  • There are about 800+ speakers in the Vistage data banks, and it is probably of the largest “bureaus” in the US, maybe the world. Certain speakers are in high demand and stay fully booked, or as much as they want to. Speakers often set parameters on what they are willing to do, in terms of travel, etc.

After all these hoops, why would any speaker want to speak for Vistage groups? Many don’t, and that’s fine. Many others do, including NSA members such as Mikki Williams, Jeff Blackman, Mitch Goozé and others. They do it for any one or more of the following reasons:

  • fill in the gaps between major engagements
  • sharpen the saw — great way to hone material before a highly demanding audience
  • get exposure to small business owners, with the possibility of getting hired for projects — please note that selling services is strictly prohibited, but one can always leave contact info and weave into the workshop references about the work done with various clients
  • great camaraderie with chairs and members who “resonate” with your message; the feedback is direct and honest and usually helpful

By the way, I still do workshops, both locally and nationally, but have chosen not to become a Vistage speaker.

SpeakerNet News is produced by Rebecca Morgan and Ken Braly. It is not affiliated with the National Speakers Association. Send comments or suggestions