Mark Sanborn “It is better to aspire to be fully human than partially perfect.”
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Normally, people gravitate towards the things that they excel at. Mark Sanborn, on the other hand, became a professional speaker because he completely botched his first attempt at public speaking – a short speech on safety that he gave at the age of 10 through his local 4-H Club. Humiliated but not defeated, young Mark set out to get to the root of his speaking struggles.
To say that he succeeded would be an understatement. Mark Sanborn became a professional speaker by the age of 27 with wide experience in sales and marketing and as the state and national president of the Future Farmers of America already under his belt. Today, he is the founder and president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea studio that specializes in developing exceptional leaders and businesses.
Q. What are the biggest mistakes you see new speakers make?
A. To me, the biggest mistake is either charging too soon or charging too much. For a new speaker to get established in the business, it is critical to be in front of as many audiences as you possibly can as frequently as you can. The way you find out whether you should be charging is when you give a presentation for free somewhere and an audience member comes up afterword and says, “What do you charge?” That’s how you know you are worth hiring. Now, that doesn’t mean you can charge anything you want, but at least you know there is some economic value associated with what you do.
Q. What have been the most rewarding aspects of your speaking career?
A. I have learned that you can’t really help an audience, an audience is an impersonal mass of people, but you can help individuals. So, the high points are not when the meeting planner speaks for the group or the overall evaluation score, but when an individual comes up and thanks you personally for something specific that helped them. That’s the gratifying part of the profession.
There’s a fellow who periodically e-mails me, who heard me speak at the beginning of my career 20 years ago. He’s approaching 80 now. It’s just great to have that kind of connection with a person when he didn’t know me from a box of rocks before he saw me stand in front of a group for a few hours.