Getting onto a stage is one thing. Being memorable and impactful is a completely different kettle of fish.
In todays episode Kenyon Salo talks about his transition from starting out as a speaker to doing what he loves (both on and off stage) full time.
As one of only five members on the Denver Broncos Thunderstorm Skydive Team, Kenyon is seen each week flying into Broncos Stadium at 60+mph, ending with a soft tip-toe landing on the ten yard line. With over 6000 skydives under his belt and travels that have taken him all around the world, he’s determined to live life to the fullest and help others do the same.
Through his passions for adventure, storytelling, and connecting with people, he found a simple process to guide others on a path to what most of us crave – living a more fulfilled life.
For those aspiring speakers or anyone looking to level up this episode is an absolute must.
Victor Ahipene: Speaking nation. Welcome to another episode of Public Speaking Secrets. Super excited to take you massively behind the scenes today to the dark arts of public speaking with Kenyon Salo. He’s our guest today. He is the James Bond of public speaking. I’m going to link a video to his speaker reel on our website at www.publicspeakingblueprint.com later on because you need to see his super high energy. I’m super excited to be able to get an insight on how he created his message and so much more today. So welcome to the show Kenyon.
Kenyon Salo: Victor, it’s so wonderful to be here. Thank you so much for having me. I’m fired up. I love that it’s such a global world where you can be on one side of the world. I’m on the other. We’re able to have this conversation and be able to share any tips or bits of information or storylines that might be able to help some people along the way.
Victor Ahipene: Super excited. Yeah, exactly. I was talking with someone on this side of the world a few hours ago and then someone on the other side of the world. It just makes it awesome because the skills that we have with public speaking. They’re so transferable and the lessons are very similar. To dive into that, how did you get into the world of public speaking? The keynote presentation space. How did that all kind of come about for you?
Kenyon Salo: Well, for me, I am horrendous at dancing, drawing, doing any type of art or along those lines. But if I look back through my entire life, one of the key things through my entire life is that I’ve been pretty solid at communication. Even 20 years ago, I would look at some of the greats like Tony Robbins. I would see him on stage.
I would say, “One day I want to be able to do that.” It was a process because everything I did in my life was geared around that communication side of things, that leadership side of things. What I realized is that no matter what job I did, the most favorite part of my job was teaching, training, facilitating, and speaking in front of others. It wasn’t until 2015 when I finally had my message and then that’s when it was like, “You know what? I’m going to do public speaking. I’m going to be a keynote speaker. I’m going to push this for full time and let’s make a career out of it.” So an overnight success in 20 years kind of thing.
Victor Ahipene: Nice. It’s really interesting you say that because I know a lot of having been to like Tony Robbins events, a lot of people leave it and they decide I’m going to be a life coach or I’m going to have as big an impact as what Tony Robbins does or, I’m going to end up what tends to happen is a lot of people just try and do what Tony Robbins does as same impact as Tony Robbins. I’ve heard some other speakers say, their first ever event. They had people dancing and clapping and they had like 25 people at the event. They’d got their family up the front and they were clapping and dancing. They were trying to do the whole Tony Robbins getting people into a prime state and that sort of stuff, which is great.
But I said, then they came out as a speaker and they didn’t have the same energy. They weren’t eight foot tall. They didn’t have a lumbering voice that went over. It didn’t fit their calling, their message everything that didn’t really associate with it. It’s really interesting when people like, “I want to do what Tony Robbins is doing.” I’m like, “You got to do you. You can share the message to have impact. You’ve really got to find your own voice and your own style. Otherwise, we’re going to have a hundred different, Tony Robbins and 99 of them aren’t going to be doing a very good job.” Run us through that 2015 what happened? What gave you your message, you’re calling? Where did that come from for you?
Kenyon Salo: Well, ultimately building on exactly what you just said there, which is about authenticity. For me, I had seen, studied, read, watched, just devoured as much content as possible from great speakers and trainers and leadership to understand what they’re doing and how they’re impacting the world and how they’re able to deliver it to those audiences. Not just people that were thought leaders, but also people like comedians, entertainers, actors, actresses, all along the lines. Anybody that was performing in front of an audience was where I took inspiration from, but also where I took learning from.
The ultimate scenario is understanding what the message is so that that way you’re authentic to yourself. That when you stand on stage, you’re 100% you. If you’re not, they’ll know it. They’ll call BS on you. They’ll know if you’re not living the life that you’re telling people to live or you’re not living the message that you’re speaking about. So for me, it was a transformation where all of a sudden I started realizing that I was living what I deemed a bucket list life.
So the message, the bucket list life came out of it and digging into the core values of the bucket list life, which was create more experiences, share more stories and live more fulfilled by helping others. I realized that I could teach, share, facilitate and train on those three concepts and design the entire keynote around that. And authentically it’s exactly what I would have been doing, was doing and would continue to do in my life. So I knew that I had finally found my authentic message and then that was the platform that I could speak about.
Victor Ahipene: That’s brilliant. I mean obviously I’ve seen your speaker rail and had a look at some of the stuff that you’ve been able to do and it’s pretty enticing. It allows you, I guess to create that authentic message that you see that video and you’re like, “Yeah, I believe this dude.” Not many people want to just to spoil it. Throw themselves out of a plane and land in a football stadium.
That’s not something that you fake once off to be like, “Yeah, now I can give this presentation on stage that you’re all going to believe in.” It’s something that people are, “Okay, this is authentic. This guy is living his bucket list life.” When you were starting to put that together, say in 2015, what were your avenues that you would look in it to get onto stages the inside and out? Was it like, “Hey, I’m going to find my local rotary club. I’ll put on my own events and speak.” How did it kind of all come about with that?
Kenyon Salo: Well, it’s a little bit of luck and a little bit of lightning in a bottle, but also being skilled and ready when the opportunity showed up. That’s what happened for me where a bureau reached out and said, “Hey, I’ve heard your name a couple of times. I feel like I should reach out to you. Do you do public speaking?” I was like, “Well yeah, I’ve done a couple of events.” Like friends had asked me or local type of smaller events for towns or cities or chamber of commerce type of thing. This bureau reached out and said, “Look, I’ve got an engagement for a school.” I think schools are phenomenal places to start because the budgets really fit that new speaker and that new speaker can go in and have a pretty large audience to begin with. Sometimes a couple hundred, 500 on that type of level. I think that’s phenomenal.
For me it was $500 for my first engagement. The bureau took their 25%. I got 375 and I thought, “Wow, this is amazing. I made $375 for an hour and a half to speak out.” I thought I had really made the next level, but I had no idea that in the speaker world that you could make thousand, five thousand, five figures. I was like, “No way.”
As I started to design my keynote and really dig into that, I said, “You know what? I want to flip the industry. I want to be able to look at what the new trends are and make the differences and impact those audiences.” So I went from 500 to five figures per year, or I did that in a year. That one jump from $500 to five figure engagements was a huge jump. Here’s the thing, you can’t just raise your prices and expect to get five figures. The quality also has to exist so I made sure that the quality was there all along the way and have continued to do that since that year. It has been a phenomenal lifestyle ever since.
Victor Ahipene: With that, have you stayed with the bureau? What’s your advice on that side of things for aspiring speakers? We’ve got some speaking agents coming on the show soon. I’m looking forward to getting kind of both ends of the spectrum of what people have experienced with using them.
Kenyon Salo: I’m a huge, huge fan of bureaus and agencies. They have 20,000 contacts in their email list that you don’t have. And so partnering with them, and I know I hear people all the time like, “Well, how do I give up 25%.” What business out there keeps a hundred percent profits? It’s not the way it works. The fact that most speakers, let’s say you do 10% in marketing and 25% to a bureau, you still get to keep 65%, come on now.
That is unbelievable so I’m all for bureaus. I love working with them. The more that you can partner, I don’t do exclusivity. I move along the lines where I want to make sure that I’m working one on one with all the bureaus and that every bureau has an opportunity to book me because bureaus work in regions. You want to be able to hit that region with that bureau because they have those connections.
Then you basically build up your satellites and then they help you get your events. Sure you’ll have some stuff coming through referrals or your website and things along those lines. Again, bureaus are our friends and they will help you build your business much faster than you could do on your own.
Victor Ahipene: What have you found from a reaching out to a particular, say a new bureau that you’re looking to reach out to? What are the assets or the things that– the ducks that you can have in a row that can make you more appealing for them to say, “Yeah, I want to not only take you on but get you in front of people. Oh, we want someone who’s going to talk about a particular thing.” They’ve got to decide from five people. How do you help get yourself to the in the door first and then to the top of the list?
Kenyon Salo: It’s very similar to banks. Banks are happy to give you money when you don’t need it, but when you need it, they’re unlikely to give it to you. That’s kind of how it works with bureaus. So when you’re first starting out as a speaker, you can knock on all the doors. You might get lucky. You can get that one, especially if they’re local to you. That’s absolutely helpful. So a regional bureau or local bureau that’s close by, that absolutely helps.
There is a point at which as you build your brand, your online brand, your videos, your testimonials and things like that, you can use those assets to be able to build your business and reach out. The longer that I’m in the industry, the more assets and stronger assets that I build, like my demo reel and my testimonial reels and the website, I use those to be able to reach out to be able to connect with bureaus. Now, here’s a little inside tip. Bureaus have lists of people like waiting lists that people want to get in. They’re getting hit up five, 10, 20 times a day.
They might have a list of two to 500 people that have reached out and said, “Hey, I would love to be a part of your bureau.” You have to figure out how to be the gold that once all the sand is sifted, you’re still sitting there. What’s the thing that’s going to make you stand out than anybody else? That’s something that I have really focused on. I work closely with my team and so when we present our marketing materials and we reach out to bureaus to get new bureaus, we make sure that we’re doing something that they haven’t seen.
Something that’s new. Something that’s exciting. Something that’s going to catch their attention so that they’ll at least take a look further about, “Hey, who is this guy, what is he doing?” Let’s have some conversations to see if we want to bring them on to the team. That’s pretty huge right there.
Victor Ahipene: That’s awesome. Those are awesome insights and awesome tips. With your speaking career, have you just stayed with the keynote presentations or have you used that as an end to, like you were saying, run deeper trainings on your particular topics? Not at conferences and things or do you stay on the speaking circuit?
Kenyon Salo: For me it’s a complete pathway, step stone pathway to where I want to go. First and foremost was do as many speaking engagements as possible and continue to do them. The reason why that is because that’s the easiest way to start having income coming and build the brand and really get an idea of what your message is from the stage. I really continue to focus on as many engagements. I do some breakout sessions, but those are only in addition to a keynote if they want a keynote.
For me as a speaker to stick around for a breakout session so I can do that. Then the next step was speaker training and so a handful of people that were training and helping them get to where they want. So the team and I are focusing on that and we are launching speaker training, a full program at the end of March.
Again, it’s somebody that has and is continuing to do it. Then the third step is branching out to these three day weekends where start to live that life. But again, you have to be able to show you’re doing it. I see so many people that are trying to do three day weekend trainings and they still haven’t gotten their act and their life together.
You have to be able to show that you’re doing that, you’ve done it and that you’re living in authenticity because then people will listen and then they want to be able to learn from you. I think that’s super, super valuable. I think I will always do keynotes and I will continue and love to also do like three day weekends, maybe a five day full-on seminar retreat type of thing once a year.
Victor Ahipene: Yup. I think that’s the ability to leverage your time even further when you’ve got individuals who can or pay you for your time over a weekend and you can multiply that from a business standpoint. Obviously from an impact in the way that they we’re speaking.
Whereas, I need the company pays you to come in and give the keynote presentation and then all the audiences are there. I think you get a different buy-in obviously your presentation if it’s enticing and you get buy-in there when giving a keynote, that’s important. But when people are actually putting their own dollars and cents in front of you for your time, then you get that kind of different psychological buy-in.
They want to make sure that they get a result off the back of it too. So different approaches, but I think it’s a way to future proof yourself as well in the sense that a recession is going to come one day and some companies will tighten the purse strings when it comes to hiring keynote speakers. Then there’s going to be a whole lot of people looking to add another boat or their string to make themselves either it’s speaking to their resume or to be able to make themselves more hirable. I think it’s a brilliant strategy in that system.
Kenyon Salo: I think that’s very important because to build a successful speaking business, it takes time. I know a lot of people that are like, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to book five speaking engagements a month. I’m going to do 50, 60, 70 a year. I’ll start doing that this year. Well, it actually doesn’t work that way. It is a, you get one this month, another month goes by, two months you get another one and then you go from there.
A lot of people say, “Well, what is my price point?” The key to understanding price point is you can raise your prices if you’ve done 15 to 20 engagements at a current price point in a calendar year or in the last 12 months and that if you’ve done that, then go ahead and raise to the next level, but you can’t just skyrocket to the next one unless you’ve got maybe something that’s a ridiculous quality and straight out the gate that’s going to work, but most of the time you have to just understand each level within the industry and be able to build up from there.
And so where I’m going with this is yeah, you’re going to have to have another source of income. It might be a full time job where you take one or two days off a month to do the engagements that you get. You work on your business at night. You do your job during the day and then you eventually are able to transition out of it, but it will take time. It will take years. It’s a labor of love for sure.
Victor Ahipene: It’s awesome. I think that’s probably the best insight. If four people out there looking to get into that speaking lifestyle is you see the and I love Gary, but you see the Gary V’s of like, “Go hard, hustle your face off and all that stuff” which I’m not saying don’t do, but don’t expect that there’s going to be five or 10 speaking engagements that are going to pop up in the next month as soon as you start hassling your face off.
Because a lot of these events are going to be, or organizations are going to be, they don’t organize it three weeks out. They’re not like, “Oh yeah, we need some speakers. Oh, that’ll be good. We’ll get Kenyon on.” Yeah, it’s all sorted. Like there’s back and forth and all the rest of it that comes with it. There’s a lot of forward planning from these places to make sure that I’ve got the right people.
Kenyon Salo: That’s right. I often tell new speakers or people in general that want to get into this industry. The best marketing that you can do is what you do on stage. What I mean by that is you have one hour to present your best self and there’s got to be somebody in the audience that’s got to say, “Here’s my business card. I’m interested in you coming to my event, my company” whatever it is. The thing is that the turnaround time is not instantaneous.
That’s exactly what you’re talking about, Victor. The turnaround time is sometimes six months, sometimes 12 months from now. I just got an email today from somebody had seen an event that was three years ago. They said, “I saw you with this event back in 2017 and I’m interested in talking to you about coming to this event.” That’s a three year turnaround from that event.
The general rule of thumb is for every event that you do, you get at least one more speaking engagement. Sometimes it’ll be two, sometimes it’ll be zero, but the average is one more speaking engagement from a referral from that event. That’s how you build your business over time so that that way it’s sustainable.
Victor Ahipene: I think when you think about that, if you find and buy light, whether that be your bureau, your marketing or whatever. If you find 50 yourself over a period of time, then you should have another 50 coming in off the back end in the future. Then you keep your market and then that stuff slowly builds and builds and then all of a sudden you’ve got a sustainable business. I think that’s really, people should go back and listen to what we’ve just talked about because once you get that in your head, we’re not here to live in this like, “Oh, let’s be realistic.
Look, you’re going out by yourself trying to be a speaker. That’s not living in a realistic world.” Everyone’s going to tell you it’s not going to work or it’s too hard or you’re not Tony Robbins or you’re whatever. So we’re not saying let’s be realistic, but when you can actually have some strategy and systemize and look into the future for what you are going to do then you’re going to have a lot more success. You’re going to be able to handle those ups and downs that we all go through in business ownership a lot better. When you were saying, your best marketing card is you being up on stage, what are the things that you’ve found and I’m not talking so much about the authenticity or your own personality, what have you found have been some of the secret sauce or the magic that have allowed you to create good onstage presentation?
Kenyon Salo: Yeah. Victor, what you’re talking about there is stage craft. From the second you step on stage to the second that you leave the stage. That stage craft is ideal. Ultimately the simplest way to explain it is let go of the data of everything you think you should say or you have to say in that timeline. Let go of the data. Think about how you make your audience feel. Because at the end of the day, most of the time they’re not going to remember.
Even if they wrote it in their book, they’re probably not going to go back and reference it. The audience is going to remember how you made them feel. My goal throughout the presentation is to make them laugh, to make them have aha moments. Some of them maybe have a tear that comes down their face, but they’re going to at least feel deeply. I want them to be able to have one simple take away. That takeaway from my presentation is say yes.
Say yes to life just say yes. That’s the thing that they remember. They walked back to their personal lives. They go back to their professional lives and they remember, “Wow, that was an amazing presentation and I’m going to say yes today. If that’s all they remember, my job is done and hopefully they’re also like, “We should say yes to bring him in to the national event or the global event. We like that idea.”
Victor Ahipene: Yeah. It’s brilliant because that’s something I talk about that one overarching message when you’re starting to make that presentation is, what does that one thing that people will walk away with because everyone worries about, “Oh, I better give all these statistics. I better tell them all these different stories.” Everything just needs to work towards making sure they walk away with that one thing because everyone’s going to interpret what you’re presenting differently.
Everyone’s going to listen to some things. Some people are going to get a text message or they’re going to get lost on their phone. They’re going to miss a certain part of it, but if they can all walk away and say, “I really like it.” I had a voice coach on our last episode and we were like, “It’s these invisible ROI’s that people don’t realize.” You never go, “Oh, that person has such great tonality and such great focal depth and great pausing.”
You also come, people leave and go, “Man, that person was monotone and the message was boring.” They spoke too fast or they spoke too slowly. When you’ve got them right, people will never like, “Oh, they nailed that.” Because obviously it’s just kind of an expectation when you are as speaker that you have these things. If you don’t, it sticks out.
I think that’s another entirely beautiful message is when you’re getting out there, what is your one message? You see it with people’s marketing of, what do you speak about? “Oh, I’m a, this and that and this and that.” I’m talking about this and this and this and this. I can talk about whatever or who’s your target market or anyone and you’re like, “Come on.” Of course you could talk to anyone but who, who can you speak to? I think I don’t know from your point of view, but the clearer you get on that, it’s easier to approach an organization or to put your marketing material in front of them when you know that their audience fits your target demographic.
Kenyon Salo: That’s exactly correct. Yu talk about the thing that is a thing for me where speakers are like, “‘m going to do leadership.” ell what are you guys talking about? Leadership? Well that’s great, but what’s your angle? Oh, it’s just leadership. I’m great at leadership. They haven’t fine-tuned it. Then that is why they end up in the pool of 500 speakers on a list that haven’t even been considered for a bureau as opposed to exactly the thing that makes them stand out.
That is the thing that our team drives that point home. Again, what is it? The bucket list life. What makes your presentation special? It’s super high energy. Great for opening and closings. Who don’t you speak to? Generally rooms full of engineers or attorneys or things like that. They’re tougher audiences for me. What’s your ideal audience?
Well, 50/50 split or sometimes if it’s a geared a slightly more towards female, definitely helpful for my presentation. That’s wonderful. What’s your ideal audience size? 500 to 600. Can you handle a large audience? Yes, I did 8,000 in Australia. It’s those types of things of knowing exactly how you’re going to answer questions and not seeming desperate, but instead being absolutely positively 100% belief in yourself and what you do.
Victor Ahipene: Yeah, I think that is, yeah. You say you’re going to be a leadership speaker. You’re not Simon Sinek so you’re down the list already. What is your point of difference? How can you get clear on your message? Because once you’re clear in your head, you can start being clear to the organizations that are talking to you, the bureaus that are talking to you.
Then knowing that your presentation, that you’ve got your one overarching message, your one takeaway message. Because you’re clear on who they are, you’re not missing with a bucket list. I’m sure engineers, they’re just all analytical and lawyers just want to argue on every reason why you don’t want to have a less than. You know that you’re going to have some introverted engineers out there who don’t want to go rawr, rawr, rawr and jump up and move around in a presentation.
So it changes your whole vibe and that’s the difference between getting— when you got the right audience and I’m just hesitant to guess, but there’s a difference when you’ve got the right audience and then one or two of them are coming up saying, “We want you to speak at our next conference” versus, “Wow, that didn’t hit the audience at all. We don’t want you to come and speak at our audience again.”
Kenyon Salo: That’s exactly right. You nailed it. That’s exactly right.
Victor Ahipene: Well, I appreciate all your time. I think there’s a ton in there for people looking to get any level of the speaking, but particularly giving a clear framework on those people looking to get their feet in the water. Get into the schools. Get really clear on your message. Get your understanding of everything. You’ve really shared a lot.
I’d highly recommend people listen to this a couple of times and just really look at what are the areas that you have ticked off so far in your speaking aspirations and your all your career and what are some of the holes that you can plug in that funnel. If you would like more info, then we’ve got all the show notes and all the links at publicspeakingblueprint.com Kenyon want to welcome you to speaking nation. If people want to find out more about you and what you’re up to, where can they go and what can they do?
Kenyon Salo: Absolutely. It’s https://kenyonsalo.com/ so you can check out the webpage. Check out the hire me section, all that stuff there especially for coaching or any other ideas. Additionally, Kenyon Salo on all social media platforms and please friend me. Please reach out. I love helping speakers because what I realized is the more speakers that I help with their message means that it’s the more audiences that I’m having a chance to impact even if I’m not on stage.
Victor Ahipene: That’s brilliant. Well, I appreciate your time. I am sure you’ve had an impact on many of the audience out there today. Enjoy the rest of your day and I can’t wait to share the stage with you in the future.
Kenyon Salo: Great. Thanks, Victor.