Having fun at a school assembly engaging every kid in a high-fives activity
Here’s a Q&A for those interested in my suggestions for getting work as a speaker at schools, as right now is primetime to get these events! If you’ve experienced something different please comment below. As an introduction, I have spoken to hundreds of schools, (it feels like) thousands of assemblies, and in the hundreds of thousands of kids through the years. It is a wonderful opportunity to influence the youth, and although I don’t do as much at schools anymore (focusing on keynote speaking for corporate events), here are some tips to making this type of gig work for you.
Q: How Do I Get Work at Schools if I’m Just Starting Out?
A: When I was first starting out, and wanting to speak to schools, I would go door to door to local schools, Elementary, Middle, Jr. High, and High School, walking in with a pamphlet and a dream to talk with the Principal. I quickly learned they weren’t interested in talking with me, and would pawn me off to the Vice Principal, if anyone. Often, I would have to do parts of my speech or act within the conversation to have them see it would be appropriate for kids (since I was coming from the Entertainment world, even if they’d heard of me, they were concerned I was a stripper or something….).
So, FIRST: Prove what you have to talk about is something they need. That might even mean you walk into the school, take a look around, find the THEME for the year on the wall, and tailor your message as you’re conversing – no rehearsal – just how all you talk about ties into their theme for the year – “Oh, you’re focusing on the 7 Habits this year? Awesome, I do a presentation on the principle that means the most to me, such as Sharpening the Saw….” See what I mean? It’s very easy to do if you’re savvy enough to try it.
SECOND: Be Seen Doing What You Do Best! That means you may need to talk to a friend who has kids that go to school and see if you can get their kid to convince a science teacher to have you come in and talk for 20 minutes about the science of crabs and catching fish at sea, or whatever your expertise may be. I used to do this with basketball teams and school choirs, going into the classroom and talking about something I was knowledgable about.
Key Point: While I gave the message I would clearly state, “My full length version of this program would be fun for the whole school, don’t you think?” Applause, and the teacher says to himself subconsciously (for some reason), “Hmmmm, he would be great for our next assembly.” And then you talk to him afterward and Jedi-mind trick him into recommending you as Assembly Speaker, even walking with him to VP’s office to confirm it that day. I’ve done that many times.
In essence you can talk about ANYTHING at a school. As long as it is relevant to kids and can help them improve. If it’s purely entertainment they don’t have time for it mostly (unless it’s a dance and you’re a DJ). Remember, they are cancelling classes for one period to have an assembly, so it can be a very uphill battle.
THIRD: You want to focus on getting in front of local youth leadership groups, such as FFA, FBLA, FCCLA, 4-H, etc. Once those leadership student body officers see you in action, and on stage you say how you want to come to their school, your phone will ring off the hook.
The other trick is to go into the school and offer a Teacher Training for Faculty Meeting. This can be “How to Get to That One Kid Who Won’t Listen” to “Leadership for Youth” type titles, that has always worked for me as well.
Q: What is the Best Way to Ask for Referrals?
A: This technique is the same for corporate and education business practices. The best way to ask for referrals is simply to ask for them. Your client, or people in the audience, have no idea that you need help with this. They just assume, since we’re on a stage, that we’re millionaires and have it all figured out. What I like to do is subconsciously plant in their minds the idea I want and need from them, in other words as I’m performing I’ll say, “What a fun crowd you have been today. If you don’t belong to this company and are a guest, thank you for being here first off, but secondly I’d love to talk with you about coming to your place of business and doing this same presentation”, or at a school, “How many of our teachers here would like me to speak at their kid’s school?” Now I have invited them to walk up afterward and ask for a card. Very simple.
Upon completion of a standing ovation performance, this is when I not only say to the meeting planner, “I can help you find another great speaker to follow me next year”, but I also ask, “Do you belong to any associations that you think might be interested in having me?” Or, “Who are 3 friends at other companies/schools you think could benefit from this presentation? Would you mind sending me an introduction?” If you are good they will ALWAYS say yes. And then it’s up to you to do the most important part of our business:
You need to send an email stating what you talked about, “Hi, Remember when we talked about those friends you were willing to refer me to? Would that still be possible? Here’s something you could possibly say….” And you type what the email should read. This sounds so basic but truly is not what most speakers do. This is grass roots, but if you’re a hard worker you’ll do it. I know it works, this technique has driven my business for nearly 2 decades.
Q: What is the Best Way to Market to Schools?
A: The best way to market to schools is to either join something like NACA (which focuses mostly on colleges), or to have an opportunity to speak to an association of teachers, school counselors, secretaries, principals, or student leadership, etc. They all belong to one or more associations, they all have to attend trainings to stay certified. Offer to your local school district, contact the superintendent, say you’ll do it for free to come in and speak – no one does that – and once they’ve seen you, as you speak, you plant it in their minds, “I’d love to come do this presentation, a little modified, for your kids and school.” Bingo.
Q: What Should I Charge a School?
A: Different fees for different levels is a reality. In my state of Utah, which may be way different from yours in this regard, it used to be this pricing structure due to their challenges with budget as follows:
Middle School/Jr. High: $600
High School: $1,000
Obviously they would often have you do 1-3 assemblies per day, at the same school, depending on how many are in the audience or can fit in the room, so when there are more than one assembly needing to be done, then you just price it accordingly if you are willing to say just a flat fee for the day, or if you want to charge per assembly. It’s up to you. But the day rate is mostly how I did it.
There were some colleges I could get $5-10k out of, but very rare, and mostly when they were selling tickets to a full night’s show. Some high schools I have gotten $3-5k but very, very rare, and mostly in Texas or California.
I no longer offer school assemblies, and have a group of speakers I love to recommend that I know will be great to refer to my clients requesting my return. Sometimes I’ll do a youth leadership event, as well as teacher or faculty events, but that is more rare as my business model has shifted to corporate keynote speaking.
I hope this helps in your efforts to speak at more schools!
Jason Hewlett, CSP (Certified Speaking Professional), CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame, is a Keynote Speaker for the largest corporate events in the world. His primary message, The Promise, is essential for Leadership, Management, Sales, Marketing, Direct-Sales Companies, and is a combination of engagement and entertainment meets inspiration. Jason has even received standing ovations from IT guys. He has been acknowledged as life-changing by Conference Attendees, C-Level Executives and Hollywood Elite. jasonhewlett.com
Please click here to learn about how Jason Hewlett, Speaker Hall of Fame, introduces the opportunity for you, or someone you love, to have the gift of learning how to create a Career From the Stage and begin moving toward fulfilling a lifelong dream as a full-time speaker, performer, or entertainer.