In this episode, Dannella Burnett, owner of Encore Elite Events and Speakers Need to Speak, shares how speakers can up their game to get more visibility so they can change the world with their message as well as what she did when her business crashed during the pandemic and how she was able to turn it around. Dannella will lift your spirits and give you hope for the future in this inspiring interview!
Crush It From The Stage Checklist
3 Key Points
There is a lot of profit and impact from speaking if you use the right opportunities for your business.
Determine the value you bring and highlight that in your speaking
Speakers need a book.
Ellen [00:53]: Hi, and welcome to Episode 92. Today my guest is Dannella Burnett. Dannella is the owner of Encore Elite Events and Speakers Need To Speak. She’s a creative force with passion for connecting experts to those they serve through speaking and events while generating profitable and impactful visibility. Through her connections, millions of dollars have been generated and tens of thousands of lives impacted through speaking and live events. She believes in multiple streams of income, collaboration, and always finds a win-win-win combination. So Dannella, welcome to the call.
Dannella: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me tonight, Ellen.
Ellen [01:33]: I’m thrilled to have you, and I love your story and I can’t wait for you to share it with my audience because we were just together. This will be a couple of months by the time it comes out, but we were recently together at a Driven Event and you told your story and it was very touching. So why don’t you share what happened?
Dannella : Great. So I have literally been in the event and hospitality industry since the age of nine. And this was long before the food network and programming were on 24/7. I found Julia Child and I literally fell in love with just the passion for hospitality that came off of her. And I told my parents, I wanted to be the next Julia Child and they kind of patted me on the head and waited to hear what was next. I think they were waiting to hear like first woman president or firefighter or a nurse or whatever else, but I stayed with it. I actually started catering with a friend of the family at age 15. When it was time to go to college, there really wasn’t a choice for me but culinary school. And so I was in the restaurant and hospitality industry in DC for a very long time.
[02:55]: And that’s what brought me into event planning. Event planning on the personal side brought me into event planning for corporations and municipalities and nonprofits. And then that brought me into event planning for experts. And that’s where we’ve been for the last several years, mainly in the expert, coaching, entrepreneur enrollment space. I just love the transformation and what happens at live events, where the energy, the transfer of knowledge, the lives that get changed and incredible profits. And I am a big believer that money… We were at the Driven Event and Suzanne Evans is the coach there. And she says money makes everything easier. And I definitely think that’s the case. When you do well, you can do good. When you do well, you have choices, you have options, you can change the world. And so I love that about the space of working with experts and entrepreneurs and creating profitable and impactful events.
Ellen [04:04]: I’m always amazed when people say they knew what they wanted to do when they were like nine. A lot of times we watch music shows cause I’m a songwriter. And some of these kids, like they knew at three they were going to sing. I’m more like Jane Fonda, late bloomer. I was a late bloomer.
Dannella: Got you. Yeah. When we’re in a room and you kind of, you get into talking after an event or you’re connecting with people and who does what they went to college for, who’s even remotely in that industry? I always tend to win that conversation.
Ellen [04:43]: Yeah.
Dannella: I mean, literally this is what I’ve done and it’s morphed and it’s changed, but that through line is the energy and the hospitality and the desire to serve. And I absolutely love that.
Ellen [04:57]: Well it’s funny that you say that because the truth is I was always on this path. I just didn’t know it because I started writing poetry at 11 and then I went the traditional route because I come from a professional family and that was what was expected. And I went to college, but in college, I studied sociology. I had a minor in English. And then after college, I tried some different things and I did magazine editing. I was a copy editor and a layout person. Right? And then I was a publicist.
Dannella [05:34]: You were on that same path.
Ellen: Right, and so-
Dannella: It’s just the path winds a little bit.
Ellen [05:37]: Yeah. And then I became a songwriter and eventually. then I got here, but it’s like everything that I did helped me. I just didn’t know that that’s where it was going to go because, of course, what we do now didn’t even exist.
Dannella: It’s true that some of what we do today didn’t exist a year ago, let alone decades ago.
Ellen: Right. Right. But something happened for you when COVID hit didn’t it?
Dannella [06:03]: It was really hard, really fast. So on my side of the business, we have Encore Elite Events. We work with national, international experts and entrepreneurs that travel, enjoy doing events all over the world and here in Georgia. We also still do some things under the name Oakwood Occasions here in Georgia, where we had a catering company for a long time and we still serve some clients as an event producer under that name. And we own Lanier Tent Rental. It’s a tent and event rental company and my husband operates it.
And then two years ago we launched Speakers Need To Speak, which goes right alongside with working with our experts and coaches. It just helps speakers get out on more stages. We’ve got a great program for that. So, it felt diversified. Well, when COVID hit, we realized all of our eggs really were still in the same basket-
Ellen [07:08]: Offline, right?
Dannella : Different colored and a little bit different shapes maybe, but really, really quickly… In fact, from our tent and event rental company, within three days, my husband fielded nothing but cancellations. And in three days we had $121,000 in cancellations-
Ellen: That’s got to be terrifying.
Dannella [07:29]: Over the next couple months, it was just devastating. He dropped a pile of paper in front of me after a couple of days and he said, that’s $121,000 in cancellations.
Ellen: Well the world literally changed in a couple of days. I mean, I remember we went into Trader Joe’s and they had us line up and we went inside and the shelves were empty. And I said to my husband, oh shit, this is bad. And it was March 13th. We came home and we didn’t go out for a year.
Dannella [08:05]: So March 9th, I’m sorry, March 11 I was at a live event with one of my speaker clients who had come in from out of town to speak at an event here in Atlanta. The numbers were light. There were people who had opted not to show up. I mean, nobody really knew what was going on. And there were some people who had canceled attending that luncheon live. I went with my client, she spoke, we’re getting kind of feedback. Nobody really knows what’s going on though. Within two days the schools had been canceled. We were getting cancellations at the tent rental. On my side, I had speakers kind of up in arms, where are the stages going? What’s going on? We had event clients who had events scheduled and we were trying to figure out what do we do? What do we not do?
So on my side, I was seeing more postponements and concerns, not yet cancellations, but on the tented event rental company, it was devastating very, very quickly. So, I called my coach that weekend, absolute… terrified because I’m a pretty… like put your big girl panties on and let’s get this thing done. And, and I don’t mind hard work and I don’t mind some hustle, but it was just so big.
Ellen: Oh yeah, it was overwhelming, yeah.
Dannella: I mean, I think at one point in my tears that weekend, I might’ve even said, it’s a good thing we own tents because we may be living in them.
Ellen: Oh no.
Dannella [09:49]: It was so big, so fast and nobody had any answers. So this is why you have coaches and you have people that you can call upon in business and in your personal life when you just can’t see yourself.
Dannella [10:07]: And so she kind of talked me off the ledge. We talked about virtual. We talked about what this could mean for the industry. We talked about Zoom and things that were starting to happen. And she actually said, you need to do a virtual event like right away, you have a community of speakers.
Dannella: So we did our first virtual event. It was a seven-day summit with 21 experts. I brought in kind of a big-name speaker every day and then two from our community, a nice mix of people. And it was the seven days How To Be Seen and Heard Virtually. And I did that event on March 20th.
Dannella [10:54]: I mean, literally came out of the gate and like, all right, I made no money on that event. It wasn’t about making money. It was about taking action and okay, well, we’re going to figure this out because I have experts and I have speakers that still want to serve people, so we’re going to have to figure this thing out.
And so we did that event. We had three speakers a day, it was two hours a day for seven days. We delivered it by email. We did basically a summit, a seven-day summit. And, and then we were very, very grateful in a very quick period of time. We got the first call from the hospital to put a tent out for coronavirus.
Ellen: Oh, nice.
Dannella: So at that moment, we called every clinic within 200 miles. We put tents out. Some of them are still out a year later for treatment and testing. And just grateful to say that all sides of our business had record years for 2020.
Ellen: That’s amazing. That’s amazing. But it goes back to seeing the problem and just getting right on it.
Ellen: Yeah. And then getting something that becomes successful that you go, oh, well that worked. Maybe I could do more of that.
Dannella [12:13]: And that’s exactly what we’ve done. And now we’re doing even more virtual events, even more, one- and three-day events with our clients, because we’ve really found some things that work. There’s you don’t have the same ramp-up time. You can stay local, serve global, more opportunities to be visible. And that’s really what speaking is about, is about having a message, knowing what that message is, knowing who you want to share that message with, and having some monetization strategies.
So whether you’re a keynote and you’re looking to get paid while you’re on a stage, whether you’re delivering value for a free talk, like many podcasts are free, many social media programming is free, summits and other types of events are often free or low cost to participate, but it gets you out in front of new people. Or if you’re paying for a sponsorship and maybe you have an opportunity to sell directly from the stage, you want visibility, that’s what you’re looking to do.
[13:19]: And whatever that monetization is for you, it’s being the right you, in the right way, delivering the right value and getting paid what you’re worth. So we quickly just said that the same problem exists, the same challenge. We’re just delivering it in a different way. So let’s get really, really good at it. Let’s get really good at serving our clients so they can still serve the world because it’s a little bit of a broken world out there.
And I firmly believe that speakers and experts and entrepreneurs and coaches and transformational experts and healers and health and wellness coaches have the ability to fix that broken world. And it’s getting incredible messages and value out and making sure they’re also getting value back in getting paid for what they do.
Ellen [14:16]: Absolutely. And you and I are doing parallel things to get the same result.
Ellen: Yeah. Because people need to speak and people need to have their book.
Ellen: So you said something that caught my attention though. You said you didn’t make money from that event, from that summit? Or…
Dannella [14:35]: That first one, it was not about making money. I did not charge any of my speakers-
Ellen: All right.
Dannella: For that platform. We did not charge the attendees. We did it on Zoom-
Ellen: So, it was a free event.
Dannella [14:50]: I have a pretty big database, so we were able to just market it. For that one, it was really about taking action, providing value for some of our clients, giving them the opportunity to see that they could still be heard. So I suppose I should say it that I did not get paid dollars for that event.
Dannella [15:11]: [inaudible} huge in making my clients feel comfortable that we could still get them out there and get exposure and visibility. And so I was still serving my clients. So in that respect, getting paid two, three, four, fivefold. But it was a free event and it was just about making it happen and seeing how we can make that happen.
Now, of course, we’ve used that same model and other virtual event models and made tremendous money for ourselves and for our clients. In fact, in the last year, millions of dollars have been made during the virtual events that we’ve produced for ourselves and for others.
Ellen [15:53]: Well, the reason I wanted to go back to that is because I know like with, I know this is an issue with book writers, but I think it’s an issue with speakers too. It’s that whole thing of free versus paid, thinking you shouldn’t work for free or you shouldn’t ever have a book for free. And I just love that that wasn’t where your head was at because sometimes you just need to take the action and change the energies before you could get before you can get paid.
Ellen [16:23]: Yeah. And sometimes people, they don’t understand that. And I think that’s a really important point to make.
Dannella: Getting creative in how you get paid. Sometimes we have speakers come to us and they only see one kind of pathway of using speaking to generate revenue. And today’s keynote speaking, when you’re getting paid a check for standing up there and speaking for a certain period of time, it was definitely the hardest hit pathway of speaking this last year.
Dannella [16:57]: A lot of times, it’s going to be a corporation or an association or an organization or a university, some entity, that’s going to write a check for you to bring value to their audience. Those kinds of events, we see them coming back now, but those kinds of events really locked down when employees and members and tradesmen and industries got scattered, people went home. They weren’t in the corporate office anymore. They were working from home. And so we saw a lot of keynote opportunities only go to those that already had a great deal of success in the keynote world.
Many of those speaking opportunities just weren’t available for somebody newer in the industry. And we saw the value, the dollar amount of those go down. So if your only way of making money from the stage was to get a check and provide that value and then get off the stage, it became a difficult way for it to be the only way that you can get paid. Sometimes the better way to get paid is to stand up in front of an audience and they’re your right fit people, the people you’re meant to serve and provide value and provide maybe something for free, a lead magnet or a consultation opportunity to talk further after the event. And then in that conversation, in that follow-up, you can then sell your programs and your products and your services, or if you even pay to speak on a stage. The event we were just at, I paid for a sponsorship, but on Friday I got to speak to 120 of my ideal audience.
Dannella: I care a little bit about… I’m sorry?
Dannella [18:56]: And you were there. And I got to share what we offer. I can tell you that we made well over what I paid for that time on the stage. We nearly tripled it in the amount of time that I was speaking. And we’re still following up with sales calls. And by the time we’re done, I will probably be close to three to four times my investment because I chose to do that and then positioned and prepared and was ready to profit in that pathway. And so speaking, if you’re ready to be creative, there’s more than one way to make sure that you’re getting paid.
Ellen: Yeah. And also I will say that different speakers have different audiences and some are more engaged than others and you and I know that those particular events do really well. And so it doesn’t feel really like a big risk to take a sponsorship when you work with Suzanne’s company. But there are others-
Dannella [20:06]: You know exactly who’s going to be in the audience.
Ellen: Yeah, you know who’s going to be there, exactly. Exactly. So, I mean, that makes a big difference, too. Because it can be scary if you go somewhere and you spend a bunch of money and you don’t get anything out of it.
Dannella [20:21]: Yeah. And that is something that we talk about with our speakers often, what questions, if it is a sponsorship type of speaking, what should you ask that event host? Obviously, for somebody at Suzanne’s level, you kind of know what you’re going to get, who she’s going to attract. She’s got a history of doing events and you can be pretty comfortable and confident with the numbers of people that they are going to attract and who they’re going to be. Sometimes it’s a first-time event host. So what questions do you ask? You need to ask where, how are they marketing that event? How are they planning to fill it? Are they advertising, doing paid marketing, do they have a big database? Do they have a good group or a network that they’re marketing that event to, are they partnering with other people who have a network?
[21:16]: So if they tell you there’s going to be a hundred people there, fifty people there, or a thousand people there, how are they planning to get there? What are they basing that on? You always want to ask that question. How much time do you get, the amount of time that you have to share with an audience is a big factor in what you can do with that audience. If you only have a little bit of time, you can’t ask them to make a huge purchase with you. If you only have a little bit of time with the audience, you’re better off sharing some value, letting them see a little bit more of you and then offering that conversation or offering your book or offering something for free that answers the challenges that they might have and the way that you solve that for them that furthers the conversation. Now, if you have a long period of time, like I had an hour and I was able to sell something for the $1,500 range, it was plenty of time.
Ellen [22:16]: And by the way, it was a great offer.
Dannella: Thank you.
Ellen: It was a great offer. Yeah, because what struck me was the bonuses that you offered with it. When you’re in a situation like that, where you come in and you do a speaking gig and people do want what you have, but you have to create that urgency. And you have to create those bonuses that are like, oh man, I want this so badly.
Dannella [22:42]: Exactly. Why should they give it now? ? And that’s part of if you are speaking to sell, you do want to create that urgency, you create something exciting so that people do want to take action now. If you don’t create that people get busy, they forget, even if it’s the best thing for them and something really exciting, you do need to create that and it’s creating something real, they are real bonuses and they are happening at a specific timeframe. So you got to take action now because part of the bonus is about two weeks from now it’ll be done, be moving on to something else. So yeah, knowing what you are looking to ask an audience to do-
Ellen: Right. Knowing what they want, knowing what they want. You have to know your audience.
Dannella [23:34]: Yep.
Dannella [23:36]: And we’ve worked with a lot of speakers who then go on to do one and three day events, which allow you to offer more or create more transformation because you have more time with people. So if you are paying for a speaking gig, how much time do you have? What are you allowed to do in that opportunity? How many people are going to be there? Is it just the opportunity to be in front of those people in that moment? Or is that event host going to email out some of your information, is there pre or post event exposure? All of those things you need to ask yourself and ask the event host when you’re evaluating a sponsorship.
Ellen [24:17]: Oh, what do you think are the best ways, places to speak right now, since it’s all virtual or mostly virtual?
Dannella: I really encourage speakers to get very, very clear with the audience they want to be at because the best place to be is wherever your audience is.
Dannella [24:35]: So, if your audience is corporate professionals, you need to be at events that’s filled with corporate professionals. If your audience is moms, you want to be at an event that’s going to be filled by moms. If you… entrepreneurs, you want to be in an event that’s going to be filled with entrepreneurs. If you speak to dentists, you want to be at an event that’s filled with dentists. So you really want to get clear on who your audience is and then the best speaking opportunity is where they’re at.
Ellen [25:10]: Great advice. And what about speaking for free versus paying, if there, in this environment, like what do you suggest people…? Is there a range? Like what people should ask if they’re asking for a paid speaking gig?
Dannella: If they’re asking to get paid or they’re asking having to pay?
Ellen: To get paid.
Dannella [25:35]: To get paid, it really varies on the expert. I mean, we still see keynotes where you’re getting paid a couple of hundred dollars and we see opportunities where you’re getting paid thousands of dollars. That really has to do with you and the value that you bring, not only the audience in front of you, but the value that you bring the person who’s writing the check. So not that long ago… I don’t actively pursue a lot of paid speaking opportunities because I work in the entrepreneurial space and usually for me, I’d rather pay to speak or I’d rather speak for free and bring more speakers and event hosts into my world because that’s where I make money, is when I provide that service.
[26:25]: But even I got a paid speaking gig here in Georgia. One of our local associations that serves nonprofits, asked me to do three workshops, working with nonprofits, showing them how to their non-profit gala or dinner or auction or dance, how to take that virtual and create online fundraisers and still serve their audience but in a different way, because non-profits, difficult situation, if you can’t… if you’ve always made your money off that annual dinner and now you can’t have it, what do you do?
[27:07]: So, we did a workshop for three nonprofits, three events for nonprofits. There were about 18 nonprofits at each one where we showed them how to take their events virtual. One of the workshops was on best practices for Zoom. And then one of them was sponsorships in the virtual world, how they could still create valuable sponsorship decks for their sponsors so they could get paid by sponsors and get paid by ticket sales if that was the goal of the event. Well, the local association paid me a thousand dollars for each of those workshops because it was worth it to them to hire me, to bring that value to their nonprofits, to their clients. Not a big keynote, but I was happy to do it. Here in my local area, I want those nonprofits to succeed and certainly worth my time to put together valuable content and give a two hour workshop, three times for a couple thousand dollars.
Ellen: Yeah. Nice.
Dannella [28:14]: But what I will say is when you’re looking to get paid, you always need to remember there’s two bits of value that you need to show because you need to show value that you’re going to bring the audience while you’re speaking or doing your workshop. But you also need to show the value to the person who’s writing the check. So, you determine your value if you teach on something that brings a corporation more profitability, more productivity, less turnover with their employees. You want to highlight that because you may bring great value to those employees and the benefit to the company to write you a check is they’re going to have less turnover. They’re going to have more productivity. They’re going to have happier employees.
Ellen: Yeah. And I’m stunned by how much some of them will pay you.
Dannella: Some of them will pay handsomely for that.
Ellen: Yeah a lot.
Dannella: But you’ve got to build that relationship in order to have that conversation.
Ellen [29:14]: Yeah. This is great. So do you have any final tips for people?
Dannella: If you have a message, get your business in place. There’s a lot of folks that I talk to sometimes that have a message that really desire to get out there, but they don’t think about the business side of it. You really do need both. You need a message and you need monetization. And whether that’s getting paid to speak, whether that’s using speaking to grow your business and sell your products and goods and services and programs, you just want to make sure you’ve made, put your business in the right order. And then you’re using the right speaking opportunities to further that.
And I’ll tie it back to books, write a book. It is great authority from the stage to be able to show your book. This is actually a book by our Elite Speakers that we just brought out this last year. Getting your message into print has never been easier than it is right now. So have it in print, be clear in your website, have your branding in order and get out there and speak. There is a lot of profitability and a lot of impact for doing things the right way. And when you’re ready to get out there, we’d of course love to support you in getting out on more stages or perhaps leveraging your own platform and creating a great live event.
Ellen [30:50]: And how do people reach you? And did you have something you were going to give people?
Dannella: Yeah. What I’d like to give people is our speakers Crush It From The Stage Checklist. This is a checklist that works, whether your stage is in-person or virtual, a podcast, or stepping up to a stage, a lot of valuable tips for how to structure your business, how to check off are you ready? Is the website looking good? Are you ready for automation? Do you know what the opportunity is? As well as the follow-up. So you’ll get that checklist. You’ll also get an invitation to a conversation. Love to find out what your area of expertise is, what message do you want to bring to the world? And we’re also, when you book that call, you’re going to get a hundred hot speaking leads. We curate a list fresh for our clients every month of speaking leads and the best speaking opportunities. So we’re going to share a sample of speaking opportunities for you. And I think you’ve got that link.
Ellen [31:56]: I do. It’s https://ellenlikes.com/speak
Dannella: So, very good. So I cannot wait to hear from you and find out the message that you want to bring to the world and how we can support you do that.
Ellen [32:12]: Well, that’s awesome. I’m going to get it, but it’s ellenlikes.com/speak
Dannella: Sounds great.
Ellen: Well, I’m so glad that you mentioned write a book. So, before we go, I want to invite you to the next 5 Day Bestseller Breakthrough Challenge. It’s coming up July 26th through 30th, and the last one was really great, but this one is going to be awesome, even better than last time. In the challenge, I walk you through how to find the best topic for your book, how to pick the best market for you to write for, how to find out what your market wants to buy, how to position your book so your ideal clients are clamoring for your book and how to create your book, outline and minutes.
The information to register for that will be on the podcast page. And we are in the process of moving to booksopendoors.com/podcast so you can start going there and you’ll get to the page from there and you can win prizes for showing up and daily bonus gifts that every author needs. Come all five days and you’ll get over $200 in free gifts total. We’re also going to have some pre-event extra bonus trainings. Our first one is coming up Friday, July 9th, that’s the end of this week,[11:00] AM Pacific,[2:00] PM Eastern, with Meredith Liepelt on how to create a publicity plan to maximize book sales.
And this is a way you can get started with your marketing plan before you even write your book. So, don’t wait. Register now at https://booksopendoors.com/podcast that will take you to the page, but it’s just a lot easier to remember than the old one. We’re also running a contest. So anyone who brings in five people or more to the event who show up daily and participate will be eligible to win a $600 bonus package. That’s $100 gift card for Amazon and a Crushing Kindle Marketing and Visibility session with me personally.
So, I really hope you’ll join us for the challenge. If you want to write a book or if you’ve been writing books, but you want to write them faster and easier and know in advance that they’re going to be a bestseller, be sure to join us. All the details will be on the podcast page. That’s booksopendoors.com/podcast. So, that’s it for now till next time. Bye-bye.
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