09 Oct Share your message with the world! with Pete Vargas
My guest today is Pete Vargas. Pete has trained hundreds of people to become powerful and successful professional speakers. Just listen to some of these stats: Since 2003, Pete and his team have helped speakers book over 25,000 events that have reached tens of millions of people and generated over $40 million in revenue.
Pete is the founder and CEO of Advance Your Reach, a company that helps speakers, authors, and entrepreneurs find and book stages so that they can share their message, scale their expertise, and reach the world.
Pete is very passionate about helping thought leaders who have a message to truly build a business and a brand that allows them to reach the people they feel called to serve. I wanted to bring Pete on to dig into some specific ideas to help you reach more of the people you want to help. So let’s get to it.
- Website: www.advanceyourreach.com/dtd
Pete, welcome to DREAM THINK DO, buddy.
Hey. I’m excited to be here. Thanks so much for having me, Mitch.
Well, I love your story and I want DREAM THINK DO-ers to hear more of it. I think sometimes when they hear about speakers reaching thousands and thousands of people, bringing in millions of dollars in revenue, all of that, it might be easy to think the start was easy for you. But you didn’t start as a professional speaker. You started this whole journey in a much different way. Give us a little of your genesis story.
Yes. What I would first say this is not just for professional speakers, but it’s for anybody who is trying to attract customers. That’s what I’m excited to share with you. I believe the fastest way to attract customers in a powerful way is through stages. So the first thing I want to encourage everyone who wants to do more speaking, and then encourage everyone who wants to attract more customers.
Mitch, one of the reasons why I care about stages so much is my background. One of the earliest memories for me was my mom and dad yelling and screaming about who was going to keep me and who was going to keep my sister because they were getting divorced. I remember being four or five years old and it was like a tug of war going on with my sister and I. My mom got my sister and my dad got me. Over the next five to 10 years, my dad was both verbally and physically abusive. He would leave me in the trailer when I was in second grade. I knew what it meant every time when the Dallas Cowboys lost, and I tried to hide. It was a really abusive relationship. So my grandmother, his mom, said, “Enough is enough. You’re coming to live with me.” It’s exactly what I did.
So my dad came back into my life in my teenage years. I wanted to try to make things right with him through my teenage years. We tried everything. We tried church. We tried counseling. We tried his seven siblings telling him, “You’ve got to make things right with your son.” I remember my grandma and grandpa always telling them, like always calling him “mijo,” which means son, and saying, “You’ve got to make things right with your son.” Nothing worked.
So through my teenage years, I kind of gave up on it. I went off to school, to college. I thought I was going to be the next Jerry McGuire. I thought I was going to live that “show me the money” life, because two professional athletes, Emit Smith and David Robinson, had made such an impact on my life. My thought was if I could go represent athletes that are making an impact in the lives of people, I’m helping make the world a better place. But little did I know, Mitch, that it would be your community that I was going to help in getting their messages out into the world. At that time I didn’t know that.
At the end of college, I had two job opportunities. Go to Dallas, Texas into the corporate world and make really good money, or go to Harvard, Texas and be a youth pastor. My pastor called and asked me to take over the youth group. I had no training in theology, no Bible classes, no preparation for this as far as I could tell. My pastor added, “Every week you have to deliver a message.” I, of course, had no training or interest at that point in public speaking.
Totally sent you a message. Right?
Exactly. So for some crazy reason, I chose the $18,000 a year youth pastor job that after taxes, paid me like $32 a week. My first Wednesday night there, there were three girls there. I had been told there would be dozens of kids. So I was getting ready for my first talk, and I was a little bit nervous. Three girls show up, Jory, Stacy, and Mackenzie. My girlfriend at the time, my wife now, was there. I just told those girls. I said, “We’re going to bring in speakers to build this youth group. I need your help in order to build this youth group.” They believed in me and they got behind me. This was a small little West Texas town.
Well, long story short, we brought in several dozen speakers over the next four years, and we grew that youth group from three kids to 750 kids. In a town of 10,000 people.
I was just going to say, that had to be bigger than most churches.
Yes, true. We brought in speakers who talked about health, entrepreneurship, everything. We brought in CEOs. We brought in stay at home moms, stay at home dads, Super Bowl MVPs, chaplains. We brought in all of these people that would spark change in my kids. Yes, faith was the primary thing we wanted to spark, but we wanted to spark the emotions, the mindsets, their hearts, health, everything. We wanted them to be completely healthy.
When a speaker came in and said, “Be a giver and not a taker,” all of a sudden my kids start giving hundreds and even in some cases thousands of dollars every single week towards tithes and offerings because we wanted to build a youth building in that town. So when I went to the church board and asked for $1 million youth building to be built, they voted unanimously because our teenagers had already raised tens of thousands of dollars because of the power that they heard a speaker talk about in one hour on a stage.
We continued to grow. One of the cool parts of the story is those three girls on that first Wednesday, I’ve actually officiated two out of their three weddings.
The third one has yet to get married. I’m sure she’ll call me when she does to officiate her wedding. But about the 20th speaker we brought in was Darrell Scott. His daughter was the first girl killed at Columbine back in 1999. That’s when I knew this was about to make an impact on my kids.
Little did I know, it was going to make an impact on me. That day in the high school auditorium in Hertford High School, the message was shared. The final challenge was to go tell five people in your life how much you love them because you never know how long they’re going to be here with you. No problem. My best friend, my girlfriend at the time who is now my wife; I quickly thought about my five people. But then he gave that little convicting statement. He said, “Some of them you’re not in good standings with.” I couldn’t help but think about my dad. At that point, I was 23 years old, and I still hadn’t made things right. My dad hadn’t made things right with me.
So I begged my dad to come back to the night event that night because there was a parent event that night. My dad came back, and I was ready. There were 1,000 people in the auditorium. I knew this was the night that my dad was going to ask me for forgiveness. At the end of that presentation, I feel like every parent and every grandparent in that room were hugging their kids and grandkids, but my dad didn’t say a word to me. Sometimes things don’t happen the way you wanted them to.
My encouragement for you today is that we’re going to share a strategy with you that’s going to help you get results or get them even on a bigger scale than you’re getting now. That night I almost gave up on my dad. I know many of you listening today might be in a position where you’ve tinkered with that idea. I want you to know that two to three weeks later, I got a letter from my dad, and it said, “I’m sorry for the father I’ve been. Here my son has had an impact on hundreds of kids’ lives, and I can’t have an impact on my only son’s life.” My dad asked me for a second chance to do things right, and for the first time in a long, long, long time, he told me he loved me. That day I asked myself what just happened, and the only thing I could think about was there was a man on a stage and the power of one hour on a stage is what shifted it for my dad. That was the day that I subconsciously committed my life to stages for the rest of my life.
I called that speaker. I asked, “Why aren’t you getting your message out to more people?” He said, “Pete, I don’t really know what to do. I’m trying all of these things and they’re not working.” I said, “Well, stages will work.” That’s exactly what’s happened.
Over the last 16 years, out of our offices with 30 different people operating our system. This is not a system based on a personality. It’s based on a process that works. We have booked over 25,000 stages across the world, and those stages have generated tens of millions of dollars in products and services, and more importantly, have impacted millions of people all across the world in every niche and industry. So I’m really excited about the system that I feel like your listeners can begin to use within their businesses and their organizations and whatever they do.
I want you to know the first time I heard my financial advisor on a stage, I chose to do business with him. The first time I heard Ryan Dice on the stage, I bought everything digital marketing that he had to offer.. The first time … I could go on and on about ten levels deep. It doesn’t matter if you’re an advisor, you are service-based, you do coaching and consulting, you’re serving parents or couples or whatever: stages are absolutely the fastest way to grow your business. I’m convicted about that and I’m excited to share a little bit about that with your community today.
I love it, and I love your passion. It’s true though. From the beginning of time, one of the ways that we have communicated is through storytelling, right? So it makes sense that if someone is going to impact the village, they need to get up and be able to tell a story. So no matter how you’re doing that, whether that’s to grow your business, whether you are a professional speaker, what you’re talking about, that’s is something that stood the test of time. I love that you were able to reconcile with your dad, as obviously that’s so key, so huge, so amazing, beautiful.
I wrote a book recently called Dream Job Redefined, and I interviewed 200 people plus that had gone out and either created or found dream jobs. You started out thinking you were going to be a sport’s agent, right? Then you went the route of being a youth pastor. What I love is that there was a clue. The essence of what you wanted to do you thought being a sport’s agent was to help people. To make an impact. Now you’ve taken that same heart, that same passion, and applied it to all these life experiences, and now you’re helping speakers in that same way. Think about how many people you’ve impacted because of that.
There are clues in our lives. We just have to look around and watch for them. So I love it. So you teach people how to say, “All right. If I do want to reach more people, I want to be on stages to do that,” whether that’s the entrepreneur, the financial planner, the speaker, what are some of the best ways to do that and get that going quickly?
I’m going to talk about three critical things that I believe your audience will want to know as they choose to use this in their business. Before I do that, I want to point out you’ve already given me one goosebump moment because I get maybe a goose bump a day on average. You’ve already given me one because you’re one of the first people that actually recognized something that I’m now being aware of an opening people’s eyes up to. Stages have been around as a customer acquisition channel since the beginning of time. Whether it be the coliseum or the missionaries trying to raise money in early times, that actually happened.
In one hour what they could do on a stage was something that would propel whatever it is that they were trying to do. That’s important because what hasn’t withstood the test of time is the Yellow Pages. What hasn’t stood the test of time is radio and TV. Now it still works but it doesn’t work as well as it used to do. Facebook and Google ad words are here now, but that medium is ever-evolving. So what I want your audience to know you said something so key. Stages and speaking have really stood the test of time, and they’re not going anywhere. It’s really important for them to get that.
Stages exist everywhere. There are like literally 40 different online stages you can be on and a combination of 40 different offline stages you can be on. I am on a stage today with you. This is one of the online stages that exists that I’m on that I get to share some wisdom with your community, and it’s a win, win, win. It’s a win for you. It’s a win for your community. It’s a win for us. So the first big idea is the fact that stages exist everywhere. It doesn’t matter of what season of life you’re in. There are stages you can be on.
I use a concept called the “dream stage.” I heard Todd Herman say something last week. He said, “Pete, I would take 25 qualified people in a small stage, rather than a million unqualified views online.” That’s what a dream stage is. When you can begin to find yourselves getting on both online and offline stages in combination and making sure they meet that criteria of being a dream stage, you are setting yourself up for a lot of success. So the first part of this whole thing is that there are a lot of stages that exist.
How many dream stages with qualified people do you need? I work with a guy named Stu, who said he only needs 6 stages a year to make things work. Well, that’s powerful. Chandler Bolt, our good friend, said, “I only need 20.” For a long time he avoided stages because he did everything like funnels and all of these things. But he finally incorporated stages into his business this year, and it’s adding seven figures into his business model. So this idea of just being on so many stages or being on a combination of offline and online stages, everybody’s at a different point.
So we as an organization said, “Pete, you’re going to be on 15 offline stages in 2018. You’re going to be on 100 online stages because you get to do those in the comfort of your own home with those six little feet above you running around.” So that is the decision we made. But what I want your audience to know is there are stages everywhere. Making a decision to incorporate that as part of their business model, and then develop a proactive campaign to win those stages. Proactive to win those is the first piece that I want your audience to recognize. So the first piece is actually getting on the stage, Mitch.
Yeah. Absolutely. Just to reiterate that, I think it’s so true because what you’re talking about the stages exist everywhere; online and offline. I can remember even back when I was beginning my business early 2000’s, I went to a networking meeting. 20 of us had 2 minutes to present. Some treated that as a throwaway two minutes, but I remember one person standing up and just commanding the room and telling a story as opposed to just throwing out a bunch of data. Just being able to throw one little hook in at the end, and that was the person everybody ran to at the end of that meeting. I’m thinking to myself, “He had two minutes. How did he do that? What was he doing?” Let alone being able to present a 45-minute keynote or an hour-long presentation. There is so much power in that, but it’s identifying and finding those opportunities.
So what are some of those ways that you found are successful at nailing those dream stages? Finding those right audiences.
One of our students got three minutes on a Women in Technology stage in Denver. She said those three minutes contributed six figures to her business. We have a lot of tools and we have an entire system. We’re going to give your audience some free things at the end today. But one of the tools I use the most is a tool called BombBomb.com/reach if you want to see why and how I use the tool. But it is a video platform that I used on my cell phone. Literally, in two minutes, I will find the person who controls the stage, and in two minutes I’ll send them a video. I’ll send them a script, which that’s part of the additional things we’ll give your crew here. In two minutes, I’m helping. I’m doing a couple of things. I’m honoring who they are and what they’re doing to serve this world. I’m helping them understand how I can solve a problem for their community. And I’m asking for them to consider me to be one of the speakers to solve that problem. I’m really connecting with them in two minutes. It’s kind of a mini-audition
That tool has won me. That one resource has won me hundreds and hundreds of stages just by using it. That’s only one piece of our campaign.
You can use Vimeo or YouTube or whatever. I use Bomb Bomb because of the analytics it gives me and things that I’m able to see as a result of using it. So that’s one little piece of advice that I would give to people.
I love it. I love it. As I was starting to speak more and more on college campuses, I joined a business fraternity and I started to offer to speak at national conferences, their regional conferences, at a really reduced rate. But, just to your point, when I did that, I was in front of 300 people who could turn around and hire me, bring me to their campus. It made all the difference.
But how do people identify those opportunities? What are some suggestions you have for finding those audiences?
What I would encourage people if they want to get started right away is go to Google. In your case, I would be typing in criteria like college associations, biggest college events, biggest college seminars, podcasts that focus on college educators, college associations. I would be Googling all types of keywords that would have to do with colleges, types of events, associations. I use a geography term. So if you want to say in the U.S., in the nation, or in a certain state, I use an industry term, which in this case would be college and college educators or directors of school activities or whatever. So the industry is colleges and then the sub-niche below that is all of the different people who might be your prime audience like professors or activities directors or fraternities or whatever. Then the last thing that I would use is different names of stages like podcasts, summits, events, conferences or associations or all of those different things. You put those combinations in together and you will find so much just on Google alone. You will begin to find how many events truly exist for you to be on both online and offline events.
Absolutely. It’s huge. I mean, I’m so grateful for the era that we live in, right? I’m a huge fan of air conditioning and indoor plumbing, right? But, man, I am so grateful for Google. It’s scary, creepy sometimes all the information that you can find. But, to your point, it’s a really great place to start. Then to also pair those up with the social media that you’re on to be able to say, “Of these, who do I know on LinkedIn, who do I know on Facebook?” To be able to track people down. You never know when those nodes of connection might be happening as well. So that’s awesome.
As far as when you’re thinking about stages, all of the different advice that you give, what’s one last piece of wisdom you’d want to offer DREAM THINK DO-ers to keep going on this track? I know you got them psyched. I know you got them excited. What’s one last piece of advice that you’d offer to help them on this?
I’m going to give them a bonus. I’m going to give them two things.
Oh, there you go. Why not?
There are three parts of the system and I just talked in depth about one: stages are everywhere. The second part that I believe is really critical. We believe you’re one great signature talk away from doing as much business from stages as you possibly can do and you can handle. So we believe the signature talk is the greatest marketing tool you have in your toolbox because you can use it in one-to-one, one to a few, or one to many. You can use it online, and you can use it offline. We believe it’s important to incorporate story into your talks. We have a proprietary process that is a story braid framework. That’s our framework.
Start with the heart. Make sure you make human connection with them right out of the gates. Then once you’ve done that, then go teach their minds. The first part of our framework says be ordinary and extraordinary because if they see you as ordinary, they know you’ve walked in their shoes. If they see you as extraordinary as well, they know you’ve gone somewhere that they want to go. So now as you transition into the mind, which is the head, they’re all ears and they’re listening to what you’re about to teach them because they know you’ve gone to a place that they want to go. So the second part of creating a signature talk is really speaking to their minds and teaching them three to five things, no more than three to five.
The third piece of that is the hands, the call to action. Give away a free gift every single time you talk. I’m giving away a free gift today and I do that every single time I talk because that’s how I can engage more deeply and that’s how you will engage deeper. Don’t give away your slides and don’t give away a book because nobody’s going to read it. Give them a gift that they can consume in 10 to 20 minutes. So when they consume it, then they’re like, “Wow. This is genius.”
Then the fourth piece of the framework is close with the heart. Open with the heart, close with the heart, and the closing heart should be reinforcing everything you taught them. That’s my advice on setting you up to be memorable on stage.
The other piece of advice: scale the stage. People are going to now give you their information. They’re going to take you up on that free gift. That’s how you scale a stage. Make sure that you follow up with those people. Give them the opportunity to be able to work with you after you’re done with the stage because that’s when you can scale a stage, that’s when people go deeper with you.
We had a student come to us that got 3,000 leads from one stage in the health and wellness space. But she had no follow-up system. So she dropped the ball. We had a system in place for the next 10 days to follow up with them.
So I want to encourage you to make sure that you have a follow up in place because that’s where you’re going to change their life.
I love it. I love it. That is awesome. Well, we’re going to include a link here when we wrap things up so that people can get more info. But let us know where’s the best way to just keep track of you and find you more online?
Yeah, we set up a great page just for your community. It’s AdvanceYourReach.com/dtd.
On there we have what I call the one-hour launch workshop where we really go deeper in about 20 minutes into all three of these areas that we talked about. It’s a virtual workshop. You can do it from the comfort of your home. You can get registered for that one hour workshop. It’s three parts and it dives into all three of these areas, Mitch.
I love it. Awesome. Well, Pete, keep doing what you do. Know that we’re rooting for you and thanks for the great wisdom.
Yeah, man. I appreciate you having me on today and appreciate everything you’re doing to make the world a better place.
You got it. Awesome.