Years ago, if you found yourself out of work, you told your friends, "I'm a consultant." You ordered business cards. A hundred of them.

"Consultant" sounded so expert, so rather-rather, so high-paying and freedom-granting.

But you were a consultant with no consultees. "Big hat, no cattle," as they whisper in Texas when you walk into the bar with your consultant business cards.

After what seemed like a long time — glory hallaluhah! —  a few clients actually hired you to consult.

"Hey!" you exclaimed silently. "My business cards are accurate."

Many Months Pass
Then, over time, you got a new job. A real job. The kind with a bi-weekly paycheck.

How wonderful. If your kids are like mine — addicted to food — then getting that job was critical. (When those kids go into withdrawal, it's ugly.)

But, wait: you also had a consulting client or two. So you became a work-a-day something-or-other and a moonlighting consultant. Why not have a couple jobs?

I have a friend — must remain nameless — who, at his peak, had three full-time salaries being paid him. He was a freelance consultant with three different business (all who knew what was going on). He could get it all done, the smart and lucky chap.

Now We Are Becoming A Nation Of Speakers.

It's like consulting, but it's speaking. Which is a lot easier for some. (And a fear worse than death for most.)

What began as something we do for free, to promote our businesses, started to create ancillary income.

Sometimes, after a speech, you received embossed coasters "as a token of our appreciation."

Sometimes an honorarium. A check you could donate to a favorite charity or favorite gas station.

Sometimes that check looked like real money. ("For speaking?" you thought. "Whoa.")

More than consulting, however, speakers started to think, "I like this." Deep down.

Now, everyone is starting to think, "Hey, I'm a speaker."

400px-Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs.svgSpeaking Is Self-Actualization
As Rob Emrich (the guy who thought up SpeakerSite) says, "There is something deep within all of us that drives us to demonstrate
our expertise, to validate our experiences. Public speaking is a way to
do that."

I wonder if Abraham Maslow was a good speaker?

Everyone's Doin' It
Now, The New York Times reports on how public speaking is yet another industry facing a slump. But in "Speech! Speech! But Could You Please Cut The Price?" reporter Motoko Rich focuses on the high-profile  best-selling authors who speak. (Thanks to Parker for sending me that article.)

I think that big-time speaking is a big-time thing. But little-time speaking — you- and me-time speaking — is another thing altogether.

A fellow called me this past summer. Dave had heard me speak about
creativity and he wanted to ask a few questions. Over tea at my home,
he mentioned, "I am just burning to talk about why people shouldn't
use cell phones while driving. I've researched it and I'd like to
educate people."

Dave's passionate and ready to speak. I know there's a
ready audience for him somewhere. They just have to find each other.

Then, on the way out the door, Dave asked if he could repay my kindness. "Shucks," I said. "Talking with you is its own reward." (Actually, I don't think I said "Shucks.") "But, what do you have in mind?" I asked, hoping not to receive any more engraved coasters.

"Well, perhaps I could teach your son how to throw a curve ball," Dave said. "When I was in high school, I threw two no-hitters. I can teach most anyone to throw a curve ball with three lessons in one 45-minute session."

Dave is a message looking for an audience.
And, I think, Dave is not unique. Far from it. I think there are hundreds of thousands of us who want to teach what we know, share what we think, inspire with what we believe.

That's why I joined Rob to work on SpeakerSite, our experiment in the democratization of public speaking. To return to microphone to you and me. For more on "Why SpeakerSite?" click here.

Of course, you are warmly welcome to join SpeakerSite, too. Speak up!

Holidays are great downtime for loving your family — and, if you can get away from that ever-lovin' family for even a moment, making a new career move.