What happens when thousands of expressive people offer their insights and experiences?

Looks like we are about to find out.

During the first two weeks of SpeakerSite's pre-launch, hundreds of public speakers and event planners have joined. (We'll cross the 600-member mark today.)

Thousands more have looked at SpeakerSite and are planning to join as soon as, as one fellow put it, "I get my poop in a group."

What has been the reaction?
Mainly, the reaction has been joyous, collaborative, energetic. (There are some exceptions, which I'll describe further below.)

Many new members have written me private messages of gratitude.

More publicly, here are the words of Natalie Siston, the first to report — in the SpeakerSite "Success Stories" forum — that she was actually found and invited to speak through SpeakerSite:

I am not a professional speaker by any means – it is simply something I
love doing and one day hope that it can be a full-time gig. I put my
profile on the site as a "kick in the pants" to start working toward
this goal.

I have referred a handful of speakers I know to the site and have said
"I am not sure if people will go here to find speakers, or if it will
be more of a forum for people who speak."

Much to my amazement, I was contacted this week by a student at Ohio
State to speak to her group. It's a pro-bono gig, but we all have to
start somewhere! She indicated that she found the site through
LinkedIn. My lesson on this is that if people are using this without us
knowing, imagine what will happen as we all continue to promote it and
add it to our other social networking site profiles!

has done nothing less than help Natalie reach for self-actualization. And offer her insights and experiences to a room of students.

Not Everyone Likes SpeakerSite
SpeakerSite has many professional, seasoned speakers — some who command five-figure speaking fees.

But a few professional speakers have written me, saying that they are hesitating. Paraphrasing here: "Is it good for my career to place myself among such a broad world of speakers?"

In one of the more vitriolic messages (again, paraphrased) — "Do you want to be positioned beside people who are speaking for free, beside people who are speaking as a hobby?" —
the words "free" and "hobby" are spit through the computer screen as if they are four-letter (or, uh, five-letter) vulgarities.

"I wouldn't hire a doctor who charges nothing," steams another.

Here's my response…

SpeakerSite Is For Everyone
SpeakerSite seeks to democratize public speaking. Let's offer an open way for anyone to throw a hat in the ring, saying, "Perhaps my message could be of help to you."

Because everyone has a message. And every message has an audience.

The highest end of professional speakers will always have the highest end of personal representation. That's great. That's how it should be.

But what about the rest of us? We deserve to be heard. (If you don't, the market will quickly shut you out.) And audiences deserve to find us, so they can hear our message.

And, as Natalie Siston points out, "We all have to start somewhere." How wonderful that alongside Natalie are experienced public speakers who can offer her (and me and you) their insight and encouragement.

You wouldn't hire a doctor who charges nothing?
Then I hope you have either a lot of money or great health.

And, frankly, the most inspiring doctor I know doesn't just auction himself off to the highest bidders.

He's Rob Crane, a SpeakerSite member. (He taught me, "If you haven't read Mountains Beyond Mountains, the story of Paul Farmer, you aren't human.")

None of us is more professional than Doctors Crane and Farmer. And they find ways to work for free whenever they can.

So Who Speaks For (Egad) Free?
Great speakers deserve great speaking fees. Of course, SpeakerSite is designed to help that happen for more people.

But let's not kid ourselves. The size of the fee and the quality of the speaker are not always directly proportional.

The greatest speech in American history was free. What fee did The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. collect? Does that seem an absurd question? With all due respect to the memory of this great leader, let's realize that — while he needed to earn a living like all of us — he wasn't speaking for a fee. He was, of course, after something much, much larger.

As for me (and I'm no MLK!), I've collected lovely speaking fees over the years. I'm grateful to my clients.

But, the best speeches I've given, I've given for free. Here's one. It's the eulogy for Jennifer Keefer.

Now after more than five years, I know I will never understand her untimely death. This morning, as I write you, tears fall as I re-read the eulogy. And I often hear from people who were in that church, that day — people who remain grateful for these words.

That Jen died so young remains a heartbreaking tragedy. That she picked me to offer the eulogy remains a lifelong honor for me. That her assignment of this honor continues to motivate me would have brought her great delight.

That I would now say that I didn't collect a fee — was I "stiffed" at a funeral? — would have made Jen laugh, in better days.

Artie, How Serious Are You About This?

(What? Am I being too subtle here?)

Here's one last message from a SpeakerSite member. Stephanie Sebring saw my video — "Welcome to SpeakerSite" — and she noticed that (weirdly) it seems that I didn't blink my eyes during the entire video.

See for yourself.

"Artie," writes Stephanie, "BLINK!"

Hilarious! I laughed at her perceptiveness.

What does it mean that I'm not blinking?
Those who know me well, know that I am a confirmed blinker. I am addicted to blinking. (The withdrawal is swift and painful.)

When do humans not blink? When we are falling in love. And when we are facing the tiger.

When we are riveted on our environment, anticipating change.

Stephanie sees something. I have an unblinking devotion to democratizing public speaking.

I am delighted to think that Natalie Siston will bring her voice, energy and insight to a group of students at Ohio State. (I am so grateful to her for being the one to prove the concept.)

And I am thrilled — I mean thrilled, with my spine tingling and
my eyes wide open(!) — with the idea that hundreds — potentially many,
many thousands — of people (from seasoned professionals to first-time
amateurs) will connect their voices to worthy audiences through SpeakerSite.

I am truly driven by the SpeakerSite declaration: Everyone has a message. And every message has an audience.