How to become a better speaker ? – Tony Alessandra
David Laroche : Hello, Achiever. I am in San Diego with an awesome guest. He is Tony Alessandra. He is one of the top speaker of the world and he is with me to answer my question about public speaking, negotiation, persuasions and maybe other questions I will have in my mind. So hello, Tony.
Tony Alessandra : Nice meeting you.
David Laroche : How are you?
Tony Alessandra : I'm doing great. Excellent.
David Laroche : Perfect. I let you to introduce yourself. You are one of the top speaker but who are you?
Tony Alessandra : Well, growing up, I worked my way through school, through college as a sales person. I sold pots and pans door to door and at the same time, I was selling this cookware door to door in New Jersey. In Texas selling the same cookware at the same time with Zig Ziglar. You know who he is right? Zig Ziglar.
David Laroche : Yeah, yeah.
Tony Alessandra : So I worked my way through college doing that. Eventually went on and got an MBA degree.
David Laroche : And did you meet Zig at this time?
Tony Alessandra : I did not meet him, no. But I had heard of him because I was winning awards for selling but nothing compared to what he was doing at the time.
David Laroche : So you have to do the same maybe.
Tony Alessandra : Yeah, I would. I tried, believe me, I tried. He was doing it full-time, I was doing it part-time. I only did it during the summer. Then I went on and got my MBA, Masters of Business Administration, started teaching college, liked it, went on and got my PhD. Now, when I got my PhD, the person who was in charge of my doctoral dissertation, his name was Dr. David Schwartz.
David Laroche : Yeah, I know it's great.
Tony Alessandra : Dr. David Schwartz wrote “The Magic of Thinking Big,” multi-million seller and he was my major professor. But at that time he also was a speaker. So he was an author, a speaker and a college professor. And I think that's what sort of in the back of my mind made me say, “Wow, speaking, that's kind of neat.” So I started doing that while I was at Georgia State University getting my doctorate. I started doing some speaking on the side and that grew. When I got my doctorate, I got a full-time teaching position right here at the University of San Diego. Did that for about two and a half years but at the same time I was building my speaking business and eventually the dean of the School of Business came to me and said, “Tony, you've got to make a decision. Are you going to be a full-time professor, or a full-time speaker? One or the other.” I picked speaking and the rest is history. Now, as a speaker, when I first started, I came across as very professorial, like a professor as a motivational speaker. It was okay, it wasn't great. I started in January of 1979, in mid-1981, so just two and a half years later, one of the great speakers of all time, Bill Gove, came up to me and he said, “Tony, when you speak, when I see you on stage, you come across like a perfect professor. But off stage, you are funny, you're playful, you're a New York City Italian, you're mischievous and none of that shows on stage.” He said, “You need to let that show on stage.” And once I started allowing that to come out, allowing the natural me to come out, my speaking career just took off.
David Laroche : So it could be one key that we have to learn, we have to learn how to…you have to be ourselves on stage.
Tony Alessandra : Absolutely. Too often, I think there are some programs that say, “Okay, this is the way you should speak,” and they're teaching that way to everybody. When in fact, it has to be natural to you. If you are a very polished speaker, that's the way you should speak, I mean if that's the way you are off stage. A good example, one of my business partners who you just interviewed was Jim Cathcart. He and I were in business together, right here in La Jolla, we had a business. And Jim was a very professional, polished speaker and I wasn't. I tried to be like Jim. It didn't work. And Jim can't try to be like me. It wouldn't work. So when we got to our natural styles, we both shot up in the speaking profession. – It's great. So, do you have other keys we have to learn to be… What is the difference between top speakers and average speakers? For example, I was, just before you came, I was on a website called maybe San Diego Bureau of Speaker or something like that and I was comparing the price, the range and it's huge the difference between, for example I was seeing Ken Blanchard at $50,000 and people with $100. What are the difference between those people? – Well, I think part of it is experience, all right, how long have you been speaking. So Ken has been in the business a lot longer than many of us. So that's one thing. Another is name recognition. He has great name recognition, as does like, for instance, Brian Tracy, Denis Waitley, all great name recognition. Part of the name recognition goes back to their publishing. So Denise Waitley, “The Psychology of Winning.” It was such an enormous best-seller, that put him on the map. Ken Blanchard, “Situational Leadership.” Brian Tracy, “The Psychology of Selling.” These are all best-selling programs, whether it was a book or an audio program. Who was it? Well, Ken also, “The One Minute Manager,” I mean that was a big big thing. So, these are all things that create the visibility. But you also have to be a very good speaker. I mean, if you have visibility, you're going to get booked a lot, but if you're not good, you're not going to get booked again and again. So, all of these speakers, like Waitley and Tracy and Blanchard, they're very good at what they do. So, name visibility, publishing, being good at what you do, honing your craft. No matter how good you are, can you get a little bit better? I always seek feedback in terms of how I did. And I always look at as difficult as it is, I watch some of my speeches. And when I watch my speeches, I'm very critical of my programs. I'll look at it and say, “Did they actually pay me for that? I can't believe they paid me for that.” Now, they loved it but I tend to be very critical and I look for things to improve. Maybe go into a coach. I've been to speech coaches. – And did you write this things? When you look at something that you can improve, what do you do? Just to… What do you do just on your mind? – It could be both. It could be in my mind if it's really important. If it's not as important, if it's just a minor thing, “Oh, I want to change something on a slide or I want to change something. I want to pull a story out and put a different story in, ” that I might write down. If it's big, that one I keep in my mind, excuse me. The minor things I keep in my mind. The bigger things I might write down because I really don't want to lose focus of what to do. A good example would be in looking at my material, this goes back a few years. I always thought, just from feedback that I was doing very well. And I'm in a group. I was in a group called Speakers Roundtable, Jim Cathcart is in that group. Ken Blanchard used to be in it. Brian Tracy used to be in it. Speakers Roundtable, it's 20 speakers and we get together once a year. And this one year we had this famous speech coach come in. And he started looking at our videos in front of all of us. So he critiqued us in front of all the others. And I was waiting for him to say how great I was. So he started pointing out what I thought were little things but turned out to be big things. So what he said to me was “I want you to notice that your energy level from the time you start to the time you end is high.” He said, “That's not good.” I thought it was good to be high energy from beginning to end. He said that's not good. Number one, they have nothing to compare it against. It's just all high energy. They don't see any lows, they only see high. Number two, you'll tire out the audience because it's just too much. And he said, “When you tell your stories, you move around on the stage,” and he said, “That's good. But when you want to make a key point, stop moving. And the movement should be your voice, not your body.” He said, “Notice when you move that the range of your voice, let's say the octave of your voice goes up because you're more excited. But when you're making a key point, you want to plant, used the upper body, use your voice and notice how your voice is a little bit more booming, a little bit more…”
David Laroche : Deep?
Tony Alessandra : Deeper. And I looked at this and I said, “Wow.”
David Laroche : He's great.
Tony Alessandra : I would never notice. These are little things that make such a big difference.
David Laroche : Wow, great. I love that.
Tony Alessandra : It's little things like that make a big thing. I remember back in the mid-80s. I was on a tour of Australia with Denise Waitley and Zig Ziglar. I mean, I was the minor person of this group. And I asked Zig if he would sit in on one of my talks and give me some feedback. So the next day, I had breakfast with him. He sat through my program. And the next day he was giving me feedback. And the feedback, I still to this, remember it. We're talking a long time ago, 1985. He said, “I really believe, I truly believe you're going to be one of the great speakers in the world. I'm going to ask you do to one little change.” He said, “Your content is strong, your delivery is strong, your humor is incredible. There's not enough emotion that tugs at the heart.” He said, “If you could blend some of that in so that people might shed a little tear as opposed to just laughing the whole time, then you will be unstoppable.” So it's little feedback like that, little things that could make such an enormous difference.
David Laroche : And how do you do that? Because I imagine if you didn't talk a lot of with heart, it was because it was not natural at this moment. How did you learn to speak with your heart?
Tony Alessandra : Well, it was basically looking for stories that had more emotion in it. So, I would talk about my mother and things that she taught me. There's an old saying…
David Laroche : Things about you.
Tony Alessandra : Yeah, her dealing with me. For instance, you know that saying “You should go the extra mile,” go the extra mile, that's a saying that we have in the United States. But my mother twisted it and always told me to go the extra inch. Constant, daily, minor self-improvement every single day in every aspect of your life. And I tell stories about how a married couple came up to me and told me that they listened to my speech and what it did to their marriage and how their marriage was going down before that and after the talk it started improving. Just those kinds. I looked for, searched for, dug for more emotional stories in my life. They were there. I just never pulled them out. I looked for all the funny stories.
David Laroche : Yeah. There was one thing to choose emotional stories but I can tell you something very emotional without any emotion. I can tell you, “Oh, I was shy, I was sick and now it's okay.” It's not so emotional. So did you change something in the way you are telling stories?
Tony Alessandra : Well, when I would tell an emotional story, I wouldn't move as much. I'd have a softer tone in my voice. There might be more pauses. And part of it is just taking one thing that you want to work on in a speech and keeping the rest of the speech that you know is really good and then testing one new thing at a time and seeing how it affects the audience. If it doesn't work, you've got all this other good stuff around it that nobody remembers it. But if it works, you start working the next speech to improve it a little bit more. “What can I change, what can I do?” We call it “tweaking it,” just that little extra inch moving until you work it into the talk and you know it works. When I want to improve my material, or change my material, I work on one thing at a time because I know every thing else works so I want to just test one thing…
David Laroche : And you can see if it works.
Tony Alessandra : See if it works.
David Laroche : If you change everything, you can't see if it works.
Tony Alessandra : So I want to see what kind of response it gets from the audience. If I think it got no response, I might try it a couple of times just to make sure it wasn't a bad audience and if it doesn't work a couple of times, it's out, I try something new. If I feel it starting to work, can I make it better? Can I change a couple of little things? And then I try it again and again and then I build it into my talk. Sometimes some of my best material comes from a comment that somebody yells out in the audience and the audience laughs at it. I say to myself, “I'm adding that in my next speech,” from what an audience member said. Then see if it gets a response and if it works for two or three audiences, it works. Now that's in my talk. What do I drop out. So it's constant…
David Laroche : Tweaking.
Tony Alessandra : Yeah, constant tweaking. Always looking for ways to make it better. There's one talk that I actually have been giving, are you ready for this?
David Laroche : Yeah.
Tony Alessandra : Thirty-nine years. One talk. So, I could have given the same talk 39 years or I could be constantly looking for little things to constantly improve it. What works? What doesn't work? Pull out what doesn't work, put in something else that might work. So that's what I'm constantly doing; always tweaking. That talk today is so different.
David Laroche : It's the same speech?
Tony Alessandra : Same content.
David Laroche : Tweaked?
Tony Alessandra : Tweaked.
David Laroche : Tweaked?
Tony Alessandra : Yeah.
David Laroche : One thousand times, for example.
Tony Alessandra : Absolutely.
David Laroche : It's funny because I was seeing a video of Tony Robbins. He is one of the people I'm inspired also and I was seeing him maybe at 25 and it was the same speech [inaudible] now, the same, but with another energy.
Tony Alessandra : You keep improving it, same talk. I mean, if a talk works you don't want to go away from it. It sort of reminds me, you've gone to concerts with singers. And let's say that the singer became famous 10, 15, 20 years ago with certain songs. But now the singer is trying to bring out new songs but what the audience wants to hear is what made that person famous 20 years ago. They want to hear the older songs. So if something works, you keep it in. If it doesn't work you take it out.
David Laroche : Great.
Tony Alessandra : But it's always test, test, test, test.
David Laroche : Yeah.
Tony Alessandra : That's a key. And keep in mind that I liken a speech… I mean, if we're talking about how to be a better speaker, right? I liken a speech to going to a restaurant for a meal, all right. And of course you being French, this is the epitome of dining out, not eating, dining.
David Laroche : Yeah.
Tony Alessandra : So to me there are at least three major things when you go to a restaurant that makes for not just a meal, but a memory: the food, the service and the ambiance, all right. I don't know if you can come up with more, but those are the three biggies; the food, the service, the ambiance. Food, by the way, includes the wine.
David Laroche : I can add a fourth one.
Tony Alessandra : What is it?
David Laroche : The person…
Tony Alessandra : Oh, the person you're with, yeah. But let's assume that that's a given, okay?
David Laroche : Yeah.
Tony Alessandra : So a speech is like that. So the speech would be like the meal. The ambiance is the room and the sound checks. Before I give a speech, either the day before or the morning of, whatever it is, I go in and I check everything. I check sound, I check lighting, I check seating, I ask people to stand in different places in the room, “Can you hear me? Should my voice be louder?” I go through my slides because sometimes I have to give the production company my slides; it's not my computer. So will my slides run the exact same way? What if they have an older version of the slide program, which has happened, believe me. So I just make sure that the ambiance, the whole room and everything else that goes into it.
David Laroche : Do you add some plants? Do you ask for plants?
Tony Alessandra : Well, it depends. It just depends on the venue. I typically don't because I am brought in, I'm not necessarily a public…what they call a general public speaker. Like for instance somebody like Brian Tracy, he goes all over. Promoters bring him in and there is a mixed audience of people who sign up. I'm a corporate speaker. So a company like IBM or Apple or an insurance company or whatever. They bring me in for their employees. So they do all the setup, not me. It's usually an annual meeting. I do my homework about the company whereas in a public seminar, there's people from all different companies, what do you do? You have to make it very general. But when I speak to a company where they're all the same, all selling the same product, I can do my homework and learn their terminology. Like for instance, I'll take my slides and I will go over each and every slide with the meeting planner or the executive and say, “Do you use this terminology internally?” Let's say for a sales presentation, what do you call the presentation? What do you call the clothes? What do you call information-gathering? And I will change the terminology that I would typically use to the terminology that they use, because then the people in the audience are saying, “Wow, this guy knows our language. How long has he been working with us or for us?” That's all the homework that's done. And of course the audience is also crucial. I like to learn about the audience. Who they are? What are their titles? What do they do? Give me an example of what a typical day is for the bulk of the audience. What do they do in a typical day? Tell me a little bit about their costumers. What are some of the issues that they're dealing with right now that they're struggling with? Once I know that, I can connect with that audience. So not only am I delivering the food which is the speech, I'm delivering the service as if I were a waiter, and then of course, I set the ambiance in the room to make sure it's just right.
David Laroche : I love that. Do you have something you follow to do an introduction? For example your story. What do you do to do the introduction of your speech, at the beginning of your speech?
Tony Alessandra : Yeah, it depends on the speech. But what I typically do is I'll open up with a story. So let's say it's a sales speech that I'm giving. I have three basic talks that I give. One is one sales, one is on service and customer loyalty and one is on the platinum rule.
David Laroche : What is the last one?
Tony Alessandra : The platinum rule. So we have a rule here called the Golden Rule. I know you know it, you may not know it by that name. The Golden Rule is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
David Laroche : Yeah.
Tony Alessandra : That's what we call the Golden Rule. I have the platinum rule. And that is “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.” You know that old saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans?” You ever heard of that saying?
David Laroche : No.
Tony Alessandra : So for instance, if somebody were going to Europe on business and one day they were in sales meetings with the Italians and the next day with the Germans and the next day with the French and the next day with the Poles or whatever. They could not do the same exact thing every day, could they? Because they're different cultures. They have different ways of doing things. With the Germans, you better be on time, better be focused, better get to the task at hand. With the Italians, you can be more…and so on. You could be more informal for instance with the Italians and the French but with the Germans, you don't want to hug them or do a two-handed handshake. So, the saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans,” is basically wherever you are, make sure that you adapt your behavior to the culture and customs of the people you're dealing with. So that's what the platinum rule is all about. So, back to how do I open a speech. So, on a sales speech, I will come right out after I'm introduced. And I'll say, “I learn many years ago that there's a big difference between making a sale and making a customer.”
David Laroche : You start like that?
Tony Alessandra : Just like that. And then I say…
David Laroche : You don't say your name.
Tony Alessandra : They already told who I was. Why would I say my name? There is somebody who introduces me, “Ladies and gentlemen, help me welcome Dr. Tony Alessandra.” I come out and boom! I'm right, “I learned many years ago that there's a big difference between making a sale and making a customer. I learned that on my first full-time sales job back in 1966.” Now, what it does, I only tell this to sales groups, what does it tell them? “Hey, this guy sold. This guy has been a salesperson.” And the story is a good story and a funny story, but a very pointed story. It makes a point that depending on what you do and how you do it, you will either make a sale and that's it, or you will make a customer which is many sales. So that's that story. If it's a customer service talk, I might come out and say, “I was standing in line. And it was a long line,” and I'd tell a story about how I was treated by a service person in a business. I don't mention the business name, but how I was treated and I say, “It created a moment of misery for me.” Now, I then tell a second part of the story where a person created a moment of magic. And I talk about the difference between creating moments of misery and moments of magic. How you fall short of a customer's expectations or exceed a customer's expectations. But it's a story and everything is built off the story.
David Laroche : And how long is the story?
Tony Alessandra : Just a few minutes. Here's something that somebody once told me. The length of the story should be equivalent to the strength of the punch line or the moral or whatever. If it's a weak ending to it, a soft ending, it should be a very short story. You don't want to tell a big story that has just a little pay off at the end. The story could be as long as the strength of the pay off of that story.
David Laroche : Of the message.
Tony Alessandra : Yeah, of the message itself. Typically my stories…
David Laroche : How many stories you have?
Tony Alessandra : I have a lot of stories.
David Laroche : In one speech, how many stories you have in one speech?
Tony Alessandra : It really depends. Let's say the speech is an hour. I might have three, four, five stories. But a lot of things are short, short, little… All right, here is one. They're little things but it gets laughs. So for instance, I'm talking about this one personality that's very outgoing and talking a lot. We call it a high “I”. Are you familiar with the DISC style, the DISC model of behavior, the D-I-S-C?
David Laroche : No.
Tony Alessandra : Dominance, Influence…
David Laroche : Oh, yes.
Tony Alessandra : So I'm talking about the “I”, the high “I” and I might say that their thoughts are like gumballs. Do you know what a gumball is?
David Laroche : No.
Tony Alessandra : It used to be…you don't see it that much here but it was a little candy machine where you put a nickel in it. And in this candy, clear bowl that's closed, you put a nickel in and you turn it and then these…they're gum, it's gum but they're shaped as balls with a candy coating.
David Laroche : I think I've seen it in movies, I think.
Tony Alessandra : Yeah, but we call it a gumball. So I say that these socializers, their thoughts are like gumballs, they just fall to the tongue and roll out. And it basically is about people who just say whatever is on their mind, they don't even think about it. They just say it. They blurt it out. Little things like that. So it's not a story…
David Laroche : A metaphor.
Tony Alessandra : Yeah. But I do a lot of those. But as for the actual full stories, it really depends on the length of the speech. The longer the speech the more stories, but let's say in an hour I might have anywhere from as little as two to as many as four or five and that's it. And each story may be three minutes, two minutes, four minutes. Again, it depends on the pay off of the story.
David Laroche : Yeah, I understand.
Tony Alessandra : I would like to take an example also. You have a lot of expertise about sales, too.
David Laroche : Right.
Tony Alessandra : For example, if I want to come in the United States to do speeches, and I want to do corporate speeches and I want to sell corporate speeches to corporations, what do I have to do according to you now? For example, in six months I come back to the United States and say, “Yeah, I would like to do speeches for companies, ” according to you, what do I have to do?
David Laroche : Well, first of all you need to be good. Second, you should have video that people can see.
David Laroche : Demo video.
Tony Alessandra : Yeah, demo videos. In the United States at least, a lot of corporate speaking business is done through speakers bureaus. So I would start to learn a little bit about who are the big speakers bureaus and how can I reach them to get them to book me. Can I stop in and talk to their sales people? Some of the big bureaus would be the Washington Speakers Bureaus, Leading Authorities, National Speakers Bureaus. So I pick maybe 10, the top 10. For me the top 10 would be…probably for my business, the top 10, give me two-thirds of all my revenue. So I would make sure that I did that. I would try to speak to associations, trade associations like the American Pasta Association, who knows. There are thousands of associations, trade groups. And the reason I like those is because in those talks, there are hundreds of separate businesses that may say, “You know what, I like him. Let me bring him in.” So it's almost like you get paid to give a talk that's almost like marketing. You're getting paid to market. And you have all these businesses; the American Pharmaceutical Association, the Life Insurance Association. You name it, there is associations for everything in the United States and I'm sure in France, too. But I love those because there are so many businesses there and any of those businesses might bring you in. Another possibility is becoming an expert in a particular niche market. So, for instance…
David Laroche : For example, my main audience is not companies currently, it's more particular. And I talk a lot about self-confidence but I think that the companies don't want speeches about self-confidence.
Tony Alessandra : Probably not, not a corporate company. Self-confidence is great if you're going to do a public program. But they want sales, they want service, customer service. It's even difficult to sell what we call soft skills; communication skills, listening.
David Laroche : Do you do think like motivation, could be a good topic?
Tony Alessandra : Motivation again has mixed interpretations here. They love motivating speakers, not necessarily motivational speakers. A motivational speaker sometimes have a negative connotation.
David Laroche : For a corporation?
Tony Alessandra : Yeah. It's not to say that they don't hire motivational speakers, they do. But many businesses think of a motivational speaker as…it's sort of like taking a shower. You got to do it once, but then you need it again tomorrow. So what they're looking for more than a motivational speaker, the “ra-ra” type speaker is a content speaker who is talking about certain skills that will help the people in the audience but is doing it in a very upbeat, entertaining way. That's the key.
David Laroche : Okay. So say it's customer services, what do you think about for example when you have honestly to come in corporations, we talk about… I don't know how to say that in English, set goals, the ability to set maybe…
Tony Alessandra : Yeah, goal-setting.
David Laroche : Goal-setting. It could be interesting for a company according to you?
Tony Alessandra : It could be, yeah.
David Laroche : It could be.
Tony Alessandra : It could be. But again, they may see that as a little softer. I mean, leadership, leadership skills, selling skills, customer-service, customer loyalty, customer retention skills, creativity, negotiation. Notice that they're all skill-based, things that I can do that will help me either manage people effectively or go out and sell and service my customers.
David Laroche : Yeah.
Tony Alessandra : But for the thing to just make me a better person, although I totally agree, that is very important and very valuable, those topics, businesses sometimes say “I can't monetize the return on investment for doing something like that,” for bringing in a speaker. Now, will they buy materials? Will they buy videos? Will they buy books or e-books and audio programs on that? Yes. But bringing in a speaker to do that, they're less likely. Again, it's not to say that they don't but… Now there is, let's talk about a soft subject that might be good and that is time-management because that's something that everybody struggles with, time-management. Goal-setting I think is also very crucial. I wish that businesses put a little bit more emphasis on that. I'm not sure that they do.
David Laroche : And just one idea, taking risks? What do you think about taking risks? Do something that you don't know, try to reach a new market.
Tony Alessandra : If it has the right title, I think that's a good program. So taking risk, handling change, those kinds of things I think would be good.
David Laroche : Okay. I have a more global question for you because…yeah. According to you, how can we unleash our own potential?
Tony Alessandra : Well, I think…the first thing that comes to my mind, to unleash your own potential is to be educated, be in a constant learning posture. Whether it's formally through school, or whether it's informally, through reading. I think that's absolutely crucial. Many people just don't read enough. I've seen statistics where I don't even know how accurate the statistics are, but the average adult reads maybe one book a year. No, that's not good. That's not how to constantly improve yourself and bring out the best in you. I really thought that one of the things my mother said, to go the extra inch, to look at the various aspects of your life, physical, spiritual, mental, social. Look for one thing you can do each and every day to improve yourself in each of those areas. So my mother would say, “Do one extra push up or sit up. Or walk one extra minute each day.” That's physical. Mental, learn one new word a day, read one more page in a book a day. Just something that would take a minute. Spiritual, or social, I don't know where I'd put this, give one more verbal compliment to people a day. Look for one way each day to help somebody, that would be more on the spiritual side as opposed to religious. Spiritual, being a good person. “What goes around comes around,” you know that whole mentality. But from my perspective, I've always been one to be in a state of constant self-improvement. I'm never satisfied with where I am, always believe that I can get a little bit better today than I was yesterday. Always looking for ways to get better. Now, not everybody has that mind set. I said that there is two ways, one is formal education. So I obviously went all the way through, I got a PhD. So there was the formal education. I do a lot of reading and I read both business related material and novels. It's a breath of knowledge that I'm trying to build, not necessarily a depth of knowledge, to be an expert only in one area and an idiot in all the rest of the areas, but trying to become as best I could. I'm not sure I'll ever reach it but to be like a Renaissance person, to have a decent knowledge about a lot of topics so that I can talk to people or at least show interest in talking to people. So the third area, formal education; reading, talking to people. I'm on the phone hours every single day talking to all kinds of people particularly my friends. Many of the people that you're interviewing, I'm on the phone with them, or I'm in email back and forth. This morning with Chip Heiken who is a big guru on moments of magic. Brian Tracy yesterday we were chatting. We went out to dinner last week. I'm constantly talking to these people and picking their brain. What are they doing? What have they done differently this month than you did last month? What have you learned new that's working for you since the last time we talked? Things like that.
David Laroche : It's a great question, I love that. I will remember your questions.
Tony Alessandra : So those kinds of things, I'm always looking for ways to get better at what I do.
David Laroche : So what did you learn in this year?
Tony Alessandra : So you're asking me. Well, the big thing that I'm moving towards is the digital world.
David Laroche : I can help you with that.
Tony Alessandra : Yeah, I know because of your age and my age, right? But I'm pretty tech savvy. I have a couple of tech businesses that I run. But believe me I can learn from people like you. But digitizing everything, every one of my books or written works are in digital format, whether it's a PDF or an e-book. Every one of my audios from the time it was on a like a cassette tape, now it doesn't go back to the 8-tracks. You know what the 8-track is? Where you plug in those big ones. I've taken the…every audio tape that I've had and even CDs and I've moved it all into MP3 or a digital audio format. I've taken almost all of my video that some of it was on Betamax, VHS, the big more formal business-oriented tape formats. Sony Beta cams, whatever and I've moved most of it over into MPEG-4 and onto clips unto YouTube, you see what I'm doing?
David Laroche : Yeah.
Tony Alessandra : Then what I do is I'm looking now, I have all this content, a lot of content. And in fact, if you talk to people who know me, there are few people, Brian Tracy is one of them, but few people who have more content published than me. But now what I do is I take all this content and I look for, where can I publish it to create passive revenue flows. So for audio, where do I go? Do I go to Amazon? Do I go to Apple and their iTunes? Do I got to Audible.com for print or e-books. And an e-book, let me tell you about an e-book. I took one of my actual books called “Communicating at Work” and I turned that whole book into an e-book. It's like maybe 300 pages. And people started complaining because they tried to print it out on their printer and it was 300 pages, it ate up their whole, all the ink. And I looked at the book and I said, “Wow, every chapter is a different topic and I made 24 e-books,” smaller ones with specific topics that were the chapter titles. And I sell those the same price but now I have 24 of them. So I look for publishers for that. And again, you have Amazon, you have Apple, you have Books24x7, etc, different publishers of print material. And then of course with video you look for people who publish video, Total Training Network, seminars on DVD, you look for people who are specifically are in that domain. But the whole thing I'm focusing on this year is to maximize my digital intellectual property to create ongoing passive flows of revenue. And what you're doing here with these interviews, you'll be able to do the same because you can turn these into white papers or mini e-books. You can turn it into audio and video. So you have all three with what you are doing. But content is king, content is king. So that's really what I am doing. If you look at the speaking business, and I don't know how many people have told you this in your interviews, but the speaking business since 2008 has been decimated. I mean, it has been gutted, seriously. I know speakers who back in the late 90s were earning over a million dollars a year in speaking who in the last year or two have claimed bankruptcy because the pie, the speaking pie, let's say the speaking pie back in the late 90s was this big, just hypothetically this big. Then after 9/11, when there was a big fear of travel, etc.and a lot of companies pulled back from having meetings and learned that they can do some of it online, but that was back in 2002 and 2003. It wasn't that sophisticated. So the pie shrunk a little after 9/11 but it still was big. But this last recession, where so many companies pulled back, of course you know here in the United States we called it the Great Recession, the Great Recession. But when companies pulled back after 2008, they found that the whole meeting world online was much more sophisticated, much better than it was even back in the early 2000s. So they decided to switch a lot of their meetings into that remote digital format, virtual training, virtual meetings, Skype, you name it. I mean, we have all these options now. Google…what do they call it? Not Google+, it's Google Hangouts. There's so many options now to have meetings without pulling people together. So, now the pie went like this and people who solely relied on speaking for their income have been killed. I mean, really, really, really hurting. Now back in 1999 and I remember this vividly because you'll see why, in 1999 I did 99. In 99 I did 99 full paid speeches. And when 2000 came around, first we had that little scare, Y2K, remember that? Y2K. Actually, you were just a little kid, then but you remember they were talking about what was going to happen to the computers? The computers turning over. Of course, none of that happened. But I started saying to myself, “You know, I can't do 100 speeches a year like I had been doing since the early 80s.” Every year, 100 or more speeches a year. It was crazy and traveling all over the country and the world. In 2000, I said to my wife, “I don't want to do this anymore.” I don't want to do it to the extent that I'm doing it. And so what I want to do is put so much more emphasis on alternative sources of revenue, using my intellectual property. So in 2000, what I did is I took my entire staff and I spun them off into their own business which now is a very profitable business. I didn't keep any ownership of it. The key employees, I said, “Look, for the next five years, if you hit these goals, I'm going to give you each year 20% of the business for free.” For five years they hit the goals, now it's their business. But what it did is it took all of my fixed overhead, the salaries, the office rent, etc, and it made it a variable cost because all I did is I paid them percentages then on speeches and product sales. I then took my revenue and started looking for other ways to invest that revenue into my intellectual property. And I created a big online assessment business called Assessments 24×7, which today brings in a lot more than speaking brings in. And then I started looking for ways to digitize all my products, everything. And then start looking for the publishers, just like we were chatting about a few minutes ago, to start carrying my product, marketing it and paying me royalties. So it's now this year, after so many years of focusing on that, where I don't have to give a single speech and I don't have to worry about anything financially because it all comes in through these other sources. When I speak, it's as we call, gravy. It's just extra. So that's really what I have been doing since 2000, but this year in particular, back to your question, what am I doing this year. I'm becoming more aggressive, more focused in identifying more and more publishers for those three different kinds of products: print, audio and video.
David Laroche : Great. So, what we have to remember of what you are saying is you focus not only on the short term but also the long term, to build something long term that could help you more, right?
Tony Alessandra : Right.
David Laroche : What is you favorite book?
Tony Alessandra : Well, I have three books. I actually have three books. So let me tell you the three books that I always talk about. Number one, and not necessarily in this order. Number one, “The Magic of Thinking Big” by Dr. David Schwartz. And I had read that book when I was younger and when I went to Georgia State University for my doctorate, only to find out that he was there. I called first before I enrolled because I had like three or four colleges I was accepted to. And I asked him specifically, I told him about the book, I told him how the impact it had on me, “If I came there for my doctorate, would you be my dissertation chairman?” He said, “Yes,” that was it. Second book, “Psycho-Cybernetics” by Dr. Maxwell Maltz. Life-changing book, life-changing. Third, now this is just for me. I mention that when I was in high school getting ready to go to college, I took my college tests and I scored higher in French than English. I really didn't have a great vocabulary. So my third book is “30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary” and I studied that book to increase my vocabulary, my ability to speak better. So those are the three books: “The Magic of Thinking Big,” “Psycho-Cybernetics,” and 30 “Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary.”
David Laroche : Great. What is your favorite audio program, audio book? If you listen to.
Tony Alessandra : Well, let's see. Sometime they go back… I was listening to audio when there wasn't audio programs. They were actually vinyl records. So, there was one by J. Douglas Edwards that I loved, but it was very traditional selling, closing hard sell. But I did like that. Acres of Diamonds. Some of the old ones, the actual programs by Nightingale Programs, by Earl Nightingale, not necessarily the Nightingale Programs. And of course, programs like “The Psychology of Winning,” just a classic program. So those were some of the biggies. But I like to go back to the early, early pioneers of the business, like the Earl Nightingale.
David Laroche : Zig Ziglar.
Tony Alessandra : But even before Zig Ziglar, before Zig Ziglar.
David Laroche : Okay. Napoleon Hill.
Tony Alessandra : Exactly. Napoleon Hill, Acres of Diamonds. Those kinds of just classic, classic audio programs.
David Laroche : Okay. Do you have a movie that inspired you?
Tony Alessandra : A movie that inspired me.
David Laroche : With a great message.
Tony Alessandra : Yeah. Boy, that's a tough one. That's difficult. A movie that inspired me. Some of the movies that really did inspire me were sports movies where the underdog wins. I always love the underdogs. When I was growing up my favorite baseball team was the Brooklyn Dodgers where they always lost to the New York Yankees. So I always was a champion of the underdogs. So any movie where the underdog wins, Rocky. Rocky, the underdog who wins the title against Mr. T or whatever his name was back then. But what inspires me probably more than a movie is the theater. And plays that have a tremendous emotional impact like Chorus Line. I don't know if you've ever seen that. See, I'm even getting goosebumps just thinking about it, seriously. And what it is, it's about… Chorus Line in particular is about all these young kids, maybe your age, who are trying out to be in this play on Broadway. So it's a play about trying out for a play. And the producer of the play is interviewing them all, they're all in a line on the stage. And the emotion, it's just unbelievable. Another play that…and movie but the play, Les Miserables, just emotional. And again, the underdog right at the end. Jean Valjean, just a great…
David Laroche : That's a French one.
Tony Alessandra : Oh, I know it's French. That's why I mentioned it. That's one of my favorite plays of all time. But again, those are the inspirational things. I love it when somebody who has been pushed down, held down, has less than somebody else, rises to the top and wins.
David Laroche : What is your favorite commitment to yourself?
Tony Alessandra : My favorite commitment is… Well, the favorite saying which I live by, by the way, so it's kind of walking the talk, is “What goes around, comes around.” I'm always out there helping people not expecting anything in return but always getting things in return. People have described me as being…my luck being unworldly. That I have unbelievable luck. And I always believe that. I had such incredible luck. But then some people started saying to me, “This is not luck, Tony. This is the stuff that's coming back to you for all the stuff that you've done.” That whole pay it forward and it just comes back to you. And I never did this stuff expecting something to come back but it just keeps coming back. So I live by that. I live by just being a good person, helping people no matter who they are, if they're down here or up there it doesn't matter. And I think that one of the greatest compliments that I constantly hear, I really do and it really just does my heart well is that people will say that “I've heard about you. I've talked to people about you. I've never heard a single person say one bad thing about you.” So that's the key. That's what drives me and motivates me.
David Laroche : Great. So, I have a last question for you. It is a very serious question. Do you have some keys, advices or tips to become a loser? To become unhappy in this life?
Tony Alessandra : Okay. So to become a loser. Do not practice what you preach to others. Do not listen to people, do all the talking. Focus on me, me, me, me, me at the expense of you. Be selfish.
David Laroche : That's great.
Tony Alessandra : Well, I'll come up with more, but these are all ways to become a loser. Always complain about the gifts that you get and always expect people to be so thankful for that gifts you give. Don't learn manners. Don't say “thank you, ” “please, ” “you're welcome.” These are all ways to become a loser.
David Laroche : Yeah, it's great.
Tony Alessandra : You know it's just really having the attitude of what can you do for me, as oppose to what can I do for you. That's how you become a loser. Become a loner instead of learning how to communicate with other people. Don't focus on learning relationships skills. Eat with your mouth open. Be a slob.
David Laroche : Wow, you have so huge content. You could be the trainer.
Tony Alessandra : Yes. These are all the things. Don't be concerned about your grooming and your personal, the way you dress or groom yourself.
David Laroche : Great.
Tony Alessandra : You know, little things.
David Laroche : Be on the training.
Tony Alessandra : Yeah. So those are how to become a loser.
David Laroche : Thank you very much, I will try everything.