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Jeff Greene: Speaking on the Side

You know what’s awesome? About 5 years ago, Jeff Greene was looking for a way to supplement his income as Client Service Director at a social marketing and mobile start-up. He decided to put himself out there as a speaker for hire. He figured out what companies would pay him to speak about, how to promote himself, how to land speaking engagements… and ultimately wrote a book about his experience.


This is a guest post by Jeff about his book, Speaking on the Side. It’s a pep talk and battle cry for any aspiring entrepreneurs that need an encouraging nudge to stop daydreaming and take action.

For those of you who’ve spent a long time in the agency world, note if you’ve recently experienced any of these symptoms:

– Restlessness, mild agitation, unspecified longing

– Fatigue, especially during two-hour status calls

– Fluttering heart when you see a dynamic speaker giving a great presentation

These are all common signs of a condition known as Speaker Envy. Fortunately, there is a proven cure: starting your own speaking practice on the side.

Having worked in the agency and consulting world most of my life, I know many of you have kicked around the idea. Marketers are natural presenters and speakers. Our business is all about creativity and persuasion – two traits that the best speakers also exhibit.

If you’ve daydreamed about launching a speaking career, but haven’t hit the “go” button yet, let me ask a question:

What’s stopping you?

I know, I know… you don’t have enough time. Nobody will hire you. You don’t know where to start. Maybe these are good excuses but I’m not persuaded. When I first started speaking on the side in the mid-2000s, I didn’t know what to do, either. So I put on my “client” hat. As a marketer, what would I recommend to myself?

First, I remembered the words of famous adman Fairfax Cone (the “C” in DraftFCB). He said, “Advertising’s what you do when you can’t go see somebody.” I decided to go “see” somebody. I cold-called meeting planners, sent e-mails, networked at trade associations. It took time and intent, but it produced results: my first few paid speaking gigs.

Since my speaking practice focused on educating audiences about digital marketing trends, it was only natural to next turn to Google. I had proposed and directed plenty of search campaigns for clients; why not do the dirty work myself? I learned SEO and SEM best practices, fired up an Adwords campaign, and saw traffic to my site explode. Most of my best speaking clients came from search marketing, where my ROI was in the neighborhood of 19-to-1.

Finally, I grew and maintained relationships with the client base I had built. I shared tips and ideas, helped them book other speakers when they needed a different kind of expertise, and sent delicious Harry & David-style chocolate treat towers during the holidays. (This last technique was probably the real secret behind my success.)

Have I hit barriers along the way? Of course. I’ve lost out to competitive speakers. I’ve had to spend beautiful summer weekends making PowerPoint slides. Once, I had to fly out of Cleveland during a blizzard. Despite these not-so-nice moments, the experiences I’ve shared and the stories I’ve collected on the speaking circuit – not to mention the extra money I’ve made – have made my life all the richer.

Which takes us back to you.

What about your speaking dream? Aren’t you curious to see where it might take you? Look, the odds are you won’t get stuck in Cleveland. And even if you do, I have a book you can read when you’re there: Speaking on the Side, a memoir/self-help guide I wrote to share my adventures in part-time speaking and, hopefully, inspire you to start a journey of your own. In the book, you’ll hear from dozens of successful speakers and experts who offer lots of practical advice for starting a speaking practice. Several of them are agency professionals themselves: Marti Barletta, Shama Kabani, and Suzanne Tulien to name a few.

Below are a couple of excerpts from Speaking on the Side you can read now:

– What is Speaking on the Side?

– Becoming a Public Speaker

If you like what you read, use Jen’s 10% discount code C9T64DUK and purchase the book online here.

No one should have to face their Speaker Envy without adequate support. I’m hopeful that my book will be a fun, helpful, and inspirational tool to get you on the road to success.

And here’s the best part … you don’t have to quit your day job to make your speaking dream come true.


Jeff Greene is a partner at New Solutions Factory, where he and his team provide strategy and multichannel marketing expertise to ad agencies and brands in pharma, healthcare, consumer, and other industries. He speaks on the side about digital marketing and cultural trends. Speaking on the Side is his first book! He lives at the Jersey Shore. 

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