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Mastermind Groups for Professional Speakers


By Ed Rigsbee, CSP


Wouldn’t it be nice to find the silver bullet to sustained success in the speaking business? While we are all looking for a better, quicker, more effective approach to all the various aspects of running a speaking practice or business,  we each know within our hearts that it is just hard work that delivers us success. With that said, leveraging the strengths of our colleagues; strengths derived from different backgrounds, education, experiences, politics, etc., can dramatically accelerate one’s learning curve.


The mastermind alliance idea has served me well over my two decades as a professional speaker. With the help of Terry Paulson, Ph.D., CSP, CPAE, Robert Tucker and Pam Lontos, I started a speaker mastermind group during the winter of ’88-’89. We started meeting early in 1989 and have continued to get together about once a month or so ever since.


The mastermind meeting is a confidential environment where individuals can share their gifts and receive counsel on important business, career and personal issues. I do not believe I would have survived in my speaking career without this relationship. The members of my mastermind alliance (www.goldcoastinstitute.com) are some very special and giving people. The group consists of not more than about a dozen members that are geographically close to one another, this allows us to regularly meet. We rotate from home to home, each member having the opportunity to host a meeting. We make it simply for the host by ordering delivered pizza.


When you build your mastermind group, use it as a sounding board for ideas you might have missed, to uncover unnoticed pitfalls in your plans and various other important areas that offer you value. The Gold Coast Group once spent an entire year dedicating each meeting to individual members for dealing with their specific issues. Wow! It was powerful to have several people focus their energy and attention to a single member's issues. Giving energy can be as powerful as receiving it. I learn when I am being helped with my issues and when others are helped with theirs.


Organizational Issues

1. You will need a driver, an individual, to be the force behind the scenes for about two years, after that the group’s cohesiveness should allow the group to become a living entity where all members become accountable for the group’s success.

2. Plan to meet every 4 to 6 weeks. Rather than meeting on the second Tuesday of each month, for example—members should bring their calendars and plan your next meeting at the end of each meeting.

3. Geographical proximity is crucially important, especially in the greater Los Angeles area. If the drive is too far, members might be inclined to “skip” meetings that are too far away, thereby minimizing their valuable contribution.

4. Rotate among the homes of members. This keeps the cost down and develops a closer friendship among members.

5. The host of each meeting is in charge of that meeting: organizing the food, reminder emails, agenda, select the meeting chair person, and various other logistics. At each meeting, members should contribute $10 to the host, regardless of their eating habits. The host should make an effort to accommodate, even the picky members. At the Gold Coast meetings, alcohol is most definitely served. For us, pizza is a minimum—some members select to go all out and some simply serve pizza and salad—either is okay.

6. This is the most important rule—what’s said in the group, stays in the group! In order for any member to receive true value from a mastermind group, they must be confident that all members subscribe to the necessity of a confidential environment.



Meeting Structure

While there are a number of viable meeting formats, the one I’ve found to serve best is an evening meeting using the following:


1. Meetings are held Monday through Thursday; participants arrive by 6:00 PM and the meeting is over by 9 PM.

2. The pizza, or other meal, is ready for immediate consumption by the group at 6 PM.

3. Social conversation is generally during the meal—everyone at one table works best.

4. The meeting can be held in the comfort of the living room; however we have found that the dynamics of meeting around the dining table serves best. If members are too comfortable they might doze off.

5. Quickly go around the room, everyone getting a minute or two to offer an update on them and ask for specific use time from the group if they forgot to email the meeting host with their request. It works best when the meeting attendees request time before the meeting so the meeting chair can work their request into the agenda—time requests are first come, first served.

6. The chair conducts the meeting, generally using Robert’s Rules of Order in a very informal manner. The chair must stay aware of time usage and focus on running the meeting rather than participation in the discussion. This is crucial to the success of a meeting and members must be aware of their tendency to be a time hog.

7. Meetings can be organized around a topic, resolving issues that members bring to the group or perhaps a presentation from an outsider?

8. Calendars come out at 8:45 to determine the best date for the next meeting.

9. Kisses and hugs at 9 PM and everyone departs.



Keeping the Mastermind Alive

Here are some of the reasons for longevity given by the members of the Gold Coast Mastermind Alliance:


1. We genuinely respect each other and give each other space to be our own unique selves: we have different approaches to the business, we have different backgrounds, politics, successes, etc. But we are all respectful of our diversity and it adds, rather than detracts from our collaboration, and to the sum of our whole being greater than any parts.

2. We all appreciate a place we can come to each month to share and learn, knowing that what we say is kept confidential within the group. It is a "safety net" for people on the road who need a place to share with like-minded colleagues.

3. We are a learning organization. I think we saw this when (rare though it was) one member just wasn't clicking with the team and suddenly dropped out without saying a proper good-by. What I experienced upon our receiving the news was, "hmmm, how can we use this feedback to improve our alliance?"  And we made changes, renewed our vows to be there for each other, and moved on to create an even better group. We are able in other words, to be candid about how we create value for each other (or miss).

4. We take the meetings seriously. We do have time to network and chat socially, but we all know we are there to learn more about the business of speaking.

5. All of us are invested in seeing everyone else in the group succeed, i.e., it is not a competitive environment, rather a supportive one. We are all friends and genuinely want each other to do well.

6. We have differing areas of expertise and different personality styles in the group; freely share our knowledge with the other members which provide a greater balance.


Copyright 2011 Ed Rigsbee


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Ed Rigsbee, CSP, has been a professional member of the National Speakers Association (NSA) since 1988, earning the Greater Los Angeles Chapter's Member of the Year award in 1990 and received his Certified Speaking Professional accreditation from NSA in 2000. He has been highly engaged with for-profit and non-profit organizations for over four decades. For the last two decades, Ed has been an observer, researcher, and teacher; helping organizations of all sizes to build successful internal and external collaborative relationships. Ed travels internationally to deliver keynote presentations and workshops on profitable alliance relationships.


In addition to serving as the president of Rigsbee Research Consulting Group, Ed also serves as the executive director of an IRS recognized 501 (c)( 3) public non-profit charity, the Cigar PEG. Ed has authored four books and over 2,000 articles helping organizations to take full advantage of their potential. Contact Ed, get additional resources, and sign up for his complimentary weekly Effective Executive eLetter at www.Rigsbee.com.





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