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Speaker Spotlight: Nick Santonastasso Delivers Breakthrough Experiences

“My sessions are methodically put together to take [attendees on] an emotional roller coaster,” Nick Santonastasso says. You can expect to dig deep and work to overcome or heal during an event. 

Before becoming a professional speaker—appearing on stage with Tony Robbins and at events for Thrive, Lockheed Martin, the University of Florida and more, as well as teaching MasterClass workshops—Santonastasso was a professional prankster and bodybuilder. 

From prankster to speaker 

When he was young, Santonastasso wondered what he’d do when he grew up. Stepping on stage wasn’t his first thought, although now he recalls that his dad mentioned he could be a sports announcer or speaker. 

“I was always worried about how I was going to make ends meet with no legs and one arm. I can’t work a regular job,” Santonastasso says. While in the womb, he was classified with Hanhart syndrome, a rare condition that leads babies to be born with underdeveloped limbs, an underdeveloped tongue or missing fingers and toes. In Santonastasso’s case, he was born without legs, with a left arm with one finger on it and an underdeveloped right arm.  

Still, despite his dad’s career wisdom, becoming a speaker “wasn’t actually in my awareness,” Santonastasso says. 

First came other ventures. 

For instance, at age 18, he had a stint as a professional prankster, growing a following on the now-defunct social media platform, Vine, and finding fame through a variety of pranks, including giving Norman Reedus, a cast member of The Walking Dead, a shock. But pranking didn’t fulfill him, and in his 20s, he moved to Tampa, Florida, to pursue bodybuilding. He figured, “Not many people with no legs are in shape and bodybuilding. So if I can do it, people will watch.” 

While in Tampa, Santonastasso attended an event for entrepreneurs and met his future business partner, who heard his life story and predicted he’d make it on stage with Robbins one day. 

With that, Santonastasso began a career in speaking. 

While making money and building a career were his initial goals, he realized there was a higher level to achieve after attending one of Robbins’ events and witnessing the transformation taking place. “I’ve watched this man make people cry and laugh and smile and break through and heal things,” Santonastasso remembers. His takeaway: “Whatever he’s doing, I want to do it at that level.” 

Leading crowds to breakthroughs 

There’s so much that Santonastasso loves about speaking at events. For one, he says, “I love the art and mastery of being able to orchestrate a crowd.” But there’s more too. He’s also passionate about that moment when audience members reach a breakthrough, “a moment where they heal something or think about life in a totally different way.” 

Realizing how much he enjoyed speaking and how much of an impact he could have doing it, Santonastasso got to work. He began to develop his ability to talk about topics like psychology and neuroplasticity, a person’s ability to rewire their brain. In some ways, his strength as a speaker is his ability to condense time for other people by sharing a map toward healing with them based on his own healing journey from the traumas he’s endured. 

During one of Santonastasso’s main sessions, you can expect three parts: First, he tells a story about himself or something he’s discovered or learned. Next, he teaches a specific lesson. Finally, he provides a tool in the form of one question or a series of questions, which Santonastasso says helps guide attendees to their own answers. “I can ask the audience a very powerful question, and they’re going to find a very powerful answer.” The questions help people realize experiences or thought patterns that aren’t helpful and may be holding them back in many areas of their lives. 

While he shares personal stories, his speaking events aren’t about him, Santonastasso clarifies: They’re about leading the audience to breakthroughs. And these are truly transformational moments. People leave calling others to share their new insights, Santonastasso says. He’ll hear feedback like, “This felt like 10 years of therapy in one hour.” 

You can expect to feel emotional during the event—and afterward. There’s a power to asking questions, Santonastasso says. When we ask intelligent and intentional questions, he says, we can uncover things about ourselves that may be healing and liberating. 

On stage at Tony Robbins events

Even before Santonastasso entered the speaking world, he admired Robbins and the work he did on stage. When he finally attended an event, he was in awe of Robbins’ abilities. He and his partners worked to get on Robbins’ radar for two years, even speaking for free at one of his youth leadership conferences in California. 

Years passed since Santonastasso attended his first Robbins event. And then, finally, he was invited to speak at an Unleash the Power Within (UPW) event in Dallas, Texas. The reaction was positive, and since then, Santonastasso has been a guest speaker at more UPW events, spanning the globe from Miami to Singapore. 

Devoted to speaking and coaching  

Speaking is Santonastasso’s great passion. He makes guest appearances (as with Robbins) and keynotes events. But it’s not the only way he connects with people to deliver transformational experiences. 

He also has an online education company. “We offer people the opportunity to go deeper on my courses and my mentorship and masterminds,” he explains. Through this company, he helps others—coaches, experts and entrepreneurs—become transformational speakers, sharing what he’s learned in his own time building a speaker empire. 

Share what you know—because someone needs your message 

“Everyone has a story,” Santonastasso says. “And every day that you don’t share your story, there’s someone out there suffering because they haven’t met you yet.” 

Like music, Santonastasso says, people have opinions on speakers and their messages. That is, not every speaker will appeal to everyone. When you’re authentically yourself, you’ll attract some people and repel others, he says. But this is helpful. “You’re going to repel the ones that will never do business with you anyway. You’re gonna attract your tribe that would love to go deeper on the journey of transformation with you.” 

If you’re someone who feels like you have a story to tell the world, Santonastasso encourages you to do so. “Everyone has something valuable to share with the world. And there are people out there that need you.” 

Want to book Nick Santonastasso as the keynote speaker for your next event? By booking with the SUCCESS® Speakers Bureau, you can be confident in working with a legacy brand. You also receive logistical support and professional guidance.

Keynote speaker Erin King
Business Speakers

Speaker Profile: Why Erin King Thinks Energy Is Everyone’s Edge

Ask Erin King how she got to where she is—a bestselling author, podcast host, chief digital officer at a marketing agency and international keynote speaker—and she spins a story of lucky moments. But behind her success lies more than mere chance.

Through the ups and downs of King’s professional and personal life, her resilient and intellectually curious approach has played a pivotal role in her achievements. This trajectory has led her on a path to exploring all components of energy management: why people’s energy levels are so unique and the best ways to source and maintain energy levels. 

Here, we look at how King went from an entrepreneur searching for a win to speaking on stages around the world and spearheading research into human energy management. 

A viral moment, and hopping on stage herself 

King’s marketing agency began as a kitchen table operation and got its big break when a cold email led to her running social media for the 2014 Oscars. Perhaps you recall a certain selfie from Ellen DeGeneres, that year’s host? While Samsung was the power behind this viral moment, King’s agency benefited. “We got the glory for it… [since] it happened on our watch,” she says. 

After the Oscars, and in these early days of social media, King and her agency were at the forefront of live events, from tech conferences to Fashion Week to Nelson Mandela’s birthday reception. 

Not every event was glamorous. It was during a Las Vegas automotive conference that King had her first big moment on stage. She was listening along to Amy Cuddy’s keynote on the power pose when the event’s planner came to her in a panic: The speaker for an upcoming 300-person breakout room had missed her flight, and she wanted King to hop on stage and talk about social media strategy. 

King’s first response: “You’ve got to be kidding me.” 

She wasn’t a star; she was there to do behind-the-scenes work, clad in comfy flats, hair pulled up in a bun. But fueled by Cuddy’s talk, she went to the bathroom and put herself in the power position. To this day, King can’t recall what she said. But clearly, she was a hit—when she was done speaking, several people told her they wanted her to speak at their companies and asked for her speaking fee. 

From there, “it built itself, and one gig led to another,” King says. 

Before flourishing, daunting setbacks 

When opportunities arrived—like a reputation-burnishing social media moment or the ability to embrace a speaking opportunity with courage and wit—King seized upon them. But before these opportune moments came more challenging experiences. 

“My first two companies were disasters,” King recalls. An early digital media agency drove her into debt, and a capital-backed tampon delivery service sold for its catchy website address (and not the product she’d developed and built). 

King was in her late 20s and feeling like a failure. She’d worked hard without any triumphant payoff and was losing faith in her ideas. It would have been easy at this moment to give up on entrepreneurship. Her grandmother’s words kept her going: “It’s better to be someone’s shot of whiskey than everyone’s cup of tea. You are someone’s shot of whiskey.” 

King kept going, and her third attempt—the agency that powered the Oscars social media posts in 2014—would go on to be her big break, leading her eventually to her true passion: speaking on stage. 

A terrible year led to a new quest for insight 

Recently, King had a truly dreadful year. It didn’t start badly: She was appearing on stages worldwide, and her book was racing up the bestseller charts. But then, in the space of just a few months, she was hit with a series of terrible back-to-back events, including family illness, the traumatic death of a pet and a financial setback.  

“No one wants to hire a depressed motivational speaker,” King says. So she tried to power through. Her mentality was “if I can keep working, I don’t have to think about anything,” she recalls. But it simply wasn’t sustainable. One day, after doing five keynotes in seven days, while in the middle of a Zoom meeting with her team, her heart started racing and she collapsed on camera, convinced she had a heart attack and was going to die. 

“I woke up in the hospital,” she says. She’d had a panic attack, and that moment helped her realize that something had to change; she couldn’t work her way through despair. But three months of relaxing—on an Eat, Pray, Love journey in Bali—only alleviated the problem briefly. 

Learning how to power up consistently 

King had tried powering through, and she’d tried powering down a bit to reset. Neither option worked. 

“I realized I needed to figure out how to power up more consistently,” King says. 

Others may have turned to yoga, therapy or other self-improvement efforts. Not King. She hired a team of Ph.D.s, and together, “we conducted the world’s largest study so far on personal human energy management.” She says they wanted to uncover how people source and nurture energy and how to keep it steady even when life comes at you. 

The research revealed five different energy types and showed that not everyone gains power—or drains it—the same way. These findings have led to an energy assessment, which will be available on King’s website soon, that can help people uncover their energy type and be able to make deliberate adjustments to how they spend their time to maximize their energy. 

Now, King teaches organizations the Big Energy Blueprint, a framework of five steps: 

  • Ask
  • Assess
  • Adjust
  • Align
  • Amplify 

This framework helps adjust an organization’s energy levels—something leaders may be eager to do if morale is low and burnout is high. 

“I believe energy management is kind of the time management for today’s world,” King says. It’s how we get through everything and feel present, aligned, ambitious and more alive, she says. 

Worth noting: “Big Energy” does not equate to high “energy.” It’s not about everyone hitting the super-sized energy of a used-car salesperson, King points out. Imagine a yoga teacher with that energy; it wouldn’t feel right. “It’s not about mimicking someone else’s style; it’s about tuning into your core energy,” King says. 

Bottom line: “Energy is the most valuable skill we can bring to the workplace,” King says, noting that her team’s research found that people valued energy most in leaders: more than education, connections or experience. King’s passion is finding ways to help people manage their energy levels and not vacillate between powered-up time and work and powered-down time on the couch. “Your energy,” King says, “is your edge.” So it’s worth prioritizing how you can learn to power up for your energy type over the long term, she says. 

Want to book Erin King as the keynote speaker for your next event? By booking with the SUCCESS® Speakers Bureau, you can be confident in working with a legacy brand. You also receive logistical support and professional guidance.

James Whittaker headshot
Focus & Productivity

Speaker Spotlight: James Whittaker Is Eager to Help People Get to Their Next Level

To understand why James Whittaker is so passionate about helping people activate their winning life—and how he arrived at the notion of Win the Day—it helps to rewind to his past. 

His childhood was, in a word, idyllic: He grew up in Brisbane, Australia, with a great family, attending a good school. “I had everything that we define as being on that great path to success,” Whittaker says. 

And yet: All that perfection couldn’t combat an anxiety disorder, which he found debilitating. In response, as a young adult, Whittaker became deeply apathetic. “The only way that I could get through all of these things was if I decided not to care,” he remembers. Others around him were flourishing, yet he was struggling to show up to school and work. 

“I felt like a… human destined for the scrapheap.” 

Rock bottom came, and then, a turnaround. It’s this inflection point—when Whittaker went from apathy to declaring himself ready to engage—that influenced the trajectory of the rest of his life. And, it’s why he’s so passionate about helping others live up to their potential, in his speaking, through his coaching and programs and with his books and other writing. 

“What I’m obsessed with is how do we take ordinary people and make them extraordinary achievers,” he says. 

Here, a look at how Whittaker got to where he is, and why he believes so strongly in the Win the Day mentality. 

From Australia to America and onto a new path 

After his crisis point as a young adult, Whittaker became an eager consumer of self-help materials, from subscribing to SUCCESS magazine to reading classics like How to Win Friends and Influence People. “I wanted to learn from the best in the world through books about everything,” he recalls. 

Things in his life got better—a lot better. After establishing a successful corporate career in Australia, in 2012, he moved to Boston, where he got his MBA. It’s around this moment—inspired at least somewhat by the entrepreneurs he was encountering in Boston—when he struck out on his own as an entrepreneur with Win the Day.

The birth of Win the Day

Here’s how Whittaker’s signature idea of winning the day was born: He was working for the Napoleon Hill Foundation, writing the book Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy and producing a movie with the same title. An idea leaped out at him, which essentially was that if people don’t make the decision to win, they’ve automatically made the decision to lose. 

“But that’s a bit clunky to say,” Whittaker notes. 

He wanted to come up with his own pithier version, something people could use as a simple mantra to save themselves daily. 

“And that’s where ‘Win the Day’ came from,” he remembers. 

Win the Day is a podcast and a coaching program, but it’s more than that too. It’s a mentality. “The mission, to be very clear, is to help every person on the planet to activate their Winning Life,” Whittaker writes on his blog. 

James Whittaker’s WIN method explained

One of the main ideas Whittaker talks about as a speaker is how people can activate their winning life “through implementing what I call the ‘WIN’ method,” he says. That’s an acronym, with the letters standing for the following ideas: 

  • Wonder: People should be intensively curious about how great they can be in “this one extraordinary life you’ve been given,” Whittaker says. Their vision should be bigger than getting out of bed each day and trudging through their routine. “What I mean by wonder is: What is your purpose? And what are your goals to show that you’re living in alignment with that purpose?” Whittaker says. 
  • Intent: This, Whittaker says, is “your commitment to a course of actions every day.” Think of intent as being your habits, your friends, the culture (books, movies, podcasts, and so on) that you take in. 
  • Nurture: This “is really your approach to adversity,” Whittaker says. How do you respond when bad things happen? How willing are you to put yourself in stressful situations? 

Whittaker, who can remember clearly that time in his life when he was focusless and disengaged, believes there’s always an opportunity for anyone—at any age—to “get back on track and Win the Day.” 

So many people are struggling, and so many seek to get to the next level, he says. But this isn’t possible if they don’t have their life in order. “That’s why to me any business success and career success… starts with a very clear awareness and assessment of who you are and where you want to go as an individual,” Whittaker says. 

That’s the starting point. “And then we go from there to integrate that with how everything that you do in your life personally and professionally can create success for you and give you energy,” Whittaker says.  

A foundation that lends itself to the pursuit of success 

Whittaker’s background is ideally situated to grow his understanding of what entrepreneurs need and what defines success. Years in the corporate world, along with time spent as an entrepreneur himself, mean he sees what big companies and corporations need. 

Plus, there’s all those hours in conversation with great thinkers, experts and entrepreneurs. For the Win the Day podcast, he’s interviewed experts as diverse as Michael Breus (aka the “Sleep Doctor”) and Navy SEAL Andrew Sullivan. On any given day, he might speak to psychologists, leaders and executives and other people who spend their own time thinking deeply about what it means to flourish.  

These conversations have shown him that the recipe for success is a combination of resourcefulness (how you acquire what you want) and resilience (how you persist in the face of adversity). During Whittaker’s speaking events, he caters to the audience, but broad themes include leveraging relationships, scaling income (without scaling workload) and activating a winning life. 

Getting results quickly and efficiently, Whittaker believes, is a matter of manufacturing opportunity to create meaning and profitability in both your life and business. Success in both life and business are essential: “We don’t really want to have one without the other,” he says. 

As for him? He’s precisely where he wants to be. 

“For the rest of my life, all I’m focused on is Win the Day, and how can I become the best in the world? And how can I help as many people as possible with that? I’ll do that forever.” 

Want to book James Whittaker as the keynote speaker for your next event? By booking with the SUCCESS® Speakers Bureau, you can be confident in working with a legacy brand. You also receive logistical support and professional guidance.

Photo courtesy of James Whittaker.

Motivational speaker on stage in front of hundreds of people learning how to become a motivational speaker and get paid

How to Become a Motivational Speaker: The Essential Beginner’s Guide

Being a motivational speaker allows you to share your knowledge with others and experience  rewarding personal and professional fulfillment.

But before you can book your first speaking engagement, you need to learn how to become a motivational speaker and what to charge for your services.

How to become a paid motivational speaker in 7 steps

Becoming a motivational speaker requires more than simply talking in front of an audience. These seven steps can help you launch a career as a motivational speaker.

1. Self-assessment and introspection

The best motivational speakers have a deep understanding of themselves. They know their strengths and actively work on their weaknesses. If you want to be a motivational speaker, you need to understand all aspects of yourself.

This requires you to look inward and use self-assessment to identify your passions, areas of expertise, and how you’ll use your unique perspective to help others. Journaling, reading thought-provoking books and working with a therapist are among the ways you can start building and strengthening your perspectives.

2. Develop expertise in your practice area

Some people seem to be great public speakers naturally, but everyone needs practice speaking in front of a crowd. You should feel comfortable addressing a large audience before trying to get a speaking engagement. Practice making speeches in front of friends and family, join a local Toastmasters club, or sign up for as many work presentations and speaking opportunities as possible to get comfortable speaking publicly.

You’ll also need expertise and experience in your chosen practice area or industry. For example, if you plan to share your knowledge with small business owners, you will want to have firsthand experience as a small business owner, so you can speak with authority on the topic.

3. Craft a unique message

There are thousands of motivational speakers out there, so you must stand out from the rest. Take some time to develop your distinct voice and message.

Ask yourself these questions to help you find your niche and authentic voice:

  • Who do you want to speak to? Who could gain the most from hearing about your experiences?
  • What is your ideal audience size or venue?
  • What topics or industries are you most passionate about?
  • How does your story differ from other motivational speakers or influencers in your practice area or industry?
  • What standout personality traits do you bring to your speeches?

4. Build a brand

Motivational speakers are business ownersjust like a restaurant owner or clothing boutique owner. Unlike other businesses, however, motivational speakers are selling their stories and personality as their products. To be a successful motivational speaker, you’ll need to build your brand.

Building your brand as a motivational speaker includes identifying your target audience and poising yourself in front of them. Having an online presence via a website and social media channels is essential to becoming a motivational speaker. 

You may also want to  consider becoming a certified motivational speaker. A certification could help you land speaking engagements when you’re first starting out. There are both free and paid certifications available, and you can earn more than one to build your resume.

5. Networking and mentorship

If you’re trying to learn how to become a motivational speaker, you likely have experience in a certain field. This means you may already have connections and contacts with your ideal audiences. Leverage your network to help book engagements and grow your brand.

Additionally, you can improve your speaking skills by reaching out to more experienced speakers for mentorship. Partnering with a mentor can help expand your network and give you the chance to learn directly from leaders in the field.

6. Gain practical experience

Once your message is set and your brand is in place, you can start seeking speaking opportunities. As with any new skill, it’s a good idea to start small and work your way up to larger engagements. Each successful speech expands your exposure and can help open the door to bigger opportunities.

7. Hone and improve your skills

Good motivational speakers constantly improve their skills and refine their craft. You should request feedback after every engagement and use it to hone your skills, message and brand.

Getting your first paid gig

Unlike searching for a new job, you probably won’t find a list of paid speaking gigs on sites like Indeed or LinkedIn. Motivational speakers get most of their paid gigs from their network or by pitching their services directly to event hosts.

First, create a resume that shows how you’ve established yourself as an expert in your industry or on your topic of choice. 

Next, you’ll need to demonstrate your skills as a speaker. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is with a high quality video of you speaking to an audience. Volunteering as a speaker is often a good way to get coverage of your speaking skills in a real-world setting.

Once you’ve created a portfolio and/or a website, reach out to your network. Some of the best people to contact about potential speaking opportunities are people who know you in relation to your speaking topics.

If you’re discussing business topics, you might reach out to past clients or coworkers to see if their current businesses would benefit from a motivational speaker. On the other hand, if you’re focused on personal passions—such as a community cause—try contacting people in your personal network. For instance, if you previously worked as a management consultant and you want to speak about the power of embracing change throughout your career, reach out to past companies you’ve consulted for, and ask if they have any upcoming events or know of any local conferences that are looking for speakers.

How much should you charge for a speaking engagement?

As of January 2024, the median salary for a motivational speaker is just under $79,000 annually. But that rate fluctuates based on experience and education.

However, many speakers are self-employed or use speaking as a side gig to a full-time career. You can help determine your rates by choosing a salary goal and breaking it down into speaking engagements.

For example, if you want to earn at least $30,000 a year speaking as a side business, plan on speaking at one event per month. You’d need to charge at least $2,500 per event to meet your goal.

When setting your rate, consider your experience as well as the budget of the event. A multimillion-dollar business client will likely have a larger budget than your local nonprofit. Additionally, it’s generally recommended that you start with smaller engagements and then work your way up to higher-paying, larger speaking engagements as you build a portfolio and network. It may take months, or even years, to build enough experience that you can charge high enough rates to make your full salary as a motivational speaker.

5 benefits of becoming a motivational speaker

Becoming a motivational speaker isn’t just about making money. Many speakers do what they do because they enjoy inspiring others to better themselves. Let’s check out the benefits of becoming a motivational speaker, and why you might want to consider it as a career. 

1. Personal fulfillment

As a motivational speaker, your speech could make a positive impact and difference in the life of another person. This in turn may lead to personal fulfillment and enable you to experience happiness and satisfaction derived from helping others.

2. Professional opportunities

You don’t have to be a full-time motivational speaker to benefit from speaking events. Many motivational speakers use speaking engagements as a way to diversify their income stream.

In addition, your speaking assignments could lead to career growth. Businesses hire motivational speakers to help boost employee enthusiasm and offer fresh perspectives to workers. A business leader inspired by your speech and experience might want to hire you to help the business in more than a one-time role. They may reach out to you about a potential job opportunity with their company, giving you a leg up in the hiring process.

3. Networking and connections

Being a motivational speaker helps you build a robust network that can lead to new opportunities. A large network can help you book new speaking engagements as connections recommend you to their contacts.

You can also use your network to form collaborations with other speakers and business leaders. You could partner with speakers in your industry to host a business conference to bolster your network and initiate a revenue stream.

4. Personal development

Being a good public speaker is a great skill to hone. When you become a motivational speaker, you’re committing to refining your public speaking skills over and over again. With each event, you improve your confidence and communication skills, which can be important for personal development.

5. Influence and leadership

Being an influential speaker can lead to more speaking opportunities, which will ultimately grow your brand and increase your income. However, the influence and leadership that come with being a speaker go beyond monetary rewards as you affect real change in others. 

Influence as a motivational speaker goes beyond collecting a paycheck—the best speakers inspire transformation with their words. As a motivational speaker, your influence can help people start their own journeys toward making long-term, sustainable changes in their lives.

Photo by New Africa/