How to Book More Speaking Opportunities

Coffee break at business meetingI walked into the mostly empty restaurant and immediately saw the gathering of women around a table at the back. Since it was only 7:30am, the only business going on at this lunch and dinner spot was this networking event and a lot of glass and plate clinking during table set up. I walked up to the registration table and said “Hello” to the lovely woman handing out name badges. As I pinned my badge to my sweater, a bright light of a woman greeted me.

After a kind greeting, we shared about our kids, where we live and, eventually, about our businesses. When I told her I’m a speaking coach, she gave me this look that has become quite familiar. It’s a mix of “oh dear, she’s going to be analyzing my speaking…” and “ooh, a speaking coach! How unusual!” This look is usually followed by something like, “Well, I’m the speaker today so I can’t wait to hear what you think of my presentation!” Which is essentially what this woman said to me that morning as well.

So, as I always do when this happens, I reminded her that she clearly has beautiful, bright energy and she obviously came prepared (supplies for an interactive exercise were already on the table). I suggested that she simply take a few deep belly breaths and enjoy sharing her awesome expertise, just as she planned. I invited her to talk with me afterward if she had anything she wanted to debrief about the presentation but that I was already certain we were in for a fun, engaging learning experience.

As the morning session drew to a close, I approached her and told her what a lovely time I had. She asked me for my feedback on her presentation and I gave her very specific things that I thought went beautifully. (It really was an excellent, engaging presentation.) I asked her what she thought of her presentation. We talked about it for a few minutes and I thanked her again for her wonderful interactive exercise.

Then, I asked if she thought this group would enjoy a presentation on how to use speaking to attract clients. Before I even finished my sentence, she flung into scheduling action. “Oh my gosh, absolutely! When do you want to speak – April, May? That will be perfect!”

By the time I left, I had secured a spot as the presenter at the April meeting of these passionate business owners, a room full of my ideal clients. Needless to say, I was giddy happy!

Let me tell you, though – I haven’t always been this good at securing speaking opportunities with rooms full of people who are my ideal clients. Frankly, it’s not easy to get the opportunity to speak – even for free – when you are just getting out there with your message.

So today I wanted to share with you three things that will increase your chances of getting to speak to rooms full of your ideal clients.

Before I dive into the specifics, though, let me say this very important thing:

Nothing I do or recommend that you do is intended to manipulate anyone into doing something that is good for you but not good for them. In fact, the entire story I share above happened completely naturally. It wasn’t a “strategic” approach I took to getting a new speaking opportunity. It was the result of my wholehearted desire to be helpful, useful and meaningfully engaged with people doing beautiful work in the world.

I am certain that is how you approach your business, too, and that’s why I want to make this very clear. The energy we bring to our work is as important as any specific strategy or approach we utilize.

Now, on with your three ways to help meeting organizers book you to speak.

Above all, you’ve got to make it clear to the organizer that you deliver a high-value, rich content totally non-sales-pitchy presentation on a topic that their audience is really wanting to hear about. This is what they want in their speakers.

How do you let them know this when they don’t even know you yet?

  1. First, you be totally real and delightfully engaging at the meeting(s) you attend beforehand.

    You listen well to others and offer to help where you can (like I did with the organizer’s presentation feedback request and encouragement). You take your moment in the spotlight to introduce yourself with confidence and grace and then you help others shine, too, when they are doing their introduction or sharing their input. You show that you are a confident communicator and a team player (you want her to trust that you won’t turn on a sales pitch as soon as you have the spotlight for a long period of time). All of this shows the organizer that you “get it” about how to contribute to the overall success of a meeting.

  2. Have your Story of Transformation soundbite ready to share – and share it whenever you can.

    Especially if your topic is based on your own personal growth story, have that story distilled down to a quick and powerful summary that you can share in your formal introduction. It might sound like, “Hi, I’m Sarah. I went from a completely frazzled and cranky Mom of three kids who was, I am not kidding, daydreaming about running away to start a whole new life because I was so miserable – to a peacefully productive and loving mom and wife who spends her days doing work I love, enjoying a home life of ease and beauty and doing the unthinkable – drinking tea while reading  a novel on Sundays. I want other moms to know it is really possible to be a loving mom, a driven career woman and also a happy, peaceful person.” (Don’t you just want to hire her immediately?! I do.)

  3. Offer a custom talk for that particular group that reflects their wants and needs as well as your expertise.

    When you feel you understand the group’s real needs well enough and feel confident you can offer a talk that will truly make their lives better, approach the organizer to offer to speak. Be sure to suggest a topic that will delight and serve this particular audience. This might mean tweaking a talk you usually offer. For example, if this is a service-oriented organization, you might shift your talk about “healthy meal planning for moms of small children” to one on “meal planning to maximize energy so you can make a big impact in the world.”

I can’t emphasize enough how beautifully speaking has increased my own place as a thought leader in my niche, especially on a local level. When your ideal client gets to experience you as a confident speaker generously sharing your expertise with a room full of people, her own uncertainty about whether to hire you is decreased. She gets a sample of your style and has already received value from you before even hiring you!

I have literally had people hand me their business card on my way back to my seat after speaking and say “call me.” This is such a beautiful way to start a client relationship.

So go forth and offer up your speaking! With these three strategies in place you are sure to get way more “YES!” responses than you might imagine.

You are not a marketer

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You are not a marketer.

Unless you are. Which is just fabulous, if it’s what your soul is called to do.

But because you’re here, reading my blog, it is more likely that you are a coach, wellness professional, artist or guide.

Maybe you are a professional organizer or you create retreats and workshops that facilitate meaningful shifts in people. Whatever you do, it’s in service of ease, pleasure, growth and/or well-being in others.

There is nothing wrong with being a marketer.

Marketing is an important job. My own work dances in the realms of marketing. I am a huge fan of marketing. One of the most common ways my clients use their finely crafted message is to put together their own marketing programs and campaigns. They craft speeches that call forth droves of their best clients – a marketing move that trumps all others. We can do a fine job of marketing our services with a beautifully crafted message that calls out to the right people.

But make no mistake – crafting your message and calling forth your best clients doesn’t make you a marketer.

No matter what you hear out there on the streets of the internet. Don’t believe them.

All it means is that you are doing your own marketing – for now. That marketing is one of the things you do.

Think of it like this: I bet most days you cook yourself and possibly your loved ones a meal, right? Does this make you a chef?

Of course not. It makes you a someone who provides nourishment for yourself and your family.

You and I engage in marketing activities because it serves the overall good of spreading our life-changing message and work.

We market our services and products because marketing is the way we let people know we are here to serve them and their greatest desires or help them resolve their overwhelming struggle.

Why am I telling you this?

Because sometimes, when you put yourself out there to attract clients, you won’t get the results from your marketing efforts that you expect and wish for.

If this happens and you think you are a marketer, you might make up that you aren’t good at your work. And that would be very, very wrong.

I’m writing this note to you as a remider that your work is that heart-centered message you have for the world. Your work is changing real-lives and making things better for those you serve. Hone that craft to its greatest brilliance. That message of yours – that’s the work of your soul.

And yes, you still need to get out there big and wide with that invitation to your right clients, letting them know you are ready and willing to make their lives better.

You will engage in trial and error. Some things will work beautifully – and some won’t be so effective. That’s okay – you’re not a marketer anyway. You’re a messenger, a mentor, a guide – and person with lives to change and make better.

And as soon as you are able, find yourself a team of soul-inspired marketing experts to take as much of that part off your plate.

(You and your message will still be your biggest marketing magnet anyway, but you won’t have to manage the systems so much. Whew!)

Because your brilliance shines most brightly when you are dancing in the center of your greatest strengths. Dance there often – and wildly!

And don’t worry, I will still do everything I can to help you get the word out about your beautiful work. You and I just know that whatever results you experience are not a reflection of your great work, right? Good.

Results from Small Business & Private Practice Marketing Survey

Jeez, I feel so lucky and warm inside from all of your responses to the nine question survey I put out there a few weeks ago. I had 35 really rich, engaged, fabulous responses. I think my favorite thing about this is that I didn’t offer anything in return for the time you all spent filling out this survey. I’m not surprised that you are a generous bunch, actually – it’s just so lovely to have such a clear demonstration of said generosity. Thank you all.

I’ve decided that I am going to share the results of this survey – in a somewhat freeform discussion style – because so much of it was interesting and, I believe useful, for all of us to know about our fellow small business owners (at least the ones who filled out this survey.)

For reference, here are the questions from the survey:

1. What is your business type? (therapy practice, NLP Practitioner, non-profit, counseling, massage practice)

2. How long have you been in this business?

3. Are you the owner (or a partner-owner) in this business?

4. How satisfied are you with the number of clients you have right now?

5. How happy are you with the type of clients (including the kinds of issues they are bringing to you) you are seeing in your practice right now?

6. If you were to name one real struggle you are having in your practice right now, what would it be? (e.g. finding more clients, attracting the right kind of clients, marketing overall, juggling all of the tasks of business ownership…)

7. How do you feel about marketing your practice?

8. What marketing avenues have you tried in your business?

9. Where do you go to get more information when you need help with building your practice or other business needs? (mark all that apply)

And now, for the survey results from the small business & private practice marketing survey…

The Sample (From Counselors & Therapists to Plumbers & Video Production)

Since I tend to work with and attract counselors, therapists, alternative health practitioners, artists and creative-types, many of the responses were from people in those types of businesses. That said, I heard from people in the insurance industry, publishing, bookkeeping, real estate, floral artistry, chefs, plumbing, video production, natural health & wellness, organizing… see what I mean about how cool this survey turned out to be? Love it.

Almost 90% of respondents owned the business they are working in and many (40%) have been working in their businesses for more than 10 years. The bulk of the remaining responders (34%) have been in their business between 1-4 years.

State of Small Business Affairs

Most of the respondents wish for more clients, though just under 26% are happy with their current number of clients. 51% are unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with current client numbers. That is a frustrating place to be, I know. But the good news is, 71% are at least reasonably happy with and genuinely enjoy working with the type of clients they currently have (and over 31% are very happy) – that’s fabulous!

For those who want to grow their client list, there is good news…

For the Love of Marketing Your Small Business

They enjoy marketing more than I expected! What a fun discovery. This surprised me a little because I often hear about how much small business owners don’t tend to like marketing – especially business owners who build businesses based on their passions. This simply wasn’t the case for this sample. 69% “don’t mind” marketing and 20% actually “love it”! 25% consider marketing their small business a “necessary evil” and only 2 people said they “avoid it”. Overall, that’s more marketing-love than you ever hear about on the business wire.

So, if it isn’t that everyone hates marketing (like we often hear about), then what is getting in the way of marketing their businesses they way they want or think they should? Can you guess? I’ll give you a hint: they are the two things that get in the way of most things in small business. Yep: money & time. Actually, let’s turn “time” into “time + overwhelm”. People are just overwhelmed with all of the tasks of small business ownership, pure & simple. (I know how they feel at times. I’m guessing you do, too – no?)Then, even when they do dream up a great idea, pulling together the funds to try something they are not sure will work can be a little freaky… and, well, overwhelming.  Other feelings & words mentioned about marketing were “fear”, “fun”, “love networking”, “I’m an introvert”, “time consuming” and “eeeeeeek” – plus more. It’s a complex world, the marketing endeavor.

When they do decide to… endeavor in to marketing, how do they do it? What marketing techniques do they engage? 85% use networking groups (this might be because I tend to use networking groups and I’m guessing some of my lovely friends from those groups made up a good bunch of the respondents in this survey – thanks y’all!) Of the respondents, 74% have a website and 57% advertise in local publications. 51% of people give away free consultations (see, I told you this is a generous bunch!) Then we have, in order of popularity: phone book listing, referrals, speaking, newsletter, blog, publish articles. (Boy, there’s a lot I’d like to say here about missed opportunities! Watch for future blog posts…)

The Pain & Suffering of Small Business & Private Practice Business, Revealed

Everyone says small business is hard. They often say it can be very rewarding (here, here!) but that it is difficult to get to that place of peace that let’s the “rewarding” part arrive. I wanted to know why… What is the expressed pain of small business…? What compelling desire do small business owners carry in their solar plexis (or whatever chakra carries their desires) every day as they go about their work?

Here’s what I learned: It’s primarily the juggling of so many tasks (10 people actually used the word “juggling”). That was the most common answer. Second to this was “finding more clients” or “growing the business”.  Of course, then there are the issues of employees, the economy, branding, pricing decisions, travelthe need to wear a zillion hats (regardless of whether those hats are well-suited for you!) like bookkeeper, marketer, service provider, networker, writer, speaker, and customer service department.

Yep – a good amount of “pain” in the mix, to be sure. But that doesn’t surprise any of you, I know. You have your own business pain (and pleasure – of course, the pleasure!)

The Antidote to Pain is Connection (Which is also the Road to Pleasure, isn’t it?)

The cool thing is, almost 75% of respondent’s have friends and colleagues they can go to for problem resolution. Such goodness. This is my favorite way, too. A close second place for dealing with issues is networking groups (which, in my experience, becomes a place full of friends and colleagues over time.) Third place is the Internet – and again, I wonder if a good part of the issue resolution here happens through connection with other people in online forums, on blogs, in Twitter or on Facebook… or any multitude of people-gathering places. In order of popularity from there is Mentor, Books, Publications and finally… the phone book (poor phone book, used to get so much more play before the Internet.)

So, that pretty much sums up the findings of the survey. I’m not pretending that this is a representative sample of the small business population, of course. Still, it’s some good and useful stuff. Tell me – does it reflect your own experience? Does your experience differ? If so, how? What would you add to this survey? What do you believe just didn’t show up here in the right was? I’d genuinely love your thoughts, feedback and ideas – whether they agree or disagree with all of this.

Thanks M. Kelley archaeology for the survey guy image.

Radical Clarity: The Secret to Creating a Business You LOVE

Picture this: You walk into your office and the phone rings. You think to yourself, “Ugh. I wonder who this will be…”

You answer the phone (unsmiling, of course) and the person on the other end says, “Hi! Is this [your name]?”

“Yes, it is.” You reply.

“Oh, good! My friend, Resa, gave me your name. She says you [insert a task you know how to do but dislike doing]. I need that done. Will you do that for me? And, I’m in a hurry so I wonder if you could get started right away?”

Your “ugh” has turned into a knot in your stomach. You need the money – you do know how to do this… but this isn’t what you want to be doing in your business. The problem is that somewhere along the line you started becoming known for this service and more and more people are coming your way as they hear about it from others.

What happened here?

It’s Easy to Get Off Track

You’d be surprised how often this happens in small business. It can manifest in many forms:

  • The jewelry designer who builds an empire of employees and spends all of her time managing the business and none of her time doing what she loves – designing jewelry.
  • The therapist who spends most of her days helping people with depression and anxiety when she pursued this field to help people find their intended, soulful career path.
  • The massage therapist who treats medical injuries all day because she heard it was the way to make a better living doing massage, while she pines for the spiritual practices she learned during massage school and wishes she was using those techniques more often in her practice.

It’s a subtle path, the journey to doing work you don’t love. We often start out at the appropriate starting line. The lines get wavy from there, though. We get “coached” in the wrong direction by well-intentioned friends, family, and advisors.

Business ownership is a complex ride. It is easy to get off-track.

The Road to Radical Clarity

That’s why Radical Clarity is so essential. Radical Clarity comes from asking ourselves deep questions and providing really honest answers. Questions like:

When I have “arrived” at my dream business, what will I be doing? Very specifically, what will I wake up and do each day?

What do I love about the work I do?

What is my brilliance? Where do I shine in ways that are remarkable?

What legacy do I want to leave in this life? (For my family, for myself, for the world, for the Universe…)

Listen Hard & Wide

Radical Clarity comes from being willing to hear ourselves say things that scare us, such as:

“I want to limit my practice to women on a spiritual search”

“I want to write a book and be a nationally recognized speaker”

“I love marketing and business planning. I’d love to hand over the rest to a talented person when I grow this business large enough.”

Set aside judgement in service of True Listening. When you hear the real Vision you have for your life, you can create a plan (strategy) for making that Vision a reality. Without that clarity, you let the happenstance of daily life, with all of its roller coaster of emotions, build your business. Happenstance doesn’t know your Vision – only the needs and desires showing up on any given day… and the next… until you have a business built on a series of events that have nothing to do with your dreams and passions.

Don’t let Happenstance hi-jack your dream business.

Radical Clarity is the only way to ensure that you build a business you truly LOVE. Go get it.

(I wrote this article first on my Biznik article stream but wanted to share it with you all here, too.)

Thank you Inno’vision for the happy phone call image.

Blogging Leads to More of Your Right Clients

Starting a blog can feel daunting. I know because I thought about blogging a long time before I started to do it myself. Even then, I struggled to really get into blogging. I think the reasons for this struggle are similar for many of us who are in heart-felt business endeavors: 1. We like to listen to others so sharing our “expertise” in what appears to be a one-way fashion (which it’s not, but at first it really feels like it is) feels strange, 2. It takes a lot of confidence to put yourself out there in such a bold way to such a potentially gigantic audience, and 3. We already have too much to do so thinking of topics, figuring out how to write them in a way that’s interesting, and learning the technical aspects of blogging feels overwhelming.

If you can write reasonably well, you really should blog

If you listen to or read anything about marketing your business or private practice today you will hear how important it is to have an online presence – and one that attracts your Right Clients, fans and potential collaborators. The best way to do that – hands down – is blogging. (Actually, public speaking is even better, but that’s not an online endeavor, mostly… but more on that soon.) Blogging is a great way to be generous with your knowledge, invite conversation and show your expertise.

If you can Guest Blog, too, that’s a lovely bonus.

Eventually, if you keep at it for a while, other people might invite you to blog on their website, too. This is great news for a number of reasons: 1. you get a brand new audience, which means a whole new set of possible connections with you and your business, 2. you get “linkbacks” to your website, if they agree to add a link to your website – these are good for Search Engine Optimization, and 3. it is an endorsement from a third party that they think you have credible expertise.

You never know where these guest blog opportunities might show up.

After I wrote my first Working Retreat blog post, in which I talked about home swapping as a way to arrange a retreat at lower cost, I got an email from Lois at Home Base Holidays asking if I would guest blog on their companion blog about using home exchange for working retreats. (Which I did and here is that blog post.) What a cool opportunity for me. A whole new audience, and one that fits my Right Clients well because I work with solo business owners like counselors, social workers, therapists and artisans so often. Many of my clients chose to go into business for themselves so that they would have the flexibility to travel.

So, start your blog, if you haven’t already.

I really do relate to the uncertainty about beginning your blog. I know there are so many things that you could do to grow your business. And, I also know that blogging draws community and potential clients to your page. From there, it’s about creating  meaningful relationships just like in any other part of life. And you know how to do that. So give yourself this opportunity to reach a bit further in your connections.

Starting a blog can be really easy. If you need a few pointers to know where to start, get in touch via email or comments here. I am happy to point you in some useful directions.

Thank you to Foxtongue for the fabulous blogging via typewriter image.