Wednesday, January 4, 2012

30 Actions

30 actions you should do regularly to grow your business....

1) Call 3 potential clients and ask "How can I serve your needs?" (Can also be the identification and subsequent contact of 3 potential clients.)

2) Call 3 current clients and request a) a letter of recommendation, b) the name of a peer they can refer, c) the next opportunity you can serve their needs.

3) Call 3 peers and ask, "How are things?"

4) Review your next 3 programs and move your preparation for them incrementally forward.

5) Create 3 new methods of teaching/writing/saying your content.

6) Freshen 3 marketing pieces with a) updated bio info, b) newer/better language, c) more buyer-relevant info.

7) Read 3 pieces of literature specific to your expertise.

8) Do 3 measurablly specific actions to move that "big project" forward.

9) Delete 3 unproductive and unprofitable behaviors/habits/rituals from your routine.

10) Work on 3 strategies to streamline and organize your business communications (email, web, contact management, client management, etc.)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

How are you fueling the fire?

We had a traditional, old-school, masonry fireplace put in our new home and I love it.  We have it lit all the time.  My three primary fuel sources are great metaphors for the fuel sources we have at our disposal as youth speakers to set our audiences on fire:  firewood, Duraflame logs and cardboard.  If you want to have a long, rewarding, meaningful and referral-rich career, make sure you have a good mix of all three.

Firewood - The long-lasting, primary fuel source that is the meat and potatoes of the fireplace fuel.  A fire without firewood would be weak, quick or non-existent.  This fuel source represents your "base content."  The stuff you have studied, practiced, refined, rehearsed, massaged and delivered over and over again.  This is the content you become known by.  It comes in many different styles (stories, activities, formulas, lists, concepts, etc.), but it is all meaningful, connective and your bread and butter material that you build a career on. Keep stocking up on this energy-rich material.  

Duraflame Logs - We are on propane and in our town you can't install a propane-fueled, open-air fireplace; primarily because, unlike natural gas, propane is not scented.  It could be running and you'd never know it.  So, Duraflame logs provide the chemical spark to get the fire going and the good ones provide energy to fire up those tree logs for up to four hours.  This fuel source represents any material, bits, activities, etc. that serve the sole purpose of bringing energy and combustibility to the room.  You can't rely solely on this fuel source (its not meaty enough), but it is necessary to get the fire burning hot in the audience and ready to receive and accept your big content. Where variety and quantity are the keys to the firewood content, you need only find two or three magic Duraflame log bits that hit a homerun every time to really take advantage of this fuel source.

Cardboard - Oh how it burns bright and hot and awesomely... but only for a few seconds.  This is a totally case-by-case (no pun intended) fuel source.  If we happen to have some extra boxes around, I will tear one up, use it as kindling and watch it burn!  It does go hot, but quick.  Cardboard represents your use of "in-the-moment" content.  Examples are headlines, recent news, current audience information, something that happened earlier at the event, etc.  These little tidbits have little long-term value, but can serve to peak the audience members' attention and help you kindle their desire to check in to your main message.  So, watch for these, insert them where you can, but don't rely on them.

Best of luck setting fires at your 2012 events!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Staying Fresh

As I get close to celebrating 25 years in the youth speaking industry I am thinking a lot about staying fresh, relevant, and meaningful. Some things that have come to me recently and have added some energy and excitement to my life as a speaker are:

Grow - in more ways than as a speaker. In June Laurie and I took the motorcycle safety class and I bought a BMW 1150RT and have been riding with buddies, alone, and am looking for a bike for Laurie so she can join me. There is nothing like learning an entirely new skill to sharpen your senses. A couple years ago it was golf, and before that it was horse riding. In all those areas I was with a variety of teachers who have different speaking styles, stories, and illustrations. Each of them taught me something I now use as I present. Even the day I went skydiving with my daughter to celebrate her graduation I was so aware of the teacher who was talking about safety in the sky. He was brilliant and I was focused - that combination we all want - a great speaker and a focused audience :)

Open your mind both ways -to those younger than you as well as those older than you. A few months ago a young speaker visited my home and we chatted for a few hours. He was there to gain what he could from my experience - I think I learned more from him than he from I. Something he shared that I will remember - he explained that a lot of speakers his age are so focused on marketing and yet he has found a great deal of success because he is 90% focused on making his presentation better. He said he knows the better his speech is the more times he will be asked back and recommended to others. In two weeks I will attend a one day workshop hosted by two veteran NSA speakers. I am intrigued - I am so curious what these two very successful speakers will share that I will be able to use to grow. They are older than I am and have been around for a long time and are still excited about what they are doing and are having a very meaningful impact. Learning from both directions is priceless.

Seek to help - one of the greatest tips I got as a speaker came at an NSA workshop fifteen years ago. The presenter said "put a piece of paper next to your phone on your desk and create two boxes. Every time a call comes in to hire you to speak put a mark in one box. Every time a call comes in with a client asking a question or for help put a mark in the other box. When you get as many calls for help as you do for speeches - you have created a successful business." I used that advice and started seeking ways to bring value to people - regardless if they would/could ever hire me. When the second box equaled the box for speeches I had a very successful business. This strategy has helped keep me fresh - I read constantly, attend workshops, watch speakers, - all to bring value to my clients and as a result I am growing my own business as well. I believe Zig has been credited with the old saying "If you help enough other people get what they need, you will have everything you need as well".

We are a lucky bunch - those who live our dreams while encouraging others to live theirs.

Be well

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Overcome These Barriers

Following are five barriers to entry that you must overcome if you want to do much school assembly speaking work.

The decision makers at schools are hidden. Is it the Principal, the Counselor, the Student Activities Director, a student organization leader, a student, etc.?

The school assembly times/dates are moving targets. Most schools don't do the same assemblies at the same time every year and most schools work off of a different template than other schools.

The decision making process is a moving target. The time of year for this changes and is different from school to school.

The budgets are moving targets. Its not like the schools have a set "training budget" they pull funds from. Some schools use general funds, some use Perkins money, some use federal drug education money, some use federal grant money (like the bully prevention grants), some use student organization appropriation or fundraising money, etc.

The decision makers at schools are experienced. Many of the decision makers at the schools are involved and active. This means that they have probably seen 5-10 speakers in the past year that they could possibly bring in to speak at their school. The VAST MAJORITY of my assembly work has been from word of mouth marketing

So, how can you overcome them? Well the list of answers is long. But, here are are three quickies...

The foundation is creating relationships within a small cluster of schools and going from there. The market may be huge, but you have to take a small approach.

Do student conference speaking. You can speak at one student conference and get exposure to hundreds of schools. Not necessarily the decision makers, though. The organizations are endless, but the CTSO (Career and Technical Student Organizations) are the most prolific: BPA, DECA, HOSA, FBLA, FFA, FCCLA, SkillsUSA and TSA.

You have to be extremely good to get work via word of mouth.

The Sandwich

Little Things Matter, and Initiative Makes the Difference. Two lessons I learned from Kelly Barnes and Phil Boyte at the DECA Western States Leadership Conference in San Diego last weekend. But the real lesson: Speakers who have a real commitment to creating and learning their craft are amazing!

Just like all speakers we are always looking for new content to make our programs more powerful. As we debriefed the conference it became apparent to me that the real excitement about this business is creating new pieces, new learning and the desire to always be a student of the craft of speaking to youth. Speaking to youth is a completely different type of speaking, mainly because it is really easy to "bomb" in front of a youth audience. All youth speakers know that, which is probably why so many speakers work to develop their "schtick" and stay with it for as long as possible. Phil said: "At this point in my career I get really excited about doing something new in front of an audience".

So how do you develop new material?
There is nothing like trying something new and have it work, and at the same time we learn just as much from material that doesn't work. Since, "bombing" is so easy in front of a youth audience what are some stragegies we can use to create new material. I use the sandwich approach. If I have a new piece, story or activity I always sandwich that in between two solid pieces of content. I usually do it in a workshop or small all school assembly first. Before the program I look at where I can place my new material. I finish my solid piece, transition into the new piece, whether it is a story, activity, humor piece. Then I transition out of that and pay attention to how I made the transition. I make a mental note of both of these transitions while I am speaking.  So on paper it looks something like this:

Solid piece, that has a definate ending, Transition into "new piece"

Do new story, activity, vinette, phrase, concept etc...

Transition out of that into a solid piece.

After the program, I spend sometime paying attention to how I transitioned, journal a bit about that and look at what I can do the next time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

For Youth Speakers About Youth Speakers

Kinship is the best way to describe how I feel about others who have chosen to speak to youth for a living, and this blog is for all those who share my passion for this profession. I always get so excited when I have the opportunity to spend time with other youth speakers and my thought was to create a place to share that passion so that we could share ideas, elevate our profession and be united in our challenges and successes as we deal with the youth of our nation. Tonight was one of those nights as I had the opportunity to have dinner with Rhett Laubach, Kelly Barnes and Paul Moya. Paul is a former FFA National President, and we were supporting him in moving forward in the profession as a youth speaker. He is currently a senior at Notre Dame, he has a great stage presence and is gifted in his ability to connect with teens. The subject eventually got around to: "How do I put dates on the calendar.?" It is a great question, that we all have opinions on, so my thought was to have that be the first topic of the Youth Speakers Blog. We came up with three things for him to start doing: 1. Rhett Laubach: "Since you are a former national officer the best thing for you to do is to leverage your contacts you made as a national officer and talk to those who you met during your time of service. Call FFA contacts to find out when they hire speakers and ask them what you would need to do to be considered as a speaker for an event" 2. Bill Cordes: "Utilize social networking and email contact programs to bring value to those who have seen you speak in the past so you can remind them that you are an option in the marketplace." 3. Kelly Barnes: "The best way to get speaking engagements in the future is do deliver a quality program every time you speak." All of this is great advice for all speakers what I would like to hear from you is what advice would you give to other speakers rookie or seasoned professionals about how to stay viable in the marketplace? Please post your comments so we can all learn from each other?