Earning a prospect's trust is one of the biggest challenges when marketing professional services. But what if you could dramatically reduce the time it takes a prospect to get to know you? How much easier would it be to land the gig?
Done right, that's exactly what public speaking can do for you. And in this training episode, I interview Jennifer Lee to discover how to attract more clients faster through speeches and talks to organizations and professional groups.
Jennifer Lee is a heavily sought after keynote motivational speaker, trainer and coach. And over the last year she's grown her solo business by speaking to groups and organizations. Much of her coaching work today is actually helping consultants and freelancers use public speaking to attract new and better clients. She's a regular guest on Orlando's (Florida) Fox 35 News and several Orlando-area radio morning shows. She was also recently chosen as a feature speaker for Good Morning America's "Troy Johnson's Spark and Hustle National Hour." You can learn more about her at www.coachjennlee.com and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/YourCoachJennLee.
What follows is a condensed transcript of our conversation. If you prefer to listen to the full audio (about 1 hour total length), you can listen to it (or download it) here:
Ed Gandia: Why don't we start with a little background. Tell us why you believe giving talks and speeches to groups is a great marketing tool for service-based solo professionals. How it has impacted your own solo business?
Jennifer Lee: I started out four years ago. I left the corporate world behind. I used to be a sales manager and a sales trainer in a variety of different industries. And a girlfriend of mine and I decided we were going to be coaches. I said, oh I'll be a sales coach. She wanted to be a life coach. And so we said, you know what? We both need leads. What's the best way to get leads? And we said, let's just throw together a workshop.
We invited a bunch of people. And you know, when you start your business, only ten, fifteen people show up. You have all these grandiose ideas that a hundred people are going to show up to your workshop, and that so does not happen. So, we had a bit of a slap in the face, a little reality check.
But what happened was, during those workshops there were always one or two people sitting in the audience that said, "Hey, do you speak to other groups? We love your energy. You've got this great message." And so a light bulb went off. I'm a good sales person, so I'm a great listener. I was like, "Well tell me more."
And just through kind of getting out there and saying, "Sure I'll speak to your event," I started to notice this was the perfect way to find qualified leads for my coaching business. Because I was able to educate them a little bit about what I do. I was also able to build trust very quickly. They got to see my personality, so I was attracting the types of clients that I wanted to work with and that wanted to work with somebody like myself.
And quite frankly, I never spent another dime on any type of advertising. The only money I spend on marketing now is if I join a networking group. And it's got to be a really savvy networking group that's got a variety of different industries in it. But for the most part I spend zero dollars on marketing, and I having a thriving coaching and speaking business.
Ed Gandia: I'm sure you get a lot of your business from word-of-mouth and referrals but it sounds like, to get to that level, you used public speaking.
Jennifer Lee: I did. This is what I try to help my business clients with. If they're not scared out of their minds to stand up there and speak, and if they have an idea, if they have an inkling to do it, I say, this is really your "hub" for your marketing efforts. If all you do is speak to a different organization or association once a week for twenty minutes, you will generate all the leads you need.
The speaking then builds your coaching business. Or the speaking drives people to your website to see that you're a fantastic web designer. Or the speaking drives people to your Facebook page, where they're read your posts and find out more about your business. So, for me, I built my entire business plan around this.
Ed Gandia: What types of groups and organizations are looking for speakers? How do you determine which ones are going to produce the best results for you?
Jennifer Lee: Well first off, there are more groups out there than you would ever imagine or be able to keep up with. So what I like to do is start by identifying my demographic. Who is my target market? If my target market is professional businesswomen, then my next question is, where do they hang out? What else are they involved in? And then there's usually an association or group attached to that.
I like to use myself as an example. I spoke at one of these little fifteen-minute networking groups. And a girl came up to me, and she said, "Hey Jenn, do you ever speak to groups?" Yes, of course I do. She said, "I've got this great group. It's called National Association of Women in Construction." I had no clue there was a National Association of Women in Construction. It's a national group.
So, I went and spoke to their group. As I'm sitting there and chatting with people, I'm noticing there are accountants who are women in the construction industry. I'm noticing there are people who are designers. There are people who are insurance agents who specialize in the construction industry "” and they're all women. And they all came to this group because they want to be around like-minded people in a similar industry. So, there were five more groups that I could speak to right there!
One woman was an interior designer, and guess what? There's a Central Florida Interior Design Association. They're always looking for speakers. There's the Central Florida Realtor's Association. There are women in accounting, women in law, women TV newscasters. Find your demographic. Start with one group, then pay attention to who's sitting there and ask, are there more groups?
Almost every industry has some industry-specific association group that meets on a monthly basis. And they are always bringing in speakers to talk about anything. They could be talking about marketing. They could be talking about safety. Again, you have to go back to what type of product or service you provide, and what it is you want to share with them.
There's always an industry association group that is looking. Every Rotary Club is looking for somebody. Your Kiwanis Clubs. Your Chambers of Commerce.
Then you can get really creative. I started to look at churches because churches usually have groups. And you don't necessarily have to talk about something that's spiritual, but churches have groups for professional businesswomen. Or women of faith who are also professionals.
There are also a lot of companies that do "lunch-and-learns" for their clients. The financial services industry is a great place to tap into. They usually have annual customer appreciation luncheon, where by law, they're not allowed to sit there and "sell" their clients, because it's a customer appreciation event. So, they always bring in some sort of speaker to talk to that group about something that may be of interest to them.
As a business owner, you know a big part of your job is sales. And a good sales person is a great listener and really curious. If you just start asking people questions like, "Do you belong to any groups in addition to this fabulous group?" "Oh yeah, I belong to this, I belong to that." "Do they ever use speakers?" "As a matter of fact, they do." "Great. Can you give me an introduction? Did you like what I had to say today?"
Believe it or not, people are begging for good speakers. Begging for good content. You don't have to an outstanding speaker. If you provide content that's relevant, and maybe even different, they'll want you back every year.
Ed Gandia: How do you figure out whom to contact at these groups or organizations? What titles are you looking for?
Jennifer Lee: The titles are usually "program chair," or "educational chair." Or maybe even "director of programming." It's not usually the president of the group. If they don't have a program chair or an educational chair, then it would probably be the vice-president of the group. Or the head of membership.
Also, rarely do I ever have to pick up the phone and make a cold call, because I use my network. I belong to a women's networking group here in Orlando that has members from different industries.
So, if there's an industry where I'm starting to see a lot of people being receptive to my messages, I pick up the phone and call somebody from that industry. I say, "Hey Jane, you mentioned you belong to the Women and Insurance Association group. Who's the right person for me to chat with, or would you recommend me as a speaker?"
And believe me, they're looking for opportunities to kind of shine and stand out in their group as well. So you're doing that person a favor.
And I always do maybe ten minutes of research reading their website. Most of the time, they have a calendar of events section on there. I take a look at who were their previous speakers from the last few months. Who do they already have scheduled to speak over the next few months?
And then I pick a topic "I have a handful of things that I can speak on ” based on what seems to be missing. And then I call and tell them exactly what I've done. "Hey, I was checking out your website. I've noticed that you have speakers on a monthly basis. Do you have a few moments? I've got a great talk that I think would be extremely beneficial to your group." And they usually say, "Sure. Thank God you called. We need somebody."
Ed Gandia: So you come to them with a topic idea instead of asking them, "Do you need speakers, can I come in and talk?"
Jennifer Lee: Yes. I try to uncover their potential needs. And again, I know my demographic. So I know what my demographics' pains are in general. What are some of their desires. So, again I have a handful of topics I repackage in different ways based on the group.
They're bored out of their minds with their regular speakers. They've got the guy that comes in and tells them about taxes. They've always got the person that tells them about social media. So make sure to come up with something a little creative with a little bit of a "hook," based on a pain or a need you know they have.
Ed Gandia: What if you approach an organization about speaking to their members and they tell you that they don't accept presentations from service providers. Have you run into that obstacle before, and how did you get around it?
Jennifer Lee: That's a great question, and yes I have run into that before. I usually say, "I understand. Tell me why you have that policy." Always ask them why. Nine times out of ten, the answer is, "Well, we've had people come in, and then all they do is try to sell their services." And so then I address that. I say, "I completely understand. If you give me just a few more minutes..."
I usually say, "Here's the content I was thinking of presenting based on the research I did of your association. Would your members appreciate more information about that?" If they say, "No, we only want them to learn the boring stuff from the boring people," then they're just not your demographic, so you should move on.
But I never take the first "no." I understand they have that policy because there have been so many people before me that screwed it up. They end up being the slimy salesperson, and nobody wants that.
Crystal Coleman: How important is it to have clips of your presentations on YouTube, and does that help influence people who book speakers organizations? If so, how long should a sample clip be?
Jennifer Lee: I'm actually working on some sample clips, myself. I am a professional speaker. I get paid to speak, and I don't even have a promo reel on my website. Again, because I don't normally have cold calls. People have heard me, and they recommended me.
But if you want to do it, which I do recommend, two to three minutes max should be the length of the promo video. And make sure it's two or three minutes talking about one of those tips that we talked about earlier. And it's just the highlight of that tip. Or it's the end of you giving that tip.
That's all they need to see. They just want to see your energy. They want to see you in motion. They want to make sure that, you know, you're not smarmy. These associations really protect their members. I think that's important to understand. They want to make sure they're putting on a meeting that's educational, fun, informative. Their goal is to retain the members they have and attract new members to join the association. And the only way they can do that is by providing really good content.
Ed Gandia: Do you have any high level tips or strategies for creating a talk that will engage the audience and position you as a trusted resource?
Jennifer Lee: It depends on whether you've developed presentations before or if you haven't. So, I'd like to make it simple for those that haven't done it yet. I take diligent notes as I'm chatting with the program director. And I take that information and ask myself, what are three specific tips I can offer to help with that particular pain? And then I build my presentation around that.
It's usually three to five tips, depending on how long they let you speak. In the front part of the presentation, you've got to grab their attention. You've got to use really specific words. And when we speak, we should be speaking in a way that creates a picture in somebody's mind that's attached to an emotion, which makes them want to take action.
So, when I speak, it's not, "Hey, over the next fifteen minutes I'm going to be talking about how to improve your marketing." My opening line might sound like, "Over the next fifteen minutes I'm going to reveal to you three insider tips to mind-blowing marketing that will catapult you to the top of your prospect's mind when they think of buying a car." Now, I'm not really stupid and kitschy like that, but I do get very specific in fifteen minutes.
In the beginning of your talk, you really want to set the tone and tell them what you're going to tell them and how you're going to tell them. Then, they'll listen. Then in the middle of the talk is where I share those three tips. And then in the end I tell them what I told them, and I tell them how they can find out more. So, that's just kind of the basics to putting together a presentation. If you can fill those pieces in, you've got a good presentation.
Ed Gandia: I love that!
Jennifer Lee: A few other tips: always, in your presentation, it's important to have at least one memorable and repeatable phrase. A catchphrase. So when they leave, they say, "Oh yeah. Don't you remember Jenn? She's the one who said "˜no' is a complete sentence." Or you know, "Trash those tolerations." Or "Crush the competition with cupcakes."
Use alliterations. Come up with at least one memorable and repeatable phrase, and get them to say it during the presentation. It emotionally hooks them to you.
Another thing, show them who's boss while you're up there. And again, it doesn't matter if you're a naturally talented presenter or not. Show them who's boss by directing your audience to do something at least two to three times in the presentation, without going overboard. Things like, "Write this down." "Raise your hand if you've ever felt this way." "Who in here is brave enough to admit or shout out one thing you wish you could do." Or something along those lines.
Always connect with your audience with that icebreaker, right after your intro, before you get to the content. It's got to be something that gets them moving, saying something, laughing, pounding, something physical. And then, do it again one or two more times in your presentation. And that will keep then on the edge of their seat and paying attention to you. And they'll listen to everything you're saying because they know they have to be ready to do something.
Ed Gandia: You're right. There's something about engaging the audience that changes the whole dynamic of the presentation, even if you do it just two or three times.
Jennifer Lee: And use your personality. Whoever you naturally are is who you should be when you're giving your presentation. If you're naturally sort of quiet, it's okay. That's who you are. You're just going to have to use some more of these techniques to get them to stay engaged. Use your natural personality, because you will fail miserably if you try to be somebody you're not up on stage.
Ed Gandia: If you're starting out, do you recommend that people maybe develop one or two core presentations, just to get started with? And then go from there?
Jennifer Lee: I always say pick one thing first. And then "shop" it around. And it doesn't matter what type of industry you're in. Pick something about your industry that everybody wishes they knew.
For me, I'm a coach. So, I can talk about a bunch of different things. I can talk to you about how to communicate well with your spouse and get them to do everything you want them to do, all the way up to how to really engage the public via social media. So, I've got a variety of different things that I can talk about. But I say start with one and go for it.
Ed Gandia: And that's good advice, because there're a lot of things you can talk about. By being specialized, you can narrow down your field a bit, which helps.
Jennifer Lee: It does because it helps you get comfortable with your subject.
Ed Gandia: What if you're not a professional speaker? How do you deliver a great talk and keep nerves under control?
Jennifer Lee: Okay, now, I might break all speaker rules. I tell my clients, it's okay to stand up there and say, "Thank you so much for having me here. I've got to tell you, this is not what I do as a profession, speaking professionally. I'm an accountant, but the information I'm going to share with you is so important, I'm going to try to swallow my nerves and do my best. Is everybody okay with that?" Everybody will be perfectly fine with that. And then it relaxes you. It relaxes them. And you're there to give them content. And they appreciate that. I'm sure some people are falling off their chairs right now, thinking that you're not allowed to admit you're nervous. But it's okay to do that.
Ed Gandia: I actually think that's brilliant advice, because it creates an expectation. People think that whoever is going to get up there is going to be a professional speaker. By setting a different expectation, you've asked permission to do that, and everyone will agree to that. And now you can relax.
Jennifer Lee: You can relax. They relax, and they'll ask you more questions because of it. Now, they're really listening to you as opposed at you. You know, it just is another way to differentiate yourself. You are who you are.
Ed Gandia: I see a lot of people make the mistake of putting all their notes in the PowerPoint presentations. They're just bullet after bullet after bullet after bullet. What makes a good PowerPoint deck?
Jennifer Lee: One with no words. One with very few words. Don't put all your words on a PowerPoint slide, because the audience will never look at you. They'll look at the PowerPoint, and then they'll look at their paper. Because they think they're supposed to write everything. One bullet point per slide. Plain background. Maybe your logo in the right-hand corner. Maybe your website down at the bottom, just ever so slightly.
Do not ever use clip art. If you use clip art, you look like everybody else. I always use either original pictures or I go ahead and spend the seventy-five cents and buy a picture off a site like www.123rf.com, which sells royalty-free photos. And whenever I put together a PowerPoint, I use photos off of that. But PowerPoint is really more of a guide to help you go through the process and so you don't forget something. Or it's to make an impact, and most people don't want to read words. That does not make an impact. Visuals make impact.
Ed Gandia: That means that you are going to have to practice more, because you can't use your slides as a crutch. You'll be more confident when you get up there, because you've practiced it more.
Jennifer Lee: And if you know your stuff, you know your stuff. They won't know what you didn't tell them. They don't know what's on your cards and you forgot card number three and four. They have no clue. You do. That's what causes most of the angst.
Once you get really good at this, and you will if you do this once a week, you'll realize that's all you have to do to get business. Trust me, your nerves will go away.
Ed Gandia: So how do you turn more audience members into inquiries and eventually clients. And how do you do that without feeling like a salesperson?
Jennifer Lee: I don't ever pitch from the stage. I use a lot of third-party stories. So, if one of the points that I want to get across is about here's a great way of relieving tension in the house, I'll say something along the lines of, "I was working with one of my clients, and her husband always felt blah, blah, blah. She and I talked about it, and she decided to try this. And it worked for her."
So, what I've told them is not about me. They've connected with the story because I've done my homework. I understand what's going on in that audience. And now they know what I did to help that person. So, in their mind, they say, "Oh okay, that's how she helps people."
I think something a lot of people miss is the "before and after" parts of the presentation. I'm always there even before the people who are setting up. I'm introducing myself to the people who're setting the table. I'm talking to the program chair. I'm going up to the tables ahead of time and saying, "Hey, I'm your speaker today. It's so nice to meet you. I'm Jenn and you are blah, blah?" I strike up a conversation.
I do that because in the middle of my presentation, I want to be able to point to Jeff and say, "Well, Jeff and I were talking earlier da-da-da-da-da." So now, Jeff remembers me. Everybody goes, "Oh she knows Jeff. She must be fabulous." I'm selling myself even before the presentation starts.
And then afterward, towards the end, I'll say something like, "Hey, I know we've really covered a lot of things today and I've got so much more to share. I'm going to hang around for a little bit. If you want to ask me some questions afterward, I'll be here."
Or if it's a savvy audience, I'll ask them to pull out their smart phones and email me. I'll say, "Everything we've gone over, I know you couldn't write it all down. I'm sure I forgot to tell you two or three things. I'll email you this information. Everybody pull out their smart phone and email me." Now I've got their email addresses.
Ed Gandia: I've never seen that done before. I've heard the whole business card thing. You know, "Give me your business card and write on the back of it that you want my PowerPoint deck." But I never thought about the whole smart phone thing.
Jennifer Lee: That's what we're doing now. And you can give them your Twitter account. Say, "Hey, who's on Twitter?" They raise their hands. "Do you have it on your phone? Super. Tweet something during this. Use my @ symbol. Mine's @CoachJennLee, and tweet something that you hear me say that you like." And they'll do it.
Ed Gandia: What about handouts? Do you suggest having handouts?
Jennifer Lee: I do. Only if they are one page. Again, we're just talking about a fifteen-minute presentation. Sometimes I have a standard flyer that talks about Coach Jenn Lee and all my services. And then I'll just print on the back some bullet points from the presentation. And I just tell people, "Hey on the front, that's all the good stuff about me. Make sure you Facebook me and flip it over. Here's a great place for you to take some notes if you feel like you want to." So now they've got all my information, and they've got a place to take notes.
That's about it, though. If I'm doing something longer than fifteen or twenty minutes, then all bets are off. I'm not a big handout person. I want them looking and paying attention to me. I don't want them looking down at the table.
You want to give a good content, though. I can't stand it when I go to a presentation, and you're sitting there for forty-five minutes, and you look down at your piece of paper, and you've written three sentences. And one of them is what time is this thing going to be over?
Ed Gandia: You could be an amateur speaker. It doesn't matter. If you have good content, that's all they're really going to care about, even if you don't deliver it like a pro.
Jennifer Lee: Yeah. And it's so contrary to what they've taught us in school. We only retain something like seven percent of what people say. But we retain more like fifty percent of what we see.
That's why it's important to get your audience involved with you earlier, so they're paying attention to you. So that they will remember what you said.
Ed Gandia: And here's another thing, tell me if you agree with this: The purpose of doing a presentation is not to close business right there and then. It's to introduce yourself, build that credibility, and spark that relationship.
Jennifer Lee: Earning the prospect's trust is one of the biggest challenges when marketing professional services. But what if you could dramatically reduce the time it takes for a prospect to get to know you? How much easier would it be?
And that's really what you're doing. You're positioning yourself as somebody that they want to know more about. That's all you really have to do. And the rest will follow. It does not matter what your industry is. You've got some insider tips that nobody else knows, and they want to know.
Ed Gandia: This has been extremely informative, Jenn. Thanks so much for sharing your tips and insights with us! How can our readers learn more about you? And where can they sign up for your newsletter?
Jennifer Lee: There're two places. One, of course, is my website, which is http://www.coachjennlee.com. Right there on the front page you can sign up to my "Midweek Mojo" newsletter.
And there's my Facebook page, which is http://www.facebook.com/YourCoachJennLee.