Thursday, September 23, 2010

Speaking Season - 37 of 37?

Six Great Reasons to End Speaking Season

What happened to 107? Well, I happened - in fact I happened to resign the day after Labor Day. Too much time away from the family combined with not enough belief in my product put me in a position to make a choice many might not understand in today's economy, where many would kill to just have a job, regardless.

But, as a speaker I bill myself as The Champion of Choice - encouraging the world to take responsibility for their  decisions and outcomes, and to make choices that work for them, as opposed to the rest of the world. What kind of Champion would I be to stay in a job that created two highly negative situations: little time with the family I'm supporting, and encouraging families to invest in a program that, while good, didn't resonate with me as much as I'd hoped it would when I accepted the position.

So back to speaking, consulting, coaching, writing, and marketing. If ever there was a time to back up my words as The Champion of Choice, create my Self-Defined Life, and ultimately Speak & Deliver, its now.
Meeting #37 was unique. I had arranged to speak for People to People through Oct. 6, effectively giving a month's notice. This would have put me speaking throughout Colorado, but avoiding a 44-day stretch away from home through WY, MT, ND, SD, and WI. About an hour before the meeting, I ended up on a call with my boss - corporate had made the decision to send a replacement speaker for the rest of the schedule, making my last meeting that night, my last day the next day, to transfer equipment.

I was surprised, since they had previously agreed to the Colorado meetings, but not disappointed. I had given notice with full expectation of any of three scenarios - immediate dismissal, two weeks, or the month I offered for them to find a replacement.

Telling me an hour before the meeting though - that put me in an odd state of mind. A combination of short-timers and anticipation for working the plan I had in place for October a few weeks early. Focus was not easy to get. As I did the meeting in front of a packed house of 400, I found myself second guessing what I was saying, speaking in generalities, and pretty much just going through the motions. My intent was to give a dynamic meeting - go out with a bang, so to speak. But reality is my mind simply left my body on its own to go on stage and rely on muscle memory to get through. I had nothing at stake - so while I was entertaining, I was not effective (by my own judgment).

So, a final learning experience for me - and a teaching point - never tell someone its their last presentation til they've given it!
So now what? In terms of Speak & Deliver, expect posts to go back to speaking advice vs. the travelogue it has been recently. I'll keep updating my speaking career here as well, though much of my day to day experiences will be chronicled on my Champion of Choice blog. I am thrilled (and so are my wife and kids) that I am home again - and more ready than ever to Speak....and Deliver!

Speaking Season - 32 to 36 of 107

Photo by [F]oxymoron

Last weekend was an easier weekend than most - only 5 presentations - 3 in Minneapolis followed by 2 in Mankato. For the most part, they went well, though both the first and last offered unexpected challenges.

Saturday's first meeting in front of High School students saw a power problem hit. My laptop, on which I run two videos, died right before the first video. It was plugged in, and for a few minutes, troubleshooting it was getting frustrating. Luckily, I had a school district theatre tech there - unluckily, he wasn't familiar enough with the school to realize the outlet we had used was dead! In fairness, I also could have headed off this problem, by looking at the bottom right hand corner of my desktop and noticing the power settings were off.

My solution at that time was to move to a later part of my presentation without resorting to "if you'd seen the video...." - simply touching on other points. The crowd was understanding, even letting out a sympathetic laugh when I initially restarted the computer and on the bigscreen all could see the 'dead battery' message! Overall, I don't believe it affected anyone's decisions about sending their kids on the program, though I will never know for sure.

Sunday's final meeting in Mankato saw only three families show up. We were in a giant auditorium, having just had a full house the hour before with High School and Middle School families. But Sunday afternoon, grade school families, and a Vikings game seemed to play havoc with attendance that late in the day. Eschewing the microphone, I got the families all together down front, and gave the presentation at a lower notch, and worked in more back and forth participation. Despite my best efforts, it was clear to the audience that most people chose not to attend, which lowered their overall interest. Had I been more prepared for a small showing, I may have been able to tailor the program better, and created a setting of exclusivity rather than lack of interest.

I was happy to be done, and head back to Minneapolis for the night, in preparation for heading back to Denver. Saturday had been two of my daughter's birthdays - and I hated missing them. Couldn't wait to be home.,

Friday, September 17, 2010

Speaking Season - 29 thru 32 of 107

Ah finally Friday night - and the Joe Senser's across the way is calling my name for dinner.

Long week - four more nights of giving presentations in Minneapolis and Rochester.

First two nights were at Hennepin Technical College, which offered some interesting obstacles. Monday night, the wings in the back of the auditorium were actually filled with classes during my presentation in the lower auditorium. Unbelievably bad form - but we persevered. In addition, the sound tech was, well, less than helpful at the outset. He acted like he had no idea what had to be done, despite the title on his business card saying, basically, Head of AV. I was able to give him some guidance about how we could get the sound to work better, and the night went off OK.

The second evening was interesting as well. The back rooms were opened up for our audience to overflow into. Instead of being simply more rows of seats, however, they were set back a good 25 feet, and combined with large desks all the way up. A bizarre set up which created a bizarre dynamic with students so far separated from the rest of the action.

Rochester proved more successful, but offered obstacles of its own. I spoke two nights at the Rochester International Events Center. Located off the highway, a bit isolated, but still well located between downtown and the neighborhoods of the higher paid residents. The facility was great, the tech helpful, but the microphone - yikes. Despite battery changes and a request for a new mike between Wednesday and Thursday, the mike continually cut out between words, resulting in a rough road for myself, the teachers, and the alumni to maneuver.

I was able to deal with it humorously, and the student alumni managed to as well. For much of Wednesday, I spoke without a mike, just filling the room up with my voice alone. Worked well enough, I'd say.

Today is a day off - a quick trip from Rochester back to Minneapolis for a day, a stop off at FEDEX, and a day in front of the computer catching up with everything.

As I read through these Speaking Season blogposts, I realize there are some repetitive themes - and that's the reality of being a professional speaker, particularly a seminar speaker, where you are expected to give roughly the same message night after night after night, and it may not necessarily include any of the material you got into the speaking business to deliver.

If you're an aspiring speaker looking at the seminar business, keep my experiences in mind. While I'm having a lot of fun and changing a lot of lives through the programs I'm offering, it is not necessarily the experience I, or many people getting into the business from this end, expect.

I will continue to look for new angles within the repetitive process I am experiencing to share along the way, as I continue to be dedicated to helping you Speak...& Deliver! But now - its time to eat....!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hostile Audiences - A Case Study by Bob Ingram

Speaking can often take you to place you never expected....

I suppose there comes a time in every speaker’s career when we encounter our first hostile audience. Recently, I had my first. Well, in my case, hostile might be a little harsh…semi-hostile perhaps, weird for sure.

Arriving early, I mingled with the crowd of small business owners and settled in at my table to enjoy lunch before being introduced. As the program before my portion unfolded, something felt different than I’d experienced before. In a few minutes, I’d find out my intuition was right.

During my presentation, I told a story about the power of gratitude in building strong business relationships. A woman raised her hand and asked if she could tell a quick story related to my topic. I gave her the go-ahead. She relayed a story about the funeral home that provided the service for her mother who had passed away the year before. The funeral home sent a very personalized Christmas card that first Christmas after her Mom died. The woman said the sentiments expressed were so genuine that she was incredibly touched and she tells everybody about it. I turned to the audience and said, “WOW, isn’t that great? What do you think about that?” A lady in the back of the room shouted…NOTHING! I said, “nothing?” Other audience members spoke up and said they thought it was great. Ms. NOTHING didn’t say anything else and shrunk back in her chair…just that one weird shout-out and she blended back in. I went on.

Then, I tossed out a “nugget” bag to a large, muscular man who looks like he could bench press a Mack Truck. Inside the bag was something for him to read which I would then expand upon. I had a tie on the bag that didn’t open easily. The man struggled with it and finally opened it after about 30 seconds of me tap dancing., so to speak. I ad-libbed, “I guess I won’t toss a bag to a lady if a guy as big as you can’t open that.” A woman shouts out…”THAT’S A SEXIST REMARK.” I replied, “Oh, I’m sorry. Did I commit a faux pas? I thought that generally men are physically stronger than women.” I just went on and Ms. Sexist Remark blended back in…just one weird shout-out from her too.

I should have known better by now but when I was done I opened the floor for Q and A. A gentleman raised his hand. I called on him, expecting a question. He said….”YOUR HANDWRITING IS TERRIBLE.” I replied, “You’re right. There are lots of people who agree with you. You could start a club. Any other questions?” There were no others.

Afterwards, as I was walking to my car a gentleman approached me and apologized for the crowd….said he didn’t know what had gotten into them, that they weren’t usually like that. The next day, a lady from the audience emailed me and said almost the same thing.

My reactions came from my gut but the techniques can be used again and again. I reacted three different ways instinctively. In the instance of the NOTHING SHOUTER I did nothing, had little reaction. With the SEXIST SHOUT-OUT woman I took her on head-on. The “YOUR HANDWRITING IS TERRIBLE” Q and A Guy, was deflected with humor.

It’ll be interesting to see how this helps me deal with future similar situations. I am more confident in my ability to handle a difficult crowd. I successfully used three separate techniques

1. Do nothing 
2. Meet it head-on
3. Deflect with humor. 

After a while I’ll probably be able to go through my first, second, and third options quickly like a good
quarterback going over his receiver options. Practice makes us better so I’m grateful to each of my SHOUT OUTS for the practice they provided.

As a business consultant, author, award winning speaker and corporate trainer to companies and associations throughout the United States, Bob entertains and educates small groups, conference attendees and large corporate audiences. Bob speaks on a variety of business topics... networking, relationship building, customer loyalty, gratitude, social media, entrepreneurship, communication, sales and marketing. He's most well known for engaging audiences on the power of relationships and how well you connect and relate to people determining your success in business and in life. Bob is also the founder of Relationship Strategies University, and can be contacted at

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Speaking Season - 23 to 28 of 107

This weekend was packed with 6 more presentations - 3 more at Concordia University, 3 at Chisago Lakes High School. The ebb and flow of giving presentations in this format is interesting to observe from the inside, even as I attempt to control the ebb and flow, with varying results.

1. Time of Day - 10 am never seems to be my best - its never horrible, but never as good as later on. I know that I course correct throughout the day, revising what I may say at 12 and 2, sometimes as late as 4 or 5 (on a Sunday). I always tend to purposefully toss more energy into the last session, both for myself and my audience - helps keep me on my toes and my audience awake, even as there energy wanes in the early or late afternoon.

2. The Audience - at this stage of the game, I can't really control who is coming to my meetings, or how many. The bigger the audience, the better the energy. Small audiences can be okay, but if they spread out throughout a large auditorium, this will sap much of the group dynamic out - that feeling that a lot of people all made the same decision to attend, and are excited - that validates everyone in the room.

3. The A/V People - they are, in the end, just people. They may not turn the lights on or off fast enough, they may not move the sound levels appropriately, even with guidance, and they may not even know how to operate their own equipment properly. I have worked with a wide range of techs this year, from a former STYX and Toto Sound Engineer, to a former Broadcast News Anchor, to a high school student who'd rather be down at the gym and a custodian who's more worried about the mess they'll have to clean up in a few hours than helping me. Be an expert, help them out - if the A/V tech doesn't know how to solve a problem, and you show them a solution, you've done them (and the next person they work with) a service.

4. The Venue - we plan to be in auditoriums and rooms that fit our audiences, but it doesn't always work out, as touched upon in #2. Lighting, access to lighting controls, colors, layout of seating, age of the facility, speaker quality, acoustics, stage vs. floor space, parking lots, distance from parking to venue, accuracy of maps and signage, bathroom access - the list of factors is long and not always in our control. The more of these factors you control, the more focused and 'ready to buy' your audience will be during your presentation.

5. Paperwork - for seminar speakers, we often have a great deal of paperwork to do, from reports of attendees to reports of sales to evaluations of the facilities to uploads of videos of our performances. All of this usually occurs between the hours of 10 pm and 3 am, depending on the volume of work, speed of internet connection, and amount of planning put into each meeting.

This is MY ebb and flow, my experiences, based largely on my experiences in 2010 on the road, as well as working as a speaker on my own over the last several years. What is YOUR ebb & flow? What have YOU discovered in your role as a speaker? Any unique challenges? Please post a comment below, or write a guest blog post - I'll be happy to feature you here. Meanwhile, remember - don't just Speak - Speak & Deliver!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Speaking Season - 22 of 107

I went head to head with Brett Favre Thursday night, in the heart of Minnesota. Attendance at the meeting was eerily devoid of dads, who apparently were more interested in the opening of the NFL season than sending their 5th and 6th graders to Australia. Still, we had a good 125 people in the audience, and I kept things compact, yet complete, to keep their attention while still laying out the opportunity.

When it comes to audiences, it can be tough to compete with everything else they have going on, be it a football game, a bad day, thoughts of a long drive home, or any number of a million thoughts that could be distracting. Our job as speakers is first to focus them, second to keep them engaged, third - get them to act.

My tactics were simple:

A. Started in an Australian accent again, then humorously admitted my Iowa roots.
B. Encouraged them to shake off the day and see themselves in Australia next summer.
C. Gave them specific things to look for in the history video we show.
D. Kept things moving at a quick pace - elementary student audiences aren't much for patience.
E. Told a humorous story at the close, leaving a clear call to action without belaboring the point.

Even if you're giving roughly the same presentation every time, keep the fact that your audience isn't the same every time in your mind. Be prepared to handle them differently, giving them your message wrapped in a package they'll be able to handle, and most likely to open!

Overall I was happy with the night. The audience kept their energy, all the information I needed to impart was given, and we finished a bit early - in time for them to get their kids home and ready for the next school day, and hear their husbands grumbling about the Vikings falling just short. Well, you can't win 'em all!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Speaking Season - 21 of 107

A relatively good turnout last night - some folks drove in from up to 2 hours away to discover how to send their kids to China next year as student ambassadors. Even though I was a one-man show again yesterday, hearing how far these folks come to hear about the opportunity, and the students enthusiasm for international travel, inspires me to put on an energetic show.

Energy is a big seller - whether you are selling an actual product, or simply a way of thinking. The more authentic passion you show on stage, the more likely you'll transfer that energy to the audience. Notice the word authentic - people WANT you to be energetic, but they want it to be real.

How do you manufacture energy on the spot? Try these methods that have worked for me:

1. Be passionate about what you're selling. As many a sales and consulting guru are want to say, the first sale is to yourself - if you believe it, your audience is more likely to as well - and the energy will flow from your enthusiasm.

2. Talk to those who are using the product or living the idea. Transfer their success and enthusiasm to you!

3. Focus on original aspects of what you are presenting - Unique Selling Propositions. For me, yes, lots of programs are out there sending kids to other countries, but don't offer self-esteem training, home-stays, meetings with government officials, and service projects designed to give students interaction with the communities they're in. Pumps me up just typing about it.

4. Do new things in your presentation. A few days ago, I started my presentation about Australia in an accent, a last minute choice. Added a lot of energy right up front -  and results are in, its one of my highest enrolling groups of elementary students all season.

5. Psyche yourself up with music and physical movement offstage before you go on. To be honest, I have never done this, but many top speakers swear by it, including Tony Robbins. Someday I'll have to test this one.

6. If all the other aspects are aligned, but you're exhausted from travel, try this last resort - 5 Hour Energy - all the kick of a Monster Drink without the potty breaks. Test it ahead of time to see how it affects your system, results may vary.

Depending on your speaking schedule, energy may or may not be a problem. Being on the road, giving this many presentations over a compressed time schedule, energy is definitely a challenge. Don't let weariness creep up on you, or creep your audience out of buying into your program - be ready to energetically Speak...& Deliver!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Speaking Season - 21 of 107

Last night my Super Deluxe Robot Leg and I got some *star* treatment by the Sound Engineer for Mitchell Auditorium at the College of St. Scholastica - Scott Pike. Scott recently took this job to be home with family after 20 years on the road with rock groups like Toto, Aerosmith, and yes, my favorite, STYX! His adventures took him all over the world, but he said life in Duluth is just as rewarding, now that he finally has more time to spend with his wife of 25 years and four kids.

Many speakers like to say they shared the stage with other top speakers - but how many can say they've shared the same Sound Engineer as Dennis DeYoung? Sound and lights were definitely in good hands last night.


I started yesterday morning in Marshall, took 5 hours to get to Duluth just in time for my set-up, then another 3 hours to Bemidji, MN, landing me at lakeside hotel at about 12:30 am. One last presentation tonight before the Labor Day weekend - and I'll again be without volunteer help. Likely a small meeting, but as beautiful as Bemidji is, I bet there are still plenty of students who'd love to get the chance to walk on the Great Wall of China next summer - so I'm getting ready to be ready - to Speak & Deliver!


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