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4
Apr

5 facepalm mistakes I made as a new Professional Speaker

How can you know the brightness of light without darkness? The height of mountains without valleys? The rush of wind without stillness?
In summary, how can you enjoy your highs without experiencing the facepalming lows? 🙂

In my last blog post, I addressed the 5 lessons that helped me along my journey of starting off as a professional speaker last year. I’m still fairly new, still making mistakes and learning from them, and the early mistakes now seem like a guidebook on ‘How Not To..’.

Now that I look back and retrospect, I turn a shade of embarrassing pink and facepalm thinking ‘WHY?!’; but crucial lessons nevertheless in my journey. And that’s why I want to share this with all you budding professional speakers, with the hope that your palm and your face never meet each other in the 5 situations below.

 

1. CREATING FIRST CONTACT WITH CLIENT:

This happened in one of my first ever professional discussions. An acquaintance at a corporate that I was also interested in, asked if I would consider giving a talk on communication skills. “Great!” I thought. I asked him who would be responsible for organizing the event, and he gave me the details of his colleague. In my naivete, I picked up the phone and called the organizer right away; after all people appreciate ‘directness’ in The Netherlands, right?Wrong. There’s something called ‘too direct too fast’ and it happened with that call. The man was not expecting my proposal, he was not prepared to absorb my proposal and it left him feeling confused. Confused is not the feeling you want to give ANY client, ever.The first contact with your client is never to get booked, it is to generate interest. Focus only on generating their interest, and the rest will follow. For me, their interest = ‘Tell Me More’.

I’d suggest if you’re the one making the first contact (after your reference said you should mention their name), always present your proposal in a crisp summary via email first. Not saying you shouldn’t talk over the phone or in person, just email first for a headsup. Like it or not, but the homo-sapien of the digital age prefers knowing a little bit about you before talking to you directly about your idea.

2.PITCHING YOUR PROPOSAL:

This applies for scenarios where you were recommended to contact them via your reference.Early last year while establishing email contact with an organization through a reference, I mentioned what I wanted to do (give a training session) without mentioning why I truly cared and the greater values for the organization to be gained. I thought I had an excellent proposal that their members would learn from, but I never heard back from said person.When I re-read my email, I realized my mistake. I had pitched too early in my email, instead of focusing on generating interest. I waited three months, and wrote back. This time around, I started with what & why the need is, how I see that it can be resolved, if this is truly the need of the audience and if we have a common vision, and finally my thoughts on how I could join hands with the organization to elevate the potential and skill-set of the employees. Within two days, I got a positive response aka ‘Tell Me More’.

I’d suggest that when you send an email, address the needs of your client, why it is relevant, the end result/vision from your collaboration and then what you propose. Keep it succinct, break each section into a paragraph, all together the proposal should be within 5-10 sentences.

3.PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE:

Where do I begin with this one? I’m a Leo; keeping mention of other traits aside, one of the characteristics is that I’m a quick decision maker (and I sometimes expect others to be as well). And boy, keeping patience in business deals can been akin to walking up a cliff at times.You might be a quick decision maker, able to confirm appointments within a matter of minutes. However, your client maybe from the opposite end of the Zodiac sign spectrum; cautious, careful and sometimes lazy. I sometimes found myself grinding my teeth, waiting for a response for something as simple as a confirmation of duration of speech/training. At times, I lost hope thinking they would never get back to me, this was a lost cause and moved on , only to get contacted some time later. With time I realized that people need time to create professional events. There is a lot of hierarchy in many organizations and the approvals and confirmations will take time. Just because someone didn’t get back to you asap doesn’t mean they’re ignoring you, they forgot about you or that you didn’t present your idea well. It just means you have to breathe and learn to  give people the gift of time.

4.TALK WITH TRUE PASSION:

No one can present you and your vision like yourself. While this wasn’t a facepalm lesson like the points above, I remember the first few discussions regarding my workshops, I focussed the discussion on why the workshops are important for the client, but I forgot to mention the genuine adrenalin rush I feel everytime I’m on stage creating new stories with my audience. I forgot to mention how fulfilling it is for me to give tools of personal and professional confidence and growth to people, how I feel like I’m weaving bonds with every person sitting in front of me. That’s the reason why I started this after all. I never started my speaking career for the moolah, I already have a great financially stable job. I started this because I was following my heart and my passion. Tell your client why you truly do what you do and they will believe in you and your vision 110%.

5.RIGHT QUOTATION TO THE WRONG CLIENT:

As this is related to pricing, I choose to address this last. Technical details are my least favourite! Again, this was a mistake made at the start and was easily avoidable. Long story short, after calculating all factors that would add up to my ‘quote’, I made the cardinal sin of not doing a check on which organization was approaching me for a speech/session/workshop. I kept my price very firm, and in one incident, a discussion with a very prospective client fell through.
When I did a background check after the discussion, I found out that they truly could not afford my quote, they didn’t have a big budget for any related event; even if Seneca, Socrates or Moses rose from their graves to share few words of wisdom. However, my exposure within their organization there would have benefited me hugely as a starting speaker.My lesson learned was- always check up on your client before your discussion. Be authentic with your quote, and better to let it go when a client with sufficient budget does not acquiesce, as that translates to ‘I don’t see your value.’ But for a client who genuinely can’t afford you, if it appeals to you, then make an exception. Once I did that it opened a few powerful avenues for me; where while I reduced my quote, I never felt ‘cheated’ and I got huge support and recommendations in return.
So there you have it. My 5 mistakes- some embarrassing, some frustrating, but all enlightening. I hope that this helps you in your journey as a starting professional speaker. It’s not an easy path, and you’ll face your own unique facepalm episodes… which I encourage you to share in comments below!

– Sangbreeta

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