My last post on training workshops prompted an email from a longtime reader about this article, previously posted on TalkingStory.org. She shared a recent workshop story of her own with me (she turned tip #4 into a personal goal), and she suggested I link to all 12 Tips for the rest of our MWA community. Love to! Here is a fresh edit of the article, more essay than checklist, including selected in-linking to our recent discussions.
Initially I felt a bit strange about writing this, not wanting my suggestions to sound like the personal laundry list of a presumptuous author, but it has since proved to be a list that several people have told me they greatly appreciated, since booking speakers is not an everyday occurrence for them. It can be a dance, and they are aware of the tethers which hold them back from what I’m about to share with you.
In a one sentence preview, How to Capture an Expert’s Value: 12 Tips describes what happens when someone hires me as a speaker or trainer, and they decide we’ll become friends with a professional relationship by the time the engagement is over.
Let’s start with why as we’re fond of doing: Why bother? There are several possible reasons, and the earliest story of the list dishes a few of them up for us…
KĀKOU Partnering and ‘IKE LOA Learning
I’m a habitual checklist maker, and this one actually started within a staff meeting brainstorm held with my managers while I served as VP of Operations at the Hualalai Resort. It evolved as I describe after Managing with Aloha was published.
Hualalai Resort was then a rapidly growing and diverse operation, and we frequently hired trainers and consultants to assist us with their specialties. My department heads were encouraged to do that hiring directly, planning for it in their Staff Training & Education budgets, and it was not channeled through HR or any other approval process, however we wanted to be consistent and collaborative. Being consistent had to do with smart partnering, assuring that all outsiders would have the same good experience working with us, and this in turn, led to a highly successful evolution of our Supplier Certification S.O.P.s (I refer to this in my book as our Vendor Partnership Program). Being collaborative had to do with smart learning optimization: While booked departmentally or by division, all workshop attendance was open to the entire company for the learning opportunity it could provide. Whoever booked it would advertise it and extend the invitation. Budgets were nicely stretched this way; we avoided making duplicate bookings. For instance, everyone knew that the safety workshops done by our Landscaping & Resort Maintenance team were stellar, and they became an introductory benchmark for us in anything safety related.
Sit with these goals for a moment, and think about smart partnering and learning optimization as most relevant to your own mission, before rushing ahead to read our list of tips:
- Think about your own training programs, and its possible connections. What is done to completely optimize training in your company? What improvements can you suggest and foster? i.e. How can you be a better leader in this regard? Those safety workshops I mentioned were “stellar” because those managers refused to let them get boring: They knew we could not afford any apathy when it came to our ‘Ohana’s safety. Their program was extremely interesting, interactive and fun — yes, safety! As a result, they were our resort leaders in Loss Prevention as well.
- Now think about your own relationships in networked expertise: When you hire someone — to do anything for you, anything at all — what is the ongoing partnership you work to maintain? What lasting effect will they have on your life? What lasting effect will you have on theirs? What kind of opportunities might you be missing? i.e. How can you better manage your own relationships, knowing how important they are?
If you are going to spend some time with a new acquaintance, is that inspiring newness captured, or is it squandered away and wasted? Every new meeting you have with someone comes with the potential for relationship conversion: You choose to pursue it, or you don’t (that’s a choice too).
When you boil an engagement down to its essence, people want me to speak at an event or present a workshop because they are looking for some kind of inspiration or fresh motivation. When they treat me as a vendor I do make sure they get that shot of inspiration they are expecting. However when they treat me as a prospective collaborator on their vision of greater possibility, that’s what they get.
How to Capture an Expert’s Value: 12 Tips
In bringing Managing with Aloha to the world of business I speak a lot; everything from 20-minute keynotes to week-long seminars and retreats. I love it, and I’ve enjoyed some truly terrific engagements. They were terrific because my clients were terrific, and I felt I wasn’t just a hired gun; we collaborated on the design of my presentation, and they gave me the opportunity to give more than just another speech.
With my most recent presentation I had the pleasure of staying in a magnificent hotel, and part of my fee arrangement included an extra night’s stay so that I could end my time with them much more leisurely than I normally have the opportunity to do: They specifically requested an “Open Door Morning” from me where the managers who had participated in my workshop could book 20-minute question-and-dialogue time with me one-on-one. Their offer was irresistible to me and I took advantage of it. Smartly, so did they; it was a win for both of us. They helped me create a defining moment for them and their company.
There have been more of these clients who took full advantage of our engagement in other ways, knowing how I am more coach than consultant by nature, and I think they were exceptionally clever. By the time our project was over they had received oodles of free coaching from me, and I didn’t mind one bit. In fact, they usually left me wishing that all my clients were just like them.
This is how they did it. This is not an all-or-nothing list: Pick what you like from it, and then do it exceptionally well.
1. First, I didn’t intimidate them. All of 5’1” and soft spoken when I’m off-stage I’m not an intimidating person, however they didn’t let my “expert” or “author” aura and reputation hold them back either. They took the time to have more telephone conversations with me and get to know me. They shared their objectives with me, and those transparently honest stories of why they called me in the first place. In short, they got me to know them, like them, and want to help them as new friends who had a vision and mission similar to mine.
2. If I was traveling to see them, they played meeting planner to my travel agent, booking as much of my “free time” as possible, before I filled in the blanks myself (my fees are set per project, and not per hour). I’ve become quite precise pre-and-post workshop, yet there is much more opportunity: As managers and leaders, they’d get my free advice over morning coffee the day of my seminar, or because they picked me up from the airport personally instead of sending a driver for me. They entertained me and gave me the niceties of “VIP service” so that I’d “pay” them for it with my knowledge and some free coaching, knowing that I love to give it!
3. They got me to use their products and services during my stay, whatever they were. They asked me to test them, and offer suggestions and honest feedback. My “thing” is management and leadership in business, and I travel a lot. I get welcomed into many different companies, perhaps including their competitors, and others they should benchmark. I am not going to disclose anything I shouldn’t. Still, knowing my frame of reference, they considered me a living, breathing, opinionated yet seasoned “guest comment card” for what they offer.
4. They understood that those of us who speak are always looking for new stories and new examples to pepper our presentations with personalization (say that quickly 3 times!) and they took me on plant/ property/ company tours, and introduced me to many of the people who would be in my audience both before and after my presentation so we’d make a personal connection. They were skillful conversation starters in those introductions; a chance meeting would warm up quickly, and every conversation became both interesting and relevant.
5. Along those same lines, they deliberately set out to be my newest fresh-in-mind and memorable “great story,” the one I would take to future speeches in other places, giving them fantastic, highly favorable free press in the process. Knowing I speak to hundreds or thousands of your prospective customers and candidates each year, and that people ask me for my recommendations all the time, what would you like me to say to them about you? What will you make sure I remember?
6. Most speakers, me included, are eager learners, always on the prowl for opportunities to meet the visionaries, movers and shakers in an organization. We love to interview the big shots and get inside their heads, and as a coach who has learned to hear values, I get priceless context. My best clients, the ones determined to make MWA part of their culture going forward, used me to secure their boss’s buy-in because they gave me the golden opportunity to discuss vision and mission with them.
7. If I was just one speaker in their conference, they invited me to the entire affair so that I would be available to their participants both on stage and off. You can bet this strategy also made me pretty competitive, and determined to be their best speaker, and the one sharing the most Aloha with their people.
8. They understood that they’d be flushing their money down the drain if my presentation needs were not taken care of (audio-visual, lighting, desired room logistics) and if I was not well seen, heard, and experienced by the audience. They kept the venue as intimate as possible, and they ensured that I wasn’t competing with any digital distractions like unanticipated video-taping: Good hosts do cover behavioral niceties with their participants on a speaker’s behalf.
9. They had read my book knowing it as my brand, or at least had skimmed it pretty thoroughly and read the book reviews. They were very familiar with my blog and my website. They distributed an article I’d written to their audience ahead of time in a newsletter, announcement, or email blitz to create some anticipation and excitement, and so they’d start thinking of questions for me.
10. They asked me to help them with my introduction before my presentation, i.e. What part of your bio should I mention? instead of just reading it… and — the part most people miss — they asked how they should end it, i.e. if they were offering my book at a special price, my website links for continuing MWA education, if I was sticking around for the remainder of their conference etc. Speakers don’t like to end presentations with a sales pitch — even free resources sound suspect, and less than a good deal. When the organizer does it, they get the credibility for negotiating that free e-book or digital handout out of me exclusively for their audience.
11. If they have asked me to include a Q&A time, they planted (prepared!) people with good questions to start us off with, questions on things they wanted me to cover briefly anyway. Better than a Q&A time, they scheduled round-table discussions immediately after my presentation, asking their groups to come up with Next Action idea lists connected with it, and asking me to remain and walk the room as speaker turned coach — what I do best!
12. They scheduled a post event debrief with me (i.e. a conversation of their agenda, whereas the one I include is my coaching follow-up agenda.) The more involved and longer my engagement, and the more of your people I meet, the more feedback I am going to have for you. Will you secure your opportunity to get it out of me, or are you letting me escape with it as you politely say thank you and goodbye? They ask the critical question in this debrief: What is your advice on how we use your message within our organizational culture, so the learning sticks?
Which of these 12 Tips can you use?
Think about these things the next time you hire any consultant or expert, and blend it with your goals, and your personality as Mea Ho‘okipa — they are part of your being the best host you can be, however they are tips that will also get you your money’s worth. Even better, they can help you groom a great new relationship with someone.
Since first publishing this a few years back, a good part of the feedback I have received has been in the vein of, “I didn’t know I could even suggest these things, and have an expert welcome them instead of feeling I was being pushy and presumptuous!” I think you will be pleasantly surprised once you try them out: I feel quite confident in saying that most experts will welcome an enhanced relationship with you, just as I do! Plus, experts are big boys and girls; they’re professional and know how to say no gently (and they will, without thinking less of you, believe me). Keep this distinction in mind: In securing their expertise, experts have found their Ho‘ohana. They do what they do because they genuinely want to share what they know and help you, so ask away!
All you speakers out there reading (and I know there are several of you), please chime in the comments here if you feel I’ve missed something. What have your best hosts and hostesses done for you when you teach, speak and present?