November 27, 2009

5 Ways to spiff up your act, BBC America-style



Download audio here.



The BBC America show "Mary Queen of Shops" has brilliant lessons for anyone in business, from retailers, who the show focuses on, to speakers, coaches, consultants and anyone who is serving customers and clients.

Mary Portas is one of the UK's foremost authorities on retail and brand communication. On this television show, she is invited by the owners of struggling fashion boutiques to come in and help them get back on their feet through a process of analysis of the space, the stock, and the skills and talents of the staff. Here are some of Mary's standard operating procedures.

1. She researches the business in advance, learning about the staff and owners, their positions and experience. She visits the shop when the owners aren't in, to get a feel of the space and the items offered for sale.

This is what we, as speakers, should be doing before every speaking engagement: visiting the space and researching our audience. Who are they? What do they know? What do they have? What do they need?

You can't help them or serve them until you know where they're coming from.

2. She views the shop from the perspective of a customer. Why would I come into the shop if the window display is unappealing? Why would I shop that rack when it's full of last year's rejects?

Do you put yourself in your audience's shoes? Do you present a satisfying appearance? Are your visuals engaging? Is your content up to date?

3. She presents the staff with exercises to get them out of their ruts. One buyer meets with a top magazine editor to learn what classic pieces every man should have in his wardrobe. One owner meets with a group of plus-size women, dresses them in what she believes to be attractive, and then receives feedback on her choices. Two buyers attend a concert where they are put to work selling the band's t-shirts as practice for more aggressive selling in the shop.

Do you give your audience exercises and activities to help them practice and internalize your points? Do you use demonstrations and real-life examples so they can apply your message to their real lives?

4. She gives the shop a makeover, removing outdated clothing and art, painting, refurnishing and giving the space a rebirth. She occasionally changes the shop name altogether if it doesn't fit with the shop's new image and focus.

Are your presentations new and intriguing to the audience or are you trotting out the same old stale material because "It's a new audience and they've never heard it?" Do you frequently look at your content with critical eyes, updating and freshening it with current stories and data?

5. She revisits the shop 4-6 weeks later to see how the business is doing.

Do you follow up with your audiences by offering evaluations or checking back with the meeting organizer to see how your presentation helped them? Do you want to know if your participants are using what they learned, or do you just move on to the next gig, never looking back?

Mary is a consultant, a coach, an educator, a trainer and a support person. Her goal is not short-term, to make radical changes that satisfy her desires and then walk away and leave them to it. She gives the owners and staff the tools they need to see their business with fresh eyes, from the customer's perspective, and to reignite their passion for the work they do. And the bottom line... to save the business from going under.

She's blunt and straightforward. She doesn't beat around the bush, but she only wants the best for her clients. She's as proud as a mother hen when she visits six weeks later to find newly energized employees implementing the ideas they acquired. And, of course, when sales and profits have increased as a result of her work, her primary goal has been met.

Do you want the best for your audience, your client, your customer? How do you make it happen?

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