Most of us are happy to give away free information; that's why we write blogs, publish free handouts, offer pro bono speaking engagements, have Twitter and Facebook conversations, respond to blog comments and questions, and spend time chatting with people at networking events and conferences.
We spend time building relationships with others, and they with us, so that information-sharing becomes a mutually rewarding and organic outcome of getting to know one another.
I strongly believe in helping others get started in business, as others have helped me. But I also believe in doing your own research and your own legwork. That's how I learned, and that's how we all learn.
So I've decided to post the most common questions I get asked in the brain-picking e-mails, and my responses, in order to offer a shortcut for those who have not yet cultivated a relationship with me. I will keep this post updated with pertinent questions, and this will be the place those making requests for info can find their answers.
Beyond this blog post, if you want more information about my business or industry, please consider getting to know me through the avenues listed above, and perhaps consider reciprocating with something I might find of value.
I hope you find what you're looking for and it gives you the kickstart you need to move forward with your coaching business. My business is a result of a lifetime of choosing paths that led me here. Your path is not the same as mine, and you'll find your own way. I wish you all the best in finding your path!
1. How would you recommend getting started as a public speaking coach?
I came to speaking and coaching through my background in theater and 16 years of experience speaking and training professionally as an advocate, educator and trainer in nonprofits. I also have an M.A. in Education and many years of training and experience in counseling, communication skills, group facilitation, curriculum and instructional design, and group dynamics through my work in nonprofits and my educational background.
I also went through a 14-week self-employment training here in Santa Barbara that was helpful in getting a better understanding of how to run a business.
In October 2005 I put up my website and starting marketing my services, sending letters to former colleagues, and working on my online presence. It took me five months to find my first client.
2. How do you market your coaching/what is the most effective kind of marketing?
This varies from coach to coach, business to business, and target market to target market. My target market for individual coaching is professionals and entrepreneurs, and most of my clients are in fields ranging from science and technology to healthcare, fitness, event planning, nonprofits, retail, arts, religion, insurance, and more. My clients are also all over the country (and occasionally in other countries), and I rarely focus my marketing in Santa Barbara, unless it's for my in-person group coaching program.
I do a lot of online marketing through my blog, website, newsletter and social media. This works great for me and keeps me at the top of Google (I've been somewhere in the top 3 or 4 for "public speaking coach" since 2008), and it also requires a large time investment. If you want to focus on local clients, you'll probably do something different. I've had very little success at paid advertising, paid directories, and that sort of thing, but in terms of getting the word out locally, I do enjoy networking.
3. How do you get speaking engagements?
I don't actively pursue them, except for submitting a proposal to an occasional conference when something sounds like a good fit for me. I don't do any cold-calling, for example. Most of them come to me through word of mouth, repeat clients or through marketing e-mails/social media messages I send out to previous clients or my list.
If you want to pursue speaking engagements, you first need to determine who your target audience is. What's your niche or specialty that you're offering, and who are you targeting? Once you know that, then get online and look at organizations, associations or businesses in your town where you might find those people. Send a letter or make a phone call offering your services. Understand that you probably will not get paid in the beginning, as you get your feet wet, people get to know you, and you begin to build a reputation.
I focus more on the individual coaching/corporate training and group coaching aspects (both in person and online) of my business, so I do speaking engagements that will advance these aspects of my business.
4. Where do you get ideas for activities/exercises?
My background in instructional design and training development (from my master's program and previous nonprofit work) has taught me how to design workshops around my topics, so I don't use other people's ideas that much. I have my own philosophy and way of teaching, and that's what sets me apart; I don't want to copy what anyone else is doing, but from time to time I will adapt to my style and topic an activity another trainer has shared with me, or that I've experienced in a workshop.
There are also many sites online for icebreakers and energizers. Google that and you'll find plenty, but be sure to make them your own, and relevant to your topic.
5. How do you spend your day/divide up your time?
On any given day I spend a lot of time on marketing activities, researching and writing my blog, writing my newsletter, social media, updating my website, creating products, preparing for interviews, and attending in-person networking events.
Other activities include preparing for my next program session or teleseminar, writing or editing one of my books (works in progress...), planning, or designing a new program.
On some days I'm working with individual clients by phone or in person. On other days, I'm leading a training or workshop, or delivering live or online trainings and seminars. Sometimes I'm attending someone else's training, webinar or teleseminar; I believe in investing in my own education and business growth.
And a lot of time is spent conversing by e-mail or phone with prospective clients and project partners, scheduling meetings and appointments, and dealing with technology issues, taxes, bookkeeping and other day-to-day administrative duties. In between those tasks, I also (try to) make time for a workout.
6. What resources do you recommend to get started as a public speaking coach?
I would suggest subscribing to speakers' and coaches' blogs to get a feel for the business, and also subscribing to the SpeakerNet News newsletter for the speakers' perspective. National Speakers Association is another resource for professionals, with workshops, conferences and a great magazine. I'm not in love with a lot of coaching resources out there, to be honest, but the ones I do follow are Michelle Schubnel at Coach and Grow R.I.C.H. and Jennifer Britton at Group Coaching Essentials.
I spent a lot of time researching speakers and coaches, their niches, their fees, their programs, etc. when I started out. Then I hammered together my programs and policies based on what I heard from clients and other coaches, and of course, my own way of doing things.
There are so many resources I've found over the years for everything from contact management software to presentation equipment, information product creation, webinars and teleseminars, marketing, productivity, audio and video, social networking, website and blog creation and maintenance, I don't even know where to begin, but following and conversing with other speakers, coaches and marketing experts on Twitter, "liking" their pages on Facebook, and reading their blogs is a start.
7. How did you set your fees?
I originally studied other coaches' websites and set my fees somewhere in the middle, not too low, not too high. Over the years, I've increased my fees based on growing experience and knowledge, the requirements of my programs, my changing business and coaching models, and based on how much money I want and need to make! My business continues to grow, along with my fees.
8. Other advice?
It's important to have your own philosophy and point of view of public speaking and coaching and figure out what sets you apart. Why should someone hire you? What do you have that other coaches or speakers don't have? What's your unique message? I've successfully branded myself, and the people who are attracted to me as clients are the people I'm trying to attract!
My style is informal, conversational and not rules-oriented, and this is what I teach. People who seek me out aren't looking for a corporate buttoned-down type of coach or someone who counts "ums." My focus areas are audience-centered presenting, making presentations fun, authenticity, preparation, and enthusiasm for your chosen topic.
Figure out who you are in the public speaking universe, what you have to say, and who you want to say it to. You also have to be willing to stand up for your own beliefs and opinions and rock the boat if necessary.
This list will be updated as new questions arise. Thank you for reading!