Want to pick my brain? Have at it.

Be gentle...
Many of us in the coaching/consulting business get e-mails and phone calls asking to "pick our brains." Aside from the somewhat freaky imagery, there can be discomfort about this request, especially when it takes time away from revenue-generating work.

Most of us love 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.

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 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.

I have invested much time and money in business training and coaching as my business has grown. There's always something new to learn. To grow a successful business requires constant learning and repeated investment.

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 locally, unless it's for an in-person local 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 on the front page of Google 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 make an effort to attend events where I can meet people who might be good contacts and connections.

3. How do you get speaking and training engagements?

First of all, I don't do any cold-calling. I'll occasionally send a proposal to a conference or event when it sounds like a good fit for me. Most speaking and training engagements come to me through Google, 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? What's your unique message that sets you apart from others teaching the same topic, what problem do you solve, and what are the outcomes you're providing? Once you know that, then get online and look at organizations, associations or businesses in your town where you might find those people. E-mail or call them to offer 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 virtual group coaching aspects of my business (I'm not a keynote speaker), 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 rarely use other people's ideas. 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. 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, energizers and other exercises. Google that and you'll find plenty, but be sure to make them your own, and relevant to your topic.

I've now developed a virtual training package on how to create your own activities and exercises that align with your intellectual property, personal style and audience. It's available on my website for $97.

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, and attending in-person networking events.

Other activities include preparing for my next program session or virtual training, writing or editing a book (work in progress...), business 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. Sometimes I'm attending someone else's training or virtual training; as I mentioned above, 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 to exercise and plan healthy meals for me and my hubby.

I take days off when my husband has days off and I like to make time to meet friends for lunch or drinks. The beauty of entrepreneurship is that I can meet friends during the day and work at night if I want to. Or take off Mondays and work Saturdays. Which I do!

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 a Facebook group, workshops, conferences and a great magazine.

I have a couple of coaches who have helped me grow my business, in particular, my online programming and marketing (Alicia Forest), and my retreat offerings (Darla LeDoux).

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.

I'm also a member of several Facebook groups for speakers and coaches, through my coaching and training programs.

And here's a list of books I recommend for speakers and entrepreneurs (including mine!).

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. My fees have more than quadrupled over the years, 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 speaking and to 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 and what are your core beliefs? I'm my brand, 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 buttoned-down type of coach or someone who counts "ums." My focus areas are audience-centered presenting, making presentations fun, authenticity, connection, engagement, preparation, and enthusiasm for your chosen topic. You can read more about these concepts in my book "Presenting for Humans: Insights for Speakers on Ditching Perfection and Creating Connection."

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.

And finally, you have to believe, at your core, in serving people. This is a business about giving value to others, helping others get into action and grow, and guiding others through personal and professional transformation. If you're in this business because you want personal recognition and fame, it's not the right business for you!

If you have more questions after reading this and would like to talk more, please schedule your 30-minute "Pick my brain" session by clicking the payment button below. For just $297, you can have access to all of my business-building tips that have made me a successful speaking coach.

Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

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