On February 15, 2001, I woke up for the first time in 26 years without a full-time personal assistant. How did I feel about it? It was exhilarating! Of course, now and then I miss having someone to do what I am not crazy about doing, but it was time for me to take charge of my business in a whole new way. Over the years, one assistant has trained the next and although they had had wonderful strengths, also weaknesses. Fortunately, the wealth of new technology lets me reinvent how I now want to run my business and marketing for the 21st Century.
Any speaker trying to maintain an efficient office headquarters while on the road will appreciate how quickly the new technologies have been coming to their aid. I’ve been self-employed since 1975 and had my own full-time speaking business since 1984. When I reached the age of 55, I asked myself two questions:
- How do I want to live the second half of my life?
- How do I want to run my business for the second half of my life?
Technology is making big changes in nearly every speaker’s business. All of us already have technological capabilities that we aren’t taking full advantage of. I am constantly learning how to automate many of the processes available to us.
For example, my contact system, Goldmine, has many features that I was under-using. By having it on my laptop, I can ‘synchronize’ my work with that of my part-time assistants so that all our records are up to date. We have the systems set up so that Goldmine actually tells us what step has to be taken next in the cycle of a booked engagement. When I had my full-time employee, she mail-merged letters for large mailings. Now, I am saving time by using more email mass communications to speakers’ bureaus and clients.
Although my office still sends out press kits and videos, I have developed my website over the past 8 years to provide much of this information in forms that serve various types of clients.
SPEAKERS can access dozens of free articles, download special reports, watch videos, listen to audios, and learn about my speaking schools, public dates, and seminars. More and more speech coaching clients, sales training clients, and keynote speaking clients are check my references on the website and contact me by email.
CLIENTS can learn about topics and get descriptions for their convention brochures, as well as bios, introductions, photos, and preprogram questionnaires. They can even confirm their own engagement and email or fax me. Their entire committee can preview various videos at their own desk top. With EPRO, my calendar is online and speakers’ bureaus can place holds on specific dates.
PRODUCT PURCHASERS can preview many of my videos, audios, CDs and DVDs before buying. Click here to take a look at my secure online shopping cart.
Recently, I interviewed Jeff Davidson, a prolific author and successful speaker for North Carolina. Here is what Jeff told me about running a high-tech speaking business:
JEFF DAVIDSON’S ADVICE
Will the Internet change everything in speaking? Maybe not, but the Internet is already fundamentally altering all business aspects of the meeting industry.
So much is shifting so quickly. Typical speakers get up each morning, feeling as if they will never keep pace with technology developments, especially those affecting the meeting industry. Yet, even solo speakers with no staff can maintain a firm handle on where to concentrate their time and attention if they keep up with technology.
Here are four areas to be aware of:
1. Prepare to handle all paperwork on the web.
All the aspects of meeting planning that used to be done by mail can and will be transferred to the web. Given that this reality is happening faster than anyone could have supposed just a few years ago, speakers now need to have all their business materials web-ready. This means converting all your pre-speech materials (such as contracts, agreement forms, presentation questionnaires, survey forms, product-ordering information, room diagrams, and so on) into PDF format so that any form can be sent to a meeting planner quickly and easily in the form of an email attachment.
Fortunately, conversion to PDF format is a painless process once the proper software is installed. Adobe Systems is the leader in this area. You can gather all the information you need at www.adobe.com.
2. Prepare documents in dual formats.
Prepare all speech-related materials in dual format, both on a web site for downloading and as files that can be attached to emails. From now on, whatever you would prepare for an on-site audience needs to be recast for delivery over the Internet and for a net audience. If you already use Corel Presentations, PowerPoint, or other online slideshow software, you are ahead of the game. They readily lend themselves to usage over the Internet.
Extend the process further by making sure your professional photos, handouts, or “participant materials” as I like to call them — charts, graphs, exhibits, article reprints, and other paraphernalia used in front of a live group — can be easily conveyed over the net.
3. Master long-distance techniques.
Become adept at long-distance learning techniques. Patricia Fripp and I belong to an organization of 40 business experts who share their expertise with clients via live programs over the Internet. Our program,uses interactive technology to deliver real-time professional training to corporations and organizations throughout the world. Corporations may sign up 1 to 1,000 people and view programs, either as initially scheduled, or as replays contained in the archives program file.
Learn how to do online presentations yourself. Even if speakers can someday appear as holograms before audiences (as in the “Holodeck” episode of Star Trek), the need for live, on-site speakers at conferences and conventions is not likely to dissipate. On-line presentations are going to become an ever-increasing share of the speaking, training, and consulting market. If you haven’t already gotten your feet wet in this 21st century technology, now is the time to get started. All speakers today will benefit from becoming aware and fluent in making online presentations.
4. Stimulate product sales.
Even if product sales already account for a fair amount of your revenues, an increasing share will be directly related to how you use the Internet and your website.
Staying in touch with past clients and audience members has never been easier. Many who didn’t initially buy your products can be approached again, now that you’ve established a relationship via the net. You can maintain contact through regular online zines, specific email communiqués (less desirable), broadcast announcements, and a variety of emerging techniques. The advocates you create as a result of your speaking engagements become prime candidates for generating repeat and enduring product sales. And, as much as you love speaking to groups, you probably also enjoy making money while you sleep.