Over the years, we have seen and gone through many pivots. There was the financial crisis of 2008, then 9/11 happened and now this pandemic. Despite these pivots and their impact on entire industries, companies have found a way to continue to do business, finding creative ways to navigate uncharted waters. Nothing is more true for Adam Markel’s guests for today’s episode, Richard and Angela Schelp from the Executive Speakers Bureau, a firm that delivers professional speakers and expert trainers to clients worldwide. This latest industry pivot has called for many adjustments in the way they do business externally with clients, but also internally with their teams and employees. Richard and Angela share their strategies, including how they’ve managed the shift from filling up arenas to doing virtual events and other significant changes in the meeting industry. Don’t miss this episode as they dish out golden nuggets to help you succeed in the virtual world.
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Strategies For Success When Your Entire Industry Pivots
I’m sitting here with a big grin on my face and feeling wonderful. I get to spend some time with some folks that I think are going to be interesting for you all to learn from. Some people that I met and have great respect for. I’m also sitting here feeling pleased with myself. I’ve been keeping to my rituals and practices that I’ve got on a daily basis to bring me into my heart space, and to help me to feel physically at my best. These are challenging times for all of us. How we take care of ourselves is ever more important. I’m giving myself the proverbial pat on the back for keeping the rituals that I know serve me and allowing me to be at my best creatively in every way.
I am happy that I get to interview this couple. As you know, I’m more of a one-on-one interviewer. It’s a little unusual to be in this threesome. It’s something I’ve always liked to think about, but having a lot of practice. Let me say a little bit about this amazing couple. I’m drawn to them because they’re in a great marriage and a long-term committed relationship. That now is not a typical thing. We all know the statistics are not great on that. These are folks that are outside the bell curve. There’s a lot to learn from that. I feel incredibly blessed to be married to my darling wife. We celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary. It’s a good thing to be in a relationship like that and to be around other people that are also doing things in a way that creates that longevity. Maybe somebody can resonate with that or you are thinking that’s great or that’s alluded you. Maybe during this show, you’ll pick up something in the mix that will help you to create or attract that person into your life that you could be with for a long time. It’s through the top times and the bottom signs, the ups and downs.
I’ll start with Angela. Angela Schelp is the Founder and Co-owner of the Executive Speakers Bureau. With many years in the meeting and events industry, Angela has extensive experience in guiding her clients to speakers who will make their events memorable. Richard Schelp is the President and Co-owner of the Executive Speakers Bureau. For the last several years, Richard has helped lead the organization to an unprecedented level of growth. Known as a true expert in the industry, speakers, and organizations from all over the world, contact Richard for his insight on future trends and directions. This beautiful power couple lives in the suburbs of Memphis, Tennessee with their four wonderful children. I’m going to start now with Angela. I’m going to ask you what is not written in that brief bio that I read, that you would love for people to know about you?
I love what I do here. It is much fun and I’ve been doing this for many years. My bio is a tiny old, but I started this back when I was young. I left IBM and started this company. We had one child at the time and we wanted more. We knew we needed something with flexibility. We made that decision to jump into this together and haven’t looked back. It’s been fun. It’s been different at times especially now that we’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs with business, but we have loved it.
Richard, what’s not written in your bio that you would love for people to know about you?
I’ll say something about hers is that she is truly the sweetest person that I know. That’s not because I can earn points on this one. The bio covers a lot of good things, but it’s important to understand that the way we approach things is more like servants in our role. We try to serve our customers. We try to serve our partners in the business and that’s a big push for me and has been in my career.
It helped both of us coming from IBM because we went through such strong training on customer service and that helped in what we do. IBM is where we met.
I know men had to wear the proverbial white-collar shirts. Was there also a required attire for women then?
There was. We wear suits for important events. We could wear dresses, but that was about it. They wanted you to wear suits.
I still remember the casual Friday, you’ve got to wear a blue shirt rather than the white one. One guy wore a blue shirt one day and everybody made fun of him and said, “You’re driving the bus today, aren’t you?”
I didn’t know we would hit IBM somehow during this discussion. I’m on the Central Coast of Maine. Right in this area of Camden Rockport, it was part of the IBM family. Watson and the family were right up here. They spent a lot of time and summers here.
It was a great company to work for. I loved it.
The most important thing was the training. Somebody was asking me, “How come you always know how to approach each situation?” I said, “We had it ingrained in us during that year at IBM when we did the training.” It was one full year of training.
We had a phone and mail police. If your boss left you a message and you didn’t return that call within an hour, you had to be called into his office.
Responsiveness is such a big deal when you think about what a great client experience looks like. I was an attorney for eighteen years. I’ll ask you this, what do you think the number one complaint about attorneys is now?
Failure to return their calls. You have people that commit malpractice, you’ve got people that do negligently on the job, all kinds of things. It’s a high-stress environment for lawyers, but the number one thing that gets them in trouble with the ethics boards is simply not responding to people’s calls or emails. Do you think it’s gotten better or worse on how we close the open loops of communication with folks? What’s your experience?
I would say in some ways, some people are much better than they used to be from a service standpoint, but there is still a huge gap. There are still a number of people that don’t get how important it is to respond. We need to respond more immediately than we used to.
Our customers expect it more now than they ever have. The bad thing is we get clients on the weekends and at night that are looking for responses right away. I’m online all the time.
We also know that we’re clearly a differentiator from a lot of our competitors that still believe you respond the way you did back in 1957.
We get it a lot where our clients say, “I love that you’re as responsive as you are.”
More responsive than you used to be even.
It’s interesting that IBM was training that muscle it seems this idea of how it is that you close those open loops with people.
That was 30 years ago.
When you speak about your IBM days, we’re not talking about it’s the past tense for you two as employees there, but the company isn’t in the past tense, which is interesting because you think about the best companies in the world that are typically on the Fortune 500 lists. I took a look at that list from 1955 when it was originated. Here’s a trick question for you, Richard, how many companies were on the Fortune 500 list in 1955?
I would say 500.
Here is less of a trick question, I suppose. How many of those companies do you think are around as a percentage now? I’ll take an approximate.
I would say approximately 10%.
I’d say 5%.
It’s about 12%, which is remarkably close. In longevity, the average life span of a company of that magnitude in 1955 was about 60 years, an IBM-like company. That number now is eighteen years. The shelf life of even these prolific organizations has gone down. Who knows, maybe you think about IBM still being around and is still out there, a blue-chip company doing cutting-edge things. Maybe it’s in part because of the fact that they did require this impeccable communication.
They spent the money on training which was a big deal.
They don’t do that now though.
They cut back the training budget. I know that many things have changed and when we’re shooting this episode, I don’t even know if we’re still in the middle of the pandemic anymore. It’s like you swim into the middle of the English Channel and you think, “I’ve only got another 8 miles to go or something.” We’re nowhere near the middle. Who knows where the middle is anymore? It’s a question of, what are we doing in the position we’re in? I’d love to get a sense maybe because perhaps some people in our community don’t exactly know from the bios what you are up to or what your company does.
Maybe share a little bit about the business that you’re in and then take us right into the belly of the beast. You’ve been doing this for years. Is this the worst pivot that you’ve seen? Is this the worst market disruption you’ve seen in many years? If not, take us through perhaps a couple of those other blips on the radar screen that you remember, and then take us right to now. You can divide and conquer that any way you like. I’m going to leave it to you.
What we do for a living is we connect speakers with organizations who plan meetings. I would tell you that it sounds like a simple thing to do, but we’ve had to pivot many times over the years. You’ve had 9/11. You’ve had the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, but this is by far the most difficult pivot. The thing I would tell you, and then I’ll let Ange jump in, is that when we pivot, we pivot every single day, not just when there’s a big challenge. I was telling people we would still be making changes like we’ve had to make even if we never had the pandemic. That’s an important thing and I’m going to throw it to you.
We’ve done a good job of staying ahead of the curve as far as what changes are coming in and how to stay on top of things. When Richard joined the company, it was right before 9/11. With four little kids, he decided to quit his day job and join this.
It was a lot of day job to quit.
It was a big one and it was a big risk but we had to change quickly. Even when I started, there was no internet. That was a big thing to overcome. A lot of times, I would go to the library and do research to find speakers. Once the internet came along, it was a lot easier. We then had to develop a website. We’ve gone through big pivots year-after-year. It seems like every year, there’s something big to pivot and change. We looked at it, this is one of the hardest things we’ve been through, but it’s also been fun because we’ve learned some new things. Virtual has been great and I’m not sure that we would have tackled this quickly if we hadn’t had the pandemic. We’ve jumped in and we’ve learned a lot and pivoted quickly and had some great success.
We’ve also understood that you don’t just take what we used to do and do that exact same thing virtually. We need to pick out all different areas of business and that’s important.
Tell me a little bit more about that because I know in our community, the work that we do which in part is my modeling, what paid speaking looks like to people who want to become paid speakers or people that want to get on a TEDx stage. When you say that you’ve got to approach the virtual speaking thing differently, I think that’s something people aren’t getting yet. They’re used to doing a keynote. Maybe they practice that keynote 1,000 times and have delivered it all over the world. Yet when you get in front of this little camera and you’re on Zoom, it’s an entirely different environment.
There are a lot of things that you have to think about. First of all, it’s making sure that you understand that you create the venue, not the client when you’re in a virtual world. Therefore, you have to develop your home studio if you’re a speaker. It’s important to look at continuing education as an option for your clients. You’re not just going to do a keynote. You’re looking to provide information and education over a long period of time.
I think another part of it too is you’re not looking at as a whole group anymore, but you’re speaking to an individual. It’s almost like you’re on TV instead of doing a keynote.
You’re talking to that guy on the couch and you’re saying, “Get up off the couch and do a deal.”
It’s also more casual.
There are no lights. There’s no stage differentiating the person that’s in the audience member from the presenter or the experts. There’s a level playing field of sorts that you’re collaborating and in conversation, which is different than being the font of knowledge and expert with the wisdom, the pearls to share and all that thing. It’s a different environment.
The one other thing I was going to say too is the sessions are a lot shorter. Instead of your standard 60-minute keynote, most of these are 30 minutes and then they’re wanting more Q&A.
I agree with that but also going back to what Adam was saying, everybody puts that speaker goes on stage on the pedestal. You guys are like the guy, “I want two minutes with that speaker.” That’s one of the big things. Now it’s like, “He’s on Zoom like I am.” It is more of an even thing. You have to understand how you work within that environment, even celebrities have to understand that as well.
That’s a paradigm shift. It’s a different dynamic. You work with a lot of speakers and coach them or mentor them as well to give them guidance. What are some of the things that you’ve been sharing with your folks about best practices and this new age that we’re in?
For me, it’s best practices. I’m telling our speakers to get out there and do as much as they possibly can. If you can get on Instagram Live or Facebook Live, whatever you can do to practice and practice and get feedback on it.
The social media piece that you’re talking about posting things and that thing.
To get comfortable with it. The more you do it, the easier it is and the feedback that you get from your audience.
Build your presentations around the fact that you’re now in a virtual environment. Incorporate Q&A in it, incorporate polling in it, breakout rooms, and other things that keep the audience engaged and you wouldn’t even have to do that in a normal circumstance, but now you have to do that.Things are going to happen; you just have to make the best of it. Click To Tweet
The best sessions I’ve seen have been the ones that are interactive.
We’ve also had to coach people on getting the equipment for their professions. A lot of people hope that all they need to do is have their computer ready, make sure they have a camera on it, microphone and then do their thing. Now they’ve got to have lights, microphones, green screen, a light ring and everything.
Let’s talk about some of the things that have changed, for example, the engagement piece of it. To me, engagement is always a non-negotiable part of public speaking that if you’re not engaging people, they’re drifting off or checking their Facebook page instead of leaning into the content you’re sharing. Now more than ever before, that process of sharing information got to be condensed. You are alluding to that. The overall time of the presentation might’ve shrunk from 60 minutes to 30 but the individual modules, the things that you might share, the stories you might share have also gotten to shrink. Nick Morgan was on our show and we were debating if is it five minutes before you put people into a process or some interactive exercise? Is it ten on the outside? Do you have a thought around that component as well? How long should the speaker go on doing their thing, sharing their story or their slides before they turn it around and make it about the people that are there with them?
It’s a little bit difficult because I’ve got certain clients that want to have a pre-recorded session with the speakers. You then aren’t able to have that interactive part. You have to have two speeches that you do. One that can be as exciting as it can be, but be pre-recorded. The other one that’s live, you can go from the beginning. I’ve seen speakers start out and as soon as they get on and they’re saying, “I see Susie is on from Rhode Island. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been to Disney World.” They’re starting out with it being interactive. Even if you do your opening and jump right in and have some interactivity is great.
You bring up a great point, and that’s the difference between a live and a pre-recorded. We’re seeing about 60% of the presentations that organizations contract are live and the other 40% are pre-recorded. For pre-recorded, you better have visuals, multimedia video that gets people’s attention and keeps their attention. It can’t be long like no more than 30 minutes.
One complaint we hear is when people use slides and then they’re up in the corner.
While the person’s up in the corner of the slides.
The slide is on and the person is up, they don’t like to see it that way.
What’s the specific feedback that you’ve gotten about that? Do people prefer to have no slides and be looking at that person? Is live, pre-recorded or both?
In both. A lot of times, you run into that at worst in a pre-recorded situation because you don’t have that interaction going back and forth. The problem is that people want to see the speaker as close to them as possible. They don’t want them to be a little tiny image in the corner. There is some software and I know, Adam, you’re aware of it that allows you to have the PowerPoint in the corner like you’re doing a new show.
They enjoy that more. When they’re seeing you on the computer screen, they’re expecting it to be more like TV.
If you look at some of the late-night TV hosts, they’re doing the same thing, yet they’ve got their graphics that are off to the right or off to the left or whatever like the thought bubbles and things like that. These are certain times of pandemic change and you’ve been through that before. During 9/11, people didn’t fly for 9 or 12 months. You were in this business at that point. Tell us a little bit about the wisdom or something you learned in that process of coming through that crisis on the other end. I’m not strictly looking for, “It’ll be all right,” thing. Even though we know when the market returned, it was all right. In fact, they returned with greater velocity than before it ended. Were there other lessons, other things that you took away from that that helped you to develop business resilience? Here you are many years later.
The one thing that stuck with us is we don’t ever stop working.
Here’s your resilience recipe. Don’t stop working 24/7.
I think a lot of people took a break during the pandemic at the beginning and stayed home. We didn’t. We still worked constantly. We still followed up with people. We still put stuff out. We were learning. We were using that time to create.
What’s great, Angela, is defining the work because as you said, you kept working but what does work mean?
Work looked a little bit different.
A lot of people are super busy. I don’t know how productive a lot of people who are busy are being. Are you talking about staying busy, staying active or you’re talking about more targeted leveraged activities?
More targeted leveraged activities. One of the things that I would point out that 9/11 taught us was to be more creative in the things that we came up with, and the ways that we marketed. That would be different from the way we market now. We had to think outside the box and 9/11 started us thinking outside the box. That is what we have to do now. A lot of that’s translated to this, but yes, we don’t stop working and we continue to pursue things. That is resilience over a period of time. It’s not going after things over and over again, but it’s coming up with more and more ideas. The first things that we thought of when it started were not the greatest ideas necessarily in the world, but we’ve developed those over time because we keep after it.
You didn’t have the solutions when everything was going to come apart at the scenes where it seemed like it was, and it was your instinct or perhaps it’s been your training, even your experience that led you to go, “Let’s go internal. Let’s think about what we could be doing differently as opposed to reacting to any number of other things that were happening around you.” Is that accurate? Is that fair?
This is different than anything we had been through before because when we went through 9/11 and the market shut down, we had certain clients that were still going strong. There were certain industries that were not doing anything, but then there were other industries that were still booking events. The associations through the market crash still kept going strong. There was business to still be had. This was different because everybody is shut down.
One of the things that is important through this process is many people that we talked to during this period of time did go into this incredible panic and not even focusing on what they needed to do or what they were going to do two months or a month from now. It was all about, “What’s happening to me now? How is my life being impacted?” They couldn’t focus outside of themselves. It was important for us to be calm and be good solution providers.
We had to think outside the box and do things differently. All of a sudden, now we see this huge increase in business and it is because we spent those first few months still working as hard as we could and figuring out what to do. We have seen a huge uptick on the business coming in now on clients doing virtual events. The other great thing we’re seeing is clients are ready to spend money on the virtual events. Whereas at first, they didn’t want to spend much money on virtual, but now they’re good.
We’re at part two of our conversation with Angela and Richard Schelp. I say part two because right in the middle of part one, we had a technology glitch. I feel like it’s important to bring that up, not to be transparent about the fact that’s the case, but many things in our world, they can turn on a dime. They can change in an instant. You can have a challenge in technology quickly like the battery runs out or the camera for whatever reason is not working properly. What do you do in those moments? Do you have a fit, lose you’re cool or allow that anxiety to reach another level and then you’re breaking out with a rash? There are many things happening to come at us moment to moment. I’m happy that we’re back together, we blended our schedules, figured it out again and we get to continue this conversation.
We’re excited to be here and it’s funny that you say that because it is true with now and the events that we’re doing, you never know what’s going to happen. Part of it is you go with it and you make the best out of it.
The things we would expect or be able to manage ahead of time when it came to standing on a stage where you did a mic check the day before you were in and you checked your slides. There’s a whole myriad of things that you would be ready to check. Now in virtual events, there are a whole series of things that are anticipated and some unanticipated glitches or problems like with Zoom. Zoom went out for four hours.
That impact would affect every single person in the country because everybody has gotten Zoom meetings, even if you don’t have a presentation that you’re part of.
Why don’t we use that as an example? Did you have some meetings going on where you had clients, speakers and folks that were affected by the Zoom outage?
I had a couple of personal meetings to talk about their big Zoom meeting. It was a difficult one because I couldn’t get on, and here we were talking about how they were going to run their entire event on Zoom. I kept on saying that this is the only time it’s happened and things are going to happen. You have to make the best of it and it doesn’t matter what platform or technology you use. There’s always a chance that there could be a problem.
One of the things that I think I would toss in about because we’ve found out a couple of the platform providers, not Zoom, but some people that manage the platforms have had huge outages where they had major events that they had to cancel. One of the things that we can all think about this day in time is because it is virtual, we need to be more flexible and more accommodating of a situation. We need to understand that if a meeting doesn’t happen and maybe you’re going to have 1,000 attendees that are supposed to be at this meeting, then you can move it to two weeks from now or whatever. Those people can come back together again and it’s not like they’re flying into Las Vegas, Los Angeles or London. They are having to come back to their desk in two weeks to be part of that event. If we can get our mindset to say that it’s not disastrous, we can put up with these glitches and these little things that happen.
I had this happen. I had a large 10,000-person audience that their platform went down, but what they did was they had planned and had a backup. They told everybody, “We’re moving to Zoom,” and they sent out the Zoom link to everybody and they switched to Zoom and finished up on Zoom the rest of that day. They did it but they had anticipated and had a backup and knew what they were doing. You’ve got speakers that are having to be their own tech people, which they’ve never had to do before. That’s causing a lot more challenges because in the past, they had the tech team from the company but now, they are their own tech team, or they may have a spouse or a son or daughter that’s running it. It’s different. They no longer do they have the big tech team from the company, so you have to be flexible.
I was thinking about when we were watching Blake Shelton. He is being remote for the television show and they had sent all this equipment to Blake Shelton.
He doesn’t have how to put together. He was in Montana or something.We've discovered ways to tackle the whole meeting industry that we didn't know before because of this virtual space. Click To Tweet
I was on the phone with the speaker and he said, “We got my studio where it’s working.” He had to do it. It was his situation. I think because of all that, even though people are getting better and better at these virtual events and the virtual events are much better than they were in March 2020. If people understand that we’re humans that are involved in this and then it’s not as life or death as it has been, we can deal with this a lot. You can deal with outages, downtimes, bumps and bruises without it being a disaster.
Isn’t that the thing about human beings, the condition of us on this that we often catastrophize things that we make things disastrous in a lot of ways? It’s like that’s our default reaction to create an irrational response to something. I say irrationally because nobody is dying. Nobody has died and from a standpoint of what’s awful, a catastrophe or a disastrous, when you analyze it as Zoom outage or a meeting being postponed or having the switch platforms or any of those things, or even postponing a podcast. It’s a tiny blip on the screen of life.
You have to keep things in perspective.
Is it possible that as a result of the massive change of using this industry to move our face-to-face speaking to face-to-face but virtual on Zoom or some other platform? Are there benefits that you guys can start to see that are emerging out of what was, and is a crisis?
Yes, it’s more personal to me. Virtual is more personal. We get to sit here and we’re talking with you. We’re having this great conversation with you. It could be on the phone and it’s not nearly as personal. I don’t get to see the room that you’re in and all those things. I have met more clients during this pandemic face-to-face than I ever saw in the last few years because of this technology. That is hugely significant as far as what’s going on. I think that is a great benefit. I also feel that we’ve discovered ways in which we can tackle the whole meeting industry that we didn’t know before because of this virtual space. Our minds have expanded the abilities of what we can do here is much greater as well. There’s a huge amount of benefits I see from what’s going on.
Going forward, we will always see the hybrid even when we move back to in-person meetings where you’ll have the virtual as well. People are realizing that if you have an event where you’re bringing in and it’s a global company, or you have multiple locations, there are only many people that you can bring in because somebody has to stay back and run the office. Now, you can have those people come in. The other people that are still at the office, or they’re international, they can log in and watch this event. You’re going to have that where you’re going to see more of the combination in the future so that more people can attend because they’re realizing that many more people are able to attend when it’s virtual than when it’s in-person.
Among those benefits are inclusiveness. This inclusivity whereas previously it might be that somebody has to stay home and man the phone, the sales team or the client care team wouldn’t get access to something that might be going on, and now there’s that added ability to bring everybody in here and not leave anybody behind, which is big. You were saying that there’s a lot of personal growth that’s coming out of this as well. That concept of how to be flexible in the midst of things you can’t control or the glitches of life, that’s its own benefit separate apart from what we do for work, or for pleasure.
Also, you’re going to see speakers because they’ve gotten good at this. When they go to an event and it’s in person and they do a keynote, they’re going to have more of the follow-on programs that they can offer virtually. You can say, “For the next three months on Mondays, I’m going to send a 32-second clip as a reminder of what you should do this week.” You will see more ongoing training from speakers because they can do that now.
I think speakers are going to be a lot nicer to AV teams as well when they’re on-site because they’ve been the AV team. Speakers often, and I can speak for me as well, that we took them for granted. The guys who were running all the lines and figuring out exactly how the sound is took those people for granted. That’s not happening anymore.
To me, I’m only hearing benefits. Even in the midst of what took the industry to its knees for at least a few minutes, I think there are hundreds of events that have to be canceled and deposits that have to be dealt with in speaker payments and any myriad of other things that were going on. It was ugly for a hot second for a while. What we see is that change has created new opportunities. When we come back, we will be back in the room with people again. The benefit to me of a speaker that now has the ability to be in the conversation, as opposed to a talking head, that speaker that knows how to facilitate, as opposed to weaving stories, that same speaker that might have facilitation follow up continuity for that group so that it’s not something they walk away thinking, “That was great.” Two weeks later, they don’t remember any of it. These are tremendous long-tail benefits to the industry and to everybody involved.
The speakers have had to completely redo much of their talk because it’s a different way to present. They’ve been able to step back and put a new, fresh spin on a lot of their presentations. Sometimes when you’re busy and you go and go, and you don’t have time to stop and do that. That’s been good to be able to take that time and focus on the presentation and how to make it more personal and add those things in. That will be a benefit going forward.
They’ve had to uncover skills that they didn’t know they had as well. I’ve heard people talk to me about, “I think maybe I could be an MC. Maybe I could do some of the things that I haven’t done before. Maybe I can do more interactive type presentations.” All of these things were skills that were hidden behind for them. Now I have to bring them out in order to succeed in the virtual world. That’s part of it.
I didn’t expect this would come out but you’re bringing up this skillset. I’d love it if you’d tell us what you think for people who are making that transition from either the way they used to present to this current method or people getting started. They would love to know what the best practices are in terms of let’s say it’s no longer for the most part a 60-minute or a 75-minute keynote. A lot of those keynotes have gotten reduced down to 45 minutes. The hardest thing in the world for me after had been speaking for more than ten years was to do a TED Talk because the TED Talk was only eighteen minutes. Give me a whole day, give me half a day to work with people. That’s easier compared to consolidate create one through-line or one key message that you only have eighteen minutes or less it’s delivered. It’s sharpening those tools. What are some of the things that you were seeing that speakers have now discovered or are learning that is creating a more effective virtual keynote?
To me, it’s making it more personal because you have to remember that we touched on this before, that you’re talking to one other person. It’s almost a one-on-one talk instead of a big group when you’re doing this virtually. You have to relate and change the way you think about it and make it more personal.
It’s interesting that it’s about trying to establish that connection between you and who you think that one person is on the other side of the screen. That one connection is what they have to focus on. If you’re speaking across globally, that’s not going to work. It has to be this one-to-one type deal and that’s extremely important.
You can’t have your standard 60-minute keynote and that’s what we’ve done in the past. You can’t do it. The majority of them that I’m seeing are about 30 to 40 minutes and they want a longer Q&A. The Q&A has gotten to be such a bigger piece now because it’s more interactive and they want enough of a message to get that out there and get you thinking, but then they want to elaborate in the Q&A. I would say it’s important to polish your skills on that moderated Q&A and get good at that and have good thoughtful answers when you come back when somebody asks you a question. Don’t just spout it out, but think about what you want to say. A lot of times, the audience now is coming back and saying that was their favorite part of the entire presentation was that Q&A. Sometimes they don’t know on the presentation if it’s recorded or if it’s live. They know that the Q&A part is live. They know that’s personal to them. They’re enjoying that even more. Going forward, that is something we’ve all got to focus on.
What I would like to say too on top of what you said is that you have to get good at both your pre-recorded presentation style, as well as your live presentation style. The two are a little bit different and you have to make sure that you excel in both environments because you don’t know what the clients can expect. Some will say, “We’ve got to have the whole thing live.” You’ve got to be good at it. They may say, “We’re going to do your session pre-recorded, then fifteen minutes of Q&A you pop on for.” You have to make sure that pre-recorded piece is as solid as if you were live in an interactive situation. That is important as well.
It has a lot to do with your energy because we are our company among other things that train people that do TEDx speaking and prepare keynotes and things. For virtual speaking, you have to break through that proverbial fourth wall. You’re looking into a camera. You’re looking into a lens. It’s not going to give you energy back. You can’t feel in that respect. As you said, when you’re doing it live on Zoom, depending on the technology, like our technology, we get to see and they get to see me when I’m doing it up front, and then we have a layering of the slides so they see the slides as opposed to sharing a screen and only having slides that they’re seeing. That helps a little bit with that personal feeling.
When you’re doing a pre-recorded one, you’ve got to imagine. It is a bit of acting because you’re imagining who is that person on the other side of this that you’re looking into seeing them and what you want is for your words to land and resonate and move them in some way. If one person is feeling it, the likelihood is others will feel it as well. It’s an area for growth that only will pay dividends going forward whether there’ll be events that’ll strictly be the way they were and then there’ll be these new events that are a bit of a hybrid. There’ll be companies that will figure out that the economics of doing a virtual training and having virtual presentations will outweigh some of the costs of getting a venue and all that other stuff that can be daunting and expensive.
Needless to say, you can upgrade the level of the speaker that you have by moving it into the virtual space. Not only are you saving money but the same money could get you somebody that’s a couple of levels above what you could have afforded in person.
I’m seeing that a lot right now because there are people that we have worked with for many years, and they have had these people on their wish list and now they can have the people on their wish list that they couldn’t have before. That’s been fun for them.
They may not want to leave that when we get 2 or 3 years down the road.
I love what you said about having those contingency plans. People that are reading this and knowing that you’re the chief cook and bottle washer, you’re in charge of your AV and a lot of other things. It is important to have those contingency plans worked out for when things happen because there are multiple ways to solve things if you’re anticipating them. When it comes to how it is that we produce that level of continuing professional and personal resilience, I’m a huge believer in rituals. To me, the quality of our lives is equal to the quality of the rituals that we have.
I have spiritual rituals for sure, but this is not necessarily a spiritual or a religious thing when you use the word rituals. It’s like what are the things you do consciously? Versus you brush your teeth with your right hand because that’s your habit to do it? It doesn’t mean that you’re consciously doing that. Do you have rituals that you’ve created for either the quality of your relationship or ritual specifically with respect to your own physical health or your business? What are some of those things? I’d love to chat about that.So many more people are able to attend when it's a virtual than when it's in person. Click To Tweet
You talk first. I’ll agree with everything you say.
That’s a ritual right there. Richard agrees, he checks in and he doesn’t just agree with Angela. He makes sure he checks in to see if she’d like his agreement before he agrees. This is good stuff. It’s like a relationship course happening here.
We’re up early every day and we’re at the office early every day. It’s one of those things. It’s in clockwork. We’re up at the same time. We have our morning ritual. A lot of times we get home, we cook together and we go for a long walk with the dogs and then come back. A lot of times, we may return emails or work a little bit more and watch movies. Especially during this time when it was difficult to keep that ritual going to continue to get up early and every single day, no matter if the customers were not wanting to respond or not, we still stuck with it every day, sat down, and worked the same number of hours. It came back quickly for us because of those rituals that we did.
I would also say too that part of our rituals, a lot of times in the morning, because we’re getting ready at the same time is we’ll have about 10 or 15 minutes of discussion every morning that is about issues of the day to do with business. It has to do with, “What major things are we going to have to try to address now? What do we think we want to do about this?” Or maybe if we’re doing some podcast thing, “What are we going to say to that?” All those things are a normal thing that we will do every single morning when we’re getting ready. That is huge and that’s something that we do together. I know on the way to work, I always take fifteen minutes and always think through the major things that I have to work on with clients during that day. It’s important for me to already map out my day before I arrive here, so that I can hit the ground running. Those are two things that I would speak to that we’re involved in.
Once I get here, I have a gratitude notebook and I’ll write down three things I’m grateful for. Jon Gordon has a great book on positive thoughts, and I’ll read through that and sometimes jot that down as well. This is what I’ve been trying to do but write a note to somebody that I would love to say a kind word to or thanks to or something like that.
I’m still hoping to make that gratitude.
A company that I was running for a bunch of years had a special afternoon ritual, like a Wednesday afternoon at 3:00, everybody will have half-hour. We wanted it to be that everybody would take this time to simply send out notes of appreciation. It was a half-hour that the company shut down and everybody was required to send out these notes of appreciation to people that they didn’t otherwise have the time. We all have that intention that we want to be grateful for folks and share it, but we’re busy sometimes. It took a little while believe it or not. People were a hair resistant to the idea but we’re not forcing you to be grateful. You honestly don’t have to be grateful at all. This might not be the right culture for you.
The principle was embraced at a certain point because it was family, friends and folks. When you go through your phone, pick up your phone and start ABC-ing and going, “I can’t believe I haven’t spoken to this person forever.” Wouldn’t it be nice even though I know we’re not necessarily going to get together tomorrow or something, but I want that person I’m thinking and I do think about them. It’s like, “I’m thinking about you or I appreciate you.” If you want to see a miracle happen, send a few of those out randomly in a day and see what you feel.
It’s fun to get notes like that too. It makes your day when you get something like that.
It impacts you. One of the things that are a key, which you brought up there, Adam, that we didn’t even touch on yet is not just during this period of time, but anytime in order to be successful, you have to get outside of yourself. If you stay too inside of yourself, things can only grow so much. True success comes when you start thinking about other people who are around you. That does allow you to be more creative and innovative.
This is the beginning of a great conversation. I will ask you if there’s one final thing that you’d love to share with that group of people out there that are maybe caught in the throes of this still. They are still white-knuckling this experience of COVID. This is such a gamut of where this is interacted and interfered with the status quo of people’s lives. You hire the talent, often you’re the one matching talent. If there’s one thing I’ve heard from event producers and promoters for years, is that they want those folks to leave inspired. They want them to be motivated and they want them to have takeaways and things they can either use in their life. What’s the one thing you’d like to say to the group of people who are still maybe caught in the grips of this?
It’s something that I’m telling a lot of people every day and that is even now, even in the most challenging of situations, we all have things to be grateful for. We need to embrace the things, the gifts that we have and the blessings that we have every single day, embrace those, use those and appreciate the life that you have. Appreciate the situation that you have and that’s how you can take steps forward. It’s when you’re caught up in too much of, “The bad stuff, you can’t grow, you can’t move, you can’t get better.” The only way you can get better is to appreciate where you are right now.
There are still people out there that are holding on hopes and they’ll say every day, “I’m ready for it to go back to normal.” We know that’s not going to happen anytime soon. The more that you can be grateful and surround yourself with other people that are happy, it makes a difference. It feeds off of it. If you’re with a group of people that’s talking about, “How are we going to get through this? How are we going to make it better? What can we do?” It’s different than if you’re in a room of people that says, “This is bad. I can’t wait for it to be back.” You’re all then going to get sucked into it. It’s not going back to normal anytime soon. The quicker that those people can join a group of happy people and realize that it can be great. There are many good things happening. We are healthy right now. You have to focus on those things and it’s going to be good. These virtual events are great. The speakers that wait too long are going to get left in the dust. The ones that have been going, they’re getting booked a ton. The quicker they make that jump over, the better.
I love what you said there because we’ve seen in our own office that the happier we are about stuff, the more positive we are, the more our office has become as active and productive as it was before the pandemic now. We’re excited and we’re working on new stuff and we’re exchanging ideas, and it doesn’t stop. That is happy people being productive and getting better.
It’s contagious. Positivity and higher energy is contagious. I truly believe that one of the things that happen when you speak and you present is that the Law of Transference is activated. You’re transferring your own energy to other people. If your energy is one of enthusiasm and optimism and seeing an opportunity, even in the midst of uncertainty, seeing that there’s all this growth, you transfer that feeling to other people. They can’t help but not only feel but feel lifted by it. That’s some of the best work we can do in the world is to help lift other people.
Our customers need that too because our customers are nervous about making the shift, and it’s hard for them. The more that we get excited and talk about how things are going well, and we’re seeing events that are amazing, and we’re sending videos of these great events. They’re getting excited. Building that excitement is a good thing to spread.
I would have finished up with a question and a discussion quickly about the awaking ritual. That’s the thing I asked most everybody at the end of these shows. The first question for you is did you wake up now?
It’s a metaphor in many ways. We realize as you said about gratitude that when we went to sleep, there was no guarantee. Did you get a guarantee in writing that you were going to wake up?
Neither did I. In my eighteen years of being a lawyer, I still haven’t figured out how to get a contract put in place. I put my hand on the pill the next morning when I wake up. When I do wake up each morning, we have gotten that blessing. I realized that there are people in that exact same moment that are taking their last breath. It’s not difficult for me to start the day with gratitude because I immediately realized this wasn’t guaranteed. The thing about it too is that waking up is like, what would more be important than each day that we’re a little more awake than the day before? A little bit more conscious. These are things that we can work on and then the third piece of this waking ritual of waking up and being grateful is that you can say something out loud. You can speak. I’m getting into that little bit of woo-woo area here, but I believe that you speak your life into existence.
I believe in a lot of the things that are presented through spiritual means that you can look at and say, “Where’s this tangible my life now?” The universe was created when these words were spoken, “Let there be light.” There’s a speaking something into existence from the beginning of time, at least as far as tracked in the Bible. Where is it that we’re speaking things into existence in our lives? Where is it that things are showing up because we left it to default, but we haven’t spoken it? Is there something that you say in the morning? What were the first words physically out of your mouth when you woke up?
I wake up and I’ve got the dog and I’m like, “Come on girls. Let’s go.” I’ve got to get the dogs out first thing in the morning. That’s what I do.
The first word is always to you which is, “Hi.”
What about you, Adam, what was your first word?
They’re written on my shirt.
I like it. Do you wake up every day and say that?
The TED Talk I gave was all about these four simple words that for the better part of twelve years now, every morning, I put my feet on the floor. I feel that one moment where I go, “This is special. This is a blessing.” I then say it out loud. I say two things, “I love my wife and I love my life.” At first, when I started to say it, I wanted it to be true. It’s a riddle because it’s a prayer, an intention. It’s speaking of the prophecy of things into existence. This was in many ways in the TED Talk, the thing that had to get dealt with because people go, “If you live my life, if you were putting up with what I was putting up, if you lost your job, if your kid was killed in a drunk driving accident, you tell me how you would love your life.” Those are the realities of many people’s lives and my life and everybody’s. The thing isn’t about that saying, “I love my life.” This means that my life is perfect or that I love every instant of my life but I love my life no matter what. Those are the important words for me anyway.
There are many days that it’s difficult and hard, but you love it no matter what.
I can say that I have loved our conversation no matter what.
It’s been fun and entertaining.
Thank you, for coming back for part two. Everybody, we’d love as always to get your comments and to get your feedback. It’s like oxygen for us. Please feel free to do that. Leave a comment and subscribe. Leave your thoughts on any of the platforms where you’re consuming this because it’s meaningful for us. If you’re a speaker and you want to find out more about the work they’re doing, if you’re potentially a client, I can tell you that I’ve worked with these two gentle, wonderful people. They are professionals. If you’re putting on an event, these are folks that you want to get in touch with and see if they can help you to get the best talent. That’s it for now. Ciao.
About Angela Schelp
Executive Speakers Bureau, founded by Angela Schelp in July 1993, is headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee. In 2001, Richard Schelp joined the bureau as a co-owner. At the turn of the century, Executive Speakers Bureau expanded its business to clients outside of the U.S. Today, Executive Speakers Bureau is considered one of the top bureaus in the country. We offer hundreds of national keynote speakers as well as speakers local to the client’s venue to help meet the individual needs of each organization with which we work. Customer service is our number one priority. We take pride in our ability to provide world class service as well as our ability to deliver today’s foremost professional speakers and expert trainers to clients around the world. It is our commitment to provide our clients with unparalleled service, access to hundreds of motivational speakers worldwide and individualized personal attention.