In bringing Managing with Aloha to the world of business I speak a lot; everything from 20-minute keynotes to week-long seminars and retreats. This week I’ve wrapped up 2005 with some terrific speaking gigs before ending my year with a 3-week holiday hiatus, a tradition in my leadership coaching company. These gigs were terrific because my clients were terrific, and I felt I wasn’t just a hired gun; we collaborated on the design of my presentation, and they gave me the opportunity to give more than just another speech.

With my very last presentation I had the pleasure of staying in a magnificent hotel, and part of my fee included an extra night’s stay so that I could end my time with them much more leisurely than I normally have the opportunity to do. Their offer was irresistible to me and I took advantage of it. Smartly, so did they; it was win for both of us. They helped me create a defining moment for them and their company.

The entire experience caused me to reflect back on all my speaking over the last year, and I thought of all the clients associated with them — the good, the bad, and fortunately none I would call the ugly! In this, my last Thursday column for Lifehack.org for 2005 (I’ll be back after that hiatus I mentioned) I thought I’d share with you my best clients’ smarts.

There have been those clients who took full advantage of our engagement knowing how I am more coach than consultant by nature, and I think they were exceptionally clever. By the time our project was over they had received oodles of free coaching from me, and I didn’t mind one bit. In fact, they usually left me wishing that all my clients were just like them. This is how they did it.

  1. First, I didn’t intimidate them. All of 5’1” and soft spoken when I’m off-stage I’m not an intimidating person, however they didn’t let my “expert” and “author” aura and reputation hold them back either. They took the time to have telephone conversations with me and get to know me. They shared their objectives with me, and the stories of why they called me in the first place. In short, they got me to know them, like them, and want to help them as new friends who had a vision and mission similar to mine.
  2. If I was traveling to see them, they played meeting planner and travel agent, booking as much of my “free time” as possible, before I filled in the blanks myself. As managers and leaders, they’d get my free advice over morning coffee the day of my seminar, or because they picked me up from the airport instead of sending a driver for me. They entertained me and gave me the niceties of “VIP service” so that I’d “pay” them for it with my knowledge and my free coaching.
  3. They got me to use their products and services during my stay, whatever they were. They asked me to test them, and offer suggestions. My “thing” is management and leadership in business, and I travel a lot. I get welcomed into a lot of different companies, perhaps including their competitors, and others they should benchmark. I am not going to disclose anything I shouldn’t. Still, knowing my frame of reference, they considered me a living, breathing, opinionated “guest comment card” for what they offer.
  4. They understood that those of us who speak are always looking for new stories and new examples to pepper our presentations with personalization (say that quickly 3 times!) and they took me on plant/ property/ company tours, and introduced me to many of the people who would be in my audience both before and after my presentation so we’d make a personal connection.
  5. Along those same lines, they deliberately set out to be my newest fresh-in-mind and memorable “great story,” the one I would take to future speeches in future places, giving them fantastic, highly favorable free press in the process. Knowing I speak to thousands and thousands of your prospective customers each year, and that people ask me for my recommendations all the time, what would you like me to say to them about you?
  6. Most speakers, me included, are eager learners, always on the prowl for opportunities to meet the visionaries, movers and shakers in an organization. We love to interview the big shots and get inside their heads. My best clients, the ones determined to make MWA part of their culture going forward, used me to secure their boss’s buy-in because they put me in the golden opportunity to discuss vision and mission with them.
  7. If I were just one speaker in their conference, they invited me to the entire conference so that I would be available to their participants both on stage and off. You can bet this strategy also made me pretty competitive, and determined to be their best speaker, and the one sharing the most aloha with their people.
  8. They understood that they’d be flushing their money down the drain if my presentation needs were not taken care of (audio-visual, lighting, desired room logistics) and I was not well seen, heard, and experienced by the audience.
  9. They had read my book, or at least had skimmed it pretty thoroughly and read the book reviews. They were very familiar with my blog and website. They distributed an article I’d written to their audience ahead of time in a newsletter, announcement, or email blitz to create some anticipation and excitement, and so they’d start thinking of questions.
  10. They asked me to help them with my introduction before my presentation, i.e. What part of your bio should I mention? and — the part most people miss — they asked how they should end it, i.e. if they were offering my book at a special price, my website links for continuing MWA education, if I was sticking around for the remainder of their conference etc. Speakers don’t like to end presentations with a sales pitch — even free resources sound like less than a good deal. When the organizer does it, they get the credibility for negotiating that free e-book out of me exclusively for their audience.
  11. If they have asked me to include a Q&A time, they planted people with good questions to start us off with, questions on things they wanted me to cover briefly anyway. Better than a Q&A time, they scheduled round-table discussions immediately after my presentation, asking their groups to come up with Next Action idea lists connected it, and asking me to remain and walk the room as speaker turned coach — what I do best!
  12. They scheduled a post event debrief with me. The more involved and longer my presentation, and the more of your people I meet, the more feedback I am going to have for you. Will you secure your opportunity to get it out of me, or are you letting me escape with it as you politely say thank you and goodbye? They ask the critical question in this debrief: What is your advice on how I inculcate this into our organizational culture, so the learning sticks?

Think about these things the next time you hire any consultant or expert — get your money’s worth. All you speakers out there in cyberland and blogsville, please chime in the comments here if you feel I’ve missed something.

Mele Kalikimaka, Hau‘oli Makahiki Hou: A wonderful and blessed holiday season to all of you. I’ll be back with my next Thursday column for Leon on January 12th of 2006.

Rosa Say, author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business and the Talking Story blog. Rosa is founder and head coach of Say Leadership Coaching, a company dedicated to bringing nobility to the working arts of management and leadership. She loves speaking: click here for more on her speaking engagements.

Rosa’s Previous Thursday Column was: Holiday Gifts for Working Stiffs.

(Photo credit: Word “Expert” via Shutterstock)

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