Michelle Ray professional speaker, trainer and founder of Walkabout Seminars International.
Born in Melbourne, Michelle is an International Speaker and Seminar Leader who has spoken to thousands of people around the world. Her company, Walkabout Seminars International was established in 1995 with registered offices in Vancouver, Canada as well as Sydney, Australia.
The Walkabout Seminars International “Customer Service 2000” series was released prior to the 2000 Olympic Summer Games. Michelle Ray’s passion for the topic has generated rave reviews from all over the world. It continues to be in great demand and was promoted in Vancouver in May 2002.
In October 2002, “Business in Vancouver” newspaper listed Michelle’s company as one of the top training providers in British Columbia. A sought-after keynote speaker and trainer, Michelle demonstrates a deep understanding of her subjects.
Michelle serves on the board of CAPS BC as the logistics and hospitality chair. She is currently preparing her application for candidacy as a Certified Speaking Professional; the highest designation in the speaking profession. She is a contributing author to “Expert Women Who Speak Vol. III”, due for release this month.
Michelle has received standing ovations for her Keynote presentation about negativity and customer satisfaction, entitled: www.I’m-Not-Happy.com. Her style is described as inspiring, uplifting, engaging and humourous; with a common sense message.
Deb: What was your first paid speaking engagement?
Michelle: I started out contracting with an American seminar company. I was nervous and anxious while I was preparing to speak to a crowd of 120 people. I memorized my introduction. Once I got going, after the first five minutes I wasn’t nervous anymore.
Deb: Would you recommend starting as a contract speaker for a seminar company?
Michelle: It’s not for everyone but it was a great experience for me. I got great training on the job. I mean, where else can you get paid to speak 100 – 150 times in the first year even as you are improving? I had the opportunity to see lots of other professional speakers for free. In the first year I must have gone to see 50 other speakers.
Deb: What got you started as a professional speaker?
Michelle: I really got into it because I was in a job I couldn’t stand and I was very unhappy. Nowadays in my presentation I use that story when I talk about leadership. As soon as I aligned with a seminar company I got incredible mentors and paid particular attention to those speakers who were going out on their own. That was always my goal.
Deb: We see the glamour of public speaking, but what about the unglamorous side?
Michelle: The unglamorous side is five cities in one week, travel, time changes, jet lag and hotel living. I’ve learned to deal with some of this by always making I go to bed early when I am on the road. I take a hot bath to relax.
Being on the road can be very isolating. I recommend you use your phone card and email as much as you need to. For me it is a lifeline.
Deb: How do you deal with constantly being evaluated?
Michelle: I think evaluations and evaluation forms are very useful. I pay close attention to any patterns I see in them. I really learned a lot about pacing a one-day seminar from what I was seeing in my evaluation forms.
Deb: Do you have a niche?
Michelle: Yes. My niche is workplace communication
Deb: How did you find your niche?
Michelle: More and more people were asking me about what to do in difficult situations with their colleagues. I did extensive research about the topic and began to see a real demand for it. I think this demand is always going to be there, particularly as people get more stressed at work. I always really got a charge out of doing these presentations too. I like to show people the humour of this topic as well as it’s darkside.
Deb: How important is humour and are you funny?
Michelle: Humor connects people universally. I have learned over the years that it is best to just be myself rather than try to be funny. The best kind of humour is self-deprecating. It is also important to realize the appropriateness of humour. Some speeches are not supposed to be funny. A speaker needs to know what message they are seeking to convey, and then use humour and pathos accordingly.
Deb: If there were one thing you would never do again, what would it be?
Michelle: I would never allow my membership with a professional speaking association to lapse. I feel that I have missed out on affiliating with the best and could have learned even faster than I did. I would have learned more about working ON the business, as well as IN the business.
Deb: What do you think is your biggest strength?
Michelle: I am focus and directed.
Deb: Have you ever thought about getting out of the speaking business?
Michelle: Not once. I can’t imagine working nine to five again, and I really love it too much.
Deb: Have you had lean years and how did you deal with them?
Michelle: Yes. All along I have put money back into the business, so I had some to see me through when times were a bit harder. I also keep my personal costs low to allow me to keep money in the business. Ask my friends; I am still waiting to install wood floors.
Deb: What advice do you have for new speakers?
Michelle: You have to spend money to make money. When I started out I got a $10,000 line of credit so that I could launch my business through marketing and a public seminar campaign. After my first public seminar I broke even. You have to be willing to invest in your business.
Deb: Do you see the speaking market changing?
Michelle: Yes. I think there is less interest in razzamatazz and more interest in practical advice and spiritual issues.
Deb: Did you ever or do you now speak for free?
Michelle: Yes to both. When I am asked by an association or network group to speak for free I carefully evaluate the type of audience and look for opportunities. If I can see them then I will speak for free. For example, I spoke in October 2001 for free and got a great contract out of that. Then I got a second contract as a result of the first contract. It was definitely worth it.
Deb: Have any words or books inspired you?
Michelle: Yes, Ghandi’s words when he says “Be careful of your thoughts, your thoughts become your words. Be careful of your words, your words become your actions. Be careful of your actions, your actions become your character. Be careful of your character, your character becomes your destiny”.
(Michelle, what does that MEAN to you?) These words are very powerful as they make me think about the impact that people have on one another as well as in the world. It is all about how we carry ourselves. Others will find our character attractive or otherwise, and we decide how we want others to see us
Deb: Have you been mentored?
Michelle: Yes I have. A fellow speaker called Andy Sherman in Kansas taught me to be myself. I watched as he showed me that through his own adversities he could help others learn about theirs.
Deb: How do you differentiate yourself from others who do similar presentations?
Michelle: My friend calls it “confession of the soul”. I think she means that I have a willingness to share my vulnerabilities and myself with my audience in order to connect with them.
Deb: What do you know now that you wished you knew when you started?
Michelle: How to determine my worth. Whether you say you are a $200 speaker or a $3000 speaker you are. You have to believe in your own value. My first experience in developing a keynote I asked for $1000 and got it. The company didn’t even bat an eye. Through associating with professional speakers in the industry I came to understand how those who asked what they were worth got it. I got a better sense of the market.
At 22 she was Branch Manager of a trust company in a small town. At 23 she was transferred to Toronto, Canada’s centre for business, banking and finance. Advancement opportunities and success were hers for the taking. She said to herself, my life is great! Fine dining, great fashion and money. What else could I possibly want? First, one year passed, then the second year. Many people couldn’t believe it when she told them that, after two years with everything at her fingertips, she still wasn’t happy.
Looking for a change of scenery and a change of pace, she and her husband decided to go on a ski vacation into the mountains of Nelson, British Columbia. It was love at first sight. Nelson became home. Though still involved in the banking industry, she was eager for change. Ideas began to percolate. She had always been fascinated with learning and the process of learning; she continued to study books, video tapes, any information that she could find that would give her insight into the workings of the mind. Then one evening she saw a video by Bob Proctor. The video was called Born Rich. “You can do whatever you want”, he said. He spoke about the mindset of the prosperous entrepreneur. She was inspired and motivated by his words. She began to realize that she too had learning to share, but how? As a child she was very shy, introverted. She had never thought about herself as a speaker much less marketing herself as a speaker. Her name, Joan Posivy.
It has been said that when preparation meets timing, good fortune smiles and dreams come true. It just so happened that Bob Proctor’s Born Rich program required a facilitator. This was the stepping stone that would lead Joan Posivy into, what would become, a successful speaking career. She facilitated the introduction and acted as the support vehicle for the program participants. It was being in this support role that she bridged the gap from being a non-speaker to becoming a speaker. It was a 2 day program. Sometimes people wanted more. They would ask her to come and speak at a luncheon or at an afternoon event. One thing led to another; soon she had a job, training, with Canada’s Federal Business Development Bank. She then applied, and was accepted, as a trainer for an International Seminar Company. The experience was incredible. The learning was invaluable. The travel was fantastic. She loved it.
Joan Posivy was already on the seminar circuit and a professional speaker when she joined the Toastmasters organization. It happened in the Okanagan. She had finished her seminar for the day and saw a sign for Toastmasters in the hotel lobby. She had a free evening, so she decided to see what it was all about. The people in the club were so inviting, so welcoming. As a guest, she was partnered with someone who explained the meeting as it went along. She thought to herself, what a wonderful forum for people to improve their public speaking. She had an absolutely wonderful time. She thought, it would great to have a club where she lived; so Joan co founded a club in Nelson, served as it’s President and VIP Education, and remained active for five years. She maintains that the feedback people receive in Toastmasters, is invaluable. The jobs we work at everyday are the ‘real’ thing. Toastmasters helps us be better prepared and more polished, not only in our everyday work environment but also in our everyday relationships.
Does she have any advice to ‘wannabe’ trainers and speakers? Make the decision, then do it. She says, “Examine your strengths. Have a strong desire, be persistent, and have integrity. In the beginning, consider doing some volunteer speaking. This helps to build confidence and also helps you put together a list of references. Always remember to do your research. To be successful, investigative work is necessary. Get to know your audience in advance by talking to, or interviewing some of the people who will be attending. Cover the range of those present. Talk to the CEO, the secretary, the shipping clerk. Ask what they are looking for or hoping to get from this talk/seminar or workshop. We all have varying degrees of connectedness with others. The more you connect with your audience the higher the degree of ‘speaking’ success.”
She also suggests doing a newsletter or ezine. They help do two things. One they help you keep in touch with old clients. Two, they help you make connections with new ones.
Her own newsletters are filled with practical information, insights and inspiration.
Joan Posivy no longer works for an International Seminar Company. She has now created her own. It’s called Programs for Peak Performance. During her years of travelling, training and speaking across Canada, through the United States, and into the United Kingdom, she found that issues everywhere, whether people were taking courses on managing stress to management training, came down to one thing. That thing was money. So she asked herself, “What do wealthy people do externally, and internally that helps them to create wealth and riches?”
Her findings led her to create a delightful program, rich in content and rich in personal reward.. She found her dream. Now she helps other people find theirs through her ‘Wealth and Women’ series. “I love this program,” she says, “It brings together the best of the best in what I know. We look at what habits need to change and what strategies we need to put in place. It is practical, positive and provides life-long value. My Wealth and Women series is designed specifically for women who want to dramatically improve their financial situation.”
“Our external results are merely an image of our internal reality. I help women focus on both; you can’t change one without changing the other. It’s been an amazing and incredible experience for the participants and myself as facilitator. My joy is seeing people transformed and move in the direction of their dreams. I love what I’m doing today, and want to do more of it in the future. That love is helping others achieve a success they didn’t think was possible. It definitely is an amazing experience.
International Speaker, Trainer & Author of ‘No Limit Confidence’
I have the pleasure of interviewing an amazing local Vancouver speaker Don Campell.
He is both an expert communicator and a copy-writing master. Don sold over $22,000,000 worth of information products in the last few years. I met Don at an Internet marketing event and was captivated by his presentation skills. Not only are his presentations packed full of information, they also keep your attention with both humor and a natural, likeable speaking style.
Elisabeth: Don, you are a master at selling information products selling over $22,000,000. in just the last few years. How did you manage to sell such an amazing amount in such a short time?
Don: I believe that the key to success in this, or any business, is to always deliver MORE than you promise. In fact the old credo of “Under Promise and Over Deliver” is like a mantra in our office. The bottom line is to develop a relationship with your clients. I sadly see so many marketers and business owners who try to maximize the income in every transaction with their clients and prospects… I believe that’s a mistake. I prefer to look at the long term customer value, and the strength of the relationship… and this relationship leads to more sales and an awful lot more referrals. If you truly work at making others successful, you will by default become successful.
Elisabeth: A lot of our readers will have their own information products that they want to sell or promote at their speaking events. What advice or information can you give them on selling their products?
Don: If you have your own product, the first step it to truly believe in it… believe that it will do what you promise it will. Clients, whether or not you know it, can pick up you ‘sub-text.’ In other words despite your best efforts, if you don’t truly believe in your product, your prospects and clients will know this at a ‘gut’ or instinctual level as they hear you speak or read your text… this will make them hesitate before buying.
The second thing is to find niche markets for your products to fit into. Take any information product; i.e. Copywriting Secrets. You can create a special edition, with very little effort (sometimes with just a cover change) for a specific niche market i.e. Copywriting Secrets For Property Managers. The truism is that the smaller the niche you target the higher your sales will be. Then as you master that niche, duplicate this success with another niche, until you have exhausted all of your options (which in your lifetime you probably won’t)
Elisabeth: Besides being an expert communicator, you are a master at copy writing and marketing. Can you explain to us why learning how to market yourself is so important as a speaker?
Don: As a speaker, your ability to market not just yourself but also your products is absolutely critical. Even if you are a master presenter, if you don’t have anyone to talk to it is a wasted talent. Speakers need to understand marketing and to definitely not leave that in the hands of a Speakers Bureau or Agent. Learn the art of marketing will also allow you to increase your income from each presentation while at the same time creating relationships with many more potential clients.
On the other hand, if you have a product or service and you’re not promoting it by speaking to your niche groups as an ‘expert’ then you are not maximizing the potential of your product. There is no better way to become knows as an expert in your niche than by speaking at conferences, conventions, meetings and Workshops. It turns your product into an experience instead of a pile of paper and ink (or bytes).
Elisabeth: How can our readers use your marketing advice to get ‘buts in the seats’ and have full or sold out speaking venues?
Don: Putting Butts in seats is all about providing value (be it perceived or real). People will travel great distances to get knowledge about a subject that they are passionate about, which is another good reason to niche your products. In most cases the smaller the niche the more passion there is of those within the niche. There are many who, once they master the niche, can put 2 or three niches in one room for an event because the direct theory they teach is good for all involved… its just the marketing that is niched.
Putting butts in seats is best accomplished by using multi-step marketing, from lead generation all the way to the back of the event sales. Multi-step marketing allows you to address as many hot buttons (ore reason) for them to attend as possible without confusing your prospects.
Also, creating win-win Joint Venture deals with other centers of influence and getting their endorsement when they mail to their list is another tremendous way in which to generate butts in seats. Sure you have to give up 50% of the gross sale, however without their list or their endorsement you wouldn’t have had the sale anyway. We have created some major successes using this model. Successes where we, the JV partner as well as the clients all received the value they needed.
Elisabeth: Was humor always part of your speaking style or did you have to learn how to include it into your presentations?
Don: The best way to describe my speaking style is ‘being real.’ What you see from me at the front of the room is exactly what you get when we meet privately one-on-one. I refuse to compromise this. Humor is a huge part of my life and therefore transfers to my presentation style. To go back to the ‘sub-text’ issue, I believe that an audience can tell immediately, at an instinctual level, whether someone is real or ‘faking it’ And if there is a discourse between what is coming out of their mouth and what they really believe, the audience will pick it up. Now you can learn to over come this as a speaker and literally become another person at the front of the room, but first of all that is so much more difficult than being real and secondly long term relationships with your clients become more difficult.
Elisabeth: What do you wish you had known then that you know now?
Don: I wish that I had discovered (and truly believed), much earlier in my life, the motto we now live by which has been adapted from a Zig Ziglar saying “You can have anything you want in your life as long as you help enough others get what they want.” This allows us to make decisions based on what’s the best for the client, rather than how do I maximize my income during this next 10 minute period. Since we started living exclusively with this motto in mind, our business has quadrupled, our income has soared and our clients are creating more wealth than we ever dreamed they would. The second thing I wish they taught in school is that setting a money goal (i.e make $500,000 this year) is a worthless and empty goal – however if you tie that $500,000 goal to an outcome (i.e the time freedom it will give you to pursue a passionate hobby etc) your goal becomes much more real and you will end up pursuing your goal with much more vigor and have a much better chance of attaining it. I recommend all of your readers do this with their financial goals, and watch how much more real it makes the goal.
We really only have two commodities in life – time and money. Money is easy because it is a renewable resource you can always go out and make more if you need to. However time is a non-renewable resource that once it is gone, you can’t get it back. The truly wealthy and successful use money to buy back time freedom, and once you begin to do that you know you’ve moved to the next level.
Elisabeth: What is the biggest and best piece of advice that you could give a new speaker?
Don: By far the number one piece of advice is to be real… be passionate about what you’re speaking about. And if you’re not, go find something that you can be. Success comes to many in many different fashions, but as I speak to truly successful speakers, people who are professionals, people you can consider mentors, they will tell you over and over again, to do this speaking long term, and to rise above the thousands of ‘average’ speakers you must believe… in yourself, in your subject matter and your product.
My speaking career began quite unexpectedly. As a member of Toastmasters International, I had been “encouraged” to enter one of the organization’s annual speech competitions and I won. I was ecstatic! Several days later someone asked me if I would speak to their organization. Me? Speak for a fee? I was delirious. Little did I know that I was about to ride a learning curve that was filled with adventure and without end. What I discovered, when I was FIRST UP.
F for Feedback.
For all of us ‘keeners’, feedback, whether we like it or not, is critical to our speaking success. Why? Well, I can think of 3 strong reasons.
#1) We find out how well our audience received our material.
#2) We find out how well our audience received us.
#3) And we find out what we need to polish, to enhance, to toss out or to change. There is a wonderful and very appropriate quote by Winston Churchill that I’d like to share with you. He said. “ To improve is to change. To be perfect is to change often.”
While we all have different ideas on design, every Feedback (evaluation) form should have the following: the session, the date, your name & company name. It should be a quick, easy read (one page) and easy to complete. Along with the standard ‘ circled Yes’, ‘No’ responses or ‘Number Ratings’, include some open-ended questions. For example: What did you find most valuable? What did you like the best about this session? What did you like the least? How will you use this information in the future? Any changes or recommendations. and so on. Questions such as these can provide us with useful information as well as insight into what the participants experienced.
To spark ideas for new creating presentations, why not ask attendees what other topics or subjects peak their interest. Or include a line that lists your speech or workshop titles and then have people check their choice. Most important, please don’t forget to ask for a referral letter or a quote. I have often found that it’s the quotes from present participants that bring in future business.
Let people know, in advance, that there will be Feedback forms to complete. The forms can be handed out anytime, beginning, during or end, as long as there is no interruption with the flow of the presentation or seminar. When we give people time to fill out the forms, (not wait till they are ready to head out the door), we will usually end up with more in-depth feedback. With small groups (20 or less), think about emailing your feedback form. Experiment. Obtain feedback as many ways as possible.
Keep the feedback results on a computer disc, or file the hard copies in a cabinet. Never dismiss them or toss them aside. They are invaluable! At the 2000 Toastmasters International Convention, International Speakers Association member and honoured Golden Gavel recipient Joel Weldon told his audience that, while he relies on ‘word of mouth’ advertising, the fee he charges to his clients is based on the feedback he has received from his speaking. Feedback: What a vital and impressive vehicle for getting more business!
I for Invoices.
While we may love to flap our gums as speakers, it’s important for all of us to keep in mind that we are in a business. The speaking business. And this requires that we create an Invoice. What do we want it to look like? (logo, name, layout of charges) What do we want it to say?” (details of engagement, details of fee). .Keep it simple and straightforward…….and always keep a copy of the invoice for your records.
Cancellation policy. Should we have one? If so, what amount or percentage it should it be? Has the client been made aware of this policy? Even so, we might still find ourselves waffling: to charge or not charge? Perhaps it was just one workshop (or speaking engagement) out of a series that was cancelled. What to do? What to do? Sometimes we have to stop and ask ourselves, “What’s best for business, so that it continues into the future?”
Performed a complimentary service? Note it on the Invoice.
While most of us have the words Thank You scripted near the bottom of our invoices. We should always remember to send out a separate note or card, letting our client know just how much we appreciated their business.
R for Rehearse.
Six “can do’s” that can, if practiced, help us move from being mediocre to becoming marvelous.
1. Rehearse out loud, not silently in your head. Hear yourself speak.
2. Rehearse on your feet; stand and move as you see yourself moving on your ‘speaking’ day; practice as well, with the props or visuals you will be using.
3. When practicing, only have people around you who are able to provide you with honest and constructive feedback that will help you become better and better.
4. Rehearse your opening and your closing. Know them thoroughly. If you can arrange it, practice in front of a real audience.
5. When you rehearse, always rehearse AS IF it’s the real thing.
6. Rehearse now rather than later. Flying by the seat of your pants can make for a bumpy ride. As Lee Iacocca once said, “Never go before your customers without rehearsing what you want to say……as well as what you are going to do – to help sell your product or service.”
S for Stay In Touch.
Rules of etiquette (plus good business sense) tell us to always send a special note of thanks to the person (people) that hired us. It’s also a good idea to send thanks to the person who referred us. We tend to send cards when the speaking engagement or workshop is over and the business has been completed. Kit Grant, high profile, professional speaker and one of the very few to be inducted into the Canadian Speaking Hall of Fame sends fun and memorable ‘hello’ cards even when he’s not looking for business. He goes out of his way to stay in touch with his clients……and it pays.
T for Take Time.
Whenever possible, we should get into ‘Take the Time’ habit of checking out our ‘speaking’ room in advance. What is the size of the room? Are there obstructions, such as support columns, that will block or interfere with delivery? Will there be a raised platform? How is it set up? Does it allow for easy audience connection? If people are seated at tables, encourage those, who are not facing the speaker’s stage to turn their chairs around. Will people be seated theatre style? We all know that there are people who will go great lengths to avoid sitting in the first row. These people will aim for the back of the room. How can we head them off at the pass? If registration is less than expected, especially if registration is less than expected, we should think about removing some of the chairs…..before people arrive! Chairs can always be set back up again as required. Pockets of empty spaces get people wondering why the other folks didn’t show. As speakers, we know that a ‘filled’ room is not only dynamic and energized room; it’s a speaker’s paradise.
U for Utilize.
There are so many tools that we have at our fingertips to help us move forward in our speaking career. We have the library, the internet, books, tapes, videos, magazines, newspapers. There are networking groups, volunteer organizations, committees and associations that we can join to advertise and promote our business. We can join the NSA (National Speakers Association), CAPS (Canadian Association of Professional Speakers) to learn about the speaking business or Toastmasters to hone our speaking skills. We should enlist the help of family and friends. If we are really keen to step into the speaker’s spotlight, we need to stop making excuses. Instead, we need to tax our creativity, harness our energy and use our intelligence to the fullest.
P for Proceed, Press On & Proceed.
I’d like to close with two separate quotes, both powerful and profound in their message.
“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence Talent will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are important.” Calvin Coolidge.
“You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great.” Les Brown