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Misconceptions about Storytelling debated

Misconceptions about Storytelling debated

I attended an office party the other day at which a few people started debating storytelling. There were a few who didn’t believe in the concept of storytelling at all. Others did believe in it, but didn’t think it was ‘for them’. It struck me how little informed some people seemed to be. Or better said: how presumptuous.

Some people believed storytelling is not important. Which is ok to think, but they thought so for the wrong reasons.

It’s a hype!

“Let me tell you a story”, that’s how the conversation started. “Hah, a story, are you doing ‘storytelling’?”, said the second person. “Storytelling is a hype!” was the third response. That’s how the conversation started.

Some of the people at the party thought Storytelling was a hype. They thought so because they had heard the term so often.

In a way, they were right. When you hear a term often, it feels like the start of a hype. And when agencies start offering a service related to that ‘buzzword’ as a service, all alarm bells go off. At that point, it has all the signs of becoming a hype.

But is Storytelling a hype? When something is a hype, it will also go away again. It temporarily has the attention.

But ‘storytelling’ isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it will be around longer than many other ‘buzzwords’. Storytelling is part of human DNA. It has always been around. From the stone ages until now. And it will remain part of our lives in the far future.

We’ve been telling stories forever. And we’ve been selling by stories forever. So is it a hype? It probably is. But one that actually makes sense. One that

This argument made one of the people in the conversation, let’s call him Mark, think. He tended to agree but didn’t give in yet.

It doesn’t work!

“Whatever, it might not be a hype, it sure doesn’t work! People want to know what they are buying, they don’t want to hear stories!”

This is an argument that you hear often within businesses. Many businesses aren’t using storytelling yet because they think it doesn’t work. These businesses haven’t looked well enough at how and why people buy.

People don’t buy because a product has the most features, they buy because they feel it fits their needs. And that goes beyond the features. When buying, people listen to friends and families. They read reviews, and they listen to the stories of the salesmen.

Did you ever think about why a salesperson always has a personal experience that happens to feel like yours? Yep, that’s because the story works. You start feeling a connection with the salesperson.

Stories also work because when buying, people want to learn. They want to know everything about the product, the service or anything connected. People’s brains need to learn. And the best way of learning is through stories. Because stories stick.

But that doesn’t work for B2B!?

Mark wasn’t convinced yet.

“Ok, it might work for consumers, but we are a B2B business. B2B is different. Here people want to know about facts!”

Again, this was an argument I had heard before. B2B and B2C seem to be very different, when in fact they aren’t. Like B2C, B2B is also all about people, about emotions. And that is not a made up argument. A Google Research showed that half of the B2B buyers are more likely to buy if they can connect emotionally with a brand. And the best way of getting that connection is by telling stories that show a connection.

The same study also shows that 71% buys because they see a personal value. 68.8% even wants to pay more if they believe in a business.

That is all emotion. That is all personal. And guess how to best get the message of connection across…

Not in my niche!

Mark started to see he was running out of arguments. But he kept trying.

“Yeah ok, maybe it works somewhere, but not with us! We are in a very specific niche. People don’t listen to stories in our niche. And even if they would, we wouldn’t be able to find or create stories anyway. There are no stories in our niche!”

To be honest, I always get a little bit annoyed when people say this. There is no niche in the world where you cannot find a story. There is no niche in the world where you can’t find a connection with your audience. If that would be so, the niche would not even exist.

When there is a niche, there is a demand. Someone wants that product or service. And if there is a demand, it means the product or service is solving some sort of problem, even if it’s very small. That’s where you can find the stories.

You could see that some people started to think storytelling wasn’t so bad after all. Even Mark. But if you know anything about the human mind, you know that giving in, is the hardest thing to do. Instead, ‘we’ try and change the subject, or at least find a way to make us look good. That’s what happened at the party as well. Mark shifted the topic.

Storytelling is difficult?

“Well, we don’t do storytelling because it takes too much of our time. We are in the selling business, not the telling business. When you do storytelling you need to find the stories or create them. You need to actually be able to think of stories! Our people can’t do that.”

Granted, good storytelling does take some time. But it doesn’t take that much more time than a regular marketing campaign will take you. Any work takes time. But it’s about choices. And knowing that storytelling is so much more powerful, the choice should be easy.

The good thing about storytelling is also that if you know how it is not so difficult to do. If you analyse stories, you can see that most stories have a similar structure. You need an obstacle, a hero, a beginning, middle and an end.

“Oh, so Storytelling is easy? Anyone can do it?”

Well, yes, anyone can do it. Anyone can create a story. But you want the story to be good. You want the story to have an impact. And for that, you need to know how to fill in the details that create a persuasive story. And no, not anyone can ‘just do that’. If so, anyone would write novels.

Everybody can learn how to create a story!

If you want to learn how, join our FREE webinar on the secrets of Storytelling! It has some of the best tips from our Storytelling Class in it.

Finally, Mark was convinced. He realised Storytelling was a useful way of getting a connection with his audience. He realised his business needed to “get” storytelling. And see it as more than a hype.

“Ok, now I get it. Storytelling is about reaching the human brain. It’s actually a very natural way of connecting with your audience! We should do this. We’re going to allocate time and resources to this. First, our staff will take the class and then we’ll tell stories! We’re in!”

Are you in?


Purna Virji (Bing): Speaker advise about Nerves, Structure and Preparation

In the past few weeks, you have seen parts of the interview with Purna Virji being published on our YouTube channel and through our social channels. Today, you can watch the entire interview with Purna!

Learning from Purna

Public speaking for some speakers seems to be easy. They look confident on stage. They have a great story and a lot of knowledge. It seems they have no problem being on stage. Speaking for them seems to come naturally.

Often appearances are deceiving. These speakers work hard to get a presence on stage that feels so natural. And they too get nervous.

As a speaker, it is great to learn from other experienced speakers. To learn how they handle nerves. To learn how they first got on stage. In a series of interviews, we talk to these experienced speakers. To get insights from them that help you, as someone who wants to be a better speaker.

In this series, we spoke to Purna Virji (Bing), Marcus Tandler (Ryte), Cindy Krum (Mobilemoxie) and Melanie Deziel (consultant, former NYT).

In the interview with Purna, we talked about a lot of different things related to public speaking.

Purna has been speaking in public since early 2012. She still loves being on stage. Actually, the more she does it, the more she loves it!

Preparing for a presentation

Purna spends a lot of time preparing for a presentation. Including design and everything around a presentation, she spends about 100 hours preparing for a one-hour presentation!

She will start by thinking about which issues the audience is facing. What can she give them which is of most help? The key thing is, how can she add the most value. She will then go and do research about what is available and what is out there.

Her next step is to create an outline in Word. She will fill that in, almost like she is writing an article. In the end, she will convert it to Powerpoint.

Rehearsing for a talk

Purna rehearses a lot for a presentation. She likes to get in at least three rehearsals for a talk. She finds that helps to get the talk to stick in her head and to know the flow.

Purna finds that if she hasn’t rehearsed enough, she will stumble and she will find herself say “uhm” too much. Rehearsal makes that her talks sound better!

Purna has an interesting approach to rehearsing. She doesn’t rehearse in front of a mirror. She rehearses to the wall. After all, the wall is a captive audience and never has a bad thing to say! She practices on her own, in for example her hotel room or her office.

The first rehearsal she does out loud. She then can adjust content and flow. And she knows how her time is! Purna can than adjust her slides accordingly.

Nerves

Why Purna wanted to go into public speaking in the first place, is because she found it to be absolutely terrifying! She thought she would ‘die’ when she would get on stage. She hated it more than bugs or spiders. She wanted to conquer that fear.

For the first two or three years, she was still terrified. But the more she did it, the fear goes away.

Purna believes the fear isn’t a bad thing. The fear comes from caring how the audience perceives the talk and how they get value. Which is good.

To get rid of the nerves, she does things like deep breathing. She tries to change the nerves into excitement. She feels much more comfortable.

Advice

Purna’s advice for speakers who are just starting is to ‘just do it!’ If you give yourself time to think about it, you give yourself time to talk yourself out of it. If you feel there is something you have had a success in. If you have something you are proud of, know that you have value to add! Just go ahead and pitch!

Purna wants you to just go ahead and do it. The more diverse voices there are in this industry, the more the industry as a whole will benefit.

Want more advice from experience speakers? Subscribe to our YouTube channel to find more!


6 different Types of Presentation Goals

When you are doing a presentation you always have a goal. You are trying to get a message across. You are trying to teach your audience. Or you are trying to sell something. There is always a presentation goal.

There are different goals for a presentation. Here are six types of goals. Each of them has their own purpose. And each of them should be handled in a different way. In this article, I will explain how they work and how you as a speaker can benefit best.

The six presentation goals are:

To inform

Most of the presentations in business are about informing the people in the room. A client or your manager asks you to come and present on the progress of the project. What they expect is to get informed. They aren’t looking for inspiration or funny videos. What they want is a clear explanation of what the status of the project is.

There are more examples of presentations that are about informing the audience. Like presenting financial results or presenting the findings of a research. Or when you are a teacher and informing the parents of all the things that are going on in your school.

These talks are often short and to the point. If there is too much information, people won’t remember much. They should be easy to understand for those in the room.

The talks focus on the facts. The goal is to give the audience these facts.

To educate

When the talks become a bit more complicated, that is usually because they aren’t only to inform. They are to educate. The goal is to have the audience go home understanding more about what they heard. They need to leave knowing a lot more.

This goes beyond stating facts. You want the audience to learn, so you have to pay attention to this. You need to teach or instruct the group of people in front of you. That means you need to know a lot about your topic.

There are many different examples of this talk. A workshop or training session is the most logical one of course. But also instructing your staff on new policies is an example.

Presentations to educate are often longer. Because you want the audience to remember what you teach them, you will use more examples and go more in depth. Often they are also more interactive since interaction helps the understanding. What is more important than the length, is how thorough you are on the topic.

To persuade or convince

There are a lot of presentations that have the goal of persuasion. Speakers want to convince the audience to understand or believe their stand on a topic. Or simpler: to buy a product or service.

These types of presentations you can often see in politics. The politician wants to convince the listener to vote for them. But you can see it as often in business. Each sales presentation is about persuading the potential client. You want them to choose your product or service.

A persuasive speech is working towards a solution. You show the problem. Then offer the audience the solution by presenting your views and methods. A persuasive speech offers evidence, logic and has emotion in it.

To activate

Close to persuasion is activation. These speeches present the audience with information that makes them want to take action. Fundraising presentations are good examples, but you can see them in politics a lot as well. Politicians want people to take action. Or vice versa, people want politicians to take action.

To make this type of presentation work, one of the most important ingredients is to tell them what to do. If the audience doesn’t know what to do, why would they act? Another important ingredient is passion. You are trying to make people move. They will only do that if they feel you believe.

To inspire or motivate

In essence, every speaker wants to inspire. Inspiration, after all, is one of the most powerful emotions. It is great if you are able to inspire people to think, move or change their behavior.

These types of speeches are often seen at TED Conferences. More often you see them at events aimed at personal improvement. There are many motivational speakers there. You can also see motivational speeches within businesses. When management is trying to inspire the staff to work harder or better. The best examples of motivational speeches you find in locker rooms. When coaches are trying to get their teams out on the field full of positive adrenaline.

Talks that are inspiring are often very personal. Overcoming hardship usually does very well. But it doesn’t have to be about something bad that has happened. It can be about the future. The speech Martin Luther King gave was about a dream. In the future. That can be just as inspiring!

To entertain

The last type of presentation is to entertain. Everybody likes to be entertained. And one way of entertaining is to have a great speech.

Many of these types of presentations are done in personal settings. When you are entertaining guests for example. Or when you are doing a speech at someone’s (or your own) wedding. But you can see the entertaining speeches in many places. Stand up comedy, theatre, but also presentations at an opening of an event. They are meant to entertain. To make the audience laugh and feel happy.

To make this presentation work, you have to give the audience what they are looking for: a good feeling. Sometimes you can accomplish this by telling jokes. But be careful, not everyone has the same humor. And especially these days, people are hurt easy.

To be able to make people feel good, you need to understand who is in the room and what makes them tick. You need to do your research here!

To conclude: your goals

Now that we’ve looked at the different types of goals, it’s time for you to determine your presentation goals. Have you figured them out yet? Make sure you do before you create the presentation! That way, you can work towards the goal.

And remember, when you are thinking about your presentation goals, think first about your audience. What should they get out of it? Because for all the different types of talks, the secret to all success is to understand your audience!

Now what?

You need to define your goals. That means you need to take a few steps.

First, you need to get more understanding of your audience. Do your research. Find out what their wants and needs are.

Second, write down your own goals. What do you want to accomplish?

Third, find the overlap between you and your audience. And focus your presentation on that.


I’ll get back to you on that, or maybe not…

A sentence often heard in presentations is “I will get back to that” or “I will talk about that later”. This can be both good and bad. Good if you make it a ‘cliffhanger’. Bad if you actually never do get back on the topic.

Bas van den Beld explains this sentence.

Transcript:

You have speakers who are talking about a certain topic and who then tend to drift off. And then they will tell the audience: “You know what, I’ll get back to that later on. This is a point, but I’ll get back to it.”

There’s actually a good way and a bad way of handling that. The good way is very interesting. Because it can help you keep the attention of the audience. The bad way is it’s going to make them very, very, very anxious.

The good way is when you’re using the “I’ll get back to you on that” in a way that builds tension. You’re not actually saying: “I’ll get back to you”. But you’re building up, kind of like with the commercials or with a talk show. “Later on I’ll be talking about… but first … “

When you do that you’re building up tension. You’re building up the expectation that you’re building towards something. And that will keep people’s attention because they want to hear what you’re going to be talking about in the end.

The bad way however is that you keep repeating whenever you start talking about something that you’re going to get back to the audience on that topic later on in your talk. But then the audience sees the time passing and sees that you are getting to the end of your presentation. And they might still not have heard anything about what you are going to get back to. And that means that maybe at the end of your talk, you’re actually not going to get back to the topics that you mentioned before. Because you just ran out of time.

In that case, you’re holding the audience ‘hostage’. And they are kind of waiting for it, but you’re not giving it to them. So that’s when it’s bad.

So, there’s a good way and a bad way to work with talking about stuff later on in your presentation.

Use the good way. Build up the tension. But make sure you can keep your promise. And do it well thought out.


5 items every speaker needs to bring to a conference or workshop

If you are doing talks or workshops, you need to come prepared. If you show up with only your computer, chances are something goes wrong. A well-prepared speaker brings his own items.

Let’s take a look at five items every speaker needs to bring to a conference or workshop to make sure your session goes as planned.


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How I knew I wanted to become (and how I became) a public speaker

How do you know if you want to be a public speaker? And how do you become one when you do want to? Everyone has his or her own reasons for wanting to be on stage. If you are like me, there is a deeper reason.

I often get asked how I got to be a speaker. I have to admit, there have always been signs that I wanted to become one. And in the end, they came together. Here’s my story.

The first signs

It was the year 1987. The year my dad turned 50. I was 15 at the time. I remember my dad had organised a party at our house. In my memory, it was in honour of his 50th birthday. He (well, my mom even more than him) organised it in our living room.

The place was crowded. In my memory, it must have been a room filled with at least a hundred people. Though it could have been fifty as well. Memories can be misleading. In any case, it was a full house.

What happens at events like this, is that several different people ‘do speeches’. They praise the person, in this case, my dad, who celebrates. I had decided that this time, I would do a speech as well.

My dad is a natural speaker. He’s also the eldest son in a family of five kids. This means that every time there was a family event, my dad would get up and do a speech. It seemed easy for him. He seemed to enjoy it.

It’s not strange, some would say. My dad was a teacher. He was used to speaking in front of a group of people. And when he became headmaster, the groups weren’t only students in a classroom, but big groups as well.

But he couldn’t only speak well because he was a teacher. It was in his genes. He could speak anywhere.

Turns out, it was in my genes as well. I was lucky. It’s not a given that qualities like that go from one generation to another. Besides that, you have to find out you have those genes. And you have to experience it to know if it’s something you want to do.

The first time I experienced that was on my dad’s 50th birthday. I did a speech. It was one of my first talks ever.

To be honest, I have no idea whether I did a good job. I remember I got some laughs. I remember my parents looked proud. But if I delivered a good speech? I don’t know.

What I do know, is that it was a buzz. A big buzz. The adrenaline pumped through my body. In a good way. The adrenaline wasn’t from fear or anxiety. I loved every second of it. That feeling, the feeling of excitement, I will never forget. And it never left. I can still ‘feel’ that moment. And a bit of that excitement, I still feel when I get on stage.

More signs

Fast forward to the late 90s. I hadn’t done much with speaking in public until then. Not intentional. It had never ‘happened’. I wasn’t that ambitious about these things during college. Even though I could have if I wanted to, I never signed up for things that required public speaking. Thus it never happened.

In the late 90s, the opportunities were there again. And so was the excitement. In my first job, I was working at a market research company. We had done research for the Dutch National Football (Soccer) League. We had to present the results of that research to each football team independent.

I was a junior employee at the time. Most of the time, I ‘tagged along’, where my colleagues were presenting the results. I was helping them set up.

I do still remember that every time I saw one of my colleagues speak, I felt I could do that as well. In secret, I hoped they would say “you do it”.

Only on a few occasions, I had the opportunity to present a few small things. Again, how I did? I don’t know. But I do remember the excitement. That feeling of having a group of people talk to me.

Getting closer

Let’s forward again to a few years later. I had switched jobs and worked at an Internet Startup. This was the early days of the web. We weren’t building exciting apps, AI implementations or something crazy. We were building websites. To be honest, at the time, that was what was revolutionary. As a business, you ‘had to be on the web’. We were making sure businesses got that website, even if it was nothing more than a ‘digital folder’.

My role was in project management and account management. I was the connection between clients and our development team.

It was a young and fast-growing company. We were young. All in our twenties. Which meant most of the stuff we did, we did for the first time in our careers. It was an exciting time. We were pioneering. Not only on the web but as a business as well. We were finding out what worked and what didn’t.

We did a great job. I know we made mistakes. I certainly did. But I also know we made it work, in whatever way possible.

The company I worked at had about 4 or 5 employees when I joined the team. In the years I worked there, the business grew to around 30 employees. This brought new challenges. To handle the challenges, we got help from outside. A group of us, management and project managers, decided to do a training course. The course was in project management, account management and growth.

We hired an expert we knew to come to us and organise a few workshops. In the first workshop, he asked us to present ourselves. Each of us had to do a five-minute talk about ourselves. We all did our five-minute talks. Each in our own ways.

There were people who in a chronological way, explained how they got to the role they were in. And there were those only describing their own roles. Again, I can’t remember how I did. But I do remember two things. I remember I did something ‘different’. It wasn’t a chronological timeline. It wasn’t a description. It was a story. I did it in a different way. Without anyone asking me to do so.

The second thing I remember was, again, the excitement. I was in front of a group again. And I loved it. I loved talking to the group.

It’s the feeling

In all three occasions, there was excitement. The feeling of being able to present to a group of people. To take them on a journey. To tell them a story. That’s what triggered me. That’s what I loved about public speaking back then. And that’s what I love about public speaking now. The excitement.

From feeling to speaking

It wasn’t until almost 7 or 8 years later that I actually got into public speaking though. It hadn’t occurred to me that this was something I could do. Until I became a blogger.

As a blogger, looking for content, I went to events. I got invitations to attend and write about the event. They would give me a free pass to the event, I would write about it. In the ‘early’ days of internet marketing, this was a great exchange. The event gets the coverage and the attention. The blogger gets the content, the attention online (traffic) and the network.

While writing about events, like for example SES London, I found myself sitting in the front row. I would look up to the stage and I would feel some excitement. The excitement was like the excitement I felt in the instances described above.

I knew then, I wanted that excitement. The full experience of it. Sitting in the front row, I felt that I could do what the speakers on stage were doing. Or in some cases even better.

The more I was writing about events, the more I felt I wanted to be on stage as well. I only had to figure out how to get there.

As a blogger, I met tons of new people. Like I said before, there is a mutual benefit for bloggers and the events. The same goes for the speakers and bloggers. Bloggers can help give the speaker more coverage. The other way around, the speaker can help the blogger get attention. Again, think traffic, social media attention, etcetera. And the speaker can help build the network of the blogger.

Having a good network helps for many things. And it definitely helps to become a speaker yourself. In my case, I felt I wanted to do it and I felt I could do it. I wasn’t quite sure how to get there yet, so I needed a final push.

That push came from the network. Those I talked to at events. They started asking me when I would speak about the things I wrote about. In the end, it was one of the organisers who gave the final push. By asking me to get on stage at an event in Amsterdam. He wanted to get local attention and local speakers. And since he knew me, he asked me to speak.

And that was the first time I got on stage for a big audience. And guess what. That same feeling of excitement was there again. I knew this was what I wanted to do.

That excitement never left. It’s what drives me as a speaker. The feeling of helping the group of people in front of you understanding a topic you know a lot about. That is excitement. And that is why I speak.

What about you?

Let me know, what is your reason for public speaking? What’s your trigger? Let me know in the comments!

Learn more about starting to speak:


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The Importance of Speaking in Public for Marketers

A few months ago Bas van den Beld was interviewed for the Sitevisibility Podcast on the topic of Public Speaking. Bas talked about why it is important for marketers to be public speakers as well and how to approach this.

You can listen to the interview below, download the mp3, go to the Sitevisibility website or listen on iTunes. Do let me know what you think!

Also read:


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The power of storytelling

These days you hear a lot about storytelling as a marketing strategy. Many marketers, therefore, believe they should ‘do storytelling’ as well. Whenever you do something, you want to know they ‘why’ (as Simon Sinek told us).

So, you might wonder why storytelling is such a powerful tool. What makes storytelling worth it? Do you invest time in it? And in what way? It’s important to know why it is powerful to be able to do storytelling right.

In this article, I’d like to dive into those questions. We will look into the power of storytelling.

We can’t resist a (good) story

The number one reason why storytelling is such a powerful tool has to do with the recipients’ mind. The minds of those that hear the story. As recipients, we can’t resist a good story. Stories are deeply wired into our minds.

It’s been like that for centuries. Humans have been telling each other stories forever. Even in the stone age, people used stories to send messages to other people and help and teach them. Cave paintings are a great example of that. They tell a story that has to help the next person that passes that cave.

We are basically raised to learn from stories. Have you ever thought about why you can still remember most of the fairy tales your parents told you?

As soon as we hear the words ‘once upon a time’, our brains are ‘in’. From that point on, we can’t resist. We have to hear what happened. It’s in our DNA and, of course, we are trained to listen and interpret stories. All the stories our parents told us when we were kids, made us crave for more.

We don’t only love stories, stories helped shape our minds. That’s why most fairy tales have lessons in them. Stories go directly into our brains. That means the best ways to give children messages, is through stories. The message behind the story of Cinderella is to not take food from strangers. The message behind the three little piglets is to not be lazy. And so do all fairy tales have a message.

Imagination gets us involved

When we listen to stories, we need imagination. In our brains, we picture what we hear. Good stories are crafted in a way that, when they are told, we can ‘see’ them. The stories come alive in our brains. We picture the lead characters, we ‘create’ the environment. This makes us part of the story. Imagination makes co-creators of the story. And since we are part of the creation, we remember better and feel more ‘close’ to a story.

With imagination also come emotions. It brings the same emotions shared by the characters in the story. When we imagine things, they almost become real. What you hear comes alive in your brain. And when it feels real, it has more impact. It will be easier to remember more. You will also, and especially, remember the feeling the story. If the feeling is good, it will make you happy.

In marketing, this means that when we are part of a story, we are closer to a product or brand. And when we are closer, we buy easier.

A story benefits the storyteller as well

For listeners, stories give joy and structure to a story. But storytellers also get a lot of benefit from telling a story. They have the chance to send a message and have that message resonate. Besides that, it makes the storyteller important.

You can say stories bring status to storytellers and actionable insights to the good listeners. It’s good for everyone!

Where is storytelling useful?

Powerful stories can be used everywhere. Whether it is for teaching children, marketing or other purposes. You can see the power of stories in presentations from politicians, tv, music videos, movies and books. Even commercials are stories.

As marketers, we can use stories in many different settings. We can use it when we are pitching. We can use it in a presentation, or as marketing material.

To create a connection, personal stories work best. But don’t overdo it. Important is to realise there has to be a message in it. Stories which show a struggle and are authentic are the best.

As you can see, the power of storytelling is big!

How to create that story?

There are many ways for crafting a story. But it is important to realise that building a story needs close attention. It’s easy to create the wrong story. A lot is also in the execution. How the story is told, determines a lot of how it is received.

To learn how to craft that perfect story, the one that everyone loves, the one that has real impact, next to the email course, we created a Storytelling Class. Sign up now!


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How to Convince your Boss to Let You Speak at Conferences

I’ve often talked to people at conferences who would like to be speakers themselves. They come up to me after a talk and share their own eagerness to be on stage. When I ask them why they are not, often the answer is in the lines of ‘my boss won’t let me’.

Unfortunately, it’s something you hear a lot. Management doesn’t feel speaking at a conference benefits the business. Why share “secrets”? Why take away valuable time from office work? They feel the conference is more of a day off than actual work.

They are wrong, of course. There are plenty of reasons for businesses to pursue speaking opportunities. But it isn’t easy to convince them otherwise. Once they make up their mind, you won’t convince them that easy.

Yet you can convince them. It only needs a little bit of persuasion ;-).

You need to focus on two things: making it worth their while and getting them involved. All in the right balance of course.

It’s never about you

Before I go into these two things, though, there is one thing you have to realise: it is never about you. Even though you are the one who wants to speak.

When trying to convince management, stay away from your personal reasons. Management isn’t interested in why you want to speak. They don’t care about your personal brand or your ambitions. They care about the business. That’s where you should focus on.

How to convince your boss

Make it worth their while

First of all, when looking for ways to convince management, look at them. Find reasons why it is worth their while that you are speaking at a conference. Why is it better that you are on stage and not at the office? Why does it have to be you and not one of your colleagues? Answer these type of questions. Those are your first steps to speaking at events.

A few examples of ‘reasons’ that could convince them:

Show the financial benefits

A conference usually costs money. You could, of course, show your boss you get a free pass to the event, so it doesn’t cost them anything, but that won’t do it. You have to show the financial benefits for the business.

This means potential clients. You want to show them, you will speak in front of x-number of potential clients. That’s where the financial benefits start. Potential clients equal potential money. And potential money is where management usually gets interested.

Explain what Branding does for the business

Of course being at a conference is much more than potential money. Branding your business will also help the financial growth in the long run. But branding does a lot more. It eases your talks. It opens doors and it gets attention.

Make sure you show how many bloggers wrote about last year’s conference. Show how many people are in the audience. Show what other branding opportunities there are from speaking at conferences.

Find more reasons for a business to be speaking here.

Get them involved

Second, a big part of convincing your management is making it a team effort. Yes, it will be you on stage, but remember, this is not about you. It’s about the business. Get management (and other internal influencers) involved in the process. If you do so, they will be more inclined to say yes.

A few ways of getting them involved could be:

Invite them

This is the easy part. As a speaker, you often get an extra pass or a discount on a pass. Don’t invite the colleague you’d like to hang out with, invite your boss. If he or she rejects, at least you got him or her interested (and you can still take your favourite colleague). If he does want to go, great!

This means you get to share the excitement with them. This means you are the person who is going to open up doors for him or her. Doors to new businesses and connections. Your boss will be grateful forever. And will be more likely to say yes to this and future events.

Ask for their help

Finally, ask for their help. Tell them you want to do a great job for the business. And that you need their help with this By creating the best presentation possible. Get them involved in what topic to talk about. Get them involved in practising. They will feel part of the show. They will want to see you succeed. And therefore say yes to your request.

To conclude

Of course, every boss is different. Every management has their own reasons to say yes or no. Be sure to find out any hesitations and potential reasons for saying ‘no’ before you ask the question. And make sure you have the answers to those problems.

What do you think, will this work for you? Let me know in the comments!

I hope I will see you at one of the next conferences, as a speaker of course! Good luck!

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How Public Speaking can help your Personal Brand

Public Speaking. Is it worth it? Does it matter? Why is it important for you, or for your business? In this article here, I talked about the importance of public speaking for your business. It definitely can make a difference to your business!

But what about your personal brand. How does personal speaking help there? Is it worth investing time to become a great speaker?

Here are 6 reasons:

  1. It builds confidence
  2. You get to present your ideas to a group of people
  3. Your ideas will get more traction and have more impact
  4. It gets you better jobs
  5. You can demonstrate your knowledge
  6. You will stand out: people will remember you

The obvious answer here is ‘yes’. But why the ‘yes’? Let’s dive into that.

1 It builds confidence

For some people public speaking is terrifying. The thought of getting on that stage and speaking to a group of people can make some people physically ill. Yet when they do it, that feeling of illness turns into a feeling of invincibility. The actual speaking can be the drug that not just cures the nerves, it creates an addiction as well.

2 You get to present your ideas to a group of people

You are someone with an idea. With a plan. And you want to make sure more people ‘get’ that idea. What better place than a conference to start spreading that idea? Yes, you can write about it, but being in a room with sometimes hundreds of people listening to your story: what better way to present your ideas is there? You have direct influence and you can see them in the eyes while you talk to them.

3 Your ideas will get more traction and have more impact

If you are on stage, chances are your ideas will get more traction. You are showing people what your ideas mean and you are telling them in person. This is powerful. More powerful than written language. This means your ideas will likely not just travel further, it will have more impact. Because if those you reach while talking share, they will share with passion.

4 It gets you better jobs

When you are speaking, chances are potential employers will see you talk. And get impressed! Which will open up doors on the job front. You will be more visible, thus more trustworthy and more wanted! From being the next resume that ends up at the bottom of the stack, you become the bookmarked name they want for the job.

5 You can demonstrate your knowledge

If you are building your brand, or even when you are ‘just’ working for a boss, showing what you know is important. It builds trust. It builds Thought Leadership. And it gets you business. Being on a stage makes that you can demonstrate the knowledge that brings you all that.

6 You will stand out: people will remember you

Finally, in a world where information is everywhere, it is getting harder to stand out every day. Writing articles means you are one of the many. When you are at a conference, on a stage, people will see YOU. And when you deliver the right speech, they will remember you better.

All these are reasons for you to get on that stage and speak! And if it’s not for your personal brand, it might be for your business. Is there any reason you shouldn’t get on stage? Let me know and we’ll chat about it!


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Why Public Speaking at Events Matters for Your Company

Should you or shouldn’t you be doing public speaking? When you have been attending events, you might have thought “why do these speakers want to be on stage? What’s in it for them?” You could be wondering what makes them do it. But you could also be wondering if you should go on yourself.

Is it worth speaking at conferences? Either for your own brand or for your company? Does it matter? As a speaker myself, who loves to be on stage, it’s easy to say “yes”. Of course, it’s worth it! And it’s fun as well! But like with many things, you have to back that up. In what way is it worth speaking at conferences?

In two posts I’d like to highlight the benefits of speaking. Both for you as well as for your company. In this post, we talk about the company, in another post here, we talk about the personal benefits of speaking.

Why is public speaking important for your company?

At a conference you can find four types of speakers:

  • The independent speakers;
  • The speakers who work for brands;
  • The speakers from vendors;
  • The speakers from agencies.

Why would brands, vendors or agencies take the time to go to conferences and speak? What is the benefit of public speaking for them? They don’t get paid for it, so there must be something else that makes it worth it. There are benefits of speaking at conferences for businesses. But what are they?

If you fit into one of these categories, here are some reasons how you could benefit from speaking in public.

1. It gets you more sales

Public speaking will get you leads
Public speaking will get you leads

The main reason why, especially, agencies and vendors send staff to speak at events is sales. They are hoping to get business out of the event. By speaking they want to attract the attention of possible clients.

When agencies or vendors are pitching their products or services, this backfires. Pitching makes for a bad experience for the attendees. With the consequence that they won’t buy.

More often you do see businesses that ‘get it’. They tell a story, show their brand and based on that, get more business.

When they are on stage they talk about past cases and experiences. With that showing potential clients how knowledgeable they are. At networking opportunities (breaks, drinks, and dinners) they will then make the connection. That is where they can ‘pitch’.

Though most companies won’t get a lot of direct sales from speaking at events, it does set them up for sales. So when sales matters to you, public speaking matters to you.

2. You can showcase thought leadership

Public speaking is an effective way of getting your message across. It can help you to show thought leadership

Your company exists for a reason. That means you have a ‘message’. A message that goes beyond selling your product. It’s your reason for existence. Spreading this message can be part of the marketing strategy. To try and become a thought leader in your industry is one of the tactics.

What better way to get a message across, than speaking at conferences. You reach people who go to the event as well as those who read about it on blogs.

3. They will write about you: free publicity!

Speaking at events can be a great way of getting free publicity. As said, often there are bloggers at conferences. They report on the talks. And they spread what they heard. Get them to write about your talk, and there is your free publicity!

Often the free publicity doesn’t only come from the bloggers. Organisers want to get as many people as possible in the room. To get that, they will create publicity as well. Make sure you are a part of that! Always agree to get interviewed. Write a guest post. Be part of it!

4. You can make your audience think about topics

Public speaking opportunities make that you can make your audience think about specific topics. People need a reason to buy. That means they need to first see a ‘problem’.

If the audience doesn’t see not buying your products or services as a problem, you won’t sell much. To make them aware of that problem, you need to show them that problem. Whether it is at a conference or in a pitch, you need to be able to tell the right story. Get them to see a problem and see that you are the solution to that problem.

Public speaking is a great way of getting people to think about topics. Topics that further on in the consumer journey might lead to people looking for your product.

5. Getting access to sources of financing

Public speaking is a great way of getting the attention of those that can help your business further. These can be investors, your first customers or banks. Once they see you on stage, showing your knowledge, they start to trust you. With the right story, the right financier will think their money is in the right place with you.

So if your company matters to you. You should care about public speaking. Because yes, public speaking matters today. And if you also think it’s important, you better speak up…


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Is Public Speaking Making or Costing you Money?

On my holiday in Thailand, I was thinking about something. Something I’ve seen way too many times in the past 10 years. I was thinking about businesses struggling to make money out of conference speaking.

After my holiday I would be speaking at Brighton SEO. It’s a great conference. I was looking forward to being there. It’s a place to see friends, to meet new people and a place to do what I love most: speaking.

For many businesses, it’s much more than that. For them, it’s a place to connect to potential clients and to showcase themselves. When conference season starts, you know that businesses get nervous again about the conferences.

Of course, they want to make the most out of it! For me, it’s a lot simpler. I’m not looking for new clients at conferences. For them, it sometimes is a matter of life or death. They need to get clients from a conference to make it worth it.

So it’s understandable they want to be at their best at conferences. Either by sponsoring, networking and often speaking as well.

Speaking is the most direct way to get visibility. And leads. If they see you speaking on stage, it’s much easier to come up to you. And you can showcase your knowledge. It’s a win-win situation.

In the ideal scenario, a business has one or more of its employees speaking at a conference. They speak about case studies and teach the audience. After the conference, the leads will come pouring in. Because they made a big impact.

As with ideal scenarios, this hardly ever happens. I’ve seen from up close that businesses actually struggle with this. And I’ve seen many in all the years that I’ve been speaking around the world.

More than often you can hear businesses talk about if a conference ‘was worth it’. And most of the time the answer is “no”.

Why is that?

There are several reasons why conference speaking isn’t ‘worth it’ for many businesses. Sometimes they are targeting the wrong audience. Sometimes they are too sales driven. Sometimes it’s just not their day.

A lot of the times, it has to do with the speakers.

Don’t get me wrong. The speakers work hard for it. They make an effort to create great slide decks. To tell a story.

Yet so many speakers can’t deliver. They don’t connect to the audience the way they could. They lack experience, confidence or just that little bit of professionalism.

And you can’t blame them. It’s not their job. At least, not the main part of their job. Even though it’s part of their job. Often the speakers are practitioners sharing their experience.

This would make for an ideal talk. Because it’s always better to hear from those actually doing the work. The problem is that being a practitioner is one thing. Getting the message across is a completely different story.

If you are a great footballer, it doesn’t mean you will make a great coach.

But we would like the practitioners to get that message across, wouldn’t we? Because of that, it would be the ideal mix.

So why aren’t we helping them?

Often inside agencies, vendors, brands, a list compiled. On this list are the events where the company should be present and speaking. It’s one of the reasons we have created our events list. To help businesses find the right events. When they have the list of events, they add names to each conference. Names of employees who will be trying to get to speak there. Those people get the assignment. But they are lucky if they get time to prepare their talks. Usually, they expect them to ‘just do it’. Or at least with a short amount of preparation time.

Hardly ever you hear about a company actually helping their practitioners become better speakers. Better at delivering the story they build. Better at presenting.

Why? It’s just plain stupid they don’t. Because now chances are the talks will not get the attention they deserve. The speakers will work hard, but won’t have the result for it. All they get is the applause after a talk. But actually ROI, there isn’t one.

If you think a bit more about this you realise something. It is not just at conferences where this is costing the businesses money. It is costing a business money elsewhere as well.

How is a pitch decided for example? A big part of the decision is based on how the company presents themselves. If they have bad speakers presenting the pitch, they are less likely to win. Imagine how much money gets lost there…

Why do businesses not care? Why aren’t they spending time and effort on this? It could make such a big difference in the outcome of a conference. They could actually make a LOT of money on

Why aren’t they spending time and effort on this? It could make such a big difference in the outcome of a conference. They could actually make a LOT of money on conferences. If they would only care.

Start helping your staff become better speakers for crying out loud!!!!

Or do they care?

Maybe they do care. Maybe they just don’t know how. Maybe it just takes away too much ‘work time’ from those within the business to help the speakers. Maybe managers want to focus their efforts somewhere else.

Or maybe they lack the knowledge themselves.

During my holiday I was thinking about this problem. So many times I’ve wondered what on earth those businesses were thinking.

And I realised it was just that: time and knowledge.

They don’t know how and they don’t have the time to put the preparation into it. So they just let it slide. And hope for the one employee that is a natural at speaking.

Are you going to help your staff?

With a little bit of effort, a business can help their speakers become better. And can help them get actual ROI from talks.

What about your business? Are you helping your staff become better? Do you train them?

If you are not, you have a choice.

Do you choose the path of least resistance? Stick with the way of working you have been doing for so long? Are you willing to keep losing money on conferences? Or are you one of those companies that dare to help their staff become better at speaking? One that will make a difference?

Let me know!


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