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Public Speaking, Presentation Skills & Media Training

Speaking lessons for any current or aspiring speaker

Over the years, I have presented at many events across the country—everything from keynote speeches to two-day workshops. As a speaker, I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly and learned some important speaking lessons. Here are a few I wanted to share. 

Be a Student and Do Your Homework

I know many speakers who have crafted a presentation they do over and over again. The problem is, every audience is unique. That’s why I spend time upfront with the event planner to get a good snapshot of attendees. Where possible, I go a step further and try to interview attendees in advance. For example, I was scheduled to speak to a group of teleservices business owners. I had several topics that I proposed, a few of which were focused on technology. I assumed there would be great interest there. After interviewing several members, I discovered the real need for these businesses was information on how to connect with and win big business clients. The lesson here—don’t make assumptions about an audience. Do your homework if you want to deliver a successful, well-targeted presentation. 

Two Is Better than One 

When event planners ask me to do a keynote or major presentation, I ask if they also have other opportunities. Let’s face it, travel is expensive. I often suggest doing a mini-workshop or presentation in addition to the main speech. As an example, I spoke to Women in Auto Care on the topic of leadership. This keynote was based on a book I co-authored called, Stop Wishing, Stop Whining. Start Leading. When I saw the conference plan, it looked like there was an opportunity for some shorter presentations, too. I suggested that my Top Five Presentation Mistakes… and How to Overcome Them might be a great addition to the line-up. They agreed. I had the opportunity to speak on two topics I am passionate about, while they got additional content and saved on travel expenses.  

Not Every Speaking Opportunity Is a Good Fit 

It is flattering to be asked to present, but I have learned that some opportunities are not a good fit. I try to be objective about this because it takes a great deal of time and effort to put together a presentation. If the audience is not one that will be receptive to your message or is not your target audience, then the results can be disappointing for you and them. Additionally, I look at the time allotted. Can I do something that will be impactful in that time? I like to promote the organizations and events that hire me, so is this opportunity something I feel comfortable promoting?  If the opportunity isn’t a good fit, I take a pass.  

Get Feedback and Listen

It’s easy to assume you know how well you have performed. You feel like you know, and you may be right, but you may be wrong. Certainly, you can tell if your audience was engaged, but I try to go deeper. I seek out feedback by asking some very specific questions. 

  • Was there anything missing that I should have covered? 
  • Was the content relevant to the audience? Was the level of information appropriate?  
  • What other comments do you have for me? 
  • Would you hire me again? 

That last speaking lesson is telling. To me, the greatest measure of success is getting asked back to present—or being given a referral. When that happens, you know you have accomplished your mission.  

Looking to hire someone to speak at your next event? Let’s chat.

Public Speaking, Presentation Skills & Media Training

I was recently a guest on the podcast, Entrepreneur Perspectives (listen here). This podcast is produced by KazCM, the content marketing arm of KazSource, Inc. It’s a weekly podcast where Eric Kasimov, the CEO of KazSource, chats with inspiring and influential people in the business world–it’s all about helping you the business owner build and protect your business 1 podcast at a time. With my love of all things audio, video, and entrepreneurship, it was a delight to appear on this podcast.

You can listen to this episode the following ways:

iTunes

Web Player

Stitcher

On this episode of Entrepreneur Perspectives, I discussed many things that I am passionate about, including:

4:50 | The National Small Business Association (NSBA) 

17:40 | When to Hire

24:55 | One of my favorites: The importance of video 

34:30 | Speaking at events

42:10 | My dad, the dry cleaner

Useful links from this episode:

Articles and videos mentioned in this episode:

Apps mentioned:

My books: 

Hire me to speak:

Other important links:

Key Takeaways:

  • “Entrepreneurs are risk adverse.”
  • “I would rather bet on myself and my ability, even in the tough times.” 
  • “No one can pay you enough money to do a job that you don’t love.”

Connect with us:

Cynthia Kay: InstagramLinkedIn

Eric Kasimov: LinkedInInstagramTwitter

I hope you enjoyed this episode: “Perspectives on Small Business with Cynthia Kay.”

Public Speaking, Presentation Skills & Media Training

Business lessons from my dad to me–and now to you.

With the holiday season coming and going, I think back to what is very important to me–family. One family member who has had a major impact on my business life is my father. I wanted to share some of his business wisdom. 

I am the owner of a media production company but my education in business began long before I started the business. It began in the backroom of a dry-cleaning establishment. It was a family-owned business operated by my dad and his two brothers, the descendants of Greek immigrants. The brothers also owned a small burger joint right next door where the specialty was, what else, Greek chili dogs.

I can remember working at the cleaners from the time I was old enough to follow directions. Every Saturday he would take my sister, younger brother, and me to the store. While he did paperwork, or caught up on loads of clothing in need of attention, we would check in the dirty clothes, put paper inserts on hangers, and clean the store. It was my first foray into business and believe me, there was no better feeling than having the run of the store. As I got older, I worked my way up to being a counter girl, my first sales experience. Then, I could open and close the place, my first management experience.

Some 30 years into my own business I am still amazed that what I learned from my dad still holds true. And the advice is as sound as what you get from business gurus whose books make the New York Times bestseller list. So here are dad’s lessons.

Business Lesson 1: No one can pay you enough money to do a job you don’t love. My dad always said “do what you love and the money will follow”. It does not matter if your passion is clean clothes (as it was for my dad), or media production (my passion), when you love what you do it is not work. And, people who are passionate about what they do excel.

Business Lesson 2: Learn every aspect of your business. If there was a garment that needed attention to get out nasty spots, my dad knew how to get it done. He could press creases into pants that were perfect. He could run the counter and greet every customer by name. He knew the machines and money side of the business. There are many stories about people who have moved from the shop floor to the C-Suite. It is not an accident. People who learn business from the ground up are often the most compassionate and informed leaders.

Business Lesson 3: Treat every person with respect. It did not matter if a customer brought him one suit or a whole closet full of clothes, everyone got special treatment. There were no small customers, just smaller orders. I have learned this lesson first-hand.  By taking a small job no one wanted I gained a large manufacturing client and have a 30-year history of working with them. Pay attention to small customers, they get bigger.

Business Lesson 4: Value loyalty. My dad was fiercely loyal to suppliers who helped him get started in business. They trusted him and extended him credit when some would not. As he became more successful, everyone wanted his business and tried to undercut his long-time suppliers. My dad never even considered making a change to get a discount. Relationships are important. That also holds true for employees and everyone who is important to you in your personal and professional life.

Business Lesson 5: Give back. My father believed very strongly that business has a responsibility to give back to the community long before it was popular. He donated free dry-cleaning to schools and non-profits. He and mom volunteered. They gave of time, talent, and treasure. He was always working and always giving back. He is known for the beautiful birdhouses he designs and builds. You can’t buy one, but he would give you one.

These business lessons sound simple. Do what you love. Know your business inside and out. Be respectful and loyal. Give back.

Thanks for the business lessons, dad!

(Note: Afendoulis Cleaners is still family owned and in the capable hands of my first cousins.)

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