Author Archives: orvelray

Three Stories that Attract High-Value Clients

Stories are vital to your business. We spend most of our leisure time consuming stories from TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and the Internet. Marketers tell stories all the time, stories that attract business.

There are three types of stories, that when you tell them, will have eager prospects queuing up. The Value Proposition, the Capabilities Story, and the Origin Story.

The Value Proposition

This is the answer to the cocktail-party question, “So, . . . what sort of work do you do?”

Your answer is in three parts: what you do, who you do it for, and how they benefit.

This may seem simple, but The Value Proposition is built with care. Simply replying, “I’m an accountant,” will send them looking for the hoes-d’oeuvre tray.

“Accountant” is a noun. What you do suggests a verb.   Verbs like: help, coach, train, consult, fix, insure or manage, are much stronger. Verbs evoke images and action. Adding adjectives doesn’t help. “I’m a criminal lawyer” is simplistic (and redundant). “I keep good people who may have done bad things out of jail.” Now that’s a conversation-starter.

The second part of your Value Proposition is who you do it for. This step describes your typical or ideal client.   “I coach salespeople who make high-stakes presentations.” Or, “I show professional speakers how to use advanced acting techniques.” This gives the listener a chance to self-qualify. Any working mother will respond to, “I show single mothers how to master time management.”

The third part is how your clients benefit. A virtual accounting service in LA says, “We’ve combined mobile computing and the Internet to help small businesses run more efficiently.” Or perhaps, “I show physicians how to use an online billing system to improve patient outcomes, increase revenues and cut costs.”

You get the idea.

Carefully script, edit and re-edit your Value Proposition. Cut every extra word and practice until it rolls off the tongue.

Expect one of two responses:

“Oh, that’s nice. I wonder if there are any more of those hot wings. . . ” or,

“Hummm. . .That’s interesting, tell me more.”

If they dis-engage and drift away, that’s wonderful. You’ve avoided a lot of explaining. But if they respond with, “Tell me more,” you know they may have a need you can fill.

The Capabilities Story

Respond with, “For example. . .” and share a recent case, which includes four elements: the problem the client presented; the movie-trailer version of how you worked with them to solve the problem; a measurable benefit; and a reference.

“Well, for example. . . Kim runs a successful financial services company, and recently published a book.  She called because her book has won several awards, and now she’s getting calls to speak at major conferences. She’s smart, articulate, and knows her field, but has no experience as a keynoter. After reading her book, we met at her office to incorporate the key elements into a speech. Then we built a slide deck using PREZI, and included cues to help her remember her main points. Then she came into the studio, where we rehearsed, recorded, and analyzed video of her presentation. Within a month she was ready for the big stage. She received a standing ovation, signed three new clients, and booked five more speaking gigs. You can call her for a reference.”

The Capabilities Story paints a mental movie, where your prospective clients can actually SEE how they could work with you to solve their problem. Each of these four elements is essential. The first establishes your expertise and the sorts of problems you can solve. The middle describes your process. It shows the prospect what it might look like to work with you. The outcome is so valuable that it easily justifies your fee. And the reference gives you rock-solid credibility.

Your Capabilities Story should call out what makes you different or special. Do you travel to their office, use state-of-the-art tools, or provide personalized support? Don’t waste time on elements that are common among competitors.

The Origin Story

This is not a biography. It simply describes a defining event that set you on the path to what you do.  It can be as simple as, “After 37 years on the circuit, speaking in 47 counties, and selling 22 million books, I’ve started coaching other speakers and authors, sharing the lessons learned along the way.”

Or it can be more elaborate. For years, I’ve used this story to open seminars on Guerrilla Selling:

“The ad in the comic book said, “Win a Bicycle.” It was spring of 1963, I was nine years old, eldest of three children of a single mother who worked nights in a factory, and had long ago given up on Santa Claus. I thought it was a sweepstakes, so I tore out the coupon and sent it in.

A week later this box arrived, full of little packets of garden seeds, and a set of instructions. I was supposed to sell them, door-to-door, for 25¢ a pack (which I though was crazy because you could buy the same thing at our neighborhood store for a dime). There was an elaborate script, and all these rules: never walk on the grass, always step back from the door, and always say, “Yes Ma’am,” “No Ma’am,” and “Thank you Ma’am!”

Well I didn’t know any better, so I did everything they said. Dressed in my Sunday best, I rang every doorbell in our subdivision. Then I crossed the busy street my mother told me not to cross, and rang every doorbell over there. By about 2:00 in the afternoon it was obvious I had no future in sales. I hadn’t sold a single pack of seeds.

You know how easy it is to give up when you’re tired and hungry and dehydrated. Taking a shortcut across a vacant field, I spotted a woman in her 30s, sleeves rolled up, hair tied back, tearing up the back yard with a shovel.

“HEY LADY!” I shouted. “You don’t need no SEED for that garden DO YA?” (so much for the script.)

She stopped her work, leaned on her shovel, and yelled back, “Whaddaya GOT?”

“I got EVERYTHING from Asparagus to Zucchini! Whaddaya WANT?”

Of course, her next question was, “HOW MUCH?”


“WHY should I pay twenty-five CENTS? I can buy seeds at the grocery for a DIME.”

That’s when I started to cry.

“Because I’m trying to win a BICYCLE! THAT’S why!”

She bought $9.00 dollars worth.

And what I learned from that one transaction was, cry (well, it works for a nine-year-old). More important, it taught me that people who buy seeds, buy seeds, and people who don’t buy seeds, don’t buy seeds, and that’s just the way it works.

You don’t have time to ring every doorbell. You go up and down the alley and look for that pile of dirt where they had last year’s garden. And if they don’t answer, you go back again, and again, until you get a chance to tell your story.

One lady asked, “How many for a dollar?”

Well I could do that much math. “That would be FOUR for a dollar.”

“OK, I’ll take a dollar’s worth.”

So at the next house I offered, “four-for-a-dollar,” and instantly, my sales doubled. I learned that making a very small change can make a very big difference.

Another neighbor taught an even more important lesson. A white-haired woman in a long cotton dress answered the door, her frail hand trembling on the crook of her cane. She asked, “What’s this for?”

“They’re seeds, ma’m. For a garden. For growing flowers or food.”

“OH, no, honey! I’m too old to keep a garden. What I mean is, is this for scouts, or is this for band, or is this for camp. . .?”

“I’m trying to win a bicycle. Ma’am.”

“I’ll be right back.” She retreated into the house, returned with her purse, and handed me a five-dollar bill.

“Here you go. Give the seeds to a family that doesn’t have enough to eat.”

I left her porch in tears, because we were one of those families.

She taught me that it’s not always about the product; it’s not even about the price; sometimes it’s just about the story.

Red bikeAnd yes. It was a red stingray, with a sprung fork, high-rise bars and a banana seat. I put so many cards in the spokes it sounded like a Harley.

Four Secrets of Magnetic Client Attraction

magnetIn order to thrive as a speaker, consultant, or coach, you have to be visible. Potential clients need to see you. And they need to see you as a thought leader.   When they experience your skill and expertise, they step forward. Here are four no-cost ways to magnetically attract clients.

1.  Relationship Marketing

This channel requires careful tending. Your Rolodex is your Power Base. (For younger readers, “Rolodex,” was a pre-Facebook way of keeping track of “friends.” Google it.)

Who do you know you could reach out to? Who’s out there who could provide an introduction or a recommendation? Make a list. The Director. The CEO. The HR Department. The President. The Meeting Planner. Reach out to them.

The best list is clients you’ve served recently, who’ve had an excellent experience of you. Reach out to all who’ve seen you work. Their needs may have cycled and they need you again, or they can refer you to someone who needs you now. They experience you as someone who’s invested in a relationship, so they feel comfortable introducing you to others.

Just last week, a client was complaining that she had nothing on her calendar for 2016.

“So why do you think you’ve got nothing booked? What’s your business development process?”

If you can’t articulate that in three or four steps, then you don’t have one.

“Well, I make 25 contacts a week,” she said.

“Good. Tell me about that. What qualifies as a ‘contact’?”

“I call. I leave voice mail. I follow up with email.”

“Then what happens?”


“And how’s that workin’ for you?”

If what you’re doing is not working, then do something, anything else. If you expect your situation to change, then change your process.

I suggested she keep score a different way. As my friend Mark LeBlanc, CSP, says, “Have one meaningful conversation a day. One. Every day. Like your vitamins.”

Keep dialing until you get through to someone. This is the best, most intimate way to strengthen relationships and find new business. They won’t engage until they see your work and experience who you are.

“Can you do that?” I asked.


Twenty-four hours later we were working out the pricing for a new client for three keynotes totaling $24,000.

2.  Educational Marketing

Give lectures and speeches. Lead workshops, discussion groups or training. Teach a class through the local college, continuing ed, or free university. Offer your services in a low-cost, low risk environment so people can experience you. Speak at associations where your colleagues hang out. Share your knowledge freely. Large seminars can reach hundreds of prospects. Small events are more controlled and connected.

The people you can help the most will see you and self-select. They’ll step forward and engage you. They experience you as a teacher, with a wealth of knowledge and experience to share. And the ones who don’t are not ready or not committed.

Every month I offer a full day, “Advanced Acting and Storytelling Skills for Professional Speakers Lab” at our studio in the mountains west of Boulder. This full-day experience teaches speakers how to bring excitement, drama and imagery to the stage using the same techniques as Hollywood’s brightest stars.  You learn fifteen simple rules that add impact to every story, every presentation, no matter what your topic.

By invitation only, it’s limited to six participants, so everyone receives lots of individual direction, personal coaching and group feedback. And I only invite those who have been vouched for by a client. This small-group format gives these guests a unique opportunity to hone and polish signature stories using easy and simple techniques.

Over the course of the day, we get to know each other better. Everyone gets an experience of what it would be like to work with me.

At the end of the day, I explain directly, “This is how I grow my practice. If you would like to continue this conversation, I’d be happy to schedule a 2 hour private session to explore the possibilities.” Then we adjourn to adult beverages.

I have the privilege of choosing the clients I work with, and so do you. About half the group will set an appointment, and of those, I choose one. And I only choose clients who are deeply committed to up-leveling their success. During the intake interview, we explore their goals and ambitions, and the investment. Then I decide if they’re ready or not.

Most engage for a year. Some want help with short-term projects, like editing a speech script or book. At the rate of twelve new clients a year, I easily keep the practice full.

3.  Leadership Marketing

People equate leadership in your professional circles with leadership in your field. For the time and effort it takes, this is one of the most valuable investments of time, energy and imagination you can make, not only for a small business marketing management, as it is a lot of work finding the right strategy for your service or business.

Attend the meetings of the local organizations that serve your industry: professional associations, network groups, Meet-Ups, chambers of commerce, or service clubs. Get involved. Volunteer. Serve on committees. Meet good people. Do good work. Learn to lead. Step up and run for office. Whatever your most valuable skill, offer that.

Starting in early 2015, I started attending the monthly meetings of the International Coach Federation, Colorado Chapter, as a guest. There I met Dr. Lisa Hale, who invited me to speak. I volunteered to direct traffic at the Fall Conference. And the next thing I know, they’re nominating me to be Education Director.2016ICFCOBoardofDirectors1

Apparently they found out that I had lots of non-profit board experience, having just served as VP of Professional Development for the National Speakers Association, Colorado. So now I have to come up with a year’s worth of keynote speakers, plus added workshops, webinars and salon events.

Now you’re smack in the middle of the most influential network in your field. But what better place to develop a reputation? Coach, consultant, speaker, blogger, or author, you gain credibility by who you count as colleagues. They experience you as a leader, who bolsters everyone’s confidence.

4.  Authorship Marketing

That book inside you is going to have to come out. They can’t see you as a thought leader if they don’t know what you think. Authorship = Authority. So put your thoughts in writing. It can be a speech, a lecture, a blog, a newsletter, an eBook, or even a New-York-Times-Best-Seller-published-by-a-Major-house Dead-Tree-Book.

My friend Cristal had been struggling to write her book for a decade. She teaches teachers lots of new and creative ways to engage students in the classroom. She shows them how to manage conflict and create an environment conducive to learning. She’s been doing multi-day trainings all over the country for two decades.

Her breakthrough came when she realized that she had the book written already. It was in her head. And she’s been testing and polishing that material on stages for ages.

A simple voice-recognition app on her Mac converted her lectures into text. This method has the advantage of capturing your thoughts in your most natural voice, your speaking voice. Then she merged the text with her already-elaborate handouts. The result was a 60,000 word manuscript in two months. And the graphics have already done; they were already in the workbook.

People see you speak or teach, then take your book home. Your voice continues to ring in their ears from the page. They take you to bed. It’s very intimate.

My friend Robin Colucci, “The Get-Published Coach,” just released a new book, How to Write a Book That Sells You. She says, the best best-selling book is the one that draws clients into your practice. She says, “90 percent of your content should be based on your original stories and experience.”

From the book, you can offer the material in different formats: a keynote, a workshop, a webinar, a junket seminar, or even the $10,000-per-person-three-days-on-the-beach-in-Maui.

They will pay fifty percent more, or even double, if you’ve written a book. Clients experience you as an author, and therefore, an authority. Someone they can trust.

And I don’t mean a skinny piece of junk. The formula is six-by-nine trade paperback, 160 pages, perfect bound, glossy, non-curl cover, printed in color. Three Sections. Twelve chapters, plus back-mater, with your photo featured prominently. Cover price, $29.95. Sell them all day for $20. Everyone’s got a $20 bill.

And you can get them printed on Amazon Create Space for $3 each.  Do the math.

There’s never been a better time to be a writer.

  • ### –

Guerrilla Marketing Tips for Getting More Clients

Build a Never-Ending Stream of New Client Referrals

Expertpreneurs are constantly working on getting more clients.  Correctly targeting new clients is a lot like bowling.

If you’ve ever been bowling, then you know that there are 10 pins on the deck, and the one in front is called the “Headpin.” In order to score a strike, you aim for the space just to the right (or left) of the headpin. Bowlers call this the “Pocket.” If you do this correctly, you knock down all the pins at once. Then you enjoy the mathematical advantage of counting the next two frames twice. That’s how it’s possible to score 300 points in just 10 frames.

1. Identify your Headpin Customer

The same is done at king kong digital marketing and it is as effective. Once you identify your Headpin Customer, the people most likely to need your expertise or services, then you can target them (and those closest to them) with extreme precision. You also unleash the power of word-of-mouth, as they recommend you to their neighbors, friends and co-workers.

Who are your favorite clients right now? Wouldn’t it be great if you had a lot more, just like them? Who are they? What do they look like? What do they do? How do they do it? What problems do they experience? How could your expertise or service help? Where would you find them? When do they need your product? Find out as much as you can: their age, gender, income, education, hobbies, and community involvement. What problems are they trying to solve? What’s their potential motivation for becoming a client?

With this information, the guerrilla can zero in on those people who have a real and urgent need.

Look for the “Trigger Event”

In the life of every customer, something happens that sets them on the path to purchase:

  • You have a flat and soon you’re shopping for new tires.
  • Take a new job, you might soon be looking for a new house.
  • I booked a series of seminars in Hawaii, so Denise and I signed up for scuba lessons.

Trigger Events happen to all sorts of people, all of the time. The important question to ask is, “what trigger events motivate people to seek out my services.”

Getting New Clients for Guitar Lessons

My friend Rob Candler has taught guitar in Boulder for many years. He’s noticed that most of his students started lessons just after buying their first guitar. So instead of advertising under “Guitar Lessons” or “Music Lessons,” (along with all his competitors) he runs his ad in the “Musical Instruments for Sale – Guitars” section of the classifieds.

For an accountant, Trigger Events might include a prospect starting a new business, opening a storefront, passing $1 million in revenue, or moving to a new location.

2. Do some reconnaissance

Once you have your prospect profiled, you can seek them out on Google, Bing, or Yahoo, searching by industry, job title and geography. Look for them in Facebook and LinkedIn groups.

You can also use Internet tools like LinkedIn to search for people who fit your ideal profile, by name, company, industry, school, job title, geography, or any of dozens of other criteria. Now you’re ready to launch your attack with surgical precision.

3. Use an unusual, creative or unexpected approach.

Linda took a new job as a sales rep for a national temporary help agency in Houston. She decided to target oil refineries because they use a lot of temps, there are a lot of them in Houston, and because they are difficult to call on, surrounded by high fences and barbed wire.

It was the week before Easter, so she goes to the Dollar Store to buy a bag of plastic eggs, the kind that snap together, thinking she’d put her business card inside and hand them out. Then a bag of jellybeans catches her eye. “A-ha, I’ll fill the eggs with jellybeans along with the card. This is fun!” Now she needs a basket, and the green cellophane grass to go with it. Caught up in this idea, she stops at a costume shop, but the only thing they have is the sort of bunny outfit you’d see in a nightclub. She thinks, “I can make this work!”

So the next morning, she pulls her car up next to the guard shack at a local refinery.

“Hi. I’m here to deliver an Easter egg to your Human Resources Manager.”

“Who are you?” asks the guard.

“I’m the Easter Bunny!” she says, incredulously.

“Let me check.” He steps inside and makes a call. “OK, go ahead.”

She walks right in, basket on her arm, hands the HR Manager one of the eggs, says “Happy Easter,” turns and leaves.

This oil company became a major account, and within a year she was the leading Account Manager in the country.

4. Ask a lot of questions

We’re often so eager to share the good news about our business that we forget to build trust and confidence. Ask LOTS of questions. What are they using now? How much are they paying for it? What do they like most about it? What do they like least about it? Why would they want to change? And how can you help? In next month’s issue, we’ll cover The 37 Magic Selling Questions.

5. Ask for Referrals

It helps if people refer you to their friends, associates and family members. This puts you and your prospect on a common ground from the get-go. Network with bankers, lawyers, real estate agents, and other professionals who serve the same constituency of clients as you. A prospect is five times as likely to do business with you if you’ve been referred to them by a trusted advisor, so ask for, and reciprocate referrals, and always make sure to get advise from companies like Salesforce.

3 x 3 x 6

My friend Jordan Oliver runs a landscape business called Garden Art. He tries to concentrate his work in a particular neighborhood, because traveling between jobs eats up profits. Whenever he starts installing a project, he visits each house three doors to the left, three doors to the right, and the six houses across the street.

He explains to each neighbor, “We’re doing some landscaping over here at the Hamilton’s, and I was wondering if you could help us out. For the next few days we’re going to have a lot of material and equipment on the site. Would you be a good neighbor and just help us keep an eye on things?”

Of course they agree.

“And while we’re in the neighborhood, I’d be happy to work up an estimate for any work you might need. Here’s our brochure.”

Who Else Do You Know. . .

You can help your clients suggest referrals by asking this simple question: “Who else do you know who…?” The variations run something like

  • “Who else do you know who was recently promoted?”
  • “Who else do you know who just had a baby?”
  • “Who else do you know who just moved into town?”

Likewise, people who do not have a need today may develop one later. You should touch base with every past and current customer at least quarterly, whether they buy or not. Maintain the bond. Talk about their favorite ball team, or how the kids are doing in school, or how the new location of their restaurant is working out. Most important, make the calls personal rather than strictly talking business. If you maintain the person-to-person relationship, the business relationship will take care of itself.

Deep Evaluation Guarantees Results

One of your most powerful guerrilla marketing weapons

As an expert entrepreneur, you’re offering keynotes, lectures, seminars, workshops, webinars, coaching or online training as part of your practice. (If not, you should.)

And if you’re like me (and I know I am) you probably have delegates fill out some sort of evaluation form (and if not, you should). You might even compile them into a spreadsheet and run the averages, and maybe even graph how they trend over time.

You’re still missing one of the most powerful guerrilla marketing weapons available.

What is Deep Evaluation?

Guerrillas evaluate their work on 5 levels, and follow through to verify that their clients are receiving real value. It’s the secret of repeat and referral business, and the key to effective marketing.

Level 1 – Did they LIKE it?

These are the “smile sheets” you see at the end of most seminars. Typically delegates rate the trainer, the content, the venue, even the food, on a 1 to 5 scale, something like,

I thought the trainer (pick one)

  1. Really pissed me off
  2. Is a complete idiot
  3. Was OK I guess
  4. Was RILLY terrific
  5. I hope he marries my sister

News flash! This data is meaningless.

I know a professional speaker who’s been using the same feedback form, printed on 3×5 cards, for more than 20 years. He’s compiled statistics from more than 1,000 presentations, and rightfully claims a “4.8 out of 5” average rating.   Of course, naive meeting planners might find this number compelling. But if you dress nice and tell a few funny stories, you can make any audience LIKE you, at least for 45 minutes.

Besides, it doesn’t matter if they LIKE you. If you’re challenging their assumptions, pushing their buttons and making them deal with their shit, they may just hate your guts. That’s why the client brought in an outsider.

During a customer service audit for a Las Vegas casino, the VP of Sales walked out in a rage and resigned. The CEO (my client) had been trying to get rid of this guy for months, but couldn’t push it through HR.  HE was thrilled.

Level 2 – Did they REMEMBER it?

My dear friend Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE, says, “Dharling, there’s no use going anywhere they didn’t remember you were there.”

Savvy trainers TEST their audience for comprehension and recall, with multiple quizzes right after, or even during the program. Online Learning Management software typically administers a quiz after every 15-minute module, and you can’t advance ’til you pass. In most live events, the speaker seldom bothers. A forced show-of-hands, asking, “As a child, how many of you had parents?” doesn’t count. (BTW, this question will typically produce a 75% response. Yes, I have tested it. )

People tend to remember the first point you make, the last thing they hear, and the most unusual story or example. Typically an audience will forget 40% of your content within 20 minutes, 55% after one hour, 62% after 9 hours, 70% after two days, and 73% after six days. After 30 days you’re lucky if they retain 15%. So make your content memorable with stories, examples, images, iconographics, mnemonics, and emotional stories.

Testing for retention has another advantage; it can be an effective review.   Email a quiz, or better still, use an online tool like Survey Monkey to insure that they REMEMBER the main points.

Level 3 – Did they USE it?

It’s wonderful when they LIKE you; even better when they REMEMBER your content. But it’s of no real value until they USE it. Your impact is measured by your ability to change behavior, and if nobody bothers to apply the “3 Traits of Top Leaders” then your keynote was just expensive entertainment. For the same fee they could have gotten Garth Brooks.

Contact your client within a week, or 30 days at the latest, and ask, “How did you apply the “6 Strategies of Effective Customer Service.” Did they actually change the outbound recording on their voice mail, as you recommended? Have they re-written the brochure to highlight benefits instead of features? Did they stop answering the phone, “Hello, what the hell do you want?” Build your program around specific, actionable items that they must complete, tied to a deadline.

Bundling a few weeks of Accountability Coaching into the package is a sure-fire way to guarantee that they will make the changes. A weekly phone call, or even a guilt-trip email, is usually enough to nudge them along. Otherwise, like nuns, they slip back into the same old habits.

Level 4 – Did it WORK?

OK, they really LIKED your engaging and entertaining program. You’ve helped them REMEMBER the content with quizzes and tests. And you’ve kept in touch to make sure they USE the new skills. But did it WORK? Just because you’ve given them what you believe is sound advice, it might not work at all. It might have been inappropriate for their industry. Structural obstacles, corporate culture, or even a rogue CEO can sabotage your solutions.

No matter who’s at fault, if it didn’t WORK, you need to know, and you need to know why. You may be peddling obsolete or ineffective advice.  Clients revere you as an expert, so you have a fiduciary obligation to make absolutely certain your council is sound.

Level 5 – What was it WORTH?

If they LIKE it and REMEMBER it and USE it and it WORKS, that’s just swell. You’ve lived up to your reputation as a guru. You can cash the check with a clear conscience. But you’re missing a tremendous opportunity. How much value did your training, coaching or consultation produce? Did they save a bundle by re-negotiating the supply chain? Did they see an increase in sales, or a big bump up in customer satisfaction? How much was that WORTH? Find out. If you’ve been following up, keeping them accountable and tracking results, this should be an easy calculation.

My friend Heather Lutze is an international speaker and expert on “Findability,” how to get your website found by customers who are ready to buy. She recently attended a 5-day seminar taught by Callan Rush on “Magnetize your Audience.” When she told me the registration fee was $10,000, I thought she was throwing her money away.

At the beginning of Callan’s seminar, she gave everyone $25 in singles. Then they had two minutes to pitch an offering to their group that they could buy using only these bills. Over the course of the five days, every participant was required to develop an offering, analyze the benefits, and write a script. They were organized into teams with a coach to refine it, then presented it to the rest of the attendees. Whoever sold the most was declared the winner. They repeated variations of this exercise several times. The finalists were given a half-hour to pitch a real offer using real order forms. Not only did Heather win the competition, but by the end of the workshop she had enrolled six people in her new Findability Profits Lab at $1,997 each, earning $11,982. She had earned a 120% return on her investment before she left for the airport. Callan Rush can sleep well knowing that her techniques are effective, and she’s genuinely helping other professionals grow their business.

$3.6 Million

Recently I got a call from Bob Purvis, CEO of Purvis Industries, a bearing services company based in Houston. They had invited me to conduct a half-day seminar on “How to Sell More at Higher Prices” for 200 Service Center Managers. We brought in a video crew and sent the edited DVD to all 600 employees.

Bob called to say, “We’ve just had our first $10 million dollar month since 2007, and we’ve increased our gross margin by 3%.” That may not sound like much, but 3% of $10 million over 12 months equals $3.6 million in new NET PROFIT. It was the difference that kept them out of bankruptcy, and saved more than 1,000 jobs.

Once you find out what it was WORTH, now you have a real-life success story to share. And when you can deliver value like that, they’ll never flinch at your fee.

Internet Radio – Your 15 Minutes of Fame

How to Get the Most from Your Internet Radio Interview

internet radioInternet Radio is a favorite Guerrilla Marketing weapon. Radio is the most intimate of all media. It reaches a wide audience. It can be deployed over and over. And it’s free.

This week, Hannah Leigh Myers, a Freelance Reporter and News Producer with KGNU radio, interviewed my wife, Denise Wilson (who is a professional botanist, and an expert on orchids) about Wild Orchids in Colorado. You can listen to the five-minute segment here.

Denise learned several important lessons in the process.

Hannah surprised us by arriving at our home with a hot microphone in hand, so be prepared. “Script out what you want to say in advance,” Denise recommends. “Make sure you cover your most important points, because the focus you have in mind might be very different from the agenda of the show’s Host.”

Of the more than two hours they spent together, the show was cut to five minutes. “Cover your points as succinctly as you can,” she suggests.   “Five minutes goes by very, very fast.”

Curb your Ego

When you get that call, it’s tempting to say YES!! But before you agree, visit their website, see who else has been on the show, and listen to some segments. This will give you a sense of the tone, content and audience.

I was recently asked to do a show for “event planners,” in the UK. Checking their website revealed that this program was for wedding planners. You know, I’ve never keynoted a wedding.  My target audience is Corporate Meeting Planners.

Take the Initiative

The easiest way to get invited to be a radio show guest is to e-mail a brief pitch letter to the Producer (not the Host). Your pitch shows them why you’d make a great guest. Like your Elevator Pitch (which we wrote about in the July edition) the pitch should be short and direct. Summarize what you want to share: information, tips, advice, or insights. Then highlight your credentials to talk on this topic. Your pitch should reflect your understanding of the show’s format and audience.

When possible, tie your pitch to a current event, trend or controversy. For example, if you’re an attorney specializing in bankruptcy, and there is a change in the bankruptcy laws, then you would be a great guest to talk about the ins-and-outs of the new law.

Never pitch your company directly. These people are not interested in giving you free advertising. Instead, make your pitch about a problem or issue that connects their audience to your area of expertise.

Include an attention-grabbing subject line to insure your pitch will get read.

Choose the Right Shows

Once you’ve developed a compelling pitch, put together a list of the shows you believe to be good match. Google “radio talk shows in (name of city)”. This will bring up several pages of listings, with links to the stations and their contact information.

Each station’s web site should provide the name of the show, the kind of guests that appear, and the name of the show’s Producer. If these details aren’t included, call the station and ask.

Some shows limit their interviews to specific topics, like personal finance, investing, current events, personal growth and development, or small business, while others cover a wide range of subjects. “Colorado Matters” is a prime example. This local NPR affiliate airs a weekly 30-minute show focusing on government, education, environment, health, business, economics, science, technology, arts and culture.   Suggesting a story is as simple as going to their website.

Follow a similar process to develop a list of shows that air on satellite and Internet radio. Start with Sirius XM and look at their lineup. Then Google “Internet radio stations” for more options. Blogtalk Radio is an example of an Internet radio station.

My long-time friend Joe Sabah teaches a course on How to Get on Radio Talk Shows All Across America Without Leaving Your Home or Office. He has compiled a list of more than 800 AM radio talk shows, listing the Producer, the Host, schedule and contact information. Every day, every one of these stations has 24 hours to fill, and they want to hear from YOU! At $147 it’s a steal.

Once you’ve targeted a particular show, fine-tune your pitch to include the title and slant. Include links to audio or video of other interviews you’ve done. Don’t add attachments.

Follow Up

Producers are always busy trying to make their next deadline, so make their job easy.   Follow up your email a couple of days later with a phone message, and remind them of your interest. Persist.

Once they’ve agreed to have you on, send the Host a List of Suggested Questions. This is how you make sure they will cover the points that are most important to you. Most Hosts are grateful for the support. It gives the show a roadmap to follow.

Give Them an Introduction

Unless your host is Terri Gross, you can be certain they won’t read your book, or your website, or even your introduction. So ALWAYS send a written introduction, and make it clear that you expect them to READ it. I recently found myself lost for words when an interviewer opened her show with, “Orvel Ray, why don’t you start by telling us a little about yourself.” That’s just rude. You can’t babble about your accomplishments without sounding arrogant. I excused myself and ended the conversation right there. Your introduction lays the foundation for the interview.

Your introduction should:

1)   describe a problem shared by members of the audience,

2)   outline the guest’s qualifications to speak to that problem, and

3)   make a big promise, tell the audience what they will learn or gain from listening.

And the first time the audience hears your name should be at the very END of the introduction.

On the Air

Record your interview in a studio if possible. Travel to their local affiliate, or have them visit your home or office. These days most guest interviews are done over the phone. Your old-fashioned land line works best. Avoid SKYPE or other VOIP connections because they will drop out and cause technical flaws. For the same reason, never use a mobile phone or a wireless headset.

Stand up. It gives your voice more energy and excitement.

Keep your answers succinct. You should have a clear idea what you want to say in response to the questions you’ve supplied. Use short stories and examples to maintain the interest of your audience. Remember why you’re there. You’re the entertainment.

Include a Call to Action

Ask your host to insert, just before the station break, the comment, “Get a pen and paper ready, because after the break I’m going to be sharing how you can get (your new e-book, service, or offer).” That way, listeners are poised to write down your toll-free number or email address.
internet radio
Watch the clock carefully, and make sure you leave enough time to cover your planned questions, repeat your call-to-action, and wrap the show.

Now Push it on Social Media

Find out when the segment will air, or better still, get a hyperlink to the playback, and share it on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and all the rest. Feature it in your website. This positions you as THE go-to expert on your subject.

Do it right and your phone will be ringing off the hook!

Guerrilla Marketing When YOU are the Product

I answered the phone, “Good morning, this is Orvel Ray.”

There was a short silence. Then a woman’s voice, “I’m surprised you answered! It took me back for a moment.”

“Well, if you ever call here, and another man answers, please let me know.”

She chuckled, and then offered, “This is Linda from Washington Speakers Bureau. I’m trying to reach the office of Gold Coast SEO Agency.”

“You got it. And it’s just me and Denise. Several years ago we built an addition on our house, closed our downtown office, and fired everyone. Now we both work from home, here in the mountains of Colorado.”

“Oh, that must be beautiful!”

“It is. You can come and stay. Now that the boys are grown we have a spare room, and at this altitude, we don’t get much company.”

“I was just shocked that you answered your own phone?”

“Well, who else’s phone would you have me answer?”

Your Identity as a Guerrilla Marketing Weapon

Many experts, consultants, and professionals worry WAY too much about their “professional” image. They think they need an expensive office and a perky receptionist or they won’t be taken seriously. It took years for me to realize that being able to run my business while avoiding the commute, the expense and the hassle of managing a staff, is also a huge credibility builder. It’s a lifestyle most envy. This private label seo reseller program can help you to improve your site traffic marketing just within days.

Image vs. Identity

Guerrilla marketing professionals know that it’s more important for clients know you by your identity, who you really are, rather than to trying to project an image. An image, by definition, is a reflection, a facsimile, a fake. When YOU are the product, your clients want to know who you REALLY are; your quirks, your family, your faults, your hobbies and interests. And they want to know where you live, so if they’re ever dissatisfied they can come punch you in the nose.

Certainly you should dress up on client visits or conferences. But clients prefer a personal relationship, especially with their Trusted Advisers. The more they get to know the “real you” the more they trust your expertise and rely on your advice.

Put your picture on everything

Many years ago, we recommended to a small real estate brokerage that they should require all their agents to include their photo on their business cards. For some of you, this might not be such a good idea, but stick with me here. Today, they’re one of the largest real estate companies in the country. I can’t mention their name, but I believe they sell Moore real estate than any other Company I know.

Guerrilla MarketingThat’s because your brain has a  dedicated area for remembering faces (the Fusiform Face Area, part of the occipitotemporal gyrus). But the part that remembers names (the left hemispheric lingual gyrus) is built for processing language, so it has trouble recalling names.

That’s why, when you go to a networking event, everyone is wearing a NAME TAG. Scientists say it’s because we evolved from troops of social primates. Before the evolution of language, our ancestors relied on faces to discriminate between tribe (good) and outsiders (bad!). So put your picture on your business cards, your stationary, on all of your marketing materials, and most important, on your social media profiles. The more often they see your face, the more familiar (as in family) you become.

And while I’m on this particular soapbox, use a professional headshot. Done in a studio. There’s a reason they call it FACEbook. A picture’s worth 1,000 words, so let’s be very careful what your picture says about you. Business attire, neutral background, cropped close; not some selfie you shot slamming shots with your sister (yes, I have seen it).

Especially on LinkedIn. I will connect with anyone on LinkedIn, UNLESS they put up a picture of their cat; or worse, that scary grey silhouette.

Meet for coffee over SKYPE

If you work with clients remotely, SKYPE is a great way to create a powerful personal connection. And it’s free (Guerrilla Marketing’s favorite word). They see your face, your desk, the junk on your bookshelf. You can share documents, presentations, or your three-year-old daughter singing “Old McDonald Had a Farm.” (Yes, I actually have seen it). It really is the next best thing to being there. And for gawd’s sake look at that thumbnail. How are you framed? How is the light? Makes me crazy when a client SKYPEs me while sitting in front of the windows, curtains drawn wide, and all I see is a skyline and a scary silhouette.

While you’re at it, invest in a high-quality webcam. I use the Logitech BCC950 ConferenceCam (about $250 bucks. Google it). Not because I’m a tech geek, but because a client in Saudi Arabia gave it to me as a gift. You see, when they put our conversation up on the 40-inch plasma in the boardroom, the camera in my MacBook Pro made my face look like a pizza.

Another tip learned the hard way: remember to look directly into the camera. I made the mistake of looking down at my PowerPoint and the client felt like I was staring at her, uhmmm, let’s just say, “jewelry.”

Tell the truth

This big white envelope arrived in the mail. Big red letters on the outside said, “THIS IS NOT A BILL.” Inside, the letter explained, “That was the envelope. THIS is the bill.” So I paid it.

People appreciate when you tell the truth, especially about the little things. I’ve had clients call from Australia at 3:00 AM and ask, “Did I wake you?”

“Well, no. Not yet.”

And yes, I’m writing this in my underwear.

Separate the personal from the professional

Social media is the exception that proves the rule. A teacher who worked at a small Christian college in Texas was traveling in London, standing as a bridesmaid for a friend. The bride posted an iCam shot of the girls sitting around a booth (at the bachelorette party, I presume) with a glass of wine in the foreground. When she returned to Texas, the teacher was fired for “Inappropriate Public Conduct,” a violation of her contract. No she wasn’t DRINKING the wine, or even HOLDING the wine. It wasn’t even her wine. Fortunately Facebook now gives you the option to delete content posted by others that you might not want others to see.

Burj Al Arab Hotel

Gratuitous Burj Al Arab Hotel

The things you DO post should pass the test of professional relevance. If you’re leading an executive seminar in Dubai, then by all means, comment and Facebook and Tweet about it, including gratuitous pictures of the Burj Al Arab Hotel.  Knowing you’re a globetrotter gives you credibility along with frequent-flyer miles.

Better still, put your client in front of a video camera telling us how great the seminar was, and upload it to YouTube. Save the vacation slides for torturing your neighbors when you get home.

You may not know this, but in addition to my speaking and consulting practice, I lead a Batman-like double life, as a drummer in a professional 20-piece swing-era big band. Being a jazz musician doesn’t exactly enhance my credibility as a marketing guru. That’s why I keep them separate. They have their own social media pages and their own YouTube channel, and all my musician friends have to call me “Sticks”… but that’s another story.

Your Elevator Pitch Gets Them on the Train

Do you struggle to find new clients? The problem may be your Elevator Pitch.

Ask, “What sort of work do you do?” and most people will respond with one word.

“Accountant.”  “Engineer.”  “Consultant.”

The Secret is to Get Them on the Train

Just this afternoon, our local NPR station was running a fundraiser. Your contribution earns a chance to win an Australian vacation.  The announcers droned on and on about how this was “a trip of a lifetime,” and “worth $8,000,” and “you’ll see penguins and kolas,” while repeating the phone number incessantly. Yawn.

But then they played a segment from the travel agent as he described the train ride to Adelaide.elevator pitch “Leaving Melbourne at 8:00, you’ll be in the Premier Red seats, so you’ll have a really comfy seat, and great big picture windows that gaze out at the countryside. You’ll pass through Eucalyptus forests, rolling green farmland, and expansive desert plains. You’ll arrive in Adelaide around 6:00.” In great detail, he described the route of this amazing adventure. Instead of dreading a 10 hour trip, I could almost see the kangaroos bouncing across the far horizon as I drove. And the studio phones started ringing.

The lesson for guerrilla marketers is that it’s not enough to parrot your profession. It’s not even enough to promise a benefit.   You have to show them where they’re going, and what they’ve left behind.

Imagine, standing on the platform, and this train is about to embark on a wonderful journey. You shout, “Hey, there’s lots of open seats. It’ll be great! All you have to do is step aboard.   We’ll have you home by supper!”

The train, of course, is you and the wonderful work you do with your clients. Their computers are humming, they have a new resume headshot, or they’ve settled a tax problem. You help clients get from “here” (they have a problem to solve) to “there” (you’ve helped them solve it.) Now take them on that journey. Let them experience what it’s like to work with you.

Blow the Guerrilla Marketing Whistle

One of the most awesome weapons in your Guerrilla Marketing Arsenal is paying attention to your customers journey map ( That’s the script you use when someone asks, “So, what do you do?” If you had only 20 or 30 seconds to engage them, what would you say to get their attention, not counting, “Sorry, but I believe your pants are on fire”?

Your Guerrilla Elevator Pitch consists of three parts: 1) what you do, 2) who you do it for, and 3) two ways they benefit.

“At the Guerrilla Group, we help small business use low-cost marketing to increase sales and build profits.”

That’s like blowing the whistle on the train. You’ve gotten their attention, or not.

If not, that’s a good thing, because this trip is not for everyone. People will either say, “That’s nice!” (translation: I could care less now buzz-off) or, “Hummm. . . that’s interesting,” (tell me more).

Instead of, “I’m a tax accountant,” how about, “I help honest small-business owners take every legal deduction, and save them thousands of dollars in taxes.”

Instead of “environmental engineering,” try, “We help small cities recover quickly after severe storms or floods, and help minimize damage in the future.”

Instead of “SEO Brisbane consultant,” what if you said, “I help companies get found on the Internet, and attract their best prospects, right when they’re most motivated to buy.”

You get the idea.  Notice the structure. What. Who. And two benefits.

How long? Like a mini-skirt; short enough to be interesting and just long enough to cover the essentials.

“But what if I have more than one area of expertise?” Maybe you’re like my good friend Debi. She’s a very fine jazz pianist, but she also teaches piano, tutors elementary math and English, and teaches Japanese to professionals.

That’s simple. You need a value proposition for each offering, and each audience. So Debi might say, “I help elementary grade children to excel at math.” OR she might say, “I teach executives who travel abroad essential Japanese; at least enough to really impress their clients.”

It depends on who’s in the elevator. Smart guerrilla marketers will write several, edit them to the nub, and memorize them verbatim.

Why two benefits?

That’s because some people are motivated toward some positive outcome, or away from some problem or pain. People who are toward-motivated buy lottery tickets. People who are away-from buy flight insurance. So your value proposition is going to be most effective if it includes one of each. Where is the train going to go, and what are we leaving behind.

Use Powerful Language in your Elevator Pitch

There are many variations on this list. One myth is that Yale University researchers some how discovered the 12 most persuasive words in English. The truth is even more interesting. On August 14, 1961, an add appeared in the New York Times, with the headline, “The New Sell.”

“Most persuasive selling words, according to recent researches: You, Easy, Money, Save, Love, New, Discovery, Results, Proven, Health, Guarantee.” — Marketing Magazine

The research may be a myth, but the words are indeed persuasive. In 1963, David Ogilvy, in his seminal book, Confessions of an Advertising Man, published his own list of the 20 most persuasive words in advertising:

  1. suddenly
  2. now
  3. announcing
  4. introducing
  5. improvement
  6. amazing
  7. sensational
  8. remarkable
  9. revolutionary
  10. startling
  11. miracle
  12. magic
  13. offer
  14. quick
  15. easy
  16. wanted
  17. challenge
  18. compare
  19. bargain
  20. hurry

Ogilvy became the most famous copywriter in the world, and built the tenth biggest agency in the world. So hurry, and get on the train. These words work like magic. You’ll see amazing improvement. The results are remarkable.

Now you can tell a story

You’re ready to deploy your Capabilities Statement, (which we discussed in the May issue).   This is where you describe the journey, step-by-step. That gets them gazing out the window.

A consultant might say, “I’ve been working with an electrical testing company in the UK. We meet every week over SKYPE to discuss whatever challenges the owner happens to be facing that week. This client — I’ll call him James, because, that’s his name — wanted to grow the business by advertising for new customers. I advised that we begin by recording and analyzing the inbound telephone calls they were already receiving. A team of three salespeople were taking 20 to 30 inquires a day, but only closing 50%.

“I listened to the recordings and found two important flaws. They weren’t building rapport and they weren’t closing. The owner changed the script, and a month later, they’re closing 75%. Now, tell me about your business?”

See, NOW they’re on the train, ready to join you on a journey of their own. –Orvel Ray Wilson

Better to be Different than Better

Based in Edinburgh, Flow Languages provides translation and interpretation services all over Europe. While working together over SKYPE on his Guerrilla Marketing Calendar for 2014, the owner, James Canter, shared his plan to send Valentines Day Cards to all of their clients.

James had designed an elegant color postcard, featuring the company logo, toll-free number, and listing all the various languages and services they offer. He was planning to have them professionally printed, on glossy stock, and mailed in bulk to his whole list. Good thing I stopped him.

“No, no, no, no, NO!” I said. “That’s exactly what every other business does. They send out a glossy marketing piece that looks like a glossy marketing piece, and it goes straight in the bin.”

“So what do you recommend?” James asked.valentine

“Go to Sainsbury’s and buy several boxes of those cheap little valentines that kids pass around grammar school. Sign each card with the message, ‘We LOVE having you as a client!’ sign your name, and enclose a business card. Then hand address each envelope and apply a Royal Mail First Class stamp.”

“But what about quality? The message is that we offer high-quality accurate translation. Shouldn’t the mailing reflect that?”

“I understand your intention,” I said, “but quality is a given. Every translator does accurate translation or they’d be driving a truck. What matters is the relationship.

“When you try saying something to everyone, you risk saying nothing to anyone. Instead, say something specific to someone.” I told him, “Target the top 10 or 20% of your past clients, ranked by revenue, then add inactive clients who are likely to engage you again, and get busy.”

Like all good clients, James acted on the advice. He and his employees spent the next week preparing 500 little valentine cards, and addressing 500 tiny red envelopes.

Within a week, he received more than a dozen calls from people saying, “Oh, that was SO thoughtful!” and “I haven’t seen one of these since I was a kid!” By the end of March, he had booked 14 new translation projects directly from this mailing, worth more than £14,000, on an investment of about £200. More importantly, he re-activated 10 past clients who, for a combination of reasons, had been using a competitor.

Since starting his “Guerrilla Marketing Makeover” in January, James has grown Flow Languages from approximately £14,000 in monthly revenues, to more than £40,000. That’s 186% growth in less than three months. And he’s still growing. You can email him at to learn more.

His secret, “It’s better to be different, than to be better.”

First of all, it’s expensive to be better. Seven dollars for a fancy valentine for your sweetheart is one thing. Printing something original that’s greeting-card quality, plus the envelope, and postage to 2,000 clients, that’s exorbitant.

And it might actually be impossible to be better. Even if you care enough to send the very best, Hallmark has that market cornered.

Besides, EVERYONE claims to be better, so even if you ARE better, no one believes you. Advertising is considered the second least reliable source of information, after politicians.

So guerrilla marketers focus on doing something different. Postcards can be effective, but look at what everyone else in your category is doing, then don’t do that. A tiny red envelope, hand addressed, with a stamp? Yeah, that’s going to get opened.

While you’re at it, don’t waste valuable time talking about commonalities. Every speaker “works intimately with our clients to produce dramatic results.” Yawn! What unique skills or attributes do you bring to the relationship?

It helps if you can use the magic word “only.”

For example, while every ad agency in the world claims to offer “guerrilla marketing,” I’m the only speaker/trainer/coach/consultant/guru (pick one) who has written six books about it. The only guerrilla marketing speaker who has addressed audiences in 47 countries on six continents. The only guerrilla marketing expert voted one of the “Top 5 Sales/Marketing Speakers” in the world for the past 5 years straight. (Sorry if this is starting to sound self-serving, but if you don’t blow your own horn, there’s no music.)

So make a list of all the attributes that uniquely qualify you as an expert. What unusual training and experience do you have? What’s your specialty? What books, articles or blogs have you written? What out-of-the-way audiences have you spoken to? Claim your “only.”

Your WOW! Factor

Another way to approach this is to figure out your “WOW! Factor.” My friend Tom Peters wrote a marvelous book, The Pursuit of WOW!, and wow, get it, read it. Your WOW! Factor is something that you probably take for granted, that when you tell other people about it, their likely response will be, “WOW!”

For example, I am a “Certified Speaking Professional,” which means I can add the letters CSP after my name. This is not a big deal. But if you explain, “The CSP is the highest level of certification recognized worldwide by meeting planners,” your client might just think, “wow!” Or if you point out that there are fewer than 700 CSPs in the whole world, your client might think, “Wow!” Or if you told them that you are required to document more than 250 paid presentations, over a span of five years, and pass stringent client and peer reviews, they might just say, “WOW!” Now you have a competitive advantage.

The Test of Relevance

I might even add that on weekends, I lead a 20-piece Swing-Era jazz orchestra (I play drumset.) What does that have to do with Guerrilla Marketing? Nothing.

Your WOW! Factor is only effective if it’s relevant. Leave out everything that takes attention away from your primary expertise. Nobody cares if you’ve climbed Everest 11 times, unless you’re marketing yourself as a motivational speaker who shares what you’ve learned by climbing Everest.

If, like my friend Robin Hoffman, you’re a “Get Published Coach,” who “has helped multiple clients write award-winning and best-selling books,” that’s all you need to say. Now that’s a WOW! Factor.

The Test of Specificity

Specificity sells, so spell out the details. It’s one thing to say that you’re “An award-winning speaker.” It’s quite another to say you “received the Speaker of the Year Award from Meeting Professionals International in 2000.” Or that, “Guerrilla Marketing was ranked as ‘One of the 10 Most Influential Business Books of All Time’ in the February 4, 2013 edition of Inc. magazine.” The more specific you can be, the better. Which brings me to one more weapon in the speaker’s marketing arsenal:

The Capabilities Statement

This is a short story, starting with the words, “For example. . .,” that you tell to answer the question, “That sounds interesting, tell me more?” A Capabilities Statement is made up of three parts:

  1. a story about a recent project that shows us what it’s like to work with you,
  2. a tangible benefit or outcome for your client, and
  3. a reference.

If you go back to the top of this article, you’ll see that the opening has all three of these elements: an example, an outcome, and a reference. I could have claimed, “We help entrepreneurs double their business in three months or less.” And while it’s true in this case, the claim, by itself, isn’t credible. Telling a story is much more effective because it doesn’t sound self-serving. Let the example speak for itself, and let your prospect decide if there is a fit. Script your Capabilities Statement carefully, and then practice telling it as a story, the shorter the better. Weave these stories into your program and you’ll be mobbed by people wanting to book you.

Of course you should have more than one Capabilities Statement, one for each of the major activities in your practice. For example, “I was recently in London, teaching a four-day Business Mastery seminar with Tony Robbins,…” but that’s another story.

If you’d like to arrange a free 30-minute marketing consultation over SKYPE, send an e-mail to

Seven Deadly Sins of Sound

bad sound
Have you ever sat in an event where the sound was just AWFUL? Too loud? Noisy? Unintelligible? Do you have problems with noise or feedback? Does the video blow everyone out of their chairs?

When it’s right, no one notices; when it’s wrong, everyone suffers. Sometimes you hire an expensive AV company, and it’s STILL bad.  Here are the seven most common audio mistakes meeting planners make.

#1 I won’t need a microphone.

NEWS FLASH! It’s not for the presenter. It’s for that 54 year-old guy in the back who moonlights as a drummer. Any audience larger than a boardroom table is a large group. The presenter will have to strain to fill the room, and the folks in back will have to strain to hear the message.

Always supply a microphone, even for small breakouts, and insist that everyone use it. Ask presenters for their preference in advance; livelier or hand-held, corded or wireless. Professional speakers will bring their own, and we’re happy to share. If you go wireless, include a corded backup. It can double as the mic for the introducer or emcee, or put it on a long cord for audience participation.

#2 We can just plug a mic into the wall.

This leaves your presenter with no local control. The house equipment is locked up in a closet somewhere deep in the bowels of the hotel, and nobody knows how to adjust it. Laptop-based video, live Internet demos, sound effects or music in the program will require a mixer to manage multiple inputs. Ask the AV supplier to patch a small, portable mixer between the inputs and the house, even for a single microphone.

And when the AV crew hides it under the stage behind the skirts, (“because the wires are ugly”) ask them to move it to a table just off to the side, where your presenters have easy access.

#3 This stuff is expensive, so it’s a good place to economize.

The speaker’s rider specified a wireless lav, so the client sent a guy to Radio Shack with a $20 bill. Then they borrowed the stereo system out of the VP’s office, and tried to fill a three-thousand-square-foot space set classroom style for 100. You can imagine.

You’ve spent thousands of dollars pulling this meeting together. People have traveled thousands of miles to attend. Insist on pro-grade sound equipment. If you do a lot of meetings, buying a few key pieces: a mic, a mixer, a couple of powered speakers, will be a good investment.

 #4 The speakers in the ceiling will be just fine.

Why do hotels spend millions on renovation, and then put ten-dollar speakers in the ceiling? Even the good ones are low-fi, and when you push them they distort.

A pair of powered front-of-house loudspeakers on stands, like Mackie SR450s, have enough muscle to be heard loud AND clear. FOH loudspeakers draw attention to the front of the room. That’s where the action is.

#5 The front-of-house speakers will be adequate.

Even when using a pair of FOH loudspeakers on either side of the stage, run a second output to the house system in the ceiling. While they may not be great, they will help fill in for those of us sitting in the back. Turn OFF the ceiling speakers in the section just over the stage to prevent feedback.

 #6 We’ll put the FOH speakers in the corners out of the way.

The FOH loudspeakers should always point AWAY from the microphones. Otherwise you’re asking for trouble. I’ve also seen them set way out on either side of the stage, against the walls (“because that’s where the electrical outlets are”). The correct placement is just in front of, and at the corners of the stage, turned in slightly to point toward the audience. Keep the sound with the picture.

And don’t skimp trying to get by with just one FOH loudspeaker. When the presenter moves to the opposite side of the stage it’s like a weird ventriloquist act.

#7 I know it’s bad but there’s nothing I can do!

The setup guy said, “Don’t touch anything!” Then your keynoter arrives for a sound check and it’s just not right. Most speaking professionals are intimately familiar with the tools of our trade. You can trust them to make the appropriate adjustments.

Moving the master sliders up or down a smidge can make a dramatic improvement. Trust me on this, you won’t break it. Walk the whole room and listen. Experiment with the “High-Mid-Low” EQ knobs. Eliminate feedback by cutting highs. Eliminate rumble by cutting lows. Bring out the presenter’s voice by boosting the mids just a bit.

Never leave the fate of your show in the hands of a hotel houseman who’s a master of folding tables. Take the initiative and insist on great sound.

For a free MP3 of his how-to-sound-great workshop, just send me an e-mail:


“When we give our lives a roadmap, our deep intellect will eventually navigate a course to it, even if it’s hidden away, deep beneath some distant sea.”

Eye Chart

We were just about to board the dive boat when I noticed the sign: “NIKONUS 35mm w/strobes, $75/day.” You mean I can rent a pro-grade underwater camera for only $75 bucks? Sign me up! The dive master gave me a crash course in underwater photography as we motored out to the reef,and when we returned from Nassau and developed the film, I was in for a shock.

Earl Nightingale had it right when he wrote The Strangest Secret. “You become what you think about.” A friend gave me this cassette when I was a sophomore in college, and it changed my life. It made me aware of the internal chatter in my head, and all of the negative, discouraging things I had been saying to myself. That’s because I grew up in an abusive, dysfunctional family where I was told I’d never amount to nuthin’. My mother mocked me for wanting to go to college, and she was shocked when I won a scholarship.

My dorm roommate thought I was nuts. I started reading affirmations from a deck of 3×5 cards. Out loud. After nearly flunking out my freshman year, The Power of Positive Thinking turned me into a deans-list scholar. Then one day the psychology professor was lecturing about a study that suggested that most of our thinking takes the form of pictures, and that memories are stored and retrieved as pictures. That got me thinking.

A speed reading course had already taught a technique for remembering lists by turning them into pictures. For example, let’s say I needed to go to the store and buy toothpaste, beans, rice, coffee, sugar, bread, cereal, and bananas, I could conjure up a picture of a chimp with bad teeth, wearing a baker’s hat and eating a banana, while holding a mug full of corn flakes heaped with sugar, sitting on two burlap bags stenciled “RICE” and “BEANS.” You get the picture.

Our debate coach taught a variation of this technique, called the “loci method,” to organize important facts by visualizing a walk through the rooms of a house. This trick was popular in ancient Greece for memorizing long speeches and texts. It worked for Aristotle.

One afternoon, Denise, my wife-to-be, was working on a collage for an art class, and it occurred to me that I could put pictures together to represent my affirmations, and this might even be more effective than just words. So we each started building a scrapbook of things we’d like to have, places we’d like to go, and things we wanted to achieve in our lives. The format was simple: a cheep ring binder filled with plastic sleeves where you can slide in the pages. We cut photos from magazines and pasted them together into pages that represented our dreams and goals. We were too poor to afford a television, so we jokingly called our project “TomorrowVision.” We kept these books on the night table, and we’d review them together just before going to sleep when our subconscious mind would be most impressionable.

Years passed, and after a time we fell out of the picture-book-on-the-night-table habit. So much for applied psychology. We both had busy professional lives, then a son, and then another. We still followed the discipline of writing down our goals each month, and keeping a To-Do list in a DayTimer. But I completely forgot about TomorrowVision until I developed the film from Nassau.

Queen Angle and scuba diver

The photo from the magazine included in my TomorrowVision scrapbook

One of those early life goals was to learn to scuba dive. This was represented in my scrapbook by a half-page underwater shot, torn from a magazine, of a diver with a big colorful fish on a reef.

When I was invited to teach a series of seminars in Hawaii, we seized the opportunity and registered for pool classes, and finished our open-water certification in Kona. It was many trips, and many, many dives later that I rented that underwater camera on a whim.

As I was flipping through the dive pictures, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was the fish, the SAME fish (which I now recognized as Holocanthus ciliarus, the Queen Angel). I called out to Denise, “Darling, do you know whatever happened to those old visualization notebooks we used to have?”

“Look in the pile of books under the bed.”

Queen Angel

The Queen Angel that I photographed on our dive in Nassau

There it was. The picture in the TomorrowVision book looked as if it had been shot on the same roll of film.

Shock and surprise faded into deep satisfaction as I flipped through these pages. These images that had once represented life-long goals had already been realized: our home in the mountains in Colorado; writing a book; sailing the tropics; skiing with our boys; kayaking in Alaska; teaching at the University; cycling around Ireland; speaking in Mexico, Europe and Australia. I held in my hands a virtual scrapbook of the past ten years of our lives. The music from “Twilight Zone” started playing in my head.

Dr. Maxwell Maltz taught us that, “Your subconscious mind can not tell the difference between an actual experience and one that is vividly imagined.” By looking into our future through our TomorrowVision, we were programming our brains to seek out and recognize opportunities, large and small, that would bring us closer to those goals. Looking back, it seems as if those events were inevitable, because even our most incidental daily decisions were informed by deep, subconscious intent.

Over the past 30 years, leading experts like Louise Hay, Anthony Robbins and Depak Chopra have spoken passionately about the power of creative visualization. It’s no longer viewed as a mystical phenomenon. Today you can even buy an affirmation app for your iPhone. Psychologists and neuroscientists are looking deep into the brain, and can explain in scientific terms exactly how this seemingly magical process works.

I recently read how competitors in the World Memory Championships use variations on these same visual imagery tricks to perform mind-boggling feats, recanting long strings of numbers, like the mathematical constant pi (the record now stands at more than 80,000 digits) or memorizing the sequence of a shuffled deck of playing cards in less than a minute (30 seconds is the new Four-Minute-Mile). MRI scans of the brains of these mental heavyweights shows them lighting up areas normally used for visual recall and spatial navigation. The evolutionary explanation is simple. Presumably our ancestors found it particularly useful to recall where they found their last meal, or the way back to the cave.

The same mechanism allows us to remember our future, and then automatically steer around life’s obstacles until we arrive. The life we’ve lead has been extraordinary beyond my wildest dreams. I have only one regret; what if I had kept up the discipline by changing out my TomorrowVision pages as each goal was realized, replacing them with new images and loftier goals? What more might I have done?

Today that old ring binder is sitting on my desk, awaiting a new set of pages, and I’ve included these two extraordinary photographs for your review. This simple technique can help you achieve your goals and live your dreams as well. Here’s proof that when we give our lives a roadmap, our deep intellect will eventually navigate a course to it, even if it’s hidden away on a reef, deep beneath some distant sea.