February 27, 2017

Professional Speaker Interview Series: Michael Hoffman Talks About Creating Content, Being Prepared, and Building Strong Relationships

BY Caitlin Delohery IN Professional Speaking 0 Comment

Michael Hoffman

We sat down with some professional speakers and asked them about the challenges and keys to success in their profession. For Michael Hoffman, the key to longevity is constantly creating content, being extremely prepared, and fostering strong relationships.

Describe a day-in-the-life of a professional speaker.

I spend the first half of most days doing sales activities. I develop five relationship-building pieces in the morning, such as email notes, video notes, etc. I send out five pieces to my advocate list, a group of people who I know will recommend me in a heartbeat. I let them know what I did last month and what I am looking forward to next month.

I get together with the person who works with me, and we talk about specific sales activities for pending or on-hold events. What are the five things I have to do this week to move a hold forward?

In the afternoon, I work on social media, creating a new video or podcast, or brainstorming ideas for future content. I have a whiteboard in my office to brainstorm ideas and put them on the wall.

A performance day is a little bit different. It’s all about that particular event. Even if I am the closing speaker, I will spend the whole morning sitting in and watching other speakers to pick up tips and make personal connections.

The night before, I will try to connect with the client and the group as much as possible. At minimum, I will spend the entire morning of event day with them, taking notes with my little iPad. One thing that sets me apart is the ability to integrate those little thoughts, ideas, names, and jokes that have come up throughout the morning into my presentation.

What are your top day-to-day challenges?

Like any good business person, you are trying to be one step ahead of what your customers need. The majority of the business is working on your business. I may be delivering four to six big speeches in a month, and everything in between is trying to keep ahead of that curve. Many people will overfocus on delivery. They will ignore marketing, the relationships, or the upkeep of social media. That leads to a pattern of feast and famine.

What unique strategies do you use to tackle these challenges?

I’m the most unorganized individual in the world. So, I’ve hired people that are very detail-oriented and organized who help me be more organized. You’ve got to have schedules, systems, and processes. Otherwise, your social media doesn’t get posted, your follow-ups don’t happen, and your relationships don’t grow.

I have a social media calendar. On Mondays, a blog will go out. We repurpose as much as possible. So from that blog, we’ll be tweeting on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and creating an audio or a podcast. Scheduling is everything.

What’s the secret to your success as a professional speaker?

This is key: everything fails if you don’t rock the platform. You have to be good on the platform — that’s what they’re paying for. All of your homework, all of your due diligence needs to show up on the platform.

I used humor as much as I can. You have to be entertaining to watch and have a message to drive home. What can I possibly do to have these people walk away and say, “Holy cow, where does this guy work?”

I go out of my way to add mental hooks, which is something to connect with – an idea they will use for rest of year. For instance, my platform is the tornado of business, which gives me a really flexible framework to talk about anything. The tornado of business is a mental hook. It becomes part of their vernacular. I want them talking about me for a year so that they invite me back.

I also do a ton of pre-work. I will listen to at least three conversations with the people planning an event. I will call five people that they have recommended I talk to. I listen for the words they use: what they call themselves, what they say when they complain about their jobs, how they talk about their clients. Then, I will pepper these words into my presentation. I want them to think I work in their field.

Speakers have to think about what the clients are going to need. How does your client need to digest your information? Speakers are just subject matter experts, and our delivery systems can be anything: keynotes, breakouts, training, books, podcasts, online learning platforms. We have to become experts in those delivery systems to get our message out. And you’ll find yourself here for a long time if you can do that.

What is your biggest career accomplishment?

I have been invited back to the majority of my clientele: 92% over 22 years. If you’ve had me once, you’ll have me again. That’s the secret to this business: you’ve got to give them an excuse to invite you back. I have a handful of clients that I have been with for over 10 years and one for 15 years. They’ve brought me back every year for 15 years.   

You have to think: I’ve done so much work, how can I duplicate for at least two more events with the same client?

We do great follow-up. We become friends with the meeting planners, and they see me as a resource, not a vendor.

The biggest challenge is what I call “jumping the gap.” If there is a change in leadership in a client I work with, which there often is, most new leaders want to make their own mark when they come in. I have been able to jump the gap many times. The secret to longevity is working with leadership enough so you get handed off instead of let go. It’s all about creating strong relationships.

What are your predictions for the biggest trends in professional speaking in 2017?

About 13 years ago, not everyone had a website. Now if you don’t, you don’t have a foundation for your business. People relate to you through your website. Currently, not everyone has an online learning element, but 13 years from now, if you don’t have that, you won’t reach your clients the way they want to be reached. That’s going to be a more and more important piece of a professional speaker’s relationship with the client.

Looking for more on professional speakers? Check out our entire interview series.

Caitlin got her roots in inbound marketing before it got its name. As a teenager in the 90s, she promoted her independently published magazines by writing about the importance of indie publishing all over AOL. Now, Caitlin is passionate about moving people and society forward. She follows thought leaders in the National Speakers Association, the staffing industry, and all human rights movements. She loves learning and helping people learn.

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