What Speakers Need From a Venue

The venue is crucial, whether you’re a Training Business, a Freelance Trainer, an Associate or a Conference Speaker. It doesn’t really matter whether you’re hiring a room yourself or just making use of it to deliver for someone else. If you’re a venue supplier, then pay close attention.

  1. Respond to requests on booking, pricing and facilities quickly. We are often comparing multiple venues, and we will <> those who respond quickly. Once a booking has been made, continue to respond to requests for additional information promptly. Otherwise, we may need to make use of that cancellation policy.
  2. Speakers often need IT equipment, whether to stay online during a workshop day, demonstrate technology to an audience, or display slides. Ensure that your IT equipment is up-to-date and don’t say you have equipment when you don’t. Trainers need to know that they are not required to bring a laptop, projector, flipchart, pens, paper, extension cables, network cables, their own freakin’ web connection, multiple versions of software, along with manuals, handouts, handbags, manbags and other props!
  3. If a speaker turns up early, don’t go apoplectic. We can manage to amuse ourselves with setting up the equipment, having a cup of tea, walking around the room to get a feel for its size and possibilities, checking our fringe is OK, reading the news online etc. Arriving early means we have time to get “in the zone”. Trust us, we have multiple years of experience in arriving not quite early enough, so just let us be, alright!? (I was once berated and treated abysmally by a conference manager for turning up half an hour earlier than I’d advised – one and a half hours before kick-off. And, yes, the seminar started 40 minutes late, because it took them over 2 hours to get their web connection working.)
  4. Have an IT person on hand, especially for the start of the session. Often, trainers and speakers are depending on the equipment t0 work, notably during a workshop. If the trainer has requested that access to certain websites is crucial to the success of the day, i.e. Facebook, Twitter etc, ensure someone checks this. Assume n-o-t-h-i-n-g. If it fails, everyone has to go home. It’s happened me more than once, despite multiple phone calls to check it has been checked.
  5. Have a conference person on hand. Often, last minute hitches, ideas for table configurations or memory lapses will alter how a session could or should be run. Accommodate where possible.
  6. Paper, pens, flipcharts, notepads, water, quality tea, coffee, scones and sweets all make things so much nicer. Attendees love them too. Make the experience as pain-free as possible.
  7. Locate a water fountain in the room. Trainers drink a lot of water before, during and after a session. It helps lubricate their vocal chords, making for a pleasant speaking experience for both trainer and attendees. If this is not possible, supply a glass and a jug of water. Top it up just before the session commences. It is very embarrassing to have to ask during a session, then wait while it arrives.
  8. The toilets facilities should be spotless. Otherwise, don’t advertise that you provide “excellent facilities”. If unpleasant or unable to cope with the demand of multiple users, especially at larger venues, it makes breaks run later and people get snappier.
  9. Be on the ball! Ask the speaker what they thought of their day. Was everything OK? You should not get any surprises, as all should have been dealt with before or during. However, this might reveal some things you’d not thought of, perhaps new ideas!

Who most recently delighted this customer? SIGNAL Centre of Excellence, Bangor, Northern Ireland, UK.

Image credit: Incase Designs.

We Don’t Care What Dress the Customer Wants

This week, I was contacted by someone looking for training in sales and customer service. She told me I was the first supplier of training to mention the ‘tailoring’. Everyone else she had made enquiries with had told her she’d be getting a standard course, with no effort to match up with what they particularly needed. Imagine a bride walking into a bridal gown boutique to be told that there’d be nothing there to fit her? (She I walked out.) Why wouldn’t the assistant search the earth, to help find me the dress? And, then get it tailored to fit? Bridal boutiques aren’t selling dresses. They’re selling insults glamour. Unfortunately, many brides tell the same hurt tale. And, they aren’t going to make an expensive purchase after being harangued for not being the perfect size ten. They’re going to cross the road. Continue reading “We Don’t Care What Dress the Customer Wants”

American Schmaltz or European Laissez-Faire?

A man walks into a shop. He lifts a bacon-and-egg roll, a banana milkshake, and a Finger of Fudge choc bar. He then walks up to the counter to pay. Nothing remarkable so far. Except… this is Northern Ireland. Here, regular customer service is a tale told by weary travellers. As for exceeding customer expectations, that concept is as mythical and woolly as the mammoth.

The man waits. And waits. And waits. The till attendant sees him but is more concerned with finishing a conversation about last Friday ‘s pub-crawl. This riveting dialogue presumably with another ’employee ‘ is of first importance. The customer is secondary; an interference, an impertinence, a fly on the Continue reading “American Schmaltz or European Laissez-Faire?”

Why the Smart Vultures are Picking Off Your Clients

The smart vultures are circling your network and you don’t even know it. These pretty ugly, maligned creatures have their focus on your clients and the end will be so swift, you won’t see it coming. What can vultures teach us about clients? Do read on…

Vultures Have Amazing Senses

Are you waddling around like the dodo (stubby-beaked, grounded and docile), putting your single egg in a nest on the ground, hoping the predators won’t spot it? Are you deliberately not seeing opportunities in front of your eyes?

A new SME we spoke to recently was deflated as she contemplated an opportunity for her business that was financially out of reach. But, tenacious as we know she is, her mind soared above the seemingly-impossible. She researched, she read, she looked at pictures and websites, she scratched around for ideas and inspiration. And, finally, she sniffed the whiff of an opportunity to conduct some impactful market research (and marketing at the same time) without spending a fortune, and came up with a clever solution.

Another (experienced) SME we spoke to dismissed an opportunity we presented out of hand. Short-sighted, quite literally not seeing beyond her home town, despite (futilely) talking of expansion.

The smart vultures are circling your prospects, sensing a deal, a break, a new product line or direction, and going in for the kill.

Vultures are Scavengers

Vultures are scavengers. With the capacity to spot an opportunity lying just waiting on them, from four miles away, they simply zoom in on it with powerful vision.

Are you searching out every opportunity? Are you able to detect what will make you money and what won’t? Let’s not be coy. This is really the only consideration for an entrepreneur. If something proves not to be worth the distance, drop it mid journey. Entrepreneurs aren’t in it for the journey; they’re in it for the nourishment at the end. In this hunt, winning is more important that the taking part; don’t be hoodwinked by the equal opportunities doves.

This Summer, we’ve encountered business owners who offered the following reasons for not zooming in on crucially important opportunities we suggested (to reinforce offline the online marketing we provide):

  • “it’s too far away” (an eye-wateringly common response on this tiny island);
  • “no-one I’d want to see to would be at that seminar” (what, incase they provided you with a lead, or incase you’d be obliged to send out a quote?);
  • “I couldn’t get a babysitter in time” (for an event in six weeks’ time, when it’s obvious the partner is glued to the TV every night and could at least pretend to babysit his own children);
  • “but, my customers will all see my on Facebook, sure” (this from someone whose customers are likely to be mostly offline and not computer literate at all)
  • “no, I don’t have customers outside the town” (aghast at the very idea, the reason why this will never be more than a hobby for you, luv!)

The smart vultures are picking up the opportunities you’re too short-sighted to (even want to) see.

Vultures are Everywhere

Except for the Antarctic and Australia and areas that surround it, vultures are to be found right across the inhabited world, much like some seasoned networking friends we have. And, yet they (the friends, not the vultures) are derided and made fun of, compared to slebs who turn up to garish launches of small boutiques in medium-sized towns across GB.

But, in terms of raising awareness of your name, business, brand, service or product, networking is key. The vultures, networking friends, and yes, the slebs, have it spot on. (Targeted) visibility is a crucial part of driving interest, visitors, bookings, sales, and revenue. If you’re present and active, people will remember you, refer business your way, make connections and introductions, put opportunities your way, or simply become curious and look you up. If you’re silently sitting in your office waiting for that phone to ring, I suggest you cancel the trendy office. 😉

The smart vultures are getting to know your clients at Open Coffee Ballyclare, BizCamp and Business Networking East Antrim for example.

Get out there, scour the landscape and hone those business senses!

Customer Experience Counts (Now, More Than Ever!)

It’s not often that airports lead the way in showcasing a commitment to excellence in customer service. I mean, come on, we’ve all been there – it’s as if any sign of a personality has been surgically removed. You have to remortgage your house to buy a sandwich, and then realign your taste buds in order to enjoy eating it.

It seems that a certain English airport is bucking the trend. East Midlands Airport recorded its busiest year on record in 2008, despite the tough economic climate (Airport has ‘busiest year ever’). This is against a backdrop of a weak pound, an economic downturn, and a growing distaste of air travel among the political elite (except when it comes to themselves). So did they achieve this feat? Continue reading “Customer Experience Counts (Now, More Than Ever!)”

Spreken zie Customer?

A group of nine year olds in a primary school not far away from this very screen were speaking customer this Wednesday past. They were taking part in Young Enterprise, which I hope to volunteer for very soon. What does the programme offer? Well, it gives kids the chance to talk to real live ‘entrepreneurs’ and discuss what is involved when preparing to supply a product or service to customers. I suppose that means I’m one. They go through discussion, questions and exercises on, among other things, the good old 5 Ps of Marketing.

What I want to know, is:

Are You Speaking Customer?

Do you know who your customers are? Where do they live and work and how much disposable income/budget do they have for spending on your product? What type of experience does your customer have, from initial telephone call, to finished deal? Do you keep in touch? Are you aware of all the things about your business that annoy (and are you trying to minimise/eliminate those), and all the things that please?

Are Your Staff Muppets? Yes, quite probably. Continue reading “Spreken zie Customer?”

Customer Service vs The Welfare State

I’ve blogged before about the odious quality of what is laughingly known as ‘customer service’ in this dour country of ours. I’ve said that I prefer American schmalz to European laissez-faire anytime, although many masochists disagree. Apparently some of you out there enjoy being ignored, patronised, disrespected, insulted, and ripped-off on a fairly regular basis.

Not me. Not anymore. As Peter Finch screamed in the film Network, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Ever! The older I get, the more I suspect Faulty Towers was less a comedy creation, more a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the customer interaction of an average UK service provider. (Wasn’t it inspired by a real life hotel owner?) Really, you readers from across the Atlantic need to give thanks for what you’ve got, big time.

But why is there such a marked difference between the customer service standards of the two cultures? I’ve thought about this for a while and I’ve come to a one word answer: Continue reading “Customer Service vs The Welfare State”

Learners or Customers?

There ‘s an interesting article on the BBC website about whether students should think like customers. The thrust is that it might be dangerous because it forces cash-strapped academics to demean themselves by marketing their courses. The pain, the pain

As a training consultant and business owner, I ‘m used to making the link between customers and learners. For me, they are one and the same. When I say that I treat the learners in our workshops as ‘customers ‘, I am stating the facts. This is not to denigrate; it is to describe.

I suppose it counts as controversial in some circles, but I ‘m glad about the new link between universities and business, and the new perspective of a university as a business. Why? Continue reading “Learners or Customers?”

A Test For Manhood

Assume three things. Number one you ‘re in a restaurant. Number two you like your steak rare. Number three you ‘re a man.

So you order a rare steak and you ‘re really looking forward to it. The juices are flowing. You ‘re in the company of good friends so the craic is flowing. Ah, the smells, the atmosphere, the wine, it doesn ‘t get too much better than this.

Then your steak comes out. Continue reading “A Test For Manhood”

Boomerang the Client

You ‘ve snagged the perfect (OK, lucrative) client. You want them to come right back again, and quickly. You might want them to have picked up a few mates along the way, too.

Things to avoid saying, to make sure that client boomerangs right back at ya:

I can ‘t

I don ‘t mean you should design a ebusiness website for a large corporation when what you actually do is high class catering for conferences and weddings.

Within similar areas, where you are knowledgeable enough to know Continue reading “Boomerang the Client”