Anxiety can strike any time someone goes on stage to speak to a crowd. How does one move past these and how can you overcome your fear of public speaking? Michael Zipursky teams up with speaking and communications expert Lauren Sergy to explore breaking down the fear of public speaking and presenting. Lauren discusses her own struggles with public speaking and shares methods of working past that fear. Hungry for great insights? Then tune in for more!
I am very excited to have Lauren Sergy join us. Lauren, welcome.
Thank you so much, Michael. I’m happy to be here.
You are an author, speaker, trainer, and consultant in the area of speaking and communications. Your clients include organizations like KPMG, T-Mobile, and Meeting Professionals International. Your book, Unmute, teaches professionals how to master the art of virtual communications, which is something that we are all dealing with or need to learn to deal with if we haven’t already given the pandemic and everything going on. Before we get into how consultants can leverage the power of communication, speaking to improve their work and their business, I would love to get started with your background. How did you get to where you are? Where did your love and passion for speaking and communication come from?
The love and passion for speaking and communication have been around for much longer than I have been doing this. I have a background in acting, radio, and performance. I loved giving and writing speeches even as a kid but I had brutal performance anxiety. I would be terrified and cry in front of a room of people if they had to see me do something like play the piano. I needed to learn how to get over that to do the love that I had for communication, which is why I’m able to help so many people do the same.
The business itself around communication training, public speaking, and consulting came out of my brief career as the world’s worst librarian. In that, I was never a good fit for the library profession, which is an amazing profession. What I was always asked to do was give presentations. If my bosses wanted someone to talk to at a conference or give training demonstrations immediately, they would call on me probably because I already had the background to do it.
When I was giving those presentations, usually about topics like what databases to use and how to sell these databases to library patrons that they would use them to, invariably afterward, the people who called me there or the conference organizers would come up and say, “That was awesome. I never thought I would be enthusiastic about these databases. Can you come back and teach us how to speak like that?” I said, “Yes.” I had systematized it at that point. I had an approach because I had to do so many. My thought was, “If they are asking for this, other people want it, too.”
Did you have that experience where people were asking you for help? How long did it take for it to click, and then for you to decide to make the leap and start building a business around that?
I started flirting with it about a year before I took the leap and hung out my shingle. It started with me testing out ideas at library conferences thinking, “Can I make this? Maybe I can create a niche within libraries doing this.” I started testing topics and presentations in different sessions at library conferences.
When I switched jobs, and I was working at a post-secondary institution, and the same questions were coming at me, I thought, “I wonder if I can find paying clients outside of this industry.” I stuck an ad in Kijiji. For you, Americans, it’s the Canadian version of Craigslist. I had my first one-on-one client two weeks later there.Being afraid or nervous to present is not a personal failing. It’s a built-in response to being in front and singled out in front of a group of other people. Click To Tweet
I want to dive into that in a lot more detail. Before we do, I can’t escape taking us back to the elephant in the room that resonated with so many people. You had this love and interest in presenting and communicating, yet, you also had this fear. You are terrified, petrified, and all other kinds of words we can probably use to describe what was going on inside of you.
Can you walk us through how you dealt with that? This resonates with so many people because many of us resonate or understand that we need to communicate, whether it’s on a podcast, a YouTube video or doing a webinar. There are many people out there that have this expertise. They are very good at what they do. They have a lot of knowledge but they are a little bit scared, if not very scared, to get in front of other people and do that publicly for the fear of saying something wrong or something not working out.
Can you walk us through in a little bit more detail how you specifically overcame that? Not only did you overcome that to do more of that yourself but you’ve also got to the point where you mastered it so that you could teach others how to do it themselves, too. You work with many different business leaders and managers. Walk us through your specific case, if you could.
The first thing to realize is that being afraid or nervous to present is not a personal failing. It is built in like amygdala lizard-brain, to use Seth Godin’s term, “Response, to being in front and singled out in front of a group of other people.” That is an inherently anxiety-provoking thing for the vast majority of humans out there. It’s a very primitive response. It happens to people at every single level. I have worked with CEOs who have shaken their boots when they have to do this.
My process for getting through it was first up realizing that people weren’t testing me. It wasn’t a test. While they were judging me in a certain way, we can’t get away from being judged. I had to recognize that they needed something from me, and they knew that they needed that thing from me. That’s what they were focused on. It was that.
Having that in my head was the important thing. I would focus on, “This is the thing that I have that they can’t get from anyone else. They need it from me, and I want to give it to them.” I’m replacing the urge to withdraw with an equally intense drive to reach out and help. Many people who speak get into it because they love helping other people. That’s how they get over the fear.
The other thing that I did that was incredibly useful, especially when I realized, “I want to do this well, as best as anyone possibly can.” I’ve got used to being watched. That, whether or not you are speaking in front of a live audience, or to a camera, is one of those things that make us freeze up. That is the amygdala. “They are watching me.”
I started small. If I was at a library conference and this was very early into my library career when it’s like, “This could be a thing,” I would always ask questions in every single session I sat in but I wouldn’t ask the question from my chair. I would stand up, say my name, where I was from, rank, serial number, pause, and then ask the question and stay standing while the person answered it.
The second you stand up in a room, every eyeball is going to swivel to you. That’s a moment where you have to be quiet, be still and allow yourself to be watched. It’s a low-stakes way of putting yourself out there and getting used to being the one who’s under scrutiny. After that, it was like, “I am going to do this at meetings and give presentations. I will volunteer myself to give a report, and I won’t do it from my chair. I will move to the front of the room so that my brain learns to get over the long walk,” as I like to call it from your seat to the front of the room. It’s a lot of exposure that way.
I became hyper-focused on what I was there to do. What is my core message? Who are the people that I’m speaking to? What do they need? The more I focused on that, the more I could pull myself out of my fearful headspace and get used to it. You can drip in things like breathing techniques to slow down your heart rate, and all of those snowballs together into learning how to deal with that fear but you have to get up and do it over and over again.
How long did it take you from recognizing that you had that fear to get to a place where you feel, “I have conquered it or made significant progress that I can’t even recognize the person that I was before?” Were you getting up and walking to the front of the room or signing up in a conference, asking the question, remaining standing, and still having that fear inside of you? When you were offering yourself to make those presentations or lead a talk, were you already at a place where you had comfort?
It was before I had comfort. I knew that being comfortable with making the offer and giving the talk would come as I’ve got the experience doing it. You have to be willing to hear no, to hear yes. It’s a common aspect of marketing. I knew that I wouldn’t get comfortable unless I heard a lot of yeses, which meant that I also had to hear a lot of noes in terms of offering myself out there.
With that gradual shifting away from being in a fearful place, it happened pretty quickly, especially when I set up that deliberate practice of getting comfortable being watched. After a few months, I was no longer uncomfortable being watched by a group of people. The other big factor there was that I also knew that it had to be because I was being watched doing something that I felt a mastery, self-possession or knowledge about.
If you do something you are not certain of, you are already hesitant, you don’t have your message straight or it’s not a medium that you are comfortable in, it’s going to take longer. You will be carrying that lack of topic mastery into your speaking. Discovering what topics I was comfortable with was a big one. I quickly recognized, “When I talk about this thing, that lizard brain is loud. I am so in it that it isn’t even a factor. I’m a little jittery and nervous but the bigger urge to help people and share the information is what’s taking up all of the mental space.”
You want to recognize what topics light you up and then focus on speaking about that thing. Interestingly enough, though, with that fear of being seen, I firmly believe that you can cross-train in terms of getting used to being watched. I have had clients to whom I have recommended things like dance lessons because the whole point of dancing is that someone is watching you but it’s low stakes. It doesn’t matter.
You don’t have to say anything. You have to participate in your recital no matter how ridiculous you feel and be watched. It’s the same thing with improvisation classes. You get used to being watched while taking a risk with your words in front of other people but there are no stakes and limitations there. You can find ways outside of your domain to practice these skills.
Is there any other key that can help people unlock this fear? From a marketing perspective, oftentimes people will be hesitant to go out and market themselves or talk about what they are doing. even contacting people. They are concerned about being too salesy or promotional. We found working with many clients that one of the keys to help unlock that hesitation around marketing, doing outreach or follow up is shifting the focus from marketing being as something that you are doing for yourself.The second you stand up in a room, every eyeball is going to swivel to you. That's the moment where you then have to be quiet and be still and allow yourself to be watched. Click To Tweet
With my self-interest, I want to market and sell instead of shifting the focus to those that I want to help. There’s a responsibility that if you have the expertise and there’s somebody that has a problem, that if you are not letting those people know that you exist and doing it in a way that can help them and provide value to them, it’s a disservice to them.
The other key we found is asking the question, “Why are you doing this?” We had one client who had a lot of hesitation around doing outreach and follow-up. When I asked her, “Why did you leave your cushy corporate job to become a consultant?” She said, “The real reason is my young kids. I want to spend more time with them.” We start to focus more on that.
Every time you have hesitation around getting out there and doing your marketing or follow up, think about your kids and why you left your job to do what you are doing. Use that as the impetus that could help to push you forward. Is there anything that you found from a speaking or communication perspective that is one of those keys?
Yes. The first key is the notion that it’s almost like you are being selfish by holding it back if you don’t market yourself. That’s one of the big keys to it. It’s not, “I’m not going out and begging for work and attention. I have a thing that people want. They don’t necessarily know how to find me, though. I’m going to take on the burden of them finding me by reaching out to them.”
Doing the work as consultants or advisors, especially in those early stages, we are taking on it. I love how you said the word burden. We are taking on the burden of doing the work for them. Our job is to make it easier for them, not harder for them.
We know they have this problem. They might not know they have the problem. Sometimes educating people about the problem is part of the work that you need to do. We know this problem exists, and we can make it better for them. They don’t necessarily have the time or the wherewithal to do the work of digging, so I’m going to do that for them.
I find that helps me continue to push out the content because it can be tiring. Anyone out there who’s a content creator knows that can be tiring but that is part of, “You need this help and I’ve got it.” That’s part of the marketing part of the pull-in. That is what prevents it from going into that gross place of feeling like you are begging for work.
I want to encourage everyone joining us to spend a bit of time thinking about how this might apply to certain areas of your life where you are experiencing some hesitation or resistance. Something might be holding you back from achieving your true potential or seeing greater success. You might be able to apply what we are talking about to see better results.
Let’s fast forward to your time of starting your business. The first thing that you did when you decided to make that leap or test the waters more formally was to place an ad on a website called Kijiji, which is very similar to Craigslist that more people would know about. I have rarely heard of a consultant doing that. I love it. It’s ingenious and so different. Tell me about that. Who contacted you? Did you have random people contacting you? What was the initial experience of posting on a classified site? What did you post?
I posted an ad saying, “Do you need help with your public speaking? I help people who are in business, who are looking at accelerating their careers using public speaking or who need to give corporate presentations.” Right on the get-go, I focused on, “This is for work and corporate. I am not going to teach your high schooler how to solve their speaking problems.”
I don’t want to work with high schoolers. I want to work with people who are already there. I put that out there. It was a very simple ad because I was still working my 9:00 to 5:00. I had bought a condo and was feeling broken. I didn’t want to spend any money on it. It was your basic little ad. The person who found me, oddly enough, lives two blocks away from my house. It’s weird.
He was starting up a startup and wanted to get better at pitching to potential investors. He reached out and said, “This is about right. Let’s meet. If we hit it off, I would love to work with you.” We did hit it off. A couple of weeks after that, my second client called up. She is mid-level management at the time. She is in upper-level management now with investment products.
She said, “I need to give these presentations. They have to be better. I don’t know who to go with. I called someone in the states, and they were outrageously expensive. What are your rates?” I raised my rates a little bit and started working with her. It was coming from all sectors. After that, it was someone in the medical field.
Are you saying that you had 2, 3 or more clients that came from that 1 ad that you placed?
Yes. It still shocks me.
How long did that go on for? How long did you continue running that ad?
I kept that ad up for about five months. After I started working with those initial, the ad brought in four clients off the bat. Three of them, I am still in contact with, and they started referring me elsewhere.
Do you remember how much you spent on that ad over the five months and how much you generated in revenue?
I spent nothing and generated about $5,000 in revenue.
It was a free ad placement. You generated about $5,000 in revenue. It’s not a lot of money but it’s getting the business started. From there, those clients start to refer you to other people.
They started referring me to other people, clients, and associations that I could speak at. Every time I received one of those because it was a referral, there was already a high amount of trust coming into this offering. One discovery call, and I would get another client signed on.
Let’s look at your business. That’s how you’ve got things started. It went from their referrals, introductions to associations, speaking at different places, getting clients through those channels. If we look at 2022, what’s working best for you over the months of lead generation, bringing clients, and growing a pipeline of business?Sometimes educating people about the problem is part of the work that you need to do, but we know this problem exists and we can make it better for them. Click To Tweet
The best lead generation is giving great talks at other organizations. This is something that you will hear with many people who are in the speaking sphere. The best marketing you can do for your next talk is knocking this talk out of the park. You are effectively holding an audience captive for 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 90 minutes, where they have said you are an expert. That’s why you are the person that we have chosen to speak to us.
You have all the time in the world to reinforce your expertise and give them a good experience. Those generate spinoff talks, training opportunities, and one-on-one clients. What has always been my focus in terms of marketing activity has been to speak. I do a select number of free talks every year, depending on the organization if I see it as a good fit. Aside from that, it’s focusing on making every talk I have for paid clients that’s fantastic and delivering a ton of value because that will generate more work.
I want to also dig into and have you share some best practices around speaking communication so that everyone can learn and hopefully find some areas to improve. Before we do that, talk to me a little bit more about how your business model has evolved. You started off doing relatively small engagements for clients, totaling $5,000 or so. What do things look like? I would love to know the progression. Did you start offering different types of packages? What kind of price ranges? If we could start with that and then I have a few more questions about how you approach monetizing and speaking itself.
With those first two clients, I had no idea what to charge. I charged my 1st client $30 an hour and my 2nd client $80 an hour. I had no clue. Once I started figuring out more about the niche that I wanted to work with and saying, “I want the management and up,” I began looking up what other management coaches were charging and got my fees in line with that, which was a game-changer.
From there, I began offering public classes because I knew there was also a very good subset of people who might not be in those positions, who would benefit more from a group class setting than one-on-one, and who couldn’t afford my coaching fees. The public group classes started up. We are not doing that during the pandemic but they are still a pretty good revenue generator. I’m looking forward to being able to host them again.
Corporate training and speaking are the bread and butter. I’ve got to a place where I could monetize that when I niche down on who it was when I had a very clear identification of who it was I was speaking to and what specific communication topics I wanted to address. It’s a big thing out there and a big topic. I decided I deal only with speaking communication. I do not talk about writing or anything else in face-to-face settings, especially in high stakes or high competition environments where you need to be able to persuade and make a good impression. You might be dealing with people who also have big personalities, and there’s a lot of tension.
How did you arrive at that level of specialization and focus? A lot of people have a lot of experience, a pretty wide and broad skillset that you could apply. You could help a lot of different people to do a lot of different things. How do you narrow in and say, “This is exactly what I’m going to focus on,” and not be overly concerned about the potential “business” that you might leave on the table?
That practice of focusing down was a combination of paying close attention to the audience’s responses and how they liked my approach. I was not about to significantly alter my approach because someone might say, “It’s a little harsh and aggressive.” I’m very blunt when it comes to talking about communication psychology. I paid attention to the audiences that responded to that and also to how they responded to me and how much I liked working with them.
That’s when I realized that my approach fits this profile, the high stakes, the no-nonsense but people who still care about what it is they want to do and are focused on putting in that work to achieve that speaking excellence. That sucked it right down. I don’t typically speak. I used to be in libraries but I don’t speak to libraries because we don’t resonate.
Finance, on the other hand, resonates very well, with this thing. I’m paying attention to those kinds of factors and saying, “I didn’t enjoy talking to that audience. I’m not going to do it again. I loved talking to them. I’m going to do it some more.” That niche niched it down for me. It was also a process of paying attention to what those ideal audiences were asking me for.
My most popular topic alongside persuasion talks is executive presence. I started speaking about that because one of my clients who deal with persuasion said, “We’ve got a bunch of green upper-level managers, and they have to step it up. You have touched on this before. Can you create a whole training series about it?” You bet I can. Pay attention to what people are asking for.
I would love to dive a little bit deeper into your structure of monetizing your talks and other services. A lot of people look at speaking as a way to generate leads or a considerable amount of revenue. How do you do that? What percentage of your revenue comes from the actual speaking in front of an audience, from the coaching or consulting, advisory services, and training that you provide to people that are not the direct talk itself?
By speaking, are you referring to things like keynote speaking or do you put training into that as well?
I’m glad that you are making that distinction. When I’m referring to speaking, I’m saying you are in front of a room or a screen with your Zoom audience, delivering a talk, and it’s more you, giving the talk, not so much doing interactive training with people.
It’s about 1/3 one-on-one coaching consulting, 1/3 training the interactive style, and 1/3 more of the direct talk keynote type, whether or not it’s an actual keynote but that style of delivery. It’s very evenly balanced. Starting about my third year of business, it always has been that even balance of the buckets as monetizing the speaking goes. I was deliberate from the get-go by saying that speaking activity is both marketing and revenue generation. I have to be picky as to when it is one or the other.
Every time speaking is revenue generation, it’s also marketing. I treat it with the same intensity but when I’m speaking for pure marketing, so this means speaking for free, I have to be very clear in terms of, “Is this the right audience? Is this an audience that has people in it who will pay me, either for the individual, consulting, training or speaking? Can I expect this to generate revenue? How many of these a year am I going to do?” I’m very picky.
If someone approaches me and says, “It will be great exposure. We have the perfect audience for you,” my immediate answer is, “Nowhere I double my price.” I’m irritated. Doing that is a way of me saying, “You will not devalue me in that way.” That’s very much a psychological process where I come out and say, “It’s this much.” If I see a good potential and this is not going to be a paid opportunity but it is a good fit, going in, I have already decided that I’m willing to do it for free.
I never let other people convince me of that, though I might only do a few a year, they tend to be very high revenue. Where I fussed with that was at the beginning of the pandemic when I knew that a lot of my clients who I had spoken to live done some online training for were going to be struggling with the virtual communication with their teams and had not yet come over to the side of, “Virtual works well.”
I contacted all of them. I spent about a month calling them up saying, “How’s it going? How’s the virtual? It’s not great? I’ve got a webinar. I will do it for your whole team for free. Feel free to invite every client you have. Pack the room because people need help.” That was a way of me getting ahead of the noise of the pandemic and getting people realizing, “This training can still happen.”
I love that you spent a month calling people. Very often, you hear someone say, “I sent emails. I didn’t hear back.” Why did you choose to call and not just email?
I called clients I already had a connection with because I had their numbers. I also called because I knew that people were spending ten plus hours a day with nothing but their computer in front of them. They were so sick of it, frustrated, and lonely that to pick up a phone and listen to a voice that was not coming out of your computer would be like a breath of fresh air. I am a fan of understanding the best medium to reach out to people. I love virtual. Probably 50% of my business from the beginning has been virtual but people were too saturated with it. I wanted them out of their email and the Zoom camera, on the phone. That’s why I called.Speaking is revenue generation, but it's also marketing. Click To Tweet
Have you found that you have three different groupings of offers? Is there a typical starting point for a client? Do most of your clients tend to start with a talk, whether it’s free or paid, and come into training and coaching? Is there some other starting point? Is it all random in terms of how people enter your world?
Roll the dice. It’s all over the place. Some see me give a talk and want the one-on-one. Some get the one-on-one and say, “Come in and help my team.” I should probably do better data collection to figure that out but take an approach. It’s working and coming.
The other question I have for you is around the talks you give, whether they are free or paid but especially when you are delivering free talks, whether that is in-person or virtual, what is your approach to a call to action? How do you think about generating leads from those experiences and talks? Do you have a specific call to action during or at the end of that presentation? Do you hope that people will contact you? Do you do anything to try and generate leads? Tell me about it.
I do this with both my paid and free talks. I follow the same format with very few exceptions. I have handouts. That is the thing that I want them to have because I deliver a lot of info when I’m speaking, and people are always worried that they are not going to be able to capture it all. I tell them, “Don’t write anything down. I’ve got extensive handouts for you. Put your name and email address down on that piece of paper.” If I’m live, it’s very analog. I have a little piece of paper at every single seat. That makes a big difference.
It says, “Yes, I would like to hear more.” There are names, email addresses, and then four boxes. The first box is for handouts. The second box is for the newsletter. “I’m interested in coaching, and I would like Lauren to come in and speak for my team or at my event.” Tick off the boxes, and I will reply to you. I do not ask them to contact me because the instant they leave that room, they are thinking about something else, so they will likely forget. I want that ball to be in my court. That increased my follow-up business. It doubled it easily when I started following up.
How do you collect those pieces of paper? Do you walk up and down the aisles and collect them? Do you have somebody do that for you?
I get people to help me do it. It’s that’s easy. You ask the event organizer or you bring in a voluntolders. You can always find people to help you collect the papers at the end. I have never had a problem with that. If I’m online, that one took a little bit of finagling because people don’t go to the thing when they are online. They don’t follow up.
I still tied it to the handouts. What I have is, “If you want the handouts, go to this website.” I send that out in a follow-up email as well. “Put your name and email, address.” They are on my list. I put out content usually every 2 to 3 weeks. There’s that constant, steady drip reminder of high-value content. Every talk I do, I do one of those things.
I haven’t used this, so don’t quote me on it. There may be some new Zoom applications or apps that would allow people on the screen to click a button to select those things. Maybe it’s time to take a look at that. That could help. They have been rolling that stuff, I have been hearing.
People are saying, “That sounds like a lot of work, especially with the papers.” Many people will use the QR codes and the phone thing. This is a barrier. A pen, on the other hand, takes less time and effort. For many people, it’s a lot faster for them to write it out. The other thing with the piece of paper in front of every seat is that thing is staring at them the whole time. They will sign up out of curiosity to get those handouts. It has been no question to me in live formats of, “What is the better conversion?” It’s paper.
I have a few more questions before we wrap up. I don’t want to leave people hanging. I try to get a few best practices from you around the executive presence or speaking and communication, especially for the consultant and advisor working with typically senior-level leaders. What have you seen is the most common mistake that people make or the biggest area for improvement? Identify what 1 or 2 of those are and offer best practices to improve upon them.
There are two big areas for improvement. The first one is that they aren’t certain what their core message or proposition is. When they are asked to say, “What do you do? What do you have to offer me,” they present the kitchen sink. That is too much for people to take in. With any meeting or presentation, I want people to focus on the one thing, and I need one sentence that you want people to remember if they remember nothing else.
That sentence must be declarative. It is a position statement. It is a clear declaration of something that you know or have. The idea here isn’t that they have to remember everything you said. It’s that they remember enough to look up the next piece of information if they forget everything else. You need your thesis statement. That’s what it is. That’s going to form the backbone of your presentation and give you a North Star for any meetings or client conversations that you might have.
The second piece, and this is pretty rich coming from someone who speaks for a living, is that they talk too much. One of my favorite approaches when I’m having conversations with people, and I’m in client discussions is I want them to do the talking as quickly as possible. “Tell me about yourself. What’s going on with this in your life? What’s keeping you up at night about it?”
Dig into their problems and get them to do the talking. You will want to demonstrate that you are deeply interested in them and that you are listening to what they have to say. That makes them feel good and important but it also allows you on the fly to quickly adjust your message, so it’s fine-tuned for where their head is at. My version for doing that is when you are in front of a big group and giving a one-way talk, so a keynote or a webinar is to have a question that people can respond to, either in the chatbox, a poll or by raising their hands.
If you are live, do the raise your hand type of question and respond to them. “Fifty percent of the room says this. Some of you must be lying because that stat shows.” People laugh, and there’s this sense of back and forth. It’s the same thing online. Get them to answer a question, and then respond to their answers so that they feel it’s a conversation and not that you are talking at them.
You have a lot going on like the three different areas of your business, public courses that you have been doing, and content that you are creating. When you think about what has contributed most to the success that you have in a business or to the level of performance and productivity that you are able to maintain, what would you say? What’s the secret sauce? It doesn’t have to be one thing. Is there something or a couple of things that you do regularly that you find is incredibly important for you? It’s a habit that helps you to achieve the success that you have seen.
I’m always developing new stuff. There are a couple of reasons for that. One of them is that when I am saying, “What’s next,” what I’m doing is keeping my brain responsive to my audience’s needs. Not assuming that just because these communication issues have been communication issues since the days of Aristotle that I never have to change what I do or people don’t look at it differently.
It keeps me engaged in my content so that keeps my spirit up. It ensures that I’ve got that steady drip of stuff coming out to the world. I do not post stuff every week. I don’t always have new videos on my website but once or twice a month, I do. Constantly creating and refining that content is what enables me to maintain and grow my mastery of this topic. Ultimately, that’s what people are buying. That’s what they need to see and want to get. That’s a way of me ensuring that you are getting the latest, the best, and you are seeing it regularly.
How do you approach working on your business? Let’s say you are developing this new content or doing your marketing to a degree that your marketing is done through the speaking or talks that you give. Relating to this idea of always creating new content or material, how do you ensure that you have the time to do that when you are also busy delivering on client projects? Is there anything you found that works best for you there?You want to demonstrate that you are interested in people, that you're deeply interested and that you're listening to what they have to say. Click To Tweet
What works best for me is I do focused sprints of a given type of work. I’ve got a pile of talks lined up because speaking tends to be very seasonal. When it is speaking season, I drop all other activities. I often do not post on social media. I disappear off the face of the Earth for creating new videos. I am in deep on my core speaking content.
Once that lightens up, I move back and focus solely on marketing or book development. Whatever big project I have, that’s the only one I work on at that time, which does mean that I have to chamber up a ton of content. I’m going to be recording videos. That will be all I do for several weeks, recording, editing, and scheduling videos.
I find that if I don’t do that deep focus on a single topic, it’s too scattershot. If I try to do 3 different things in a day, 1 of them gets halfway done. February is tax and video month. June is book development month. I have learned what those patterns in my business are. I devote myself very strongly to 1 or 2 things at a time.
What book have you read or listened to that could be fiction or non-fiction but you’ve found either inspirational, motivational, incredibly helpful or enjoyable to read?
I’m a big Seth Godin fan girl. I will not hide that. The best book that I have read was his book, The Practice. That one resonated because it hit home in terms of feeling the grind and often the isolation that this kind of work can create. Many speakers and consultants feel the same way like we are working in a vacuum. Getting into The Practice, he addresses a lot of the emotions behind doing this work.
It’s not a competency thing. It’s that we need to be able to wrestle with the emotions of doing this hard work. It was a book that was both very gentle in dealing with these issues but also very straightforward and uncompromising. If you want to do that awesome thing, you have to do all the crappy things that lead up to it. Do you want that awesome thing? Maybe it looks different. It was a wonderful book. It has a good solid business philosophy.
Seth always has great inspirational, thoughtful content included in all of his books. I want to say thank you for coming on. I enjoyed speaking with you. Others will have gotten a lot from the conversation. Thank you for that, Lauren. Where can people go to learn more about your book, Unmute, and also you and your work?
To learn more about me and my work, head to my website, LaurenSergy.com. In terms of my book, I will flash it because I was a Seth Godin fangirl, and he wrote the blurb on the front cover for my book. That was my moment in the pandemic. “Seth Godin wrote a testimonial.” You can get the book at any major online book retailer. It’s everywhere online or you can head to UnmuteBook.com.
To cast back to something that you were asking earlier in terms of, “Where do you generate? How do you generate topics? Where do you get ideas,” mine has always been very responsive. I wrote this in direct response to my clients over the pandemic saying, “My teams and I don’t know what to do. It’s not getting easier. I am so frustrated with this medium.” That’s how this book came about. Listen to what people need because they will tell you.
That’s fantastic advice, Lauren. Thank you again so much. Thanks for coming on, Lauren.
Thank you so much for having me.
About Lauren Sergy
Lauren Sergy is a sought-after expert in the art of speaking and communication for leaders and business professionals. An experienced speaker, coach, and trainer, she has worked with audiences from Canada, the US, the UK, and beyond. Armed with a deep understanding and passion for the art, science, and alchemy of interpersonal communication and public speaking, she sheds light on difficult communication situations with refreshing energy, humor, and candor.
Her unique and strategic approach to communication and public speaking training draws professional and academic experience, including radio, staff training, corporate communication, classical rhetoric, and performance arts. She holds a Masters of Library and Information Studies, a Bachelor of Arts in English, and a Certificate in Management Development.
Lauren has taught business communication courses at the University of Alberta and Concordia University of Edmonton. She’s been a guest expert on television and radio news programs in both Canada and the US.