Look at you now!

Growing up as a child, I was a poor reader. My second-grade report card suggested that I may have issues all my life and some form of intervention may be necessary to connect the various areas of my brain. My mother did try to help and signed me up for some various learning programs in the 70’s, but it did not improve or increase my reading. There were no issues with my brain nor with learning. Fast-forward 40 years and I still do not like sitting down with a book. Nevertheless, I can read, have read books and other materials with words and even composed sentences for decades that made sense. There were many unknowns about learning when I was a child. Also unknown was how I would develop, process and apply what I learned later in life. Although I was an average student for much of my academic career, I achieved a Master’s degree in education with an ending grade point average of 3.92. I am the first person in my family with a Masters.

We all have possibilities with room to grow and learn. Our beginning may not reflect where we will end; in fact, many innovators have proven this time and time again. Some bloom early while others are late bloomers. I, by no means have reached my endpoint or potential and anxiously look forward to more growth, knowledge and increasing my impact on our industry. Recently, my girlfriend Julie shared a post with me from Facebook from a school principle that discussed how to motivate your children to learn, but also shared how not to demotivate them from realizing inspiration. We all have options and abilities to act and be inspired by the simplest things as we go through life. It is called creativity. The questions to ask are what moment or moments will ignite the spark, turn on that light of ingenuity and let you shine? On the other hand, what moment or moments could alienate and suppress the true gift that you have and that you could offer to family, your community and the world?

Gatorade marketed an ad campaign for many years that suggests, “It’s in you!” Although we often forget or let the funk of the world and life push us into a rut, there is an innate creative persona that is always there and always eager to take on the world and extinguish the funk. My better half Julie has reminded me of this simple message from Gatorade and adds the extra comment that “…it always has been in me!” It is nice to have her support and the reassurance that increases self-confidence. There is truth to surrounding yourself by good and positive people. An atmosphere like this can increase one’s optimism and outlook on life plus lead to better business in my opinion.

If we take a look at the bigger picture and extend the moment or moments to the ignition of larger sparks, more brilliant illumination of ingenuity and collaboration in our hospitality and special events industry, how would that allow us to shine as an individual, a community, a city, a nation and world-wilde industry. Membership of groups with like minds and talents—betters all that we stand for by word and by action.

I began this post by talking about the difficulties of reading, questionable personal achievement and possibilities. Benjamin Franklin stated, “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning” and I agree. If you have followed my blog post over the past year, you may have felt that I need to improve my writing skills (which is ongoing) or felt that this person writes well and has some good points. Considering where I began and where I am now, I feel that I have achieved success and have attained more than the outlook of my second-grade report card. The statement made after running into one of my grade school teachers was, “look at you now!” I would love to hear about you now. Share your story with others about improvement, achievement, and success at our next ILEA program. There are untold stories from our members that embody these characteristics mentioned above that tap into their inspiration and their motivation. What will help write your next chapter? #myilea, #ileasa

Publicly Speaking

“Being successful at networking is realizing that,
to get where you’re going,
you need to help others get to where they’re going.”
J. Kelly Hoey

 As an entertainer, I find myself behind a microphone every weekend and I feel comfortable for the most part. Whether I like it or not, the role I play requires me to communicate, facilitate and direct. I get a lot of practice. Being the master of ceremonies and a good communicator is key to the procedures that occur at a given event and key to successful participation from guests. There are some caveats to this exchange of information that include having the right details to share and eager participants who will listen and follow direction. As the quote states above, by helping others get where they need to go or in this case gain knowledge, I will achieve my goal as well and get better at directing them too. Therefore, I dare ask, “How can you become more comfortable when you need to speak in public?”

There are many websites and resource tools that can help you learn and navigate learning to speak in public. Below are a few sites and links to resources that in my opinion had a common thread. First, it is completely normal to fear speaking in public. For decades, research has shown public speaking is our number one fear. Although some make public speaking look effortless or natural, it is important to note that many professionals deal with nerves and anxiety. Lifehaker.com (2013) shares some pointers related to speaking in public and mentions this quote from the documentary by Comedian, Jerry Seinfeld: “You’re never really comfortable [on stage]. Even though you may think you are… you really aren’t. But, with time and practice, you learn how to open, how to sustain, how to pace…” Lifehaker.com (2013) continues by suggesting a few things to try to build your confidence.

  • Practice Makes Perfect (or Poised) – The more you know your material, the more comfortable you’ll be. Rehearse, rehearse, and then rehearse some more until you see yourself doing it perfectly. Practice in front of friends and family and/or video tape yourself (Lifehaker.com, 2013).
  • Bond with the audience. You offer value and so do they. It’s about you having a conversation with a room full of equals. That’s one of the secrets of overcoming speech anxiety – make it feel like a conversation. Seeing and treating people like equals is an important fundamental shift in your perspective as an effective public speaker. Before your presentation, take time to talk to the people in the audience and make a connection with them. It’s a good idea to also get familiar with the environment (Lifehaker.com, 2013).
  • When you’re preparing your talk, anticipate possible questions, including challenging or opposing viewpoints. Think of examples, anecdotes, or other support you can use to answer those questions. It’s perfectly fine if you don’t know the answer (Lifehaker.com, 2013). WikiHow.com (2016) argues that people often do not display encouragement on their faces.

Lifehaker.com (2013) suggests many other pointers to help while preparing to speak in public. You can click to their site to read other pointers on how to avoid butterflies, stuttering and speaking too fast. I would agree that it is important to find and feel the passion in your topic. It is important to focus on the message and the conversation with your audience, rather than focus on your performance. Nervousness happens to all of us when we become too self-conscious. If you can talk passionately about your subject, audiences will soak it up and, before you know it, the presentation will be over (Lifehaker.com, (2013).

Forbes.com (2016) and their contributor IESE Business School, continues the good advice and suggests that there are few skills that will bring more opportunity into your life than the ability to speak well in public. Below are their 12 tips that can make the difference between those speakers who leave a powerful, positive impression and those that are quickly forgotten.

  • Speak with an intent to move people to action. Know what you want your audience to do immediately after hearing your speech. If nobody does anything different than they would have done before you spoke – the value of your speech is zero.
  • Start strong with a “grabber”. A personal story, a quote from an expert or a shocking statistic – something that takes a hold of your audience and gets them hooked and opens their mind to your message. Give the audience a chance to see your personal connection to the topic.
  • Structure your material in three sections– grabber, middle, close. Know your material.
  • Practice. Rehearse out loud with all equipment you plan on using. Work to control filler words; Practice, pause and breathe.
  • Know the audience. Try to speak to one or two people in the audience as they arrive – they will be your allies in the audience – it is easier to speak to friends than to strangers.
  • Know the setup. Arrive in good time to check out the speaking area and get practice using the microphone and any visual aids.
  • Begin with a well-prepared grabber. A relevant personal story is a great start. It establishes your credibility.  It connects you to the audience and creates the right emotional atmosphere (and calms your nerves).
  • Visualize yourself successful. See yourself at the end of the speech surrounded by people asking questions, visualize the applause.
  • Include 3-8 second pauses at key moments – just before key statements or just after a story – this really brings the audience into the speech.
  • Don’t apologize – the audience probably never noticed it.
  • Look like the content matters to you – if the audience does not feel that it is important to you, it will be really hard for them to feel that it should be important for them.
  • Get experience. Take every opportunity you can get to speak (and listen to other speakers). Prepare well ahead of time. Experience builds confidence, which is the key to effective speaking.

Can you become more comfortable speaking in public? The answer is…Yes! In time, with practice and use of the pointers and tips mentioned on the various websites above, you too can achieve, appear and present an effortless or natural presentation. We all deal with nerves and anxiety, but we can reduce these problems with increased confidence in ourselves and our topic. I would love to hear your story about speaking in public. Share it with me at our next ILEA program. It would be a great conversation starter. #myilea #ileasa

Validate the Importance of You!

It is the final day of 2016. As I sit at my desk to write this post, I feel good about the end of 2016 events and take time to unwind. As I do so, I also reflect about the hard work put forth and success attained throughout the past year through both personal and business efforts. I am not one who writes goals down on paper or creates some type of vision board; however, I do motivate myself to do better in the coming year and seek to surpass the numbers of the past year in all areas not just the financials. I must admit that this does not just take place once a year, but as I learn and apply new information, motivation may occur monthly, weekly, daily, hourly and even minute-to-minute.

Although I have been in business since 1998, it was not until 2013 that I began to focus my efforts on more networking and better quality relationships within our industry. Our industry requires us to be social creatures. For the most part, our roles require us to be personable and there is a need to be willing to connect and communicate with others both inside and outside our environment. I have done this in the past, but the depth or width of contacts and quality of such relationships was truly minimal. I’m not saying I had poor relationships within our industry, but I do admit they were lacking something and felt misunderstood. I also felt that a revival would not just invigorate my spirit, but the totality of the interactions that occur in the environment that surrounds me if only they knew me better.

In a recent ILEA message for the Chapter Board of Directors, Evan Carbotti posted a question that asked, “Who are we?” Note that this was an email message that entered my inbox back on November 30, 2016. I read it back then and it simmered in the back of my mind for the past month. I knew that I would include it in my post for December but was not sure how. Carbotti’s asks the thread viewers, “…what drives you? What motivates you, sparks imagination, engages you, and creates enthusiasm? Why is what we do important? What are our lasting legacies as event professionals? What do we do to stay sane, relevant, motivated, encouraged?” I agree with his statement “positive aspects of this industry have always overwhelmingly outweighed the negative ones.” I also agree with him that, “We are an “always moving forward” type of community.” Very eloquently he says, “We are a community of like-minds and shared values. A community of vision—one collective imagination that constantly drives us all forward. No looking back, only forward towards new enriching and creative opportunity.”

Carbotti argues and I agree that, we are often mislabeled and misrepresented for what we do. This occurred at my event last night and it can be frustrating and hurtful. Those on the outside looking-in do not get us, understand our industry, trade, the role we play nor appreciate the skill(s) acquired and required to do our job. I would also argue that some who are on the inside do the same to industry peers and colleagues. Another colleague posted her feelings about the same issue on a social media page last night. Our roles are different, yet the issue was the same. I agree with Carbotti that we are too often misunderstood and labeled. His suggestion to openly express and discuss our purpose can lead to a higher quality and caliber of relationships i.e. networking and communication between us all plus—positively drive our industry forward. I agree with Carbotti that, “we share a distinct passion that aims at elevating not just our industry, but the world around us. That is one of the core goals of ILEA.

I always try to incorporate some kind of learning in my blog post and not just rant about what I feel is correct. I came across mindtools.com and their article, “Making Work Enjoyable and Productive”. I would suggest you to read it. Generally, I not only link to the site, but I like to incorporate some tidbits. They have legal requirements posted and I was on a time crunch. I will mention the site so you can reference their content that is appropriate to this topic and good for many situations.

Building good relationships is one key to success. Since 2013, I have cut back on my advertising and invested more into networking opportunities. I added another level just last week. There is no misunderstanding with this simple fact. My industry relationships have strengthened, new friendships have developed and my business has grown and expanded positively in the past three years because of connecting and communicating with others in our industry. It has taken time, effort and work. Participating, being present and active is part of the process to achieve success.

Come, validate the importance of you in 2017, and share your story with other like-minded and creative creatures just like you. We have a community that can not only help answer the questions proposed by Carbotti, but also can achieve discussions and solutions. Make plans, join our next meeting or mixer, and see what ILEA can do for you. #myilea #ileasa

Having, Sharing and Adding Value

For some, Thanksgiving is the time of the year that you offer thanks. We count our blessings and show thanks for our personal well-being, our family, our ability to work, conduct business and have a place to call home. It is natural that we act toward fulfilling and or acquiring our “basic needs” of food, water, clothing and shelter. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs offers great insight to this topic. What drives us to fulfill and attain the same in our business? How can we get there from here? How can having, sharing and adding value diversify and expand profits. As business professionals, we are all at different stages of life as well as different stages of development or expansion of our business. With that in mind and Maslow’s Hierarchy, I am assuming you have achieved the lower levels of Maslow’s pyramid and you are working on moving toward the top. NO matter where you are, the goal is moving up. For the sake of a short blog post, we will begin at esteem and working toward self-actualization.

maslows_hierarchy_of_needs

 

Dr. Steven Stosny talks about “How much do you value yourself” on his blog at PsychologyToday.com. Stosny (2014) suggests that self-esteem, as defined by standard measures, is a function of how we feel about ourselves—based mostly on comparison to others. It often has a hierarchical bias—we are better than some, but not as good as others. Furthermore, Self-value is more behavioral than emotional, more about how you act toward what you value, including yourself, than how you feel about yourself compared to others (Stosny, 2014). Valuing your business or trade goes beyond its importance in life. Investing time, energy, effort, and sacrifice while you support and sustain its development is important. However, it is not just about you. According to Stosny (2014), when we value others, we value ourselves more—we elevate our sense of well-being and facilitate our health, growth, and development. When we devalue someone else, we devalue ourselves—our sense of well-being deteriorates, we violate our basic humanity to some degree, and become more narrow and rigid in perspective, all of which impair growth and development (Stosny, 2014). He explains that valuing others allows our self-value to soar, which can lead to social and monetary rewards. Having and sharing value inspires collaboration and business.

 

Kathleen Steffey lists “10 ways that you can add value to your product or service” in her blog at SocialMediaToday.com. According to Steffey (2011), the concept of value-added selling has been a popular for a number of years and in today’s market place where so many products and services are viewed as a commodity, the ability to add value to your product or service is an absolute necessity. She suggests that in the absence of value-added components…any product or service can be driven down to the most bottom line – price. Furthermore, when you are only selling price you’ll never be able to sell any degree of high margin sales and that is where profitability, long term growth and sales success resides (Steffey, 2011).

Steffey (2011) argues that no matter what you sell and how different you feel your product or service is everything can have value-added. Here are a few of her points.

  • Provide expert advice and a high level of professionalism. As a professional, you need to provide a level of advice that is significantly higher, more sophisticated and a lot more valuable than that of your competition. What this means is a higher level of sophistication, wisdom and understanding about what it is that you do.
  • Bundling and Packaging. Put together desirable packages, purchasing levels and a series of added benefits that are significant in value and are, themselves, a whole lot more valuable than simply the product is by itself.
  • Service levels. Differentiate yourself by adding different levels of service based upon someone’s size, frequency or amount of purchase. You may want to have gold, platinum or silver levels of service that clients qualify for, are willing to pay for, and receive when they do business with you.

Again, these are some of her points and they are directed toward sales professionals. More are on her blog. Steffey (2011) claims that it requires creativity, innovation and a willingness to out-work your competition, but the sad truth is that if you continue to sell the way you always have, price will continue to rule and not you.

Having, sharing and adding value can diversify and grow profits. As business professionals, we may be at different stages of life and business. It is also true that we may be lacking some key knowledge about our product or service. It is an absolute necessity to add value to your product or service! It is extremely important to provide a level of advice sophistication, wisdom and understanding about what you do. It is important to share what you do with others. It is important to value others as well as value others who do what you do! When we learn to value others, we elevate our sense of well-being facilitating our health, growth, and development. Valuing others allows our self-value to soar! Where and how do you get started? Talk with other professionals and network. ILEA can help you soar! Have, share and add value by joining an organization like ILEA. Inquire on this website or visit the main ILEAhub today. #myilea, #ileasa

Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP)

As this month of October 2016 ends, I finish nearly 90 events for the year. I complete 18 years doing business as Future Sounds DJ Service. Looking back, I have a database with over 2500 events that I personally provided entertainment to as well as other professional services. If I include time back to 1993 when I began in the mobile industry with Cutting Edge Entertainment, that puts me at 23 years of special event experience. I also spent over ten years in radio, a few years in T.V., time at skating rinks, and dance clubs as an entertainer and manager. Between 1993 and 2003, I also spent many weeknights as a karaoke host leading and running some large-scale karaoke events that were the talk of the river. To enrich my media foundation, I added a BA in Technical Communication and a Master’s in Education. Although I mention a wealth of experience above that deals with group and event management for over 30 years, today I still find myself seeking more education, more knowledge and some type of certification that validates my experience when working with others in the industry. The question is where do I go from here, how do I achieve that certification and what is the next step?

According to the ILEAhub.com (2016), “the special events industry has experienced phenomenal growth, is more challenging than ever and requires an increasing level of professionalism.” Established in 1993, the Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP) designation recognized event professionals who have successfully demonstrated the knowledge, skills and ability essential to perform all components of a special event. Furthermore, CSEP designation sets professionals apart from the competition and indicates expertise in the preparation and execution of successful special events (ILEAhub.com 2016).

According to ILEAhub.com (2016), the CSEP program was developed to increase the proficiency of event professionals, elevate industry standards and practices, and establish the level of knowledge and performance necessary for certification. The program would also promote the advancement of the special events industry, advance the careers of practitioners and acknowledge the high caliber work of CSEPs and the value of the products and services they provide. Over the years, the CSEP continues an ongoing progression as a worldwide recognition of the special events industry and continues to develop greater acceptance as an industry standard of professionalism. Now more than ever before, professionals within the industry recognize the CSEP to be an influential designation for the education and the promotion of professional ethics and the highest standards (ILEAhub.com 2016). The ILEA website continues by stating, that being a recipient of the CSEP designation demonstrates a continuous dedication to enhance individual and professional performance. The CSEP designation offers a competitive advantage when soliciting business as either a special events industry supplier or planner. It represents proof of your professional market knowledge.

CSEP Logo

Recently, Gary Jones CSEP, talked at an ILEA S.A. Chapter Lunch and Learn. Jones shared his valuable insight gained while on his journey as a CSEP. You too have an opportunity to elevate the caliber of your work and acceptance not just locally, but worldwide! Tests occur every quarter. Connect with Gary Jones, CSEP at Green Dot for questions or visit http://www.ileahub.com/csep/home to learn more. Where do I go from here, how do I achieve this certification and what is the next step? Follow the link above and search for other local members who are seeking to take the test. Take time to registered and schedule the date. Then you like Jones and many others can show your expertise in the preparation and execution of successful special events every day! #myilea, #ileasa

 

Opportunity Cost…What is That?

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When I was in high school circa 1983-1987, one class that was part of my curriculum was economics. At that point, I did have a plan to run a business or even greater, a plan to promote business. Truth be told, I knew I had a love for communication, but I also loved design and engineering. Even though I can think back and remember many great learning moments from many of my classes, the term Opportunity Cost is a term that I have never forgotten.

Defined as I remember it, Opportunity Cost is the value of the most valuable alternative. According to Wikipedia (2016), “In microeconomic theory, the opportunity cost of a choice is the value of the best alternative forgone where, given limited resources, a choice needs to be made between several mutually exclusive alternatives. Assuming the best choice is made, it is the “cost” incurred by not enjoying the benefit that would have been had by taking the second best available choice.” If you are like me when I read stuff like this, there is a glaze over the eyes and loss of interest growing in this blog post and in microeconomic theory. However, stay with me! Explained further, The New Oxford American Dictionary defines it as “the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.”

Opportunity cost is a key concept in economics, and has been described as expressing “the basic relationship between scarcity and choice.” The notion of opportunity cost plays a crucial part in attempts to ensure that scarce resources are used efficiently (The New Oxford American Dictionary 2016). Wikipedia continues by suggesting that opportunity costs are not restricted to monetary or financial costs: the real cost of output forgone, lost time, pleasure or any other benefit that provides utility should also be considered an opportunity cost (Wikipedia, 2016).

There are terms above that I feel as an industry we should focus on and understand how words and behaviors play a role in our environment. At the end of the last paragraph, you read, “costs are not restricted to monetary or financial costs: the real cost of output forgone, lost time, pleasure or any other benefit that provides value should also be considered.” Looking back at the history of opportunity cost, Benjamin Franklin used the term, “Time is Money” which is still readily used today. This is easy to digest! Frederic Bastiat uses the terms experience and foresight and dives into economic theory deeper. This is good so hold on! Bastiat suggests that, experience teaches how to produce a desired effect. It is these effects and the act of suggesting use that shows us how to learn. It is through the process of using and learning that we achieve foresight. This makes us professionals! Bastiat has many great lessons about business or doing business. One theory or story that correlates to our industry is contrasting the seen with not seen and the arguments for expenditure. After reading his stories, the thought that came to mind was Pinterest. How “Do-It-Yourself” (DIY) has influenced our industry both positively as well as negatively. Even though I share some insight here, my point comes down to and focuses on costs. Where is it seen and where is it not seen?

All too often, we see vendors doing as well as clients getting something for nothing. What is the value of the most valuable alternative? If we continue to devalue our experience and ourselves to include our services, our industry will not grow and flourish nor will we. By showing value that includes experience and foresight in the processes and products we can produce vs the valuable alternative Pinterest that lacks experience and foresight in the processes and products suggested for some DIY novice to achieve; we can reclaim confidence in our abilities and our industry. Sure sites like Pinterest have a place and ideas, but so do we!

When you ask yourself about the value of joining and interacting with other like-minded professionals, think of what is not gained and lost by not learning an answer to a simple question that has plagued you and your business for years. What answer or idea can elevate your business to the next level? You can find out by asking your question or leaving a comment here. Better yet, ask me in person at the next ILEA mixer or program. Why wait, when you can learn more now.