When asked “what is the one thing that has made the biggest bottom line profit for my company over the last year?”, it would definitely be speaking for Vistage International.
Two years ago at an NSA Conference, I was pulled in for a quick interview to become a Vistage speaker. I had no idea what this was or why I would care. I was refused as a speaker because one of the judges did not like my yellow outfit, seriously. So I persevered and did a pro-bono speaking engagement for a Denver Vistage Chair. Chairs are the titles of the people who lead individual groups. As a result, I was accepted as a Vistage speaker and have been speaking for them all over the country and Canada about twice a month for the past two years.
Here are some of the things I now know that would have been extremely helpful in assessing whether Vistage is right for your business. Vistage pays $500 honorarium each presentation and all your travel expenses. You do a morning or afternoon three hour speech for the group on your “approved” topics. The consulting gigs I have received from speaking to this group has been a high six figure increase in our bottom line year to date.
1. Do a pro bono gig for a local Vistage chair. Great way to get started without the mass interview processes that take place at conferences. www.vistage.com for a list of chairs in your area.
2. Understand the hierarchy of their organization.
There are four levels of groups:
- CEO Groups – Decision Makers
- SB Groups– Small Business Groups – Top Level Managers or Business Owners
- Key Groups – Top level managers in organization but NOT executives
- Trusted Advisor Groups – Vendors and resources for Vistage members.
At first I spoke to all these groups NOT understanding where the decision makers were and what was the BEST use of my time for consulting engagements as a result of the speaking. I finally, after much time and energy, was skilled on the differences in decision makers of each group and that CEO Groups exclusively was the best way to proceed. Although I do still accept SB Group engagements if a chair has me speak to both CEO and SB groups they manage in the same trip.
3. Make sure to title your speech title not too warm & fuzzy. Make sure they are action oriented and hands on as possible. Here are two examples of successful titles:
- Findability Formula: The Easy, Non-Technical Approach To Search Engine Marketing for Business Profitability and Results.
- Findability Formula for Social Media Marketing: How Social Media is about real business and not what you had for lunch
4. Send materials ahead of time for excitement building and greater engagement during session by Vistage members.
- I send my audio book (4 CD Set) to each of the anticipated attends ahead of every meeting at least four weeks with an encouragement letter to listen to as much as possible to get maximum value from my presentation.
- The wholesale value of the audio book and the shipping is reimbursable as “training or education materials” by Vistage. No out of pocket expense.
5. Make friends with a Vistage booking agent in their corporate offices in San Diego. Once you form a relationship with an agent, they can get you the “high value” engagements with CEO or SB groups and they can book multiple speaking engagements back to back on the same trip saving you time and energy for twice the exposure. Elaine Vasquez is head of all the Vistage booking agents. I suggest you reach out to her to see how your topic would be best utilized by Vistage. Keep the conversation non-sales related and ONLY after you have been approved.
6. Contact the chair at least two weeks prior to event and get to know their group better. The Vistage web site will give you a roster of the participants as well as their email addresses and company web sites. I do a lot of upfront work to make sure I have researched their web sites and have some specific slides in my presentation tailored to them. Their eyes light up when you are not talking about generalities anymore, you have pulled them into your presentation.
7. Pace yourself! If your topic is well received and the chairs start posting on their private forum called “ChairNet”, your name will spread quickly. I was taking four engagements a month and quickly started feeling burned out. I scaled back to two 2 engagements a month or two session back to back events on the same trip. This has helped me to stay focused in the office as well as on the road speaking and selling.
8. Chairs are not all created equal. Some are amazing and really “get it” that you are their NOT for a $500 speaking engagement but what the potential for consulting opportunities that may come out of the event. NO SALES ALLOWED! If you bring a presentation full of high content and great delivery, you will see the business. No need to sell at all. If you get an upfront feeling that a chair is being difficult and not giving you the time of day to get to know his group, I would suggest you call Vistage headquarters and talk to them about that Chair’s attitude and you giving the best, custom content you can but are getting non-responsiveness from the Chair. They have been very helpful to me in the past with “diva” chairs.
Hope you find this helpful. Do not hesitate to contact me with any questions about Vistage or speaking for them in the future.