One of the most effective ways to gain exposure for yourself as a Personal Trainer in a short period of time is through presentations. By developing your skills as a speaker, you instantly establish yourself as an expert to the people who are interested in listening to what you have to say. A good speaker can expect to gain a minimum of 1-3 new clients at every presentation they conduct. But did you know that most people's #1 fear in life is not financial ruin or heights or even death? It's public speaking! So how do you become a good speaker? Let's start right at the beginning.
SETTING UP THE FOUNDATION:
You have to really want to become a good speaker. And it's important to note that it will take time, effort and lots of practice. So you have to be willing to make the investment in yourself - you have to want to learn the skills that are necessary to becoming a good enough speaker that people will actually want to come and listen and stay right through to the end of the session. Any speakers' worst nightmare is having people get up and walk out mid-way through a presentation. To avoid this, you've got to be willing to put some time in.
Review your strengths and talents. Do you have a lot of knowledge in an area that people are interested in? Luckily a lot of people are interested in what they can do to look good and feel better. And as a Personal Trainer, this just happens to be your specialty. Decide upon the topics you would feel comfortable speaking on. For example, you could speak on popular topics such as Managing Stress, Maximizing Fat Loss, Preventing Back Pain, Toning Abdominals, Reversing the Aging Process, or Nutrition to Enhance Energy and Performance…
Develop your Portfolio.
Once you have established the areas that you feel comfortable speaking on, you will need to develop your portfolio. This will be your tool to promote yourself and your presentations to the community. When you are beginning as a speaker, it is not necessary to spend a lot of money on this material. It can be as simple as getting on a computer and typing the information. However, as you become more established as a speaker in the community, it will be important for you to develop something a bit more professional. The material should include 3 sections:
- Information about yourself. Your credentials, experience, educational background, athletic background, sporting/recreational interests and your philosophy on health and fitness. Also include your contact information.
- Testimonials. This is where you can list feedback from previous seminars you've conducted. This will help give organizers confidence in your skills. To ensure you always have a number of good testimonials available, every time you present, provide a feedback form for the audience to complete and return to you. Also provide a more detailed form to the organizer and ask them for a testimonial that you can use in your promotional material. Before printing testimonials in your materials, be sure to get written permission or ask permission beforehand on your feedback forms. If you've not yet conducted any presentations, ask someone who is familiar with your personality and style to write you a 1-3-sentence testimonial highlighting your skills within the fitness industry. This will be fine until you gather some good testimonials that comment on your speaking abilities.
- Workshops/Seminars. This is where you will list the topics you can speak on. You will want to list a few different topics rather than just one. This will allow potential workshop organizers to choose from a myriad of options. It will make them more likely to choose you as a speaker. You will want to spend a great deal of time developing this section. Get help from friends and family members who can help you brainstorm on topics, titles and descriptions. The titles of your presentations should be energetic, catchy and evoke interest and the workshop descriptions should satisfy three criteria.
- State a problem
- State the solution
- List what people will walk away with
- Outsmart your Fat Cells (Example): Have you tried every diet only to gain the weight back within a few weeks? And not only that, but are you noticing that you're putting on a few extra pounds every year? If you find yourself in either of these situations, you're not alone. Most experts now agree the problem is not with the person but with the process. In this session you will learn the physiological and psychological reasons most people fail at dieting and exercise. We will review the most effective prescription for maximizing fat loss as endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine and you will walk away with 10 specific exercise and nutrition guidelines that have been proven to achieve fat loss effectively, safely, and permanently.
- Establish your Fees. In the beginning you may find it necessary to speak for free until you can develop your skills (if you can avoid this and establish a nominal fee right from the beginning, that's even better). At some point though you must establish your value. High profile, nationally renowned keynote speakers can command $10,000 per presentation. That would be nice, wouldn't it? But generally, as a fitness and health speaker, you can expect on average $100-$200 per hour presentation. But remember, these types of presentations are more of a marketing tool than a moneymaking venture for most fitness professionals - although you can make some good complimentary income if you work at it.
- Market yourself in the Community. There are a lot of organizations looking for speakers. Approach your local rotary clubs, corporations, church groups, various special interest groups (Arthritis Society, Osteoporosis Society etc.), sporting clubs or clinics etc.
- Practice, practice, practice. If you want to become a good speaker, you've got to practice presenting at every opportunity you get. For example, if you attend a conference, invite fellow staff members to an evening session during which you'll present a summary of everything you've learned at the event. Volunteer to present at staff meetings. In coordination with your supervisor, develop and facilitate workshops and seminars for members. The more you speak, the better able you will be to fine-tune your skills so that you can begin justifying fees for your services.
- Look and Learn. To help fine-tune your skills, it's best to start watching other speakers. Rent videos, watch speeches on TV, and attend seminars. Observe how the speakers open and close a presentation. Watch for the intonations that they use to get an audience's attention. Look for ways that they use humor throughout their presentations. Watch for ways they get the audience involved and interacting. Take notes on the methods you could use in your presentations. Another good tool is to read a book on developing your presenting skills. Dale Carnegie has authored a number of good books in this area.
- Join a ToastMasters Groups. ToastMasters Groups are located all throughout North America and function to help people develop their speaking skills. Enroll in their program to help you fine-tune your presentation skills and expose you to constructive feedback from others.
PREPARING FOR YOUR PRESENTATIONS:
There are a number of things you should do before your first and before each presentation to ensure success.
Know your audience.
Be sure to schedule a meeting with the organizer of the presentation to ensure you clearly understand the group's expectations and the audience. Be clear on what the group expects to learn and to walk away with. You may even ask for some of the names and numbers of some of the other people who will be attending the presentation to get additional feedback. This will ensure that you will have thoroughly researched the group you're going to speak to and you may be able to incorporate your findings in your talk. You also may learn which topics are sensitive and that you may want to avoid. In the process of performing your research, you will also be making friends with members of the audience. Before they even here you speak they will love you. You can seat them in the audience so when you're speaking you can make eye contact with them, which will increase your confidence. When performing your research, ask questions regarding the background of the audience. Do they have any knowledge of health and fitness? If the group has had access to a variety of health and fitness educational resources, you may want to spend more time on advanced material. If the group is predominantly sedentary and are just being introduced to health and fitness material, spend most of your time on the basics. Learn whether the audience comes from an academic background. If so, you can be a bit quicker in the material you cover and you'll want to use more sophisticated language. Find out if the group is more relaxed or serious. This will help you to determine the most appropriate way to use humor and the types of interactive drills you might choose. Ask about appropriate attire. Generally for a fitness presentation, it is expected that you will come dressed in a professional tracksuit. However, in some situations, it may be more appropriate for you to wear business attire. In all cases, your attire, hygiene and grooming should be neat and professional.
Know your environment.
Find out how the room will be set up (chairs, tables, standing etc.) and ask about formation (lecture style, circular etc.). Ask about the audiovisual equipment you'll have access to (flip chart, overhead, data projector). Learn if there will be any type of potential distractions, disruptions or poor acoustics and what you can do to manage these in the event they negatively affect the flow of your session.
Prepare the Content of your Presentation.
- Establish your objectives.
- Determine 2-3 important points that you want to cover in your session.
- Develop the material to support your points.
- Develop the Opening to your Presentation.
- Develop the Closing to your Presentation.
Develop your Seminar Notes.
Most audiences appreciate a fitness speaker who will provide notes and supplementary information to compliment their speech. Develop a 2-3-page handout that summarizes your speech and/or provides material on areas that you do not have time to cover.
Determine your Audiovisual Needs.
Remember that people learn in different ways. Some people learn by seeing, others by hearing, some while reading, while others learn by doing. As a speaker, you will want to be able to accommodate all of these learning styles. This is why audiovisual equipment is so important. You will want to determine which equipment you feel most comfortable with. You will want to use some form of either a flip chart, overhead projector and screen or data-projector and screen to provide visual stimulation. You may find it helpful to show footage of a video and thus, it will be necessary for you to request VCR capabilities. You may also want to request an audiocassette player to play music as people are entering. Think closely about how you can incorporate all the senses into the learning environment.
Incorporate an Interactive Break.
Nobody likes to just sit and listen for extended periods of time. Most people physically can't keep their attention focused for long stretches so it is effective to incorporate brief breaks in the material. Decide upon which methods you'll use to get people up and out of their chairs interacting with others. You could use any type of traditional ice breaker drill (ie. the audience has to go and introduce themselves to each other and identify people who have the pre-assigned attributes etc.). Or you could develop a drill to help you emphasize a point in your material. Or you could do a musical, fitness energy break and lead the group in a mini-fitness class. Or you could just get people up to stretch for a few seconds. If you're asking questions to the audience and you want to encourage interaction, many successful speakers will use fun and friendly "bribes" to encourage people to get involved. For example, every time someone shouts out an answer they get a T-shirt or every time someone raises their hand, they receive a water bottle.
Many good speakers use humor to start or finish a presentation. It's best when it leads into the presentation or emphasizes something that was taught during the seminar. A joke for the sake of a joke is not as effective as a joke that conforms well to the entire topic. Cartoons are great to use for fitness seminars because there are so many available that bring light to a sensitive or serious topic. Start collecting cartoons or jokes that you come across that may help support your topics.
Know your material and be prepared.
The audience will know instantly if you have not prepared sufficiently. It is important that you practice the session completely from start to finish in front of a trial audience (friends and family members are always great candidates). Practice your timing and flow. Determine whether you have enough or too much material. Just on a side note, most first-time presenters prepare way too much material and then try to frantically rush through everything. This is why practice is so critical. Try your jokes and interactive breaks out on your trial group to ensure they work. Have the group ask you numerous questions and practice your responses. Even after the practice presentation is over, reel off your replies to the questions you were asked while you're folding laundry or showering so that your responses become second nature. A side benefit to all of this rehearsing is that the important points you want to cover will be more clearly focused and they'll easily roll off your tongue when the time comes. And then ask for their constructive feedback. Ask about what you did well and how you can improve.
Know your boundaries.
Without a doubt, at some point in your speaking career, you will be asked questions that will be above and beyond your level of expertise. It is important to state this but then have a network of resources that the audience could refer to, to find this information. For example, someone may raise their hand and ask "I always get this pain down the middle of my back that goes right into my leg. What should I do about this?" Your response should be something like this: "You know that could be caused by a variety of reasons and unfortunately, I'm not trained in the area of diagnosis and I wouldn't want to overstep my boundaries. I do however, know a physician who specializes in back care. Why don't you come and see me after the session and I'll give you his name and number."
Be ready to improvise.
Watch your group carefully. If you notice you're losing their attention, be ready to skip material and get on to something that will spark their interest more. If you notice that they don't seem to be comprehending your material, slow down and try phrasing your words differently or using analogies. Avoid being so set on your lesson plan that you don't take into consideration the audience's responses.
THE DAY OF:
Prepare for stage fright.
You may not know the extent of your nervousness until you're up in front of the group, and by then it'll be too late to take any action to counteract some of the symptoms. The symptoms of stage fright can be severe: everything from nausea, clammy hands, and dry throat to rapid heartbeat, trembling, even shaking. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you're experiencing these symptoms remember that you never look as foolish as you feel and second, no one ever died of stage fright or embarrassment. In fact, remind yourself that you should welcome many of these symptoms because it brings on a heightened state of awareness, making you even more focused and alert than anyone else in your audience. In these situations you can try various calming techniques like doodling, drawing pictures or maybe looking at pictures of your children or pets. If you tend to sweat a lot, be conscious of the clothing you choose - you will want to avoid wearing any type of attire that clearly demonstrates sweat patches. Practice speaking in the outfit you plan to wear for your presentation beforehand to ensure it's a safe choice. If you are prone to sweaty palms, try an alcohol-based antibacterial hand wash. Avoid holding large sheets of notepaper, as any small amount of shaking will translate into rustling, vibrating pages. Instead use a clipboard or stiff index cards. Finally remember the audience perceives only about one-tenth to one-hundredth of what you're feeling inside. So as long as you don't say, "Boy am I ever nervous up here!" the audience will never know.
Drink water and warm-up your voice.
You may be scheduled to speak for an hour or more. This can be hard on your voice. Be sure to drink lots of water to keep your vocal cords well hydrated and take a bottle of water with you to the podium. You will also want to avoid caffeinated drinks like coffee and Coke, which can contribute to dry throat. If you have any early morning presentation, avoid milk in your cereal for breakfast as milk increases the likelihood you'll need to clear your throat. You may also want to consider performing voice warm-up drills. The "do-ray-me-la…" drill in the shower always does the trick.
Get to the venue early.
Get there early enough so that you can be sure all the requested audiovisual equipment is there and ready. Organize all your materials. Triple check your notes and audiovisual aids. Pass out your promotional materials (business cards, handouts, brochures etc.) onto the chair seats. Take a few minutes to review your lecture materials just before people arrive. Be sure you've got your opening down solid.
As the audience begins to arrive, welcome them at the door, shake their hands, make physical contact, thank them for coming and spend a few moments chatting with the attendees. This will get the audience on your side right from the beginning and they'll be more likely to want to listen attentively, be supportive and also forgiving in the event things don't go as smoothly as you like.
Finish by thanking the audience for attending. Let them know you'll be around after for questions. Also let them know that you have distributed your business cards to each of them and if any of them has any specific questions regarding their individual situation, they can contact you at any time.
Distribute feedback forms to the group so you can learn the areas you are strong in and the areas that need improvement. It's also a good idea to ask for the individual's name, contact information and email address so you can follow up with people. These types of follow up initiatives are very effective at encouraging people to sign up for a few Private Personal Training sessions.
This is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate to the individuals who have questions that you can help them individually. It's a great opportunity to get their names and numbers and let them know you'll call them back to discuss action steps and ways you can help them achieve their specific goals.
In the event that you decide to organize and host a presentation yourself, be sure that you allow enough time to effectively market the seminar and draw enough interest.
As you venture forth into developing your skills in these areas, you will find that seminars are wonderful opportunities to represent you and your organization positively within the community. You’ll provide some great information to the attendees and in return, get compensated and generate some new client leads. Can’t beat that!