This transcript is from Episode 18 of The Savvy Event Planner Podcast
To listen to this podcast, please visit: http://SavvyEventPodcast.com/18
This transcript consists of the interview only
Tom: Folks, I am on the line with Dave Sheffield, who is also known as The Shef. Now Dave, you are a motivational speaker. You are the co-author of five books. You've just released a sixth, which we are going to talk about in a little while. And you are not only known for motivating people, but for giving them tools to take action. So let's talk a little bit about your background. Let's find out how you got here.
Dave: All right. Well, thanks so much for inviting me to be on your podcast, Tom. And also thank you to your listeners for investing their time in this program here today. My career, I guess, in sales began with selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. And I know those of you who are parents in the audience are probably thinking, “Man, I hope that my son or daughter grows up to be a vacuum cleaner salesman,” but I realized very quickly in working with this door-to-door company is that if I could tap into somebody's why, whether it was the customer and then eventually into management, I could… I ended up building some enormously successful and very profitable sales teams. And if I could tap into their why, then, by gosh, they would do anything. We can find a meaning, turbo-charge their meaning, and end up getting them a terrific result.
A lot of what I was doing involved morning meetings 6 days a week to pump up 40, 50, 60 of my team members who were going to go out and knock doors and sell vacuum cleaners in the middle of a Midwest winter. I live in the Midwest in the United States so it gets kind of cold up here come the winter months. So a lot of that was motivation and leadership and of course sales training, tactic and branding. And after about a decade, I burnt out of it and wound up deciding to… started a couple of other businesses, but then was still constantly drawn to personal development. I mean that was so key to success in every aspect of my life.
Then somebody told me one day, he said, “Hey, I always used to do these morning meetings. Why don't you go out there and speak to people?” So I started speaking and then we started… put together a couple of books and picked up that proverbial 300 pound phone and booked a lot of speaking gigs and here we are, I don't know 600,000 some-odd people later that my messages have been heard by. We've had a tremendous ride but it wasn't easy but it built up some terrific muscles.
Tom: Tell us about some of the companies that you started out working for and how things transitioned there for you.
Dave: Well, the main company, the sales company that I worked with was Electrolux and at that time, it was one of the largest direct sale vacuum cleaner/floor care companies in the United States. That's where I received a lot of my, I guess, hard knocks training. And then when I started speaking, I literally would just hammer down a list of, I don't know, chamber of commerces in a location that either I was going to be in, or I wanted to be in, or I had family or friends in. I would say, “Hey, guess what? I am going to be in your area and I have a great opportunity with this brand new program called whatever the heck it was called.” I'd end up booking, whether it's banks, whether it's small business groups. Of course, when there is somebody that sees you as a speaker, that's the best advertising by far.
So I started building up my chops, building up my promo, building up my promo reel and content and then word of mouth got around and now I get to speak to groups. Some are smaller groups, executive committees. Others are thousands of people in an arena, and anywhere in between. Tom, I know you are a speaker so you can relate to various size crowds as well.
Tom: Most definitely. Now, Dave, usually event planners are hiring you to motivate their audiences, but today, our audience is event planners. So what I want to do is turn you loose on them. What do you say?
Dave: Oh, for sure. So event planners, there are very few “professional” event planners anymore. I mean there are certainly some out there and I am privileged to work with some of these people, whether they are in speakers' bureaus or whether they are an event planning company but it is not like it was in the 1990s where so many dates were booked with “professional” event planners. So whether somebody is a professional event planner or if they happen to be that person in marketing or HR that just got a tap on their shoulder from their boss who says, “Hey, I need you to find me some entertainment, a venue and two speakers for our staff meeting we have coming up on the XYZ date.”
Some of these tips, tactics and strategies are going to help you out. With some of these event planning tactics and strategies that have… I guess one big thing is things are not as bad as they seem, and you've got to be able to make cool and quick decisions. I just wrote an article the other day for a publication and talked about a big convention I was speaking at in, I think your neck of the woods somewhere in Maryland. Literally five or six or seven days before several hundred people were going to be coming in for this convention, the roof collapses on this hotel. There are a lot of things you can get around, but not having a roof isn't one of them.
And so once this particular event planner finished panicking, took a little bit of a deep breath, or walk around the building or whatever she had to do, she started getting her team together and said, “All right, this is where we are at right now and yes, it sucks. We are not canceling our event. So let's start asking what if. What if we can have this event here? What if we can find a venue that can not only accommodate our ballroom or business meeting areas but also handle the rooms that are going to be needed for the room nights for speakers and entertainers and for attendees, obviously.”
And lo and behold it didn't take them but 48 hours she said. It wasn't an easy 48 hours, but because she had this systematic way of saying, “Hey, what if we could accomplish this? Let's acknowledge that things aren't ideal but, man, we are going to put this thing together. Let's just find a way.” So understanding that quality of questions that that particular event planner was asking made a world of difference and that is the most extreme case. I haven't done any other venue where a roof has collapsed, thank God, but there is hiccups and bumps and travel delays and sometimes people have illnesses and other things that prevent them from being able to attend events and venues. So having that Plan B is so crucial, but maintaining that cool head is absolutely essential.
Tom: That brings us to your programs because I was going through your website before we talked and you have a program on how to keep your head on while working your butt off, which I absolutely love the title of that. And that's a good example of it. One of the things that was in there was talking about the keys to communication, even with difficult people. Can you share a little bit about that because I know event planners are dealing with a wide variety of people?
Dave: Oh, certainly. And thanks so much for the compliments on that program. It is one of my most popular ones. Dealing with difficult people, sometimes there are people whether they are attendees or whether they are vendors that you are working with that like to flex their muscle or maybe things are not ideal with their room or their experience. They start getting freaked out. None of this is brand new and I did not write the book on how to deal with difficult people, but . . .
Tom: You co-authored it.
Dave: Well, yeah, true. I guess. One thing, Tom, is listen to them, number one, obviously. Sometimes people just need to vent and get it off their chest and then they are cool and you two go have a beer or whatever you are going to do. And the other thing, from a body dynamic standpoint or a physiological standpoint is if they are in person with you, let's work on getting on the same side as they are physically. If they are sitting, what are we going to do? How should we do this? Being cautious about the language that you use with respect to how you are interacting with these people. We all know the difference between “we can do something” versus “you did this”. And most people do not enjoy having the “you did this” when it is not a compliment, pointed right at them.
And have a couple of escape routes. Hey, if “oh shoot” happens, and some kind of circumstance happens where maybe a room is not available, maybe there is a challenge with the sound system or whatever, what are a couple of escape routes? And I am a volunteer fire fighter here in my community, and that's the… I guess preparing positively for negative situations is paramount to… and firefighting certainly is paramount to your life and safety. But in event planning, it is the same kind of thing. If you just wait until something happens, and then go, “Oh shoot. Let me just freak out,” whereas if you're saying, “Okay, if this circumstance happens, I guess I am going to do X, or if this circumstance happens, maybe we go down this path,” and be cool with it. Life is not always perfect. Those are a few tactics, I guess, that have been very successful for a lot of my clients and me, too. You travel as well as a speaker, so you have been in situations where you're doing the terminal shuffle, if you will, running at Mach 6 with your hair on fire to catch that connecting flight hopefully.
Tom: I don't have that much hair left so, yeah, I have been there. One of the things on that talk also was called mental floss. Tell me a little bit about mental floss. I am curious.
Dave: Right, right. Well, mental floss is so crucial because we are bombarded every day, Tom, with negativity. Those people who choose to feed their head with negative media on the news or whatever… I very rarely flip on the news or pick up a newspaper or the electronic version of such and read about the 76 awesome things that happened today. It is usually this tragedy, this violence here or war there. The world is going to end tomorrow and all of this. It's essentially like someone dumping an out house's contents right into your brain which is not attractive at all, in any way, shape or form. And so one step about mental floss is going off of media auto-pilot.
Many times when I talk with people, and certainly my coaching clients is… one of the very first things is if you are used to having the news on in the morning or flipping through a newspaper, the electronic version of a newspaper every morning, that is the first thing your brain is going to focus on. And just be very cautious with that. Now, obviously if you happen to work in something like finance, you have to be selective. If you know that you need to know what is going on business-wise or with interest rates or what have you, but all the other crap and garbage, unless it pertains to something that is going to generate a check for you, filter it out. Fill in some time. Fill in some quality content into your head.
Most people that go on what I call The Shef's Ten Day Challenge, one of the biggest things that people discover is as soon as they cuddle out of that unnecessary media and verbal vomit out of their life, then it opens them up to filling their head with something positive things, whether it is books or audios or great podcasts like this. You are going to start to get a different result based upon what you put into your body. That would be revolutionary to have somebody say, “Hey, if you want to get into great shape, watch what you put into your body. Watch what you eat. Watch what you drink.” Same thing is true with our minds.
And so mental floss number one is watch that intake. Second thing is watch your attitudes. We are going to generate outcomes based upon the questions we ask and most of us ask lousy questions. Why does this always happen to me? How come I am so fat? How come this never works? Whatever. Our minds are going to find answers to that. So instead, let's find some different questions that are quality or empowering questions.
For example, what is great about this or not perfect yet? How can I learn from this circumstance? Whatever it is, there always is a way. I'm sure, Tom, in your business you are entertaining. And one big aspect of any kind of comedy is to take some aspect of current events or some kind of truth and put a fun or funny spin on it. And it is that difference in perspective that makes all the difference in the world. And the third thing is your associations. Those are the big three: Attitude, Intake and Association. Sometimes we've got to fire people out of our lives, professionally or personally, or I call it cleaning out your people closet, if you will. So if somebody is always dragging you down, stop hanging out with them.
Tom: Absolutely love this. Hey, Dave, another one of your speeches is How to Make Great Choices in Not So Great Times. And one of the things, as I was reading through that, that stood out for me for our audience was how to keep going when you feel like giving up. Give us some tips there because I know this can be a stressful situation. Sometimes people are just like, “Oh, man. I am not doing this anymore.” How do we keep going when we feel like giving up?
Dave: Well, one of the biggest keys to keeping going or persevering, if you will, when you really want to give up, is gratitude and service. For example, everybody has bad days. I am not one of these guys that is pretending that, boy, everything is always great. Everything is always happy. People run into me at events and are like, “How come you are always happy?” I'm not always happy. I choose to be up a lot of the time, but believe me, there are times when sometimes, life sucks or circumstances suck. If you take a moment and give yourself a moment to feel sorry for yourself or whatever, move on. Nobody ever drown by falling in water. They just drown by staying in it.
But what gratitude does, and one exercise that I know I have written about if not in one of my books, some of my other publications that I write for or I certainly integrate this into my program is creating a gratitude list. And gratitude is kind of hot right now. Here is the keys to creating this gratitude list, and it is important to be thankful for things obviously. But we tend to go into auto-pilot with these. I am thankful for my health, my family, so on and so forth. I recommend that people specifically list off 2 or 3 things that they are thankful for within the past 24 hours. And what that does is that forces your brain to create new neural pathways to look for and think for things that they should be thankful for. Because what you think about you bring about.
And the second part, like I said, Tom, in addition to gratitude, is service. You can be having a crummy day, but I tell you, when you happen to be dishing up lunch at a homeless shelter for people who haven't eaten in three days and they say you are an answer to a prayer, sir or ma'am, all of a sudden your problems don't seem so insurmountable. And so service is absolutely huge. And everybody has the time to do something. And it might be just picking up the phone and talking to someone. It might be helping somebody in person. It is better if it is in person. Schedule some time for being in person somewhere with somebody, helping someone or some people or a cause that is near and dear to you. But those two things right there will really drastically help with the never giving up.
I work with the Children's Cancer Foundation. And I support them, I love the heck out of them and nothing fuels my fire like watching a little 8 or 9 or 10 year old, who has no hair who is undergoing God knows how many doses of chemo to get rid of this godawful disease that reminds me that my problems and life ain't that tough for me. If that kid is going to pull through and push through if you will, by God, I am too. Take a step back and breathe a little bit.
Tom: Great advice, man. Great advice. Now Dave, one of your other speeches, your last speech that was on the page is Blabvertising and I know that as we talk, you are getting ready to launch. And by the time this airs, Blabvertising will already be out. Tell us about your new book. What is Blabvertising and why is it so important to our listeners?
Dave: Well, thanks, Tom. Blabvertising: The Art of Word of Mouth Advertising is about spreading your brand. It is about spreading, raising knowledge and awareness about who you are, what you do, whether you are an employer, whether you are a small business owner, whether you are in sales, whatever. Now, do not confuse this with the proverbial guy or gal that shows up at a chamber of commerce networking meeting and pukes their business all over everybody every chance they get. That is not what Blabvertising is.
The reason why I wrote it is because I was looking around, I was seeing so many people that had great products, great services, a lot of talent, and they are trying the new flavor of the month of marketing, whether it is try this phone pitch, or this new piece of technology, or whatever. And technology and all of this stuff is very important. And they were getting such mixed and unpredictable results, and many of them were going out of business. I thought at the root of it, all things being equal, people love to do business with the people that they like. And all things not being equal, people love to do business with the people that they like.
And so how do you build relationships that can weather the storm of your competitors, if you are in business, or help spread the world of the greatness of either your talents if you are looking for a particular job or specific type of client and how do you grow things. Word of mouth has been around forever and ever and ever. And it is absolutely not going anywhere. It still is the most bullet-proof form of marketing that anybody can employ to help their business or their personal brand grow.
Tom: So would Blabvertising be just for people who are in sales or business?
Dave: Not at all. In today's world, people need to remind their employers, their coworkers, why they are great at what they do. And I am not a big proponent of saying, “Hey. Guess what, boss? I showed up for work. I deserve a ribbon.” I don't believe there is a tendency for everybody to be a winner. No, not everybody is a winner. But, hey, if you are in accounting and you are the rock star of accounting for getting people's expense reports paid on time or quicker than anybody else or whatever, spread that knowledge around. I am not saying build up your ego so it is beyond reproach, but I am saying if you don't toot your own horn, there isn't any music. And should the company need to trim, which has certainly been a reality for a lot of folks, kind of right-sizing or outsourcing businesses and talent and so on, they are much less likely to trim or cut people that they are aware of that are very much indispensable, or experts in their field. Essentially, you are touting your expertise.
I came up with the idea or the concept when I was flying back from Canada where I was speaking at a big convention. And I sat next to a gal who was just a sweetheart of a woman. I think she was a sophomore or junior at a university. As we are chatting, she is saying, “Hey, I am really interested in what you do, Dave. And blah, blah, blah.” So she knew how to engage somebody right away and it wasn't all about her. And she just dropped a hint of… by the way, once I asked her, of course, “What are you majoring in? What would you like to do?” “Well, I would like to work in event management or hospitality management, specifically in the casino area.”
Well, it just so happened that minutes before we boarded the plane, I bumped into and started chatting with a guy who does a lot of construction management with a huge number or casinos across the United States. He happened to be sitting the next row up. And I quickly facilitated that introduction. I said, “Hey, Leah. This is Carl. Carl, this is Leah. This is what she is looking for. This is what he does.” And they exchanged some info, and took it from there. Right then I just thought, you know what, most people are not mind readers. So if you want something, say something. And if you are in sales, it is such a crucial tactic to be able to spread the magic of your word of mouth advertising or your brand at networking events or anytime you are out and about but also if you are looking for a job, an internship, whatever, here is the type of clients or the type of impact that I would like to make with these organizations or boy, I am part of a foundation and we like to impact people who deal with this kind of a circumstance. Whatever the case is.
So Blabvertising is for virtually everybody. It's essentially a social skill. The more connected that we are electronically, the less connected that we are personally. It is one of my favorite quotes from a friend of mine, Ned Hallowell and he is tied into this crazy, busy uber-fast, always connected world, and it is so true. People are forgetting the magic of a person-to-person conversation or even just phone-to phone.
Tom: So what are a few things that our audience could do that would help them today?
Dave: Well, a couple of things that I would suggest is take a moment to disconnect, meaning shut your ringer off, your little inbox pinging or whatever kind of noise you have going on in the background, and think about what your value proposition is. We are so used to responding incessantly about other people's demands that we lose time. We do not make time to think rather. So if you look at your true value proposition, you can do this in three minutes, or four minutes, or five minutes and say, “Hey, look. I'm really great at this,” and then read it and pare it down and say, “Maybe I don't love this but I like it a little bit.”
The first step is come up with something that I call a bungee jumping pitch. And an elevator pitch is the old way of saying, “Hey, look. If I can talk to you a little bit about what I want here between the 10th floor and the 1st floor or vice-versa, that is great.” It's a terrific example that Ken Blanchard gave in The One Minute Manager. Well, realistically, today's attention spans are about eight or nine seconds. And so, you do not have time for a whole freaking elevator ride. You've got to make an impression on me now. And if you are not going to pitch, you at least need to engage. The best kind of engagement when you are in person, obviously, is remembering that God gave you two ears, one mouth; use them in the correct proportions.
Come up with a little bit of a pitch, schedule some face to face time at some kind of event, preferably something that makes you a little uncomfortable. Now, if you are in business, you undoubtedly have been to different chamber events, “networking events”, I hate networking events for the most part because A) true decision makers never go to those things. They are usually a colossal waste of time, and B) the same people are in the same cliques at every event. And if I want to get together with my buddies, I am going to get together with my buddies. I do not need to go to some networking event and get together with them.
I would say, find something that is going on in your area preferably, and schedule it. Plan on going. Putting it on the calendar. It could be a chamber event. It could be hey, I am going to help out with this food drive or some charitable event that you want to do. Or maybe it is just getting involved with something at your church or synagogue or whatever you might have. Find a way to get involved and make a point to introduce yourself to three brand new people. Huge mistake that people make whenever they networking, and one reason why networking is not working for most people is that they'll go to an event, and they sit with the same people. Tom, I know you see this too because you and I probably have been in front of a lot of the same audiences at conventions, is the same people sit next to the same people year in and year out and they do not broaden their scope. Or they do not broaden their palette of people that they get to know.
Look, if you want to invest in anything that is a sure fire hit, invest in relationships. The more people that you know, the more people that you can connect, the better off you are. And then that next step, for true success in networking is focus more on connecting than just trying to sell something. You are not going to close a deal on the spot. It is not going to happen. So do not try to pitch your product, your service, whatever, right there. Have a little tidbit of something that engages them, makes it a little fascinating. But more so think, who might I be able to connect these people to? So everybody loves a connector. Everybody loves being introduced to someone who may be able to benefit their business in some way, shape or form. As soon as you start focusing on your shift of perspective, that is going to make a world of difference.
Tom: Some great stuff, Dave. Hey, Dave, if somebody wanted to get in touch with you, if they wanted to learn a little more about The Shef, and particularly you mentioned The Shef's Ten Day Challenge, how do they reach out to you?
Dave: Certainly. Well, they can visit my site at alwaysbetteryourbest.com. That is alwaysbetteryourbest.com. If they are interested in Blabvertising, it will be linked up on my site as well but they can go to blabvertising.com. That book micro-site is not up currently but it will be by the time this broadcast airs. And they can download that ten day challenge for free. It's a great little opportunity for people to hit pause in the busy and chaotic world that we live in. And they're going to also get some additional tidbits. I have got a whole bunch of other content that is going to be popping up and certainly will be live by the time this broadcast airs, Tom. Your listeners, your readers, your subscribers, are going to be able to gain a tremendous amount of knowledge as far as helping them grow their businesses and grow the breadth of their personal brand.
Tom: Excellent. We will make sure that we link to all of these from the show notes as well. Hey, Dave, before I let you get out of here, one question I have been asking recently, you have traveled to a lot of events. Is there one thing that really stands out to you, whether it is something that the event planner did to make your life easier or whether it is something that they did for the attendees that just really stood out among your memories, something that would inspire our audience to possibly emulate that or incorporate something like that into their events.
Dave: Well, event planners have such a huge… they play such a huge role, yet it is often times behind the scenes. And so some of the things that really stand out as one of the performers at conventions, I personally love communication. I know most people do. I know that you probably like the same thing. When there is a gig sheet, meaning hey, here is what time we have load in for entertainment. Here is our A/V check. Here is what room everything is in. That is great. I do not like showing up in the wrong city and wondering which Marriott I need to be at, if you will, so having all of your i's dotted and t's crossed is one. Communication is huge.
And the second thing, whenever I show up for an event, I ask my event planner what can I do to make you look like a rock star? Because I want to make that event planner, that person who made that decision to bring me in, look awesome and how is this going to be a win. And how can I put it together for you. On top of that, so much is budget related. I have been to venues where you check in and you have got a cooler full of the little Jamaican beers from the region or whatever, and believe me, those are nice, especially after a long international flight. But really, communication and gratitude, it's awesome. I love working with people who are passionate about what they do and who are committed to constantly growing in every step of the way.
Tom: Well, the passion is definitely obvious in all that you have been saying. Dave, I thank you so much for spending your time with us today and sharing this with our audience.
Dave: Hey, my pleasure. Thanks so much, Tom. And keep up the terrific work. I really appreciate it.
Tom: Thank you, sir.
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