Tom Bailey 0:07
Hello and welcome to succeed through speaking the place for experts and entrepreneurs who want high value ideas to boost business results
Hello, I'm Tom Bailey. And in today's speaker stories episode of getting to know Meridith Elliot Powell was a sales strategist, leadership expert, certified speaking professional, and also an award winning author. Meridith Hello, and a very warm welcome to today's episode.
Meridith Powell 0:42
Thanks so much, Tom. I'm excited to be here.
Tom Bailey 0:45
Thank you so much for being here. And just out of interest for everybody listening whereabouts in the world are you right now?
Meridith Powell 0:51
Are you have actually caught me at home today, which is a rare, a rare sighting, but I live in Asheville, North Carolina. So I'm in my home office
Tom Bailey 0:59
mines and I guess, after the pandemic, you probably out and about a lot more as a speaker than you were over the past few years. Yeah, absolutely. Alright, so I'm gonna just share a little bit more about you before we do get started. So Meridith has been voted one of the top 50 In business growth experts to watch one of the top 41 motivational speakers and also a Hall of Fame speaker. And he's really passionate about helping her clients to learn the strategies they need to turn uncertainty into competitive advantage. So as always, we're gonna dive into the topic of public speaking today, I really want to find out more about Meridith story. So I guess my first question to you is, how important has public speaking been to you throughout your career?
Meridith Powell 1:42
Yeah, what a great question. I feel like it's been incredibly important. I mean, even when I worked in the corporate environment, if you can speak number one, you become the expert people look up to you people are, are, are looking to you for information. But the other it's the power to, to influence and, and, and to shape. So I think it's an incredibly important skill to have, especially in today's environment.
Tom Bailey 2:08
Absolutely. Yeah. And you know, this podcast is called to succeed through speaking, I really do believe that, that if you can learn how to speak and articulate your message and drive people, then yeah, it's gonna be a really important part of your life as a business person. Absolutely. So I want to just take you back to the beginning. Some of us feel like we're born public speakers, some of us start off with a little bit more fear and anxiety when it comes to speaking. So what was your earliest memory of having to stand up and speak and deliver a presentation? And and how did it go?
Meridith Powell 2:39
Yeah, I was a painfully shy, shy child. I mean, really, the last thing I ever wanted to do was get up in front of, of people. And my first really recollection of it, I guess, is probably in the third grade, when we had to get up and read a book reports. And I was terrible. I mean, number one, I read the entire presentation. Number two, I didn't sleep for days. Yeah. Before it. And I would, I would kind of classify it as a really bad experience. Yes,
Tom Bailey 3:11
yeah. And I can really resonate with that. In a little bit about my story. I've always had social anxiety, I became an expert at avoiding public speaking and at all costs, because it just the same feelings of I went bright red, my hands are shaking. I was warming up under the collar. Yeah, it was it was frightening. So I guess, did that stay with you throughout school, college university? And at what point did you feel like, you know, I can't be the show person anymore. I need to use public speaking to help me progress.
Meridith Powell 3:43
Yeah, I had. Number one is the only way I got over my shyness was I'm blessed to have been born to a mother who insisted that it was my job to learn to introduce myself to people, it was my job to learn to have conversations, it was my job to push myself out of a comfort zone. So I'm sure that it took like, six or seven years, but I eventually became less and less shy because she would not accept it as something that as a limitation of mine. I love that because I really learned that you can condition yourself to do anything. But it really wasn't until I got into, you know, into my 20s that I'd taken my first job. And my boss was really very heavily dependent on upon the to get new initiatives across to the organization. And I started to craft conversations with people and lead team meetings and things like that. And it slowly began to become a natural process for me and if I ever had to look at anything I became I understood it was more about the message than it was about me. That's where the shift
Tom Bailey 4:59
came. Love that. Yeah, I love that. And a lot of a lot of fears. And a lot of limiting beliefs come from the amount of pressure we put ourselves on us. We feel like we might get judged, we feel it, we might get embarrassed, we feel like we might make a fool out of ourselves. And so as soon as you can shift the attention off yourself onto the message, the audience the value you're adding, yeah, that will really, really help. So I love that. And you also talked about the conditioning almost, you just need to do it over and over and over and over and over again. And the first 1020 30 times you do it, it's going to be awkward, you're gonna go a little bit red. But you soon soon realize that it's not actually that by no one's gonna die here. Yeah, so I really liked that message as well. That is
Meridith Powell 5:41
so true. You know, it's funny, you mentioned that I been inducted into the Hall of Fame. And my speech, when I was inducted into the Hall of Fame, I reflected on my very first professional keynote. And my very first professional keynote, I had 45 minutes, I had 52 slides, and I use 11 Point Type. It was horrible. Yeah, absolutely awful. Versus you fast forward. Now I speak in front of 1000s of audiences, I don't use any PowerPoint, I you know, talk that I couldn't have gotten there without those beginning failures. And I think embracing the fact that the only way out is through, you have to be a bad speaker in order to become a great speaker.
Tom Bailey 6:23
I love that. Embrace the amateur phase, because you're going to learn your craft. And, and don't feel that you have to go through the amateur phase on the big stages, you know, on local venues, speak in front of three people at your old school, maybe, you know, just just go and start speaking and learn the craft I think is really important.
Meridith Powell 6:42
Yeah, and yeah, I would I would really agree with that your dog is a wonderful listener.
Tom Bailey 6:47
Yes. Yeah, absolutely. Love that. And I think that's one of the big problems here is that, you know, especially people with anxiety and fear of speaking is you almost waiting to be perfect before you put yourself out there. And you'll be waiting forever is I guess, the reality here. So yeah, that's really important as well. You mentioned a pretty bad keynote, and some of the lessons you learned from that, since that first pretty bad keynote to now have the have the been any of the big speaking failures, disasters or, or lessons learned along the way? Oh, that,
Meridith Powell 7:19
you know, there have been there have been so many. I mean, some from that very first, was that I thought I was speaking to get information out. And really the truth is people can Google anything that you're talking about? Yeah. So you're speaking to, to make an impact on people to help them understand they need to make a shift or a change or to take action. And so how I crafted a message became less about the information. And far more about the delivery, my very first keynote, I was focused on delivery. The other is that I'll never forget this too. I'd probably been been speaking within my job for about five years when the CEO of our company introduced me before a speech and I was scared to death. And he got up there. Now this is a man who's highly successful, incredibly well educated. He did a terrible job of introducing me and it was really bad. Like, he knew it, everybody. Yeah. But for him, he just put that in the past. And he moved on, like he, the moment he stepped off that stage, he could have cared less Yeah. And I'll never forget that the people who are successful, take stock of a mistake. And then they let it go, he did not obsess about it. And that's what it gave me a freedom to mess up into experiment, which is part of the path you have to take, yeah, get comfortable with anything. But really, it's speaking.
Tom Bailey 8:53
I love that one of the speakers that I've spoken to before. They keep a tally of mistakes they make and they want to try and make at least 10 mistakes every time they speak, because it's almost like they're allowed to then make mistakes, because they're creating that space to do that. You know, there might not always make 10 mistakes, but by trying to be perfect again, you're not going to do it. So allow yourself to make a few mistakes, I think is important. Yeah, I would definitely agree with that. Perfect. And so I think we've kind of talked about that getting over the fear. And I think that's that's been resonating with people. And let's talk about people who are maybe speaker curious or early in their speaking career. They're not yet getting paid to speak, but they want to become a keynote speaker. They want to get paid to speak. They want to speak at big conferences. What advice would you give somebody to transition from that? Just getting started to actually I want to have this as a career.
Meridith Powell 9:45
Yeah, well, number one is you need I just so funny, I just had this conversation with somebody the other day and I said that you need to embrace the fact that you're probably not a very good speaker right now. Even if it's a natural talent, even if you're comfortable. You It's not there. So take this first year, and go to your rotary clubs, go to your church, go to anywhere you can get a crowd of 2550 100 people and, and see what resonates with people, you know, you have to get really good at telling stories. So take an online course or hire somebody who can help you understand that. And then you're going to need assets, you're going to need videos, you're going to need one sheet, you're going to need the things that are going to encourage people to hire you. Yeah. And then the last thing I'm gonna say, is make sure you want to go down this path. Yes. As speaking I do probably a third of the time. Yeah. running my business and selling myself on what I do two thirds. Yeah,
Tom Bailey 10:51
yeah, yeah. Perfect. Yeah, that's, it's a big commitment. Speaking as a lot of travel, there's a lot of time and energy. And it's not just the actual 60 minutes on stage. It's all of the preparation and practice and everything that fits around that. So yeah, really, really good point to make that. And one thing I was going to ask, and I tend to ask this a lot of people is how important is it to niche down to a particular topic as as a speaker, because I think some people would think they can be general business speakers. And some people really think they want to speak about a very specific niche. What what's kind of your advice on that?
Meridith Powell 11:28
Yeah, is that I think you need to speak on solving a problem, like, people, if people don't understand why to hire you, they won't hire you, unless you're some kind of sports celebrity or, you know, something like that. But my career really took off when I really started to talk about turning uncertainty into opportunity. Yeah, there's gonna be a long time to niche down that. But now, when people are looking to solve a particular problem, they come to me so I wouldn't niche on sales, I wouldn't niche on leadership or anything like that. But what is the problem you solve? Is it helping people get to the decision maker? Is it helping people perform better? Is it you know, is it literally how to build and scale a business? Like, what challenge? Do you solve it? Yeah, you do. Now? I talk about a lot of other things. But I get through the door with that initial
Tom Bailey 12:25
Yes. Yeah. Love that. Anna. I think again, a lot of speakers tell me about the importance of adding value to the room as well. So if you're solving a problem, you're therefore adding value to the audience. I think that's that's something about getting referred time and time again, as a speaker as well. Because if the room walks away with some new value, some new information, something they can go and implement to solve a problem. They're going to talk about you to their colleagues as well. So yeah, absolutely. Really important. Perfect. Thank you so much for that. Now, I briefly mentioned the pandemic in the start of this conversation and pretty transformational for the speaking industry, you might say, How did you transition during that period to go from stage speaker out there in person to having to do it all online?
Meridith Powell 13:11
Yeah, you know, I Well, the first thing I did was freak out, like everybody, ya know, I literally sat in front of my computer and watch all my revenue. Yeah. Um, so I did my very first I had a program go from in person to virtual. And I, it was awful. Yeah, I mean, once again, learn from failure. I sat in front of my computer with the Zoom background, and my head disappeared and my hands to severe because I did it. You know, I've never been I've never been hired by that client ever again. But, but I stopped focusing on myself. And I started focusing on my clients. Yeah. And it was from my clients that I found the path, I just decided, I'm going to make myself crazy. If I worry about how to pay my bills, or how to deliver a virtual keynote. I'm just going to start talking to people and people would tell me what they needed. And then I would go figure out how to solve it. So people say we need a professional looking keynote that really gets people engaged. Okay, great. So I called a studio, and I found a studio and then I started doing it in studio. And then people would say, we need a professional looking keynote, but we don't have enough money. We can't pay a full fee, no key and I thought, Okay, I've got to figure out how to build a studio in my home. So I built your three iterations of, you know, studios in my home. I was oh, hey, with failure, though. And I think again, that's so important. I mean, I remember the first time I use the EEG cam, Oh, my I was just dark on the screen. I didn't even know what I was doing. Yes. In comfort in that people more than they want you to be amazing and professional and valuable. They want you to listen to them, and they want to see that you are going to the mat to try to help them. So again, I got the focus off of me. I listened to what my customers needed. And then I felt the need and I had my best year on record the first year, my second year. So
Tom Bailey 15:06
amazing. I think one little thing that I took from that as well as sometimes just say yes, and then figure it out. Completely. Yeah. And I guess that's a bit of value for any business, not just speaking, you know, just just say yes. And then you'll figure it out afterwards.
Meridith Powell 15:20
But yeah, I would agree. I'd also add, I was completely okay, with letting go of the way I had been doing business. So many speakers, I thought we were just sitting there going, well, we're, this will be back in a few months. I don't have to do anything different. And that was a mistake. I mean, you need to realize the marketplace is moving. And when your customers are asking for something different. You need to respond.
Tom Bailey 15:44
Yeah, yeah, pretty instant. And one quick question, I want you to take it back to that concept about being a paid speaker. So there's also a transition point to people where they've been speaking for maybe one or two years for free. You know, they've been trying to make revenue on the back of speeches, you know, in terms of upsells, or get people to have a call to action at the end? Did you have a transition point when you said, I'm going to start charging for this? Or was that quite easy for you? Or what advice? Would you give somebody who wants to start charging to become a keynote speaker?
Meridith Powell 16:13
Yeah, I didn't even know you could charge. A speaker at the beginning, you know, people I was working as a strategist, people would say, would you come and talk to us? And then somebody knocked me, you know, tapped me on the shoulder and said, Did you know speaking was a question and I said, I had no idea. And they said, You should go to the National Speakers Association. So I went to the National Speakers Association. And that's where two things I not only learned how to price, a keynote for the level and experience I had, but more importantly, where to find the clients. Yes, I could pay me, you know, it's a combination. I mean, you have to know what you're doing. Like, I couldn't go straight out and start charging people $20,000 For keynote, I didn't have the experience of the asset. So what should I be charging you? What does that look like? And then where do I find people who pay and how do I approach them? I learned that all through the national speakers. Yeah.
Tom Bailey 17:09
So you don't have to figure it all out on your own either. There's there's advice out there guidance people that have done this before. So yeah, exactly. Yeah. Fantastic. And it's been amazing, amazing. Speakers. You've got one final question, which is if anybody wants to book you as a speaker or find out more about you, where should they go to do that?
Meridith Powell 17:24
Well, I am a big believer, build your network, change your life. Thank you find me at my website, which is value speaker.com. Just the words value speaker.com. And the social media channel, I tend to live on his LinkedIn. So connect with me on LinkedIn, I would love that.
Tom Bailey 17:38
Amazing. And what I'll do as well, Meridith, is I'll put the links to those two locations in the shownotes. People can just click on those and dive right in. That sounds fabulous. Awesome. So I want to just thank you again, so much for your time today for sharing your story and also for just sharing such great value with our audience.
Meridith Powell 17:54
Great. Well, thank you. It's been really fun being here.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai