Hosting a Paid Speaker: Size is Irrelevant!

In April, I had the great privilege of sponsoring the IIA’s Leadership Conference in Orlando.  Chapters throughout North America send their leaders to learn how to effectively run a chapter.  With over 400 attendees, it is truly a wonderful learning experience.

At the IIA Leadership Conference, I met many great chapter leaders and caught up with lots of wonderful friends.  One issue I did pick up on more and more was the desperate size of the chapters.  I have always known it is an issue but a few chapters told me that that it is not possible to bring in paid speakers due to chapter size and cost constraints.  I am here to tell you that ANY chapter, regardless of size, can hire a paid speaker, as long as the speaker is open to working with you and flexible.  Over the past year, we have worked with chapters with as few as 40-80 members and as many as 3,500…size is irrelevant in this case.

How Much Do You Charge for a Seminar?

This is strictly dependent on how much the seminar costs.  Based on experience,  day-long seminar usually run anywhere from $99 to $300.  The key is being able to keep costs down.

What drives seminar costs?

Seminar costs are driven by a few primary costs, mainly conference room and food costs.

  • Conference Room– these costs, especially when the seminar is in a hotel, can be off the charts expensive. Room costs can run $1-2k and let’s not even talk about the exorbitant fees relating to projectors and other A/V equipment.
  • Food Costs – Food costs can become extremely high; I have seen costs exceed $75 per person per day. Now, some seminars are highlighted by the menu and that can draw an audience. However, any chapter can provide a great meal without excessive costs.

How Can Chapters Keep Costs Down?

In my opinion, chapters can reduce costs relatively easily and bring a cost-effective, high quality seminar to their members.  Initially, every chapter should engage any large organization that has chapter members. In my opinion, the largest organizations should have their leaders asked to serve as chapter leaders/board members. Why is this important?  If they have numerous team members that participate in chapter events, you can almost guarantee enough attendees prior to even finalizing the event!  We have done this at the Fort Worth IIA Chapter to great success.  Even better, the best way to decrease seminar costs is to get these large organizations to donate a conference room.

If you are able to get the room, the next step is the food.  With any large company, there is a good chance they might have catering.  Regardless, when you are not in a hotel or conference center, the options for food are endless.  Most seminars I speak at average less than $25 per person/day on food costs.

Seminar Budget

Here is a quick look at our initial budget based on our cost savings outlined above:

Description $$$ Notes
Seminar Cost (Per Person) $ 200.00  
Conference Room $     0.00  
Food (Per Person) $   25.00 Breakfast, Snacks, Lunch
Revenue $ 175.00  

Potential Additional Costs:

  • Printing Costs– Printing handouts is not necessary; send them to each attendee to do what they want with the handouts. If the speaker is not open to this, then each chapter should ask why and possibly consider another speaker.

Speaker Costs:

By keeping the costs outlined above down, the chapter can invest in high-quality training from great, well-known speakers. By calculating the above, the chapter is able to quickly calculate the break-even based on the number of attendees.

Based on the above, a chapter can bring a well-known speaker to their seminar with an attendance as low as 20-30 chapter members. This seems like a reasonable plan to bring high-quality training to their chapter and still keep the costs associated with the seminar reasonable.

There are also opportunities to save money when negotiating speaker fees or, at the very least, bring certainty to the speaker cost.  Most speakers have a set fee plus travel expenses or you can negotiate a gross fee with a maximum travel allotment included in the cost.  For smaller chapters and for chapters that are concerned that they will not break-even, we have no problem developing a revenue sharing plan that limits the potential loss a chapter could experience and gives the speaker some upside potential on their fee.  In the past six months, we have worked with chapters with as few as 40 members (not 40 attendees, 40 MEMBERS!) and it has worked well for all parties.

With the right cost structure, chapters of all sizes can bring high-quality training to their members for a reasonable price. Many chapters choose to utilize free local speakers, which is a reasonable option.  However, to get a true deep dive in any subject and to limit the speaker cancellation rate (speakers that are free tend to cancel at a much higher rate than a paid presenter), hiring a professional makes great sense, from a quality and a cost perspective.

The Power of Communication to Build Trust

Last May, my sons club soccer team split off from the large select teams in North Texas and his coach formed their own club, North Texas United FC.  When they began to look for a corporate sponsor, we eagerly volunteered for this role. It is great marketing for our firm and, most importantly, it is great to be able to sponsor a new venture and, even more specifically, my son.  Their coach, Luis Hernandez, is a great coach but, more importantly, a great teacher. I told Luis after our first season on his team that we will go to any team…as long as he is my son’s coach.  I trust Luis unconditionally.  Over the next year, the team began to trust their Coach and vice-versa.

The core of the 2007 Boys team has been together for three plus years.  Out of the 13 boys on the team, nine of the boys have been together for two and a half years.  With boys at this age, relationships develop uniquely.  Kids find other kids they have in common with and niches tend to develop.  This was true with this group of kids.  However, the niches were never to a point that it disturbed the team’s progress.  Were there significant growing pains?  Oh yes, and they were quite massive at times.  Significant lack of communication, lack of trust, lack of confidence…. lack of most everything.  This past November, the boys were wrapping up the fall part of the Plano Premier League Division I season and took a 2-1 lead late against a very pesky team.  Within the last five minutes of the game, two defensive mistakes powered the opponents to a 3-2 win.  The coaching staff, the parents and the players were mystified as to how to right this ship.

In early December, the team played in their first out of town tournament in Austin.  The team drove down at different times Friday, ready to take on their first opponent Saturday morning.  They won their first game in dominant fashion, 4-1.  The energy level was immense and I noticed something a little new…. communication!  Any observer could see a heightened level of effort, better passing and you could hear the boys communicating.  Game two that afternoon was another big win.

Saturday night, the team went out to Plucker’s for dinner.  All the kids…. all the parents.  It was a loud, wild night but man everyone had a good time.  What you did notice is that the kids, even though they knew each other pretty well, got to spend some real quality time together.  Not sure if everything changed that evening but you could definitely sense something was amiss.  Sunday morning, another big win.

The championship game that afternoon was a 5-1 route…it was never in doubt.  The kids rolled into the holidays with their first tournament win.  They won their indoor soccer league and rolled into the second half of Premier League with confidence.  They started the spring with a 4-4-1 record and in 12thplace out of 20 teams.  The first game was a letdown…they reverted back to their old ways.  Up 3-1, they let a lead go in the last ten minutes.  3-3 final.

Game two was against the second best team in the league.  Due to spring break, three starters were out and only nine players were at the game. I know I thought to myself that if they can escape with a 0-0 tie, that would be a huge success.  My son Caleb had to play left fullback the entire game to make up for the absent players.  The team was exposed but the effort level was amazing.  The kids got a goal midway through the first half and went to halftime with a 1-0 lead.  In the second half, the kiddos effort level even kicked up a notch.  They scored with a few minutes left in the game to close out the scoring.  The defense was impenetrable.  The Rush had two-three good opportunities and that is it.  My opinion is that everything changed after that game.  The kids began to trust each other more and more. The sheer excitement when their teammates scored was noticeable.  The level of communication continued to get stronger and stronger.

The team played in three other tournaments in the spring and were reasonably successful.  They advanced to the round of each tournament.  More importantly, the team went on a run that was fun to watch. Over the next eight games, the won seven straight, with the only loss to the eventual league champions 3-2.

Memorial Day weekend, North Texas United FC played in the Dallas Classic League Division II qualifying tournament.  Last year, the team missed out on two opportunities, the last by one point.  This year, the team did not get a good draw; out of the three games, two of their games were against Classic league teams playing for their league lives; if they win, they stay in the Classic League.

The kids were nervous but nothing like last year. There seemed to be a quiet confidence about them.  Game one was against a team that the boys had lost against 7-2 and 4-2 in the past two years. They started slow….and then the quickest player on the team, Ryan, came off the bench to make a great play to get the first score and then another on a free kick!  Going into halftime, they had a great lead of 2-0.  They allowed a quick goal and everything seemed to tighten. Then they scored on a penalty kick and bumped the lead to 3-1.  My son Caleb scored a great goal with 15 minutes left to build an insurmountable lead, 4-1 (final of 5-2).  Huge win to start the tournament.

Game two was against another Classic League team. Tough game and it was a true battle. Down 1-0 at halftime, Caleb scored to tie…. but a questionable offside call occurred, and they lost by the same score. Going into their final game on Memorial Day, they placed themselves in a great position: win and they are in.  Tie or lose and they have potentially one more chance the next weekend.

Monday, it seemed all of the kids went to bed early. This was easily the most important game of their young lives.  Caleb, my son, had a strong quiet confidence about him.  He was nervous but excited.  11:45 am game, right at the most humid point of the wonderful North Texas heat.  The team started out strong, with great effort and good teamwork.  Esau, the other team captain (my son Caleb being the other) scored an early goal…but the defense allowed the equalizer.  1-1 tie at halftime.  A tie for the boys is as good as a loss for the boys.  They knew they had to win to advance.

North Texas United FC brought a ton of effort and communication to the second half.  You could feel the intensity on the field.  They dominated the second half.  The Dallas Kicks had one shot on goal in the second half.  The game was played on their end over 80% of the second half.  However, none of this really matters unless NTXFC scored.  With 14 minutes left, there was a corner kick that deflected off the goalkeeper.  Esau tapped it in and the lead was theirs!  The rest of the game was a defensive struggle…. but the final whistle sounded, and you could see the joy and relief on the players’ and Coach Luis Hernandez’ face.  A young club team just accomplished their main goal!

By reading this, I am sure you can understand the pride and joy I have for this team and, selfishly, my son Caleb.  The morale of this story: invest in your kids and they will never forget the opportunity they have been given.  No…but that is pretty good.  No matter the level, no matter the age, any team can be successful.  The hallmarks of any successful team:

  • Continuous communication
  • Transparent communication

United FC11 logoWhat does this lead to?  The most important aspect of any successful team – TRUST! Without trust, no team can be successful.  Without trust, teammates naturally focus on themselves and thus teamwork is not optimized. We are all excited about the future of these boys in their first season in the Dallas Chamber Classic League Division II!



The Impact of Emotional Communication, Part II

Last week, we introduced the scenario of an emotionally charged discussion on political rhetoric. Here were our three choices:

  • Discuss my thoughts and opinions on the subject and get into most likely an ugly conversation/argument
  • Agree with everything she said (placate her) and continue on in a conversation that grating on me
  • Tell her that it is best that I walk away from the conversation and talk to her the next day

I choose the last option, walking away from a conversation that (a) was only going to get worse if I chose to engage and (b) no matter what I said to her, she would never change her mind because she is one of those people (“she is always right”). Additionally, we were friendly but I did not have a significant emotional investment in the relationship. Due to that, I chose the last option so I would not have a significant conflict but did hope to spare the friendship. After walking away, I went upstairs to my room to check some emails and prepare for the next day. I preceded to receive four or five emotionally filled texts from her, stating how immature I was and how I embarrassed her by walking away from her. Now, if she would have just dropped the subject, I would have moved on and we could have salvaged our professional friendship. After the texts, we actually did not see each other the rest of the conference. I received another text a few days later of a similar nature to the previous texts. Due to that, I decided not to respond. Was this the right decision? What are your thoughts?

The Impact of Emotional Communication, Part I

Communication is key in all facets of life. The impact of emotional communication can be gravely detrimental to a person or company’s reputation. Emotional tends to destroy all logic and reason; when you communicate emotionally, you tend to communicate irrationally. Many examples have occurred during our presidential election last fall and the fall-out from it. Now, please note this is not a political discussion but how the political rhetoric has affected communication.

Last fall, a very liberal friend of mine that I had not seen in months came up to me at a conference and went into political discussion immediately. One of the presidential debates had occurred earlier that evening and she started with questioning me if I had been to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. She spent the next five minutes telling me how incredible the museum was and how emotional it was for her. Now, knowing this person as well as I did and noting the tone of her voice, she was definitely talking down to me. Additionally, in my opinion, telling someone of Jewish descent about the Holocaust Museum is a bit insulting. It is truly a heart-wrenching experience, especially when you lost most of your family in the concentration camps.   Then, after I took that discussion with not many words and a smile (I had no opportunity to add any dialogue), she went into asking me about my thoughts on the debate (this was a rhetorical question, she did not care about my opinion. She just wanted to talk about hers). She went into how much better one candidate was better than the other and everybody at her organization (a major not for profit that I partner with routinely) was very happy and that her candidate will win in a landslide. Now, this conversation occurred late at night this person had a few cocktails for sure. At that point, I had a few choices as to how this conversation would go from here:

  • Discuss my thoughts and opinions on the subject and get into most likely an ugly conversation/argument
  • Agree with everything she said (placate her) and continue on in a conversation that grating on me
  • Tell her that it is best that I walk away from the conversation and talk to her the next day

Which would you choose?


Characteristics of a World-Class Internal Audit Department, Part II

Last week, we introduced five attributes of a World Class Audit Shop (WCAS). This week, we introduced five more attributes for WCAS. They are:

  • Constantly Striving for Improvement – WCAS not only focus their efforts on operational auditing but they constantly perform an internal operational audit – continuously looking to improve audit efficiency and effectiveness through reassessing currently techniques and utilizing technology as much as possible. Embrace change and become a poster child for change inside the organization.
  • Strong Succession Planning through Recruiting and Training – Turnover in internal audit departments can become overwhelming and is constant, especially with the demand for internal auditors currently. WCAS are constantly looking at advancing current team members and replacing others. WCAS invest in training and development, not just for the department but for the long-term development of each employee.
  • Rapport Building – In last week’s blog, we discussed the importance of communication. I believe that communication is key but building strong relationships and trust is as important. WCAS build friendships and mutual respect so that when difficult conversation are necessary, there is enough invested in the relationship to understand that both parties are acting in the best interests of the company.
  • Market the Benefits of Internal Audit – WCAS view all members of the department as sales people. WCAS are constantly marketing the benefits of internal audit and what we can do to help the organization achieve its objectives.
  • Visionary Leadership – Internal audit is an independent function but is it really? We are all paid by the Company so real independence is through the leadership team and CAE. WCAS know when to battle and know when to let it go. There are many jobs in the world and regardless of how great of a position it is, there are always others. On the other hand, WCAS do not circumvent their ethical being for the organization. If it is worth fighting for, they will fight and they know their leadership team will be supportive.

I have no doubt there are more and I could continue on…..What are your thoughts? What is missing from this list?

Why Do We All Work So Hard?

My son and I have at least one or two annual excursions that we spend most of the year planning (I do the same with my daughter). Last month, my son and I attended the National Sports Card Collectors Convention in Chicago. We have a little side business that we run together, selling memorabilia and sports cards on Ebay. I am trying to instill the entrepreneurial spirit in my kids at a very young age. As part of this trip, we get to spend true quality time together. Every year, we shed a few tears at the end of our trips since we have to go back to the “real world”. This year’s trip was much shorter than our normal trips, only going for three days and two nights as Caleb had a soccer tournament that started early Saturday morning. I actually flew from Sacramento to Dallas to pick him up and fly to Chicago; I was impressed that he acknowledged the length of travel (he said “Dad, you are crazy to do all that!”). What made this trip better/unique is that every evening, we spent time watching tv and talking. We usually do this but this seemed to be more focused. He told me about his apprehensions and fear on his upcoming soccer tournament and starting a new school in a few weeks (epilogue – the kids started at a new school this week and it could not have gone better!). That bonding is irreplaceable and so important to our relationship. I could not have had more fun on our trip…..and I also realize that this is why we do what we do. This is why I travel 150k miles a year and work so hard… have moments like this. Every year, we make sure to plan more of these special moments every year.

Characteristics of a World-Class Internal Audit Department, Part I

A few weeks back, I was asked by one of my Audit Senior School attendees what are the key attributes of a world-class internal audit department. I have honestly not ever thought about this since, in my opinion, there are so many and they could be very different based on size, industry and geographic location. After some research and deep thought, here are the ten that I believe permeate through all of the differences previously outlined and are necessary for all world-class audit shops (WCAS):

  • Forward Thinkers – Many auditors only focus on compliance-related risks or only on the past. As Richard Chambers likes to say, auditors must be able to “audit at the speed of risk”. WCAS need to be able to audit strategy and assist the company in assessing future risks.
  • Communication – Auditors must be able to communicate at a high level and communicate transparently and continuously. This builds trust and creates more opportunities where we can assist the business in meeting its objectives.
  • Diverse staff skills/background – A few years back, I spoke at the GAM conference and had an in-session disagreement with an attendee that stated the best auditors are usually CPA’s. I might have agreed with this in my 20’s but as I have gotten more experience, I realize the need for as much diversity as possible in an internal audit shop. WCAS need CPA’s, industry personnel, people from the business, anything and everything that helps gives diverse perspectives to any audit.
  • Add “Value” to the Organization – I have always disliked the term “Value” because that term is subjective and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. WCAS define value through that view and understand what the clients and organization views as value. With that defined term, WCAS constantly strive to deliver this to their clients through their audits.
  • Understand the Objective of Internal Audit – Having a mission/vision statement is key; however WCAS always keep in mind the red book definition of internal audit:

Internal auditing is an independent, objective assurance and consulting activity designed to add value and improve an organization’s operations. It helps an organization accomplish its objectives by bringing a systematic, disciplined approach to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of risk management, control, and governance processes.

It is imperative that WCAS remember we are assisting the organization in meeting its objectives. I ask my classes what the definition of internal auditing is routinely and I would estimate 90% do not remember this key phrase in the definition. If auditors do not remember this, trust me the business easily forgets this key point. This is something WCAS constantly stress through the audit process and this should help connect the audit client with a message they can buy into.

Those are five of our ten; next week we will introduce our next five attributes of a WCAS.

What Makes a Great Keynote?

What should organizations look for in a Keynote Speaker? As a frequent conference presenter, I am always looking for ways to distinguish myself from my peers, especially as a concurrent presenter looking to continue to progress to keynote sessions. We have identified five qualities keynote speakers must have in order to be successful:

  • High-Energy – Keynotes usually kick off a conference or end a conference; in these time slots, you need a presenter that energizes the entire group and gets them excited about what’s to come or what has been heard. It has to have a fun, invigorating feel and make the audience leave excited and enlightened.
  • Entertaining – Keynotes must be extremely entertaining and fun and excite and energize the room and all attendees. They must connect the audience with the overall message.
  • Engaging – Keynotes have to engage the audience and converse with them, not to them. Get them involved in the conversation, make them emotionally connect to the message. The more engaging, the more the audience will feel the message and connect with each person on a personal level.
  • Message/Material must applies to EVERYONE in an Audience: Keynotes have to be able to connect with everyone in the audience and must a message that is universal.
  • Unique – Finally, a very important trait that is usually not pointed out is the uniqueness of the presenter. Keynotes need to differentiate themselves from the pack; it might be as simple as a different way to think or that they dress differently or do not use a microphone or podium…whatever the trait, it needs to stick out and be remembered.

A few months back, I had the great pleasure of attending a fundraiser that ex-Chief of Dallas Police David Brown spoke. I assumed he would connect the audience with the attacks on Dallas in July 2016 and how he graciously handled these events. I was completely surprised when this was never mentioned and he told a wonderful story from his youth and connected the whole room with his message. It was a truly excellent presentation and his speech exemplified all of the qualities outlined above. What else is necessary to make a great keynote presentation?

Creating Effective Webinars

We have all listened in on boring, ineffective webinars. What are the keys to creating a truly effective webinar? Would love to here your comments on what is key. Here are my thoughts:

  • Voice Inflection – One of the pieces of advice I was given when I first started delivering webinars is to have a mirror in front of you when you are speaking. People can hear when you are smiling/showing emotion; it is important to not become monotone when the audience cannot see you.
  • Interaction – My greatest concern when I started delivering webinars is I would not be able to interact with the audience as I like to do live. During our webinars, I engage attendees as much as possible and not just through CPE questions. We have many informal polls and try to answer questions real-time throughout the presentation. The interaction is not the same as live but we still strive for a high-level of interaction on our webinars.
  • Quick Moving Subject Matter – We try to keep the subject matter constantly moving, capturing key points but not dwelling on any slides for very long. I utilize the same methodology (to a certain extent) in live classes; if the slides do not keep flowing, you risk losing the attention of your audience. I tend to have more slides for webinars when compared to live courses as well.
  • Dialogue – As we spoke about previously when we discussed Interaction, we strive to make each attendee feel like they are in a live course or they are in a 1:1 coaching session. We implore attendees to ask questions and lend their experiences to the topic at hand. This perspective adds significant value to all attendees experience.
  • Take breaks (if over an hour) – We currently conduct webinars that run from one to eight hours; we break up the eight hour courses into fourths or two four hour sessions. Regardless, if you are hosting a webinar over one hour, take breaks. Take five minutes at the top of each hour. It is difficult enough sitting through live training but sitting in front of your computer, hour after hour, trying to focus on listening? Very difficult to do, even for the most focused attendee.

Do Speakers Need Introductory Slides?

I saw a comment on Linkedin that questioned a speaker’s need to have introductory slides when kicking off a presentation. A speaker that I know and respect greatly stated that introductory slides are pointless; people know who you are and why you are there and they are unnecessary and a waste of time. Do you agree?

My opinion differs greatly from my fellow speaker and friend, possibly because I am one who utilizes introductory slides. My initial thought is who actually reads through the speaker background prior to a training/speaker session? I know a have certain attendees that attend my courses because they enjoy my presentation style. On the other hand, I think many attendees sign up based on subject matter and if it is a speaker they know and like, even better.

Based on that assumption, I find that introductory slides are necessary but maybe not for the reason that you think. Yes they are to help establish creditability. On the other hand, creditability, in many respects, is inherent in being up on the stage. I believe the introductory slides are to set the mood or tone for the day. I tend to take a very light-hearted approach to most if not all subject matters. I use the intro slides to talk about myself but definitely outline my background with some self-deprecating humor. I also like to be flexible with the subject matter at hand and begin dialogue with attendees on what they are looking to learn from the class. It does serve that main purpose but also gets everyone in the class talking and more importantly, comfortable with a high level of interaction.

Now, here is where introductory slides tend to go awry: when speakers use them as a straight sales pitch. That is when a speaker can lose attendees in the first five minutes of the day.

In summary, speakers should use introductory slides for the following purposes:

  • Establish creditability (to a small extent)
  • Establish the mood for the class
  • Gain the attendees’ comfort and get them to relax
  • Force interaction by attendees

What are your thoughts? Yay or Nay on Speaker introductory slides?

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