The Big CLOSE.

Ever wonder how you got to where you are?

Today I was thinking about that…

When I was a kid, every year we’d visit my cousins’ house in Chicago. My family would drive out from Longmont, Colorado and stay there for a couple of weeks, during which time my (indulgent) teenage cousins and I would plan and execute our annual Talent Show in their basement.

The Talent Show featured your standard musical, dance and gymnastic lineup… mostly on roller skates. My mom still has a picture of me at 8 years old in pom-pom pigtails and overalls roller skating in circles around the “audience” (our parents), singing “Tomorrow” from Annie. At right is a picture of me posing before a gymnastic performance.

My talent show duties included: talent recruitment, ordering the numbers, hand-crafting invitations, designing costumes, spreading the word, and getting the parents to attend.

Ah, the glory days…

So no surprise, I guess, that nowadays my favorite time of the year (twice a year, actually) is Summit SeasonThe Women’s Success Summit (May 17th & 18th) is my grown-up version of the talent show. The Summit brings together South Florida’s most ambitious, talented and successful women (and men!) to inspire, educate and ELEVATE the business community.

The theme? The Big CLOSE – all focused around the principles of selling – selling yourself, your ideas, your products, your services. (And by the way, we are ALL selling SOMETHING.)

Clear your calendar, friends, this is one event you must attend. Personally, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. And yes, men ARE welcome to attend, and in fact, several often do!

Aside from the phenomenal content and national powerhouse speakers (check out the lineup here: www.WomensSuccessSummit.com), we have new and exciting sponsorship initiatives for businesses that want to engage 800 upscale, professional and highly influential women over 2 whole days. Check out the sponsorship deck here. Or contact Jessica Lurie for details (888) 531-3830, jessica@mivistainc.com.

By the way, I’m SO excited to announce our new venue, The Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables, (YAY!!!) and our partner, Chispa Marketing, that is producing this Summit.

This Summit will deliver game-changing strategies, foster powerful relationships and inspire those oh-so-important “a-ha” moments to help women like me elevate themselves beyond where they are today. Take a look at some of the amazing speakers and sessions we have lined up, and prepare to be blown away…

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Creating Your Personal Brand – Part I: Defining Your Brand

The most important first step in creating an effective, compelling, personal brand that drives referrals, buzz and word-of-mouth business is to DEFINE your personal brand as narrowly as you can.

Consider these essential elements:

  1. What value do you provide (rather than what services you offer)? Here’s an example, if you are a personal trainer, try positioning yourself in terms of the result: “lose weight,” “get in shape,” or “get hot.” Keep in mind that to cut through the clutter, you’ll want to choose something memorable, something “sticky.” David Barton Gym uses “Look Better Naked.” Now that’s memorable.
  2. Who is your target customer? Get specific. If you say “everyone” or “anyone,” that’s simply not defined enough – especially online.
  3. In what geographic area do you focus?
  4. What makes you different from your competition (your USP – unique selling proposition)? This is a tough one because a UNIQUE selling proposition by definition means that other people can’t say the same thing. So if you say “unparalleled service” or “top-notch quality” that’s simply not unique enough (because everyone says that). How are you truly different from everyone else? That’s your USP.
  5. What are some basic key words (like “luxury real estate” or “small business coach”) that you’d like associated with your name?
  6. What do you want to be top of mind for? From the above, create a one-liner that describes who you are and what you do, that you can start using in multiple places (more on where to deploy this later). For example, mine is “Michelle Villalobos delivers never-boring workshops, seminars and keynotes to help professionals – especially women – market, sell and promote themselves. Our programs are 100% performance guaranteed, or you don’t pay.”

Keep in mind that your goal is ultimately to be “top of mind” for something, and it’s impossible to be top of mind for multiple things – at least at first. So if you have a side business or have two jobs, you need to choose one brand that encompasses both, or just focus on one. Later, once your brand is established, you can start to expand your brand and leverage it into new areas.

Think of Martha Stewart, who got her start focusing on food and catering. Once established in that niche, she started expanding her focus to encompass “homemaking” in general. Plan now for where your going 1 – 3 years out.

Stay tuned for parts 2 – 10 of this Personal Branding Series. Want more? Check out our Personal Branding video training program at http://www.MakeThemBEG.com.

Michelle Villalobos is based in Miami, FL and travels nationally & internationally to consult on brand strategy and deliver workshops, seminars & keynotes, especially for women’s groups and companies marketing to women. 


What Is A “Personal Brand”… And Why EVERYONE Needs One To Get Ahead

Personal Branding is the process of developing a brand around your name and what you do. This brand communicates your skills, shares your personality and conveys your values.

Personal branding is a “must” everyone these days. Whether you are self-employed or working your way up the corporate ladder, Personal Branding raises your profile, establishes you as an expert in something, and increases your market value so you can earn more. Think of it this way: you are the CEO of the business called YOU. In this day and age ANYONE can and should develop a personal brand and deploy it online.

Personal Branding 101

The 3 key steps of personal branding are:

  • Define – in a compelling way – who you are, the value you provide and to whom. What are you the expert of? Who’s going to pay you for that?
  • Develop – create and gather your personal brand elements: everything from your name and the images that are “out there” of you (like a professional headshot), to the professional headlines and descriptions of yourself that you use on social media such as LinkedIn or Google Profiles, and everything in between.
  • Deploy – get your brand out into the world through a variety of tactical means, like social media, networking & referral marketing
Ready to learn more about personal branding? Visit www.MakeThemBEG.com for a free 4-video mini course on the subject.
Who loves you?
Michelle Villalobos (vee – ya – low – bos)

Businesswomen Beware: How I Fell Prey To Unsavory Sales Techniques Targeting Professional Women. MY story.

Me & My Ego

A few months back, a respected colleague of mine put me in touch with The National Association of Professional Women (NAPW) in hopes that I could do some public speaking for them at an upcoming conference.

The woman who called me from NAPW was very warm and complimentary, and did an extremely in-depth interview (about 30 minutes), after which she congratulated me and let me know that due to my “impressive resume and accomplishments,” not only would they consider me as a speaker, but they would also be offering me a complimentary membership in the organization!! I accepted it, gave her all my information and promptly forgot about the whole thing.

A few months later, I got a call from another very nice woman with whom I had another nice long conversation about what I was up to and my recent accomplishments. Towards the end of the call, she tried to sell me a membership to the NAPW.

I reminded her that I’d been extended a complimentary membership because they were considering me as a potential speaker for their organization. She was very confused and apologized. I was busy, so I quickly got off the phone telling her it was no problem and we ended the call very politely. I didn’t think of it again until today.

Today I received another NAPW call (incidentally, from a blocked number). This time the lovely woman on the other line warmly informed that I was selected to be featured in their spotlight of their newsletter, and they asked me to share what my recent accomplishments have been so they could include them! I was honored and delighted and told her all about what I was up to. We spent about 10 minutes on this, me doing most of the talking.

Then she said that she had even more good news for me, that they were pleased to offer me free workshops and seminars in my area after having partnered with the National Seminar Company. It looked good and I was looking forward to checking out some of the programs.

Then she told me she had even MORE good news! I had been nominated for and selected to win the “Woman of the Year” award for my category (business education) in Florida! At this point I remember sensing that she was reading from a script (whenever I’d interrupt or ask a question she would answer then go back a few words in her script and start over.) I didn’t think much of it, though, she was lovely and kept stroking my ego, so I’m embarassed to say, I ate it up.

“Wow!” I said, “that’s amazing, thank you so much!!” At this point we had spent about 15 minutes on the phone. By the way, she added, in honor of my achievement, they were going to send me a NAPW certification that I could attach to my bio and load up on my website, as well as a mahogany-framed certificate to hang up and attest to this momentous honor!

At this point, I was beyond touched and thanked her even MORE profusely. It was at this point that the lovely woman, reading from her lovely script, informed me that there was a price to “reserve your spot” as woman of the year….

For only $995.

Come again? At this point, I was thrown off guard. I had developed rapport with this woman (read: she had stroked my ego for 15 minutes and encouraged me tell her all about my accomplishments), so I was not sure I understood correctly. So I asked her: “Are you saying that I have to PAY for this award?”

“Oh no, absolutely not Ms. Vilabos [sic]! This fee is simply to reserve your spot as an NAPW woman of the year.”

“If you’re saying I need to pay $995 in order to receive the award, then I’m not interested and quite frankly, I’m not happy about being called and kept on the phone for this long for you to sell me an award.”

“Well, I can understand how you might get that impression, but that’s not it at all! In fact, here’s what I can do, I can make an exception for you and just this one time…”
Now I was getting angry. “You just spent 15 minutes on the phone with me, telling me about this award that I won, and telling me about all the things you were going to ‘give’ me, and now you’re telling me that it’s going to cost me $1000. This is the 2nd call I’ve received trying to ‘upsell’ me other things after having been ‘awarded’ a complimentary membership. Can you see how this might be construed?”

“No no. You’re not understanding how this works. Are you familiar with the Hollywood Boulevard stars on the sidewalk?” [Still reading from a script by the way, she must’ve had to jump ahead to “overcoming objections” page…]

“Yes, of course.”

“Well this is like that. There is a board that nominates the candidates, then votes for the winner, but then the celebrity that wins must pay $25,000 to get their star. Well, this isn’t Hollywood, but the process is very similar.”

I went on to express my dismay and displeasure at having 1) been manipulated and 2) my time wasted. The lovely lady quickly turned not-so-lovely and informed me that “just so you know, I WAS going to offer this to you for a special rate of $495.” She went on to add that “it’s just as well,” because they had “plenty of other ‘honorees'” [read: suckers] on their list, and that they would simply go to the next name.

I was so insulted, and so upset that an organization allowed to call itself the “National Association of Professional Women” would STOOP to this behavior, that I looked it up online.

Guess what? I’m not the first or the only to have experienced this. In fact, there are several complaints against NAPW, as well as OTHER organizations that do the same thing! In fact, I discovered that this was not the first time my ego had been seduced. It brought to mind another situation that happened even before the NAPW.

I received a call (referred to me by the same person, by the way) from NAPEW (National Organization of Professional and Executive Women). Same scenario, although I’m embarrassed to say that when they called me (long before the NAPW did), they were able to sucker me out of $199. I’m fuming now that I understand how this REALLY works. Another organization with a similar model, owned by the same people by the way, is “Cambridge Who’s Who.”

And if you’re curious if I actually received any benefit from this? No. No exposure (not even a google search result for my name linked with NAPEW or National Association of Professional and Executive Women). Although when I complained to the person who referred me, I received a package in the mail with a certificate and bio that basically regurgitated my own online bio, though with typos and misspellings throughout.

FYI – these people are BRILLIANT. They use all the tools that work with women. First off, they LISTEN and let you talk as much as you want to. They are masters at getting you to open up and share. Furthermore, they know exactly which buttons to press (I’m an expert at reading personality types, they’re clearly better).

Not only are they brilliant on the phone, it seems they’re also successful at online reputation management. While TONS of search results exist for complaints, a large percentage of the links are broken or have been emptied/cleaned out. Check for yourself. I’m guessing that these “empowering organizations” spend a decent amount of (ill-gotten) funds hiring online reputation cleaners and lawyers. Update: I have been contacted by bloggers around the country who have been threatened with lawsuits and/or offered monetary compensation in order to take down their posts. I have also been contacted by lawyers and received several letters for this post, from which I have had to remove information that I wish you could read. 

Here is just SOME of what else I found:

Disclaimer alert!
1. I found NO evidence that ANY of what these organizations do is illegal in ANY way.
2. In fact, these are COMMON sales tactics that all sorts of “who’s who” and professional organizations engage in.
3. Neither #1 or #2 make it right in my personal opinion.

What do you think? Or do you have a similar story to share? Have YOU been the “recipient” of a bogus “award” or “honor”? Or unsavory sales techniques by a women’s organization or professional organization? I want to hear all about it.

Ciao for now,

Michelle Villalobos (veeyaLOWbos)

How To Deliver a “WOW!” Workshop, Presentation or Speech Every Single Time (Without Boring Your Audience To Tears)

Audience Photo from Michelle Villalobos Workshop "Networking" Miami Beach Chamber

So much business education, training, workshops, seminars and keynotes is based on old school (literally!) ways of educating. Back in the day, students sat in neat rows, stayed quiet and respectfully listened to one person speak (or rather, drone on and on). BOOORRRING!

Meanwhile, we know that human beings learn far better and retain far more of what they learn by participating actively in the process and “discovering” rather than passively “being taught.” Not only are the results better, but people actually enjoy learning much more when it mimics our natural approach – the approach that’s been evolutionarily programmed into us for millions of years – instead of following the didactic, pedagogic approach most of us suffer through in school.

If you’re still in doubt, just watch how a 2- or 3-year old child learns – they LOVE it. They’re curious and eager and want to know everything about everything. And they’re like sponges too, learning huge volumes of information so quickly and adeptly it’s astonishing when you pause to truly consider it. Part of that is because their brains are still forming, but part of that is also because they haven’t associated “learning” with “boring” yet.

How many of us still felt excited about learning by the time we hit the 10th grade? Not I, that’s for sure (though I was still kind of a nerd… but that’s a story for another day). So many teachers, educators and trainers will nod and agree while reading this, but then they’ll go back and create still more boring, yawn-inducing lectures, speeches and seminars.

Why?

I can only assume it’s because they’re lazy, and it takes a lot more preparation to do a seemingly improvised, spontaneous and active program than a scripted, static, prepared one.
So how do you create a great workshop that gets everyone engaged, excited and prepped for learning? Here are five great ways to turn any learning experience into a fun, interactive, educational workshop for adults or teens:

Show, don’t tell. It seems obvious, but make sure you’re really putting it into practice. Instead of describing a case study or a story or a situation, show it. Some ideas: use images, video, cartoons… anything that will engage your audience more than just you, talking, and talking, and talking (“Bueller. Beuller. Beuller…”)

No bulleted powerpoint presentations. If you MUST use a slideshow (even I do sometimes – though I prefer Keynote by Apple) at the very least use it to illustrate points, not to enumerate them. You can always follow up with a handout afterward if you want to make sure they remember all the main points (or if you’re going “green,” upload your handouts to Slideshare, so your attendees can view online or download the files, all for free). I keep all my presentations on my website at www.MichelleVillalobos.com so anyone can see my entire repertoire too. And having that much quality content housed on my site certainly doesn’t hurt in terms of Google rankings either.

As Dr. House of “House, MD” so aptly stated: “Without Socrates, we wouldn’t have the Socratic Method, the greatest way of teaching things known to man (apart from juggling chain saws.)” The Socratic Method is a way of teaching people using leading questions in a logical sequence. These days, with our increasing ADD, using the Socratic Method is a great way to keep people active in the learning process, so they don’t get bored or lose concentration. Study it, learn how to do it, it really works. I once read a transcript in which Rick Garlikov used the Socratic method to teach a classroom-full of 2nd graders how to do binary arithmatic, true story!

Encourage dialogue, particularly with an engaged, interested and active audience. People tend to walk away from workshops and seminars a lot happier when permitted to share their own experience or opinion. Just be careful, there’s nearly always at least one “attention hog.” You’ll need to have limits in place to ensure even distribution of the limelight. For example, let people know they will have 30-seconds to posit a question, or share an experience. This is a great way to get people to “get to the point.” But you’ll need to enforce it…

Speaking of activities, you should always have at least one. For every 1 hour workshop, I try to have at least 2 or 3. They can be short and sweet, just as long as you’ve tested them and they’re sure to illustrate what you’re trying to teach. To give you an example, rather than tell people about body language I’ll bring up two volunteers to act out a scenario based on my direction. The attendees crack up watching their colleagues and the process dispels a lot of resistance to what we’re discussing. Not to mention it’s a great way to put the aforementioned attention hog to good use.

Well, there you have it. Some of my best advice on how to put together a wow! seminar, workshop, keynote or other learning experience for adults.

Good luck and let me know if this article helps you by visiting www.MichelleVillalobos.com and dropping me a line!
***

About Michelle

Michelle Villalobos is the founder of Mivista Success Skills Training, based in Miami, FL. She helps people develop their business skills – particularly networking, marketing, personal branding, sales, communications and presentation skills. – in never boring or yawn-inducing workshops, seminars and keynotes.

“I want to buy the URL for MY NAME but it’s taken… What do I do?”

A question I received from a workshop participant the other day:

Dear Michelle,

I looked at the availability of http://www.myname.com (www.gene____.com). It was taken. However, the .net, .org, .us and all other versions of it were available. Does it make sense to grab the .us or .net since I cannot get the .com? I am too old to change my name. What do you think as I want to purchase the name before another Gene ____ takes your course?

Dear Gene ____,

In general, it is best to own the .com for your name. However, if http://www.yourname.com is taken here are a few ideas:

1. Purchase the others… like .net, .org, .info. They’re so cheap, it’s worth it. It will cost you about $10 or 15$ a year. This is an easy and quick solution.
2. In the meantime, you might want to initiate the process of trying to own http://www.genegutierrez.com, which you still could. How? The following might work if the person who owns the URL isn’t using it (which yours isn’t)

  • On GoDaddy.com you can “backorder” a website for $18.99. Which means it will offer it to you the instant it becomes available (IF it becomes available because the other person lets go of it).
  • You can try to purchase http://www.gene_____.com using a buy agent (in the meantime, go ahead and buy the others) through godaddy (it’s 69.99 to have godaddy broker the deal, there are others out there too)
  • Or you can go to http://www.networksolutions.com/whois-search/gene_____.com and make an anonymous offer. It costs $19 to make an offer.

3. Another option is to instead purchase your name with a middle initial or a middle name. If you do this, be sure to then brand yourself with that middle initial or name on everything going forward!

4. You could also purchase your name with a hyphen between the first and last names, http://www.gene-gutierrez.com (it’s available, I checked). This is a good solution that is cheap. You could still do the other stuff in the meantime.

5. Think of it this way, if you spend $100 on this project, it’s worth it. In the long-run, even if you have 5 domains, it will cost you about 35$ to $45/year. That’s not a lot to own your name!

Once you make a decision, forward that domain to your website (especially to your “about me” page, if you have one). Or if you don’t have a website, forward it to your LinkedIn profile – at least until you do have a place to forward it to.

Good luck!!

Michelle Villalobos
“The 5-Minute MBA”