Q. Want to live faster or slower? A: Yes.
Want to savor food (or fashion) slowly but grow your career or business faster? Try a Speed Coaching event. From Hong Kong to Anaheim, this wildly popular format is being adopted to serve diverse crowds quickly. They range from those who got pink slips to food and beverage folks, non-profit staffers, journalists, executives, students, government staffers, indie business owners and, well, even coaches. It may be your next business – or way to attract clients.
• Picture the scene. People “are lined up outside an exhibit hall in a Manhattan hotel. The doors open, and they rush to tables set up around the room. They grab a number for each of the experts they wish to consult.
When it is their turn, they get five minutes to blurt out their questions above the din. A small digital clock on each table tracks the fleeting minutes.” Speed Coaching session times can vary from five to 20 or 30 minutes. Depending on your coach, that will seem too brief or too long, of course. And when time is short coaches can be blunt (I mean direct).
Some Speed coaching events are free, others include keynoters, workshops and meals for up to $350.
• At the Samuel Adams Brewery in Boston, sixty microentrepreurs “jumped on the opportunity to rotate through 20-minute discipline specific stations with 26 coaches — many of them Sam Adams employees — to get advice in business consulting, marketing, sales, people management, financing, legal advice and more.”
“Some brought their food, others came with logos and package concepts, yet others had a specific business problem they needed help solving,” said marketing expert, Risa Sherman who coached on behalf of her client, Sam Adams.
Thinking of hosting a Speed Coaching event? Involve sponsors and coaches that serve the same niche
This Speed Coaching event, part of the American Dream program, targeted entrepreneurs in the food, beverage and hospitality business. Thus the lead sponsor, The Boston Beer Company partnered with a non-profit that trains microentrepreurs - ACCION USA.
To spotlight Boston Beer, founder Jim Koch gave a talk as did the president of another sponsor, Carol Coutrier, with the Massachusetts Specialty Foods Association. The danger is if keynoters are boring and sour attendees on the event. In this case, coach Risa Sherman wrote, “for many, the highlight of the event was listening to their talks.”
Sherman dubbed this approach by Sam Adams as “strategic skills based volunteerism.” Another participant, Erika labeled it “engaged philanthropy.” Whatever you call these partner-based Speed Coaching events, they can leverage value and efficiency for all participants.
That’s a good thing in a bad economy. (The format proved so popular that the partners chose to host another in Providence.)
• And on the west coast over 200 entrepreneurs showed up last month in Anaheim (it was free) for the “Small Business Speed Coaching Test Drive.” It’s part of a cross-country tour co-sponsored by SCORE (experienced, often retired business folks) and American Express’ Open Forum group dedicating to supporting small business.
Their format includes, not only 30-minute speed coaching sessions, but a keynoter, panel discussions, workshops and a mixer. Topics include strategic business planning, marketing and business finances.
• Women’s Leadership Exchange promotes their popular Speed Coaching events as an opportunity to have private coaching from experts, “many of their coaching services typically run as much as $500 per hour.” (That might be a stretch.)
• Here’s still another format. “A Speed Coaching & Networking Lunch.” Just $27. Aspiring local government leaders in Northern California can connect one-on-one with senior managers from cities, counties and special districts this month.
• To help their women students learn how to brand themselves (and to build the sponsors’ brand visibility) Wharton forged a partnership with their alumnae group and others S.F. Bay area partners - Financial Women’s Association and Ascend - to jointly offer a Speed Coaching day. Deloitte, Clorox and other supporting organizations recruited volunteer coaches.
As you consider the role you might want to play in Speed Coaching, consider the benefits to participants in this event. It managed to:
- Raise the positive, public visibility of all sponsoring organizations.
- Enable students and alumni to get to know each other and, in some cases form friendships and mentoring relationships.
- Strengthened ties with alumni involved, which can payoff in future fund raising other volunteer needs.
- Help the college forge local corporate partnerships “with organizations that share values like development and diversity” - and, of course, raise Wharton brand visibility and credibility.
- Provide sponsoring companies with a first-hand look at rising stars as potential employees.
• Software firm, Siveco, is such a fan of Speed Coaching it supports its customer/users by providing them in two-hour sessions. Could your company or membership-based club or association offer it as a service? If you did, your organization might enjoy …
- Better, happier customer/member performance.
- Loyalty to your firm or other organization.
- Appreciation from participants because you facilitated their collaboration with each other after meeting at your Speed Coaching event.
• What next? Virtual Speech Coaching. That seems to dilute the purpose of getting fast but in-person advice.
Some hints if you choose to attend a Speed Coaching event:
• Carefully review the list of experts, if provided in advance, to choose your top two to meet.
• Use old-fashioned 3×5 cards to write your questions out ahead of time, one set per coach. On the backside of the card or in a notebook take notes on the answers you get.
Diane Cuniff, for example, of cageless doggy daycare The Bone Adventure, wanted advice on whether to buy or lease property for a second location. And Monica Herrera and Ronald Brown are starting a biofuels project so they want to know how to get government contracts.
• Take a digital recorder, say an Olympus and, with their permission, tape sessions.
• Later, thank every coach with whom you met – preferably by email. It’s the polite thing to do. Plus your coach and/or the sponsoring groups may use your well-crafted “thank you” as a testimonial – thus boosting your visibility.
What If …
• Your group hosted a Speed Coaching event? Some member-based groups, like National Tour Association are ideal for speedcoaching at their annual meeting – or as a pre-conference afternoon.
After I spoke at NTA I was fascinated watching the long rows of tables at which locale promoters leaned forward over their photo-filled spiral notebooks, alert and ready for the precious ten minutes to show each bus tour operator why he should stop at their sight to see. In my Sausalito, whenever I see tour buses open and tourists spill onto our main street I wonder. What was the pitch that sealed the deal to drop them off here?
• You organized a Speed Coaching event for your profession or industry – as a service and/or to make money? You know, first-hand, the issues and opportunities your peers experience. What experts have the skill, interest and credibility to coach them? How would you make it worth their while to volunteer?
Beyond the obvious joy in sharing knowledge with people who really want it, how does the way you design the event, its promotion and online visibility afterwards help them attract clients or boost their career in their corporation?
What companies and associations also want exposure to that niche? They could be sponsors, recruit coaches and other volunteers - or survey attendees where the results would be helpful to them, the respondents and other people like them.
• You offered to recruit volunteers to cover a Speed Coaching event? Other than the private coaching, be sure that other parts of the day are videoed so that the learning and visibility for all participants continues.
Volunteer citizen reporters can use a Flip to video:
1. Sessions: keynote(s), panel(s) and workshop(s) if you have them
2. Coaches, and those in #1 in short two to three minute interviews:
“What are two of your best tips for these attendees?”
“What one or two books do you recommend for our attendees and why?
3. Attendees, also in brief interviews, roving the event, asking:
“What is your favorite bit of advice so far – from whom?”
“What will you do differently after today?”