Trainer Gets Around Tighter Business Climate
April 28th, 2010
The fear of public speaking is as common as the fear of heights, but Don Hutson found that knowing what to say and how to say it makes good business sense.
Hutson, a professional speaker, author and CEO of US Learning Inc., said that even as businesses have slashed their training budgets, the need for professional business speakers remains important.
“Years ago people would hire a speaker because they heard he was good and they needed to fill a slot,” said Hutson. “Today they hire speakers and trainers because they’ve got significant problems.”
Hutson started his company in 1969 after just a year and a half of working for a sales training firm. He started by speaking to small groups on single occasions, but that gradually expanded into larger groups with lengthier needs.
“For the first couple of decades I was primarily known as a sales and business development trainer,” said Hutson. “Of course the term a lot of people use is ‘motivational speaker,’ but that’s not what I promote first and foremost. I’m more about substance than hype.”
But the motivational aspect of his speaking engagements became significant in the past couple of years as his potential clients began struggling to survive.
Hutson’s speaking engagements, which might cover anything from sales strategies to innovation, came more and more with an overtone of restoring positivity to a business.
“In times of challenge people tend to psychologically go towards scarcity or abundance,” said Hutson. “We give them the opportunity to skew towards abundance.”
Some of Hutson’s engagements are directed to audiences via DVD and the Internet, including one he mentioned for a floor covering manufacturer that arranged for one of Hutson’s DVDs to be delivered to its 20,000 distributors every two weeks.
Angela Schelp, president of the Executive Speakers Bureau, which hires speakers for businesses, said Hutson’s style gives business audiences a break from their problems.
“A lot of people just have the charisma, and you’re either born with it or not,” said Schelp. “(Hutson) has the information to share, but in an engaging, entertaining way that people want to listen to. Some speakers are more academic and some are more motivational. I think his stories and personality make him so dynamic.”
Schelp met Hutson as a friend of her parents and remembered him later when she got involved in public speaking herself. She has been hiring him since 1993.
Hutson said that’s how he gets most of his clients – someone will attend one of his speeches and contact him years later after moving to a new company or a higher position. Hutson also has a staff of eight including sales personnel.
Hutson had to think about his own business approach in the past two years, though, and he came up with two new strategies to beat the rough economy.
First he wrote a book, “The One Minute Entrepreneur,” co-authored with Ken Blanchard and Ethan Willis, about the struggles of starting a new business. The book, published by Doubleday, topped the New York Times business books list.
Hutson’s second book, “The One Minute Negotiator,” coauthored by Dr. George Lucas, will be released later this year. Hutson said he hopes to write one book each year.
Second, Hutson started a speakers’ series in Memphis called “The Prosperity Series” for businesses looking for less expensive options than a Taylor-made individual speaker’s program.
The series, which began last fall, offers seven professional speakers in public venues for groups of about 300 businesspeople who buy annual memberships of $695. The speakers are Hutson’s colleagues from the nationwide Speakers Roundtable.
The next in the series, Dr. Tony Alessandra, a behavior specialist from La Jolla, Calif., will speak May 4 at the Memphis Botanic Garden about how to sell to different personality types.
“The thesis is that if you try to sell to everybody the same way, you’re going to leave a lot of business on that table,” said Hutson.
Businesses can buy memberships at any time during the series. A new speaker is added to the series as soon as one completes an engagement.
Hutson noted that in the past decade the professional speakers market has been flooded with hopeful full-time speakers, many of whom call him for advice on breaking into the business. To them he offers the same advice as he does to his business clients.
“Clarify your vision, be passionate about it, make your people feel a part of it, and give it your best shot to grow and change and innovate every year,” Hutson said.
View the original article at The Memphis Daily News.