“A speech may last 60 minutes. Its impact can last forever.” - Martin Perelmuter
Martin Perlmutter is an unapologetic idealist. Martin is passionate about people and ideas. And after 25 years in the speaking industry, Martin believes a great speech can be a catalyst for change. Before co-founding Speakers’ Spotlight, Martin was a corporate lawyer at a prestigious international law firm. While he realized early on in his career that he needed to do something more entrepreneurial, he learned valuable best practices while in law that have shaped his approach to client service and business management. Martin’s views on the speaking industry have been reported in various television and print media, and have been published in over 60 countries. He has been a guest lecturer at several colleges and universities and was a keynote speaker at the Public Words Speaker Forum at The Center for Public Leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School in Cambridge.
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Steve Wells: [00:00:00] This is Steve Wells.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:00:01] And I'm Jeffrey Feldberg. Welcome to the Sell My Business Podcast.
Steve Wells: [00:00:05] This podcast is brought to you by Deep Wealth. Are you a business owner who is wondering how to either grow your business, sell it, or both? Or maybe in today's environment, you're wondering how to make your business pandemic proof.
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Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:00:29] Welcome to Episode 15 of the Sell My Business Podcast. Steve, I know we're both excited about today's guest who not only has a fascinating story of how he took his business, literally from zero to hero during the pandemic, but also his insights on how our community can take their business to the next level through communication.
I'm delighted to introduce Martin Perlmutter, who is in his own words, an unapologetic idealist. Martin is passionate about people and ideas. And after 25 years in the speaking industry believes more than ever that a great speech can provide the impetus for action and be a catalyst for change.
In fact, one of Martin's favorite quotes is: “A speech may last 60 minutes. Its impact can last forever.”
Prior to co-founding Speakers’ Spotlight. Martin was a corporate lawyer at a prestigious international law firm. While he realized early on in his career that he needed to do something more entrepreneurial Martin learned some incredibly valuable best practices while in law that have shaped his approach to client service and business management Martin's views on the speaking industry have been reported in various television and print media and had been published in over 60 countries.
Martin an absolute pleasure to have you with us today. Thank you so much. Why don't we start things off by having you tell us about yourself and your background?
Martin Perelmuter: [00:01:58] Sure. Thanks for having me Jeffrey. I was trained as a lawyer. I graduated from law school.
I was 23 years old. I went and worked at a large law firm and decided fairly early on in my career that I wanted to do something more entrepreneurial and so at the age of 25, I, I left the practice of law. In fact, in, in matter of a few weeks, 25 years ago, this month, in fact, I got married, I quit my job.
I moved, and started a new business with my, with my wife, with my bride. And, if you ever looked at the list of most stressful things to do in life, change of relationship status is high change of career is high. Moving is one of the highest. If you've moved lately you know what I'm talking about.
We sort of got them all over at once. And, we were pretty young and naive and didn't know necessarily what we're getting into, but we embarked on this entrepreneurial journey and, 25 years later, still married, still get along pretty well. and our business has, fortunately, flourished beyond what we had initially expected or hoped for.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:02:58] Well, congratulations. You certainly took the plunge and you put it all on the line, but it, obviously it worked out 25 years later. Here you are. So there are a few interesting stories that you have that I would love for you to share with the community, but why don't we start first with something that's very relevant today and this small little thing called the Corona virus and the pandemic that ensued, like so many businesses, you found overnight that your business had changed. So, it would be terrific if we could hear firstly, what that business is and how you had to make some tough decisions to either pivot and profit or not pivot and just call it a day. So what business are you in and how did it all play out for you?
Martin Perelmuter: [00:03:43] Speakers’ Spotlight is the name of the company. And so, we are an agency representing speakers, people who speak at conferences and events all over the world. So, essentially, we're their agents and, and we're in the events industry. and the events industry has obviously been hit particularly hard by COVID.
For us, the reality set in, I guess it was March 11th, if I have my dates right. Which was the day that the who declared. COVID-19, a global pandemic and in a matter of a few days, and a couple of weeks, we had over 500 speaking engagements, essentially wiped off the calendar.
So pretty much everything we had been working on for the previous several months, going back to last year, we had to essentially undo. So, we had to cancel flights, cancel hotels, and just basically undo all the work that we had been working on. And when we got through that flurry of activity over the course of a week or two, we were staring into the abyss to be completely honest.
There were no speaking engagements, no events that were going to take place over the next few months. And, as, as the weeks went by, we started to realize that this was not just going to be a matter of, three or four months and things were going to return back to normal, but this was actually going to continue on unfortunately much longer.
We're not expecting any live in-person events to come back in this calendar year. And we're hoping that 12 months from now, they will be back, but there's no guarantee even of that at this point.
Steve Wells: [00:05:07] What do you do when that happens?
That's catastrophic. I mean, here, your business in the way you're going to operate is completely changed.
Martin Perelmuter: [00:05:16] Yeah. Well, you stop and you look at the current reality and, so for us, we had to accept that the reality was that.
There weren't any events happening and nobody knew when they would be coming back. So, if you had told me, at the beginning of this year, for example, that some type of event would happen in the world, that would mean there were no more conferences or events for the remainder of this calendar year and potentially longer, I probably would have said, what? I don't see how we can survive an event like that. we're in the events business. And when there are no events, it's pretty tough to have business, but we very early on, looked at what our options were. And, one option was certainly you're hunkered down.
You lay low, you try to ride this thing out. Another option is you do something and take action. You try to pivot and you innovate. And so, we've always defined our business more, but based on why we do what we do and the impact that we can have as opposed to what we do. So, what I mean by that is, we never saw ourselves in the slot filling business. So, we never saw ourselves as someone has a conference and they have an hour slot to fill and we can fill that slot by putting a speaker on the stage. That's never how we looked at our business. We've always looked at it that we have an opportunity to impact our client's lives and the audiences that are speakers get in front of, and it's all about behavior change. So really, we thought all that's really changed is the way these speakers can get their messages out to people. By not defining ourselves by what we do, but instead by why we do what we do, we were able to take a step back and say, okay, what?
We have a mission to try to make a positive impact. And so, we're just going to have to figure out different ways for our speakers to get their messages out. And, the obvious one was virtual, virtual events, virtual speaking engagements. I know we had a conversation early on, one of the people on our team said, thank goodness we're not in the hotel or convention center business, because if you're in that business and nobody can come to your venue, you really don't have much to sell.
Like, it's really tough, but at least with us, we had something to offer and whether it would take hold or not, we weren't sure. But at least we could go to clients and offer this as a, as an alternative, a way for them to help support their employees or staff or they're members of it's an association and continue to get these important messages out.
One of the paradoxes of all this is, in tough times with people in particular need to hear from people who have insights, you can inspire who can educate, who can provide perspectives that can help. Now more than ever, individuals and organizations need to hear some of these messages.
And fortunately, a lot of organizations are very forward thinking and are, people in, in a virtual platform. Others, not yet, but we're confident that, eventually, and I think the longer this goes, the more people are going to realize that they have to do something. They can't just wait for, a year or longer to provide, the people that you're responsible to with, with the support and the tools, and the perspective to try to get through these tough times.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:08:14] So Martin, let's talk about that. You're a survivor, you're a success story, and it's still only months after the pandemic. I mean, as we have this interview right now, we're still figuring out the new normal, a lockdown is still going on, depending on where you are and what country that's in. But if you could, for just a moment to go back to the early days.
And I want us to imagine a business owner who has been laying low. Looking back, were there maybe one or two things that stood out for you that helped you make that decision?
Yes. I don't know how it's going to turn out, but I'm going to do it. I'm going to try something here to pivot the business and I'm not going to be on the sidelines. Any thoughts on that?
Martin Perelmuter: [00:08:57] Yeah. Well, one was that when, when we first started, it was just my wife, Farrah and I, so we didn't have any employees for the first year and a half.
I think it was about a year and a half to two years just trying to get the business off the ground where we sort of did, everything from making cold calls to sending out invoices to, I was even the company courier. In the old days, I'd hop on my bike at the end of the day, ride around and drop off packages at various offices because that could save us, if we could save $50 a day in courier charges, that was a difference between buying groceries and paying our rent and not. So, the big difference from then to now is now we have a, an amazing team. We have 28 employees, who we feel a real sense of responsibility to.
And if we were just going to lay low and basically shut it down, we would have had to let them all go. And, that's not something we wanted to do, for a bunch of reasons. but part of it is, we feel that we have a responsibility to them. And, so that the idea of sort of shutting it down never really entered into our mind because of that.
The other thing is I do believe that, and I’m an optimist, I think by nature, but I'm also realist, but I do believe, that things will get better. They have to, they always do. And we don't know when that will happen, but they will. And on the other side of this, I really believe that, in a time of change and disruption. There's a great opportunity on the other side of it. And so we also wanted to be positioning ourselves as leaders in our industry so that when things do bounce back, if our clients hadn't heard from us for a year, then, it’s kind of hard to all of a sudden start reaching out to them again.
So, by keeping in touch, by trying to just provide value to them, in this period of transition, we really believe that when things do get better and, and we're on the other side of this. That will hopefully be able to benefit from that. So that's, that was, those are a few of the things that sort of crossed our minds, but I think a lot of it was just an instinctual reaction that it's fight or flight thing where, we can stick our head in the sand and feel sorry for ourselves and just watch the calendar tick by slowly.
Or we can do something and if we're going to go down, at least we'll go down fighting. So that was really part of the thought process.
Steve Wells: [00:11:05] I'm curious to know how that happened. Maybe more of the details of it or the process. I know you woke, woke up and all of a sudden you can't have live events.
Did you do a brainstorming session where some people in the company involved, because you had to be creative now, he had to do something you'd never done before. I mean, how did that all transpire?
Martin Perelmuter: [00:11:24] We shut our office down on March 12th.
We had everyone just head home and work remotely. And another thing is if you'd asked me a few months ago, if our company could function virtually, I would have thought no way. Like we have. A lot of collaboration in our office. I would not have believed that we could actually function completely virtually, but that's what we've been doing.
So, I think it was the Thursday or the Friday of that week in March, we sent everyone home and we set everyone up so that they could work remotely. And then on the Monday morning we had a full virtual staff meeting, to reassure everyone that, Hey, we're, we're not going anywhere.
We're planning to figure out a way through this. And the only way we can get through it is together. And we're looking for everybody's input. One of the people on our team right away, chimed in and said, well, what about virtual events? And that's something we've been thinking about.
And the truth is, virtual events, virtual speaking agents are not new. They've been around for at least 10, probably actually 20 years. So essentially since the commercial web became, something that was accessible for most people, there were virtual events in one form or another, but very, very small numbers because people just prefer to meet in person.
I think what we've seen is just an acceleration of the change. That's been very slowly happening over the past two decades. So, we just said, this is, this is it. This is our only hope we got to put all our eggs in this virtual basket. And we started brainstorming. We started creating new marketing materials for speakers, reaching out to speakers, to see how comfortable they would be with these types of offerings and how they would change what they do to work in a virtual environment, because it's a very different, environment to speak virtually as opposed to being on a stage in front of a live audience.
We were able to collaborate with a number of our speakers as well. And we're lucky in our business because we do get to work with, some of the leading minds in a wide range of areas from marketing to human resources, to digital disruption. Had a lot of really helpful conversations with some of our speakers.
And then, pretty quickly said, okay, this is it. This is the, this is the direction we got to go and let's go full speed in that direction. So that all took place within the first week. And, once we realized that this was the direction we need to go, then. Then it was just sort of being all in, but the other thing was, when you think back to the first few weeks of this, you need to be careful because, someone, a guy named Phil Jones, who's a speaker, originally from the UK, who's based in the, in the US now he posted something that I thought was brilliant and it was what we were telling our team, which he said, I'm paraphrasing.
But he said, if you see someone drowning You don't try to teach them how to swim. And you certainly don't try to sell them your course on swimming lessons. You said you reach into the water, you pull them out of the water, you wrap a towel around them. And when they're doing better, they'll be open to listening to what you have to say.
And so that was really our approach was, in the first few weeks of this, it was not the time to do a full-blown sales and marketing blitz on virtual events. So, we are doing the background work of getting the materials ready. But all of our communication with our clients, and in those first few weeks was just to reach out and see how they're doing, because everybody is so affected by this, whether it's their business and professional lives or their personal lives.
So, we spent the first few weeks just having hundreds of conversations with clients just to see how they were. And then after a few weeks, when everyone was settling down and things were starting to sort of normalize a little bit, it was time to start me, making these offerings available, to our clients.
So, it was sort of a tiered approach. And, and in retrospect I think that was absolutely the right way to do it. I think that you have to be really careful. We're in a really tumultuous time right now, as well with, with all the things, the protests and so forth happening, from a marketing point of view, I think every, you need to be aware of what's happening in the wider world and take the pulse and understand, what is appropriate and acceptable and what isn't at any given time.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:15:13] Martin. firstly, thank you for, for sharing that journey with us. And I do want to circle back in a moment to this whole virtual world because it's changed lives and how we're going to be doing things in this new economy. But before we get there, one other question I'd like to ask, and again, I'm thinking of the business owner who has either started to get out there or is already out there, but what have you noticed that internally for your team is now different?
What are you doing differently today to thrive in this new environment? And the same question would be for your clients that you're working with. How have they had to change in regards to what they're doing of getting out there and speaking and spreading the message out there?
Martin Perelmuter: [00:15:57] It is a very different, new world. One of the ironies in this is I actually feel that we are collaborating and communicating better now than we were before. I think in some ways, when you see people every day, there’s a lot of quick conversations that happen and you see people.
So sometimes, for me as a leader, I felt like I don't need to, overtly communicate as much as I maybe should have, because you’re seeing everyone and you feel like, well, of course everyone's connected. We see each other every day. So, one of the things that's really to, to increase the, the, not just the frequency of communication, but the quality or the clarity of it.
So, we started having more regular meetings and we did. So instead of having a monthly staff meeting, we've been doing it every two weeks. First. We did it every week and then every two weeks. We have a weekly sales and marketing meeting, which we did before, but there just feels like there's a lot more to talk about now.
and things are going well. It was sort of like sometimes before the meetings, to be honest, it'd be thinking, okay, what should we put on the agenda today? Not that much has happened in the last month. not much has changed and you'd be looking for things now. It's like, there’s no shortage of things to speak about because things are changing so quickly.
So, I think, in this virtual world, you really have to make your, your, your communication intentional and really think about what you're communicating, how you're communicating it. This applies for whether you're in a sales role or I think in a leadership role.
The intention of your communication has to be incredibly clear. You can't rely on nuance, which she can maybe to some degree in, in person communication. So, I think it has to be really clear. I think that, you just have to try to continue to connect on an emotional level as well.
And it's harder virtually, without the benefit of seeing someone in the flash and, and, body language and things like that. You have make an extra effort to make sure that you're communicating not just the information that you want to get across, but the emotional part of it too, that human connection, because I think that a lot of people are isolated, obviously working from home, some people live alone.
And so, they're really don't have interaction with, with other human beings do on a day to day basis. So, I just think it's so important whether, you’re selling to someone or you're leading or managing someone to ensure that human connection is there even in a virtual space, because otherwise people can really feel isolated.
Steve Wells: [00:18:11] Aside from communication, which it sounds like you've done a fabulous job of, working with your employees and working with your clients and spanning this new world that you're in. What about financial or economic? Have you seen different models or is this to going change the way you look at these things and even for conferences and people used to travel.
How is that going to change?
Martin Perelmuter: [00:18:35] So one thing to be really clear it's this, despite the fact that we are having some success and some good momentum now with the virtual conferences, our business still been hit really hard.
We're way behind where we would normally be at this time of the year. In fact, last month we looked at it, it was the worst month revenue wise that we had since 2005. So that was the bad news. But the good news was that in 2005, we were in the midst of a huge growth period of our business. I actually looked back and we had grown 40% in 2005, over 2004 in 2004, we'd grown 35% over the previous year. So, our business had almost doubled in two years and we were just on this incredible role. Today, despite the fact that there's no events, we actually managed to meet that same revenue we did in a typical month, in, in 2005, despite the fact that there's no events.
I said to everyone, we're keeping score in a different way. like this was one of the best months we've ever had, even though it was one of the worst months we've ever had in terms of revenue. So, we're keeping score differently and, in terms of our industry, to get into some of the, some of the nitty gritty of it.
So, speakers, fees are lower and virtual setting for the most part, which I think they should be. it makes sense. Speakers are fine with that because it's very different for speaker to be able to do a virtual talk from their own home, or go into a studio in their home city, as opposed to having to get on a plane and fly somewhere and be away for, a couple of nights.
A lot of speakers, in fact, half-jokingly say that, they’d speak for free it's, it's a travel. You have to pay them. A four. And so, so the fees are a little bit lower, which is actually an opportunity for some clients. Cause we've had actually a number of clients who there's some pretty, high profile speakers that they've been hoping are trying to get into their meetings for years and they just couldn't afford their fees.
And all of a sudden, now they're actually affordable. So, they can bring in these people who have, ideas, intellectual property, that they want to share with the team. And there's a new way to do it. It's much more cost effective, obviously to do meetings virtually you don't have to be expensive flying people in putting up in hotels, feeding them and so forth.
So, events can be done in a much more cost-effective way. There are some great platforms out there, for virtual conferences that you can replicate a lot of things that take place in an in-person conference, in a virtual setting. Which is great. It's not the same, some people are always going to prefer the in-person. The extroverts in particular I think, they love going to conferences and shaking hands and giving people hugs and just getting the energy being there. But there's a lot of introverts who actually don't love that experience and are actually preferring this. So, a quick, example, we have a client who had a conference that was supposed to take place in the spring, they, they postponed it to July and then quickly realized that that wasn't going to work either. And so rather than canceling the conference, they pivoted to a virtual conference and incredibly their attendance has gone up. So out of about 400 people that normally attend their conference, only one person who was previously registered canceled the registration it's that they don't want to participate virtually.
And they had a number of new registrants who did not normally attend the conference either because it was cost prohibitive for them to fly and put themselves up in a hotel to be there. Or they had family commitments that made it difficult to be away from home for a few days.
So, their attendance has gone up, which is great. And so, the price point, I think, is a bit lower for virtual conferences because, again, you don't have to feed people, you don't have to rent space. So, I think that the future of our industry is going to be a hybrid model. I think when, once this is behind us, once there's a vaccine or treatment or whatever needs to happen, so people can meet again in person.
I think what we're going to see is hybrid conferences where, some of the attendees will be there in person and some will attend remotely. Some of the speakers will be there in person on the stage and some of the speakers will be there remotely. And it'll just be a fluid thing. I really believe that's the way a lot of conferences are going to occur or take place in the future is in this hybrid model where people can choose whether to attend in person or not. Some people will prefer one over the other, but there's no reason it has to be an either or I think it's, it can be a both end situation.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:22:41] It's interesting. I remember this one session. It was a terrific name. A very well-known name, a subject matter expert in this area who did a virtual presentation. And I was excited to be a part of that. But the truth is it just didn't pan out the individual's onscreen personality or the way the individual was doing the presentation just didn't work.
And as I thought about that, it parallels to what's happening right now because in this new economy and this new way of doing business, every company is going to have a virtual component that either wasn't there before. Or even more so than what may have been there before. And so, Martin you're right in the middle of all this, because you're working with your client base, who are these thought leaders, these intellectuals, these subject matter experts.
And I know offline, you're sharing with me that you train your speakers on how to properly present, not just in person, but now also online. So, I'm wondering what the parallels are for any business out there. How can the business ensure that it's going to be a professional and enjoyable experience when doing whatever activity, they're doing in the online world, what tips would you give?
Martin Perelmuter: [00:23:56] We don't necessarily train our speakers, but we certainly give them tips and guidance and there's professionals out there who can really get into more of the nitty gritty of, of the training. But we definitely are sharing some best practices with our speakers to try to ensure that the virtual events are a success.
And I think, one of the things that starts with the technology, Dedicated internet connections, proper lighting, things like that are just, the starting point, What sure way to derail a virtual presentation, whether you're speaking to thousands of people are just having a one on one meeting with, with a client or a colleague is, that you got to be seen and heard and, and look professional. It's shocking actually, sometimes you'll see these highly regarded people who, they’re doing, an interview, that you see on CNN, for example, they’re sitting in and it's like the lighting isn't good.
And the Internet is choppy and so forth. So, having good technology, is the starting point, obviously. In terms of presentations, one of the things we're really, strongly recommending to our speakers is making them interactive. So normally, when a speaker delivers a keynote, let's say it's an hour a presentation.
Normally they speak for an hour and there may be a Q&A at the end, or maybe it's just an informal sort of meet and greet, but I'm generally not a fan of Q and a or interaction during a regular in person keynote because especially if you have a large audience, if you make it interactive, it's really difficult to bring the audience back sometimes, and then the QA doesn't always work. I find it sometimes awkward. The presentation ends. And if fitness speaker says any questions and nobody knows if they're supposed to clap or not. And then it's sort of like this awkward moment where no one knows what they're supposed to do, but in a virtual setting, it has to be interactive.
If you've got an hour speak for 30 or 45 minutes, max and leave at least 15, 20 minutes for questions, or one of our speakers has a really interesting format where what he does is his. talk basically breaks down into four main components or modules. So he does the first segment takes about 10, 12 minutes, and then he lets people know in advance, submit questions, and we'll get into some questions.
So, after he finishes that first 10 or 12 minutes, he addresses a few questions that have come in that are on people's minds. And he'll do that for three, four, five minutes. Then he gets into the second component, the third, the fourth, and it works really, really well. So, I think that that's the key because let's face it. You can watch a TED talk, online that is highly produced. It's going to look great. There's a big live audience. That's always going to look better than seeing someone, sitting in their home office like we are, speaking into a camera. So, the difference between do a prerecorded TED talk and alive virtual presentation is the fact that it's live and it's happening in real time.
And so, you have to engage the audience. And, and, and draw them in, in order to, I think, to keep, keep their attention. And then the other thing is it's not going to work for every speaker. Some speakers are really need the, the audience, the energy that an audience gives them back and they feed off of that.
And they're going to struggle in what is essentially a vacuum, especially speakers who use a lot of humor. Some of them may find it difficult. when they're used to getting, the response from the audience and they know that the audiences is on board because they're laughing at the right, points in the presentation. In a virtual setting, you are in a vacuum.
So, you just have to get comfortable with that. But, we’ve seen, one of our speakers, a guy named Ron tights uses a lot of humor in his presentations. And it's works incredibly well, even in a virtual setting, he doesn't know if anyone's laughing of course, but he's just got to trust that hopefully people are.
It's a more intimate experience in many ways. And, it feels like a one on one conversation, between the speaker and the audience. But I think just making it interactive, being. cognizant of the fact that it's very easy for people to just tune out, start working on something else, shut off the presentation.
You have to keep them engaged throughout, otherwise you'll, you'll lose your audience
Steve Wells: [00:27:39] I was thinking about, a lot of our companies that we work with are going through a process or preparing to sell. And part of that process is always making presentations.
You're going to have a potential buyer, come in, take a tour of your facility. You're going to show them around. And of course, sales situations, you’re generally. In front of a group, but sometimes it can be a large group. So, a lot of what you're saying, I think is going to have application for any type of presentation.
Whether it's formal, like you're doing, or something that might've been a little more casual or even a sales presentation, do you think there's going to be a different application. For instance, when you were talking? I, I imagined, I’m there. I wanted to listen to the speaker or if I'm doing a presentation, would you want to incorporate any other video or is that distracting or do you think maybe on a location instead of in an office, it should be unique. You're bringing actually the world into the meeting?
Martin Perelmuter: [00:28:38] Visuals are great. So, most of the speakers that we work with, continue to use visuals as part of their presentation. So, it may just be, sort of a PowerPoint type presentation, images to support what they're saying. A video can also work well. I think what we're going to see as this world evolves, this sort of virtual event world evolve is people up in the game. So right now, because we're all sort of stayed home for the most part, and it's sort of, it's still in lockdown. it's acceptable for the speaker to just be sitting in their home office. That's what everybody's expecting and that's fine. We have one client, for example, and they want the speaker to do the virtual presentation from a studio because they'll be proper lighting sound.
They'll have multiple cameras. so that's, that's one thing we're already starting to see. Now we knew we were going to see that, whatever speakers, Shawn Kanungo is his name who speaks on innovation and digital disruption. He's taken this to another level where what he's done is, he's actually rented out a theater.
in his home city, it's like a three, 400 seat theater and you could probably get a pretty good deal on the rental rate right now because they can't, they can't use it for anything else. He's hired a camera crew. And essentially what he's doing is he's delivering his virtual presentations from a stage and he, and he makes fun of it too.
Like he shows the audience there's no nobody's sitting in the audience, but he's on a stage and I think it gives him the energy of like being on a stage and moving around and he's got it. Multiple cameras. So he can walk, to the left and speak into this camera and then he can come back and it's a really, different experiencing someone present in that way then, then, just sitting in there, in their home office and, One of our speakers is a guy named Graham Sherman who, owns a brewery so, he's, like a craft brewery microbrewery, and he's got a beautiful, facility, that he's doing his virtual presentations from. So, it's actually like he's in the brewery.
And so, as he's talking about some of the things, he speaks about you can see it right there. You can see, the big, containers that will be here and everything else. So, it's an experience. So, there's ways to get creative with this. Absolutely. And I think that’s important.
That's a. something that, that isn't always, when you're on a stage, it can bring in some good audio-visual support, but you're somewhat limited in the virtual space that you actually really are only limited by your imagination. There are things that can be done that actually can really up the experience for the audience.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:30:50] Speaking of imagination and adding value to your community. Martin, you did something very interesting yesterday, which I want to briefly talk about, and we'll begin to wrap things up after that, but you mentioned at the start of the interview that. When there's a pandemic going on. I think this was during our offline conversation, that when, when something challenging is going on, there's always a time and a place to sell and not to sell.
And in the past few days, there's been all kinds of protests and people speaking up about equality and it's been, sweeping the nation. You made a decision which play to your strength then, and it was a pay it forward to the community. which I thought was brilliant. Why don't you tell the community what happened yesterday?
Some of the thinking that went into that, and it's a great cause that you're supporting, but it also shows how you became a value giver to your client base and enter the community, which I think during these times, every business should be thinking about, tell us about that.
Martin Perelmuter: [00:31:56] Sure. Thank you. Yeah. So, I'll just take a step back.
So, one of the things we did from, from early on in the pandemic was because we were able to rely on our speakers so much for guidance and counsel to help us through this as a team. And whether it's just, providing us with some business acumen and ideas or support, like one of our speakers for example, is an expert on resiliency.
And so, having her talk to the team and give us some tips on how to be more resilient and how to get through this was super helpful. So, we decided, why don't we do a virtual speaker series and take these experts are really relevant on timely topics and expertise and just put it out to our clients.
So, we've been doing that now for about two months. And the feedback has been amazing. We bring getting on average about 600 or 700 clients, for each of these, events and just great feedback. And of course, it indirectly also gives the speakers exposure and the hopefully, we’re hoping that some clients will like what they hear and realize that the virtual presentations can be impactful and hopefully hire them for their events.
So that was sort of the backdrop. But when I first saw the video of George Floyd, being murdered on a, on a street in broad daylight in Minneapolis by, now an ex-police officer. I mean, it was just hard to believe. And I know that for, for, for people of color, it's not as hard to believe, but for me being a white male, I knew that this happens, but it's not something to be honest that I think thought about every day, because it doesn't necessarily affect me directly every day.
Certainly, this is different. I think a lot of people had a whole range of emotions, disbelief, shock, heartbreak, anger, and ended up on helplessness where I just felt like this is just a horrible problem in society. And what can I do if anything, and then I read a op-ed, by Masai Ujiri who's the Toronto Raptors President.
And he essentially gave a call to action and said, if you're a leader or a person of influence, you have a duty to do something, to use your, influence, to, to try to affect change and to call out racism. So, I started thinking, we have this, amazing platform. We have people that we work with speakers who have expertise and have voices that are powerful.
We have clients who are in positions of influence, who run organizations, who create large events where they can influence people. So yeah, this wasn't a business initiative. It was really a thought of why don't we try to do something that can get this conversation out to more people.
So, I reached out to a couple of our speakers who I really trust and have known for a long time, and asked them both. So, both people of color, who, whose opinions I just really trust and said, okay, what do you think of this idea? It's well intentioned, but is this misguided or is this a good idea?
And they both said 100%, this is a great idea. This is exactly what you should be doing. And I said, well, would you be willing to participate? And they said a hundred percent. So, we put together a panel of five different voices. Five people have different perspectives, but all people of color, all who have had personal experiences dealing with racism and, and also have solutions to offer. And so, we, we put this up to our clients. we sent it out and we had about 400 clients registered in the first few hours and we thought, wow, this is really striking a chord. So, we all put it together very quickly, all within a few days.
We sent out the invitations late last Thursday. And the event was yesterday, which was a Wednesday, so less than a week. by the beginning of this week, we had over a thousand clients had registered. So, we expanded our Zoom account from a thousand-person max to 3000, which is the next level up.
And then we invited, guests. So, we put the invitation out beyond their clients. and just sort of put it out there and said, anyone who wants to attend please do. And we ended up with over 2000 clients and guests, yesterday it was an incredible conversation. It was raw, it was emotional, but it was real.
It was a real conversation. And, it was just a privilege to be able to help facilitate that. And our hope is that, the conversation doesn't end there, that’s, when the new cycle moves on, when the protest die down over the next few weeks as they probably will, the important thing is that these conversations continue in people's homes. In workplaces and that if we keep the conversation going, then we can, I think, see if the change happened that needs to happen in society. And it's a solvable problem. that's the thing I've learned.
I've learned a lot over the last few weeks and listening to some really interesting people who have real solutions and it is a solvable problem, but it's going to require everybody up to be on board and it's going to require a lot of leadership and political will. And so hopefully, we’ll see that happen because it'll make the world better for everybody if it does.
So, if we can have a tiny, tiny role to play in helping move the conversation forward, then that's pretty exciting thing for us to be able to do. It was an amazing day yesterday and we just hope that's the beginning of being more actively involved in trying to affect some positive change in this aspect of society.
Steve Wells: [00:36:49] Wow, Martin, it's so inspiring. I mean, really, really inspiring. I know Jeffrey, you agree with me. It’s, just to think we've had these crazy things in our world and it’s the whole world. I mean, we had the coronavirus and of course now this unrest is primarily in the US is where it started, but it's spread all over the world and to think how you have taken those really difficult, difficult situations and turn them around and found positive places to, spend your energy and make a difference.
It's very inspiring and I think all business people could take a, a page out of your book. So, I appreciate you sharing that. As we wrap things up, we like to ask our guests, if there's just one thing that you would want to tell our listeners and, one thing that you're, you've taken away to help them through, multiple topics, what are the primary things that you'd want to share with them about your experience to help them in this time where they are?
Martin Perelmuter: [00:37:46] Oh, that's a great question. Human beings are our resilience. We are, more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. And, what we're dealing with now is tough, but it's nothing compared to what people have dealt with in the past.
Both of my parents are Holocaust survivors. My mother, it was her birthday a few weeks ago and we went with our kids over to her house and through the window, sang her happy birthday and we couldn't see her in person, but, as I looked at her, through the window, I thought, her first few birthdays were spent, in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II.
And, she’s been through much worse and, and she'll get through this and we all will get through this. And it's tough being socially isolated, but let's face it for many of us we're lucky where we're living in a comfortable home. We don't have to worry about putting food on the table for our families.
Sure. It's tough. Some of us have had setbacks with our business or our finances or what have you, but we're not in danger for the most part of, ending up on the street, So just trying to keep things in perspective and realizing that yeah, it's tough times for everybody right now.
The way I get through this is I think how fortunate we are, because we are in a much better place than, than so many people are. And so, that, certainly don't feel sorry for myself at all. We're fortunate. I was talking to a friend of mine who, who lives in Bogota, Colombia, and, we were chatting and he was saying the difference between, where you live and where we live it's and your country when things like this happened, your government looks after the most vulnerable people. They do their best and not perfect, but there are programs in place to try to help people, whether it's government assistance, whether it's providing support. In his country saying that the, the poorest of the poor are just left hanging, like there's nothing the government does for them.
I read recently that out of the 200 or so countries in the world, there's about 20, that have programs like we have, in North America and other countries in Europe and about 180 of the 200 countries in the world really don't have anything. When something like this happens, it's just tried to survive if, if you're involved in a vulnerable situation.
I think just putting it all in perspective, we're lucky to live in a part of the world where, we have, opportunities to succeed whether you may love the government at any given time, but at least there are systems in place to support the population and try to help us through it.
So, I think it's just keeping perspective and staying optimistic in spite of the fact that there certainly are real challenges that. That business owners are facing that everybody's facing, but I'm keeping that perspective, I think, is, is this the best thing that I can do? And I guess one, one thing I would recommend to others if they're feeling down or feeling sorry for themselves, because, we will get through this.
And, and I do honestly believe that we will be better as a result.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:40:32] Martin, your resilience and hope for a better tomorrow is absolutely terrific. One last question for you. If people want to know more about you, if they want to connect with you, learn about what you're doing, maybe even have one of your speakers speak for their company, or maybe they want to become a speaker.
Where can they find you? Where's the best place?
Martin Perelmuter: [00:40:54] Sure. Well, our, our website is www.speakers.ca. So speakers.ca that's the website, or you can just Google Speakers’ Spotlight. I'm also on LinkedIn, we'd love to hear from anyone.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:41:08] And we'll certainly include those links in the show notes, but once again, terrific information and insights and wisdom.
Thank you so much for your time today and being a part of this interview.
Martin Perelmuter: [00:41:18] Thank you for having me. I really enjoyed the conversation with you both.