Talk might be cheap, but public speaking is good for the bottom line. Premier voices in our industry are now recognized worldwide: JC Santana, Paul Chek, Bob Esquerre and so many others. Have you heard of Lisa Coors, Bill Sonnemaker, Nicki Anderson, Robert Cappuccio or Nick Tumminello? If not, you will. Their ability to effectively communicate their knowledge has helped them become bankable entities. Their presentation skills have drawn the attention of organizations such as ACE, PT on the Net, Fit-Pro, PTA Global, Perform Better, Power Systems and TRX.
Some professionals, such as Fraser Quelch of TRX, Ian O'Dwyer of OD on Movement and Fabio Comana of ACE, are earning a portion of their income from speaking engagements like conference lectures and CEC courses around the country. But you don’t have to be part of a national organization to be in the game; public speaking skills can open up myriad opportunities right in your very own neighborhood.

Be a Local Hero How are you making a name for yourself and your business in your community? In this age of bytes, blogs, vlogs, texts and tweets, the impact of live interaction is more powerful than ever. An excellent live, local speaking event can translate to instant clientele and word of mouth promotion from attendees. Events can be formal or informal. As long as we are providing a valuable experience for our audience and speak with composure, confidence and magnetism, everyone benefits.
How can fitness business leaders, such as personal training studio owners, use public speaking in their community and within the industry to elevate their presence and draw business? Let's look at two primary goals we have as business owners and how they feed each other:
1. Raise the visibility of our company/brand
2. Build our client base
Examples of this cycle are everywhere. Equinox started as a local gym that sought out high-profile members and up-and-comers in entertainment. Their members led to media opportunities, for which Equinox had to be ready with engaging speakers. Over time, the group fitness instructor roster was filled with the city's premier instructors (who became popular because they are engaging in front of a room!) and the company continued to raise its visibility by volunteering programming and services for sporting events like marathons and organizations such as the Fresh Air Fund. All of this activity led to increased word of mouth marketing, which helped to grow the client base.
In addition to Equinox's aggressive marketing of the brand as a whole, the Group Fitness department built a strong relationship with the local TV morning news. Countless instructors (me included) and programs have appeared in front of millions of people.
This series of activities positioned Equinox as a "Go-To" gym; whenever experts are needed for fitness segments, Equinox gets the call and the opportunity for more exposure. That exposure leads to increased brand recognition and even more opportunities for Equinox to be in the forefront when a newspaper, magazine or television show needs someone or something on fitness. The effect: increased business and a bigger bottom line. But what if your business is more of a neighborhood joint than a national giant? The same is true: Getting out there brings people in.

Small Business Booms the Same Way PFP-featured trainer, Lisa Coors, owns Coors Core Fitness in Cincinnati and maintains a full client roster. Lisa accounts much of her success to her public speaking skills. While still in graduate school, Lisa’s final presentation for her MBA prompted her to get more speaking experience, so she became a spin instructor.
The practice she gave herself in the spin studio and the corporate world paid off. Sometime after Lisa became a full-time personal trainer, she was invited to present on the fitness convention circuit. That engagement led to additional speaking invitations and business opportunities. As she established her specialty in fitness working with clients who have Parkinson’s disease, Lisa's experience as a speaker made it easy for her to capitalize on her connections in the Parkinson's community. She became a recognizable figure within that community as well as in the Cincinnati metro area as a whole. Her increased visibility lead to co-presenting with famed cyclist and Parkinson’s patient Davis Phinney. That appearance led to a video deal and a surge in her client roster. Her personal training studio is thriving, and she often has more clients then she has time to train. In the midst of an economic recession, Lisa Coors has actually been able to expand her business.
You can do it too.

Listen for Opportunity Don’t underestimate the power of the Casual Conversation. I have booked thousands of dollars in contracts in chats over dinner. Ask people open-ended questions about their lives and their work. When someone expresses an interest in what you do, respond honestly. Be real. Be yourself. If you are passionate and eloquent and you truly believe in what you do, it will come across. Since you are in a casual conversation, you are not expected to sell. That's an advantage: there's no need to pitch aggressively or convince the other party of anything. Sincerity is powerful. Just share your passion and let the conversation progress naturally. It’s artful and effortless networking!

Tie in Success Create a member (or community) event around new equipment, new services, special promotions, newly hired or promoted trainers, new certifications earned by your staff and continuing educational programs you host. For example, when I teach "Training for the Sport of Motherhood" (my CEC Specialty Certificate course for trainers and group fitness instructors), the facility that hires me has the option to add a special event for their members, too. The event is a meet and greet that I lead and includes a short presentation to the members and their guests on the benefits of prenatal and postpartum fitness, a Q&A segment and an introduction of the facility's qualified staff. All sales, reception, group fitness and personal training personnel staff are encouraged to attend to learn and share the experience with members. It is an excellent tool to promote the facility’s team, foster in-house referrals between different departments and outside referrals by attendees spreading the word to the general public. The format of the event positions the featured fitness professionals on staff as experts. The prenatal/postpartum training and group attendance is catapulted to another level. My fee for leading the event can be made back the same week or even day by the facility through new sessions purchased, which will increase sales even more with the resulting WOM.

Now that you know how much of a difference a little exposure can mean to your profits, go to and check out Part 2 of Ilene's column to learn how to execute a successful event.

Ilene Bergelson has over 20 years of teaching experience; she lectures internationally and is the founder of LifeMoves Health, a comprehensive communication coaching and fitness education company. Her EmpowerSpeak workshops and Light Bytes Audio Programs have helped professionals around the world achieve their potential. For more information, go to


How much of your time would you estimate you spend growing your business?