Helena Bowen

How Speaking Makes Sales Simple with Helena Bowen


Diane: [00:00:00] Hey, Hey, I'm so excited to have the incredible Helena Bowen on the show today, she is a speaker coach and speechwriter, and has coached over 150 Ted and TEDx speakers. And they have got 91 million views online. So I think we could all use some of those stats. So I am pretty darn excited to hear from her on how we should be using speaking and all businesses. Hey Helena, welcome to the show. Helena: [00:00:26] Hey, thank you so much for having me. Diane: [00:00:28] I always enjoy speaking to you whether it's where we met on a rooftop in Italy or whether it's online in the middle of a pandemic. I'd love to start with just letting the listeners get to know you and your lifestyle business a little bit. Helena: [00:00:41] Yeah, certainly. So I'm a speaker, coach, and speechwriter, as you said, I said, and I'm kind of a solopreneur. I have VA support and, contractors here and there, but mostly I'm a solopreneur. And I started my business about three years ago after having it as a side hustle for many years. So I was working in Hollywood, in film and television and I loved that job, but I truly despised the lifestyle. And that's actually what encouraged me to start a business was not even the business aspect of it and the freedom of running the ship. It was more just the lifestyle. That is what I wanted. so not many people know this and they certainly don't tell it to you in film school, but in Hollywood, the minimum number of hours that you're on set is 12 hours a day. And it's more like. 14, 16, oftentimes more hours a day. I had some shows that I was working on where I think the worst I had, it was about 21 hours a day and it was so bad that I was literally having my friends and boyfriend at the time, pick me up and drop me off because I didn't think I could safely drive back and forth to work because of how long the hours were. Diane: [00:01:54] Oh, my gosh, all that glamour of television. Helena: [00:01:57] Oh my gosh. I love film and TV and it's so much fun, but the lifestyle is insane and I'm hoping actually that the pandemic will change that because I've seen a lot of people talking online about, Hey, like why did we do it this way? Should we just maybe be more normal? Like any other, nine to five, nine to six, kind of a job. but they don't even rate. I was feeling super burned out by the lifestyle. And I was looking up at them, the people who were above me, people who were 15, 20, 30 years ahead of me in their career and thinking, Hmm, I don't know if I want to be them. Because a lot of them were just beyond, clearly burned out. They looked, decades older than they actually were. They were chain-smoking. They were stressed. They were unhappy. A lot of them had really bad relationships with their families. If they had kids, a lot of times, they never got to see them because they were always on set. And then the DGA, the Directors Guild of America, released something that was like the average life span for someone in my job, which was an assistant director was 55 years old. And I was like, Nope, that's not going to work. I don't want to do that. Diane: [00:03:06] I guess it's not that surprising if you think about like 21 hours a day. when they say that you're not really meant to sleep under seven, you didn't even have a life for seven hours, let alone sleep for seven hours. Helena: [00:03:17] Totally. Yeah. And it was one of those things where it took over my life. Most people who are working at a freelance level and in Hollywood, you can't commit to going to someone's wedding. You can't commit to a baby shower. You probably are going to have a tough time booking your holiday travel, that kind of thing, just because the schedules are so unpredictable and so all over the place. nevermind the fact that in addition to it being a minimum of 12 hours a day, those hours are also not consistent. So it wasn't like a consistent 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM. In one week you could be starting at 7:00 AM, 12:00 PM and 3:00 PM, in the same week. So it's just crazy and all over the place. And that really taught me the value of lifestyle and how, having a lifestyle. that Doesn't work with, you can just do so much harm to your health, even if you love the job, which I love the job. I loved what I did, but the lifestyle just would not work. Diane: [00:04:10] so how did you get from there going, okay. I'd like something a bit more lifestyle to being like, Oh, here we go. I'm going to coach some of my favorite TED talks Helena: [00:04:20] yeah. completely accidentally is the answer. So I had a year in 2014 where I was so confused. I literally went through this period of like, Oh my gosh, Should I go to medical school. Should I become an artist? I had no idea what to do. I just knew that what I was doing wasn't working. And then I ended up getting a job at HBO, which thank God was so much more normal inside the studio at HBO. You're working more of like a nine to six, nine to seven, kind of a job. When I first got that job, and it's funny because that's just normal hours for most people. But when I first got this job, I literally had this feeling of what do I do with all of this time? should I pick up some hobbies? Like, what do I do? There's so much, I have all these evenings to myself. I have weekends. And, I started volunteering for TEDx because I was just interested in the brand. I really liked it. I actually spent my entire life savings at that point to go to Vancouver and get the training by Ted to become a TEDx organizer. and so that volunteering really went from zero to 60. mainly because I suddenly had all of this free time that I didn't know what to do. and. So I was volunteering at nights and weekends, and luckily HBO had a super generous vacation day policy and volunteer policy. And so I would spend all of my vacation days volunteer days, et cetera, flying around the country and volunteering at TEDx events. And I did that for about three years, working at HBO and being like practically a full-time volunteer for various. TEDx organizations and somewhere in the middle of those few years, I was just like, damn. I wonder if this could be a full-time business. And I had absolutely no idea how to get there. my mom has a business. but She's a veterinarian. Like she's been doing the exact same thing for 40 years. She doesn't do any marketing, like very, very different from being an online entrepreneur. And I didn't have anyone on one in my life who did. That I just straight up did not know how one just starts a business. so I started looking into it and I actually stumbled across Marie Forleo. So while I was still at HBO, I did Marie Forleo's B School. And that kind of got, yeah, me thinking in the direction of Oh, okay, this is kind of how online entrepreneurs can do it. This is how marketing works now. Diane: [00:06:37] Yeah. And it's interesting because you started working with those speakers, but you have slowly transitioned into saying to other entrepreneurs like, Hey, speaking, Over here, and for a lot of us, I think when we think about speaking in our business like TEDx is the Holy Grail, Helena: [00:06:54] yeah, Diane: [00:06:55] you've been on that stage, that's it? Like you've made it, you need to do nothing further in your business. Hooray. And I know you, I know what you think on that topic. So I am being slightly sarcastic, but it is like considered that Holy grail and you have so much access to it. What do you see, parallel wise with speaking TEDx style and speaking for your business? Helena: [00:07:18] when I first started my business, I had no idea who my ideal client was. I knew that, in working with Ted and TEDx, the majority of the people I was working with were academics and scientists and researchers. So that was originally the client base that I went after. And I very quickly realized that they were kind of not interested and then at a certain point, I realized that really my best audience, to some degree were entrepreneurs because entrepreneurs need to get a lot of publicity to survive these days. And they are really, really motivated to kind of do whatever it takes to get the word out there about their business, what they're doing, why they're doing it and how it can improve people's lives. That's another huge aspect of it too, is that I always say that speech writing is problem-solving. And so if you haven't solved a problem for you or audience in the course of your speech, you're doing it wrong basically. And entrepreneurship is also problem-solving. And so the entrepreneurs that I work with have a really keen sense of what's going on in their audience's lives, need to change how to change it. And that can just make the speech writing process so much easier and also ultimately really beneficial for that entrepreneur. Diane: [00:08:28] And so when we're speaking about speaking, funny enough, are you speaking purely about speaking from stage or does this translate into other speaking opportunities that we have? Helena: [00:08:39] Yeah, it's, it's everywhere. So actually, you and I met at Laura Belgray writing workshop in Italy. Amazing. If you guys don't know Laura Belgray, you should look her up. She's phenomenal. She actually came up with this term, which I started using called Speakosystem, kind of like ecosystem because there's a whole ecosystem of speaking opportunities whether it's. Speaking on a stage after coronavirus, obviously, they're speaking on podcasts. There's speaking on video. There's speaking on live videos, social media, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok. There's speaking in other people's programs. there's just so many different avenues where you can speak. And to some degree, the rules apply. They kind of cross these different platforms, especially because in this day and age we're really in the era of personal branding. And so you have to show up consistently across all those platforms. It used to be that when people were on stage, they were much more kind of like rigid and corporate and theatrical. That straight up does not work anymore because people have come to love you most of the time, online on social media. And if you then show up to an event and you're like a completely different person that is so jarring and confusing for your audience. So really. You should be kind of universally applying the same rules of speaking across all of these different platforms across the entire Speakosystem. I really like what you said there about like you needing to show up consistently in the same way across all those platforms because I think we talk about consistency in a, how many times we show up how often we show up, but we don't often talk about showing up as YOU consistently. So what does it actually do for our business? Do you feel like this is an amplifier of our message or is it like a siren call to our people? I think it's all of the above. what I really love about speaking A is the fact that it's, I think you get a lot of bang for your buck for lack of a better word. So you can create a YouTube video post it online. You can be in a TEDx talk post it online, and that will be searchable and get views after views, after views, after views for years to come, whereas a lot of other forms of marketing, especially a lot of texts. Based marketing is very short term. Either they read it right now or they don't, they're probably never going to go back 20 pages into your Instagram feed. Right? So I think you get a lot of benefit from that. Whether it's the kind of longevity of online video, these days more than 80% of internet traffic is online video and it's just getting more and more and more each year. I've been telling people like, if you're not on video in the next few years, like where are you? You really are missing out. but then also in person when coronavirus is over, thank God and we are back on live stages. It is just so efficient to be in front of a hundred, 500, a thousand, 5,000 captive audience members and be able to share your message, especially in a day and age when we're so used to swiping and clicking away. there's nothing like being able to talk to people live because A that's just a different kind of connection and B they're a little bit captive. They can't really leave their seats without being super rude. So you're that much more likely to get your message across, especially if you do it well. but then also I think, especially for service-based businesses, Really, and also course creators. When you think about it. What people are buying. Is not the course or the service. There is so many different entrepreneurs out there providing each and everything you could possibly imagine. Really what people are buying when they're buying a course or a service is you. They want you that entrepreneur and that's what they're choosing. So I've found that speaking is awesome because it gives people the most direct feel for what it might be like to work with you. if I see a video of you speaking online, That's going to be pretty similar to once I hire you, and then we're speaking to each other on zoom. So I find that it gives people kind of the best feel of what you as an entrepreneur might be like. And in my experience that can just lead to really piping hot sales calls because people have kind of already presold themselves on you online in the comfort of their own home, watching all kinds of your videos. And then once you get onto a sale call with them like they feel like they've already met you, even though in reality, they have not, whereas if you don't have any video online and you jump on a sales call, that is truly the first time that person is experiencing you. And it's a much heavier lift to say are they interested or not? Diane: [00:13:14] Yeah. It's almost like if they've been watching your videos, at the same time as they've been watching, like their favorite celebrities' videos and you're in their feed with those celebrities you've almost got that status for them. Like they're super excited to speak to you and it's almost like, how do I get this person to let me work with them versus okay, let me convince you. I'm an amazing person in the 30 minutes. And then I still have to do my pitch and make you cry so that you'll buy from me, in the traditional like sales model that we're often taught as entrepreneurs. Helena: [00:13:46] That's such a great point. Laura Belgray was that exact perfect example. So I had stumbled across Laura through Marie Forleo's Copy Cure. I'd watched that. I loved her. Then I listened to a bunch of her podcasts. I loved her. And then I saw that she was opening up this workshop in Italy. I didn't even think twice about the price. I didn't think twice about flying around the fricking globe to go do her workshop. like cash or credit? Like where do I sign it? and then, and even meeting her in person, she really did just have this like, Oh my God, it's a celebrity! It's Laura Belgray kind of a vibe. And I literally watched all of these other entrepreneurs who were at the workshop, like heads turned when Laura walked in the room and it had a similar feeling to like when I worked in Hollywood and like a celebrity would walk into the room and that just goes to show the power of online video, because, at the end of the day, Laura is a copywriter. She's not like a Hollywood actor, but just the experience of seeing her on video and seeing her consistently show up as herself, not some sort of caricature really created that kind of celebrity element for her. Diane: [00:14:50] Yeah. And I like what you said about the biggest bang for your buck because I do think like lifestyle businesses, that's what we're chasing. We're not looking for, what's going to bring me the most revenue we're going to, we're looking at like, how do I build this business to support my life with the least amount of effort so that I can have time to go to the beach or travel or spend time with my kids or whatever. So I think it's interesting to see how. Much of an impact speaking can have there are so many opportunities for it. And I think for me, I think I can remember I'm sure I said this to you when we were on the rooftop in Italy after several Aperol spritzes. And I remember saying to you, I can't think of anything more terrifying than walking onto a Ted stage and I can remember you saying to me, but that's only one way to speak. Helena: [00:15:38] Yeah. Diane: [00:15:39] And it's, I think that's such an important reframe for us to have that there are ways to do this, even if you can't do it live or you're not ready to do it on the stage at TEDx. Helena: [00:15:50] Absolutely. if you look at online video right now, and if you look at the numbers, for example, on something like that, Tik Tok. Oh my gosh. You can have a huge, huge impact speaking on online video. and then certainly you can work your way up if you're never comfortable on stage fine, but like a lot of times, people will kind of ladder their way up of speaking at different opportunities and feeling more and more and more comfortable. and then eventually feeling comfortable enough to give a talk on the Ted or TEDx stage, for example. but I think what's really worth remembering for something like a big, important talk like Ted or TEDx is that there are months of preparation in advance for that when I'm working with Ted and TEDx speakers, we usually work on their talk for a minimum of two months. And so by the time, and they've gone through that whole process, most of them, they will never feel completely comfortable. And in fact, I would argue that you're probably doing something wrong. If you're completely comfortable, you're probably not being bold enough in your message. You're probably not saying anything that's even remotely controversial or edgy, but you'll feel, 95% ready to give that talk when the time comes. Diane: [00:16:54] So that's two months for 10 minutes, essentially. Helena: [00:16:57] Yeah, basically. Diane: [00:16:58] So people want to bring more speaking into their business. What's the best way for them to get started. Helena: [00:17:05] Yeah. So the best way for them to get started is online video. Right now. Second, you press pause or stop listening to this podcast. Get on a video, get on. IGTV, get on IG live, get on TikTok, where the action is right now and start doing videos for your business. I actually have a whole program if people are interested called the Speakeasy, which is designed to make sort of invisible entrepreneurs visible. So throughout the course of that program, I take you through the process of getting comfortable speaking on video, speaking on podcasts, and then the program culminates in a virtual summit where everyone delivers their Ted style talk. Diane: [00:17:43] And they're delivering that live, right.? That's like a 2-day event that we can sign up for and watch. Helena: [00:17:49] We finished the first round of the speakeasy in July. Diane: [00:18:03] What did you find in that speakeasy when you did it the first time, what did you find that entrepreneurs found the hardest about speaking and how did you work them through it? Cause I imagine that people, yeah, but, but. Oh, there's the opposite. a 10 minutes speech? I can do that in my sleep. Helena: [00:18:23] Yeah. Yeah. I find that the hardest thing for most people is perfectionism. so I really hound people about that at the beginning of the program. the program actually revolves around a challenge with prizes obviously, cause who doesn't love prizes. but really getting people to start taking action right out of the gate and continue taking action is the most important thing because I find that with things like speaking on camera and speaking on stage, people have this tendency to be like, Oh I'm not ready. I'm not ready. maybe let me prepare just a little bit more. And really that's just perfectionism, rearing its ugly head. And so to get people comfortable with the idea that they can start making videos and start. applying to stages and that kind of thing, even when they don't feel a hundred percent ready. That is the key because ultimately what your audience wants is you showing up consistently on video online, they want to be able to binge your videos and kind of go down a wormhole of your content when they find you and fall in love with you. And that requires you to show up on video, even when you don't think it's like the perfect conditions, even when you're not a hundred percent ready. And so getting people into that habit of being like, okay, I'm going to just show up and talk about one thing and that's good enough B minus work, like good enough and done. That's what your audience needs to move forward. Diane: [00:19:47] Yeah, it's kind of like that first 50 times you do anything, it's going to suck. So totally get the 50 out of the way. Helena: [00:19:55] Yes. Like, might as well suck while people aren't paying quite as much attention. And then when they are, like I was talking to someone the other day about their lives and they were saying, Oh, only about two or five people show up to my IG lives. And I was like, good. Keep doing them. Because by the time that, 50, a hundred, a thousand people are showing up to your lives, you will have had so much practice and you'll be so good at it, but the key is to just get started. And what I think is really interesting actually about speaking right now is right now, the majority of them are millennials, and millennials kind of did not grow up with social media. Right? Like I was in college when I got Facebook, YouTube was still very much in its infancy. Whereas the generation coming up after us, it's just entered the workforce Gen Z grew up with things like Facebook and Instagram and YouTube, and they are so much more comfortable jumping on a video, than millennials are like, it's crazy. All of the gen Z people that I know are just totally down to record a video. Whereas most of the millennials definitely the gen Xers and absolutely the boomers are like, “Oh, I don't know…” So I think right now, people who are on the, on video online have this kind of unspoken advantage and that celebrity factor, like we talked about, because most people don't want to do it. So if you are doing it, even if you're not doing it perfectly, you are seen as having this like elevated status that you'd probably didn't necessarily earn. It's just, you're doing the thing that most people. don't want to do. And I think in the next 5 to 10 years, that will absolutely change as more and more and more of the workforce becomes gen Z and they are so already comfortable using video technology and creating videos and getting in front of the camera. So get into video now, because I think in the next 10 years that's going to change dramatically. And what is currently an advantage will just become like par for the course. Diane: [00:21:49] Yeah. It's almost, yeah. Like it would, instead of being an advantage, being on video, you are, you'll be at a disadvantage because you're not. Helena: [00:21:56] Absolutely. Diane: [00:21:57] It'll be the norm. Awesome. Well, I love chatting to you. It's always exciting, whether it's like this or with Aperols, which we'll have to do again after the pandemic. but I like to finish with two questions that I ask all of my guests. the first one is what is your number one lifestyle boundary for your business? Helena: [00:22:15] Yes okay. Great question. So this is something that I learned working in the corporate world, and that is no weekly or daily standing check-in meetings. Ugh, anytime a project wants me to do like a weekly check-in meeting. Like every Wednesday at 10:00 AM. I'm like, Nope, because nine times out of 10, those meetings are not needed. They're 10 times as long as they need to be. And most of the time they can be an email. So no daily or weekly check-ins Diane: [00:22:42] and you'll always get to that meeting and the person who does actually have the most important update will have had something come up. They're not there anyway. You're sitting there like, What?!. Yes, I'm with you. With my corporate background, there was nothing worse than a standing meeting. Helena: [00:22:56] Oh my gosh. I wasted so many like months and years of my life doing like check-in meetings in corporate that no one wanted to be at. No one was paying full attention. You just say your piece and then you go back to doing whatever else you're doing on your computer or your phone. Diane: [00:23:11] Yeah, Silicon Valley have given us a lot of tech solutions. if you are doing that, either you are doing that for a client or you are the client asking for that, time to stop that. Okay. And finally, what is the worst piece of cookie-cutter advice you ever got as a lifestyle entrepreneur? So what a guru or coach has said to you that you're just like, yeah, that does not apply. Helena: [00:23:30] Yeah, I think for me, interestingly, the worst piece of advice was trying to network with my ideal client, which sounds really counterintuitive, but I've found for my business that the most effective thing to do is actually network to people who are adjacent to me. in my case, networking with you is much more impactful than networking with a lot of people who want to become speakers because you as another entrepreneur, who's like adjacent to my business, oftentimes would give me like 50 leads. Whereas, like if I just network with the person who wants the service, they're one lead. Diane: [00:24:08] that's brilliant because I'm always like beating the relationship marketing drum over the here, let me do 7,000 Instagram posts. Helena: [00:24:16] Yup. That's actually in retrospect, I think that's the biggest mistake I made in the first year of business is really trying to go after clients, not, not realizing that actually the referral model is amazing. I think there's some level of stigma against the referral model in the online entrepreneur world because it's like all about your marketing and the number of followers you have in the number of people on your list. And it's okay, that's fine. But if you do sort of like an 80/20 analysis of your clients, my best clients have always and probably will always be referrals. Diane: [00:24:50] we were talking the biggest bang for your buck. That's like you have leapfrogged over a whole bunch of know, like, and trust if somebody they already know, like and trust refers you and you don't have to worry that you're getting on a sales call with someone who's awful because I'm not going to send you like my reputation's on the line as well. I'm not going to send you someone who I'm like this person is a real P-I-T-A to work with so people do underestimate that, Helena: [00:25:15] yeah. I hear that all the time on sales calls, they're like, Oh, Like I have some doubts, certainly, but so, and so said, you're amazing. So I will like, where do I sign? Diane: [00:25:25] And I think also what people don't realize is as people grow in business, if you're targeting a more experienced entrepreneur, they are generally asking each other. Helena: [00:25:36] Yes Diane: [00:25:37] before they buy. So even if you're not a direct referral, people are checking your references. And if people don't know, and especially now, when people are like, hang on, I want to make really sure that I'm making the right investment. They're like, I want to know someone, Oh, you're friends with them on LinkedIn or Facebook. I get this quite a lot of people drop into my messages and forward me an ad and be like, oh, I see, you know, this person? Tell me everything. Helena: [00:25:59] Totally. Diane: [00:25:59] I think people underestimate how much that happens as people get more established. Helena: [00:26:04] Yup. Diane: [00:26:05] Awesome. Well, thank you so much for sharing all of your juicy inside information. I will add all the information on the Speakeasy and your socials to the show notes, but where's the best place for people to connect with you? Helena: [00:26:17] Yeah, the best places on Instagram @helenaspeaking. And I'm going to be so bold as to say on Tik Tok also @helenaspeaking. Diane: [00:26:26] So we all have to go and sign up for Tiktok just to be able to see, I see what you're doing here. I see what you're doing. Helena: [00:26:33] Get on it. It's interesting. It's an interesting ride. Diane: Awesome. We'll be sure to share all of that. Definitely go check out Helena's Instagram. She has some amazing videos on there to give you ideas on what's really working and how to get on video. Thank you so much for sharing great to see you.

Accelerate the timeline from prospect to buyer in your customer journey. Helena Bowen gets you on the fast track to new clients by bringing TED talk inspired speaking to your business without the red circle.

While physical stages are few and far between in the current climate, Helena walks you through all the opportunities in the online space from traditional Facebook Lives to the more creative TikTok moments.

Key Takeway

Speaking is the easiest way for someone to get a feel for what working with you might be like so that by the time they book a sales call, they are far more ready to buy.

We talk about…

  • The key to speech writing that might surprise you
  • Where you can speak that isn’t a physical stage given the current climate
  • Why you should choose speaking over written social media posts
  • Creating your own celebrity status 
  • How to get past the perfectionism when you’re getting started

About Helena

Helena Bowen is a speaker coach & speechwriter who helps entrepreneurs explode their impact (and their bottom line!) by speaking on stage & on camera. Her clients include 150+ TED & TEDx speakers, fortune 100 executives, CEOs, and entrepreneurs. Their talks have over 91 million views online. Previously, she worked at HBO on shows like Game of Thrones, Fahrenheit 451, and Chernobyl.


This page may contain affiliate links. I earn a commission or reward on all qualified purchases made when you use these links. 


The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this podcast episode and article are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this article or episode. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article. Diane Mayor disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article.