Sunday, September 5, 2010

Being a Speaker

I recently had the honor of being invited to be the speaker at a cake club in Columbus, Ohio. Now, those who know me, know that I love an opportunity to speak in front of people (no, I’m NOT one of those people who fear public speaking!) and I love talking about cake and caking! So while some may say they got a “job” speaking, I think of it as having fun speaking!

My 18 year old daughter went with me. Coincidentally, the day of the event was her 18th birthday and a member of the cake club presented her with a birthday cake! We had lots of fun on the 4 hour drive, plus some shopping and just having some great mother-daughter time.

The best compliment a speaker can receive is a lot of animated discussion and questions during and after the event, and I was certainly complimented in this aspect. We cakers love talking about cake, about our passion, and about our art. We love sharing our experiences and our expertise with others.

Wherever I speak, I find many of the common questions and concerns such as how to conduct a consultation and how to battle the problem of no-shows at a consultation.

Consultations, while necessary in this day of wedding marketing, can become expensive for the caker. Different flavors of cakes and icings are prepared; time (from 45 minutes to up to two hours) that could be used in sales production is set aside just for the potential client, plus the time spent preparing the samples. So a client who just doesn’t show up can be cost prohibitive for the business owner.

There is always good discussion on how to conduct a consultation. Cakers have many different styles and methods of how they conduct their own samplings with brides and the bottom line is a person should evaluate the great ideas and select the ones that work best with their personality and style.

My advice is always to keep it simple. Planning a wedding or a large event can be very intimidating for a bride/client. They’ve never bought cake for 200 before and odds are good the only time they’ve ordered a cake is when they walked up to the grocery store counter and said, “I need a cake …. Chocolate …. By Friday.” Wedding cakes are just a little more involved than that. A good caker helps a client feel at ease and gently walks her through the decision making process. A “bad” caker sits back and says “What do you want?”

Another common question is how to battle the pricing perception …. or rather, the LACK of the proper perception. The consensus is that the TV cake shows add to this problem. Viewers seem to think an “Ace of Cakes” cake or a “Food Network Challenge” cake can be made in one day. But the biggest problem is these shows never give an idea of the cost of these cakes. Too many times, a caker has to explain to a client that the $3000 cake they saw on TV just can’t be made by tomorrow for only $200. (See my blog on this topic, , and this USAToday link for examples of what I mean: )

I received a wonderful letter from Cindy, who organized the Columbus, Ohio meeting, that I am sharing here:

Dear Debi,

I am sending this letter to personally thank you for attending the August meeting of the Central Ohio Sugar Artists. Our group is a diverse one, and your presentation was informative, entertaining and fun! I have never seen so many in the group participate in a question and answer session. You not only offered information for the business owners, you included those of our club who are new to this and made all of us feel comfortable talking with you. I have received several phone calls since the meeting from different members, and they all made it a point to tell me how much they enjoyed your visit.

We wish you well in your future endeavors, and would highly recommend you as a speaker to anyone! It is rare to find someone of your caliber willing to share so much knowledge about their business with others. I know that our members all appreciated everything you shared with us.

Thank you again,

Cindy Patrick

Debi is available for speaking engagements for your club, meeting, or organization. Presentations can range from a simple presentation up to one of the workshops or seminars that she has written.

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