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“If I wrote an autobiography, it would be titled ‘From Introvert to Extrovert,’” says Kit Pang. His career path, and his speaking business, shows that people can change—sometimes it just takes facing your fears.
Pang started BostonSpeaks in 2016, and offers public speaking, presentation and communication skills training. His BostonSpeaksSeries offers the entrepreneurial community a chance to come together, pick the brains of experts, gain new insights and build stronger relationships.
Before branching into speaking, Pang was a hip-hop dancer and choreographer. He’s had to learn business skills like marketing on the fly, but dancing, he says, taught him how to push to get his foot (proverbial and literal) in the door. That, and his relationship with his wife.
“How you deal with your personal life is how you deal with your business life,” he says. “If your personal well-being and balance at home is out of whack, your business will be out of whack.”
His first seminar was two paid clients and a bunch of friends. Today his audience reaches more than 300 for some seminars, not including his TEDx appearances.
1. Why did you start your business?
I used to be shy. Whenever I found myself in a group or class setting, I would feel very hesitant to speak up and express my thoughts. I had an accent and thought that what I had to say wouldn't sound smart or that my contributions didn't matter. At the end of my senior year at Hamilton College, I entered a public speaking competition. I practiced for weeks. When I was on stage, I felt it. You know the moment when time slows down and everything seems to be flowing. I felt that I was able to express myself freely and didn't have to hold back. I loved it and I couldn't get enough of public speaking.
In the back of my mind, whenever I saw great speakers present a keynote or talk on a panel, I always wondered how they became a speaker. I wanted to do exactly that—inspire, motivate and help others grow. My mission is to help individuals fall in love with public speaking.
2. What hurdles have you overcome in running your business?
I'm great at speaking and teaching public speaking, but marketing is another beast. Starving artists are called starving artists because they do not know how to market and sell their skills. At first, I was hosting meetups and no one would come to my free events. This bugged me.
Now I have RSVPs ranging from 80 to 400 for each event. I had to learn how to push the event out there so that people would see it. I have learned through collaborations, social media shares, sending out press releases and lots of online calendar posting, that I can effectively get the word out. The next hurdle after putting butts in seats was converting to sales. How do you effectively get clients to want to invest in your service? I’ve learned that it’s by creating a community where your audience will trust you because of the enormous value that you are already giving.
3. What did you do before starting your business?
I used to be a hip-hop street performer and dancer in Boston. It was a great fun time. I would perform, work at dance studios, choreograph flash mobs and teach in the evening. However, my passion for dance was shrinking. I took what I learned from how to market myself as a dancer to what I do now with BostonSpeaks. The lesson that I’ve learned is to be bold by getting your foot in the door (getting students to come to dance class, talking to event planners, contacting different events if they need performers) and once you get your foot in the door, offer the best experience that you possibly can. Word-of-mouth referrals are the best thank yous that you can receive as a business owner.
4. What would you want other business owners to know about running a business?
- Take action. Take action. Take action.
- Create your own mastermind group: Find a core team of friends, family and mentors to help you focus.
- Reflect on what you are doing and if it is aligned with your mission and values.
5. What are the worst habits most people have when speaking publicly?
Most people think they are awful at public speaking. After giving a talk, most individuals immediately think negatively about how they did—I said so many “umms,” I could have done it that way, why didn’t I practice more. Most people don’t find the time to practice or prepare beforehand.
One of the top tips to being a better speaker is, before you hit the stage, get yourself mentally prepared. Ask yourself: What is your state of mind? Great public speaking doesn’t begin on stage, it begins when you are preparing to speak.
For example, what do athletes do before they play for the world championship game? They sit on a bus and listen for motivational music to pump themselves up!
What do great speakers do before they speak to a million people? They pump themselves up and change their mindsets to: I’ve got this and I’m going to rock the stage!
What are some ways you can change your state of mind before you speak? This applies to networking events when you have to go around the table and introduce yourself, and this will work when you are the next speaker up.
Personally, I think of three things:
- How can I really help the audience?
- I am going to rock the stage and look at everyone in the eyes to build connection.
- It’s time to be myself, because I spent so much time practicing. It’s showtime!
Photo: Courtesy of Kit Pang