Jim Huff at the Women's Club of Forest Hills

Jim Huff is a longtime personal chef in New York City as well as a longtime APPCA member. Several years ago the International Studies Committee of the Forest Hills, New York Women’s Club invited him to give a talk on the influences of different international and ethnic cuisines on typical American comfort foods, given the availability now of diverse ingredients in local food stores. Along with his speech, he provided food for their monthly Tea.

“We had a savory table, a sweet table and a table for me to promote my business with recipes and other printed materials about my services,” Jim recalled.

It was the first “official” talk he had given that was related to his business. Over the years he’s conducted seminars and training sessions in the retail industry so he had some background in public speaking. And he’s also helped APPCA executive director Candy Wallace with APPCA seminars.

“In my presentation I challenged the group to start thinking about “melding” ingredients from other cultures into their own comfort zones. I gave several ideas on how I might accomplish the melding and peaked their interest when I told them a few examples that they would soon be tasting with their Tea,” he wrote in his blog.

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“While they were enjoying their tea and my tastings I manned a separate table where I provided them with information about my business and  a few recipes. It went very well and so many of the members said it was the best Tea yet. I gave out lots of counter cards, business cards and recipes and lots of advice.  I spoke to several possible clients for gift certificates, dinner parties, and regular service. It was a very successful event!  What a great way to connect with the community!”

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If this sounds like something you’d like to do, APPCA member and personal chef Leslie Guria of Fresh from Your Kitchen Personal Chef Service in Chicago has some suggestions for getting started. Before she launched her current business she used to book public speaking engagement for her marketing clients. Here are some tips you can use:

  • Book with an organization of prospects or influencers, but offer to speak on something other than being a personal chef.  Your audience wants to learn something, not be sold. For example, speak to a moms group on cooking for a month, getting kids to eat, sneaking in veggies. It could be a hands on event.
  • I used to introduce myself via telephone and follow up via email.  That may be different now because of social media.  Its easy to find organizations with calendars and meeting planner contacts online.
  • Always be prepared with a flexible list of topics and something professional looking, a speaker kit that tells who you are, what you do, why you should speak to their group, etc. It should include your bio, a list of topics with a brief outline or paragraph, references, and a photo from your website. If you set up a speaker kit on your website, it’s easy to send the link. If I were booking for a client, I’d make sure they had articles or blogs post dedicated to their topics to show credibility. Provide references if possible.
  • If the organization will allow it, send a media release as appropriate to announce the event.  Include your web address and all contact info.

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APPCA member Kelly Yorke of A House Call Chef in Evergreen, Colorado not only does public speaking, she appears on TV doing live cooking segments on network television. Kelly says she has to market constantly. “And it’s not just about being a chef and honing our craft. It’s about being sales people and marketing people. Public speaking is helpful to bring various aspects of media aware of our business,” she says.

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Kelly has been a personal chef for about 12 years. Prior to that she was a corporate chef–basically she’s had a culinary career for about 30 years. She says that the public speaking has developed to market her TV cooking show series, personal chef business, and brand she’s developing in therapeutic cuisine with her sister, a physician who practices integrative medicine.

Kelly suggests starting by offering to do cooking demos in your local grocery store, which can market your talks on their website and social media. But, she says, you have to be an expert in something before you can go out and speak.

“It involves a lot of learning and experience,” she says. “If you’re a personal chef, you have to have done it and learned those hard lessons about what works for you, your customer, your local area before you can talk about it.”

Are you concerned about that first foray of talking to a group of strangers? Kelly says to relax and just do it.

“Know you’ll get better at it. You won’t be as good at it in the beginning. You have to practice and do it in smaller, local groups without getting paid to hone your craft.”

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Like Leslie, she says you don’t want to overtly sell your services. People impressed with your knowledge and skills will want to work with you. So impress them with that in an area you are expert in–lifestyle changes, food for healthy living, disease-specific diets, whatever it is that you have a strong skill set.

How do you find the groups to speak to? Kelly says it’s all about networking.

“Talk to people in groups who have common expertise with what you work in. People you know in your community. People who you do sports activities with. Talk to them and find out what they do and if your interests overlap. Maybe they want to invite you to speak to their business. Be out there and talk to people. Yes, you can Google organizations, but face-to-face connections and interactions that you have are always better in gauging if people want to do business with you.”

For Jim Huff, networking was key in getting his Women’s Club gig. “A close friend, who has always promoted my business, including using my services, got me involved in donating my services for the annual silent auction,” he explains. “I donate my services for dinner for four; the winner pays for groceries. My friend introduced me explaining who I was and briefly spoke about my services, reminding them of my donations. Several of the attendees have either won the dinner service I donated or attended one as a guest! I have gained several repeat clients for dinner parties via this venue.”

Are you already doing public speaking? What are the lessons you’ve learned? How has it helped your business?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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