We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Rebecca Klein. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Rebecca below.
Rebecca , appreciate you joining us today. What were some of the most unexpected problems you’ve faced in your business and how did you resolve those issues?
I never realized how closed minded I was until Covid hit. Prior to Covid, my husband, Keith, and I led 99.9% of our communications workshops and private coaching sessions together in person. The personality of each session became fueled by the symphony of each person’s energy in the room playing off each other.
We reserved Zoom for rare overseas or long distance private clients. We turned down most live and recorded webinar opportunities, casting them off as dry, impersonal and ineffective.
Fast forward to the lockdown and the sudden disappearance of the next dozen conference workshops. Suddenly, we found ourselves grasping for any gigs and realized we had a choice between virtual or no work.
Our early virtual engagements played right into our negative mindset toward them The camera angles looked awkward. We had no idea how to set up a shot with a 6’9″ and a 5’2″ person standing. The result at first was a whole lot of ceiling, shadows and weak sound, Instead of finding excitement in the the screen to screen moments, we found ourselves breaking our own communication rules and in subtle and not so subtle ways telling our clients how the experience would have been different in person. We didn’t realize how starting a sentence with “If we were in person…” sabotaged the moment.
Once we accepted our new reality and decided to make the best of of it, the vibe rubbed off on our clients. More requests returned after we stopped setting up the camera in random spots in our living room and instead turned a portion of our kitchen into our Zoom Set, with a morning TV lifestyle show vibe. We wanted to create an energy that would feel comfortable for people who came to us to learn to navigate conflicts and other communication challenges.
We started sitting on high barstools at a small cafe table, to give each client or audience member the feel of sitting across from us. We found the more we mirrored an in-person look, the more often people forgot about the screens separating us. We invested in lights and mics, something else we had resisted at first.
The past two-plus years taught us that while nothing replaces old fashioned face time, that FaceTime can be equally and even more effective at times. We noticed that with the safety of a screen, some clients drop their own protective screens faster and open up sooner. It created a cosmic shift in our perspective.
For our group workshops, while we still prefer the energy of being in a room with our clients and getting to greet every person as they arrive, there is also power in an engagement where everyone feels as though they are in the front row.
This new perspective has spilled over into other areas of our work. It lifted off the mask of other areas where we trapped ourselves in the “this is how we’ve always done it” rut, despite the fact that our entire business is built around coaching others to leave their comfort zones. It was a kick that we needed and one for which I am grateful.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your background and context?
The thought of standing at a podium and delivering a presentation, sharing an idea in a meeting, navigating a tough conversation with one person, or even engaging in small talk with a stranger terrifies many people.
My husband, Keith, and I noticed how often people dodge opportunities or stay silent, out of this fear. It pained us to imagine all the great ideas that stay trapped in people’s minds.
We also noticed how often speakers would start a presentation with “If you bear with me for the next 30 minutes, I’ll try to get you out of here by noon” or put an audience to sleep with sentences cluttered with filler words and apologetic language.
These experiences inspired us to launch TALLsmall Productions, named for our 6’9″ and 5’2″ heights, as a vehicle to produce better communicators. We coach people how to become more confident, clear and charismatic. At the time, we had no idea it would grow into a menu of spin off courses on such topics as the Art of Negotiation, Conflict Resolution, Networking to Get Noticed, Spy Games: How to Decode Personality Styles, Upping Your Virtual Game and more.
Our company draws skills from our communications backgrounds. Keith was a lobbyist and CEO of a Chamber of Commerce. My background included time as a company spokesperson/blogger, TV reporter, and writer.
What sets us apart? We never use PowerPoints in our group workshops. Every session is interactive and built for participants to immediately put their skills to work. We are constantly monitoring the mood and personality of each audience and shift activities on the fly to maximize engagement. We believe laughter is the best vessel to learning. When clients come to us and ask for more serious topics, we encourage them to start with our launch intro class, knowing that if participants don’t laugh together, they will not let down their guards to tackle more serious topics. We work with Fortune 500 companies, start-ups, non-profits, solo-preneurs and everyone in-between. Our private client sessions take on the same interactive tone and are designed for career transitions, building confidence and presentation skills.
Have you ever had to pivot?
I experienced job loss twice in one year. I was 22 and in my first year out of college. Losing two jobs that fast convinced me something was horribly wrong with me.
I moved across the country, from New Jersey to California, for my first communications job. I was thrilled to land a position paying my dues as the assistant to a reporter on a national TV show, who also did radio and wrote print pieces. After driving across the country and moving in with family members, who were kind enough to make this transition possible, I drove to my new employer’s beach front home office. By the way she tilted her head as she greeted me, I knew something was off and already felt crushed. She confirmed my hunch and told me she realized the timing wasn’t right and that she couldn’t move forward with the job.
Within weeks, the West Coast editor of a major publication hired me as her assistant. On one of my first days, I found an open box on my desk filled with dirty coffee mugs. I cluelessly asked where I should move the box. My boss said she left them for me to wash. I’m sure that she picked up on my strained smile. Not long after, came a call to let me know I was not a good fit. To this day, I have a gut feeling the answer may begin with my reaction to the mugs.
If I hadn’t experienced these two failures, the opportunity that came next likely would have never happened. I landed my first TV job for a small city government channel and learned the ropes of how to tell TV stories, which led me to my first network affiliate position. And yes, if I could turn back time, I would have washed those mugs!
What’s a lesson you had to unlearn and what’s the backstory?
I’ll never forget the time a friend asked Keith and me, “What percentage of the time do you close a sale,” and we were surprised to learn our “most of the time” answer was not the good sign we had assumed. Our friend’s response: “Then your prices are too low.”
We had always thought that percentage of sales closed equaled success.
We didn’t think about the chaos involved in needing to book a high volume of clients in order to make ends meet.
By no longer always being the “most affordable” option, we reduced our stress and time chasing every potential client and gained the ability to focus on creating strong content for a smaller group of people.