By Adam Mendler, CEO of The Veloz Group and founder of Beverly Hills Chairs, Custom Tobacco and Veloz Solutions.
One of my favorite quotes of all time is attributed to the legendary wordsmith Mark Twain: "An expert is an ordinary fellow from another town." Nonetheless, it is hard to deny that deep down everyone loves experts. Tune into CNN to watch a panel of as many as a dozen experts provide insight and commentary on the news of the day. Go to court and watch an expert witness validate the argument of the lawyer who hired him.
The people who work for you are no different. They love hearing from experts too. Every summer, we line up guest speakers to address our interns and ask them to share their knowledge and wisdom while focusing on a topic that aligns with their area of expertise. We brought in over twenty speakers this summer and each speaker offered a unique perspective while covering a subject distinct from other guests.
Our interns raved about the guest speakers throughout the internship and in each exit interview. And they were not alone. Our employees often sat in on the sessions and derived value from them. And while I personally invited each of the speakers, when I had the time to listen in, I picked up valuable nuggets of information and walked away feeling more inspired.
Just about every company has leadership and staff with great wisdom and knowledge to share. However, no company has a monopoly on insight or perspective. And often more important than the content itself is the messenger. Great coaches are consistently fired across all sports because teams determine that players will respond to a different leader. I believe that every company should expose its employees to as many different leaders, as many fresh voices and as many experts as possible.
When I asked our interns who their favorite guest speaker was, I received what seemed to be a different answer from each person. One of our MBAs really appreciated the CFO-for-hire who not only spoke about his vocation but gave a two-hour financial modeling workshop. A writing intern greatly enjoyed the entrepreneur who shared her unconventional path to starting multiple businesses.
Other interns and employees singled out the real estate investment banker, the former sports talk radio host, the public relations executive, the business coach, the cyber law guru and my MBA classmates who have incubated numerous ventures, including a seduction coaching business. The most popular speaker among our engineering interns was the fitness expert. He beat out the expert on cybersecurity.
The process of sourcing guest speakers is simple: ask. Very few people will turn down the opportunity to speak to your interns or employees. They will be honored, and not only will your team appreciate hearing from a fresh voice, the guest speakers you invite will appreciate the fact that you think highly enough of them to give them a platform at your company. I reached out my network and had more people interested in speaking than open time slots.
Bring in people who represent as broad a range of professions and perspectives as possible, with the goal of providing your team with a truly unique and enriching experience any time a speaker comes in. Regardless of the industry you are in, aspire to provide your team with exposure to breadth and depth across a wide variety of verticals. Ensure that each person you invite can command the interest and attention of the room. And sit back and enjoy with everyone else.
Not every guest speaker we brought in this summer was universally beloved, but most were. After each talk, I seek feedback from my interns and employees and invite the best speakers back each year. Some of our interns connect with the guest speakers directly, as many students appreciate the ability to access and cultivate relationships with experienced professionals.
Bringing guest speakers into your company is an easy way to not only enhance the overall experience of your team but to demonstrate to those who work for you that you care about them. As companies seek every edge possible to attract and retain top talent and spend lavishly to do so, remember that the best things in life are free. As companies seek every edge possible to attract and retain top talent and often spend lavishly to do so, remember that the best things in life are free and everyone loves free advice from an expert.
Adam Mendler is CEO of The Veloz Group and founder of Beverly Hills Chairs, Custom Tobacco and Veloz Solutions.