Facts tell, stories sell: Neha Sonney on public speaking and storytelling
The second guest on this small business interview series is Neha Sonney, a relationship coach and public speaking trainer based in Hong Kong. Neha and I worked together on her branding and website design last year, and I was able to discover a great professional and business owner. In this interview, she discusses the importance of storytelling and public speaking and the ways she helps her clients achieve clarity through these skills.
Hi Neha! Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Neha Sonney is an amazing friend, proud mother of a teen, happy girlfriend to a life-editor, great cook, zouk and personal development enthusiast with a green thumb. Currently, she’s working on her first book on the topic of self-love. She’s a self-love and relationship coach who believes that finding greatness is an inside job. She does her writing in a bright living room of her secret rooftop apartment in Hong Kong.
What’s your business name? What products or services do you offer and how long have you been a business owner?
My business name is Neha Sonney. I offer public speaking training, workshops and courses (individual as well as group), and 1-on-1 relationship coaching. I’ve been a business owner since Feb 2020.
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?
I started practicing meditation in 2012 because my personal relationships were suffering. I also had the opportunity to train as a Hatha Yoga instructor. I understood the importance of breathwork in yoga practices. Meditation trains you to slow down your breath, calm your anxiety, and make decisions from a centered place of “all-knowing” – trusting the self.
After graduating from coaching in 2016 I felt called to do a workshop on femininity, a topic I’m very passionate about. I realized how nervous I felt when I was presenting and facilitating the workshop, so I decided to join Toastmasters to practice public speaking skills. Although it provided a platform to practice public speaking, it didn’t delve into the deeper personal development aspects of public speaking that I was hoping I’d get. I quit Toastmasters after two years and trained myself in body language and storytelling. My speech delivery was impactful because I was practicing meditation already. I bring the wisdom I gain from practicing meditation right into all areas of my life, including public speaking to solving relationship problems. leading to the best relationship with the self, and then with others.
How has your business evolved since you started it until now?
I’m someone that constantly likes to learn and grow. So I invest in myself – with time and money – in areas of my life that I can get better at, or need help with. The latter half of 2020 brought me the opportunity to write my first book, something I had not planned to do – at least, not this early in my life. But writing a book taught me how to take my self-love practice even more seriously because I had to write about it – I had to teach that to others through my book, my personal journey. I’m able to bring my learning as stories and examples to inspire my followers, prospects and clients through various mediums – videos, podcasts, blog posts, emails, etc across different social media channels.
From coaching a client in public speaking, I have developed an in-depth public speaking program that I offer to groups of introverted entrepreneurs.
Besides workshops (in-person and now, online) I also do joint-webinars partnering up with experts and serving their audiences.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
I guess for me since personal development is important, I have come to value the person I’ve become – the mother, the partner, the friend, the coach and speaker.
How do you market your business? What strategies have you found to be more effective?
I use social media – mainly Facebook, IG and LinkedIn. What I think has been more effective is providing value through any way possible – free workshops, ebook/guide, leveraging other people’s audience. What works for me is sharing my story through voice and video – podcasts and online workshops. Keywords here are “providing value”.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced during this time?
My work is around relationship building so it is better when you meet in-person and often. However, when 2020 closed the doors on in-person events, new doors started to open up online. This made my reach even bigger, because I was no longer limiting my reach to serving locally – which is in Hong Kong, where I live currently. Now the world became my playground. I started connecting with people over LinkedIn, zoom sessions and for the first time I realized building relationships online was possible.
What do you love more about being a business owner?
I see myself as someone who provides value, has the power to influence, yet knows how to harness it and not misuse it. With that discipline, I can help people feel empowered to expand their awareness, make better choices and decisions for themselves, and transform their lives – one baby-step at a time.
I see myself as the catalyst for people to learn the truth about themselves. Business is possible because of being able to serve the people who come into my circle. What I love the most is the transformation I see in my clients. Their level of happiness/peace/joy with where they are in life with a bit or a lot of guidance from me is priceless.
Where do you see your business heading in the near future?
My vision for myself and my business is to be the go-to person for building the best relationship with the self, recognizing your self-worth and developing unshakeable confidence. This will be possible once I have published my book. In the meantime, I continue to provide value and establish myself as an authority in public speaking training and relationship coaching based on the solid foundation of self-love.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
Don’t quit your job. Hire a sales coach or get training in sales.
Who has inspired you the most during your journey as a business owner?
I have kept searching for mentors all my life. A guru, an awesome guide who would show me the way, as I was clueless about starting or running a business. When I couldn’t find anyone, I looked within for answers and inspiration. At the same time, I kept reaching out to like-minded professionals who were at a place where I thought they could guide me. I never gave up on my search.
I have found the right mentor a little later in my journey. Nevertheless, I’m very happy to have found the best sales coach on the planet! His coaching and training has inspired me to be like him when I’m his age. He’s the most enthusiastic 75 year old I’ve ever met.
What advice would you give people who want to set up their own business?
1. Get training in public speaking and storytelling. Because facts tell, stories sell. There are more than enough pushy “car-salesmen” in the world. There’s more need for caring open-minded entrepreneurs in the world who build relationships, inspire others and serve from the heart. And sales/business/income are all by products of having invested time in building those relationships.
2. Build a community of people you can serve. Then serve them from your heart.
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