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Preparing to speak to over a thousand educators this morning in Sacramento, CA on building an Entrepreneurial mindset…one quote stands out that should make us all think twice about how we approach professional development as well as the educational development of the next generation:

Andrew Carnegie, in the Early 1900s, wrote (concerning the development of our educational institutions here in the US…)

“We need compliant workers…willing to work for less than the value their productivity creates… …The best way is to build an educational industry designed to teach workers just enough to get them to cooperate.”    No wonder it’s so hard to hire good people!

© 2011, David Stelzl

The most frequent comment I get when talking about the need to memorize or practice sales calls is, “I’m not an actor”.  In fact I received a Tweet reply this morning stating, “Sales people who talk like robots irritate customers”.  Both statements are true, however these comments miss the mark.

The most irritating sales call experience is ill preparedness.  When the sales person shows up without doing their homework, and stuttering through the first several minutes of their meeting they are seen as wasting everyone’s time.  They are also competing with those currently providing the services;  those who already know the needs of the customer.  Only in the wake of a previous provider’s failure will this strategy work.   Even “open ended” questions such as, “What keeps you up at night” are irritating to executives who have heard these “lines” meeting after meeting.   Executives need input from people who bring experience, understanding, and can communicate effectively.

I would argue that great speakers never sound like robots or they would not be able to command such exorbitant fees.   Actors who we recognize as “Stars” take on the personality of their character so effectively that we forget who they really are for the duration of the picture.   And sales people who speak with confidence and illustrations that are inculcated into their process will deliver truth in a way that seems natural and spontaneous.  On the other hand, sales people who have simply memorized sound bites from their data sheets are bound to lose along with those who have failed to prepare.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Taking yesterday’s movie star concepts a step further, let me share another analogy that is near and dear to my own profession.  As an active member of the National Speakers Association, I meet quarterly with some very successful speakers; people I consider to be at the top of the speaker industry.  Our topics vary as much as our style.  Some are humorists without any concrete message, another is a professional storyteller delivering tales of the south, many speak to sales audiences as I do, and others have a religious, motivational, or health angle.  But the one thing we all have in common is that we make our living speaking to audiences, sharing our experiences, and hoping to motivate people to change or providing encouragement in an area our audiences need expertise of help.

So what makes a speaker great?  I’m sure you’ve been to seminars, national sales meetings, or trade shows and have heard great speakers.  You’ve also probably heard people who don’t have the gift of speaking.  What’s the difference?  Well, I have come to believe that it’s not just in the DNA.  There’s a success formula.

When I first began my speaking career I needed a demo tape.  I was talking with some of the veterans of our NSA chapter and the president asked, “How many times have you given your primary keynote?”  I had given it ten times at most, although I had spoken to various audiences over my career.  He then encouraged me to wait.  “Wait until you have given this talk at least one hundred times.”  A hundred times; I couldn’t image waiting that long.  I needed it now.  But he assured me I would be sorry.

Months later, a former World Champion Toastmaster humorist came to address our group.  He talked about how he had entered the speaking industry and then he played video clips of himself from his early days of speaking.  His first clip was from a comedy club about twenty years ago.  It was awful. In fact, it was so bad, I was embarrassed for him as I watched it, and felt very uncomfortable sitting there with him in the room.  I don’t think I have ever seen such a bad comedian.  Nothing was funny, and it turns out, his friends had put him up to this.  But that day, he determined to master the art of speaking!  Our guest continued through the morning, playing samples from fifteen years ago, ten years, five, two, and now.  It was amazing to see the transformation and to hear how, through coaching, practice, and self-recording, he had studied to improve his program.  He had become an expert, and he had achieved the number on position.

Well, despite the advice I received from our chapter president, I went ahead and had my demo tape made.  I was happy with it at the time, but a few years and several hundred speeches later, I was embarrassed to watch my own tape.  I now see what our chapter president meant.  It takes practice, and with practice and the right input, the talk becomes great. It’s not just DNA – it’s work.

Like the movie star, the speakers you really like, have practiced.  They’ve given the talk you just heard, hundreds of times.  The speakers you don’t like are probably not professional speakers, they probably did not have any coaching, and they probably speak infrequently.  Most of all, they have probably never had to sit through their own presentation.  Their lack of practice shows.

So you are in sales.  You give the same information over and over, but are you giving the same talk, and have you critiqued it, been coached on it, and put time into making the material great before going live?  Or do you just wing it when you get on stage.  Who do you want to be?  The movie star?  The great speaker?  Of the guy that encourages you to spend the meeting reading your email?

© 2011, David Stelzl

At the end of yesterday’s Making Money with Security Online class I mentioned the upcoming “Principles of an Effective Value Proposition” online program scheduled in April.  There is nothing worse than sitting through a terrible presentation or being stuck in boring meeting for several hours.  So why would we subject our prospects to this kind of torture?  To get us started, here are ten things that will absolutely kill a Power Point presentation… 

1.     Opening with an agenda slide – your first task is to grab the audience’s attention; the agenda slide is a sure way to lose everyone.

2.     Using the standard bullet point format in Power Point – this makes for boring slides with too many words.

3.     Showing slide after slide of meaningless numbers, statistics, financials, with values that are too big to comprehend.  The human brain needs a comparison when dealing with large numbers – a point of reference.  A slide or 2 is okay, but don’t go overboard on statistics and sound bites.

4.     Talking about “Self”.  Especially true when presenting to new prospects – no one cares about your company before there is a reason to do business.

5.     Bad colors and no graphics.  Most people are visual.  They want to see pictures – this is why people watch movies rather than listen to stories on the radio.  If you want your information to be memorable, use grabbing graphics!  The best way to do this is by changing the slide background to an image.

6.     Reading your slides – no! Look at the audience.  This requires that you know your material.

7.     Too many words on the slide.  If your audience can’t read the whole slide in a few seconds (5 or 6 words) you’ve lost them.   They will either listen to you or read the slide…most will read the slide and ignore you.

8.     No climax. A presentation must build.  If it’s flat people will lose interest quickly.

9.     Obvious.  Most sales presentations look exactly the same.  They discuss company background, offerings, features, a few client names, etc.  This is predictable, boring, and obvious.

10. When he presenter is not a speaker.  This is the final presentation killer.  If you’re going to stand up in front of a crowd, you had better be good.  This is not a genetic trait.  It’s simply a matter of learning the skill and practicing until you’re great at it.

© 2011, David Stelzl

In preparation for our final day in the Virtual Making Money w/ Security Workshop I thought this short clip on urgent proposals would be apropos:

© 2011, David Stelzl

Here is my star performer – Timmy!

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