Archives For learning to speak

I tell this story frequently, but I don’t think I’ve posted it.  So many people are under the impression that great speakers are full of great talent – this is not the case.  I’m not saying that all speakers started out poorly.  I am sure some were naturals, but many were not – like playing a musical instrument skillfully, hours of practice and critique are part of the secret formula to success.  So what is the story?

Darren LaCriox

I share this with sale people all over the world, and it came up again this week with a client who is looking to become a better  presenter.  I had the same misconception years ago – the misconception that it was talent that made the great speaker.  That is, until I met Darren LaCroix, the 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking (see clip below).  The amazing thing about Darren is his early videos – he visited our NSA (National Speakers Association) chapter a few years ago and showed us his beginnings on film.  His first talk was at a comedy club.  His friends (some friends) had pushed him to go on stage…he was so bad I was embarrassed to watch.  Have you ever watched something so pitiful – so bad that you were embarrassed for someone you didn’t event know?  That was Darren…but then he played a couple of years later, then a few more years, 5, then 10, and each time he was far better.  And then…then he gave us some live presentation.  He gave us the World Champion stuff!

That day stands as a highlight for me.   Darren’s secret is simple.  He records every speech, and he goes back and listens.  Have you ever done this?  It’s not easy to do something for an hour and then watch it all over – especially when it’s you speaking.  I started recommending this to my clients after I saw Darren (sales professionals who are in my sales mentor program).  Record your meetings, go back and listen to how you sound.  Are you good?  Are you interesting?  Is your client interested?  Are you listening or talking most of the time?  There’s no reason not to be a great presenter when you sell.  Sales people are called on daily to present value, explain solutions, and instill confidence.  Some are naturals, but many are not.  Try recording your meetings – and work on perfecting the way you talk, explain, introduce, and most importantly, how you listen.

Here’s Darren…

© 2012, 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

The final training day – Mastering Board Room Presentations was completed yesterday.  Today I’ll be heading to Singapore to work through similar material…I am looking forward to flying an airline with a great customer service reputation!  Remember, “You have a choice”, unless you are flying out of Charlotte or any other hub with only one airline.

Some favorite Sydney tidbits:

– Tomato Sauce comes on fries – looks and tastes like ketchup to me.

– Pickles is something you spread on the sandwich, while gerkins (probably spelled this incorrectly) are the cucumber things soaked in vinegar.

– Everyone carries a diary of some type – this is the daily planner (paper of electronic)

– Meat pies are a local favorite for sale on the steets

– The cabs are clean!

– Even while a million miles from home, Obama seems to dominate the news paper and radio news.

– Whether from the north or south, we’re all Yanks over here (Americans that is)

– It’s fun to be a day ahead of the family, that way I can let them know ahead of time if they need to change course before it’s too late.  It’s like have prophetic insight.

Feel free to contribute any other interesting sayings, phrases, word differences….

A few comments from the last class:

1. You can’t wing it when it comes to presentations.  In every MBP class I teach, it is clear that new presentation material requires practice.  This is why even highly successful speakers continue to practice new material – they never “Just wing it”.

2. It is  tempting to pepper your presentations with sound bites – analytics, statistics, data, etc.  While this is interesting information, it does not put the brain into a state ready to buy or even take action.  You need stories, and your stories have to be great.

3. Great stories take work.  I recommend working with someone who understands the mechanics of a good story line, write it in such a way as to build that emotion, and refine it – in other words, edit it.  This is a great marketing group project.  Then memorize it, refine it, practice it…make it perfect.

While in Sydney I had the opportunity to watch as a film crew was filming a new motion picture.  I have no idea what movie they are making or who the actors are, but it was clearly high-end production.  I watched for about 30 minutes, then came back that way for another 15.  Over the course of at least 90 minutes, I  actually observed about 45 minutes,  as they worked on the same mundane scene….a crowd of city people walking different directions in front of an office building while two men stood in the center discussing a business deal.  It was a 2 minute scene yet they filmed it over and over, making minor tweaks that were not evident to me as a bystander.  While we don’t need this type of detailed perfection, it makes the point that even the professionals don’t just “wing it”.  They practice, memorize, practice, then film and re-film for hours, until it finally works.  If you want to close the million dollar deal, consider putting more time into the rehearsal, and less time into meetings.  The scene above will probably be cut…