Archives For NSA

How do Professional Speakers Improve?

Yesterday I compared professional speaking to selling…here is what the professionals focus on:

o Stories.  This topic deserves more later, but in short, stories are central to any great presentation.  Recall your favorite conferences and I bet the speaker had great stories.  And they were likely personal stories.  Practice them, write them out, record them, listen to them, tighten them up, and make them perfect.

o The Alpha.  The alpha is the opening – the point in the meeting when your listeners either tune in or check out.  Memorize it, rehearse it, know it, and speak it.  Every sales call is different, but contrary to popular opinion, your opening can be memorized and modified slightly to meet the need.  Assume you have about six seconds to grab their attention.

o Sound Bites.  Sound bites bring credibility, create interest, and build your case.   Don’t over do it, but be armed with well-rehearsed sound bites from credible sources; sources your target audience will recognize and believe.

o The Close.  Next steps are the key to moving the sales cycle forward.  Make sure you know where you are going and you have a compelling process to move your client forward.  Seth Godin, Author of Permission Marketing, writes about steps of permission that are gained along the way.  What is the next step needed in the permission chain.

Almost every time I speak, I record it.  Sometimes I have video; other times I just have audio.  Watching and listening to yourself will give you a whole new perspective. Is your presentation style high-impact, emotionally charged, exciting,… enthusiastic?  Is it credible and do you deliver concrete concepts that allow the listener to visualize the issues and proposed solutions?  If not, head back to the lab to rebuild.  Don’t expect this to be easy.  It’s like golf, every move matters, and lots of practice is required.  It also pays to take a lesson from someone who knows.  But just imagine doubling your effectiveness and cutting your sales cycle in half.  If there is one area that deserves some investment, it’s your message and delivery.

© 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