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Speak and You Shall Receive

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In repeated studies over the years people rank their fear of public speaking above the fear of dying. This can be a daunting experience but if you are in sales your business is going to involve public speaking. Let me take you one step further. If you are in business you are in sales.

Please take a few deep breaths…we can get through this together. Standing in front of a room presenting your product or service brings butterflies in the stomach for some. Like two sides of a coin, though, strengths and weaknesses are joined. Those butterflies provide valuable energy when you can teach them to fly in formation.

As a business professional you are often asked to give a sixty-second elevator pitch at networking events. Sometimes that expands to a ten-minute chamber function talk or a twenty-minute sales presentation. Ideally, you will not only share the information with confidence but include motivation and leadership at the same time. (see week 23.) As intimidating as this may all seem your audience is rooting for your success, as well. After all, they have time invested in the talk, too.

There are professionals that can help you. One of the best local resources is your Toastmasters club. There are dozens within a short drive of most people and these are supportive training environments where you move at your own pace. Membership dues are insignificant and participation is voluntary (although that is where skills are developed.) I think of it as renting an audience.

There are business coaches, life coaches, sales trainers, and even speaking coaches in your local area, as well.

For those do-it-yourselfers (experienced and not so) here is a short list of five tips to consider:

  1. “A winning effort begins with preparation.” ~~Joe Gibbs Prepare, prepare, prepare! Prepare an outline and practice using note cards. Write (or better type) using large font and simple words. Make it incredibly easy to read. Avoid over-preparation, though, as that leads to nervousness. See the next point for more on this.
  2. “A man’s accomplishments in life are the cumulative effect of his attention to detail.” ~~John Foster Dulles Focus on one or two areas you know best. This will be easier for you to talk about which raises your confidence level and reduces stress.
  3. “A picture is worth a thousand words.” ~~Napoleon Bonaparte Using visual aids provides a ready roadmap to follow for both the speaker and the audience. Avoid the temptation to simply read the slides, however. This is insulting to your audience and diminishes your credibility, as well.
  4. “Who’s to say who’s an expert?” ~~Paul Newman The audience is here to listen to you. Remain credible and engaging and remember that you are the expert du jour.
  5. “I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained.” ~~Walt Disney Creativity goes a long way. Ask questions to engage your audience. Move around the room. If you can juggle or sing, that is a compelling ice breaker, as well.

In BNI, members have the opportunity to present ten-minute presentations to their fellow members. For some people, this is reason enough not to join. In fact, presenting is not required although it is a wonderful opportunity. Recently a CPA faced this reluctantly and was at a complete loss. She considered rescinding her membership rather than face the group—who are a very supportive audience. A fellow member recommended that she simply come up with ten questions and take twenty seconds to ask the question and forty seconds to answer it. This seemed palatable to the accountant and she prepared the questions before the day of their delivery arrived. Nervously, she stood and read from the sheet. Question One. Answer One. Question Two. Realizing that the question assumed a little knowledge she wasn’t sure the members had, she interjected a two-sentence clarification and read Answer Two. Question Three. Answer Three needed more elaboration, so she spoke directly to the audience about this area of accounting—an area she was knowledgeable and passionate on. This was easier than she expected. Glancing down at the paper she combined Question Four and Answer Four and expounded on exactly how this element faced her clients and the solutions she brought to their businesses. It was a little surprising to her when the President stood up and let her know that she had already gone over by a few minutes and recommend people get together with the CPA later to hear more.

There are many resources about public speaking. Please avail yourself of them.

Your action this week is to look for opportunities to present and practice each of the five tips above. If you are terrified, simply focus on a single sixty-second presentation and hone it to perfection. Find as many different venues to repeat it as you can. Start with the dog as your first audience, if you must, then move up to a networking environment. Enhance creativity by including a joke, poem, or catchy saying. Expand your repertoire of presentations over time. As your skill develops, seek out small speaking opportunities such as lunch-and-learns, chamber of commerce events, professional associations, and so on. Many groups are often faced with the challenge of finding qualified speakers. Make their life easier and yours richer by becoming a competent speaker.


© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.


Written by bniguy

November 26, 2017 at 6:32 am

One Response

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  1. Great article Steve!

    Scott Korbin

    November 26, 2017 at 4:08 pm

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