Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sell, Not Tell When You Are Speaking

Having taught over 20 years in at least 19 countries, I have heard many perceptions about my business, as well that of others. Some are spot-on, precise and accurate. Others are well off the mark into the stratosphere of ignorance and obliviousness. Again, perception is reality for humans. Rene Descartes said, ‘ I think, therefore I am.’

Often, I have heard friends, acquaintances and even clients remark that speaking is simple. Interestingly, the challenge would be to marry simplicity with ease (easiness). In practice, not all simple things are easy to do. Anyone can play the violin – badly. An aspiring musician asked a veteran musician, ‘How do I get to the Esplanade Music Hall?’ His answer: ‘Practice, practice and practice!’

I am not a full-time speaker, and I know many who belong to the national speakers’ association. I operate on a different wavelength, leveraging on my expertise in leadership, languages, and love for life. It is a fact some draw huge fees for their presentations (PowerPoint slides and a wireless microphone) on one major achievement. Yet, to be able to speak with the influence and impact so desired by the booking agents and clients require these aspects of credibility. This weekend, I spent a few days as a student with Sheila Taormina – 4-time Olympian, Olympics gold-medalist swimmer, swim coach, author and motivational speaker – and learnt that delightful personal values makes her an asset to the organizations and clients she serves.

1)    Speaking is about creating influence through a sharing experience. Influencing is how you lead others, and position yourself as a leader.
2)    You need to make sense and talk sense. Nonsense has no place on the stage. Apply uncommon sense to creating a session for your audience.
3)    You need to build a resume of expertise, education, and engagements. Completes some personal challenges. Build a list of your achievements, accomplishments and experiences (rest assured, nobody can take these away from you).
4)    Both introverts and extraverts make effective speakers. Talkative and unfocused speakers will often lose their audience. Silence on-stage is suicidal.
5)    Self-indulgence, self-aggrandisement and over-indulgence in one’s ego are not topics that many care for. Talk about things that matter to people.
6)    You need to develop exquisite presentational skills through constant practice and honest feedback from others.
7)    Tell stories that matter. Recognise as many people as you can. Draw upon people who inspire you (there must be hundreds).
8)    Have a few anchor speeches that you have delivered. Over-exposure of the exact talk can be dulling to your audience: vary your content, however stick to familiar things.

Leadership Lessons: Credibility is necessary or you would be perceived as lacking the credits, and substance. Over-indulgence of your resume’s design may lead others to question your incredulity. Moving from credible to incredible is about being inquisitive, involving your self with experts, and investing time in improving yourself. Build a manifesto of the cause you believe in, and develop eagle-eyed focus on it. Be a beacon of hope and inspiration if you are to be a motivational speaker, telling stories that others relate to.

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