I give more than 75 presentations a year at annual meetings and sales meetings.
There are always other presenters: CEOs and VPs of everything from finance to marketing. Most of the speakers are, to be kind, less than compelling. Most of the speakers, to be unkind, are boring.
People in the audience are doing e-mails and texting while their CEO is speaking. Yikes. These companies have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to put on these meetings and their messages may not be getting through.
My philosophy of speaking and speakers has always been the person in the front of the room giving a speech has a responsibility to be dynamic. He or she must have a compelling, transferrable message that creates action on the part of each audience member.
They may be a brilliant leader, they may be a brilliant marketer or CFO, but the audience is elsewhere during their talk.
Reality: If you’re a leader in front of your people, ask yourself this: Do they want to listen to me, or do they have to listen to me? The answer to that question is the harsh reality of your speaking and presentation skills.
Here are the primary reasons speakers fall flat:
- Lack of training in public speaking
- Lack of preparedness
- Lack of material mastery
- Lack of rehearsal
Tons of books have been written on the subject of speaking and presentations. Dale Carnegie wrote one of the most famous called, simply, “Public Speaking.”
If you want to improve, taking a Dale Carnegie course in public speaking is an option. In Charlotte, the Ty Boyd Excellence in Speaking Institute specializes in training leaders. Toastmasters clubs are in every city, town and borough of this country.
One of the most informative, and one of the earliest, pieces written about public speaking was by the father of self-help in America, Orison Swett Marden.
Marden’s classic book is “Pushing to the Front,” published in 1911. In Chapter 33, titled “Self-Improvement through Public Speaking,” he espouses wisdom like:
- “No matter how much you may know about a subject, if it does not happen to interest those to whom you are talking, your efforts will be largely lost.”
- “No amount of natural ability or education or good clothes, no amount of money, will make you appear well if you cannot express yourself in good language.”
Sound advice that’s available for free. The entire book is now in the public domain. It may be the best personal-development book of all time.
I ask executives how much public-speaking training have they had, and the usual response is, “Little or none.” Why?
Many look at public speaking and presentations as unimportant or try to let their slides speak for them. Bad decision.
Before you go off on me, let me say this: There are many dynamic executive presenters, just not that many.
I have some ideas that will help you:
- Take a course. You can jump-start your ability by educating yourself.
- Speak regularly, at least once a week.
- Speak in safe venues: civic groups or in front of your co-workers.
- Hire a coach, someone who has been there often and done it dynamically.
- Film yourself every time you speak. Filming is the only path to self-improvement.
- Master your slides if you use them. Slides can make or break a talk.
- Master your speech. Live rehearsal and total belief in what you’re saying is integral to authenticity.
- Speak from your heart, not from a script, a teleprompter or a speech that someone else wrote or prepared. Sincerity in speaking, not reading, makes your message transferrable.
I am throwing down the gauntlet. Get better as a public speaker.
Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of “The Sales Bible” and “The Little Red Book of Selling.” President of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs sales meetings and conducts Internet training on selling and customer service at www.trainone.com.