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The Importance of Rehearsal

I am an enormous proponent of Toastmasters. If you want to learn to speak in public, there isn’t anything more effective or faster. Honestly, for the first couple years, I didn’t use my time at Toastmasters as well as I might have.

For good or for ill, I have the ability to stand up and speak extemporaneously. So, when I was scheduled to speak, I would write an outline, memorize it, and then I would show up and speak. This changed for me a couple of years ago.

After giving a speech, my evaluator stood up and evaluated my speech (every speech you give at Toastmasters is evaluated). She said: “That was a good speech. I’d really like to see it again, after you have rehearsed it and practiced. Then it’s going to be an amazing speech!”

My goal was never to give a “good” speech. My goal was to deliver something much more than that. Since that time, I have taken a very different approach to public speaking. As you might guess, the lessons apply to sales.

Writing Every Word. Every One.

Before every speech I give, I sit down and write every word. Literally. The act of writing the words you want to say—or need to say—produces a very different result than when you wing it and speak off the cuff (even if you are good at it).

Being comfortable on stage and confident speaking extemporaneously are wonderful skills. But it isn’t same thing as having exactly the right words to convey your message. It isn’t the same thing as having the words that will compel your audience to take action.

Writing your speech forces you to make choices, to commit to the language. More important still, the act of writing includes the act of editing. Once written you can go back over the words, refining your message and improving your language with each revision. It’s how you make sure your words resonate with your audience.

As a salesperson, I always write down the important points that I need to make when I am with a client. I also write down the questions I believe I should be prepared to answer, and I write down answers. I memorize them.

If this sounds like a lot of trouble, know that you say the same things over and over again in front of clients. If you haven’t taken the time to think about how best to say what you need to say, you really must try it. You’ll like it a lot better than winging it, and so will your dream clients.

Rehearsal

Lately I have witnessed some salespeople present when they were completely unprepared to do so. They were unrehearsed, and it showed in front of the client. There is every reason in the world to write the language that you want to use to make the important points you want to make when you present or speak, and there are even more reasons to rehearse.

Since the day my evaluator called me on the carpet for being exceptionally good at winging it but unprepared, I have rehearsed every speech I have given. I start by reading the speech aloud a couple of times. This is part of my editing process, allowing me to hear what the audience will hear. Some things that sound good while I am reading them to myself are horrible when read aloud.

Then, I read the speech aloud over and over again while standing up and moving. I use the space as I intend to use it when I speak. Standing up and moving has a tremendous impact on working the words into your nervous system and your memory. It just works.

The rehearsal builds confidence. Confidence builds a better performance. It’s as true for sales as it is for public speaking.

But, Not Exactly Word for Word

But, public speaking, like sales, also requires the ability to speak off the cuff. I have an amazing ability to remember a lot of things for a short period of time, but I am not so good at long-term retention. I don’t memorize the speech in its entirety or follow it exactly (and I never use note cards). You want to be able to work in the things that are thrown your way when you are presenting or speaking.

I memorize my opening.

Your opening is what is going to capture you audience’s attention (and if you are good, their imagination).

I memorize my outline.

I always commit to memory the major sections and the major points I want to make. I memorize the structure and flow.

I always memorize the important phrases.

If you take the time to make good language choices, you want to remember them and use them. The critical points, the funny lines, and the calls to action are worth committing to memory.

I memorize the conclusion of the speech.

You want your audience to remember you and what you said. You want to make a good last impression. Leaving them with something memorable, something inspiring, and some call to action helps you achieve these outcomes. So, I commit it to memory.

This outline works for sales calls, too. If a call is important, if winning a dream client is important, treat it like it’s important and do the work necessary to deliver the goods.

Questions

Even if you are wonderful when you are put on the spot, how would your sales calls and presentations benefit from rehearsal?

How do you make sure that your language choices are as powerful as they need to be?

How do you rehearse for sales calls and presentations?

What do you want your clients or audience to do after you present? How does what you do affect their decision?


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Comments

comments

  • http://www.linkedin.com/pub/tim-mushey/8/428/305 Tim Mushey

    Wow Anthony great late night post! I have been guilty over the years of doing very similar product presentations, or sales proposals presentations over and over again. I guess it could be categorized as “memorized – winging it”. There were always key points that I touched on, but certainly I never hit on everything that I wanted to. Mainly because I did not have an outline, or think things through clearly enough before I presented. AKA not prepared.

    You post has definitely changed my planning and focus going forward. And ironically enough, I just started to research local toastmasters clubs in my community, and am going to get involved this fall. I still have a lot to learn with this skill. Thanks!

    • http://www.thesalesblog.com S. Anthony Iannarino

      Tim: I write in the morning, I edit at night. But, tonight I took my son to the movies late, so I couldn’t hit the publish button until very late. 

      You will love Toastmasters! It is a killer investment of your time. Let me know how you do.

      • http://www.linkedin.com/pub/tim-mushey/8/428/305 Tim Mushey

        Oh yeah I forgot that you write first thing in the morning which is awesome! I try to myself whenever possible. Hope you enjoyed the movie with your son.

        I am really looking forward to Toastmasters. It is a really big step for me. I have been very social and outgoing for a long time, but things did not start out that way for me. I have battled a stutter since I was a kid. Although it is mostly under control now, being in a new environment like Toastmasters will certainly put me to the test. My flare ups tend to be worse when I am under some pressure, nervous etc. But I am much more up for the challenge today, then even 5-10 years ago.

        So I am going for it, and am really excited. It will give me awesome experience for recording future video and public speaking for my business.

        Have a great weekend!

        Tim

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Awesome post, Anthony! I am just now realizing the power of writing a speech word for word after 15 years in Toastmasters. I had the pleasure of seeing World Champions of Speaking, Darren LaCroix and Ed Tate the other night at our speakers bureau. They had an interesting take on writing a world championship speech
    1. Write out your speech using all the facts, figures, and anecdotes you can gather.2. Give the speech to an audience and video tape it3. Have someone transcribe the actual words you used.4. Cut the speech in half and write it out again5. Give the shortened speech and get a round robin evaluation6. Cut the speech in half again.7. Give the final version in front of an audience and video tape it again.8. Listen to the video without sound; can I follow you?9. Watch the video without sound; are there distractions?10. Play the video back at a fast speed. Distracting gestures will stand out like a sore thumb11. Watch the video at regular speed and note any changes you want to make12. Write out your final version word for word.13. Memorize your keywords, phrases, and powerful lines14. Practice, practice, practice, until the speech flows like honey15 Give your amazing speech to your target audience.While this procedure is time consuming and may require that you visit multiple clubs or audiences, it really produces an amazing presentation. I’m sure the same procedure can be used with a sales presentation. When I was in outside sales years ago, I would give a similar presentation to each one of my cold call clients. Had I used this procedure, I’m sure my results would have been much better.

    • http://www.thesalesblog.com S. Anthony Iannarino

      That’s all solid advice for public speaking, Jon. I believe the principles underlying those bullet points can–and should–be applied to presenting in sales (except for the fact that in public speaking the audience isn’t desperate to engage in a dialogue). 

      Many years ago, I had to video tape myself on a sales call. It was one of the most painful and beneficial actives I was ever required to undertake! But you can’t imagine the learning!

      A

      • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

        Video is painful at first. My self esteem took a huge hit… but I eventually got over it. I couldn’t believe how different that I sounded on tape. What was really funny, is my voice didn’t sound any different to my wife who watched the video.

        Thanks for your blog, you have given me some great ideas today!

      • http://www.thesalesblog.com S. Anthony Iannarino

        When I was kid and fronted a rock band, I hated to hear my recorded voice. What you hear is so very different than what other’s hear. Thanks for stopping by, for reading, and for sharing your thoughts, Jon!

  • http://twitter.com/westfallonline Chris Westfall

    We all have different routes to our destination, and different processes.  I would never ever in a million years write out a speech, never have and never will. But I am a bit of a freak show when it comes to presentations.  I’m not a weird dude (that’s what my therapist tells me) but my process and delivery is not like anything you’ve ever seen before. 
    The way I rehearse for a sales call, or a formal presentation, or just about anything, is to think about what I want to accomplish, what challenges I can anticipate, and what three jokes I will use.  Usually, they are the same three jokes, but that’s just because I believe in recycling.  For my coaching clients, I don’t help them to give a speech, I show them how to deliver a message.  That message is authentic and compelling, and can show up on a moment’s notice – just like real life.

    • http://www.thesalesblog.com S. Anthony Iannarino

      I never thought I would write a speech either. Until I made the connection with scripts for calls. Now, I can’t imagine not doing so. Weird how that works. 

      I haven’t written this post yet, but I am going to. Sales does require that you be a bit of an entertainer. Especially when presenting. it helps a lot to get your message through when you add some levity, and the thing is, your new audiences haven’t heard your stock material. People way underestimate the power of a few funny anecdotes. 

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Chris. I knew you would have something to add!

  • http://roz-bennetts.blogspot.com/ Roz Bennetts

    That was a timely article as I’ve just joined a Toastmasters group – well I attended as a guest but I’m definitely signing up. I like the approach you suggest and memorising the first minute or so is a good way of overcoming nerves.

    • http://www.thesalesblog.com S. Anthony Iannarino

      You’re going to love Toastmasters, Roz! Check in with me after speech 1 and speech 10!

  • Brian

    Excellent post Anthony. I approach speaking much in the same way you do. I never write it out but I do rehearse out loud multiple times. I have not worked on the stage presence or writing it out. Thanks for the ideas!

  • Tim Magwood

    Anthony – well written and well read!

    You provide a succinct commentary on the artful balance between preparedness and being improvisational-thank you!

    One important “add” I would make is the importance of practicing with someone else, getting feedback (particularly for an critical call/pitch) from a Manager/Colleague or Coach. The ingredient of feedback on the structure, messaging, etc is an important one.

    Cheers,

    Tim Magwood
    Sales & Presentation Coach

    • http://www.thesalesblog.com S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks for adding your comments here, Tim! That’s one of the best parts of a blog like this: smart people stop by and clean up some oversights. Getting feedback is crucial.

      I like mock sales calls where the hard questions are asked and answered before they are asked and have to be answered. It’s amazing how bad some answers can be even when you know what you want to say. 

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