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.
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.
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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