One of the biggest fears that most people experience is public speaking. Most people would rather do anything else than get up in front of a group of people large or small. I remember one of the first workshops I gave over 20 years ago. I won't describe what happened before I took the stage, I will let your imagination run wild, but it wasn't pretty. I was terrified. The workshop was five hours long and it was the longest five hours of my life. But I got through it. After it was all over, I thought to myself, “It wasn't pretty but I could do this again.” And so began my career of public speaking.
Before my first experience with public speaking, I started out coaching sales people one-on-one. I thought to myself that if I coached people one-on-one, I would never have to leave my office and get up in front of a group. I remember one day a client said to me, “Wouldn't it be better to bring the group together first and lay a foundation of best sales practices and then start the coaching?” I knew he was right. However I so desperately wanted to avoid speaking in front of a group at all costs.
Whenever I take on a new challenge in my life I ask myself this question, “What is the worst thing that could happen if I do this?” I ask myself this each time before I take the stage. A few years ago I was speaking to a large group of financial advisors in Las Vegas at their National Sales Meeting. I entered the room and started my presentation. On a side note, the AV person had forgotten to tape down the wires. (For a speaker that is a very important detail that should not be overlooked.) Well, I was about 10 minutes into my presentation and I tripped over the wires and disconnected all the power. Here I was standing in a dark room, no lights, no powerpoint and no sound. What was I to do? I started to laugh. I reached down and plugged everything back in and said, “Well, I guess that is the worst thing that can happen.” So I asked the audience, “What is the worst thing that can happen to you when you pick up the phone and prospect?” Everyone laughed and I seized the moment and related that experience I just had with prospecting for new business.
When you ask yourself the question, “What is the worst thing that can happen?” the downside is always considerably small in comparison to the upside. It is critical that you focus on that upside. Over the past 20 years I have had the opportunity to touch thousands of salespeople and help them increase their selling skills and each time I take the stage, I have an opportunity to improve my communication skills. In one of my favorite books it says, “Do you see a man skilled at his work? He will stand before kings not obscure men.” I believe that you and I get paid for three things: The knowledge, skills, and results that we bring to the market place. The person working at McDonalds is not receiving $10 per hour in wages. The person at McDonalds is receiving $10 per hour for the knowledge, skill and result that they bring to the hour. If you would like to increase the money you make each year, increase your value you bring to the marketplace each day.
What does all of this have to do with sales? Everything! By improving my skills as a public speaker I have increased my confidence, communication, and sales skills many times over. As a result my income has increased dramatically over the past 20 years. I recently returned from a speakers workshop with the internationally known motivational speaker, Les Brown. It was fantastic. I learned so much that day on how I can improve my speaking skills. In fact, observing Les Brown was worth the price of admission. Someone asked me, “You have been speaking for over twenty years why would you go do something like this?” Simple answer. I can always learn something to improve my skill.
I must confess, I have never taken a public speaking course or had a speaking coach. However, I have observed myself on video many times and have spent hours in a quiet room practicing over and over again until I get it right. I always prepare and practice before every speech. I never wing it. Tried it a couple of time and for me, it doesn't work.
You may consider taking a public speaking course or joining toastmasters. Why? Because of the self-confidence and courage you will gain. When you diminish your fear of speaking in front of audiences you will dramatically increase your confidence when prospecting. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking every opportunity to speak.
Public speaking has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. It is also the biggest fear I have overcome. There are too many doors to count that have opened because I have raced towards my fear instead of hiding from it. All great visionary leaders and most of the successful people that I have met have had the courage and self-confidence and are able to express themselves with great conviction. If you want to observer a master communicator in action watch any speech given by Steve Jobs of Apple. Here is a great book to read “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience” by Carmine Gallo
What has been your experience with public speaking?