Frozen. #40 #birthday #thebean #chicago

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As part of my consultancy, I talk to a lot of high-performing sales professionals.

(I always look at the crowd and wonder, “Why aren’t there more ugly people in this room? Why aren’t any of you fat? How come you’re so young?” Dammit.)

This past week, I went to Chicago in 4 degree weather and spoke to two groups of top sales performers. It was a fun couple o’ days, but there were some delivery bumps along the way.

Want some unique public speaking tips? Want to recover from dumb mistakes quickly? Here is my advice.

Embrace the Now

On both days, I arrived prepared and ready to go. On the first day, I had no mic and had to yell at 150 people. On the second day, I was given a lav mic — but then it stopped working. The AV guy stopped me in the middle of my presentation and handed me another mic that didn’t work. He tried to stop me a third time, but I said, “I got this.”

I switched off the mic and went back to being loud.

You can memorize your speech, but technical difficulties are hard to overcome if you’re wrapped in a tight coil of anxiety. Embrace the moment. Prepare for turbulence. Have a line ready to “toss out” if something goes awry.

I said, “Oh, the mic doesn’t work? My check still cashes.”

That’s true. It always does.

The World is Your Stage

During my sales training, I had the aforementioned AV guy who harshed my mellow with the faulty microphone equipment. Then someone forgot to turn off his cell phone. Then I had a facilities guy walk into my room and take the room’s temperature with a laser gun.

A laser gun. That’s a first for me.

Life is a circus. You can be the ringleader or the clown. I choose the ringleader role. Want to disrupt my flow? You become part of the story.

TED Talks Lie to You

There is the right way to give a speech, and then there’s the wrong way. The right way? Give a speech that showcases your natural abilities. The wrong way? Copy a TED talk and pretend that you are personally inspiring because you hacked the formula.

I use complex PowerPoint slides when I need them. I use pretty photos when I need those, too. This last event? I wanted to deliver my talk as a conversation instead of a lecture, so we designed a minimalistic slide deck that looked like Cards Against Humanity.

The audience benefits from listening to me and not looking at some inspirational photo of Tibetan Buddhist nuns. I can make a point without having a visual representation of my point on the screen. And not everything is a goddamn story. There are no inspiring lessons to learn from the time I saw Neutral Milk Hotel in Richmond.

Ask more from your audience, and you’ll get it.

Finally, one more piece of advice.

Nobody knows if you screw up. Miss a point? Stumble? Forget a word? I accidentally confused the words plateau and platitudes, the other day. Whoops. I’m confident enough to know that very few people caught it. I’m also confident enough to know that most people don’t care.

So remember: Nobody’s judging you. Nobody’s rooting for you to fail. And if they are, they are the suckers in the audience. You are the big champ on stage!

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  1. Actually, some people do notice, but that’s mainly because they attend to try to find things to criticise instead of just enjoying the speech, so it is usually safe to ignore them.

    About the microphone issue, you are very right. The show must go on.

  2. Fantastic article and great advice. So nice to read a true pro tell people there is no huge mystery that only a select few are privileged to understand about making a great presentation.

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