I’m on the road this week, outside the city of Philadelphia, conducting an Executive Presentation Skills program. It’s a program I really like teaching because it allows me to go back to my roots. After all, the first book I ever wrote was not a sales book, but a book on speaking professionally. It was my first bestseller, and now in its 3rd edition. Yep, sometimes it’s nice to take a break from teaching people how to sell. Of course, that won’t be happening this week. That’s because the biggest secret in learning to speak professionally is learning how to sell when you speak. Surprised? You shouldn’t be.
I already wrote a BLArticle™ about the bizarre fill-in presentation I conducted in place of Bill Clinton. (https://jolles.com/blarticle/2011/12/now-subbing-for-bill-clinton%E2%80%A6-rob-jolles/) Now, I’m here to tell you that isn’t the only President I connected with as a speaker. In 1988, the Baltimore County Police Department came out to Xerox, looking for a speaker. They wanted this speaker to deliver a keynote in front of over 1,100 hostage negotiators at their annual conference. After observing a handful of Xerox trainers, I was selected. Before you pat me on the back, understand I believe I was “selected” because I firmly believe the other Xerox trainers they may have chosen ahead of me turned them down.
When they sat me down to offer me the presentation, after my initial fist pump, the police officer narrowed his gaze and said, “I need to tell you two quick things before you say yes. First, although we believe your message of selling and persuasion will be invaluable to our constituents, you need to know that when we broke the news we were going to get a Xerox copier salesman, they weren’t too pleased.”
“Oh, uh, is there’s more?”
The policeman continued, “Yes sir. You should know that this group is used to some pretty high caliber speakers. Two years ago, Ted Koppel was our keynote speaker.”
“Oh, uh, wh-what about last year?”
With that guarded policeman look, but a slight smile, “We had Ronald Reagan. He was quite good sir.”
Again, it was dawning on me why I had been, “selected.” It is possible, though, that I was selected because everyone who worked for Xerox knew that I would not say “no” to this kind of a challenge. Either way, I said, “yes.” I said yes because I put my faith in a process I have now been teaching and writing about for 28 years.
On that fateful day, I had 60 magic minutes and I spent 15 of them using multiple tactics to sell the audience on my message. That’s 25% of my speaking time just getting them to want to hear about my message. If I told anyone I was going to spend that much time just prepping the audience for their presentation, they would have had a fit. But this doing this allowed me to connect the message to what they were doing.
For the next three years, I received a letter from this committee saying the same thing. “Mr. Jolles, your presentation remains the highest rated presentation ever delivered at our symposium.” That’s something I am immensely proud of. Yep, I just needed to sell that message that day.
“Sell.” There’s that word again! I just can’t seem to get away from it. However, can you imagine sitting in a room, learning how to bring a message to life, and not learning how to apply selling to presenting? Imagine for a moment that you were about to take the stage and give a presentation. Feel a butterfly or two? Now, imagine that I walked over to you and whispered in your ear; “I can guarantee that every single person in the audience wants to hear your message, and is looking forward to hearing what you have to say.” I’ll bet you would feel a little better. That comes from learning to sell within your presentation, that’s what needs to be taught, and teaching people how to do this happens to be a passion of mine.
Now you understand what I’m going to be teaching this week to this group of speakers. I’m getting ready to spend two days teaching an audience of speakers how to get up there and “sell” their presentations. They’ll even go on camera delivering 20-minute presentations, using this technique, on the second day of training. The people in this class will learn how to make their audiences want to hear what they have to say. How’s that for fun?!