Want people to accept what you say? Then get them to believe in you! Here's why you need to sell yourself when you speak.
Are you selling ideas, products, or services when you speak?
You're probably focused on doing just that. But just as important: you should be selling yourself. If audiences don't believe in you, why should they believe in what you say?
So, are you good at that type of sales?
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Recently, I coached a client who speaks nationally on franchising opportunities. As part of her talk to potential franchisees, she shows a video highlighting the launch of a successful franchise. As I worked with her on starting her talk strongly and setting the right tone, I mentioned how important it was for her to sell herself, to get three important responses from the audience. She needed to (a) get the audience to relax, while (b) feeling that they were in good hands, so (c) they could fully listen and absorb what she was saying.
"First," I said, "you have to sell the value of the video before you show it, so your listeners will understand the importance of what they're about to see." ("I think you'll really enjoy watching this video, which shows . . .") "Then you have to sell the value of the talk—why they should listen. At that point, you'll be ready to sell the franchise opportunity." Do this with your audience, and you'll really be selling yourself as the one person in the room who really knows how to persuade. This is vital if you're doing any kind of motivational speaking or TED Talks.
Below are three steps you should take to make sure your audience is right there: where you want them to be, at exactly the moment when you want them to be there.
Step 1: Sell Yourself as a Leader and an Authority
When you speak, whatever your relative place in the hierarchy or your company or organization, you're the leader in the room. As audience members, we need to see, hear, and comprehend that, before your talk gets very far down the road. That's a central part of knowing how to speak for leadership.
I say "see" and "hear," because a big part of what I'm talking about has to do with voice and body language—the key elements of nonverbal communication. (I'm assuming you know your stuff and your content is exemplary.) So, if you're not already there, get good at commanding the stage in terms of how you hold yourself, move, gesture, and pace your presentation. That last part is important and often missed. You need to give the sense that you're proceeding at exactly the pace you want this speech to unfold; because after all, it is your speech.
And one other element that matters a lot: gain the skill of being conversational. Just talk to your audience, rather than "delivering a presentation." Do these things and we'll know we're in good hands, and will be open to being influenced by you.
Step 2: Sell the Value of Your Talk to Listeners
This is the step that is uniformly left out of speeches and presentations, or touched upon only weakly. You have to tell the audience why they should pay attention to what you're about to say, letting them know why it's important to them that they do so.
If you're thinking you need to do this at the start of your presentation, you're right. Think about how most presenters proceed. They say hello, tell us they're really excited to be here (though they often don't look or sound that way), then throw up an agenda slide. We're immediately shot with four or five bullets concerning the topics that are going to be covered. It also sounds like we're back in school with a test coming up at the end of the lecture.
Now imagine instead that you begin by getting everyone intrigued about what's coming. You do that by knowing how to start a speech to grab your audience. Once you have everyone engaged, find a more interesting way to introduce your main points than a "bullets slide." Now is the time when you sell the value of this talk by telling everyone why it all matters to them.
Basically, you say something like: "I want to share this with you today because I think it's vital information you need in your job [given what's happening in our industry, etc.]" This taps directly into the WIIFM (what's-in-it-for-me?) frame of mind that every audience member is in all the time. Believe me, once you've answered that question in their minds, and audiences are clear about how your speech will benefit them, they will pay attention!
Step 3: Sell Your Idea, Product, or Vision
Once you get to this point by implementing the advice above, the rest is easy. Now you've reached the body of your presentation. This is where the crux of your ideas, data points, case studies, and evidence live.
The reason you've already got this covered, is because you've been thinking all along that this is what your talk is about. I've found that I typically spend far less time discussing and coaching clients on this part of their presentations, because it usually takes care of itself. It's the opening and closing that usually require more attention.
Especially in your opening, you need to sell yourself and the value of what you're about to say. The influence, persuasion, and inspiration that you want to take place needs that kind of selling, before the other can take place.
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