It took me a long time in my career to realize this, but everyone — no matter how old or what type of job we hold — is a salesperson.
As a child, you are selling your parents on ideas or privileges you believe you deserve. As a high school junior or senior, you are selling colleges on what a great “asset” you would be to the school community. As a college graduate, you are selling a prospective employer on what a good addition you would make to the team. As an employee, you are selling suppliers, customers and your boss on the value you could add to their respective organizations. As an entrepreneur, you are selling your passion.
We’re all in sales. And to be a salesperson, you need to be able to communicate and present ideas; basically, you need to be able to tell a story. Unfortunately, there are no formal training or education programs that teach “storytelling.” We are all pretty much stuck with formal “presentation” training or learning through immersion.
Throughout my career, I have done hundreds of presentations to groups as small as a handful and as large as a couple thousand, and people always say I am a great presenter. The truth is – I do not think I am a great presenter; I just think I’m a good storyteller. Along the way, I have learned a few tricks. I’d like to share seven of them.
Why seven? Someone once told me, “Never give people more than seven things to remember because they won’t remember.” That is why phone numbers are only seven digits in the U.S. (minus the area code).
1. Get over yourself.
It is not about you; it is about the audience.
2. Be clear, in a meaningful way.
It is not about what you say, but how it is interpreted.
3. Immerse your audience in you.
It is not about your slides; they are just props. Slides don’t bring a story to life — you do.
4. Pull your audience towards you.
It’s not just about the words, it is about the pace and tone in which you deliver them. For example, voice inflection more than words engages and energizes an audience.
5. Have a heart.
It is not about defending what you say, it is about believing it and being passionate about it (basically – selling it!).
6. Let your audience be your guide.
It is not about memorization, it is about preparation. Have an opening, key themes and a closing, and then flow with the energy and direction of the crowd — let them help you present.
7. Be authentic.
It is not about being confident; it is about being humble and genuine. Connect with and entertain your audience by being yourself.
Practice makes perfect?
Like anything you want to improve, you have to start somewhere and you will benefit from practice. You’re selling every day, so you should have a lot of opportunity to practice. Like Richard Carlson (the “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” guy) says, “You are what you practice most.” Be a storyteller.