GUEST: Diane DiResta, Founder & CEO of DiResta Communications, Inc.
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The power of public speaking should be an integral part of your sales and marketing strategy. Being a compelling speaker can position you as a thought leader and lead to more closed deals.
To learn more about the power of effective public speaking, we spoke with Diane DiResta, the Founder and CEO of DiResta Communications, Inc. She is a certified speaking professional, international keynote speaker, executive speech coach, and author of Knockout Presentations.
Public Speaking Isn’t What You Think It Is
Public speaking is much more than giving a speech in front of a hundred people. Do you leave voicemails? That’s public speaking. Do you give updates at meetings? That’s public speaking, too.
There are a core set of public speaking skills. How you use and manage them will vary depending on the mode of communication.
More and more sales professionals practice seminar selling which involves talking to groups as opposed to one-on-one. Keeping this in mind, when a sales professional speaks on a stage or in a bigger venue, the same skills apply as in that smaller group setting, but the skills are now amplified.
“It’s how you use the room and the staging. When you’re in a smaller setting, you don’t want to be booming because that seems aggressive. If you’re at a smaller group, it’s more intimate. It can be more of a conversation.“
Founder and ceo, diresta communications, inc.
“It’s how you use the room and the staging,” says DiResta. “When you’re in a smaller setting, you don’t want to be booming because that seems aggressive. If you’re at a smaller group it’s more intimate. It can be more of a conversation. You need to tone down and use the skills that are appropriate to that venue.”
When working in a large room, you need to show up bigger and project a lot more. It takes more energy to capture and keep their attention.
A Constantly Paddling Duck
An effective public speaking presentation is 90% preparation and 10% delivery. When you see a great speaker or a great sales presenter in a small group, there is so much preparation that went before that; that’s why they can make it look simple.
Another key is to design your talk around a template or structure. You need “some kind of system to help organize your thoughts so that it sounds natural and conversational, but it gets to the point,” says DiResta.
Don’t Let Them Bite Your Neck
Public speaking is not only about the words that come out of your mouth. It is also about the body language that accompanies them.
One of the things DiResta does is help create confidence in clients who may be inadvertently sabotaging their communication style in the workplace.
“It’s not that men don’t get nervous, they do. In fact, I’d say there are two equalizers in life, money and public speaking.“
founder and ceo, diresta communications, inc.
“It’s not that men don’t get nervous, they do. In fact, I’d say there are two equalizers in life, money and public speaking,” says DiResta. “I don’t think that men or women are better presenters, but there are some unique things about women because they have to prove themselves so much more than men.”
One of the things DiResta wants all women to stop doing is the head tilt when they’re speaking. It is chiefly a listening gesture, but she says in the workplace it conveys weakness.
“When an animal surrenders in the wild, it exposes it neck,” says DiResta. “Your audience is picking up weakness even though they may not be thinking about it consciously. Stand with your head straight up. That will make a difference in the impression of confidence.”
Avoid Wimpy Words
Another thing DiResta wants people to stop doing is using what she calls “wimpy words” such those underlined in this example sentence:
Hopefully I’ve tried to convince you and I feel that if maybe we get together, this could be beneficial.
These weak words creep in most often during the closing period of a sale. Almost everyone gets nervous when it’s time to ask for the sale. DiResta encourages people to substitute more definitive terms. It’s not “if you buy,” but “when you buy” or “by purchasing with us,” etc.
Use words that are more powerful, not tentative. When you are persuading, influencing or selling, you want to use strong, definitive language.
When you’re in a conflict, that’s when you want to use softer, tentative language such as “we might want to consider….”
It’s All About Building Trust
Public speaking is the new competitive edge, according to DiResta.
Ten or more years ago, an introverted executive could delegate speeches. Now your audience wants to hear from you; you can’t avoid the podium.
What separates you from the competition is the trust you engender. When you can convey a message and connect with the audience, you get them to feel comfortable with you.
DiResta asks clients to move from eye contact to an eye connection. “I help them connect through the eyes with people so that they feel like you’re really looking directly at them and with them,” says DiResta.
“I help them connect through the eyes, with people, so that they fell like you’re looking directly at them and with them.“
FOunder and CEO, diresta communications, inc.
Another important element is rapport or likability. “When people like you and they feel that you like them, that’s when the conversation starts to open and they begin to trust,” says DiResta. “Meet them where they are… If they are a slow speaker, slow down your pace. If they are a high energy person, pick up the pace. Do they seem a little formal? Are they folksy? When you start to match them and you enter their world, you are being a much better presenter.”
Projecting to the Nosebleed Section
DiResta has seen people lose credibility because they were speaking too softly.
If you need to project to the back of a large room without amplification, DiResta has some suggestions to train your breath control with the abdominal muscles.
With one hand on the chest, one hand on the abdomen, breathe in.
Your abdomen should expand. You should see your lower hand coming out and forward.
Doing that for a number of beats will start to use those muscles.
“Those are the muscles that allow singers to hold a note,” says DiResta. “Those are the muscles that allow someone to project. When we try to project, a lot of times we’re speaking from the throat and it doesn’t get you very far. It takes a lot of practice.”
Enthusiasm is Contagious
Be excited about your project because enthusiasm is contagious and you don’t have to have great skills if you are passionate and excited about what you do. DiResta has seen presenters flub their lines and drop papers, but they were so excited that people got caught up in it and gave them the thumbs-up.
Don’t talk about your product. Ask about the buyer’s problems, and listen to their answers. Get into a conversation and show that you care. If your intention is to understand the client and develop a relationship, you’re going to be curious. So you want to have a curious mind.
Listener centered communication is a template for you to organize your thoughts in terms of the listener’s point of view. It starts with the hook.
Like most of us, DiResta usually hangs up on telemarketers. “There was one time I didn’t because the way he started was, ‘I’m calling to let you know that you’re paying too much on your electricity bill.’ That got my attention.”
Do your homework with a hook. What does your listener care about? They don’t care about your product or service or you. They care about solving their problems.
From Silent Lily in Pitch Perfect to Winston Churchill’s “Finest Hour”
DiResta often sees clients “move the needle” on their public speaking skills in as little as a two-day seminar. “That’s very exciting to me,” says DiResta. “It doesn’t mean they have no fear, but they stepped up, they felt more confident, and you can see it in them.”
When all else fails, DiResta has a few go-to coping mechanisms:
- Think of yourself as a host and shake hands and greet people as they arrive. This is a great way to relax yourself because you feel like you’ve made a few contacts. You can even reference something someone just said (with their permission) during your presentation. People love that.
Be authentic and sincere. If you know whom you’re going to meet ahead of time, go to LinkedIn and do some homework. What can you find out and reference during your conversation: an interest, hobby, or hometown that you have in common? Finding some rapport can pay off.
Tell a story. Storytelling is one of the most powerful selling and presentation skills. When people come into a room, their guard is up. When you tell a story, it drops because they’re engaged and listening and you can be much more powerful. People are coming to their own conclusions because they are seeing themselves and their own issues in your story.
The key to sales through public speaking is to story sell, not tell.
This post is based on an interview with Diane DiResta, Founder and CEO of DiResta Communications, Inc. To hear this episode, and many more like it, subscribe to the B2B Revenue Executive Experience.
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