I am, first and foremost, and will always be, an envelope salesman. My business card says so. But more people probably know me as an author and speaker -- which evolved from my sales career. Who would have thought?
Regardless of the title on your business card, everyone is a salesperson whether you want to admit it or not. Why? Because from the time you get up in the morning until the time you go to bed at night, you are continually communicating, negotiating, persuading, influencing and selling ideas.
When you can get up on your feet and talk extemporaneously on a lot of subjects, it instills confidence, develops poise and breeds conviction. You become more convincing in your meetings and your encounters. And you become a better leader, manager and salesperson.
I never pass up an opportunity to promote Toastmasters International, which started in 1924 and today has more than 300,000 members in 126 countries and nearly 15,000 clubs. Toastmasters changed my life.
Another organization that can dramatically change your life is Dale Carnegie Training.
I am also a proud graduate of Dale Carnegie.
The three most important keys on giving a good speech are: 1) Room size. 2) Room size. 3) Room size. You want the excitement and chemistry of a standing-room-only, bumper-to-bumper crowd. Extra space is a killer. Also try to avoid rooms with high ceilings.
Have the first row set very close to the stage. Too much space between the speaker and the first row can destroy the connection with the audience.
Studies show people remember more and laugh more in bright areas. Turn the lights up full blast, unless you are showing overheads.
Practice, practice, practice. Know your stuff. Don't ever give another speech without it being entertaining as well as educational.
Never, never, never end your program with a question- and-answer session. You cannot control the agenda or the quality of the questions. Start the Q & A five minutes before the end of your talk, and then end with an awesome story.
Find out who the group's last three to five speakers were and how they were received. Ask why they were successful or why they failed.
Contact the Chamber of Commerce of any city you are to speak in. They will give you loads of information to familiarize you with the local surroundings and help you personalize your remarks.
Never mispronounce a person's name. If you're not sure, check with the sponsor. Then double-check.
Stick to your allotted time and don't go over it.
If you don't have a smashing "opener" and "closer," go back to the drawing board. Don't step up to the microphone until you do.
And finally, number 35 on the list: Debrief yourself within 24 hours of a speech, and take 10 minutes to write down what you could do better next time. Try something new every time you speak and you'll never become stale.
Above all, you must know your audience. Here's a slightly risque story that illustrates my point: Harold calls Al and tells him, "I have a problem. My guest speaker for the Rotary meeting just canceled. Might you be able to fill in?" Al says he will be happy to.
Harold says, "What might you talk about?"
Al says, "Oh I don't know ... I'll probably talk about sex."
The next day Al gives his speech and gets a standing ovation. Al goes home and tells his wife that the speech went well.
His wife asks, "What did you talk about?"
Now Al knows his wife doesn't think he knows anything about sex, so Al says, "skiing."
"Oh," she says, "I see, skiing."
The next day Al's wife is at the supermarket and runs into Harold's wife. And Harold's wife says, "I heard your husband gave a great speech at Rotary. He must be terrific."
And Al's wife says, "I don't understand. He has only done it once and his hat blew off."
Mackay's Moral: A public speaker should stand up to be seen, speak up to be heard and shut up to be appreciated.
(Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He can be reached through his website, www.harveymackay.com, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.)