It’s probably safe to say that we’ve all had a case of the pre-presentation jitters. The level of nervousness can range from slight anxiety to full blown panic.
Think about it – we’ve all been there before. It’s the night before your big presentation, you’re practicing your pitch, furiously reading and re-reading your notecards, nervously playing out what you hope will go right or what you fear will go wrong. Whether the presentation is for a huge opportunity with a potential new client, a g or an internal meeting with the big boss – it can be nerve wracking.
Glossophobia, or fear of public speaking, has long been ranked as the number one fear of Americans, often ranking higher than the fear of sickness or death.
As salespeople, a large part of our role involves speaking with many different people every single day, and often, this means giving large sales presentations. So we’d better get good at it.
Even if you’re not afraid of public speaking, maybe you’re unsure of how to adequately prepare? Or maybe you’re afraid of boring your audience? Are you doing everything you can to nail down your message and deliver it in front of a group?
We sat down with master communicator and keynote speaker, Kelly Talamo, to get his insights on the secrets to preparation, stage fright, nailing down your core message, and how to keep the audience engaged.
Kelly shared with us what he has learned in his 30+ years of standing on stages, to help you nail your next presentation, whether you’re speaking to a group of five or five hundred. If you’d prefer to listen to our conversation on this topic, check out our SALES with ASLAN podcast episode 127:
Conquering Your Fear of the Spotlight
The key to conquering nerves, (which is also the key to setting yourself up for success), is in the preparation.
“I only get nervous if I’m not prepared,” Kelly told us.
When people give up their valuable time to sit and listen to you, you should have something to say. You should be prepared.
It’s something that Kelly says he grew into and learned over many, many years of speaking in front of groups, large and small. The turning point for Kelly was realizing that, “the whole idea of the stage is not about me.”
When it comes to stage fight, there are basically two orientations that a person can have:
- Performance orientation – This means you view public speaking as something that requires a special skill, and you see the role of the audience as a “judge” who is constantly evaluating the presenter that you are.
- Communication orientation – This means that the main focus is on expressing your ideas and presenting information, or telling a story in such a way that you know the audience will benefit.
Very simply, the difference between the two is that the first is a self-centered approach while the second is an Other-Centered approach to presenting. It’s a mindset.
Performance orientation, i.e. thinking things like, “It’s all about me… They’re judging me… Am I turning the slides at the right time? Am I moving my hands too much?” can really distance the presenter from being able to deliver real and meaningful content that could help people. (Of course, it’s important to work on those technical things, but that shouldn’t be your main focus – your main focus should not be yourself).
For people with a communication orientation, the objective is to get through to the audience the same way they get through to people in a conversation. “So for me, it’s just a conversation,” Kelly told us. When your focus is on them (the audience, the customer, etc.), there is much more room for real, authentic, memorable engagement.
When you realize that the presentation is for them, and that it’s not about you, it removes some of that pressure that many of us feel when we’re in the “spotlight.”
Kelly’s Framework for Preparation
Over the years Kelly has spent delivering presentations and keynote addresses onstage, he’s developed a simple but thorough process to help him prepare. Let’s walk through his 3 steps:
1 – Discover
What is the problem that the person/ your presentation is trying to address or solve? It could be about implementing a change, highlighting news, getting people excited about something, or helping them understand a concept. The key to preparation starts with this “problem.”
In sales, this stage is all about your Discovery meeting with your prospect or customer. If you don’t conduct Discovery, you will have no idea what to talk about during your presentation.
Even if you’re thinking, “Well I’ve got so much to say about [XYZ product or solution]!” It doesn’t matter what you say if the client is not interested – they won’t be engaged. It’s just like one of the concepts we talk about all the time here at ASLAN: leading with your customer’s whiteboard. You have to focus on something they care about.
Particularly in a sales environment, we have so many things we could talk about and it can be so hard to narrow those down. But time is the villain – we typically only have an hour or so to address our audience, so it’s absolutely critical to hone in on a specific message.
We need to filter all our information down into one main idea, one core message. Kelly encouraged us to think about it this way:
“If there’s one thing you want your audience to walk away with, if there’s one thing you’d like them to say or do differently based on your presentation, what would that thing be?”
2 – Design
Based on what you come up with during Discover, it’s now time to design your presentation.
This is the hardest part of developing and preparing for a presentation. You’ll need to do some research, dig up a story, anecdotes, etc., but everything has to fall under the controlling idea. If you don’t manage this, you will immediately distance yourself from the audience.
To highlight the importance of designing your presentation, Kelly asked us a great question:
“Do you have more trouble beginning or ending a presentation?”
I think most people would agree, the beginning of a presentation is much harder.
Kelly is a firm proponent that your opening should address the problem (that you found in Discover) and that you’re about to solve or address with your presentation.
If you’re having trouble coming up with your opening, we found this advice from Kelly to be very helpful:
Everytime you go to speak somewhere or you’re presenting to a group, you’ve already spoken to someone within the organization who has asked you to come give the presentation. So if you have trouble starting, try something along these lines… “I was talking to [NAME] earlier this week about [your conference/your meeting/ your organization] and we were going over the different things we could talk about, but when she said that your guys tend to struggle with X, I thought I could help.”
It’s a great way to start your presentation in a way that basically articulates their problem (think OCP for those of you familiar with ASLAN’s selling philosophy) and sets up the presentation to be about them. People will always be interested in themselves – think about it: if you show someone a picture of themselves, they will always look at it.
If you’re not sure what the problem is exactly, you can create a problem that encapsulates different categories – for example, “For some of you, this may be your first time in a leadership role. Some of you have been in sales leadership for…” If you can come up with different categories that all relate to one problem, people will self-assign themselves into one of those buckets and they will find their place in the story you’re going to tell. Everybody will be able to connect.
“This is as much art as it is science,” Kelly told us.
How do you know you’re ready to deliver your presentation? How do you know when your design is going to hit the mark? Everything has to fit together in a cohesive and compelling way. Your focus should be on helping your audience connect to your one main message, that one controlling idea. If you cannot find how something (an element of the design) personally relates to your audience and to where you are taking them, it’s not going to land.
3 – Deliver
Again, even if you prepare thoroughly and correctly, you may still feel those pre-presentation nerves. There’s a certain amount of nervousness that is just our body’s natural reaction to any “threatening stimulus.” So ask yourself, what is the “threat” here?
Nervousness often stems from one of two things: a prep problem or a rep (repetition) problem.
You can always prepare more. But there’s no real substitute for reps, i.e. experience. So find as many opportunities as you can to practice speaking in front of groups, large or small, even to friends, family, or colleagues. The truth is, we are often just overthinking and overemphasizing – we can say it simply and make our point. We’re making the moment bigger than it needs to be in our minds.
Again, preparation and practice are the best ways to combat those stage fright/ pre-delivery nerves. Prepare to the point where you can deliver even if your mind goes completely blank. Write it out. Practice it. Practice it again.
When the time comes to deliver your presentation, remember: it’s about them, not about you. Focus on your audience and communicating your message. Reset your compass. Approach your presentation with an Other-Centered mindset. People appreciate passion.
According to Kelly, there needs to be a call-to-action at the end of your presentation. “Knowledge alone doesn’t transform someone,” he said. “My hardest thing is structuring a call-to-action that actually proves that you [the audience] just bought into what I said.” He always tries to end with something that wraps up the talk, and is often something he’s already said at least a few times during the presentation.
“The last thing you say is always the most important thing,” he told us. “You should restate your main theme – the reason that we’re there.”
Summing It Up
We hope you enjoyed Kelly’s perspective and advice on public speaking and how to master your sales presentation skills.
A huge thank you to Kelly Talamo for sharing his wisdom and insight with us, and with all of you.
If you found this blog helpful and want to go deeper into the concepts we covered, check out our new book, UnReceptive, at unreceptivebook.com.