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You package yourself like a rock star, but your speech is out of tune…When your selling skills outrun your speaking skills

22 Feb Posted by in The Story Tutor | Comments

I’ve been in the speaking business long enough to notice something about professional speakers. Many of them are more concerned with selling a speech, than giving a good one. Of course selling your speech is crucial, and if you don’t sell it you will be sitting at home wondering why your phone isn’t ringing. (Double hint to those out there who keep asking me why they aren’t getting business, when they haven’t done anything in the past year to tell people they are here.) So we agree that selling is important. But when you’re out there selling a product that’s mediocre – you’ve got a problem – especially in this business where, by the time you’re finished reading this article, three more people just hung up a shingle and started calling themselves speakers.

Let me remind you that if you are a professional speaker, then your SPEECH is your product. Not your book. Not your newsletter. Not your grand idea to fill a coliseum. I would venture to say, not even your expertise. There are many others who share your wisdom.  If they just wanted your knowledge they could get your book and not have to run out and buy you mints and expensive sheets. They are paying for how you deliver that knowledge – the experience – your speech. Some of you are saying, “But those are keynote speakers, I’m a trainer.”  I say the same applies to you.

Your product has a shelf life. Some of you have wonderful slick marketing materials and flashy videos narrated by voices channeling James Earl Jones. But your speech is dated, boring, and forgettable.  You’ve built a fancy grocery store only to have us go in and find out you sell stale cookies. So why aren’t you working on your product? Why aren’t you giving it the time, energy, and focus that an Olympic athlete would give his sport, or that a ballet dancer would give her art? Shoot, even my cousin Doreen practices to dance around a pole.

Is it because you think you’re already good enough?  Well, I’ve got news. Some of you aren’t as good as you think you are. I don’t care how much your fee is or how long you’ve been doing it, or how much you want it. Some of you are average speakers promoting yourselves as rock stars. And some of you are not good. In fact, some of you are horrible. There, I said it. Some of you have a horrible product and you’re out there spending every spare moment trying to figure out how you can convince more people to buy it. And if you spend more time convincing strangers, than you do getting calls from people who heard how good you are – then maybe it’s time for a reality check.

Maybe you are good enough. If that’s the case, then I would argue that good enough isn’t good enough anymore. And I would question whether your good is really even good, because I’ve seen plenty of puffed up speakers walking around thinking they are “all that” while their audience has forgotten them by lunch.

And maybe you really do have a quality product. I have two things to say to this. One, you can always make it better. And, two, while you are resting on that quality product, hundreds of younger and more creative speakers are entering the market with new ways of delivering information and changing the experience.  And by the time you realize it’s time for something new, they’ve already taken your business. No amount of sales will make up for a crappy product. It may get you in – once. But you will eventually be outshined by your competitor who is working on his craft every day.

Depressed? Don’t be. There’s no reason to be.  This isn’t about talent. It’s about working at your craft. Putting in the hours shooting baskets in the dark after everyone else has gone home. You are surrounded by speakers who aren’t paying attention to their game so it will be easy for you to get ahead of them. And it isn’t about discovering some secret formula for improving your speech. And it most certainly doesn’t involve copying someone else. There are tons of tiny little things you can do that will make big differences. Shoot, try practicing the darn thing. Scary how many speakers go out there with a general outline and an idea of where they want to go. Maybe you can ramble with finesse, but I will argue that you will never be as good as the person who scripted every line and then practiced it to the point where they could give that speech as if it is coming off the top of their head.  So quit hyperventilating, it’s not about getting better than the rest – it’s about getting different from the rest – which is so much easier to do.  But most of all, it’s about realizing that platform skills should never be a secondary concern. This is your game. This is your product. You will get out of it what you put into it. Never waste the opportunity to be remarkable.

How do you get better? Sorry. That’s a lesson for another day. Today I just want you to stop and take a good look in the mirror and decide if that rock star needs more singing lessons.

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