Public Speaking: Nervous? Or Nailin’ It!

21 09 2012

“I think I might barf on my Jimmy Choo’s,” she said in despair.  “This sucks!”

That’s what I heard when I picked up the phone a few weeks ago while a friend of mine was suffering from a good old fashioned case of Glossophobia – the fear of public speaking.   She talked nervously into the phone from outside her event, just about to go on stage, and I was glad she called me.  I certainly did not want her to vomit on her expensive designer shoes!

Due to my extroverted or loud-mouthed nature, it is possible that people assume I am naturally able to talk to crowds of people without nervousness or fear – that is certainly not true.  I do get nervous, sometimes even feel a little sick to my stomach, and my forehead sweats like crazy.  So how do I overcome that fear?  And what advice did I give to my troubled, borderline-nauseated friend as she prepared to deliver her big presentation?

It was crunch time and I wasn’t able to give her complete advice, so I told her these three main points that can help anyone overcome their nervousness and fear before delivering a public speech:

  1. Remember you are there for a reason.  The fear of speaking to an audience comes from the feeling that you are going to embarrass yourself or disappoint that audience.  Always, always remember that they specifically asked you to speak for a direct purpose.  If you were not capable of providing value then you never would have been requested as a speaker – so have confidence in yourself.
  2. Engage the audience.  Just as the audience is the reason you may feel nervous, they are also your best friend in helping you overcome your fear.  All you need is one person to start nodding their head to make you feel strong in your presentation.  The best way to get that response is with direct eye contact.  Look at members of the audience straight in the eye when you talk.  If they don’t start showing some body language, then look at someone else until you feel a connection.  And don’t be afraid to involve the audience by asking questions, or let them ask you questions if it’s appropriate in the presentation.
  3. Slow down.  If you ever watch a really good speaker you will notice they are taking their sweet time, soaking it all in, relaxed, poised, confident.  If someone is rushing through a presentation then they sound like a nervous person, they feel like a nervous person, and might end up looking bad.  This is my personal affliction when I am speaking to a crowd.  I combat this by writing “Slow Down!” on my hand or on a piece of paper in front of me.

If you have more time to prepare for your speech, consider these tips:

  • Use images to build a connection.  I’m a PowerPoint fan, and often open with a picture that is engaging, whether it reminds the audience of themselves, or is something they can emotionally relate to – like kittens, grandparents, children, or bacon.  Images are powerful connectors for your audience and they add color and life to your message.
  • Keep it simple.  People will not retain everything you say, so don’t try to cover a wide range of topics.  You will be more valuable to your audience if you go deeper to fully examine two or three main points – and it will be easier for you to present.
  • Don’t worry about mistakes.  The audience doesn’t know what you intended to say, and therefore, will not notice if you forget a word or mess up a line – so don’t panic, just keep going.  Also consider speaking from bullet points instead of completely memorizing a string of words, so you have the freedom to roam around your subject.
  • You don’t need to be brilliant, just helpful for the audience.  I’ve seen it a thousand times, the “Let-me-show-you-how-smart-I-am” speech.  Guess what, we don’t care!  The audience is not there for you, they are there for themselves.  So consider the types of people listening, and make sure you provide content that is valuable to them specifically.
  • Say something different.  For the first few minutes of your speech, your audience is wondering if you will be any good – and they will lose interest if you are reporting old news.  If you want to win an audience quickly, say something they don’t expect.

Those are the basics.  I would also recommend watching speeches online to get a sense for how other people approach the craft.  Here is a wonderful example of someone doing it right.  This is my friend John Halcyon Styn, and he displays a perfect example of how to deliver a passionate, engaging speech.  He may have been nervous on the inside, but he planned, prepared, and definitely nailed it!

**SERIOUSLY – watch this video.  17 minutes of your life very well spent.

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The Worst Advice Ever

26 09 2011

I recently received an email from a good friend who wanted to discuss a sales concept that he read about.  The concept is that in order to generate client interest, you should call a prospect 10 times.  Before I give my opinion, I am going to pause for a deep breath so I don’t get heart palpitations from such a ridiculous and misguided approach to sales.

Okay.  Now, why do I hate this concept?  It is a band-aid on perpetually bleeding wound.  A proper approach to sales takes time and effort – and that effort should be spent on creating a system that gives you the best chance for success, not in pounding your head against a wall 10 times.  I am not saying that people should not be persistent – I am saying that the concept of calling a potential client 10 times is not realistic and not scalable.  Instead of making those 10 calls, consider these reasons your current approach is not successful:

  1. You have not defined your target audience.  I do enjoy the phrase “She could sell ice to an Eskimo,” as an explanation of sales prowess, but it is actually pretty stupid.  Do some research and find people that need ice.
  2. You don’t have a relationship.  We like to do business with people we trust, and it is hard to gain that trust when your approach is obviously some concocted sales pitch you learned at a seminar.  Building relationships takes time and it requires a genuine understanding of the people involved in the business.
  3. You have no clout.  If you are someone the client knows or respects, they will take your call.  If Mark Zuckerberg, Jay Z, or Tom Brady called you just one time you would take the call.  You don’t have to be world-famous to have clout – find a way to gain prominence in your industry.
  4. Your products and services don’t have real value.  Maybe you feel like you have to make 10 calls because the company you work for is not offering anything worth paying attention to.  Maybe you should contribute your knowledge to help improve the offering.
  5. You have not properly defined your value.  If your products or services do have real value, then it should not require 10 calls to demonstrate that value to a potential client.  Create a clear, concise way to describe the benefits of doing business with your company.
  6. You don’t ask good questions.  How can you claim to know what my business needs when you haven’t asked me any questions?  You’re too busy telling me about your company, products, and services.  Find out about your client’s specific need and then relate your services to that.
  7. You are not creating demand.  Any sales person will tell you that it’s much easier to answer the phone than it is to dial it.  Stop using social media as a way to keep tabs on your old boyfriend and start branding yourself.
  8. You are not focused on improving your approach.  Anyone that tells you “cold-calling is dead” is going to try to sell you their book – run away!  Cold-calling is fine IF you pay attention to what you’re doing, track your efforts, and make necessary adjustments to improve.
  9. You are calling the wrong person.  Find out who makes the decisions and stop bothering the receptionist.
  10. You are annoying.  Dude, if I told you “no” once, I am going to tell you “no” 9 more times, and I’m going to be more angry about it each time.  You would be better off calling 10 people once rather than calling one person 10 times.

Success in sales takes strategy, effort, and business acumen – not salesmanship.  If you don’t have the skill or patience, or if you work for a company that provides no real value, then by all means, call someone 10 times – just don’t call me!





The Importance of Being Stupid

15 07 2011

“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.” – Oscar Wilde

I would like to blame my brother Brian.  Maybe, just maybe, if his mullet wasn’t so totally sweet, I might have avoided it.  But alas, inspired by the awesomeness that was my brother’s mullet, and powerless to fight the trend of my era, I proceeded to grow my own.  At the time it seemed like the right thing to do.  Looking back, it does seem pretty stupid.  Ultimately, no matter how much you are influenced by peers or circumstance, your choices are yours.

The mullet  is the split personality of haircuts – business up front, party in the back – evidence that I was struggling to find my identity.  However, as mullets go, I thought mine was grand.  For the record, there were no curling irons involved, just good fortune to have the right amount of natural wave.

This weekend, as I travel to my 20 year high school reunion, I think back on that decision and many of the other choices I made at an early age – and since.  Man, I’ve done some stupid things.  I have hurt people’s feelings, spoken before thinking, embarrassed myself, and failed to live up to people’s expectations – as we all have.  With a foundation of blunders and mistakes, I suppose I should feel bad about it, but I don’t.  The things that I did wrong, the really stupid things – they drive me forward and lead me to make better choices along the way.

So what can be learned from my personal stupidity?

Admit that you could be wrong.  Only after a history of “wrong” have I come to be a better listener, open-minded to the concept that I don’t have it all figured out.  This compels me to actively seek the right course of action.

Ask for advice and TAKE it.  I would like to take a moment to personally thank my good friend Mike Foote who cared enough about my well-being to firmly impress upon me that it was time to lose the mullet.  “Really?” I replied in confusion, “is it not sweet?”  Mike had the guts to tell me the unpopular truth – I had the sense to believe him.  It is not easy to tell someone when they are wrong, so give credit to those people, and really try to understand their perspective.

Consider your alternatives before making a decision.  There are many ways to start a project or solve a problem.  I’m a big fan of talking to people you trust, doing a little research, and writing “pro’s-and-con’s” lists.

Be prepared to make mistakes again.  “So what do we do?  Anything. Something.  So long as we just don’t sit there.  If we screw it up, start over.  Try something else.” Lee Iacocca

Forgive yourself.  Ultimately, you won’t know if a decision is bad or good until you evaluate later.  Don’t let the fear of being stupid prevent you from taking action, and don’t beat yourself up if it eventually looks like a mistake.  I would much rather deal with the regret of doing something stupid than the regret of never taking risks.

The mullet has become a symbol of my questionable judgment – but also represents my ability to recover, choose the right course, and be smarter moving forward.  As I now gaze upon my high school haircut and think about the other stupid choices of my past, I am optimistic that each mistake somehow shaped my present and my future.  The mullet is dead – the lesson lives on.

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Big shout out to Reed High School class of ’91.  It was fun growing with all of you.  We shaped each other.  Looking forward to reminiscing this weekend!

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Dream Big – Quit Sleep

10 06 2011

“You can say what you want about me but I’ve made the most of my time.” Vokab Kompany

Wild dreams.  Impractical hopes.  Unreachable desires.  Impossible ambitions.  Crazy ideas.  You’ve had them.  I have too.  That idea that you just had to tell somebody about but never got the reaction you envisioned, the “can’t lose” business proposal, the vision of your life that you would love to see.  Are you making it happen?  Is it just too crazy?  Too risky?  Too unbelievable?

“I’m going to be a rapper,” he said to me during our weekly one-on-one sales meeting.

I asked the obvious question:  “You’re what??”

“I’m going to rap – I’m going to make music,” Robbie pronounced with conviction.

“Okay man.  Good luck with that.  Now go make some phone calls.”

As much as I appreciated his enthusiasm, I needed Robbie selling, not rhyming.  And he did.  He came to the office, made his sales, and generated revenue.  He put in time each day, and then he went to his second job.  In the studio – writing, collaborating, practicing – doing the work and producing.  He focused on the dream and put some sweat into it, not waiting for luck and circumstance.

When I was 6 years old I was convinced that I was going to be a professional baseball player.  At about 16, I liked my chances in life better with a job and a car than I did trying to be a professional athlete.  And *poof* – the end of a dream.  So when Robbie came into my office and declared his improbable desire for music stardom, I was surprised, confused, doubtful, amused – and positively rooting for him.

Flash forward to today.  Robbie Gallo and Vokab Kompany have released two money-making albums.  Garnering publicity and attention via their loyal fan-base and a growing support within the music community, Vokab Kompany have branded their unique, dance party, hard-rocking, slick rhyming, soul-singing, good times musical show.  They pack houses, they rip stages.

The dream started small – very small.  Robbie invited me to his first “show.”  Robbie stood on stage with a boom box behind him and spit rhymes to a curious and entertained crowd.  It was a gutsy maneuver, and a respectable effort for the first-timer.  But Robbie knew that his dream had to grow, so he formed a partnership with local roots-funk band “Native Root.”  The collaboration consists of singer Matt Burke’s highly stylized smoothed-out vocals, Robbie’s lyrical flow, and a full band with drummer Alvaro Nunez, bassist Aaron Cheatham, horn-player Jesse Molloy, Geoff Nigl on the keys, Karen Mills singing backup vocals, and Spencer Sharpe ripping the electric violin.  They are a full-boat of talented musicians, creators, artists, and entrepreneurs.

If you’re keeping score at home, the dream-seeker list goes like this:

  • Have idea you’re passionate about – check
  • Do the work, even if it means long hours and loss of sleep – check
  • Take risks and make yourself uncomfortable – check
  • Find partners to help you grow your vision – check

The Business

Watching over the past few years as Robbie built a musical platform as an artist and entertainer, I noticed the parallels between the production, distribution, and marketing of music and the same principles of any business.  A good idea is not enough – not even close.  Your idea is as good as your ability to deliver a finished product to your audience.  Music is an unpredictable and quirky business, and a tough way to earn a living.  Getting started, the band maintains their day jobs, upholds family commitments, and manages a steady load of travel – and the business becomes that much tougher.  But they push on through, hoping for stardom.  Robbie shared the Vokab Kompany approach with me, and these tips work for any business.

1.  Idea creation

“Creative thought can pop out at any time – the trick is to capture it.  Always good to have a pen and pad close to you.  A lot of people get a creative idea when they’re a few minutes from falling asleep.  You wanna make sure you have something close to you to write with or you may miss a good concept.”

2.  Marketing materials

“Whether that’s a shirt, sticker, or some other promo piece, you gotta get people to rock it – and you gotta give it out for free, but make sure you give it to the right people.  The ones that are in “the scene” or go out a lot, or know cool things to do.  Other people will ask questions and then you have your successful marketing piece.  You also gotta be just as creative with your merch as you do your music. It’s a huge part of your branding and you want people to wear it or use it and be proud to.”

3.  Finding partners

“We search and we follow up on every lead.  As we begin to grow our brand the labels, mangers and agents start to take notice.  They’re looking for good material too, and one of the main things I’ve noticed is they’re looking for artists that work really hard.”

4.  Work your talent

“The format has changed, it’s not just about talent and you get signed.  You gotta have a lot to offer – a good record, a great live show, and a hard work ethic.  Keep building these and I believe it’s only a matter of time.”

5.  Drive adoption

“You need to give people a little time to become familiar with the album.  Most importantly is not to ‘rush’ the product or you may miss something that could’ve made that song better.”

And the crowd bobs their heads.  Feet stomp, arms raise.  Mic on blast, energy blaze.  Earth shakes, bass pumps.  Passion builds, people jump.  Bright lights, electric sights, the flow, the rhyming, the quick steps on time and, the sound hits, the curtain lifts, the band stands, the beat drifts, take the stage, lay your claim, the fans rage, they chant your name!  Dreamlike, unbelievable – and the hard work pays off.

I have watched Robbie and Vokab as they plotted this course, did the work, made it happen.  I have heard the sounds of their team, each bringing their unique style to the art they create.  Sacrifices have been made in hopes of success.  Rest has been replaced with raging desire.  The path to glory is in the willingness to completely commit – the willingness to Quit Sleep.

More Vokab videos:  http://www.youtube.com/user/TheVokabKompany

Vokab Kompany on iTunes:  http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/vokab-kompany/id331619910

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How To Waste 3 Million Dollars

4 02 2011

Advertisers love the Super Bowl – and why wouldn’t they?  It’s like the Oscars of advertising.  They have the opportunity to play on the biggest stage, to be in direct competition for popularity and supremacy against their rivals, the chance to be the one that everybody talks about on Monday – and of course, they bank a ton of dough.

I can imagine the pitches they might give:

  • The statistics – “20 Bajillion Viewers!!!”
  • The clichés – “Maximum Brand Exposure”
  • The competitor leverage – “Well, Budweiser’s doing it”
  • The blatant lies – “This is how you build Customer Loyalty”

I like the theatrics and the entertainment value of Super Bowl ads.  I appreciate that someone paid $3 million to give me a 30-second exhibition for me to discuss with my co-workers on Monday, I really do.  But I have never once in my life actually purchased a product because of their Super Bowl ad – ever.  Funny talking babies do not make me want to invest my hard-earned money with your company.  Horses playing football are neat, but they don’t make me want to drink your crappy beer.

For small and mid-size businesses, how can you market your brand without wasting an obscene amount of money?  Here are the 3 best ways to gain exposure for companies who have modest marketing budgets:

Give consumers something for Free. Logoed merchandise is inexpensive and can be useful and fun for your audience.  A Frisbee, a t-shirt, a mug, or a bottle opener with your logo on it will be used for a long  time.  The item becomes part of someone’s life, and is a constant reminder of your brand.  If you don’t know where to get this stuff, contact me – I have a whole network of professionals that can help.

Glacier Outdoor blog

Write a Blog. Expose your audience to consistent messaging that shows your culture and thought process.  Blogs are free, and as newspapers and magazines go the way of the dinosaur, they are a good source of entertainment and education for potential clients.

Make a Video. Consumers like advertising that is honest, tells a story, and shows why something is cool.  Marketers like advertising that shows results and can easily be shared.  A nice digital video camera costs about $250.  That’s $2,999,750 cheaper than a Super Bowl ad.  Wilson Football provides a great example of how to use video.

Enjoy the game on Sunday.  You’ll have fun watching the ads, but not nearly as much as the ad agencies.  When you’re ears are ringing Monday morning, it’s because you drank too much – for them it sounds more like a cash register.






Go Motivate Yourself

20 08 2010

I hate motivational speakers.  If you are motivated by them, that’s cool – being motivated by a good presentation can have a positive effect on your energy and effort for a little while, but how do you continue to motivate yourself when the seminar is over and Matt Foley has left the building?

I define motivation as encouraged excitement that comes from a specific source – a triggered emotional response to stimulus leading to a definite action.  The source is different for everyone.  I can’t tell you how to motivate yourself, but I can tell you how I am motivated by basic sensory stimulation.

Sight – My office is filled with pictures of people I admire like my Grandfather, Rickey Henderson, and Rocky Marciano.  I’m motivated by pictures of my kids.  Maybe for you it’s a picture of that boat you want to buy or that resort you want to visit, or maybe it’s your bank statement taped to the wall.

Sound – Music is a great motivator.  I like NOFX, James Brown, Wolfmother, and 80’s anthem rock.  Some people like Springsteen, AC/DC, or the theme from Karate Kid.  Don’t underestimate the power of music.  Google the phrase “music effects on the brain” if you want to learn more.

Dress – People can get motivated with what they wear.  How do you feel when you wear a suit and tie?  Or your favorite team’s sports jersey?  I was never a soldier, but how must it feel to suit up in your gear and strap on your weapon in the morning?  I’ve also never worn a sexy dress, but my wife sure looks like she owns the world when she gets all decked out.

What I’m about to say is predictable because I’m a t-shirt guy:  T-shirts are great for motivation.  Maybe for you it’s a shirt from your vacation to Alaska when you had a close encounter with a bear, or maybe it’s the shirt you bought at a Metallica concert.  For me it’s this tiger shirt from the San Diego Zoo.  Created by artist Jordan, it was probably not intended to make me growl, but nonetheless…

The tiger doesn’t live by anyone else’s expectations.  He stares down opposition, he pounces on challengers.  He lives to hunt.  He will not relent.  He sets no limits!  No box will hold him and he sure as hell ain’t climbing into one!  He’s a wild bloody-toothed beast with glowing marble eyes, ruffled mane, and veins filled with conquering FURY!! Grrrrrrrrrrr!!!

And I digress.  Anyway, unless you got a lot of time and money to attend seminars, you better figure out how to motivate yourself.  Grrrrrr.

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NEED MORE ANTHEMS?  MY FRIENDS HELPED ME MAKE THIS PLAYLIST:

http://www.youtube.com/BradWhiteChannel/Anthems

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