Speech Habits Guaranteed to Kill the Sale

Yesterday I received another cold call. This time it was from a woman with a strong accent. She talked about free video emails and doing webinars online. As she rattled on she caught my attention because she was talking my language.  She wasn't smooth but I was interested in knowing about this service and how it was different. She started to give me the website. She said "Go to www.voe..."  "Voe?" I echoed.  "No, /w/." she stated.  "Is that www.vow?" I clarified.  "No," she countered. "www.wo....." After going back and forth several times, a man's voice cut in and he said in a clear voice, "Excuse me mam, we have training calls. Let me give you the website." We then went through an online demo.  While we were looking at all the features the man would say, "I know you busy."  When demonstrating the next feature he'd say "I'm a show you.." and when he turned the controls over to me he said he made me the "presentator."

Throughout the conversation he called me Diana instead of Diane.  Although the product was worth researching I was not impressed with his presentation. His poor grammar made him sound uneducated and that raised a red flag. When a seller or any professional uses incorrect grammar, I question their legitimacy. Was this really a bona fide  web conferencing system or some  fly-by-night basement operation? He ended by asking if he could call to follow up. I decided not to take him up on his offer and said I would look at the website on my own.  Will I use this service? I don't know yet. But I do know this. I won't buy it from the telemarketers who contacted me. I don't trust them.

It's fine to have an accent as long as you know how to speak clearly. In this case, the woman should have spelled out the url. / w/ as in william, /o/ as in oprah, etc.

There is definitely an ROI (return on investment) for public speaking skills. I show people how to monetize their mouth. When you speak with clarity and confidence, you inspire trust. And that brings in more business. When you're inarticulate or use the wrong grammar, you create skepticism and distrust.  This is true whether you're cold calling, interviewing for a job, pitching a story to the media, or convincing your boss to give you a raise.  Success requires good speaking and communication skills.  To learn about Six Sloppy Speech Habits, click on the link and watch this youtube video.

For grammar tips visit Grammar Girl

The Worst Presentation Line

The phone rang this morning. It was a telemarketer on the line. He asked, "Are you the owner?" I said "Yes".  "Do you accept credit cards?" was his second question.  Those questions qualify the prospect so they were appropriate to ask.  Then without testing for interest, or asking me about my issues and needs, he said, "I just happen to be in the area..."  He blew it.  I couldn't get the words out fast enough. "No, no, no. No thanks". And I hung up the phone. What area was he talking about? I happened to be working at home so I wasn't in my usual area which is my business office.  Why would I want to meet with him? I think he was selling a merchant account but I don't know. Maybe it was a service to analyze charges.   He gave me no reason to want to meet him. If you're a telemarketer, you don't want to get me on the phone. I'm not the most gracious of  prospects. Cold calling is tough but it's even more difficult in today's times. A cold call is an interruption in someone's day.  Unless you grab their attention immediately, they're going to hang up. Cold calling is a presentation.  His approach was like a speech without an opening. Imagine standing before your audience and saying, "Is everybody here a business owner?" Does everybody use merchant accounts?"  "I'll be in the back setting up demonstrations." You would have a mass exodus. A good presentation begins with a quick hello and introduction and then a grabber or hook.  Public speaking is about communication. And communication is about a relationship between a sender and a receiver.  What message are you sending? Your intention may be positive, but the real meaning of the communication is the effect it has on the receiver.  If you intend to compliment someone and they receive it as an insult, then the insult was the actual message.

In the case of the telemarketer, he needed to change the script. A common mistake in presentations is to memorize lines and deliver them mechanically. The best speakers and presenters connect with the audience and build a relationship of trust. Public speaking is a conversation with the audience whether it's one-on-one, on the telephone, or to a large audience. It's all public speaking.

Don't Let an Earthquake Knock Out Your Presentation

On Tuesday I was coaching a client in New Jersey. I began to feel my chair vibrate as I was filming him. He saw the expression on my face and thought it was disapproval. "Is that an earthquake?" I asked. "No, the building sways from the bridge traffic," he explained.  "Look at the chandelier," I countered. "We're having an earthquake."

We left the conference room in search of an office TV.  Sure enough, people came out of their offices to say that a 5.9 earthquake was reported in Virginia and Washington D.C.  After the shaking subsided, we continued our speech coaching session.

This was a first for me. It got me thinking about speaking disasters. I recalled the woman who felt her elastic snap on her half slip while she was on stage. The slip dropped to her ankles.  She calmly stepped out of it and continued her speech. Then there was the man who was in the middle of his speech when someone smelled smoke and the auditorium was evacuated. He herded his group to the parking lot, stood on a car and continued his speech. Now that's grace under pressure.

Most public speakers will never encounter a disaster or "Act of God." But at some point they will encounter Murphy's Law - if it can go wrong, it will. The technology won't work, you'll knock over a flip chart, your mind will go blank, a heckler will be gunning for you.

Just like governments have disaster recovery plans, public speakers need a recovery strategy. Accept and anticipate that things will go wrong. What's your biggest fear? Plan for it. If the technology goes down, have a hard copy back-up. If you forget your next point, use humor. ("I'm having a senior moment." ) The key is to acknowledge the situation, take charge, and move on.  Things happen. The audience will never fault you when you act with confidence and laugh at yourself.

Chapter 10 of Knockout Presentations includes techniques for handling difficult audiences and deadly disasters. Click here to find it on Amazon.

I'd love to hear from you. What was your worst speaking experience? What did you do about it?

One Minute Listening Tip: Interrupting

One of the most annoying listening behaviors is interrupting.  People interrupt because they listen to respond.  They're simply rehearsing their answers and waiting until they have their say.  Frequently, they interrupt because they're really more concerned with being understood than being understanding.  This is not listening.  True listening is suspending the ego and focusing on the other person. As St. Francis of Assisi said, "Grant that I may not seek to be understood, but to understand."

You can change your listening behavior.  Watch this video to learn how to stop interrupting and use effective listening skills.