Sales Moves

Presentation skills: Are you the 'toast' of your meetings?

November 14, 2014
Text Size:

I’m giving a 10-minute talk at Toastmasters in NYC tomorrow night. Subject? Humor — what it is, how to create it and how to use it.

I am challenged to help the club members, who all have humor as the basis of their speaking, find new ways and new ideas to make their audience laugh and engage.

Major clue: At the end of humor is the height of listening. If you’re at a comedy club and the comedian tells a joke, and you’re laughing so hard that your drink is coming out your nose, as soon as the comedian starts to talk again, you immediately stop laughing and start listening. You don’t want to miss what’s next. At the end of humor is the height of listening. Got it?

Presentation skills are one fifth of the sales process — the other four being selling skills, product knowledge, knowledge of the customer and attitude.

Most salespeople study presentation skills and positive attitude skills the least, when in fact, if you weigh the five elements, they are at the top of the list. Why then are you not studying presentation skills?

If I ask everyone reading this column to put their hand in the air if they’re a member of Toastmasters, not many hands would go up.

Finding your voice and combining it with your courage equals speaking in public. Speaking in public is arguably the best networking, notoriety, brand-building and confidence-building opportunity in existence. And a great place to learn is Toastmasters.

Got speech?

Got courage?

Got (meaningful) subject matter?

If you’re in sales, speaking in public is critical to your success.

  • Learn the science of speaking and presenting.
  • Join and practice at Toastmasters.
  • Graduate to speaking at civic organizations.
  • Then look for opportunities within your market.

Topics? Speak about something the audience will value and respect you for.

  • After ownership, how do I use the product
  • Maximum productivity
  • Memorable service
  • New ideas
  • Morale in the workplace
  • Profit

Beware and be aware: The “experts” are not experts. Most “expert” advice about public speaking is weak and generalized.

Here are a few examples of what NOT to do:

It’s OK to be nervous. If you go into a presentation and you’re nervous, in my book that’s NOT OK. You have to go into a presentation or sales presentation reeking of confidence. The reason you’re nervous is because you’re unprepared. And being unprepared is one of the best ways to lose a sale or an audience.

• You don’t need to be perfect. Really? When I see a rule like “don’t try to be perfect,” I always think to myself, “Exactly where would you like me to screw up?” When I am building rapport, when I am presenting my product, when I am trying to understand customers’ needs, when I am talking about my value proposition? Or maybe when I am trying to complete the transaction?

NOTE WELL: Heck, if there is someone I want not to be perfect, it’s my competition. Let them screw up. Let them blow the sale.

• Know your subject. Duh! When you’re giving a presentation, “knowing your subject” is a given. The rule should be: “Know what your audience doesn’t know and talk about that.” What you need to know is how your customer uses, benefits from and profits by owning your product.

Practice, practice, practice. When an expert tells me to “practice, practice, practice,” the first question I want to ask is, “Practice what?” What it should say is build your presentation skills daily by giving presentations and recording them. When you’ve done the recording, play it back immediately. If you’ve ever wanted a dose of reality, I promise you that playing back your presentation will be the funniest, most pathetic thing you have ever seen or heard. For most people, it’s the grimmest dose of reality.

The value of recording your presentation: When you record yourself, it’s the exact evidence of what you said and how you said it — how impactful it was, how transferable it was, how persuasive it was, how convincing it was. And ultimately, how successful it was.

Recording your presentation will reveal every blemish, every error and every weakness, and give you a report card on your effectiveness.

The average salesperson (not you, of course) is presentation-weak. This is predominantly caused by lack of study, lack of creativity, lack of belief, lack of preparation and lack of recording.

Wouldn’t you think that with all this at stake, presentation skills would be one of the highest priorities in a salesperson’s life? Well, luckily for you, the average salesperson doesn’t feel that way. The average salesperson is home right after work, hunting for the TV remote instead of hunting up new facts for their presentation tomorrow. They’re hunting for a can of beer instead of hunting for a Toastmasters meeting.

Hunt for a speech. When you find it, there’s money attached.

Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of 12 best-selling books. For public event dates and information about training and seminars, visit or email Jeffrey personally at

Recent Articles by Jeffrey Gitomer

Editor's Picks

Comments powered by Disqus