How an Advisor Can Become a Better Public Speaker

Help people understand what they have to know

(Image: Thinkstock) (Image: Thinkstock)

If you sell life insurance and annuities for a living, the ability to speak well at seminars and other events can help you persuade more people to protect themselves, and their loved ones, against death, disability and longevity risk.

Be very careful about the advice you take on this subject. I have been speaking to groups for 44 years. I have read endless articles on the subject of public speaking and most have been debunked.

(Related: 10 Ways to Strike Up a Conversation With a Prospect)

Voice training, posture, power-point, no power-point, dress for success, dress to audience comfort and on and on. There is only one significant piece of advice that will take you further than all of the details on micro issues: Repetition.

To get better at speaking, you must speak to live audiences. I have been told that I am an effective speaker. My financial practice proves that as fact.

I present seminars and earn commissions because of audience response. If people are persuaded by what you have to say and how you say it, you are an excellent speaker. If not, keep practicing.

When I was running a printing press at 19 years old a salesman came into our plant to sell supplies. As I got to know him, I decided what he was doing was better than what I was doing. I took sales courses and learned that somewhere in the process of selling I needed better skill sets in persuasion.

Learning to sell printed products was one matter but being an effective speaker was quite another matter. I joined Toastmasters and learned how poor a speaker I really was. After making no real progress for a year an older and wiser fellow in the group told be that I was trying too hard and that emotion sells.

I started telling stories and immediately improved. However, where was I going to improve my skills if I had no audiences. I decided to gather a troop of young ladies who would be willing to entertain residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and retirement communities. I convinced them that dancing and singing for any audience is good training. I was the Master of Ceremonies, telling jokes and introducing the young ladies. We all improved. I was no longer fearful of audiences and I learned to build content, entertain and enjoy the experience.

Failures teach also. I was invited to speak before an audience of three hundred at their annual gala. I was to bring the ladies and do my part. A tropical storm blew through the area and the only attendees were the audience. They all showed, but only one of my twenty entertainers showed. The program director was in a panic. We were the entertainment. My dancer only knew one two minute routine and we were responsible for an hour. My responsibilities changed instantly. In fifteen minutes I had to devise a plan that would entertain three hundred tuxedo and gown clad dinner partiers for an hour and I was no showman.

Because of the repetition of over two years of hosting presentations the needed material was in my head. After assuring the wildly panicked program director that I could pull it off, I went to work. After one hour of story and joke telling about the exploits of a young father and husband, I left the stage with an extended standing ovation, a very excited and happy event producer, a sweat soaked suit and an extremely emotional exit and drive home. I came to the conclusion that I was ready for the big time. I was going to be paid to do this.

Since then speaking to audiences has paid off in many millions of dollars in sales revenue.

I was not paid for two years, and many of my speeches today are unpaid setup speeches that lead to a payday. Practice alone does not make perfect. Practice with constructive advice from audience attendees, other presenters, and self reflection requires a humility that will pay off, but you must be malleable and accept criticism as advice to be accepted or rejected, but always appreciated. They are trying to help.

Present frequently. Present honestly for the audience and yourself. Introduce emotion to your talks. Tell stories to illustrate points. Have fun.

By the way, I took an F for a final class grade because I refused to give a two minute book report and glad to do it. Fear of speaking is only an acceptable excuse to those who easily accept defeat.

--- Read California Court Makes Insurer Cover Residential Anorexia Care on ThinkAdvisor.

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