The Formula for Successful Speaking and Back-of-Room Sales
by Sherry Prindle
You have great content that can really help your audience; you deliver it with finesse and variety, you build in specific, written action steps. This happens all day, but when you see their feedback, it is clear they don’t get it. It seems the default setting of audience members is to assume what you are sharing doesn’t apply to them until you prove it does.
I trained a corporate efficiency expert who took her message from company to company only to get a response that she was impractical, that they couldn’t implement what she said, and that it wasn’t relevant to them.
She did the logical thing and worked to improve her content to address those issues. It was indeed relevant, practical, and easy to implement—but they still weren’t getting it.
Lynn, a talented and ambitious speaker came to my class to re-certify as a professional speaker. Her problem was similar—she felt she was giving her audiences great content, but they accused her of being an “infomercial.” She kept beefing up her content; she even hired a coach to observe her classes and help her determine what was missing—he found nothing and agreed she had abundant, useful content.
When she showed up at my class we did an exercise where we take a speaking point and ask “So What?” until we get to a place where it is really relevant to the listener. The exercise simply pairs people up and has one trying to “sell” the other an item in their immediate vicinity. The listener simply says “So What?” until the seller hits something that is truly meaningful. It takes a long time for the people in the seller role to realize how much they are speaking from their point of view and how ineffective that is. It is much like differentiating features and benefits in sales. This exercise gave Lynn her epiphany: “I’m not giving them the ‘So What?’!”
The formula I extracted as the common thread throughout all effective presentations is this “So What?” scenario expanded into a replicable process that is used to teach someone rather than speak about something.
- 1. Identify a Need
- 2. Deepen into Pain
- 3. Offer Permission
- 4. Get Commitment
- 5. Meet the Need
- 6. Anticipate Impact
- 7. Call to Larger Action
1. Identify the need (What do you struggle with?)
A question from a participant is a great opportunity to implement step one by asking the whole audience how many of them have had the same struggle. You can easily ask questions like, “Have you ever . . .” Sometimes you want an answer, sometimes you are being rhetorical, but make sure and give more than one example to make sure the whole audience can relate. You can also use a story or statistic to create this.
2. Deepen the pain (How does that make you feel?)
Humans are infinitely adaptable. We cannot stay uncomfortable for too long; we adapt and build mechanisms for feeling comfortable even in horrendous situations. So many people are sleeping on a bed of nails and do not realize it.
3. Offer Permission (Why keep struggling?)
We are conditioned to be “tough,” so a little pain is not enough to motivate us to action. Helping people see they don’t need to struggle and getting them to imagine what life would be like without the struggle is an important step in the motivation process.
4. Get Commitment (Do you want it?)
Information does not produce results. The information has to be applied. Motivation comes from two things: pain and pleasure. Humans are motivated to move away from pain and toward pleasure. Until the pain of staying the same exceeds the pain of change, we tend to stay the same. Getting commitment means they are asked to opt into the point you are trying to make. We are not going to just give it to them; they need to work for it, to consider what they would be willing to do to make the solution happen. “If I showed you how to. . . . would you be willing to . . . to put it into practice?” “Is that something that would help?” “What is it going to take for you to finally do something about that?” “If you would benefit from something like that . . . (get them begging for the information and doing or saying or thinking something to get actively involved in requesting it)”
5. Meet the Need (Here’s what I have for you)
This is the content they expect that you set out to give them.
6. Impact/Benefit (So what?)
How would that improve the way you . . .?” “Will that help . . .?” “Where will you apply this?
7. Call to Larger Action (Now What?)
Here you bring home why you wanted to share this in the first place or take the opportunity to solicit actions like sales of books and resources or recommending future business. You would seed the audience by setting them up to believe they really need to know the material or buy whatever you are selling to achieve their goals in life and that perhaps there is a larger issue they should expand their expertise into . . .
The Formula should be used for every point you want to make because anything you share without establishing a need for it first will not land anywhere, and establishing need without motivation or commitment will not produce results. Setting up your points with the formula usually takes less than a minute. The majority of your time is spent on quality content, while your preparation focuses on the formula because it is what gives your talk impact.