"What would you think if I sang out of tune, would you stand up and walk out on me.Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends."-The Beatles
In the early days, I had some people walk out of my training seminars, so I sought out some mentors. Those mentors helped me refine my skills in public speaking and sales training. One of those mentors was Dave Gifford. He retired last Friday as a master trainer in media sales. Dave always gave me the straight talk when he visited with me - he never minced words with me. He would say, "Sean, get your !&#% together on this or that." Dave was also influential in some of my clothing accessories that I wear during seminars. I was amazed at how Dave used the easel to work his audiences. Even with all the technical capacity we have in today's sales training world, I still use the easel in selected parts of my seminars. Thank you Dave Gifford!
When I first decided to be a speaker in media sales, I studied the top trainers in my field at the time. I paid for everything on my dime and time except for my first seminar. I didn't wait for the company to pay the freight on my education or dreams. It was my responsibility to capture and learn from the best. Paying for it myself always came with more satisfaction, too. Here are a few tips you might want to consider:
1) Invest in Yourself: I was working as a sales manager for CBS Radio in Houston. I needed to save money for my trip to attend a public speaking course. It was a high-dollar course too! I had to pay for my own travel as well. When I went full time with my dream of speaking and training, my plan was to be prepared to be the best I could be. I attended the training on my own vacation days. It took a year of planning to attend this course in the windsurfing capitol of the world (on the Columbia River). My instructor taught me how to pause.to lean in.to modulate..and to enunciate - to make eye contact with the audience and how to write a speech outline.
2) Have a Goal: I had a 15-year goal to be a sales trainer and professional speaker. I accomplished it in 13 years. During the initial 13 years, I knew very early that someday I wanted to help others grow and have success in sales. I looked over the programs of the major conferences in our industry. I sat in on seminars and listened over and over to Chris Lytle, Chuck Mefford, Irwin Pollack, Ken Greenwood, Norm Goldsmith, Pam Lontos, and Jason Jennings and studied the writings of Roy Williams. I sought out their advice and mentorship in speaking. Whenever I could sneak in a moment after one of their seminars, I was in line to speak to them and ask them a question on something they did or instructed in their seminar. I then watched the master storytellers, Harvey McKay (who wrote "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive") and the great Og Mandino (The Greatest Salesman in the World). I listened to them speak, and I bought their tapes/CDs and listened to them over and over again.
3) Make Your Own Way: At some of the broadcast conventions, I got as close to the "masters" as I could during the general sessions. I studied what they did before they went on stage, what they said to others, how they prepared, and what kind of notes they took on stage. The reserved tables in the front of the room are for the "important" people. I would wait until one or two important people didn't show up at the front table, and I would find a chair and sit down at that table. I used to do this at Memorial Stadium during Nebraska football games. As a teenager, I sold programs on Saturday afternoons at the Cornhusker games. I then had to find my own seat to watch the games, so needling my way up front at the speakers table wasn't much of an issue. You have to make your own way if you're going to capture your dream. Yes, that was me at your table, "very important people." They started talking to me once they understood that I just wanted to be like them someday. Many of the people that I have mentioned in this article have taken me by the hand and freely taught me their secrets since they knew I was going to do something with it.
Great job Dave Gifford! The thing that still blows me away about you is how you have kept your body so conditioned after so many years of travel? You are amazing!
"How do I feel by the end of the day? (Are you sad because you're on your own?)
No, I get by with a little help from my friends." - The Beatles
Note: There are many other people out there who were also influential in teaching me the art of public speaking. Space will not allow me to mention all of the names in this article, but stay tuned for future articles.