I'm fortunate to be invited to lots of conferences and events as a sales keynote speaker. I get great opportunities to learn from others while I'm at these events. Even before I became a keynoter and regular at sales conferences, I’d go to them whenever I could -- even if it meant spending money out of my own pocket. That's because I see the value in learning from others who are up there on stage.
As I began to move into the profession of speaking, I made five promises to myself. Five things I told myself I’d never do when I was up there on stage as a sales keynote speaker. Unfortunately, not everyone has made the same kinds of commitments, despite the best of intentions. Some speakers on the circuit tend to indulge in these five things a little too often. I hope that you’ll hold me accountable now that I'm putting these five out there for public consumption.
5 Things I'll (Hopefully) Never Do as a Sales Keynote Speaker
1. Use Archaic Data or Ideas
I promised myself never to get up on stage with stale data or outdated ideas. I promised myself that I’d stay current to always know what's next and what the impact is likely to be on the sales profession. I conduct research of my own (with buyers and sellers alike) so I can always bring something fresh to my audiences.
In my opinion, that's where some of the greatest value comes from a conference. When you spend big money to attend, you want to get high value -- including something you wouldn't be able to get everywhere else.
2. Ignore Others' Experiences
Another promise I made to myself is never to narrow my topic, my examples, or my ideas to a certain industry just because that’s familiar to me. Although I originally come from the media industry, I've worked extensively in other industries, too. I really stretch myself not to speak from my media industry perspectives alone. Instead I adapt my presentation every time. If it is, in fact, to a particular industry, then I study that industry so I can speak directly to the experiences of that audience.
More often, I’m speaking to people who come from a wide variety of industries. In those settings, I bring multiple examples to represent everyone's experiences. It's unfortunate when a speaker is narrowly accessing their own examples and experience and becomes unrelatable or irrelevant to others in the audience.
3. Deliver a Canned Speech
I promised myself never to repeat and recycle canned presentations. All too often, I see speakers who are bored even with their own content because they've told the same stories over and over again. Sometimes, I see speakers who are so rigid in their speeches that they have memorized every word and gesture. It seems robotic and unnatural.
4. Bully the Audience
I promised myself that I would never beat down on audience. I don’t turn the stage into a bully pulpit. I don’t accuse, blame or shame, yell at, or condescend to audiences. It's not my job to light a fire under you -- you probably get enough of that from your sales manager. My job is to ignite a spark within you, one that will burn brightly even after the presentation is long over.
I don’t think there's any room on that stage with me for sarcasm or judgment. I don't think it's fair to make blanket assumptions about everybody in the audience and to try and hold them to some unrealistic and impossible standard. Instead, I think people attending conferences are more often the ones who are stretching the most and doing the most. They are ahead of the curve. This isn't a group that needs to be insulted.
5. All Fluff, no Stuff
I promised myself that I’d never get on stage and spew a bunch of theoretical or philosophical ideas (no matter how good they are!). Instead, I look to offer practical skills that are immediately applicable. When I offer a theory, I also translate it into practical application. When I talk about research, I immediately describe why it matters and how it can be useful.
Now Hold Me Accountable!
As a speaker, it's my job, I think, to motivate and mobilize everybody in the audience with clear take-home actions they can use to do a better job in the selling or sales managing they do on a daily basis. I'm sharing this with you so that you’ll hold me accountable the next time you see me on stage.
I’d also like to challenge other sales keynote speakers to make similar kinds of promises to themselves and to their audiences. We need to be the very best we can be because sellers don't have time to waste listening to presentations that are a low value, lather-rinse-and-repeat content, outdated or irrelevant examples, or any invectives that are insulting and undeserved.