Tag Archive | "attitude"

Gates, Gladwell, Cain, and More: 17 Presentation Secrets From Superb TED Talks


While captivating an audience is an ability that takes years to develop, there are some simple ways to instantly improve your speaking skills.

The following are simple tips for preparing, practicing, and rapidly improving your presentation skills, reports Inc. 

And as a bonus, each tip includes a link to an awesome TED Talk. Not only do you get to see great speakers in action, you can broaden your knowledge too:

1. Always Give the Audience Something to Take Home

Always provide something specific the audience can do almost immediately. No matter how inspiring your message, every audience appreciates learning a tangible way they can actually apply what they’ve learned to their own lives.

Inspiration is great, but application is everything: Never be afraid to say, “Tonight, think of an employee who is really struggling… and then tomorrow, do (this) and (this) to try to rescue them.”

2. Don’t Wait to Answer Questions

If a question pops up in the middle of your presentation, that’s awesome: Someone is listening! So seize the opportunity. If you would have addressed the point in a later slide, skip ahead. (If you’ve practiced skipping around, it won’t throw you.)

The best presentations feel like conversations, even if one-sided…so never ignore the opportunity to foster that sense of interaction. Never do anything to disengage your audience.

3. Ask a Question Even You Can’t Answer

Asking questions to engage the audience often feels forced. Instead ask a question you know the audience can’t answer and then say, “That’s OK. I can’t either.” Explain why you can’t, and then talk about what you do know. Most speakers have all the answers.

The fact that you don’t–and are willing to admit it–not only humanizes you but makes the audience pay greater attention to what you do know.

4. Fuel Up Wisely

Let’s start with some preparation tips. Dopamine and epinephrine help regulate mental alertness. Both come from tyrosine, an amino acid found in proteins. So make sure to include protein in the meal you eat before you need to be at your best.

And don’t wait until the last minute. When you’re really nervous, the last thing you may want to do is eat.

5. Burn Off Some Cortisol

Cortisol is secreted by your adrenal glands when you’re anxious or stressed. High levels of cortisol limit your creativity and your ability to process complex information; when you’re buzzed on cortisol, it’s almost impossible to read and react to the room.

The easiest way to burn off cortisol is to exercise. Work out before you leave for work, take a walk at lunch, or hit the gym before a speaking engagement. (If you’ve ever felt more grounded after slogging through a solid workout, you now know why.)

6. Develop Two Contingency Plans

If you’re like me, “what if?” is your biggest source of anxiety: What if your PowerPoint presentation fails, someone constantly interrupts, or your opening falls flat? Pick two of your biggest fears and create contingency plans. What will you do if the projector fails? What will you do if the meeting runs long and you only have a few minutes to speak?

The effort won’t be wasted, because the more you think through different scenarios, the better you can think on your feet if something truly unexpected occurs.

7. Create a Pre-Show Ritual

Superstitions are an attempt to “control” something we’re afraid of. (Lucky socks don’t make an athlete perform better.) Instead of creating a superstition, create a routine that helps center you emotionally. Walk the room ahead of time to check sight lines. Check microphone levels. Run through your presentation at the site to ensure it’s ready to go.

Pick things to do that are actually beneficial and do them every time. You’ll find comfort in the familiar–and confidence, too.

8. Always Have a Secondary Goal

Say you’re speaking to a civic group on behalf of a charity and you realize your presentation is falling flat. In response, people usually either try too hard or basically give up. If your primary goal is to land a contract and you can tell you won’t succeed, shift to planting the seeds for another attempt down the road.

If you see you won’t get what you really want, ask what can you accomplish? Then, when the room doesn’t go your way, you can stay positive, focused, and on top of your speaking game.

9. Harness the Power of Genuine Emotion

Now let’s look at unusual ways to instantly improve your presentations. Many speakers tell self-deprecating stories, but simply admitting a mistake is a waste if you only use it to highlight how far you’ve come. Instead, tell a story and let your emotions show. If you were sad, say so. If you cried, say so. If you felt remorse, let it show.

When you share genuine feelings, you create an immediate and lasting connection with the audience. Emotion trumps speaking skills every time.

10. Find Something the Audience Doesn’t Know

I’ve never heard someone say, “I was at this presentation the other day, and the guy’s Gantt chart was amazing!” I have heard someone say, “Did you know when you blush the lining of your stomach also turns red?”

Find a surprising fact or an unusual analogy that relates to your topic. Audiences love to cock their heads and think, “Really? Wow….”

11. Always Benefit; Never Sell

Most business people assume they should capitalize on a speaking engagement to promote a product or service, win new clients, and build a wider network. Don’t. Thinking in terms of sales only adds additional pressure to what is already a stressful situation. Put all your focus on ensuring the audience will benefit from what you say; never try to accomplish more than one thing.

When you help people make their professional or personal lives better, you’ve done all the selling you’ll need to do.

12. Never Make Excuses

Due to insecurity, many speakers open with an excuse: “I didn’t get much time to prepare…” or “I’m not very good at this….” Excuses won’t make your audience cut you any slack, but they will make people think, “Then why are you wasting my time?”

Do what you need to do to ensure you don’t need to make excuses.

13. Keep Your Slides Simple…

Here’s a simple rule of thumb: Make your font size double the average age of your audience. Roughly speaking, that means your fonts will be between 60 and 80 points. If you need to fit more words on a slide, that means you haven’t tightened your message.

14. …And Never Read Your Slides

Your audience should be able to almost instantly scan your slides–if they have to actually read, you might lose them. And you’ll definitely lose them if you read to them. Your slides should accentuate your points; they should never be the point.

15. Focus on Earning the Audience’s Attention

Now let’s look at a few things to immediately start doing. Instead of playing the “turn off your mobile devices” game, because no one will (and you just look stodgy), focus on earning their complete attention. Make your presentation so interesting, so entertaining, and so inspiring that people can’t help but pay attention.

It’s not the audience’s job to listen; it’s your job to make them want to listen.

16. Use the Power of Repetition

Your audience probably hears about half of what you say…and then they filter thatthrough their own perspectives. So create a structure that allows you to repeat and reinforce key points. First explain a point, then give examples of how that point can be applied, and at the end provide audience action steps they can take based on that point.

Since no one can remember everything you say, what you repeat has a much greater chance of being remembered–and being acted upon. So repeat away!

17. Never Run Long

If you have 30 minutes, take 25. If you have an hour, take 50. Always respect your audience’s time and end early. As a bonus, that forces you to hone your presentation–and to prepare to shift gears if your presentation takes an unexpected turn.

Finish early and ask if anyone has questions. Or invite them to see you after the presentation. But never run long…because all the good will you built up could be lost.

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What’s Your Preference – Easy or Tough Customers?


With two types of customers out there, who would you prefer – the easy ones or the tough ones? Most of us were taught to spend our careers waiting around for our dealers to supply us more of the toughest to close type of customer. If there are easy customers and tough customers, though, who would want to spend a career focusing on the toughest ones?

Most salespeople in the car business, that’s who. When you learn how to drive your own business into the dealership, by default, you deal with some of the nicest and easiest buyers in the market. They already like you, know you and trust you. When you don’t drive your own traffic, by default you spend most of your time working with…

  • Price Shoppers. They’ve seen ads from every dealership, most have been online, they’ve checked out pricing, and once they start their buying adventure, they’ll hit four or five dealerships before they buy. The good news: the other salespeople they’ll meet at other dealerships aren’t very good at what they do. So even if you want to spend a career hoping your dealer supplies you with these prospects – if you develop your skills, you can still hit 12 to 15 or 20 units a month.
  • People with a bad attitude today. Wow – after having to stop at four or five dealerships and talk to salespeople who were pretty clueless about the buying and selling process – who wouldn’t start having a bad day? When you run into someone who’s mad before you talk to them, assume they’ve been shopping for a car all day and the fun has worn off. Know, too, that if you get grumpy, they get worse; so just diffuse everything instead.

I always used to say, “Wow – sounds like you’ve been shopping for cars all day and aren’t having much fun.” Because I was correct more often than not, most would go through a light rant for a few seconds about how they’d been treated and how rotten we all are.

I’d listen and then apologize for how they were treated down the street by the other guy, “I understand how you feel and I apologize for those guys, and that’s why we do so much more business than everyone else around – customers like our no pressure approach. So who’s the lucky one, who gets the car this time Bob, you or Betty?”

And within a couple of minutes, we’re off on the right track and they’re glad they’ve met me.

  • People with a “How To Buy a Car” book or internet report, who only want to know how much over invoice you’ll sell it for. “We want a white one of those, we want (this) equipment and we know what you paid for it.”

You have a choice to make: Fight it or embrace it. Guess which way works best?

They’ve done this before and they’re expecting trouble. So congratulate them for doing their homework instead.

“Sounds like you guys know exactly what you want and have done your homework (and then get back on track), so who’s the lucky one, who gets the car this time Betty, you or Bob?” It’s for both of us, but we don’t want to play games, we want this vehicle in white. “Not a problem, let’s go find it, and what’s your second favorite color, blue or silver?” Silver, but we want white. “Great, and who’ll be driving most of the time, you or Bob?”

And in just a few easy questions, you’re out of the ditch and back on the road to a sale. All it takes is understanding how the customer actually feels, good selling skills and the confidence to pull it off.

  • Then you have some people who just want to grind the discount right out of you. They walk in a lot like the people above, but they’re a little tougher. They aren’t happy people, at least not today. “I want to know your best price (period)!” They don’t need to drive it, think they know everything and act like they can buy anything they want.

The best news; these are the five percenters we talk about. And to remind you, you’ll never have to talk to one of these prospects your entire career, if you’ll take the time to attend training and learn how to build your own business through follow up and prospecting.

But for those of you who enjoy a challenge or two every month – what’s the best way to handle them? There are three things I can think of: Head straight to your manager with your I’m weak and can’t control this guy story; Turn them to the new guy, go to lunch, and then try to weasel in on the deal if he makes it. Or my choice: Call their bluff.

I’ve learned through experience that while most of these people huff and puff, they really can’t blow your house down. Even better, I’ve learned that when you can get through to them, they’ll become some of your best customers and will refer tons of people to you. But you can’t be rude or arrogant – you just have to agree and close.

I want this car and I want your best price! “No problem, (start walking as you say…) pull out that check book, follow me and we’ll have you outta here in 20 minutes.”

Two statistics I know: He hasn’t driven this car and 99% of people won’t buy it until they do, and there’s a 94% chance he doesn’t have a checkbook big enough to write that check.

So what does he do? He stammers, gets flustered and before long says something like, “Now hold on (etc.)” Then you get to apologetically say, “Gosh, I got a little ahead of myself,” and start over with “Who’s the lucky one, etc.?”

If you’re going to focus on walk-in traffic, you’re going to need way better selling skills than if you deal with repeat customers, who buy because they like you. Walk-ins only buy when you can sell better than the salesperson down the street.

Big tip with tough customers: Quit trying to win the argument and learn how to make the sale instead.

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Want the Sale? Bring the Energy


How important do you think your attitude is to the sale? And I’m not just talking about a positive attitude alone. I’m talking about a presence that’s fired up with enthusiasm and passion for what you do. It’s having the physical and mental energy to keep on going after many people would give up and go home. It’s how you move, how you approach another person, it’s in your handshake and how you stand and face the person. Your energy can make or break the sales call.

When you call on a customer with energy and enthusiasm, it means that you believe in your product or service, and are excited about what you have to offer your customer. This isn’t bravado; a sincere belief in yourself and your product can’t be faked. You don’t have to take my word for it; these are comments from real customers:

“A sales person needs to stimulate me into buying his products. He needs some energy, some enthusiasm, some pizzazz.”


“My favorite rep is incredibly energetic and enthusiastic. She does her job really well and she makes me feel good at the same time.”

Here are some key points to keep in mind about the correlation between energy and your overall success:

Energy = motivation: William Clements, the former governor of Texas, told me, “Energy is the secret to everything. You can be a person of great integrity, character and all these other wonderful things, but if you don’t really put your shoulder to the wheel, so to speak, and start pushing, you’re not going to get to first base.”


Top sellers are pro-active, not reactive: When you look at high achievers in any field, the first thing you’ll notice is their high energy. They are pro-active personalities; these people make things happen instead of sitting back and waiting for things to happen to them. They have a positive attitude–based on a belief in themselves and their abilities–which keeps them going even when they encounter rejection and setbacks.

If you’re wondering how you can maintain your positive attitude, try these energy action steps:

Appreciate the good. We need to remind ourselves to focus on the positive. Sometimes we get so bogged down by the things that are “wrong” in our lives that we forget to be grateful for the things we have that are right. Every so often, take a step back and look at everything you’ve achieved so far. Celebrate how far you’ve come, without worrying about how much there still is to do. As the late, great Earl Nightingale said, “We become what we think about all day long.”


Increase your physical activity level. Physical activity–whether it’s a sport, a workout at the gym or a brisk walk around the block–revitalizes and regenerates us in body and mind.


Fish for compliments. When you feel like your attitude needs a check up from the neck up, and all else has failed, call some of your satisfied customers to hear their positive comments about their experience. This not only keeps you pumped but keeps the relationship strong by staying in touch.

Energy, enthusiasm and a positive attitude can go a long way in forging long-lasting customer relationships. We sometimes underestimate the power of our attitudes and energy level when making sales calls. And your customers appreciate your positive approach more than you realize.

This article was written by Barry Farber and published in Entrepreneur magazine.

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