Saturday, May 16, 2015

Making a speech short on words, long on interaction

Have you ever been asked to make a presentation to a group of peers? Usually such a request is for the group to gain knowledge or insight that will benefit those in attendance. It’s not a lecture but an information sharing session during which the listeners are either fully engaged or absolutely bored. They are attending a conference of sorts at the request of their bosses to learn new and more productive methods in their work, or they are the bosses thinking they need a different perspective on their business practices.

It was many years ago when a request came for a sales presentation. The subject could be just sales, or sales and service, or how to overcome objections in the process of selling, servicing, or troubleshooting. The speech was to be made to an audience of businesses in competition with each other. They loved to go to meetings together but not share secrets. The request was granted. The conference was a combination of owners, sales managers, salesmen, customer service agents and other company personnel. At the appointed time, with a thick folder of pages (which looked like a speech) in hand, there stood the lecturer—me—behind the podium.

The folder was opened to page one, voices were cleared and the room fell silent. “Today the topic is…” the speech started. Then, abruptly, the folder was closed, and, “Let’s forget that a moment and ask a general question of the audience. Would someone, anyone, in this audience please offer a problem that's been tough to solve? It could be a sales problem such as closing the sale, or a service issue. Anything?” The room remained quiet for what seemed like many minutes but, in a few seconds, one man raised his hand. He was asked to state the issue.

“That’s a very good dilemma to discuss. Would anyone in this room who has had a similar problem like to try to solve the problem?” And soon thereafter another attendee raised his hand and made a suggestion of how to  unravel the crisis. Then another person chimed in until that subject was exhausted. “Okay, let’s move on. Is there another concern someone would like to broach?” And the session continued with statements of problems and answers of how to overcome the topic. This went on for the next 60 minutes. After a short pat on the back to the audience for being so attentive, a thank you was made to an extremely thankful applause. Afterwards, the participants remarked that had been one of the best speeches on sales, service and solving problems they had ever attended. In reality, there was no speech but a lively discussion. The speech was a huge success.
-------------------- word of the day
legerity (noun) [luh-jer-i-tee] physical or mental quickness; nimbleness; agility

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