December 4, 2020
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Seven Ways to Become a Speaking Star

What Hollywood teaches about great presentation skills

Imagine that you have unlimited resources to design a speech that will make you the hottest commodity on the market, inspire your sales force, or close more sales. Where would you go to get the best, highest-priced writers and directors in the world?


What makes a good Hollywood movie? Exactly the same principles that make a great keynote speech, executive presentation, and sales conversation.

The good news is that you probably don’t need the unlimited resources to hire an Oscar-winning writer and director. Just learn to adapt seven basic Hollywood techniques to increase the impact of your keynote speeches, business presentations, and persuasive sales conversations.

Embrace the creative process.

Our first step is to look at the creative process. The late, great comedian George Carlin said, “Creating a great speech or comedy routine is more like going on a field trip than working in a laboratory.” What he meant: The creative process is messy, more free-flowing, so just embrace it. Forget the PowerPoint. That’s tidy. With a yellow pad, a flip chart, a whiteboard, just list or mind map what content could go in your presentation. You want stories, examples, quotes, statistics, your corporate message, and client successes. Then organize the structure of your presentation in a conversational and logical way and add the visuals. Special effects are not consulted until the “storyboard” is created.

Consider collaborating.

Collaboration is the norm in Hollywood, and it can work for speakers and presenters no matter what their audience or venue. In Hollywood, you have directors, producers, actors, set designers, makeup artists, and editors who all work together in front of and behind the camera. If you are a sales professional making a big sale, a corporate leader who wants to inspire your international sales force, or a professional speaker whose keynote speech is setting the tone for a convention, you can get value from remembering it is very difficult to be creative in isolation. When creating the next great American film or even when creating a masterpiece speech, presentation, or sales conversation, who can you get to help? Do you have a mastermind group, speaking buddies, team members, a sales manager, or professional speech coach?

Start with a great story.

We all love stories, and whenever we hear one, subconsciously we feel it is a luxury. With your corporate stories, identify your main theme, premise or purpose — your plot — and any subplots. I coached a recently promoted retail executive who found, a week after his promotion, he was invited to speak at the company sales meeting to 500 young store managers. His challenge was to inspire the managers to enthusiastically embrace a program to get their employees to contribute money-saving ideas. His subtext was “Now you can see why I deserved this promotion.”

I suggested he walk on stage, look at the audience, and say, “We are here to talk about heroes.” In seven words, he proved that this is not another dull, corporate speech. “We are here to talk about heroes. They may be sitting in front of you. They may be sitting behind you. They may be YOU. In the trenches, heroes!”


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