Get Out There

By Heather Baldwin

You can’t get better at giving presentations without, well, giving presentations. Yet most salespeople do only two types of presentations – the real, everything’s-on-the-line presentation in front of the client and the living-room rehearsal in front of the cat. Hardly the way to improve your public speaking skills! If you really want to perfect your performance, you need to speak often in a variety of settings, says Thomas Leech in his book, How to Prepare, Stage, & Deliver Winning Presentations (Amacom, 1993). Leech recommends salespeople take these five steps to ensure they speak often, get helpful feedback and continue to grow.

1. Join Toastmasters, “the most effective program I know of to help people quickly advance their speaking skills,” says Leech. “It can bring about major change, not only in speaking but in [developing] a more assertive, open style that is helpful in meetings and personal relationships.” Toastmasters has local chapters throughout the world. To find one near you, visit

2. Take on a leadership role in your professional association or another group. In a position of authority, you’ll likely run meetings, introduce people, give reports – all opportunities to hone your speaking skills.

3. Look for extra speaking opportunities in the workplace. Did you recently discover a great rebuttal to your most common objection? Offer to discuss it at your next sales meeting. “Submit a proposal to deliver a paper at a professional conference,” says Leech. Or talk to your local college about teaching a class – or even being a one-time guest speaker. Remember you have real-world expertise that students would love to tap into – all while you’ll be working on your speaking skills.

4. Volunteer for a speakers’ bureau for a favorite cause.

5. Apply winning presentation concepts to your normal work situations every day and get feedback. It’s the only way to keep learning and growing.