The last couple of years have been tough for financial planners. With the Dow Jones Industrial Average suffering its worst annual decline since 1931 for the 2008 calendar year (according to www.cnnmoney.com) and with unemployment continuing at record highs, clients were not eager to purchase investment vehicles. Who can blame them? If I were laid off and I had a couple of mouths to feed, my only concern would be to keep a roof over my family’s head, warm food in our bellies and clean clothing on our backs.
But as all the great economists have said, Things will eventually get better. We live in a free market system—everything that goes up will come down and everything that goes down will come up again. History will repeat itself.
Besides working as a financial planner, I also teach public speaking at a local college in Southern California. What I have noticed—especially this year—is the increased number of working adults going back to school. More and more people are using this bear market economy as an opportunity to make themselves better and prepare themselves for the future.
What I have also experienced is an increase in conceptual and product training in the financial world. What amazes me the most is that financial planners will spend thousands of dollars on sales training but not a penny on how they deliver their message. Why do sales people naturally believe they can effectively deliver their message to a group of potential clients without even one minute of proper speech training?
Being in sales is tough, and being an independent financial planner is even tougher. There is never a steady income stream coming in, there is seldom a person to pat us on the back or give us words of encouragement when times are tough, and we rarely go on real vacations. To be successful in this industry you have to be a little crazy, stubborn and cocky. That’s probably why I love working in this field so much.
I learned a long time ago that the best thing you can invest in is yourself. Learning all the top products and best conceptual sales ideas is great; however, unless you can effectively deliver your message, you have just wasted your money and, more important, your time.
One of the most disappointing things to witness is wasted opportunity. I can’t explain how many times I have witnessed financial planners spend thousands of dollars on sales training and then spend a few more thousand in giving a public seminar—to end up with nothing to show for their investment.
Many people will play the blame game, believing there was a mistake in their marketing campaign, a bad economy, bad clients, etc., so they can shift the blame away from themselves.
The truth is that there are many factors which contribute to a failed public seminar, but time and time again the number one reason is poor public speaking skills. I have witnessed speakers with such terrible skills that they actually drove away potential clients. They had no idea how to read an audience; thus they failed to adjust their presentations in order to be more appealing and keep their clients interested.
As I have said many times to my students, knowledge is worthless unless you can explain it and apply it. Who really cares if you are the smartest person in the world if you cannot communicate your thoughts effectively.
Warren Buffet said it best: Invest in yourself.
Most experts agree that the best training for successful sales people is public speaking. You never know where life might take you; you might be currently selling index annuities or mutual funds and someday find yourself selling something completely different in a whole new industry. Being an effective public speaker will help you no matter where your career path may take you.
But be careful in choosing public speaking trainers—they can be very expensive and the common saying, “You get what you pay for” does not necessarily apply. There are many hacks out there who are charging thousands of dollars for their training, and what you get is no more than what you could get for free by joining the local Toast Masters associations.
Here are some quick tips on how to select a public speaking training program.
1. Find out where the instructor went to school; if he does not have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, walk away. This is the first sign of a hack.
2. Ask about the instructor’s own public speaking training and credentials. It’s amazing what a quick Google search will bring up. Again, walk away if you can’t find proof about the instructor’s references.
3. Be careful when you see “100 percent satisfaction guarantee or your money back.” This is impossible; public speaking is part of the social sciences field, which is based on cognitive thinking. Results will vary from person to person. Some people will ultimately become great public speakers, while others—no matter how hard they try—will always be less than competent speakers. If the time comes to collect your refund, no one will be there to pay you back.
4. Ask to preview the instructor’s skills. If he can’t or won’t give you a preview, most likely he is not qualified to educate and you have just exposed him red-handed.
5. Ask the instructor if he has a background in forensics—the art of public speaking and debate, which is a highly competitive activity practiced in most universities and colleges around the world. It is a well-known fact that the best public speakers all have a background in forensics.
Don’t be afraid to ask these or any other questions. In most cases you are spending good money for the training, and you are 100 percent entitled to know what you are buying.
Here are a couple of free tips for public speaking:
1. Breathe—calm down and remember that it’s okay to be nervous. Being nervous is a good sign and shows that you are human after all. When you speak, you should sound slow in your head because, in actuality, that is the correct speaking rate for your audience to receive.
2. Move your hands and your arms—40 percent of your speech is nonverbal communication. Using body language is very appealing to people and keeps their attention more focused on you.
3. If you forget a line or lose your train of thought, just move on. Nobody except you will know what you were supposed to say next. Find your comfort zone and continue as if everything is perfect and planned.
4. Speak with confidence—make sure the person in the very back of the room can hear you just as clearly as the person in the front of the room. You never know where your next client might be sitting.
5. Practice, practice, and then practice some more. Record yourself in front of a mirror and then listen to how you sound. Be sure to walk your room before you present so you can get a feel of how your voice is going to project.
Public speaking is the number one fear for Americans. Many people would rather die than give a speech in front of a crowd. The fact that you are considering giving a public seminar is very commendable.
Just remember, the most successful people in the financial world all give public seminars and they are all nervous before they speak. Tell yourself: “I am prepared, I know my presentation backward and forward, and I am ready to give it my best effort.”
If you can’t say those three things, I better see you in my next class.