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The Powerful Role of Sales Writing for Business Speeches

The Powerful Role of Sales Writing for Business Speeches and other Demonstration Demonstrations

Virtually no one has ever made a speech without the overall goal of selling something from it -- not necessarily a product; but perhaps a candidacy, or a point of view.

You may have to make a speech to describe, defend, or promote your company or product. In truth, what is a sales pitch, if not a strategic speech made to one or more selected individuals? In a similar sense, demonstrations might be considered shorter, tactical speeches given with the aid of various products, effects, and media.

It's said that for most people, the fear of death comes second to the fear of public speaking, which is odd and needless. Naturally, if you have never spoken to a group before, and had to deliver a speech tomorrow, you would be at an understandable loss. But as a business owner, or sales, marketing, or advertising representative, shouldn't you take steps to prepare yourself to make speeches and demonstrations?

Both speeches and demonstrations ought to be rehearsed, but speeches need to be researched as well -- tailored to fit the audience you are addressing; demonstrations are all about the product instead. You'll want to find out the overall demographic (the geographical area, age range, and overall views) of your audience, and find out a) what they already know, and b) what they need to know.

From there, it might be necessary to time your speech to ensure you don't go overboard; shorter speeches are always more welcomed than longer ones). As we've seen in radio, good announcers can speak 100 words per minute, more or less. Someone who's not a trained announcer should be able to speak about 75 or more, without mangling their words. Therefore, a 30-minute speech for an average speaker should end at around 2250 to 2500 words.

Your speech should then require:

1. An Introduction (An "icebreaker" of some kind, something warm, catchy, funny, topical, or attention-getting.) Good evening, everyone, I'm Jerry Sloane from the Sloane Investment Group. Thanks for having me here in Sheboygan. You've got a really great, serene town here, but believe it or not, I was MUGGED on the way over here! Yes, a mugger came out from between two buildings and aimed a gun at me and said "Your money or your life!" And I said "I'm thinking, I'm thinking!"

2. A Body (Your overall address) And believe me, whenever the word ‘Investment' comes up, everybody thinks the same thing. So I want to put you all at ease, please put your wallets away; nobody here's expected to buy anything tonight. I'll be leaving you with some information about our opportunities you can take home with you. And that's a word I suggest you keep in mind when you think of an investment; it's an OPPORTUNITY, first and foremost.

3. A Conclusion (Where you reiterate your main points, wrap up everything and thank the audience) I strongly suggest you consider these points. Finally, if you recall something I said earlier, when that gentleman told me, "Your money or your life"? Well, I told him "I was thinking," because Investments are your money AND your Life. It's the money you're going to use FOR your life. They're opportunities, as I said earlier. Thank you for listening; please, take our prospectus with you, and have a good evening!

If you're writing a speech for yourself, then you'll already know your strengths and can therefore add humor if you're naturally jovial. If you're writing for someone else, you might not want to write a joke unless you're certain the speaker can deliver it -- tastefully -- to the right crowd.

Some other points to consider:

A) Write for a 9th-grade audience. Avoid highly technical jargon and polysyllabic words where possible; keep sentences short.

B) Repeat your major themes within your speech more than once, especially at the beginning and end of your speech. Studies suggest that people remember the first and last topics they hear within a session.

C) Try not to cram too many different ideas into one speech. People should retain anywhere from one to three major ideas from your speech. (If that seems meager, go to a comedy club in your area, and see how many jokes you remember the next day).

D) Put everyday language into your stories: anecdotes, examples, things that the majority of people can relate to. You know, I was passing by your big statue of Thomas Jefferson on the way here and it reminded me of something he said…

E) If you're writing for someone else, try not to give them full pages, or long columns of print to read from. Give them shorter notes that they can read, look up from, and proceed to the next. Audiences would rather be spoken to than read to, but they will accept a reader "checking notes" here and there.

DEMONSTRATIONS and/or PRESENTATIONS differ from the one-on-one demonstrations that you or your sales representatives give potential clients. Presentations are methods to dazzle a potentially smaller crowd (perhaps twenty or more; enough to fit around a large table) within ten minutes. Ten minutes is a good rule of thumb, because that's the maximum time you should expect anyone to remain standing in one place (rabid sports or music fans excepted, of course).

Presentations are more action-oriented; you or the presenter will be speaking, of course, but also performing other actions -- activating and pointing out slides or charts, calling attention to brief videos, handing out samples, gifts and product information, and so forth. Presentations enable you to physically mix with people (unlike speeches where you're usually above them on a stage), so you or your presenter should be comfortable with doing that.

For the purposes of a presentation, you need to write a chronological time line or (checklist) of events, as well as a script.

Here's a checklist for a presentation I was obliged to give for a cruise ship:

1. 10:30: First Radio Announcement (Attention, Ladies and Gentlemen, in 30 minutes we'll be giving a very important port-of-call lecture in the Blue Star Lounge. Once again, a very important port-of-call lecture begins in the Blue Star Lounge 30 minutes from now. Thank you!)

2. 10:45: Second Radio Announcement (as above, changed to 15 minutes)

3. 10:45-10:55: Stage check and microphone check

4. 10:56: Final Radio Announcement (as above, changed to "momentarily")

5. 11:00 Greeting, Introduction, Port Of Call Information

6. 11:03-11:08 Slide Presentation

7. 11:10 Offer of free tour

8. 11:15 Clear Stage.

This presentation was made simply with a microphone and a slide presentation, and was very effective. Some presenters believe demonstrations are dead in the water without videos or expensive multi-media "flash," but that often points to a lackluster product. One of the best presentations I've seen in recent memory was one for a new vodka (Rain). The representative merely had the restaurant's managers summon their wait staff. He informed the wait staff that his product was one of two vodkas in the world that was NOT a "corrected' vodka -- which meant, made with industrial alcohol (run-off from rubber plants!). He then invited everyone who was of age to try a sample of the vodka, thanked them and left.

100% Guaranteed !!!
You've no doubt seen this, or variations thereof, on most every product you've purchased. There are two primary reasons for the guarantee: One, it's among the strongest marketing and sales tools. Two, it's simply a good, honest business practice.
You ought to write a guarantee for everything you intend to sell.

You must write a guarantee if you or your product are new, or if you intend to sell at a distance (through telemarketing or mail order). It's not that the law requires it, but a guarantee will eliminate the fears of your prospect that you are a fly-by-night operation. For proof, write a sales script or advertisement without a guarantee, check its effectiveness, then write a script with a guarantee.
If you are the sole proprietor of your company, a guarantee will have more impact if it's in your words:

If your guarantee says "return for a full refund," clearly you will need to provide the instructions as to how it will be returned. One ingenious musician had a backpack full of CDs he was offering at a gas station. While I was filling up, he showed me his CD and confidently remarked "I guarantee you're going to like this."

I said "Well, you're at a Louisiana gas station, I'm going to Florida. If I end up not liking it, where am I going to get my money back?"

Guarantees can represent a slight risk, as there are unfortunately people who can, and will, abuse guarantees merely to use a certain product temporarily (clothing, appliances, furniture), or to get information or entertainment for free. The publisher of a horror novel titled Tap, Tap boldly proclaimed the book was "GUARANTEED TO SCARE, Or Your Money Back." Fortunately, these people are in the minority, and they'll have to return your product anyway. To prevent abuse, you might offer a limited or restricted guarantee for certain products:
  • Return it prepaid in its original package for a full refund.
  • Within 30 days, we gladly offer a full refund for unopened merchandise, or an exchange for opened merchandise.
  • We gladly offer to refund your purchase price, minus any shipping and handling charges.
  • A full refund is available, with your proof of purchase.
  • For any refund or exchange, please return items in their original condition.
For items not subject to guarantee abuse, use your guarantee prominently on both your marketing materials and packaging. For items that are subject to abuse, you may wish to downplay the guarantee somewhat, or restrict it to your packaging or receipts. However, the fewer restrictions your guarantee has, the more trustworthy your product (and company) comes across. You've heard truly ironclad guarantees on Direct-Response Television: "If you're not delighted, return it in 30 days and pay nothing! But KEEP your Two Bonus Items as OUR GIFT TO YOU!"
This sort of claim makes that particular advertiser sound like a sheep waiting to be sheared. It sounds like you get two bonus items free if you do return the "main" item! You'd ask yourself "Who wouldn't abuse that sort of offer?"
It's because acting on such guarantees is a form of work that nobody really wants to do. Once someone's received an item of value, they'd rather keep it instead of returning it -- especially when returning it means re-packaging it, making a trip to the post office, and shelling out postage money. People may in fact plan on returning items, but end up procrastinating past the point of the guarantee's expiration.
Some companies cut down on guarantee abuse by making the buyer jump through one last additional hoop. When a customer mails in a refund request, they respond with a letter and a questionnaire from their customer service department.

Dear Mr. Smith:

Hello! I'm Sugar Sweet from Acme's Customer Service Department. We have recently received your request for a refund.

I am sorry our merchandise did not meet your needs. We would hate to lose you as a customer! In order to process your request, won't you please take a moment and help us improve our products by telling us the reason for your refund request?

Please check one or more of the reasons below:

[ ] Wrong Item [ ] Wrong Color [ ] Wrong size

[ ] Defective (please fill out the specific problem below)


[ ] Other (please specify)


Name (Please Print) _________________________________________

Signature __________________________________________________


Daytime Phone _____________________________________________


Date ____________

Please return this questionnaire in the enclosed envelope so that we may begin processing your request immediately. Thank you once again for this valuable feedback so that we can improve our products and services!


Sugar Sweet

ACME Cereals
For products with a more substantial cost, most companies would be well within their rights to ask for such feedback (which is valuable, after all) -- and of course, a percentage of customers will either forget to send the questionnaire back, or give up on pursuing the refund altogether.

Still, the best guarantees are the "No Questions Asked" variety:

"If you're not satisfied for any reason, please return it for a full refund."

You can make your guarantee sound even better by giving the customer a free trial period and not billing them until it's expired:

"Try it in your home FREE for 15 days! If not delighted within that time, return it, and pay nothing! If you ARE delighted -- and we're sure you will be -- keep it! We'll bill you later."

You can visually improve your guarantee by enclosing it within a border or banner:

Again, guarantees do involve a slight risk of wasted sales, but it's still better to have one than not have one. Companies that honor their guarantees with speed and smiles often win back the customer to make another purchase later. Companies that sell high-cost items without guarantees have been dragged into court by angry ex-customers who have tried to get their money back and failed. Even if the lawsuit was found in the company's favor, they lost that customer, any chance of repeat business, court costs, and suffered a black eye in the public relations department --.all of which could have been prevented by the honoring of a simple guarantee.
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