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Time to Take the 'Stage'

Michael is presenting for the first time ever the introductory chapter of his 3rd book titled "Time to Take the 'Stage'".

This book is inspired by a name (Jeffrey Gitomer), a story (a workshop in Charlotte, North Carolina) and a number (10,000).

But first, let me take you back in time.

In the fall of 1992, I was in my sophomore year when my classmate, Adonis Karmiotis, and I decided to enter a competition based around public speaking which had been organized by our University. The task at hand consisted of Adonis introducing me to the stage, where I was then to deliver a speech.

Professors and students included, our audience size was roughly 100 people.

I still remember two things from that particular day:

  1. The title of my speech (“Is the Cyprus problem bigger than Cyprus?”)
  2. That I froze on stage.

When Adonis took the stage, he was lost for words and, funnily enough, it got me laughing backstage. I just couldn’t understand why he had forgotten everything – we must have practiced our roles and delivery over 100 times!

However, when I went on stage, my performance was even worse than Adonis’. It was my worst nightmare coming true. Needless to say, I failed my first ever attempt in speaking to an audience.

The ‘name’, the ‘story’ and the ‘number’

Now let us fast forward ten years (2002), where we reach the name, the story, and the number mentioned in the first paragraph of the book you are now holding in your hands.

At this point in time, I am with my brother, Giovanni R. Virardi, in Charlotte, North Carolina. We made the effort to travel 9,503 kilometers just to attend a workshop, but not just any old workshop. No, this one in particular was presented by Jeffrey Gitomer, who is arguably one of the best sales consultants in the world.

Jeffrey, unlike Adonis and myself ten years earlier, was comfortable on stage, and used both eloquence and comedy to his advantage within his speech. He used storytelling – mainly referring to personal experiences – to mesmerize his audience and grab their attention, creating a sense of familiarity between speaker and listener. He ignited the audiences’ feelings and imagination at various stages of his presentation by using visual props to drive his point ‘home’.

What was said on stage 16 years ago still lingers in my mind even now. Jeffrey said that if you make your prospect laugh, you are one step closer to making your prospect buy. In an effort to illustrate his point, he brought all of his marketing brochures in a plastic bin with his logo stamped across it. He told us that he starts most of his conversations with his prospects by saying, “Mr. Prospect, since you are going to throw them away, you might as well throw them in this bin, which has my logo on it and can rest in your office!” Other than humor, he had a very unique business card which consisted of his head and contact details carved on a two-sided coin. He threw some of the coins to the workshop participants (approximately 100 of us) saying that, “I have a business card that is going to be talked about and probably never thrown away, do you?” Jeffrey incorporated the visual with the verbal in order to create a certain unique feeling which kept his audience interest and made them lean forward to listen to what he had to say. A feeling that has stayed with me all that time.

Once the day-long seminar was over, I approached Jeffrey to ask about something that had been spinning in my mind from the start: what did I need to do in order to become as successful as him on stage? I shall never forget his answer for two reasons: 1) he really did tell me the “secret of success” and 2) I was surprised as soon as I heard what he had to say. He told me that in order to become successful, I needed to study my specialist subject for two hours every day, taking a break at weekends, and when I had done that, to contact him again in ten years’ time with my ‘results’!

Just a couple of years ago, shortly before contacting Gitomer to inform him of my progress – I had done what he told me and the 10-year period was almost up – I read Outliers, a very interesting book by the bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell. In the book, the writer claims that you need 10 years or, put differently, 10,000 hours (the number I was referring to in the opening paragraph of this book) to gain true expertise in your field.

Using examples from true events in the life of The Beatles, he notes that even a successful group such as this did not become so overnight. The Beatles were playing music for no less than 7 hours every night for 7 years in various unknown bars in Hamburg in what was then West Germany at the start of their career. It is calculated that they played more than 1,200 gigs prior to 1964, gradually building their career until they gained popularity and became the idols that they still are today.

According to Daniel Levitin, a neurologist who has carefully studied the formula for success, 10,000 hours are required for the brain of an individual to assimilate everything it needs to know in order to reach the stage of true expertise in a given field. This applies to everyone, including lyric writers, basketball players, pianists, chess players, writers, and even criminals! According to Levitin and his team of researchers, not one person has been found so far to have become an expert in his field with less than 10,000 hours, or 10 years, of study.

Looking back on my own personal experiences, I have come to the conclusion that both Gitomer and Levitin are absolutely right. The proof of this can be seen in my own professional career. I studied for 7-8 consecutive years and didn’t have a single client for my seminars, or rather, I had not managed, at that point, to persuade anyone to believe in me. I listened to Gitomer, turned his words into action and, at the same time, I was patient until an opportunity came along and then seized it, always keeping in mind the saying, “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity”.

Today, I am in the happy position of holding dozens of seminars, lectures, and speaking engagements yearly. I am present in 16 countries around the globe, and lecture regularly at one of the most prestigious universities in the world, University College London. In Switzerland, I teach a public speaking course titled “ADDRESS FOR SUCCESS™” at the Masters of Advanced Studies in International Taxation (MASIT) within the University of Lausanne. I am also fortunate enough to be the personal public speaking coach of various Chief Executive Officers, as well as other high ranking officials from prestigious global companies.

In addition to the above, I have succeeded in multiplying both my knowledge and my income every year. How did I do it? It’s simple! I have invested more than 10,000 hours to date in studying, irrespective of the audience size, the art of communication and connection. Personally, I have had hundreds of one-on-one meetings, whilst working in sales for over a decade for our family catering business. I have attended dozens of engagements within which I have had to address an audience in excess of 1,000, such as in 2014 in the Stravinsky Auditorium in Montreux, Switzerland. I have both recognized and realized that the “secret of success” is nothing more than the investment in hours of continuous study and hence the ‘birth’ of this book.

Why go deeper?

In an interconnected world, the question to ask yourself is not “am I going to take the ‘stage’?” but “when am I going to take the ‘stage’?”

This book is about preparing you to take the ‘stage’ by assimilating my 10,000 + hours of practice and execution into a very simple format which can be easily put into practice by those who currently feel overwhelmed by the idea of giving any kind of presentation. The exercises it contains will act as both your guide and your ally in helping you to accelerate your learning when it comes to communication and connection.

My promise to you is simple. It is the exact same promise that I give to the professionals I work with one-on-one across the globe. Irrespective of where you stand today in terms of your presentation skills, I assure you that you will improve by at least 50% if you both follow the advice and complete the exercises found within this book! This improvement will immediately allow you to create and carve new pathways, leading to your overall personal and professional success. This will lead to your enhanced credibility through building your personal brand, overcoming your fear of public speaking and becoming a more captivating speaker. This will enable you to attract more customers and increase your sales and reach.

Who is this book for?

It is for everyone who has a voice and wants to have a better future.

It is for the experienced professional, or the ‘veteran’, who cripples and freezes when asked to face an audience.

It is for the entrepreneur who wants to increase their sales through creating a powerful online image that will result in helping them to spread their global wings.

It is for the CEO, the CFO, and the COO who, without communication skills, the ability to progress in the working world would be nearly impossible. 

It is for the Managing Director who wants to inspire their team.

It is for the salesperson who completely understands that there is a fine line between closers and losers (in fact, only a mere ‘c’).

It is for all Millennials (people born between 1979 and the early 2000s) which, according to a recent report by AON Hewitt, will comprise 50% of the workforce by 2020 and 75% by 2025.

It is for the start-up founders who want to materialize their idea by raising capital.

It is for the parent who wants to stand up at their daughter’s wedding and deliver words that will echo in the bride’s ears for eternity.

Where is the ‘stage’?

Today, the ‘stage’ is everywhere.

Click the right button on your smartphone and boom… the ‘stage’ appears. You are able to stream live to huge numbers of people in a matter of milliseconds. Presenting, or taking the ‘stage’, does not necessarily mean that it has to be done in the traditional way anymore.

Platforms like Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, YouTube, Snapchat, and many more have become channel platforms and enablers of your own broadcasting station. What is needed, other than a powered smartphone and a Wi-Fi connection, is your very own willingness to ‘dare’ to go live (to take the ‘stage’).

The ‘stage’, therefore, can range from the traditional to the non-traditional:

Traditional

  • Taking the podium
  • A literal stage
  • Interview
  • Presentation
  • Sales pitch

Non-traditional

  • Facebook Live
  • YouTube Live
  • Snapchat
  • Masterclass (like Lynda, Skillshare, Udemy, etc.)
  • Webinar
  • Podcast

Professionals that develop their communication and presentation skills are more likely to excel and stand out.

What’s keeping you back?

The issue that is keeping you back is glossophobia (a word originating from my Greek ancestors!), or speech anxiety, which is the fear of public speaking, or of speaking in general. It is the fear of getting ridiculed. The fear of making a fool out of oneself. The root of this fear is in social relations. It is the very same fear that is associated with many teenage boys who have a fear (derived from low self-esteem) of approaching girls. The fear of making a fool of themselves.

What is needed when tackling this phobia is the appropriate mental and psychological preparation. You need to have a structure (when it comes to girls ‘structure’ is defined as ‘approach’) and it is imperative to understand that first impressions last and last impressions count. In other words, how you decide to both open and close your presentation is the vital key to a successful and memorable speech.

What will I learn?

This book will help you find the confidence to take the ‘stage’, enable you to ‘approach’ your audience in a unique way, and, finally, provide you with the tools and techniques to structure your speech so it resonates with your audience. In other words, this book will act as your guide in:

  1. Overcoming nervousness
  2. Finding your natural voice
  3. Avoiding the errors that beginners make
  4. Getting an audience of any size to connect with you
  5. Constructing your speech in such a way that people will come up to you after your speech and congratulate you
  6. Structuring your speech so it appeals to, and resonates with, your audience.
  7. Delivering your speech in such a way that people remember what you have said, even if years pass by
  8. Incorporating the best techniques used by the most influential communicators on the planet in your presentation
  9. Enhancing your brand online by using advanced communication techniques
  10. Delivering your message with impact in front of an emotionless camera
  11. Leaving your digital footprint and excelling in a highly competitive, connected, and digitalized world