How to “Own” a Room and Increase Your Presentation Skills

113017 - Jay Mays

GUEST: Jay Mays, Co-Founder of Pitch Lab

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Most of us fear public speaking. That’s a problem in client-facing professions like sales, where presentation skills can make or break relationships.

So why don’t more of us actively try to break out of our shells and practice what we pitch? Jay Mays, Co-Founder of Pitch Lab, thinks that a solution is rooted in stand-up comedy. We sat down with Mays to learn how his experience in stand-up comedy helped him become a better sales professional and inspire others to do the same.

After a 20-year sales career and nearly a decade as a stand-up comedian, Mays realized the benefits that an “open mic” environment could provide to salespeople, and how it could improve presentation skills when pitching.

Here’s what what we learned from Mays.

The Intersection of Sales and Comedy

After several years as a regular in Denver’s stand-up comedy scene, Jay Mays noticed something remarkable was happening. He was becoming better at sales. The connection between public speaking and sales may seem obvious, but Mays wondered why there weren’t more opportunities for salespeople to practice their presentation skills publicly.

That idea was brought to life as Pitch Lab in 2016. Instead of criticizing the content of pitches, as is the focus of many other pitch communities, Mays sought to perfect the techniques of public speaking, presentation and performance.

With Denver’s burgeoning entrepreneurial scene, Mays noticed that the only pitching practice many entrepreneurs had received was in front of actual investors. “That’s not the right time,” Mays said.

“I always thought that the idea of an open mic – that comedians were always out there, once, two, three times a night hitting these mics, whether there’s an audience or not to hone their skills, to practice their material, just to get up there and work that muscle was always so fascinating.”

I always thought the idea of an open mic was so fascinating.

Our Biggest Fear

Countless studies have shown that death isn’t our biggest fear – it’s public speaking. It’s a fear that unites all professions, income brackets and ethnicities. This may be why, to May’s surprise, Pitch Lab has drawn attention from not just salespeople, but all types of professionals.

Instead of being just another tool for sales training, Mays has grown Pitch Lab into a client-facing opportunity for everyone. People come to look behind the curtain of stand-up comedy and want to learn what makes it look so effortless. Pitch Lab offers actionable takeaways that professionals can bring to work with them the next day. “What I’ve learned is that a lot of people want these presentation skills, outside of sales,” Mays said.

A lot of people want these presentation skills outside of sales.

Framing Anxiety

Anxiety is how our fear of public speaking manifests itself. It’s a primitive instinct that can paralyze us in front of an audience, and show itself physically in our nonverbal communication. So how do we control it?

Mays believes it’s not about calming down, but rather reframing that anxiety. Mentally reframing anxiety as excitement can turn those feelings into positive energy on stage. “It’s not about killing the butterflies, it’s about getting them to fly in formation,” Mays said.

It's not about killing the butterflies, it's about getting them to fly in formation.

Acceleration Insight

In every episode of the B2B Revenue Executive Experience, we try to pull one nugget of wisdom from our guests that they would impart on a sales professional. Here’s this one:

“A lot of the motivational guys out there talk about putting yourself into a situation, setting that deadline whether you’re ready or not and then scrambling towards that.”

This post is based on a podcast interview with Jay Mays from Pitch Lab. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to the B2B Revenue Executive Experience.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.