Better Story Telling with John Livesay

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John Livesay, aka The Pitch Whisperer, is a sales keynote speaker and shares the lessons learned from his award-winning sales career at Conde Nast. His TEDx talk: Be The Lifeguard of your own life has over 1,000,000 views. He is also the Co-Founder, CMO of QuantmRE which is a blockchain real estate company. His new book is “Better Selling Through Storytelling.”

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Victor Ahipene: Speaking nation, what’s happening? Welcome to another episode of the public speaking secrets podcast. I’m your host as always, Victor Ahipene bringing you the secrets to allow you to take your speaking to a whole another level. And today we’ve got John Livesay, but he is the pitch whisperer and I know for many of you out there, you’ve got your businesses, you’ve looking to you and front of more people, make more sales and get your message and your brand and have a bigger impact. And he’s a key note sales presenter, a keynote presenter, speaker and author. He’s had a ted talk be the lifeguard of your own life, which has over 1 million. Yes, 1 million views and we’re going to deep dive into a lot of different things in the speaking space. Uh, but obviously having a look at how a few, I’m sure this is going to ring some bells for a few of you out there in the sales space as well. So welcome to the show John.

John Livesay: Thanks Victor. Good to be with you.

Victor Ahipene: It’s a, we’re on obviously on opposite sides of the world. It’s as later in the evening. For you. It’s a mid afternoon for me. If people like, yeah, everyone’s on this kind of journey towards improving the public speaking, getting the speaking gigs, getting on stages, getting in front of organizations. Take us back to how the stat all kind of came about for you and the speaking realm.

John Livesay: Well, it started about 15 years ago when I was selling ads for Conde Nast, which publishes GQ and Vogue and Vanity Fair and W in several magazines. And I started speaking in front of some of our advertisers, salespeople. So for example, Lexis and Jaguar, I would speak in front of those sales teams about how to sell to the luxury market and that would be part of the advertising campaign. So that’s what really launched my career. It’s getting in front of actual salespeople and figuring out what problems they had and how to address it in my keynote. Like not taking rejection personally, was, it is still a big one for a lot of salespeople. How to not be burned out, all those kinds of things. And, uh, that led to me focusing on really getting in front as many people as I could. Um, so that I could build up a, uh, experience level where I could actually get in front of big crowds and get videotaped and do the journey of, uh, getting a speaking agents and then really getting a sizzle reel. And it’s, it’s a constant process. You’re never really done improving what your talk or done with your real that people look at to see if they want to hire you.

Victor Ahipene: Yeah, I guess it’s this the big thing cause this, this, this, this not a self-fulfilling prophecy. Like you’ve always got to be fine tuning your game the further along you can. But it’s kind of like the, I use it kind of as the analogy. You see the job application and its new graduate position, five years experience. And it’s often like that with public speaking. It’s like you’ve got this awesome message to get out there. You know that you can create impact. You’ve done it one on one and you go and reach out to an event, organized that, and they say, all right, cool. We’re asked, have you spoken? Yeah, it’s this catch 22. It’s like, look, I want to be on there. I’m going to probably give more effort than every other speaker that you’ve got on stage. Cause it was my first opportunity. How did you leverage what I guess, you know, working, working for reputable agencies and things kind of helps with the social proof, but how did you start getting your first stages and getting your message out there?

John Livesay: Well let’s start it off sometimes or just be 50 people in the audience. And that was the sales team for a small company or a region. And then I actually decided that there’s three key steps to really taking your speaking to another level. The first is having a book because whatever you’re the authority of, uh, you’re also the author. So that’s a big social proof, and I noticed a lot of really high paid speakers also have a book. Um, the other thing a lot of speakers have as a Tedx talk and then finally getting a speaking agent that can represent you and gets you at least to what I call the shootout. So it’s between you and another speaker, and then you get to sell yourself on the phone to the event planner, as to why you. So, um, that all that and that whole journey, um, of all right, let me get a book. And that’s learning how to write a book and getting an edit and getting it published and promoted, um, is a whole journey. And we felt this is my third book called Better Selling Through Storytelling. And all of that was very calculated as to what do I want to be known for as a speaker and therefore the author. Um, so the author, the book is social proof. I’m, I’m speaking tomorrow in Nashville to 250 tech salespeople and the client is not only hired me to speak but bought copies of the book for everyone in the audience. So it all ties together. And um, Tedx was equally a big challenge because what you give as a talk to our sales team is not a Tedx talk. So I invested in hiring a Tedx coach who works with me on coming up with an idea, quote worth sharing, which is the Tedx philosophy. And it took me over a year and a half, and that was a big, you know. I talk about not taking rejection personally in my talks and in my book, and I had to walk my own talk and that process because they tell you, you know, you, you might have a great Tedx idea and a talk, but it doesn’t fit the theme of our day. So that’s a big lesson. So all of those things have finally come together, and of course the fantasy is you’re going to have footage of yourself on a big stage and a big ballroom with a room full of people. So you get that great footage of you in front of hundreds of people so that you’re mitigating the risk for event planners who go, oh, he’s not going to freeze. And then you get testimonials. I mean, there’s just a constant, a level of focus.

Victor Ahipene: Yeah. I like that. Um, and it really is a lot of, yeah, a lot of the guests that I’ve had on a lot of the people that I hang out with, it’s Tedx talk, tick, you know, great social proof. And like honestly I’ve given a ton of talks. And even just speaking with, yeah, when I gave a Tedx talk, speaking with the other speakers, a lot of us had spoken a lot on stage and a lot to audiences. And by far is the hardest talk I’ve ever given. And the seats of you’ve got to write it all out, you’ve got like you can’t just, it’s just, it gives me shivers. But it was an awesome experience at the same time. Right.

John Livesay: I also, that’s great footage and also great social proof and a lot of people find speakers I like from a Tedx talk, so.

Victor Ahipene: Yup. And then the book side of things again, you know, you, you’re saying things that I’ve been taking off over the last couple of years myself, um, which I find a reassuring but be it, it’s a good roadmap because they’re all, like you say, it’s mitigating the risk for an event organizer or a company to know, okay, this person, a lot of us are the best kept secret. We know this stuff, but no one knows that we know all this stuff improved, that we can teach other people this stuff. So I think those are some awesome tips for people getting started. Let’s dive into what is it when you’re giving a keynote presentations and, and, and say trainings to organizations, have you crafted what problem it is that you solve for them? Like obviously sales, it’s such a wide area. Talking about handling rejection and different things. Do you have like a three different keynotes or three different training sessions that you run for people? Um, or you know, do you run the flexibility of, Hey, what do you guys want? I can solve it.

John Livesay: I really customize the talk. So if I’m talking to a healthcare company like Anthem or Blue Cross, I remember after I finished the Anthem, uh, presentation, uh, some people in the audience said, oh, how long have you worked in healthcare? Because I sprinkled in enough people’s names and enough acronyms to understand this was the problem they were having to solve. But the overall problem I’m solving is that the old way of selling doesn’t work, which is to push a bunch of information out. And the new way is to become a storyteller. We pull people in. And so when people accept that premise that the old way of doing it, it’s not working anymore and that you need to become a storyteller and then the keynote shows you what a good story is that they can then walk away from the keynote saying, uh, we needed to start telling better stories about our own story of origin, about the company, why we like working here. And those boring case studies that people tend to present, people that they’ve done work for, um, now become a story that get people to visualize themselves in that story. When that happens, the team really becomes revenue rock stars because storytelling makes you memorable and you’re not seen as a commodity, so there’s several problems I’m solving in that keynote as well.

Victor Ahipene: Brilliant thought, oh, I want to dive in now and just take a kind of a 45 degree turn leads, dive into storytelling, story selling. You don’t have, you see the expert, you’ve got the book on it and we’ll talk to about the, the authority, the authority points on that. People out there listening because yeah, I’m a hundred percent behind this. The stories, stories sell, know people, people believe facts and figures, but stories are what get people over the line. What are some of the, either the key mistakes that you see people making when it comes to trying to tell a story or the things that you see that can be easily and effectively implemented to make a bit of story?

John Livesay: Well, the biggest problem is they don’t tell stories. They think information’s going to convince people. For example, even when I’m on the phone with a client and they’re looking at me versus another speaker, I tell a story of another client that hired me and what I did to go above and beyond that the other speaker hadn’t thought of or wasn’t willing to do and paint that picture for them. And so that is the key. Uh, the mistakes I see people making is either the story is too long, too confusing or worst of all boring. And so I teach people that there’s four steps to a good story, how to have it, and then I work with them during their workshop, typically after the keynote where people can actually craft a story and, and walk out.

Victor Ahipene: Yeah. I think that’s an important lesson for people as well as a lot of speakers out there chasing to be a keynote presenter. The keynote presentation is the first, ideally the first stick into the next thing and to offering trainings and workshops and breakout sessions and training online training programs and mentoring and all those sorts of things where a lot of people are aiming for that keynote presentation to be, oh yeah, I’m going to go and apply the speech around the countryside or around the world. And that won’t get dull, boring and hearing, hearing the same thing every 90 minutes. So I think that’s a, that’s a really, really good book. Before we move on, where can people find your book, uh, or keep in touch with for your book?

John Livesay: Um, the book title again is Better Selling Through Storytelling and it’s on all the typical places, online, Amazon, etc. But it’s also on audible and iTunes with me narrating it if you prefer to listen versus read.

Victor Ahipene: Awesome. I’m going to get that. Um, cause I love audible, but we’ll link, we’ll link all of that in the show notes at diving into, uh, the is heavier. You mentioned you had a head or have a speaking agent. Can you talk us through the process of getting or finding one and the benefits for people who have been? Yeah. Like, Oh yeah, I don’t know if this is familiar or not.

John Livesay: Yes, well good speaking agents get pitched about a thousand speakers a year, so you have to stand out and sell yourself. And I have found that warm introductions are a really key way to do it. So actually the Tedx coach that I hired when I was auditioning, giving the videotape as you know, to apply to get your Tedx, we had a little bit of a sizzle reel from that trainee and showed it to him and said, a Tedx talk was coming and would he consider representing me. And um, so there was a lot of conversation around what I do, who I help, who would hire me, why I’m unique, all those things that he had to see and understand. And was I willing, was I coachable? Was I willing to change my website and listen to his insights as to how to make it really focused that I’m a speaker? And so people could, you know, event planners are looking, you know, speaking websites. And I looked at a lot of other speaking websites and spent quite a bit of money crafting that. I’m a speaker, click here to watch the video, click here to book me, here’s some testimonials from clients. All of that has to really be strong. And um, so the, the process is they typically find you, um, speaking engagements and they take a percentage and um, they negotiate for you and all that good stuff. So, you know, they’re, they’re getting big speaking bureaus that have been in business a long time, are typically getting a lot of inquiries from event planners. And then you have to sell yourself to the speaking agents that when they say, oh, we’re looking for a salesperson that you’re, maybe they represent 20 people that do this, that you’re one of the two or three that they recommend and why. And then they convince them to have a conversation with you and then it’s up to you to sell yourself.

Victor Ahipene: Yeah. It’s awesome to know the backend processes to it. Like, yeah, it’s not a, it’s not as, they do everything in its signed away and you just turn up to the event. But it’s also, yeah, they, they do do a lot of the heavy, heavy lifting and shifting because they’ve got this know, like, and trust with a lot of these organizations. Um, yeah, if you can dive into that with people, you’re definitely going to have some better benefits in that regard. How, when you’ve say, given a keynote presentation, how do you go about trying to take that relationship further? So to run training organizations or charity events and stuff like that?

John Livesay: Well, a lot of times, um, they are automatically will ask if we’re going to hire the keynote speaker, can you stay and do a half day workshop as part of our three day summit or two day summit. So that typically, um, it’s something they’re looking for. And then you just have to say yes and here’s what the takeaways would be from the workshop at supplements that keynote and how it all ties together. Um, but I’ve had some companies, architecture firms that have hired me to come give a keynote to their regional management team. They loved it so much. They then hired me to help them with their specific pitches for big jobs and then had me go speak at other regional offices. So one thing leads to another. And um, you know, I’m speaking tomorrow to a tech company and I spoke to a division that they had last year and they liked it so much. The same people who are booking said it’s this, it’s a whole different division, different people. And we want you to come in and give that keynote again because we know how well that was received and then these people need it to. So that’s the best. So you’re speaking agent loves that when you get repeat business.

Victor Ahipene: Yeah. Cause they get, I’ve done the work once and get paid twice, which is, it’s good for everyone obviously, but it’s,

John Livesay: well it’s just reinforces their decision that they, you know, cause every time they recommend you they’re putting their reputation on the line.

Victor Ahipene: Yeah. And I mean that’s, that’s the cool thing. I mean particularly in somewhere like the US but I mean it’s not an excuse for anywhere else, but a lot. Yeah, I’m from New Zealand, I live in Australia, but there’s four and a half, 5 million people in New Zealand and you’ve got kind of 50 odd states with that amount of people plus plus plus plus and eat. So it’s like you’ve got that scalability, that one state’s office, therefore you’ve got the potential to tap into another 40 something state officers and the national conferences and stuff like that. But I mean it’s the same thing anywhere around the world with a lot of these big companies. And I think that’s a pretty important takeaway is, yeah, end of the day, you do a good job, you’re going to be front of mind for your speaking agent. You’re going to be front of mind for these companies in the future and you’re going to generate, start generating your, your own, your own work. I mean that that really gives us, I think there’s a, there’s a lot to be taken away in there for those out there who are looking to start their first talk. Yeah. Start working on if you can get work your way towards a Ted talk, what is it that you can put onto paper that would create a book? Uh, you know, how can you get those first speaking events and your and your town or city and then transitioning to, yeah. Okay look, I’ve got some runs on the board. Do I want someone to represent me to do these things? What do I have to change about my branding? I think you’ve given up everybody an awesome insight into how many moving parts there are behind the scenes. Apart from just getting up and sharing some of your knowledge and some of your expertise for 90 minutes is like running across the line at the marathon that you’ve, this 40 42 kilometers prior to it. That of hard work to get there and all you’ve got to lift your hands up and um, yeah. It deliver what you’re already good at it. So I really appreciate the insight that you’ve given to people and I hopefully they can, you know, take pieces out of that and learn that cause it’s a, it’s a very segmented, um, you know, aspect that we’ve, that we’ve gone across. And then even looking at how you present and the problem that you solve and how you, how you tailor it, uh, has been great. So thank you. Thank you for that. If people want to check out, uh, you’re outside of just your book, they want to follow you. They don’t want a book. You take things for the weekend. They go. And what can they do?

John Livesay: Uh, well if you go to my website, L I v as in Victor, e s a y. You can download a free chapter of my book. You can listen to the podcast where I’ve interviewed a lot of speaking bureaus who share their strategy on how they decide what speakers are going to represent. And you can also see some footage of me on television. There’s a lot of free content on the websites and all kinds of videos. One minute videos on how to be persuasive, and how to be a storyteller and all that good stuff.

Victor Ahipene: Nice. Well deconstructed everybody because you’ve got, you’ve got a, you’ve got a working image of, of what is working out via currently in the world. It’s the secrets that you often won’t hear elsewhere that check all of those links out at if you are on the road and you can’t remember all the links because we’ve got that plus many other episodes. So John, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. I know I’ve got some takeaways from here that I’m going to start implementing as well and uh, I look forward to hopefully catching you on one side of the one side of the world and hopefully sharing a stage and the in the near future.

John Livesay: I would like that. Victor, thanks for having me on.