Michael Davis helps professionals attract more clients, create efficient teams, and increase their influence with improved speaking skills. His passion for his work was born when he was threatened with a job loss because of his poor speaking skills.
With the help of thought leaders and industry experts, he discovered how to become an impactful speaker, trainer, and coach.
Michael has helped speakers on five continents and written 7 storytelling books. He’s a speaker, trainer, and the founder of Speaking CPR.
He lives in Ohio with his partner Linda, and the overlords of their house, Sky and Riley the Super Chihuahuas.
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for High Velocity radio.
Stone Payton: [00:00:15] Welcome to the High Velocity Radio show where we celebrate top performers producing better results in less time. Stone Payton here with you this afternoon. Please join me in welcoming to the broadcast speaker, trainer and founder of Speaking CPR. Mr. Michael Davis How are you, man?
Michael Davis: [00:00:35] I’m doing well. Stone Any time I can be on a program entitled High Velocity, I’m in. Fantastic.
Stone Payton: [00:00:43] Well, I’ve got a ton of questions. I know we won’t get to them all, but. But if we’re going to talk about speaking, we’ve got to talk about storytelling, man. How do you know which which story to even bring out and tell this day and age?
Michael Davis: [00:00:58] Excellent. First question. It’s first of all, the story has to resonate deeply with you. If it doesn’t, your audience will pick up on it. Whether you’re a speaker speaking to an audience, your sales professional speaking to one or a leader speaking to your team, it has to resonate with you. Secondly, it has to relate to the point you’re trying to make. Storytelling is very popular today, and one of the challenges I’m seeing is a lot of people are telling stories because they heard somebody say, Tell your stories, but we’re not always seeing the point to the story. So it’s really important that we have that.
Stone Payton: [00:01:32] So when you’re speaking with your clients, do do they ever share that they they sometimes feel like, man, I don’t know that my story is that interesting. I don’t know that I have a great story. Do you ever get that?
Michael Davis: [00:01:45] Frequently. And it took me years to determine what people are really saying when they say to me, Michael, I don’t have any stories. And I say to them, If you have lived to this point in your life, if you’ve ever been in a relationship, if you have children, if you’ve ever had a job, you have stories. What people are really saying when they say, I don’t have stories, stone is they’re saying I don’t have any newsworthy stories. Somewhere along the line we got confused and we’re we’re taught that unless you’re on CNN or NBC or any of the big stations, that people don’t want to hear your story. Well, I’ve discovered it’s just the opposite. It’s the newsworthy stories that are rare. We can’t relate to most of those. I mean, don’t you love a story about someone who has climbed Mount Everest despite a physical disability? Or the Olympian who overcame all the odds?
Stone Payton: [00:02:42] Yes, absolutely.
Michael Davis: [00:02:45] Yes. Now, how much can you relate to that story?
Stone Payton: [00:02:47] Yeah.
Michael Davis: [00:02:49] Versus. How about the business owner who’s struggling with inflation as a current topic and is really not sure how to meet payroll and pay for the increasing cost of goods and services and still run a profit that’s more relatable?
Stone Payton: [00:03:08] Oh, absolutely. You better believe it is. It is for me. I’m trying to run a business here. I own 40% of this network. I’m I’m dealing with that kind of thing every day. Know that that person really has my attention. I suppose a gifted or properly trained speaker on those other topics. I might find them entertaining to some degree, but no, you’re absolutely right. That’s far more relatable.
Michael Davis: [00:03:30] Not to the listener. I will ask you think about what you just heard from Stone. When I talked about the mountain climber or the Olympian, Stone’s reaction was somewhat muted. Yeah, that’s interesting versus Are you kidding me? I can relate to that. When I talked about the relatable topic, that’s exactly what our audiences are feeling, too, when we talk about relatable topics.
Stone Payton: [00:03:52] So speaking of stories, got to know your back story, man. How in the world did you get into this line of work?
Michael Davis: [00:04:00] I’ll give you the shortened version. When I was in first grade, I was humiliated in front of my first grade class by my teacher so badly that I told myself I’ll never stand in front of people again. That was awful. And for the next 25 years, I avoided any opportunity to stand in front of a group, even if it meant not participating in events. I wanted to like being in the school band. I knew if I made a mistake, people would laugh at me. If I joined the drama club and made a mistake, the audience would laugh at me and I couldn’t take that after that very difficult experience in first grade. And then when I was 31 years old, I was in the ultimate irony. I was a financial planner, and a key part of my job was to give retirement planning workshops to attract new clients. And one day my boss and I sat down in his office for quarterly review, and toward the end, he pulled out a stack of papers and said, These are the evaluations from your last workshop. Michael, I’m going to cut to the chase. You’re a lousy presenter and your stories suck. Ouch. Yes. He said, you’ve got to fix this.
Michael Davis: [00:05:18] You told us you could do this. This is part of your job. If you don’t get better at this, you don’t start getting people through the door. We’re going to let you go. That threat of losing my job sent me to, first of all, Toastmasters and eventually the National Speakers Association and other groups like that. And I met world class mentors who took me under their wing. They helped me work on my mindset first to deal with that incident from my childhood. To put it in its proper context, I realized I wasn’t the only one who’s ever been humiliated in front of people. Second, they taught me that speaking is a learnable skill. We are wired to be afraid of speaking because at some subconscious level it seems like a threat to us to be in front of people. But over time it took me far too long. But eventually I developed a positive mindset and with the help of my mentors, learned the processes and the tools and gain the confidence in one day decided this is my calling. Helping other people get past the hurdles I’ve experienced to get their messages out to the world.
Stone Payton: [00:06:19] Now, are you finding yourself gravitating to a certain type of client type of business type of talk even, or finding a particular group or type of client that you really particularly enjoy working with?
Michael Davis: [00:06:34] I do. My parents were entrepreneurs. I’m an entrepreneur, and I find that I do a lot of work with entrepreneurs and the presidents of companies to help them get their vision out to their teams, to their boards, to your prospective clients. And I understand a lot of times they feel very alone because they don’t always get the proper feedback they need. And when they hire me, sometimes it goes beyond speech coaching. It becomes life coaching because they just need somebody to talk to. But I love working with people in that position because they have so much on them and they have so many good ideas and they often struggle to get them out in a way that moves people.
Stone Payton: [00:07:16] And you clearly enjoy the work. I mean, I see it in your eyes. It’s coming through over the airwaves, I’m sure, for for our listeners. What are you enjoying the most about it at this point in your career? Because you’ve been at this a minute now. What are you finding the most fun?
Michael Davis: [00:07:32] It’s when that person comes to me and says, I’m not a very good speaker or I don’t have any stories. And when I pull the curtain back and shine a light on their experiences and they see that they do have significance and power and they can help others. If you see a shift in them, their energy changes. They get a lot more confident. They want to speak instead of being afraid to speak because they realize, yeah, this can help others. They don’t focus so much on themselves, which is where a lot of people build the fear. They’re concerned about how their hair looks in their clothes. We don’t care about that. If you’re there with authenticity, with a message to help us. And when they when I see that shift, that’s why I do this, because I know that I’m not just helping that person. I’m helping all the people affected by this new powerful message.
Stone Payton: [00:08:27] So I had two gentlemen as recently as this morning, and I knew you and I were going to get a chance to visit it on air. So it really stuck with me this morning. And he used a phrase I’ve heard a lot of people use. He said, long story short. And I thought to myself, I did not say out loud too late. So it’s kind of a tactical question, but are there some things that we can do or not do to, I don’t know, keep our stories lively, keep them from being boring?
Michael Davis: [00:08:55] Yes, there are two in particular, and I didn’t do it today just because I know we’ve got a shorter interview. But one is to provide dialog. And that is character dialog, but also internal dialog. I did it in my short story where I said. After I got in trouble. I will never stand in front of people again. That was awful. That was six year old me dialog. And then I did the dialog with my boss in me and unfortunately, that’s exactly what he said to me. Never forget those words. So that’s one way I did use that. The other I didn’t have we didn’t get into was to provide details, what we call it, vaccinating your speech VAX. I’m not talking about that other controversial vaccination. We’ll leave that alone. But VAX, visual, auditory, kinesthetic and smell and yes, are my medical people in the out there. I know that olfactory is the correct word, but Varco does not create a nice metaphor like vaccination. So I went with smell. I also know taste is involved, but in a more detailed story I would get involved with creating those sensory details so people feel like they’re right there in the story with you.
Stone Payton: [00:10:09] So you not only became a world class speaker, but you turned it into a a business, did you? I know the answer to this is yes, so I guess I’ll rephrase it. Tell us a little bit about maybe one or two of the mentors that you had the benefit of along the way. Surely you had some help and guidance as you were trying to navigate both?
Michael Davis: [00:10:29] Yeah, I did it through Toastmasters. They have an annual competition called the World Championship of Public Speaking. I made it a point to befriend some of them just to pick up some of their wisdom. Well, the best speakers tend to be the greatest mentors, at least in my field, because they’re generous and they they know how hard it is and they want to help others. They see that if you do the work, they will help you. So Darren Lacroix, who was the 2001 world champion, Craig Valentine, Marc Brown, all world champions who have gone on to successful professional careers. And the best part of having mentors and coaches is they can see the the brilliance in you that you can’t. We all have brilliance in us. But we can’t see it. It’s just it’s impossible. It’s like we all wear blinders when someone else shines a light on those skills you have that you don’t even see. That makes a huge difference. That’s where you build confidence. I just went through that this week with a marketing piece. I went to my business mentor and in all candor, he ripped it to shreds. But I wanted him to because I couldn’t see all the blind spots in it, because that’s my material. We all fall in love with our material. It’s very hard to us to say, Oh, that’s not very good until someone else gives an expert opinion or some feedback on it.
Stone Payton: [00:11:52] So speaking of confidence, I think one of the things that I would find intimidating if I were to get in front of a group and speak is like, how do you how do you memorize what you’re going to say? Because I don’t really want to go up there with a bunch of notes. I see the folks who do a really good job with it don’t seem to rely on notes or even slides as there must be. And I know it’s again, a very tactical question, but, you know, hey, it’s my show, so I’m going to know.
Michael Davis: [00:12:19] It’s an excellent question. Here’s the thing. If you get nothing else out of this interview today, if you’re listening to this, never, ever memorize, ever. And here’s why. Number one, you sound like you’re memorized. You sound like a robotic speaker. Secondly, if you forget one word, you’re done. And by you’re done, you’re going to lose track and that triggers the fight or flight in you. And all those neurotransmitters start triggering, getting triggered, and you start to panic. Ask me how I know Stone happened to me once in front of 450 people in a high stakes presentation, I said, I will never memorize a speech again. So what you want to do is internalize the flow. Look, you know your story. Don’t get hung up on the words we’re often asking. And this is a parallel idea, but we’re often asked, Do I have my stories? Have to be 100% true. Your story has to be true. It does not have to be 100% factual. The reason being, if you are 100% factual, you bore people way too much back story. What we’re looking for is the emotional truth in stories. So if I’m recreating dialog, one of my favorites is from a client that hired me back in 2009 when I first started this business, when she came up to me in an event and said, I understand you’re a speech coach and I need your help. Really, Patti, tell me why. Because I’ve done something stupid. I agreed to give the keynote for the Women of Excellence dinner. And Michael, I am so stressed out. I’m sick to my stomach.
Michael Davis: [00:13:57] I’m not sleeping at night. That’s how I deliver that when I share that story. Well, Patti and I are still friends. And I asked her a couple of years ago, Do you remember exactly what you said to me that day? She said, Michael, I don’t remember what I told my husband yesterday. How do you expect me to remember what I said back in 2009? So the point of that is, I don’t know that those are the exact words she used, but I deliver them in the emotion that I remember she presented to me and she was stressed out, panicked and scared to death to give the speech. As long as I convey that people don’t remember the words, they remember the emotions behind them. And I tell all my clients do not stress out about a word or two. No one knows your script. As long as you keep the story flowing or the entire speech, it’s okay periodically to look at your notes. By the way, I don’t think you should read off them because then you lose total connection with your audience. But I’ve never sat in an audience with a really good speaker who occasionally went over and looked at the lectern and said, Oh yeah, what was I going to say? Oh, there it is. That, to me tells me that person’s ego is not involved because they’re not worried about somebody thinking, Oh, well, gosh, he looked at his nose. I can’t. That’s not what it’s about. Occasionally, looking at your notes tells your audience that you’re there to serve them.
Stone Payton: [00:15:24] What a marvelous point. Both of those points that they don’t know the script, they don’t know what you are supposed to say or we’re hoping to say. And when you talk about this, this topic of memorizing and kind of and put that to bed, it strikes me there are probably more than a handful of myths or misconceptions that we’ve all come to accept and believe around speaking. There’s probably others. Yeah.
Michael Davis: [00:15:52] Yeah. Memorization is a big one. And what I tell the people I work with is that a speech or a story is actually an evolutionary process, unlike actors and musicians who have to follow that script. They pick your favorite band or favorite singer. If you go to a concert of that person and that person starts to sing your favorite song of theirs and they sing it completely differently, you’re not going to be happy. However, if as speakers and storytellers, we tell a slightly different version each time and it evolves, people aren’t going to get upset as long as the emotional core is the same. If you say a different phrase or you have a little bit of a different dialog, it evolves. You have that right. Plus you see your story and your topic in a very different light as the years go by. So it should evolve. So that’s number one. Number two, and this is this is what I see a lot of people struggle with and they miss opportunities, is I can go up there and wing it. You can. And you’re also going to go up there and be forgettable for the most part. Again, there’s a balance between you don’t want to memorize, you want to internalize the flow. But you’ve got to know have a pretty good idea of what you want to say.
Stone Payton: [00:17:08] Your stories, even in this exchange, are quite memorable. The lady who came up to you. That’s fantastic. And I’m sure you were able to help her a great deal. How does the whole sales and marketing thing work for a guy like like how do you get the new business?
Michael Davis: [00:17:27] One is repeat business. I’d say I did the numbers recently. It was like 30%. I get repeat business as I tell everyone, Look, I’m teaching you processes and tools so that you never have to come back to me if you want to. I’d love to work with you again, but I don’t want them to feel like, well, got another speech. Got to hire him again. That’s not a positive business relationship. So repeat businesses one second is referrals. And third, LinkedIn has been very good to me. Now I post a lot. I’m very consistent about posting on LinkedIn and I also do YouTube videos. I was talking with a branding person the other day, really sharp young woman, and I told her I have two channels, I believe that’s all, and I think they all work. I’m not going to denigrate any channel that I don’t use because I don’t know it, but I keep it very focused and that’s where I’ve built a following.
Stone Payton: [00:18:20] In the stage is not your only platform. You’ve written several books and shared these ideas and more in that medium as well. Yes.
Michael Davis: [00:18:30] Books. Online courses. I’ve got my first book was called The Book on Storytelling, and then I wrote a Kindle series called Some More With Stories. And my new book is coming out early next year, tentatively titled Your Stories Suck. A Step by Step Roadmap to Fix Them and Speak With Influence. I always get a good laugh when I share the title, and it is not meant just to be a one of those eye grabbers and to be. I can’t think of the word right now, but I didn’t do it just for the shock value. Yeah, the title is Born from the Words of My boss many years ago who helped me get down this path when he said Your story sucked. But there’s a deeper meaning is your stories could be sucking the life out of your audience and your chances. To influence them. What I want people to do, there are a lot of books out there talking about. How the brain reacts to story and storytelling is important, but I don’t find too many of them that are showing you how to do it in a step by step fashion. There are some and they’re really good, but I just wanted to put my spin on this topic and give my version of what I’ve seen work for me, for my TED clients and my professional clients.
Stone Payton: [00:19:49] And what about this medium you had? I teach you up to essentially deliver a small keynote on this platform. Would you have approached it and maybe executed on it any differently than you would have if we were physically with with the audience?
Michael Davis: [00:20:07] Actually 75% would be the same. The material still has to be the same. The stories, the the opening, the sub points, all of that is very similar. The delivery method would change in the sense that on camera we have to change it up more. It can’t just be a talking head, nor can it be the speaker hiding behind slides. It’s what we call the change of pace elements. It’s important to for people to see you because we have to connect through the face. One of the important ideas that we were teaching our clients stone at the beginning of the pandemic was that when you stand in front of an audience, all five of your senses are engaged. When you stand in front of a camera, only two are engaged and even those are limited your sight and your hearing. So because of that, we have to change up the look on camera to keep people more engaged. Videos, pictures, graphs, our faces, chat boxes, breakout rooms. We have to change it up every few minutes because if we don’t, we’ll lose them. I’m a big football fan.
Michael Davis: [00:21:17] Our local team, the Bengals, went to the Super Bowl last year and the reason I mention that is because I was watching a clip from one of the AFC Championship game. And in one minute there were 11 scene changes. I mean, it was bam, bam, bam, bam. I started wondering what was it like 30 years ago? Right around the time before the Internet took off. And I watched a scene from one of the championship games from 1989. There was a famous play where a player fumbled away his team’s opportunity to go to the Super Bowl. And when that play happened, the camera focused on him and it followed him all the way back to the bench. And in 60 seconds there was one scene change and it was just to show him from behind. So if you think about that one scene change 30 years ago, this is 11. Our audience is conditioned to constant movement and shifting. And if we think we’re going to stand in front of a camera or an audience and just deliver and have them engaged, we’re not going to succeed.
Stone Payton: [00:22:24] Well, kind of following on that point, what do you think the the future of speaking might look like? There’s there’s new technology, new platforms. And I got to believe there’s going to be some you know, we haven’t even thought of yet. But do you have a feel for what the what the future of speaking might look like?
Michael Davis: [00:22:42] Well, what we’re seeing in the medium planning industry is in 2023, most meetings are back to in-person, which is good because as human beings, we need to have that connection as much as possible. However, we also have to be prepared at a moment’s notice to get on camera. Because meeting companies have discovered that if something happens last minute, we can shift now to a virtual world. And the speaker better be good there too. The third piece of that, though, Stone, is we have to, as presenters, be able to speak to an in-person audience while also knowing where the camera is. Because in this hybrid world, companies are saying, oh my gosh, we can have global reach any time with any presenter. So when you’re presenting, make sure you practice delivering your key points to the camera in the room. The people in the room are still going to see you. You’ll be there interacting with them, but the people online will feel like you’re talking directly to them. We saw this before the pandemic, by the way. I was part of a group that was helping some speakers at the World Championship of Public speaking a few years ago.
Michael Davis: [00:23:55] And we taught our clients to talk to the camera even when she was standing in front of 2000 people. Because the next time you go to an event where there are screens on the stage where the speaker is, notice where the audience looks, even in the live in-person audience. They’re looking at the screens most of the time. Hmm. We’re conditioned as human beings, at least in the United States. We’re born now with phones in our hands. We come out and doctor says, Congratulations, boy, girl. Here is a phone for your child. It feels like that. So they are raised on screens. You and I were raised on TV. My son was raised on a computer. So we are conditioned to look at screens. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring the fact that your audience, even if it’s right in front of you, may be looking at screens. If they’re on the stage with you and you’re not connecting with them if you don’t know where that camera is.
Stone Payton: [00:24:53] I am so glad I asked, because that never occurred to me. It makes all the sense in the world. You’re going to have to master both domains and simultaneously. And this has been fantastic. I could do this, do this every Wednesday. No, it’s been it’s been informative. It’s been inspiring. I have thoroughly enjoyed the conversation. I want to make sure that our listeners can can reach out, have a conversation with you or someone on your team. I want to make sure that they can get their hands on one or more of these books. And I just want to make it as easy as we can for them to tap into your work. So whatever you feel like is appropriate website, email, LinkedIn. Let’s just let’s make it easy for them to get connected with you.
Michael Davis: [00:25:33] Mail if they want. Contact me Mike, at speaking CPR or visit my website speaking CPR and we can have a conversation. I can send you a list of complimentary resources. Happy to do that. More than happy to sit down and have a chat with you for a few minutes on a on an old fashioned device called a phone. Or we can do a zoom call, whichever you prefer.
Stone Payton: [00:25:58] Well, Mike, it has been an absolute delight having you on the show this afternoon. Thank you so much for investing the time and the energy. This has been just marvelous.
Michael Davis: [00:26:10] I’m glad you like it, I hope. Listener, I hope you appreciate it.
Stone Payton: [00:26:14] All right. Until next time, this is Stone Payton for our guest today, Michael Davis with speaking CPR and everyone here at the Business RadioX family saying we’ll see you in the fast lane.