Mike Greenly: Public Speaker, PowerPoint Whisperer, and Persuasive Speech Writer
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Today I am excited to have Mike Greenly on the blog to share his Success Story. Mike is a Former Fortune 500 V.P and is using his life story and experience to craft speeches and presentations. He is a sought after public speaker and has written speeches and presentations for the top business leaders. When you have an important speech with a lot at stake, Mike is who the top executives turn to. I'm thrilled to have him join us and share his experience as well as offer some tips on how to create more persuasive speeches.
About Mike Greenly
Mike is a former Fortune 500 V.P. (Mktg. & Comm., Avon Products, Inc.) and a highly effective speechwriter, speech coach, PowerPoint whisperer, and exec ghostwriter. He has delighted executive clients & teams from ExxonMobil, Google, Tito’s Vodka, Novartis, Sanofi, New York Life, J&J, and many more with many glowing letters of reference available. Additional credits Include having written the state of Virginia’s new anthem and achieving Four Billboard #1 Dance Club hits thus far.
My questions are in bold, Mike's follow in plain text
How did you get started as a speech coach and speechwriter?
I raced up to NYC from Beaufort, SC, only to discover that they weren’t hiring would-be playwrights. So, I became a junior exec to afford theater tickets. Fortunately, that alternate path worked!
What does a typical day look like?
I’m an early riser. I now feel obligated to watch politics every morning over breakfast.
My normal spot during the day is at my desktop Mac. Writing for exec clients & corporations and enjoying my friends, The Words, 24/7.
What is one thing you have learned from being a successful speech writer?
The world is changing more rapidly than ever in human history. Success today does NOT guarantee success tomorrow. One must stay ready to continuously self-improve … ask hard questions of yourself in the mirror … and be ready to grow and evolve with the times.
Is there a mistake you have made starting out that you wish you could change?
I enjoyed a successful corporate career; was the youngest VP in the history of Avon Products, Inc. back when they were the world’s largest direct selling and beauty company. But when I did the bravest thing I’d ever done and set out on my own as an entrepreneur, I got fooled by my first client who was “untruthful” (to be polite.)
He went out of business owing me $100K. That was tough to recover from, but it taught me as a freelance writer & presentation coach NEVER AGAIN to put all my eggs in just one basket … never again to be dependent on just one single client.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Never make promises you’re not sure you can deliver. I work to help my clients – individuals, teams, and companies – sound like themselves, only BETTER. One approach that has helped me is my 100% Guarantee. If my client is not 100% delighted, I won’t accept even a penny. Living by that standard – promising ONLY what I’m sure I can deliver (or surpass) has enabled clients who didn’t know me to give me a try and end up happy!
Professionally what are you most proud of?
In my work for individuals, teams, and companies (e.g., creating all the presentations of a major product launch and coaching each exec on effective delivery to an audience) I’m proud of the many letters of praise I’ve received … and the fact that I so clearly pleased my clients.
In my sideline passion as a lyricist, I’m also proud to have written the Official Traditional State Song of Virginia (“Our Great Virginia”) and to have achieved – thus far – eight songs charted as Billboard Dance Club hits, including four #1’s.
Looking back on your career, is there something you learned from the industry that you found surprising?
I knew as a young man that I suffered from serious “stage fright” in front of a large audience. Eventually, I had an experience that transformed me. Now I can speak, confidently and comfortably, to 5,000 people if I need to. What SURPRISED me was learning how common is the fear of public speaking.
Today I use my insights not only in writing for execs and their teams but also in coaching them so that they become more effective on-stage, too!
What advice would you have for people that are having difficulty making it in the industry?
I’ve worked in multiple industries – educational publishing, consumer packaged goods, and direct selling. Today I pursue two careers at once: I’m a freelancer helping today's execs be more effective. And I’m a songwriter (lyricist.)
What I’ve learned in EVERY pursuit is the importance of continuous self-improvement, acquiring as close to 100% honest feedback as you can get and, especially. being honest with yourself.
If you’re having difficulty making it in your industry, you need to ask yourself WHY? Is this the field you’re meant to pursue, given who you are and what you’re capable of? Analyze your strengths and weaknesses as objectively as you can. The results you get from truthful self- assessment will guide you in how best to respond.
Do you have any tips for people trying to make it as a freelancer?
In my opinion, a tip for ANY field is always striving to under-promise and over-deliver.
As I wrote earlier, my work for my clients is 100% Guaranteed – so there’s no “risk” in hiring me. That’s not just the way I back my business commitments; it’s also the way I live up to my promises in life.
If you could recommend one book to help people be more successful what would it be, and why.
Passages by journalist Gail Sheehy — named one of the 10 most influential books of our times by the Library of Congress. Decades ago, it changed my life by causing me to reflect on my situation at the time vs. my future. It’s about the evolution of our lives and the insights do NOT go out of date!
Any upcoming projects you are working on?
I’m ALWAYS welcoming new clients to write for (some companies book me a year in advance to write for and/or coach their execs.) But I’m often a “secret weapon” – happily yielding the spotlight to my clients. And in my sideline passion, I'm always collaborating on new songs in diverse genres. So: YES!
How to Write a Great Speech
Do you have any tips on how to write a great speech?
I do and have always been happy to share what I’ve learned. For example, I contributed a chapter to The CHANGE (vol. 14) – the self-empowerment book series created by Jim Britt and Jim Lutes.
The number one piece of advice I have is – before you write your first word – determine the concise and focused take-away message you want to plant in the minds of your audience. That “headline” should be your North Star, guiding every word that follows.
What mistakes do you see people make with their speeches and presentations?
One consequence of a lack of clear focus is a tendency to provide too much “detail” to listeners. The reality of today’s world is that human attention spans are the shortest they’ve ever been.
Some attribute this trend to the advent of music videos when MTV was created in 1981 but for sure the Internet … Twitter … Instagram, etc. has further shortened our ability to focus on any one thing. Our attention span was considered to be 12 seconds in 2000. Today it's down to only 8 seconds … less than the average goldfish!
The point: don’t burden a speech with too much detail. People these days simply won’t follow.
A similar mistake occurs with PowerPoint presentations when there’s too much detail in the visuals. You don’t want an audience to “read along” with you. The presenter should be the source of knowledge, with the PowerPoint visuals simply a reinforcement to drive home the point. If you have a lot of detail to convey, send a memo!
Mike Greenly on How to Write a Persuasive Speech
How can people write more persuasive speeches?
A valuable thought to keep in mind in any communication is “W.I.I.F.M.”, the acronym for “What’s In It For Me?”
When I write a speech or create a presentation for a client, I always pretend that I’m listening in stereo. One ear is listening to my client: what is the main point that he or she wishes to convey?
My other ear always listens on behalf of the intended audience. Is the content relevant to my point of view as a listener? Is the message clear? Even when my clients create their own first drafts, they consistently say it’s helpful that I can evaluate them objectively as a professional communicator. There’s a big difference, for example, in a text that is meant to be read versus text that’s meant to be heard.
How should people start a persuasive speech?
One of the most valuable lessons I learned from my work as a brand manager, marketing toothpaste, detergent and margarine at Lever Brothers, was the importance of beginnings and endings. After viewing a TV commercial, for example, consumers have better recall of the beginning (first impression) and ending (last impression) than they with the retention of the content in the middle.
So it’s very important to begin your speech in a way that gets (appropriate) audience attention immediately. It also means – as you know I’m a speech coach, too, not just a presentation creator – starting off strong in your delivery. You want to be “bigger” than your off-stage self … more “on” so the audience can relax, knowing that you are now comfortably in charge of the journey.
Establishing a confident yet friendly presence, to begin with – in your text and in your spoken delivery – is very important. Similarly, it’s important to end in an obviously definite way … so there’s no ambiguity about your having finished, and your audience knows they can applaud without interrupting you. A big, bright, definitive “Thank you!” is the most common ending.
Any advice on how people can write a persuasive speech outline?
My earlier points still apply: have your intended takeaway message clearly in mind, along with the value you hope to convey from the audience’s point of view … not just your own. The outline should give you a clarifying overview of the logic with which to make your case.
Do you have some great persuasive speech examples?
Every presentation I create for my clients is custom-done. Often these are confidential.
However, when a potential client asks to see samples of my work, I can send them “scrubbed” examples with the confidential content removed. My tagline as a writer, PowerPoint creator and/or speech coach is always the same: “Sound like yourself … only better!” Every speech or coaching session is individually tailored to my client’s specific situation.
Any other persuasive speech tips?
I’ve got a bunch, actually, but here are the ones that come immediately to mind.
First, take maximum advantage of the Internet. Research is so much easier these days. I don’t have to visit a bookstore or library – so much is now available from my computer.
Second, try to find a personal anecdote or example to share. I’ll never forget one of my first clients, a pharma exec. I pushed her a bit out of her comfort zone by getting her to share an anecdote from when she was a Girl Scout. She wasn’t sure if it was appropriate but, in fact, it helped make her speech a triumph.
She thanked me profusely afterward. Remember: it’s not just about being personal … it’s about sharing a story which not only makes the audience feel a personal connection but which also makes the message more vivid.
The third tip I discovered in my work as a speech coach. I’ve gained a lot of experience in helping people be more effective in delivering a speech, which is what gave me this idea.
Whenever I write a scripted speech, I always type what I call “Emphasis Words” in all CAPS. The idea is that the presenter should “hit” those words with extra oomph in delivery. There are two benefits.
First, “stage fright” is very common and some folks tend to speak too quickly and/or in a monotone when they’re nervous … just trying to get through it. Having keywords stand out on the page (or TelePrompter screen) automatically causes a speaker to build more variety into the spoken presentation.
Second, by choosing the Emphasis Words correctly, the extra audible push helps the desired message come across even more definitely and clearly.
Being a Fortune 500 VP taught me a lot – including the fact that I’ll live longer outside of corporate life. But having succeeded, myself, in that world makes it extra satisfying for me that I now get to help today’s executives and their teams be more effective in their careers.
Where can people connect with you online?
My website: www.mikegreenly.com
Do you have any apps, books or tips that you use to be more productive?
I dictate short emails & texts to Siri on my iPhone … easier & faster than typing on a small screen (as long as I remember to proofread what “she” writes before I press Send.)
How do you manage time?
I am the King of Lists! Noting & updating the various projects on my radar.
What is the best advice you have received?
From my Dad: “Work hard & play hard!” being fully in the moment whatever I’m engaged with.
Do you have any advice for people that may feel discouraged about reaching their goals?
Tenacity! When I was VP at Avon, we’d learned from research that it took as many as 7 repeated sales calls (each one, every 2 weeks) before a customer had confidence that our rep was there to stay and COMMITTED to providing service. My mom was one of the most tenacious people I’ve ever known, and, over the years, I’ve learned to follow her example.
How important is fitness to success?
Fitness (and health) is crucial, of course.
Do you enjoy working out? If not, how do you get motivated?
I’m not naturally so inclined. But since I love music, my iPod w/ latest playlist makes a huge difference.
Do you have anything you would like to promote or tell us about?
From what I can tell, I’m the ONLY former Fortune 500 VP who’s now available to help with speeches, video scripts, PowerPoints and coaching effective presentation delivery. Always eager to meet potential new clients. Meanwhile a new song of mine – “Common Ground” – expresses what I believe is an urgent need for our country & planet.
Anything I should ask that I have not?
Yes, about my PROCESS for writing a great speech or video script. My clients are always the subject matter experts … I’m only the communications expert. My commitment, as I’ve shared, is to help them sound like themselves – only BETTER — because of my help.
When I get Input from a client, I listen in “stereo.” One ear listens from the client’s point of view: what’s the key takeaway message that needs to be planted into the brains of the audience? The other ear listens as the intended audience: is the message coming across clearly? (If not, I ask the questions that will help me get it across.)
The care I take to learn the Incoming point of view of an audience, and the desired Outgoing point of view they feel after I’ve done my job, is a key part of how I live up to my 100% Guarantee of client satisfaction.
What is the one thing you wish everyone knew?
It’s always best, to tell the TRUTH.
Thank you, Mike, for these great insights into success and how to write a speech.