How To Connect With Your Audience & Authentically Communicate Your Message
As an award-winning TV host and performer who has shared stages with Broadway pros & Emmy winners, Cindy Ashton knows being a great presenter is about authenticity, connection and listening.
Over Cindy's my 20+ year career, she has worked with over 1 million Executives, Sales Professionals, Educators, Speakers and Business Owners on how to present themselves to dramatically grow their business, sales and influence.
->Presentation Trainer to Boost Sales, Connection & Influence: cindyashtontrains.com
->Award-Winning TV Host of #CindyUncorked, Singer/Entertainer & Keynote Speaker: cindyashton.com
->Author of “Liberate Your Voice: How to Trust Your Power in a World That Shuts You Down.”
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So, tell us about Cindy Ashton global and what's going on over there in New York.
Well, pre COVID I was doing two of my three careers, so I was doing my presentation training and then I was also doing my television career and getting to hang out on the red carpet and doing tons of speaking. And so, since COVID, it's actually been such a beautiful and amazing opportunity because a minute that I saw coming, I realized, especially with my TV background and my performing singing, acting, dancing background, that a lot of people have to shift from stage to now camera zoom connecting on video live stream. And I immediately shifted my presentation training to really teach people the nuances between the differences of being on a stage, being in person versus being on camera. And I think that most people don't realize that there's radical differences. So I've actually been having a lot of fun, not being on the road. I do miss being on red carpets, but it's so fun just to be a home and be on zoom with my clients and doing crazy stuff. It's awesome.
Like you said, you have all these careers going at once. How did they all like gel together?
So the end result, and then I'll take you back is that they all get together, has everything to do with presentation and getting people's voices out. So whether I'm on stage singing or acting, or at my age, I don't dance. But whether I'm on stage or on a red carpet or on TV and me delivering that presentation and delivering my voice to really help other people or I'm training others to do that, it's all on the same continuum of helping people to liberate their voices.
Now to go back of how this started since I was a fetus, I was joking around all the time for years. My mom said you were the most active baby. You could not stop moving and kicking. She's like, you drove me nuts. And then you have to be born super early. And I'm like so ever since I was a kid, I would put on sequins and I would dim the lights and I would jump on the table and sing for my imaginary audience of millions. Like I always knew that I was going to be a performer. And then what ended up throwing me for a loop in a good way is that when I was going through university, I was looking at my mounting student loans, and I would go to work my part-time job.
And I'd be bagging groceries for $5.85 an hour. And I'm like, I'm never going to have to huge loans. What else am I going to do? And at that point, I had already been an apprentice on a whole bunch of pre-Broadway shows and working with some of the top Broadway professionals. And I'm like, wait a second. And I was in my third year of university for opera.
But I literally put an ad for two weeks in the penny saver to offer singing a piano and speaking skills. And I got my first 10 students, mostly kids and a couple of adults. And then it started to trickle and trickle. And I never had to advertise again and slowly over the years, I let go of the piano training. And then slowly I started getting more and more speakers. And then I started to get executives who needed speaking. And then I started getting these famous people who use speaking skills and I'm like, okay. I started as this little piano singing teacher and went on, but it's so crazy because it's been literally over 20 years of doing this career and I'm still in love with it. Like every client I work with, they're like, you're so enthusiastic about the voice and about body language. And I'm like, yes, cause you're going to get out and you're going to be amazing at what you do. You're amazing. Let me help you. So, I'm still like 20 plus years loving this career. It's amazing.
So I'm assuming from your perspective, that's an ideal client for somebody like you. Correct?
In terms of my ideal client, it's interesting because for years now, not at the beginning of the piano students, but for years now, you'll really actually been working mostly with not speakers. I do have a group of speakers, but mostly people who are business professionals who are having sales conversations.
They know the sales cycle inside out, and they can't understand why they can't surpass their quotas. Or I'm working with executives who want to be thought leaders. And so, yes, I'm working on speaking, but they're using it as part of a way to boost up their profile in their company. Or I'm working with business people who just don't know how to communicate their message. And ever since COVID hit, I'm getting a lot of people hiring me to teach him how to do live streams and videos online and had a message themselves. But I'm also getting a lot of people who are social media is crazy. Can you help me with my messaging? So I'm doing a lot of messaging. So it changes, but more than 50% of my clients are either executives or actual business owners who need to speak and be able to message themselves in a way to be able to bring in more business, not necessarily the speaker on stage.
I'm sure you just piqued some entrepreneurs interest when you said hit sales quotas. That's the three words that I wrote down. So what nugget can you share with somebody that's like, Oh my gosh, I got to get a pen and I got to write down what she's about to say. What has your research showed you that is some real helpful information for somebody that might be struggling with their quotas?
I have so many tips. Let's start with the first thing. The first thing I want to talk about is that I see a lot of people who really learned the sales cycle and they can't understand why they can't go hit their quota or beyond. And the problem while I think sales tactics are great to know, especially because people are on high alert right now, and people are really extra stressed, it has to be about human connection. And those old sales tactics tend to really turn people off. And especially right now, right? Because I come from a performing background, I've never been taught sales, but you're essentially selling all the time as a performer. When I go on stage, it's all about knowing the client or which is the audience is all about listening to the audience. It's about feeling their energy and responding.
It's about understanding the deeper psychology of your character and the deeper psychology of the character you're playing against in order to motivate them to go to the next level. So how does that translate to business? And a lot of it for salespeople they're so in their anxiety or in their head, as opposed to actually listening. Like a performer would have to listen to their audience or like a speaker would have to. So I always tell my salespeople, the first thing I need you to do is breathe. Just get yourself present, calm yourself down. When you are on a sales conversation, slow yourself down so that you can truly listen.
Because if you're so busy, thinking ahead, you're actually not listening and taking in what that person is saying. And on a bigger level, you're not listening to what their voice is doing and they're not watching their body language, which is telling you everything. And then once you learn just to be present and take that energy in, and I know I'm about to say something, people are afraid of intimacy, but sales is an intimate transaction. And we're afraid of intimacy. And I mean that in the most platonic way possible, but we are not taught to connect on a real and genuine way. So for a lot of people, they have those walls up. They've got those fears up and that stops them from having a deeper connection because I've done really well and had a six-figure business for years.
Ask people's questions. You start to discover what their inner truth is. And then they start to feel seen, which makes them trust you. And I'm going to tell you the most important thing is sales. The three things you need in sales, it's for people to trust you, to like you and to believe they can be successful with you. And that doesn't have anything to do with sales tactics. It has everything to do with listening and asking the right questions.
So do you help people with how to communicate on video on online?
That's mostly what people have been hiring me for since COVID. And people don't realize that they're throwing up so much content, but it's not about doing a lot of content. I post maybe once a day. And sometimes I skip days. I've been really focused on my health this year. So, I sometimes skip days, but I get clients from social media and I don't do that much. It's about having the right message positioned in the right way, that gives people insight into where they are that they go.
I do a lot of work with the personality profiling DISC and there's four primary ways that people communicate. And it's interesting on one hand where you have somebody that is one in one quadrant, trying to communicate with somebody that's in a different quadrant. And I think that human connection is missed because most people communicate in a way that they want to be communicated with, not in a way that the person they're listening to can actually identify with. How do you get that human connection there?
So you need to make sure that when you're delivering content and if it's a short little, one minute or two minute video, it's not a big deal, but if you're delivering a speech, for example, you need to be able to make it fun. So you hit the influencer. So it's like, Hey everybody, we're going to have fun today and I'm going to break it down. So you're going to break it down for the high C’s, the people who are detail oriented, I'm going to break it down, step-by-step for you. And then I'm going to summarize it in a one-liners for the high DS, right? And then when you layer your content, you layer it in those ways. So when I work with my clients on speech development or content development, we layer the different learning styles, behavioral styles, but I also layer the learning styles as well.
I think right now, I'm envisioning the entrepreneur going, Hey Cindy, seriously, I love what you're saying, but you know what? I barely had time to build my presentation. I barely had time to practice. So how do you help people in that situation? Because like I said, the entrepreneur, the high D they're just running from presentation to presentation, how could I possibly survey the room? See who's in there, find out their beliefs, find out who, what they trust. I mean, there's a lot that you just shared. So is there any simple way that you have found to help?
So every time I get booked as a speaker and when I train my speakers if you're doing a presentation, you should be customizing to the audience. And when you get on the phone without meeting planner, it's a few simple questions and it doesn't have to be a 20 or 30 minute conversation. When you think about speakers in the past, what did you love about them and what didn't you love about them? That tells me a hell of a lot about the values and the culture what's important to that audience. And that was one question.