Two of the greatest teachers in the network marketing space over the last forty years—probably in business—are the late legends Zig Ziglar and Jim Rohn. For decades they gave thousands of presentations all over the world, teaching tens of millions of people how to succeed in life and in network marketing. They were contemporaries and they were friends. Though most of you know them to have spoken and taught on the largest stages of the world, they were not always famous and started out just like everyone else, teaching small groups of people the lessons that would take them far.
I had the great fortune to be mentored personally by both of these gentlemen. For about a year and a half I co-hosted the TV show True Performance with Zig and for the last seven years of his life, I worked with Jim. I co-wrote the Jim Rohn One Year Success Plan and Jim’s last book, The Twelve Pillars. I spoke at and emceed a number of Jim’s last events. What a great privilege it was to see up close the teaching styles of these two speaking giants! As I reflect on what I learned from them, and what would be transferable to you, here are three lessons I want to share.
It doesn’t matter what your personality is. While they were both highly paid speakers and bestselling authors, and they became celebrities in network marketing, Zig and Jim had very different personalities. Zig was an extrovert and got energy by being with people. He enjoyed being around others and talking. Jim, on the other hand, was an introvert. He wasn’t one to hang around and talk, especially with large groups. The lesson for you and I is that there is no “one” personality that makes for a good teacher. This is especially important for those of you who are introverts and tend to think that you might not be good at teaching others because of your natural personality. I’m an extrovert. I love to hang out and take pictures and sign autographs at events. Other speakers are introverts and they are great teachers too!
Use the power of stories. There is an old saying: “Facts tell and stories sell.” I don’t know who said it, but there is a lot of truth to it. What is going to get across more effectively to a group of people you are teaching, going on and on using numbers and facts about your products, i.e., “This has X tablespoons of this ingredient and X cups of that ingredient” or this: “Let me tell you the story of my niece Sue. Sue began using this product six months ago, and here is what has happened to her.”
Zig and Jim were masters of storytelling. In fact, there was a late 1990’s research project done on speakers and the amount of stories they told as a percentage of their overall speech, and the correlation to how much money they got paid for their speeches. Interestingly, the highest paid speaker was also the one who had the highest percentage of his speech in the form of stories. Who was it? Zig Ziglar! When you think about the speeches Zig gave, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Mine? Zig pumping that old water handle while telling that story!
Jim was also a master storyteller. Like Zig, Jim liked to quote the greatest storyteller of all time: Jesus. Jim quoted Jesus more than anyone. Jim’s famous teaching on the sower and the seed is straight out of the mouth of Jesus and used to teach the basic principles of network marketing. Jim was great at using imagery and analogies and metaphors. Jim could really tell a story. I remember the first time I ever met Jim, June 19th, 2003. After he gave a speech, Kyle Wilson, the President of Jim Rohn International, Jim and I went back to the hotel bar and drank beer, ate peanuts, and talked about the stories of the bible. What makes the bible so powerful and the bestselling book of all time? Stories of the human existence. The lesson for you and I is to find ways to communicate our messages through the use of stories. Talk about what the product has done for people. Tell your story! The people who hire me to speak at their events regularly ask me to tell my story of growing up, losing my dad, becoming involved in drugs, living in 28 homes and going to 11 different schools, and being shipped off to live with relatives twice. These stories connect with people.
Play to your strengths. Zig and Jim had different strengths. When I think of Zig, I think of energy, enthusiasm, and action. He walked all over the stage and commanded it. He waved his hands and used his voice to get very loud and then very quiet. He would make himself large and speak loudly and then later kneel down on one knee on the front of the stage, speaking quietly. Jim, on the other hand, was a man whose teaching style I would describe as “professorial.” He was like the wise professor. He mostly stood at the lectern and would speak slowly. He would take his eyeglasses off, and then slowly put them back on. Imagine if you went to a seminar and both Zig and Jim were scheduled to speak and Zig spoke slowly, standing in one place and Jim moved all over the stage waving his arms. That wouldn’t be natural! They both played to their strengths. Zig’s strengths were energy and action. Jim’s were quietness and wisdom. The lesson for you and me is to find out what our strengths are and then use them. One thing that has enabled me to become a popular speaker is that I decided to let my natural strength of humor come out in my speeches. I found that people learned a lot more the funnier I became!
We may never become legends like Zig and Jim, but we can learn the lesson of teaching that they used to help millions of people. Ultimately what will make you a great teacher is practice and learning what works for you and the people you teach. Be yourself, use stories, and play to your strengths!
CHRIS WIDENER is one of America’s top motivational speakers. He addresses groups as small as 100 and as large as 25,000 people. He is the author of twelve books and over 450 articles on success, leadership, sales, and motivation. His bestselling books include The Angel Inside, The Art of Influence, and The Leadership Rules.
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