EPISODE 629: Taking Your Virtual Sales Presentations to Stunning Levels with Webinar Wizard Johnny Beirne

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Today’s show featured an interview with webinar wizard Johnny Beirne.

Find Johnny on LinkedIn.

JOHNNY’S ADVICE:  “It’s a competitive world out there, particularly in sales. People are going to a lot of meetings online. When you show up on screen, where the person looking at you goes, “Now this is sharp, this is different. I’m going to listen to this person. This is smooth, this is effortless,” whatever terminology they use, you’re going to stick out if you take these production values to heart.”


Fred Diamond: Johnny, the Pandemic kicked in almost over three years ago, yet a lot of people are still struggling with their on-camera presence. Now, you and I met via the JVMM. It’s a mastermind group run by Dov Gordon for coaches, consultants, people who are working with large audiences. You have created a really exciting niche for yourself in not just how to speak via Zoom or via the web or whatever it might be, but how to be real creative, how to bring in graphics, how to create a setup. Give us a little bit of an insight on how you came about this and what prompted you. Were you doing this before the pandemic and things just accelerated, or did you create something?

By the way, I want to tell people too, you’re probably listening to today’s Sales Game Changers Podcast on audio. We’re really providing a disservice to you by not showing some of the amazing things that Johnny does. Johnny, tell people how to get to your website and how to connect with you so they can see all these amazing things that you’re doing on camera. I just asked you a whole bunch of things. How’d you get started, and then how can people reach you?

Johnny Beirne: Fred, it’s always good to talk to you. For over a decade, I’ve been creating online courses. During that period, I’ve always been looking at ways to do it faster, better, cheaper, almost like releasing software. Because time is so precious and it’s a big hurdle for course creators. It’s like, “I’m an expert, but I don’t like the recording. I don’t like the editing. I don’t even like getting somebody else to do it because I have to tell them where to edit.” I’ve always been developing this little cockpit of a studio around me in terms of switches and a few lights and stuff.

I started to release then how I was making courses faster and people started to ask then, particularly during the pandemic, “Can you do this for live?” Because one minute you’re over here, another minute you’re over there, and you don’t seem to be breaking eye contact, and looks like you’ve got a few people helping you and so on. I’m like, “No, I’ve got a switch, a piece of software, lights in the right places, and so on.” I started to release some tips and tricks on LinkedIn in different places, and Presentation Transformation was born, where I now help people set up a very simple home office studio so they look and sound better, but also then taking it to the next level. Whereas you mentioned, bringing in graphics, what we really call state change or pattern interrupt, where ultimately the end result, if you’re doing a sales presentation, we want to avoid death by PowerPoint. We want to turn up in a way that does ourselves, our brand, and our organization, it does them justice. Our audience are engaged, they stay to the end, they take in what we say, and that’s what I show people how to do.

Fred Diamond: I want to talk about why this is important. Again, we’re doing today’s interview in the spring, actually, it’s almost summer of 2023. By the way, if you haven’t been able to pick it up, where are you based in Ireland, Johnny?

Johnny Beirne: I’m based in the west of Ireland, a little town called Carrick-On-Shannon. If you’re familiar with the River Shannon, which is the longest river in Ireland, we’re pretty much at the top. It’s Northwest Ireland, beautiful little town.

Fred Diamond: I want to talk a little bit about why this is important. Again, you started this a long time ago, over a decade you mentioned, but even though a lot of people were home bound or virtual, we really didn’t appreciate the importance of really having this credible stage presence, so to speak, just simple type things. Tell us again why this is so important. Again, you’ve worked with sales leaders and business leaders. Let’s get to the essence of why this is important. A lot of salespeople, even some of those who are successful and good, they take a lot of things for granted. They just think showing up is going to be enough, and asking the right questions, et cetera. Give us some deep insights. You used the word pattern disrupt before, talk about why this is really important. Again, the whole purpose of the Sales Game Changers Podcast and the Institute for Excellence in Sales is to help sales professionals at companies take their business to the next level.

Johnny Beirne: When webinars weren’t happening pretty much 24/7 pre-pandemic, and even before that, it was okay. You could get away with almost turning up, sharing your slides. Particularly if you were an expert in your field, people were glad to turn up and learn a little, maybe they took you up on your offer at the end in a webinar, or maybe not. Or nobody really seen what great looked like, because there was a standard. Then a few pioneers, I’d like to think I was one of them, said, “No, this isn’t good enough. It doesn’t cost a lot to improve this, but there’s a great opportunity to stand out from the crowd.”

Then what people didn’t realize was when Covid kicked in, a lot of experts in sales, experts, and trainers, and presenters, and coaches, and consultants, they focused too much on themselves and said, “How can I make my presentation better?” Or, “Maybe it’s fine because I’ve just been thrown into working from home.” But what happened was everybody was working from home. So many people were on webinars that there was Zoom fatigue, or webinar fatigue, or online meeting fatigue. That’s really what accelerated for people. It’s like, “Not another Zoom. Oh my god. Don’t tell me I’m going to be on here for another hour, where some person’s going to come on with a presentation, they’re going to disappear up into the corner, I can barely see them, and it’s going to be slide after slide.” Now, not everybody does it, but for a lot of people, they just didn’t even give the presenter the benefit of the doubt, because they may have been on two webinars, or two Zoom meetings, or two online meetings, or whatever, earlier that morning. What I recognized fairly quickly is we need to be as energetic and almost entertaining online as we used to be offline.

When you’re presenting at a conference, you’ve got the stage, somebody else is looking after the production, all lights are on you. Somebody’s making sure that the sound check is good. A lot of public and professional speakers and salespeople in boardrooms, everything was looked after. Then they were thrown into Zoom and they’re like, “Wow, people can barely hear me. I look like I’m in a witness protection program because the lights are so bad.” That’s really what I try to get people excited about. Don’t leave money on the table just because you didn’t buy a few inexpensive lights and a piece of software and got some training. For me it’s all about the audience. Keep them engaged, keep them excited, stand out from the competition, all that good stuff.

If I start to hit simply a couple of buttons here, and for your listeners, I would just encourage you to pick up the video recording. What I said to people, and you’ve seen this trick, Fred, numerous times at this stage, is I help people address the elephant in the room. For those of you just listening, an elephant just appeared beside me on the screen [chuckles]. You got to see it to believe it, so to speak, because there aren’t that many elephants in Ireland. It just allows people to effortlessly transition into their slides, reappear, disappear. That’s the pattern interrupt that I talk about. How many times have you heard people say this? Even the most experienced online presenters ask this question, “Can you see my slides?” It’s like being on stage and going, “Can you see me?” It’s like, how unprepared and unprofessional? Or they say something like, “Hold on now till I share my screen,” or, “Hold on now, let’s share my slides.” Then they say, “Can everybody see my slides?” Where I can reach down without breaking eye contact and I become part of the slides.

Fred Diamond: I want to tell people, go to johnnybeirne.com, and he has a whole bunch of examples of how he does this. It’s actually quite fascinating. We’ve spent a lot of time, Johnny, talking to people about looking into the dot on your computer, and getting a professional mic, and using your hands and your background, all those types of things. You have taken it a hundred levels above. You just raised an interesting point. I get the whole concept where someone who’s offering courses, who’s a professional, someone who’s a professional speaker, they can really see the benefit, rank and file sales professionals.

We talk on the Sales Game Changers Podcast on how sales professionals can become elite. How can they take their game to the next level? Talk about the investment that’s required to go from good enough to exemplary, like you’ve provided people. Talk about the financial investment, talk about the time it would take to get to that level. You raised a really good point about of course the whole Zoom fatigue, but also about how do we keep our clients engaged in a presentation. If they’re new or if they’re existing, your stuff, you just said, you brought in a slide without me even noticing the transition. You brought on an elephant, and you’re right, there aren’t too many elephants in the wild in Ireland, if you will. But right away it brought me to you and you’ve done such a great job. Talk about how difficult is it to go from good enough to exemplary, and talk about some of the investments that may be required.

Johnny Beirne: The main thing just on the equipment side would be ideally two lights, edge-lit LEDs, not front-lit ring lights, a decent microphone. What’s a decent microphone? Well, you want to be spending at least $100, probably upwards, if you’re doing a podcast even more. I like the shotgun mic. It’s not in view for what I do. When podcasting, it’s good to have like the SMB7 up close, microphones like that. Adequate lighting, good microphone. After that then you’re talking about a simple switch. Like a Stream Deck is the one I use, about $150, and a piece of software, OBS, free for Windows and Mac, or Ecamm for Mac, which I use right now, about $26 per month US, or vMix, which is like 200, 300 bucks for life.

When you combine the switch, the physical hardware, which becomes almost like a second keyboard, if you will, combine that with the software, everything is pre-programmed. When I go to the slides, I know that the top left hand corner button is me direct to camera, and I know the one beside it is me in the slides. I know the one beside it is slides only. That might be enough of a transition for a lot of people to be able to effortlessly go from direct to camera, into the slides, or slides only, without having to say, “Hold on now, let’s share my screen.” Whatever’s on the other monitor then, if I bring over the other monitor here, I can switch to a whiteboard and I can start drawing stuff out. Again, it’s another form of pattern interrupt where we can avoid that snooze fest, that PowerPoint, or whatever presentation. I think PowerPoint gets a bad rap, because I love it when it’s used properly.

It’s a couple of hundred dollars, Fred, to be honest. There’s the ongoing monthly of Ecamm subscription for $26 a month, but if you consider some of the deals that your clients and your listeners are negotiating over Zoom, $30 is negligible, and a few lights in the right place. Of course, some assistance for my good self, whether that be done with you or do it yourself through my courses. But it’s not a lot of money considering the reward. The other thing that finally people say to me all the time that they get my coaching is, “It’s so much fun. I feel I’m back where I should be, whether that be the stage. It’s effortless and I feel more confident because it flows. I can flow from slides to camera, I look prepared, I look professional every time. People compliment me on my clarity.” My clients are saying this, not just me.

That transpires back down the lens and it makes your audience sit up straight and go, “This person means business. This is better than I’ve seen before. Whatever they’re selling, I’m definitely going to listen.” Because sometimes the software or whatever we’re selling can be awesome, but it doesn’t match with the person on the screen, and perception is reality. This is the new shop window. If that window is not clean and clear and so on, then people are going to go, “Hey, your software might be good, but what I see right in front of me right now, and it’s the first time I met you, there’s a mismatch, I got to go off and think about this.” That’s not what you want to happen.

Fred Diamond: Have you worked with companies who have seen your work and have said, “We got to train our people on being different”? It’s really interesting. One of our good friends is a guy named Lee Salz and he wrote a book called Sell Different, and he actually was the Institute for Excellence in Sales Sales Speaker of the Year for 2022. Every way through the process, you as a sales professional need to differentiate yourself, especially in so many commodities. The customer too, they can get a lot of their information before they even engage with salespeople. We hear that so many times. That’s a true thing. You could just go google any type of technology or any type of service and you could find whatever you need to know.

Johnny Beirne: And read reviews.

Fred Diamond: And read reviews of course. The sales professionals need to figure out a way to show up differently. What you’re doing is taking them to that. Have you had companies who have grasped this and have said, “We want to get all of our people involved in learning the way that you go about this, Johnny Beirne”?

Johnny Beirne: Yeah, absolutely. There’s a very successful software project management company, they’re local, but they’ve got their software in 55 countries. They’re now using my training for their own, particularly during COVID, for their virtual client conference, but now for their webinars and all that kind of good stuff. For years I worked with people just like me, course creators, coaches, consultants, experts, because it’s who I could speak to because I was one of them. But over the last 12 months in particular, I’m getting really excited about the opportunity in corporate, because as you know, if one company says, “We need 20 people to come up to this level,” then it’s a very nice one-to-many relationship that I would have, rather than me getting 20 people one after the other. It’s definitely something I’m moving more into and building a little team around me in terms of biz dev to actually reach out to these people, send them a very simple, not even a proposal, Fred, but a 30-second demo to just show them, in a matter of hours, and you mentioned how long would it take, in a matter of hours people are up to speed and a couple of hundred dollars in terms of equipment. If they want to go further, they can go further, but it’s a small investment.

Fred Diamond: We’ll definitely put a link in the show notes. Again, people can go to johnnybeirne.com, but I want them to see what you’re doing because it is quite distinctive. One of the interesting things is even like a small shift, what I’ve seen you demonstrate is mind blowing because people just aren’t doing it and people still haven’t put the time and energy to differentiate themselves via the presentation. Again, customers have seen everything. They’re going to forget you. Even if your software, like you just said, your product is so distinct, they’re probably going to forget about you right afterwards because they have other things to think about, and they have their job, and the family, and the company, and everybody on the planet, Johnny Beirne, is focusing on how do we be different in the marketplace as we’re coming out of the last couple of years.

Talk a little bit more about the confidence. I like the way you said that about some of the course creators and some of the speakers who have worked with you, they now have this renewed energy of being able to show something differently. Talk a little bit about what you’ve seen and how you’ve helped sales professionals by utilizing your skills or what you’re teaching them to take their presentations to the next level, which of course leads to deeper customer engagement. Talk about how you’ve seen confidence levels rise.

Johnny Beirne: When you take that friction out of the process, then people just feel more confident. Well, first of all they feel more comfortable and that leads to confidence. The second thing, when we turn on an extra light or two, which I pushed aside for years going, “No, you know what? I’m fine.” It’s like putting on your favorite shirt, or dress, or outfit. Do you know that power outfit? Even when people see you, they go, “Wow, Fred, you’re looking particularly, because you always look dapper, but you’re looking particularly-“ You get that kind of sense of t I’m coming across better, which goes full circle. Therefore I feel better, I feel more confident, then the audience gets it, and then that comes back. The other thing, I tend to stand in a lot of my sales presentations as well, if standing is an option for people, because you can plant your feet firmly. Again, if it’s an option for people, to give more certainty in the body.

The other thing is that I have a teleprompter, but I have a monitor in the teleprompter. I never break camera contact and never break eye contact, because I can see you Fred in my teleprompter, and I see the camera at the same time. People say, “How do you keep looking at me? You’ve never broken eye contact.” When we’re in a sales presentation, or if you even meet somebody on the street, and you’re looking away as they’re talking, they’re like, “Are they even listening to me?” All of these things add up confidence on camera, eye contact, no, “Can you see my screen?” None of that messing around with the mouse and sharing, all that adds up to a very effortless engaging, and in a lot of cases, entertaining presentation, and that’s what they love. Then they can use it for live streaming, meetings, creating courses, creating YouTube videos, TikToks. Look, we cannot be online without being on camera these days. Whatever investment people make with me and the equipment I recommend, they can use it for a multitude of things.

Fred Diamond: It’s crazy. Like you were just saying, and again, it’s three years since everything started and there are still people who don’t understand how to look into the camera. One of my pet peeves, Johnny Beirne, is if a meeting is called for 12 o’clock and no one’s there, and people show up at 12:02 and 12:03. It’s funny, we did a Sales Game Changers Podcast on the mindset of Frank Sinatra. You’ve heard of Frank Sinatra, right?

Johnny Beirne: Yes, big fan.

Fred Diamond: We did an interview with a guy who opened up for him. His name is Tom Dreesen. He opened up for 14 years for Frank Sinatra, and we interviewed him, it was probably 2021. I said, “Tell me three interesting things about the mindset of Frank Sinatra.” One of the things that he said was, if you had a meeting with Frank at 12 o’clock, Frank was always there at 12 o’clock, and if you weren’t there at 12 o’clock and one second, he was gone. He demanded that, as he should, that everybody be on time, that everybody be prepared, et cetera. You still see things like this, people logging in at 12:01, 12:02, “Can you see me? Bill, turn on your camera,” those types of things. Those things chip away at the credibility, like you had spoken about.

I really want to tell people, as we’ve talked about before, Johnny, differentiate. Sales professionals to the customer, you look the same, especially if you’re early in your career. If you haven’t built those 10, 20, 30 years of relationship and you need to figure out a way to show up new, even if you’ve had customers for years. Even little things like the elephant you just showed, that’s going to have a memorable type of effect. I just want to acknowledge you for creating something so unique that I know has helped a lot of people. Hopefully people listening to today’s podcast or reading the transcript are going to go to your website. I just want to acknowledge you for creating something different and unique that isn’t out there that’s going to help salespeople take their game to the next level. They can find you again at johnnybeirne.com.

Johnny, to wrap up things, give us one final action step. You’ve given us so many great ideas on how to differentiate yourself, how to influence customers, how to have confidence in presentations. Besides going to your website, johnnybeirne.com, give us one bit of advice for the sales professionals listening today to take their sales career to the next level.

Johnny Beirne: It’s just to really reiterate how important it is, because it’s a competitive world out there, particularly in sales. People are going to a lot of meetings online. Whatever you can do, and this is one big thing for a small investment and a bit of practice. This is one thing that can really move the dial when you show up on screen, where the person looking at you goes, “Now this is sharp, this is different. I’m going to listen to this person. This is smooth, this is effortless,” whatever terminology they use, you’re going to stick out. Your product might be even a little bit inferior to what they’ve seen before, but they’re going to go, “You know what? Just because of how they turned up, I’m going to give it a go.” Hopefully that will be the case. As I say to people all the time, you wouldn’t do it in a sales meeting offline, so please don’t think it’s okay to do it online. Whether that’s punctuality, or being in a dark corner in a sales room, or whatever, you wouldn’t do it offline. Please, do not think it’s okay to do it online, because it doesn’t take a lot to get that presentation transformation.

Fred Diamond: Once again, I want to thank the great Johnny Beirne for being on today’s Sales Game Changers Podcast. Sales professionals, the great ones, the elite ones, Johnny, are constantly thinking about, “How do I differentiate myself?” Sales has always been competitive, it’s even more competitive now. Your customers have so many things they’re concerned with. Not just about as it relates to your technology, but about how their company is going to move forward, how they deal with their customers. For the first time in modern history, it’s not just about you serving your customer, it’s about you serving your customer, who’s serving their customer, who’s serving their customer. The entire supply chain needs to be thought through. How can you differentiate? How can you show up differently? How can you show your customer that you are of value to them? Once again, my name is Fred Diamond. I want to thank my guest Johnny Beirne for being on today’s Sales Game Changers Podcast.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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