Michael J. Sotak, Principal of Speaking for Business, is both a communication educator and a practical communications professional. His qualifications combine a strong educational background in effective communication theory with a proven track record of communicating key messages credibly and persuasively in business. His background includes the following:

  • An undergraduate minor and master’s degree in Speech Communication
  • 18 years teaching persuasive public speaking and communication skills to hundreds of college and high school students
  • Intercollegiate debate team experience and 8 years coaching successful high school debate teams. Teams consistently advanced to Illinois state final debate tournament, including a tie for fifth place in the state.
  • Experience teaching presentation skills to sales force
  • Experience serving as primary company public speaker for several former employers
  • Experience with start-up and early stage companies
  • Significant, successful business to business sales experience in a variety of industries, selling to mid-level and top executives in companies of all sizes: Fortune 100, Fortune 500, mid-size and startups.
  • Experience creating sales strategies which significantly increased sales at various companies

Most recently, Michael served as Director of Business Development at Cardinal Intellectual Property. While there, he created sales and customer service strategies that helped the company become a leading provider of patent searching services to law firms and corporations. He also served as company spokesperson for Continuing Legal Education presentations to patent law firms across the country, giving the non-legal portion of the presentation.

Previously, Michael, in addition to his sales role, served as the primary public speaker for London House, a leading publisher of employee testing programs; he spoke to more than 30 association and trade show audiences across the country on matters relating to employee selection and testing. These presentations resulted in favorable exposure and instant credibility for the company, and thousands of dollars in increased, and often on-the-spot sales.

In addition to being one of the company’s top salespersons, as Marketing Manager, he also wrote and produced sales kits including brochures, marketing aids, sales letters and research abstracts. Furthermore, he developed competitive sales training materials, including comparison worksheets.

Additionally, Michael wrote an award-winning company annual report and numerous investment summaries, slide presentations and press releases for publicly traded corporate clients as an investor public relations consultant at the Financial Relations Board.

My Story

I love trying to come up with the best, most effective and credible ways to communicate ideas and I love helping people become better communicators. My entire professional career has been involved in persuasive, effective communications, either teaching these skills to students or creating and communicating these messages for businesses.

I owe my career path to taking a public speaking class in college (Northern Illinois University) that was taught by the debate coach. Debate sounded great – I joined the team, was successful and loved it. Debate taught me to think and communicate strategically, which I’ve used successfully in my past professional positions. As a result of my debate experience, I became very interested in the process of communication and decided to pursue a minor degree in Speech Communication.

In my speech classes at NIU, I was exposed to Aristotle, who is considered to be the first person to study the subject of persuasion. His findings still apply today. He concluded that there were three ways to persuade people: (1) Logos (logic and reasoning), (2) Pathos (emotion) and (3) Ethos (credibility of the speaker). Credibility generally is broken down into three components: (1) Competence, which means the persuader knows what he is talking about, (2) Character, which means that the persuader is honest and looks out for the best interests of the audience, and (3) Dynamism, which refers to passion or emotion in the persuader’s delivery style. (More on credibility as you scroll down the page.) 

When I was teaching, I was very skeptical of selling in general and people who sold as a profession. I thought most sales techniques were highly manipulative and full of hype. In other words, in my opinion, they lacked credibility. I decided to see if these techniques were necessary to be successful. I wasn’t sure what to expect.

After I left teaching I took a number of different sales positions. With my communication background, I found I could be very successful  in these sales positions without resorting to any manipulative techniques or hyped up language. My questioning and  listening skills paid off as did knowing the importance of seeing things from the customer’s point of view. These are all great communication skills that can benefit anyone in any profession.

Credibility and Public Speaking

One of my sales positions involved selling psychological tests to corporations for a company called London House. These tests were used to help organizations make hiring decisions.

Our company’s test was relatively new in the marketplace and we were being asked to speak to various associations and trade groups. The president of our company wanted one person to be the spokesperson, so we had a contest. I won the contest and over the years spoke to more than 30 different groups all over the country.

Even though I could have given a sales presentation (that’s what we were asked to do and that’s what the audience expected), I decided to structure the talk differently and provide information to the audience about current screening methods and offered some tips on hiring good people. It was only near the end of the talk that I even mentioned our company and test. The result was much interest in our test and many “instant sales.” Also, because my talk was largely informative in nature and I came across as an information resource rather than as a salesperson, my talk was often was judged as one of the best presentations. In other words, my presentation was judged as credible.