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Natural Awakenings Twin Cities

SagePresence: ‘Master the Role You Were Born to Play’

Apr 27, 2013 08:41AM ● By Jackie Flaherty

Pete Machalek was finishing film school just in time to help Dean Hyers raise financing for a Warner Brothers movie. They thought they were getting into the entertainment business, but stumbled into the spy business, which inspired a corporate training company. That St. Paul-based company, SagePresence, has been responsible for coaching more than $3 billion in winning competitive sales presentations.

“SagePresence began with what I thought was a prank phone call,” recalls Hyers, who hung up. “When some guy calls you saying he’s a government agent setting up a spy school, claiming he wants you to teach acting to covert agents, you’d hang up on him too!”

Fortunately for Hyers and Machalek, the person called back. Eventually, it all led to a best-selling business book for presenters and a new way of coaching and training. Their approach applies secrets used by film stars and government undercover agents to stand out when they want to, blend in when they don’t and win people over no matter what the pressure.

“We faced our own ‘make-or-break moment’ the day we walked onto the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center grounds in Georgia,” recalls Machalek. “We were operating on some pretty soft logic and theoretical ideas when we signed onto teaching agents to manage their fear when someone puts a gun to their heads. They were betting their lives on our ideas, and it worked.”

The SagePresence method combines the simple power of storytelling with time-tested performance skills to help people organize their thoughts and deliver them authentically and confidently despite high stakes. Their methods, they explain, inherently promote emotional intelligence by embracing feelings instead of burying them. “We tend to balance the yin and the yang of presence to develop a full spectrum of masculine and feminine qualities,” says Machalek.

Adds Hyers, “SagePresence strives to bring tangibility to soft skills and release untapped power out of emotions. The world is so yang. It has a masculine emphasis on winning, competing, action and conquest. SagePresence is more yin, helping people be who they need to be, and feel what they need to feel to create chemistry with their audience.” SagePresence promotes reading people better, aligning feelings with words and inspiring results genuinely, he says.

The spy school campus was a modest, tin Quonset hut, and on the armored car ride to get there they passed off-road cars chasing each other in fields and a mock-riot within a mock-city erected for training purposes. Outside rang the sound of constant gunfire. Hyers and Machalek were briefed on the potential for earth-shaking booms if cars started blowing up across the street as scheduled. “It was such a testosterone-filled environment to try to guide hardened cops to tell stories and share emotions and their vulnerable side,” Machalek says.

The week before, the two friends had been teaching actors to play the role of undercover agents, and now they were training undercover agents to be actors. But the principles were the same: make a connection, structure a message and deliver dynamically to be a powerful communicator.

“We knew right away that the real opportunity was going to be in the world of business,” says Hyers. Suddenly, SagePresence was coaching sales pitches, developing business messages, writing speeches and offering training on presenting. Hyers and Machalek became speakers themselves, doing keynotes, workshops and seminars in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, London, Sydney and Dublin.

“Eventually, it was time to write a book,” says Machalek. “Dean and I developed print, Kindle and audiobook versions to document over a decade of practice.” The result was Winning Presence for Business Presenters, which quickly became a bestseller.

Today, SagePresence is maturing into a true learning and development company. “We certified our first five new Sage Trainers and began building a business that will offer products, train-the-trainer and site-licensing of its brand and curriculum internationally,” says Hyers.

SagePresence has been a dream come true for its founders. “Our dream helps others obtain their dreams through winning presence,” says Machalek. “That might mean winning a 500-million-dollar sales pitch, impressing a job interviewer, blowing the socks off a tough audience or speaking up and sharing ideas at a staff meeting.”

Adds Hyers, “There are an infinite variety of make-or-break moments, but for whatever yours is, the pivotal ingredient is you. Master the role you were born to play.”

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