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3 Speaking Tools to Avoid Being Worthless to Your Audience

Speaking to the students at Meiji University in Tokyo, Japan

Speaking to the students at Meiji University in Tokyo, Japan


When you build yourself up, you let your audience down. 

Let’s face it; there are some speakers who use the platform to stroke their ego. When we talk about how great we are and speak only of our successes, our audience members think of us in 1 of 2 ways:


  1. “Wow, he sure is full of himself.”


  1. “Well, I guess he’s just special.”

As a speaker, being considered special is just as bad as being considered full of yourself. When your audience thinks you are special, they begin to think “Of course that strategy works for him because he’s special. He’s a genius.”

They have a built-in excuse not to use your advice and, consequently, you become worthless to that audience. You can avoid this by using the following 3 Audience Connection Tools that will not only get you connected with your audience but will also spark them to act on your message.


Audience Connection Tool (ACT) Number 1:

Put the process, not the person, on a pedestal. In other words, don’t brag about yourself, brag about the process (or formula, recipe, toolkit, etc.) you have uncovered in your life’s journey. When you do this, the audience members think, “I am interested in learning more about this process. I don’t know if it really works, but I’m interested in learning more about it.”

This gets your audience a little closer to taking an action on your message, because you’ve succeeded in building interest in your process rather than in you. However, there are still two major obstacles. Although they are interested in your process, they still aren’t sure if it really works. Your story should begin to prove to them that the process works, but Audience Connection Tool number 2 will take that credibility to another level.


Audience Connection Tool (ACT) Number 2

Quantify your process. For example, in the midst of your story or activity, you might say, “I came across these tools that I now refer to as the 4 Rs to Remarkable Results that you can use to make change work for you instead of against you.” Or you might say, “This 4-step formula was used by the great orators of the past and the present. Everyone from Aristotle to Anthony Robbins has used these 4 steps.”

The reason you should quantify your process is because, as Patricia Fripp says, “Specificity  builds credibility.” Your process goes from being a loose intangible to a tight proven system.

It also naturally builds the curiosity for your audience members to think, “I want to hear all 4 steps. Come on, what’s step 1?” In this way, quantifying your process not only builds credibility in that process, but it also teases your audience to want to know more. As a result, they will buy-into the fact that the process worked for you. However, they still might not think it will work for them. That’s where tool number 3 comes in handy.


Audience Connection Tool (ACT) Number 3

If you want your audience members to act on your message, you must help them feel like you (or the main characters in your story) are similar to them. Think similar, not separate. One strategy you can easily use is to break yourself down so your audience members know you are closer to them then you are to, say, Zeus.

For example, I regularly tell people the low score I received the first time I took the SATs. What do you think happens inside of the minds of my audience members? Chances are they think, “Well, if he can be successful at this, I can definitely be successful at this too. Let me listen up for what process he used to get from A to B.”

Many average speakers won’t allow themselves to share their failures or open up to an audience in this way. However, the quickest way to build a connection with your audience is to share your failures, flaws, frustrations, and firsts (not all of your first, of course). If you do this, you will connect fast and deep.

Final thoughts

Remember, your job as a speaker is usually to sell people on the results they will get when they utilize a certain formula, process, tool, or recipe. It has nothing to do with you being a genius, it has everything to do with finding the process that worked for you (or for your customers) and will work for others. Your story is simply the proof that they can use the process too. Remember to

  1. Put the process, not the person, on a pedestal
  2. Quantify your process
  3. Share your failures, flaws, frustrations, and firsts


Your Turn

What is one way you make yourself similar (rather than special) to your audience?





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How to Shine by Making Your Audience the Stars of Your Speech (4 Ways)

One of my stars!

One of my stars!

Recently I received a phone call and an e-mail from an executive at an organization I spoke to 10 years ago. She said, “Can you speak at our conference again this year? We really enjoyed you last time!”

Now, please don’t take this as me being cocky, but I’m surprised they didn’t call sooner. Why? Because during the keynote 10 years ago, I made several of my audience members the stars of my speech. When you do that, you very often get invited back.

“When you make them the stars, you shine too”


Below are 4 ways you can shine as a speaker by making your audience members the stars of your speech


Way #1: Tell His/Her Story

Share a story about the person and either use his or her name or let the person self-identify if necessary. I usually use the person’s name if the story involves something that’s positive and helps him/her look good in the eyes of the audience. However, if it could be perceived as negative, I withhold the name and let that particular audience member identify herself if she pleases. Usually the person does just that.

For example, here is a quick story I told about one of my audience members in Pennsylvania years ago (you might have heard this clip before):

As you heard, she DID self-identify and was proud to have said what she said. This tool helped her become a star in my speech and we even stayed connected online afterwards.


Way #2: Give one audience member dialogue

This tool might seem a little trickier than the others but it’s actually quite simple. All you do is state what one of your audience members is likely thinking and say it out loud as if he/she’s saying it to you. For example, after an activity in which I asked my audience members to change 12 things about their appearance, here is what happened during the debriefing in Fairbanks, Alaska:

As you could tell, this generated lots of laughter but what you could not see was how much the person I mentioned was laughing. She enjoyed it the most and she became a temporary star of the speech. When you connect with one, you can connect with all.


Way #3: Use his or her name in a sentence

I can remember being in Les Brown’s audience when he looked at me and mentioned my name a few times from the stage. How do you think I felt? Like a star!

This tools is simple. All you need to do is insert an audience member’s name into whatever it is that you’re saying. For example, I might say, “…but Jake what I realized from this is that you master what you measure.”

This is straight-forward, simple, and to the point. But make no mistake about it, this simple act of mentioning someone’s name continues to deepen the connection with your entire audience because they know you see beyond the group to the individuals in it. Jake ever-so-slightly and temporarily becomes a star of the speech. Simple but powerful.


Way #4: Walk over and ask one person a question

The first three of these Ways have to do with content. However, this 4th Way has to do with delivery. I usually do this during my transitions from one point to another. It’s a great way to bridge the gap between finishing one point and setting up a new one.

For example, I often walk over to one person as if he or she is the only person in the room and ask, “Do you ever watch the Olympics?” When he says “Yes” I say, “Do you watch the track and field?” After I get a couple of yeses (I move on to another person if the original person says no) I say, “In real life, the real tragedy I see is that most people live on ‘get-set. They take their marks, they get-set, and then never go. Most people die on get-set…” Then I transition into my module about living on get-set.

Because the conversation (or simply their answer) often turns humorous, that person becomes one of the stars of the speech. Many times our interaction is something the audience members can laugh about once I am gone.

The personal touch of asking the question to one person helps also by keeping the rest of the audience members on their toes. After all, they’ll probably think, “I might be next.”


Final Thoughts on making your audience members the stars 

When you find ways to make individuals in your audience the stars of your speech, you automatically connect deeper with the group. Sometimes it’s because the group lives vicariously through the individual and thinks, “How would I respond to that?” Other times it’s because they realize that you actually see them as individuals and you are listening to and watching them just as they are listening to and watching you.

I don’t care so much about the reasons; I just care about the results. If you want to get re-hired time and time again, make them the stars and then enjoy as you shine with them.


Your Turn

How do you make your audience members the stars of your speech?

Having fun with my audience in South Africa



2 Responses to “How to Shine by Making Your Audience the Stars of Your Speech (4 Ways)”

  • Joyce Teal:

    Thanks for sharing these tips! I remember the keynote you did at Lady & The Champs in Las Vegas. You actually SHOWED us how to use these tips with our audience. It was great to learn this lesson by watching you actually implement it. I had the opportunity to be one of the “chosen ones” and it really taught me the value that brings to a presentation. Thank you!

  • I’d not heard those clips before, so thanks for sharing.

    I really like the 4th tip, about asking one person a question. Sounds like a great way to keep each person tuned in and feeling like you’re speaking to them 1-to-1.

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25 Guidelines to Greatness in Speaking

Registration is open for this year's class at Class starts on June 13th and we have a few spots left. Only offered once per year.

Registration is open for this year’s class at Class starts on June 13th and we have a few spots left. Only offered once per year.

Have you ever wondered if you’re getting better or getting worse as a speaker? Usually when speakers gets worse it’s because they haven’t stayed connected to the guidelines that helped them improve in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong, there are always new guidelines and methods that will help take us to even greater heights. However, that doesn’t mean you should forget about the fundamental guidelines that have placed you on solid ground.

Below is a list of 25 of Phrases that I use to guide me. Once per year I like to offer them to you as a consolidated list of reminders from lessons I’ve covered throughout the year.

Don’t just read this list

Wisdom and growth come from reflection. Instead of simply reading these phrases, reflect on them. I suggest contacting 1 or 2 other speakers to discuss at least 10 of the 25 guidlines. Feel free to also comment on them in the blog. These are statements I use often when coaching speakers and the more you reflect on them, the better speaker you will become. Do the “reflection work;” it will pay off!

  1. Tease them before you tell them
  2. Too many speakers try to get across too much information in too little time
  3. What gets recorded gets rewarded
  4. When you lift yourself up, you let your audience down
  5. Tap into their world before you transport them into yours
  6. Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue
  7. Turn their pain into your promise
  8. Don’t add humor; uncover it
  9. If you don’t live it don’t give it
  10. Put the process, not the person, on a pedestal
  11. If I said it, you spread it (encourage others to share your message)
  12. Never sell a product, always sell the result
  13. Put the result before the resource
  14. What’s loose is lost
  15. Speak to one but look to all
  16. You can’t have an effect if they don’t reflect
  17. Don’t memorize, internalize
  18. Sell the belief before the relief
  19. When you squeeze your information in, you squeeze your audience out (old speaker proverb)
  20. Don’t be the hero of your own story (learned from Patricia Fripp)
  21. Don’t speak for standing ovations; speak for standing invitations
  22. Don’t retell it, relive it (learned from Lou Heckler)
  23. It’s the spaces and faces between the lines that make the line work
  24. May I forget myself, remember my speech, and touch my audience
  25. Tell a story and make a point (learned from Bill Gove)


What are your guidelines?

I’d love to hear from you. What are some of the guidelines you follow to keep improving as a speaker? I’d like to post some of them (with proper attribution of course) in a future blog entry.


One Response to “25 Guidelines to Greatness in Speaking”

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Rhythm – Do Not Go Into Your Next Speech Without It

With students at the University of Pittsburgh

With students at the University of Pittsburgh

Years ago one of my coaching said to me, “Craig, you have rhythm when you speak. How can I get rhythm into my speeches?”

I have to admit, at the time, I was stumped for an answer. I really hadn’t thought much about it. However, a few months later, it hit me. Speaking is certainly a lot like music and there is a rhythm to it.

Why Rhythm?

There is also a major benefit to having rhythm in your speech. Can you guess what that is?

It makes the speech more memorable!

Think about it, aren’t there some songs you haven’t heard for years but, if you heard them today, you would remember the words? That’s because music has that kind of power. Speaking can have a similar power if it’s rhythmic.


Every now and then I receive a phone call or e-mail that says something like the following: “Craig, I saw you speak 10 years ago and I remember you said, ‘People buy-into what they help create.’ Well, I need some buy-in from my staff so I want to bring you in to speak.”

Believe it or not, the repetition and the rhythm behind the points I drive home have a lot to do with why my past audience members still remember them.


Let’s look at how you can have Rhythm in your Speaking

When I was in middle school, I remember our music teaching showing us how to put a song together. Today I look at speaking in a very similar way.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a musician nor do I pretend to be. However, the way a very simple song is put together has similarities with the way a speech can be put together.


Speaking of Singing

Here’s what I remember about the structure of a song. It’s what is regularly called the AABA form.

Verse A


Verse A



Verse A



Speaking of Speaking

Now let’s look at the way a keynote speech can be put together compared to the song.

Verse A – This is similar to the first story of your speech

Chorus – This is the Foundational Phrase (or takeaway message) of your first story

Verse A  – This is the second story of your speech

Chorus – This includes call backs to the Foundational Phrases of your first and second stories (or verses)

Bridge – According to Wikipedia, in music, the “…bridge is a contrasting section which also prepares for the return of the original material section.”

In other words, it is not the same as the verses but it gets you back to the verses afterwards. What does this mean for speaking? I strongly suggest at this point that you depart from your stories and head to something different like a short activity, some questions for your audience, a discuss and debrief, or something that will change the rhythm of the speech.  This keeps your audience on their toes and energizes them.

Verse A – Once you’ve transitioned back from the bridge, you can tell your third story.

Chorus – This includes call backs to the Foundational Phrases from your three stories. When you repeat these phrases, it’s similar to the repetition of the chorus. Aren’t there some choruses you can’t get out of your head? Guess what? By repeating your Foundational Phrases throughout the rhythm of your speech, you will make them stick.


The Other Key to Having Rhythm when You Speak

Here’s the biggest key I learned for having rhythm w:


That’s right, it’s not what you say; it’s what you don’t say that matters. It also matters when you don’t say it. This involves timing.

I’m consistently reminded of something I read years ago that, through research, I found was said by Claude Debussy,

“Music is the silence between the notes.”

Later, through reading Deepak Chopra and others, I learned

“Without silence between notes, music would simply be noise”


No More Noise

I’ve always thought about those quotes related to speaking. So often speakers are worried about what they’re going to say. We need to also be mindful about when we’re going to be silent and let the rhythm speak.

For example, here is one very 43-second piece of a story I tell about a speaking hero of mine. Listen for the silence:


Welcome back. Did you hear it? There was a long silence between my notes and this affected my speech in several ways.

  1. When I became silent, my audience members began to experience the moment (the disappointment) with me
  2. They also wondered what I did (and what they would have done) in that situation
  3. It made them want to hear and see what was coming next

Silence built all of that up with the rhythm. Truth be told, the silence also allowed my movements to speak but, of course, you can’t see that through this audio clip.


Problem with Silence?

One of the big problems with silence is that many speakers are afraid of it. They’re afraid their audience will tune out or think that they have forgotten the speech.

In fact, think back to the silence you just heard in that audio. In a DVD I put out years ago that includes that same story, the videographer edited the video and took out those several seconds of silence! In other words, he removed that moment! I couldn’t believe it! I wanted to say, “Are you kidding me? That’s one of the most important parts of the story. That’s the let-down moment!” After all, I want music, not noise. So I had him put it back in.

The takeaway is to not be afraid of the silence. It will only give your speech the rhythm it deserves and provide your audience with an experience and a message they won’t soon forget. After all, you don’t usually forget what you experience.


Your Turn

What’s a moment in your speech that can use more silence? I challenge you to include that silence the next time you deliver that piece.


Final Thought

Speaking of silence, this is how I ended my world championship speech nearly two decades ago.

I said, “I’ll leave you with something more important than anything I’ve said today. I’ll leave you with this…”




One Response to “Rhythm – Do Not Go Into Your Next Speech Without It”

  • purushotham joshi:


    The message is very different and cool on structuring the session. It brought the points on rythm what misses in most of the speakers, and why audience get restless.

    You are one something of great teacher.


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One Surprising Reason Many Speakers Lose their Audiences

Me with several awesome Certified World Class Speaking Coaches. This year's course begins on June 13th. You can secure a spot (before the formal announcement) at

Me with several awesome Certified World Class Speaking Coaches. This year’s course begins on June 13th. You can secure a spot (before the formal announcement) at

A piece of advice I received when I first started as a speaker was to always be dynamic.  Only years later did I realize that when you’re always dynamic, you’re no longer dynamic.

Take a look at the following video lesson (a sample lesson from my program) to see why many speakers are making the same mistake I used to make and are losing their audiences as a result.



How do you Bring It Down to a Conversation?

A fantastic bit of advice I received from Patricia Fripp over a decade ago was to overemphasize whatever you need to fix in rehearsal. For example, if you need to work on slowing down, overdo it in rehearsal. In other words, speak MUCH slower than you ever would on the real stage.

If you need to be more conversational, than overdo it in rehearsal. Take it WAY down as if you’re having almost a whispering conversation with one person.

As a result, you’ll find the happy medium when you reach the real stage. I’ve used this “overdo it” strategy for everything from my diction to my pace to my conversational tone and even to my facial expressions.

Overdo it to overcome it


Your Turn

On a scale from 1-10, how conversational do you believe you are when you are outside of your story and speaking face to face with your audience?

What can you do to improve that score?




One Response to “One Surprising Reason Many Speakers Lose their Audiences”

  • What a sobering question about your wife. That’s made me reflect on my own day-to-day actions!

    As for how I’d score my conversational style, I’d say it’s about a 6. I mostly speak at work, and my bigger issue’s that I don’t use many stories to liven things up.

    A few months ago I mentioned your “dynamic” line on my blog, showing how Jamie Oliver started his impassioned TED speech (on obesity) in quite a subdued way. So would you say the line can apply to building momentum during the length of a speech, rather than coming out with guns blazing and staying at that pitch right to the end?

    Anyway, I’ll update the link in that post, so thanks for homing in on being dynamic!

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A Crescendo – Do Not Go Into Your Next Speech Without One

CrazyPhoto1Many speakers tell stories that have some ups and downs and maybe even good emotional twists and turns, but they don’t often reach a crescendo.

Crescendos are so important because they are the defining moments that bring the audience’s energy to its highest point. Without them, your audience can easily be deflated.

What’s a Crescendo? defines crescendo as “a steady increase in force or intensity” and “the climactic point or moment in such an increase; peak.”

I look at the crescendo as the highest peak of intensity or force within your story. However, to have a crescendo, you must build to it gradually. That means you can’t jump to it too quickly but you also can’t take too long to get there. There needs to be a gradual increase in excitement, intensity, or force so that it seems quite natural once you hit the peak.

Listen to the following example of my 2-minute car story wherein I gradually reach a crescendo. Even if you’ve heard the story before, listen for the crescendo and then feel what happens afterwards.

What was the highest peak of force and intensity? Right, when I yelled, “Where do I sign?!” That’s what we had been building up to the entire time.


What happens after the Crescendo?

What happens after the crescendo is just as critical as the crescendo itself. The key is to bring down the force and intensity afterwards and shift your energy in a way that says, “Okay, let’s get back to our conversation.”

After I yelled, “Where do I sign?” I gradually brought the level of force down and eventually became conversational again when I said, “Don’t sell the product, service, idea, or yourself; always sell the result.” In hindsight, I could have shifted the energy even more and dropped my voice to a low and slow level when I said that line. Why? Because even though you gradually reach your crescendo, you do not have to be gradual on the way back down. In fact, the immediate contrast will pull your audience in deeper and let them take a breather.


3 Steps to your next Crescendo

Step 1: Build up your level of force and intensity gradually

Step 2: Have the defining moment when you reach the highest peak of force and intensity

Step 3: Immediately shift your energy and bring yourself back to a conversational level

Being able to have at least one powerful crescendo per module will keep your audience hooked on where you are and where you’re going with the speech.


Your Turn

Do you have a story that builds into a definite crescendo? What kind of shift do you make immediately afterwards?


Your Challenge

I challenge you to reach at least one crescendo in your very next speech.




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4 Ways to Make Your Speech More Visible and More Valuable

After sharing stories in Mysore, India

After sharing stories in Mysore, India

Patricia Fripp once said,

“People won’t remember what you say as much as they’ll remember what they see when you say it.”

Many speakers spend so much time preparing for what they’re going to say but so little time on how they’re going to get their audience to SEE the speech.

If you don’t use the stage effectively, your audience will not see your speech or experience it the way they should.

Here are 4 ideas you can use to make your speech more visible and hence more valuable.

Watch this Short-Story First

Watch this short 2-minute story before you read the 4 ideas below. Once you read the ideas, you may want to watch the story again to drive the ideas home.



Visible Idea #1: You must remember where you place everybody and everything onstage

Once this guy sits down next to me on the plane, I have to make sure he stays on that side of me for the entire story. Otherwise, my audience gets confused. So each time I talk to him, I turn my head to my right and each time he talks to me, I have him look to his left.

Keep in mind that your expressions often tell the story so you don’t want to turn so much that your audience can’t see your face. Perhaps you can turn closer to 45 degrees rather than 90.


Visible Idea #2: Use Transition Statements as you physically transition onstage

When I say “The first 4 and a half hours of this flight,” I actually subtly move from one part of the stage to another. Why? Because that symbolizes that we’ve traveled a bit of distance. After all, a plane doesn’t usually fly in one spot.


Visible Idea #3: Show It Before You Say It

Oftentimes it’s not the line of dialogue that makes the impact, it’s the look before and after the line that matters.

Remember, your audience is experiencing a story and they will remember what they see. When he looks at me and says, “How are you doing?!” I have to show my reaction on my face before I respond. Think “reaction before response.”

Reaction before response

When it comes to your line, it’s important to show it before you say it.

It’s the same when he says, “What do you want to do?” Instead of responding right away, I give a look of confusion before I verbalize my thought that, “Right now I want to change my seat.”

One last time, when he says, “I’m a professional speaker,” I SHOW my excitement before I say, “You are?!”


Visible Idea #4: Leave and Lean

At times, to bring the audience into the story and break up the dialogue, you can temporarily step out of your scene, lean into the audience, and ask them a question or check-in with them somehow. I like to call this the “Leave and Lean” method and it’s one I describe in my Dynamic Delivery Devices course.

I do this with the question, “How do people try to start a conversation with you on a flight?” Once I get my answer, I  physically step back into scene and continue the story. This also helps to break-up dialogue that would otherwise go back and forth too many times.


Final Thoughts

Let’s say you send a great packaged gift to a friend and it never reaches him. How valuable would that package be to him? It’s the same with speaking. You can have the best content in the world, but, if the delivery does not reach your audience, there’s no value for them.

As you move forward, it’s a good idea to start focusing on ways to deliver your stories so that your audiences SEE your speech. A huge help is on the way.


The Game-changer

Many of my home-study courses are in audio, which really helps with developing structure and content. However, on March 17th, you’ll be able to pick up The Secrets of Storytelling Course (with over 15 hours of video instruction from Darren LaCroix and me) that helps you get your audience to SEE your speech and step inside of your story so they can feel it too.

This course will make the difference between giving a speech and creating an unforgettable experience for your audience. If you want to become a speaker in high-demand, this course will be your game-changer. Stay tuned.

Coming on March 17th!

Coming on March 17th!

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Here is The Secret to Keep Your Audience from Checking Out

Doing check-ins in Bali, Indonesia

Doing check-ins in Bali, Indonesia

So often I watch speakers tell stories that sound like this:

“I did this and I did that and then I did this and then I did that and then this happened to me and then I did that…” And then, at the end of the story, they turn to the audience and say, “And you should do it too!”

That is NOT an engaging message. The problem is the speakers lose the audience during all of the “I-focused” parts of the story.

The Solution

There are many solutions to this speaking problem and the one you pick up in this lesson is a favorite of mine, because it’s simple, quick, and non-invasive. What I mean by non-invasive is that it doesn’t cut into your speech and leave scars. Instead it’s simply something you can apply to the surface that makes the speech more attractive. This tool is what I call You-focused check-ins. When it comes to your audience’s attention, always remember this:

When you check in they won’t check out

You-focused Check-ins

To keep your audience engaged throughout your stories, it’s important to check in with them. Many speakers check in after the story, but the key is to check in at before, during, and after. Listen to the first 2-minutes of the story and then read the notes that follow:


Using You-focused check-ins

Instead of simply going into my story and expecting my audience to follow along, I used you-focused check-ins to make sure my audience was constantly involved. Did you hear my audience staying involved? You can do the same.

Let’s go back over exactly what I said to keep them engaged. Here are just some of the check-ins I used (along with when they occurred) in this 2-minute story

Before: “Raise your hand if you feel like sometimes reality hurts?”

Before: “Have you ever stepped on a scale…and been forced to face reality?”

During: “Raise your hand if you have kids.”

During: “…then you know the doctor is always going to measure their length and their…weight.”

During: “I don’t know if you’ve ever been around somebody who just recently gave birth…”

After: Isn’t it interesting how, when things don’t seem to go our way…we don’t seem to measure up, it’s almost in our DNA to place the blame on somebody else.

Note: I used “our” in this instance because I wanted to include myself in this less-than-flattering habit.


Why does this work?

You-focused check-ins work because of the following speaking truth:

When they reflect, you connect

In a sense, when you keep having your audience reflect on their own lives (i.e. facing reality, stepping on a scale, having their children measured, being around a person who recently gave birth, placing blame, etc.) they continue to connect it to your story. Their reflection builds your connection and keeps them interested. After all, they know the story is not just about you but it’s also about them. They took part in it!

Remember, people buy into what they help create. You-focused check-ins make them part of the creation process.

A moment after a check-in with students at the University of Pittsburgh

A moment after a check-in with students at the University of Pittsburgh

5 Considerations when checking in with your audience

Consideration #1 – Use a soft “you”

They’re called You-focused check-ins for a reason. They usually use the word “You” or “Your.” If you re-listen to that 2-minute story, you will find at least 12 “yous” in it. In fact, I counted 14 “yous” in the first minute alone.

They are soft “yous” but they are “yous” nonetheless. I don’t like hard “yous” because they turn off audiences. Hard “yous” are when you say things like, “YOU have to do this and YOU have to do that.” That’s preaching. Soft “yous” are almost imperceptible.


Consideration #2 – Search for what you have in common

If you know you have something in common with your audience (i.e. kids), use a you-focused check-in and get the affirmation. That will keep your audience engaged because they can relate.


Consideration #3 – Use Questions and Statements

When you check in with your audience, you should think about different you-focused questions you can ask them that get them to reflect on their own lives. However, as you have heard, you-focused statements work very well too. Mix it up. Ask some questions and make some statements.


Consideration #4 – Step out of your Scene

You can also briefly step out of your scene and look at your audience as you check in with them. This is something I taught in my course called Dynamic Delivery Devices. Then, as soon as the quick check in is finished, you can immediately go back into your story with your characters speaking to each other rather than continuing to speak to your audience.


Consideration #5 – Acknowledge their responses and/or reactions

Really wait and acknowledge their response. For example, if you’ve asked them to raise their hands, look around the room and see whose hands are up. Your audience wants to be seen by you so don’t do what many speakers do when they ask and ignore. If you make a statement such as “I don’t know if you’ve ever been around someone who just recently gave birth,” look for the nodding heads or smiles or people who are expressing “Yes, I have!” Then go on with your story.

3 Caveats when doing You-focused Check-ins

Caveat #1 – Don’t take yourself out of the story too long with your check-in. It should be quick and subtle and along the path of your story. If you leave the story for too long, it will simply frustrate your audience and soon they’ll give up following you.

Caveat #2 – Don’t check-in the same way each time because then the audience will feel like it’s just a technique.

Caveat #3 – Don’t force it or overdo it. If it’s a natural question you feel like you really want the answer to or a statement that you can make organically along the path of the story, it should be okay. On the other hand, if you just keep asking, “Has that ever happened to you?” or “Have you ever felt that way?” your audience will start thinking, “Why does this speaker keep stopping to ask me if I understand him?”

Final Thought

When you check in, they won’t check out.

One Response to “Here is The Secret to Keep Your Audience from Checking Out”

  • There’s so much in this post, so thanks for sharing!

    I like the concept of hard and soft yous – that’s a very helpful distinction. Re-listening to your 2-minute story, I see what you mean about the soft yous being very subtle.

    In the past, I’ve suggested using the word “you” a lot when speaking, and someone replied saying that it’d sound preachy. Sure, if you keep saying “You need to…”, that’s definitely the case, whereas it’s completely different to say things like “Have you ever…?” or “You can…” or “If you do that, this often happens.”

    Plenty here to think about and practise!

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5 Ways to Ignite Your Audience with Your Introduction

In Durban, South Africa. I look forward to speaking in SA again later this year!

Important Note: This lesson is about the introduction you provide for the person who introduces you.

Here is a Traditional Introduction for a Speaker

Do yourself a favor and read the following paragraph out loud as if you are using it to introduce the next speaker for an event. Really get into it.

“Our Next Speaker is the 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking. With more than 175,000 Toastmasters in 68 countries, and over 25,000 contestants, he came home with the first prize trophy and a significant amount of national and international recognition. In addition, our speaker is absolutely oblivious to the fact that we could care less what he has done and that we are much more interested in what we will be able to do after hearing him. Moreover, our speaker seems to have no idea that we are simply hoping for his autobiographical introduction to end so we can start clapping as if we are interested.

Finally, he does not realize that we are beginning to say to ourselves, “His entire introduction is about him; therefore I bet his entire speech is about him also. Why did I even come here today?” So, with that said, please help me welcome the person who would have the least effective introduction in history if it were not for the thousands of other presenters who have introductions just like his; the 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking, Craig Valentine.”


What’s Wrong with that Introduction?

Do you get the point? How similar is your introduction to the one above? Is it about you or is it about what your audience will get out of your speech? Everything you do should be about the audience, including your introduction.


What Flavor is Your Speech?

Your introduction flavors your entire speech. You can use it to get the audience fired up and excited about what they are going to hear, or you can use it to boost yourself up in their eyes. You can use it to whet their appetite with the valuable tools they are sure to get from your presentation, or, again, you can use it to boost yourself up in their eyes.

Here is one thing I know for sure; once I changed my introduction from me-focused to you-focused, I gave myself an extreme advantage before I even said one word. You will too if you have an audience-focused (you-focused) flavor. Here’s how.


5 Ways to Fire Up Your Audience with Your Introduction

An effective introduction is the difference between starting off in a hole or on solid ground. Here are some nuts and bolts tools you can use in your introduction to get off to a great start with your very next speech. Do not go into your next speech without them.

Tool #1: Start it off about them. Make your very first sentence be about them. Instead of starting off with “Our next speaker today is the 1999 World Champion…,” start with something like the following:

“There is a definite process for keeping your audiences on the edge of their seats. It is not easy to come by and it is not easy to use. However, once you master it, you WILL find doors opening for you that you never even knew existed.”

You might have noticed there were 5 you (or your) words used in those two sentences. Make it you-focused first. Start with them not with yourself.

How many you-related words are in your introduction? Count them and make sure there are many more you-related words than there are I-related words.


Tool #2: Make a promise. Let them know not only what they will get, but also what those tools will empower them to do and to receive. In the example above, I tell them they will get a process that empowers them to keep their audiences on the edge of their seats and rewards them with more open doors and opportunities. That is a pretty compelling promise.

What you-focused compelling promise do you make with your introduction?


Tool #3: Build your credibility but only with your RELEVANT credentials – For example, I have a specific introduction for my old team-building workshops. This specific introduction includes a piece that mentions how I was on a team that won 3 consecutive East Coast Conference Championships and played in 2 NCAA March Madness tournaments as a Division 1 college basketball player. Because this part of my history relates to teams, it belongs in this introduction on teambuilding.

However, as proud as I am about those basketball accomplishments, do you think they belong in my introduction when the speech is about presentation skills? If I was sitting in the audience and I heard the introducer say, “Our presentation coach today was also a college basketball player,” I know I would be thinking, “Well, while he was dribbling up and down the court, was he giving speeches? If not, why do I care about his basketball past?”

Only use the relevant information no matter how well-rounded you are. Even if you are extremely proud of something, if it does not fit, do not force it. Instead, leave it out. Most of my audiences have no idea I ever picked up a basketball.

Is all the information in your introduction relevant to the subject at hand?


Tool #4: Use Your Intro as a Setup – When I begin speaking, I sometimes call back to my introduction by saying the following:

“Do you know, that even with all of those accolades, people still don’t like me? Do you know why they don’t like me…?”

 I then go into a humorous story about why they do not like me, but it all is set up by the accolades (relevant ones) in my introduction. Find ways to make your introduction seamlessly feed into your speech. The late Charlie “Tremendous” Jones was the best I’d ever seen at doing this and it would get his speeches off to such great starts.

How do you currently tie your speech back into your introduction?


Tool #5: Take everything about you and turn it into everything for them. If you do this, your audience will be ready and excited to receive your message. For example, instead of stating “Craig Valentine is the 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking” I could make that actually matter to them by saying, “The process you will pick up today helped our speaker become the 1999 World Champion and you can use it to become a speaker in high-demand.”

Do you get it? Turn everything about you into something for them. Doing this will get them fired up to hear your message. It tickles me now because when the introducer gets to the end up my introduction, he or she usually says, “Are you ready for the process?” At this point people actually begin yelling out, “Yes!” That’s great energy to walk into for a speech.

Are you turning everything about you into everything for them?


Follow the 5 guideposts listed here and watch as your audience members lean forward in their seats and anxiously await your presentation. That is how you ignite your audience with your introduction.


Final thoughts:

What you say after you are introduced is obviously critical as well. If you want the tools to put together an entire 30-90 minute keynote speech, click here.


Your Turn:

Do you have an example of one of the 5 Guideposts above? If not, still feel free to make a comment. I look forward to hearing from you.

10 Responses to “5 Ways to Ignite Your Audience with Your Introduction”

  • Oakland:

    As always superb. You always seem to share something that could be implemented right away.

  • Thanks for the great tips Craig. I’d always thought of the speaker intro as a way to “show off” their credentials, but without the speaker needing to utter the words in person! Now I see it very differently.

  • See, Michael? It’s already working! The opening has you WANT to hear the rest of the opening(s), right? Good job Craig! Michael, Craig’s course is amazing and WILL change your life forever. I know, it did for me.


  • Can you share one of your complete introductions? Or are these three sentences your complete intro? “There is a definite process for keeping your audiences on the edge of their seats. It is not easy to come by and it is not easy to use. However, once you master it, you WILL find doors opening for you that you never even knew existed.”

    • Craig Valentine:

      Hi Michael, what you have there is the opening of my introduction. I will share a complete intro in a future post.

  • Michael Taiapa:

    Hello, as a full-time student studying linguistics and applied linguistics, I often seek opportunities to present my research at conferences or subject-specific seminars within New Zealand or overseas. However, I have not yet given a keynote speech ever, but these five principles have afforded me some invaluable knowledge and practical skills in order to prepare and be ready if I should ever be invited to do so by my supervisors. As you said, “being prepared to speak is key rather than preparing to speak” words to that effect.

    Thanks for the tips,


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4 Keys to Closing Your Speech with Impact

Speaking to CEOs and Executives in Sri Lanka

Speaking to CEOs and Executives in Sri Lanka


Closing your speech with impact can open doors of opportunities because what you say last determines how your audience members feel once they leave your speech.

You can give a wonderful speech but, if the ending is weak, your audience will walk away feeling like the speech wasn’t very strong. So here are 4 keys you can use to strengthen your closing and your speech.


Key #1 Signal

Before you close your speech, you should signal that you are closing. Tell the audience that the end is near. However, you want to be more creative than saying, “In conclusion” or “In summary.”

I like to use picture words such as “Let’s wrap things up” or “As we come to the end of the road” or even “In closing (you can still picture something closing).” Whatever you do, let them know you are closing because here’s what will happen:

They’ll listen again!

That’s right. People have been trained to know that your closing means you are most likely going to reiterate your message and so their antennas go up.


Key #2 Call back

As you move into your closing, make sure you call back to each of the major points you made. For example, listen to this quick wrap-up of a message I gave once to an audience in Oklahoma.

You just heard me call back to 3 Ls (and it was the first time I ever gave that keynote). There is also another very important way to review your message. Have THEM say it! I blogged about this before, so click this link ( for details on how you get your audience to say your message.


Key #3 Questions and Answers (Q & A)

You have probably heard me say, “Never end with the Q & A.” Why? It’s because people remember best what they hear first and what they hear last. Your message needs to be the absolute last thing in their ears. Therefore, it’s great to have a Q & A, but just don’t end with it. Have it about 90% of the way through your speech.


Key #4 Give a Lasting Anchor

Finally, once you’ve signaled that you’re closing, called back to your major points, and held a Q & A if appropriate,  it’s time to move into your lasting anchor, which will most likely be a story. However, just like you should have been doing throughout your entire speech before you transitioned into the next point, it’s extremely important to tease them before you tell them. In other words, they already have your message so why should they listen to your final story? The answer is the tease.

Tease them to let them know what’s in it for them to stick around mentally for this last piece. Listen to how I tease and then go into my final story.

 Once you tease them before you tell them, give them a powerful closing story that provides them with hope and proof that your message will work for them.

When you close with impact, you open more doors for your message and for you.



Can you give me an example of how you signal that you’re closing? Or simply leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.


One Response to “4 Keys to Closing Your Speech with Impact”

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