This post has a strange title because, I’m sure your objective is not to ruin your speech. However, if you understand some of the ways we ruin our speeches, you can avoid making these mistakes and take your speeches to greater heights.
Here are 20 ways speakers ruin their speeches. Some of the points have explanations while some don’t. I strongly suggest that you find a speaker buddy and discuss at least a few of these mistakes.
Note: I’ve made absolutely all of these mistakes at times during my career. That’s how I know how damaging they can be.
Mistake #1: Rushing – most speakers know that rushing is bad for business. After all, “You can’t rush and resonate.” However, it’s important to understand WHY speakers rush. Most of the time it’s because the speaker is trying to say too much in too little time. The old speaker proverb says, “When you squeeze your information in, you squeeze your audience out.” There’s no time for connection when you’re rushing through your material. Remember, less is often more.
Mistake #2: They take too long to get to their stories
Mistake #3: They took too long to get to the conflict in the story
Mistake #4: They establish the conflict but don’t elevate it
Mistake #5: They don’t tease them (the audience) before they tell them
Mistake #6: There’s no emotional change in the story’s main character
Mistake #7: They add humor rather than uncovering it. There are numerous ways to uncover humor without having to go on a detour to do so. In fact, I developed an entire course called Humor Speaking Secrets that covers 33 ways to uncover humor and keep your audience laughing all the way through your speech.
Mistake #8: They don’t have a “Foundational Phrase” that’s fewer than 10 words and easy to remember and repeat
Mistake #9: They don’t use a mix of anchors (anecdotes, analogies, activities, acronyms, audio-visuals, etc.) to keep the energy high and help their audience members remember their points
Mistake #10: They speak to everybody instead of speaking to one and looking to all. For example, they say, “How many of you have been here before…” instead of saying, “Raise your hand if you’ve been here before” or “Have you ever been here before.” You should sound like you’re speaking to one person (grammatically) rather than speaking to 200. I wouldn’t walk up to one person and say, “How many of you have been to Baltimore?” Therefore, I shouldn’t say that onstage. If I can say it to one person, I can say it that same way onstage.
Mistake #11: They don’t give looks before, during, and after delivering their lines. Remember, like my friend Darren LaCroix says, “Reactions tell the story.”
Mistake #12: They don’t sell the results of heeding their message. For example, let’s say you speak on the topic of marketing. Instead of selling them on creating a marketing plan, sell them on the opportunity to get new customers and THEN introduce the concept of the marketing plan. After all, their goal is not a marketing plan, it’s new customers.
Mistake #13: They don’t become the characters in their stories. I see many speakers who have characters that all look and sound alike. While being subtle, it’s important to use posture, positioning, facial expressions, and a slight change in your voice to differentiate one character from another.
Mistake #14: They’re not conversational. Remember, while in your story, you can be as wild and crazy as the story takes you. However, when you’re speaking directly to your audience, it should be conversational.
Mistake #15: They’re too theatrical. Remember, speaking is NOT a stage-play. It’s a dialogue with your audience. Speakers that get onstage and act like they’re in a Shakespearean play will usually not connect with their audience.
Mistake #16: They speak like they write. You don’t want to sound like you’re giving a spoken article. Instead, it’s important to speak like you talk, not like you write. For example, if you don’t usually use a word like “ponder” in your everyday conversations, why should you use it onstage? It’s not the authentic you. If you do use ponder on a regular basis, use it onstage too. The best speakers are themselves onstage.
Mistake #17: They give what I call “Slope speeches.” These are speeches that start off really well (on a very high level) and then go downhill. This is usually a result of one ineffective rehearsal problem that many speakers have. They always rehearse from the beginning of their speech.
Let’s say you have a 30-minute speech that is split up into 3 major points. What many speakers do is practice from the beginning (point #1) and then go through the rest. But what happens when they’re inevitably interrupted by life? They usually go back and start over again with point #1. So point #1 gets lots of attention while points 2 and 3 starve. I suggest that you practice one point (one module) at a time and don’t always do it in order. Then, when you actually get onstage, you can bring it all together for your audience and it will also still be fresh for you.
Mistake #18: They don’t provide their audience with a Roadmap. It’s important to let your audience know where they’re going on this journey. For example, I say, “These 4 R will lead you to get remarkable results in your business and in your life.” Now my audience knows we’re going from one R to the next R to the next R and so on. This makes is easy for them to follow along.
Be creative with your Roadmap (i.e. 4 Steps, 3 keys, 5 tools, etc.). You might also spell it out for them like I do when I say, “First you’ll pick up tools to CREATE your message, then tools for DELIVERING it, and finally, you’ll get tools to SELL your message so your audience takes the exact next step you want them to take.” This helps my audience can follow along with CRAFT, DELIVER, and SELL.
Mistake #19: They don’t give a Big Promise. Your audience needs to know WHY they are there. They should be excited about being there. For example, I say. “By the time you leave here today, you’ll have the tools to keep your audience on the edge of their seats and make them glad they came.”
Mistake #20: They don’t record their speeches. Each speech you give can get exponentially better if you record and listen to the ones you’ve already given. It’s not about looking for what you did wrong. It’s about seeing what you did right so you can do it more often. It’s about seeing there you can uncover more humor. It’s about taking out what might be considered boring. It’s about testing and tweaking so you can touch more lives.
Obviously this is not an exhaustive list, but it’s something you can reference to make sure you stay away from these mistakes.
I wish you the absolute best in your upcoming speeches and I wish the same for your audiences.
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Making the Unknown Known
Would you like a surefire way to clarify your message, shorten it, and make it stick? One of the best ways to do this is to relate the unknown to the known. In textbook language this is referred to as activating prior knowledge. Analogies help tremendously in this area.
Webster’s New World Dictionary’s definition of analogy is “similarity in some ways.”
Let me give you an example of an analogy I used that was extremely effective when I used to deliver this particular message 15 years ago.
Remember: Analogies help people relate what they might not know to what they do know.
A Powerful Analogy
In one of my stories, I start off by saying, “Nobody has ever died from a snakebite.” After the audience tries to figure out what the Dickens I am talking about, I say, “It is the venom circulating throughout your body afterwards that kills you.” With the audience still a bit confused, I go into a story of how one of my ex-girlfriends wronged me, and I compare this to “being bitten.” To carry the analogy further I compare the “anger and hatred” I felt towards her to the venom circulating inside of me.
Finally I state that the only way to get rid of that anger, hatred, and venom is forgiveness. Why? “Because just as a snake will bite you and crawl back in its hole, so will a friend hurt you and go right on with his or her life leaving you to be hurt over and over again.” I then go into selling the benefits of forgiveness.
Why is an analogy important?
Analogies are so important because of the following scenario that occurs occasionally with me. Someone approaches me and says, “Craig, I saw you speak 15 years ago and you talked about the snakebite. Something happened to me and I remembered what you said about nobody ever dying from a snakebite. Man, I realized I had to forgive the person and it really helped me get through that situation.”
Analogies help your audience for days, months, and years after your speech is finished
Whether it is one year ago or 15 years ago, people remember your message more clearly if you provide an analogy. Whether you have ever seen a live snake or not, everybody knows what a snakebite is. But not everybody knows that anger and hatred can work the same as venom and be just as destructive.
I used to tell my audiences, “If you are holding a grudge, that grudge is also holding you.” Next time someone in my audience is bitten, hopefully that person will vividly recall how to get the venom out (forgiveness) and return to a grudge-free life.
I’ve heard speakers (including myself) relate the following:
- Crabs in a barrel to negative people
- Being hungry for food to being hungry for their dreams.
- A malignant growth to slavery.
- Not setting goals to drifting aimlessly on a raft.
- Refusing to change to being stuck in the mud.
- A beautiful symphony to racial harmony.
- Opening holiday presents to using your gifts.
- Never going for their goals to living life on get-set
- A telephone call to your life’s calling.
- A train coming to your purpose in life.
- And many more
Here is a 3-Step Process for Developing your own Analogies:
- Take your main message and ask yourself, “What is this message similar to?”
- Make a list of all the ways the two things you are comparing are similar. For example, with a snakebite I might start my list with the following:
- The bite is similar to being hurt by someone
- The snake crawling back in its hole is similar to a person going away after they have hurt you
- The way the venom destroys your body is similar to how a grudge destroys your mind and life
- The freedom that comes from forgiveness is similar to the health you regain once the venom is out of you
- Once you make your list and draw out the analogy for several levels, then simply go back and pick the best one or two levels upon which you should focus. Don’t use all the levels because your audience will tire of it and say “Enough already.”
Another way to use the snake
(Personal note: In my early 20s, I had a Borneo Blood Python and a Columbian Boa constrictor so I thought of many analogies while staring at them. Actually, this leads to a solid point. If you look at something long enough, you’ll begin to see the similarities between it and something else).
Staying with the snake theme, I could use an analogy for change by comparing it to a snake shedding its skin. In that case I would make a list like the following:
- A snake that is not shedding completely is similar to a person who is holding on to some old habits and ways
- The temporary sight impairment a snake has during shedding is similar to the unknown zone we must go through during the change process
- A snake’s inability to shed leads to death, which is similar to an organization’s inability to change which leads to closing up shop.
One last point to keep in mind
Check to make sure the analogy you use is appropriate for your specific audience. For example, it may not be a good idea to use hunting analogies when speaking to an animal rights organization.
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One of the best ways to stay connected and deepen your connection with your audience is to let them beat you to the punch. What does this mean?
Let’s use some examples. Listen to this audio (37 seconds) and think about what happens after I say, “…in 1998.”
I could have simply kept going on with my speech by saying, “I joined Toastmasters in 1998, got my CTM in 1999…” However, I know something very important about my audience. They know I am the 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking. This means they are figuring out in their minds that it only took me one year before winning the World Championship.
Let them Beat You To the Punch
My job as a speaker is to let them figure this out and beat me to the punch. In other words, instead of saying it, I let them think it first. Their thoughts beat my words to the punch. Then and only then do I finish what I’m going to say, but guess what? My audience is already there! That’s why they laughed and became vocal immediately after I said, “I joined Toastmasters in 1998.”
Let’s listen to another example (34 seconds) from a different story and experience what happens after I say the words, “Okay daddy.”
I could have simply kept going on with my speech by saying, “’Okay daddy.’ I got home the next and where was he?” However, I decided to let my audience beat me to the punch. I paused, gave them a look that expressed a sarcastic, “Yeah, right” and let my audience think, “Oh, I’m sure Ace climbed up there again.”
Nowadays, after Ace says, “Okay Daddy,” I turn to the audience and say, “Raise your hand if you’re a parent.” They laugh because they understand where I’m going with this and they’ve beaten me to the punch. Then and only then do I confirm what my audience is already thinking by letting them know he climbed up there again.
If you really listen closely to the audio, you’ll find something very interesting. I NEVER actually said he climbed back up there. I let my audience say it! In a way, they filled in that part of the story without me having to actually say it. Then I simply picked up my story at the point where I said, “Ace what are you doing up there?”
Dialogue not Monologue
This is what I love about speaking. I learned from Bill Gove that speaking should be a dialogue and not a monologue. People buy into what they help create. Letting your audience beat you to the punch at strategic times during your speech makes them feel like they’re creating part of your speech, which deepens their involvement.
Let’s listen to one more quick example (47 seconds) of me letting my audience beat me to the punch. Experience what happens after I say the words, “Get lucky.”
I could have simply kept going on with my speech by saying, “Do you want to get lucky? Then stay ready.” However, I decided to let my audience beat me to the punch.
I looked one audience member in the eyes when I said, “Do you want to get lucky?” In this case, this person happened to be dressed in a costume (complete with a wig and a Marilyn Monroe-type outfit) for an event later that night. I let my audience beat me to the punch before I confirmed their thoughts by saying, “I’m looking at the wrong person…” This audience member got a real kick out of it and so did the audience.
Make no mistake about it, my audience beat me to the punch with their thoughts and then I confirmed it with my words.
How can you apply this “Let them beat you to the punch” strategy?
You can follow these 2 steps to use this seldom-used strategy.
1. Find the place
2. Give it space
Find the Place
First, you’ll have to come to an understanding of where in your speech you can use this strategy. You don’t choose the place; your audience does. Over time you’ll see where they beat you to the punch because you’ll be able to hear them wanting to chime in or be vocal.
But here’s the problem: you’ll never know this unless you record your speeches. You can’t monitor yourself on the spot, but you can certainly monitor yourself afterwards IF you’ve recorded your speech. That’s why I always say
What gets recorded gets rewarded
Whenever you begin to see where your audience is anticipating your next words, those are some of the places where you want to let them beat you to the punch.
Give it Space
Next, one thing you heard me do in every audio clip was to pause and let it happen. You must give space to let your audience think and beat you to the punch. You audience will take a cue from you and you can accomplish this with a facial expression like I used with my son’s story. The audience will take that cue and chime in.
Is it critical that you use this strategy? No. Will it deepen your connection when you do? Absolutely. Will it separate you from the pack of other speakers? Definitely.
When you partner like this with your audience throughout your entire presentation, you’ll find yourself connected at the core with them, time will fly by, and everyone will have a blast. So let them beat you to…
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You saw the title so let’s jump right in with 17 storytelling ideas that will breathe life into your speeches and keep your audiences engaged.
Idea Number One: Start your stories in different places. You don’t have to start a story at the beginning. You can start it in the middle or even at the end. For example, I could start a story like this:
“There I was, standing on stage with the 1st place trophy at the 1999 World Championship of Public Speaking. Life as a speaker was great! However, it didn’t start out that way. In fact, back in 1995…”
You can give the end and then work your way back to how you got there. Mix it up with each story. Don’t start them all in the same place.
Idea Number Two: Keep your audience curious from the beginning. What questions can you plant in the minds of your audience members that they’ll want answered during the story? For example, I start off one of my stories with, “You might not have realized this but…I’m black. Hold on, let me tell you how I found this out!” Along with uncovering some humor, this line makes my audience curious as to what happened and, therefore, they’re happy to come on the journey with me.
Idea Number 3: Get to your stories quicker. There’s way too much set-up (what I call “pre-ramble”) for many of the stories I see. Get to the story quickly and then go rapidly into the conflict.
Idea Number 4: Take your time between your lines. That’s where the story lives…in the space between the lines. Don’t rush to get to your next line. Instead, find ways to milk the line you just gave. In several of my stories, the majority of the laughs come from the looks rather than the lines. However, you have to give yourself space for that.
Idea Number 5: Condense to connect. When you give a scene with two (or more) characters talking in dialogue, don’t tell us everything, just tell us something. Try not to go back and forth between characters with lines of dialogue more than 2-3 times. Otherwise, your audience will quickly grow tired. Instead, put all of the important statements in no more than a couple of lines of dialogue.
Idea Number 6: Use character dialogue (with a quick narration set-up) in order to shorten your stories and pump life into them. There’s far too much narration in many stories. Dialogue will shorten your stories.
Idea Number 7: Don’t just establish a conflict, escalate it.
Idea Number 8: Don’t be the Guru of your own story. Let us know who or what gave you the cure that changed your life for the better. You can be the hero (the person who overcame his conflict) but don’t be the Guru (the person who showed you how).
Idea Number 9: Show the emotional change in your character AFTER you overcome OR transcend your conflict. No change, no story.
Idea Number 10: Realize it’s the looks you give before, during, and/or after the lines that really tell the story. Or as my friend, Darren LaCroix, says, “Reactions tell the story.”
Idea Number 11: Make sure you have a Foundational Phrase that your audience can easily remember and repeat. It should be rhythmic, you-focused (meaning audience-focused), and preferably fewer than 10 words. For example, one of my foundational phrases is, “Don’t get ready, stay ready.” My audiences can use that phrase as a guide moving forward.
Idea Number 12: When delivering the lines of your characters, use their posture, positioning, and a “slight” change in your voice (whether it’s pace, pitch, volume, etc.) to make that person come alive and be different from the other characters. For example, you might have a character that is stern and so he has a very stiff posture and possibly crosses his arms and frowns when he talks.
Idea Number 13: Be subtle with everything you do delivery-wise. For example, you don’t need to speak with a child’s voice when delivering the lines of a child. Instead, speak with your voice (with maybe a little higher pitch) but deliver it with the child’s expression. He or she can also look up to show that the child is talking to an adult.
Idea Number 14: Come out of your story to talk to the audience. Remember, you are NOT doing a stage-play. You’re supposed to be having a conversation with your audience. When you get into a story, you don’t have to lose that conversation. Instead, mix the story with the conversation. For example, I have a story that goes like this:
“You should have been with my wife and me 11 years ago as we took our 6 month-old daughter, Tori, to the doctors. Raise your hand if you have kids? Great, then YOU know the doctor is going to measure her length and her weight…” Even though I already started my story, I looked to find ways to keep bringing my audience members into it. I call these “You-focused check-ins.” They keep the audience on their toes because, instead of being passive spectators, they become active participants.
Idea Number 15: When your story is over and you’ve given your Foundational Phrase, you don’t need to ramble on about the point. First of all, the story actually makes the point. The Foundational Phrase makes the point memorable. If you keep talking and trying to drive the point home, your audience will want the ride to end.
Idea Number 16: Invite your audience members into your scene. For example, I might say, ”Imagine being in my passenger’s seat as I went through the KFC drive-thru.” My audience members are now in my passenger’s seat for that story.
Idea Number 17: With a few exceptions, keep your stories short. The longer you work on a story, the shorter it should get. I try to keep most of mine under 4 minutes.
There you have it…17 storytelling ideas that will breathe life into every speech.
What are some ideas you have that have helped with your stories?
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Recently I have received many questions from my speaking students regarding rehearsal. They say, “Craig, how do you rehearse? It seems like you really feed off the audience but you must rehearse, right?”
The answer is yes. I rehearse. In fact, the main reason why I rehearse is so I can feed off my audience while still staying on track with my message.
So instead of just explaining what I do to rehearse, I came up with another idea. I figured, “Why don’t I simply invite you to a behind-the-scenes peak at my rehearsal?”
Welcome to My Rehearsal
So here’s what I did. Five years ago I had a speech scheduled for Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and I decided to record my rehearsal. Instead of sharing the entire rehearsal with you, I’m only going to share two quick 90-second segments. So here’s the layout of this post:
- First you’ll hear a quick 90-second rehearsal of a piece of one of my stories
- Then you’ll hear that same 90-second clip of me live in South Dakota doing that same part of the story
- Then you’ll hear another 90-second rehearsal clip of another piece of that same story
- Finally you’ll hear another 90-second clip of me live in South Dakota doing that same part of the story
When you listen to the clips, you’ll undoubtedly hear some differences. However, the message will be the same and the differences you hear will be me reacting and responding and feeding off of my audience. Click the play buttons below to hear the clips. Afterwards you’ll see 5 Guidelines you should consider following when it comes to rehearsing your speech.
Rehearsal piece #1
Live piece #1
Rehearsal piece #2
Live piece #2
Ritual #1: Do not look into a mirror. Why? Because your speech is not about you. You wouldn’t look into a mirror when you’re actually speaking to your audience, would you? Then you shouldn’t do it during rehearsal. Rehearsal should mimic the actual performance, so make it as similar as possible. If you want to see what you look like, then record yourself on video and watch it once you finish.
Ritual #2: Imagine your audience is in front of you. It’s not enough to just practice knowing your words. It’s important to really see your future audience members. What are they doing? How are they reacting? How will you respond to their reactions? Who are you looking at and when? Where are you moving and when? This is what I call speaking your way into speaking. Believe it or not, some speakers think rehearsal is sitting down and memorizing your speech. My belief is that you should not sit down and memorize; you should stand up and internalize. You do that by rehearsing as if your audience is really there.
Ritual #3: Do at least one mental rehearsal. This, more than any other ritual, has been the most effective and meaningful to me. Here’s what I do. I close my eyes and go through the entire presentation in my mind. I see my audience and feel them around me. I mouth the words and make it as realistic as possible. This process is so powerful for one major reason: Once you arrive on stage, you’ll feel like you’re at home. Why? Because you’ve been there before.
Ritual #4: Don’t look for perfection; look for connection. If you stumble over words or do something that’s not 100% correct, don’t worry about it. It’s not about perfection, it’s about connection. Just keep moving on. Chances are you’re the only one who will notice anyway. Plus, perfection is boring. This guideline goes for the rehearsal and for the real speech.
Ritual #5: Exaggerate whatever needs work. For example, if you don’t pause long enough after making important statements, then really exaggerate the extended pause in rehearsal. Or if you constantly speak at the same energy level (or pace or volume, etc.), exaggerate your contrasts. If you exaggerate it in rehearsal, even though the adrenaline of the live performance has the tendency to make you revert to your old ways, you’ll be sufficiently stretched enough to fix the flaw.
What is one of your rehearsal rituals? I’m very interested to see the different ways people rehearse…IF they rehearse.
Final thoughts on Rehearsing for Remarkable Results
I have no doubt that you heard some differences between my rehearsal sessions and my live speech. They probably included a different energy, pace, and even slightly different content. This is because nothing can replace the live speech. However, you should try as hard as you can to make your rehearsal sessions as similar as possible to your live speech. That means pretend you really are with your audience. That way, once they do finally show up, they won’t have to pretend they’re really are with you.
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What are Speakers Neglecting to do?
So often I’ll coach a speaker who does everything right with his story until the end of it. He establishes the conflict, escalates it, and gets the cure or revelation. But guess what happens then? He ends the story!
Hello, do you mean to tell me you’re going to take us down to the depths of your struggle and make us relive those down times with you and then, when you get to the big payoff part of your journey, we’re not invited?
If you take us through the problem, make sure you take us through the payoff
One payoff I have involves a Vice-President of a company trying to offer me more money so that I won’t leave the organization to pursue my dream. It was a struggle (problem) because I felt like I couldn’t leave. My wife then told me, “Craig, your dream is not for sale.”
So I went back to the Vice President of the company and told him, “My wife said my dream is not for sale.” With the help of my wife, I overcame the conflict. After overcoming the conflict, you can listen below to hear what I gave as the payoff (the Change).
That’s a heck of a payoff isn’t it? It encourages other people to not let the good get in the way of the best in their lives too and not to sell out their dreams. They’re 80% across the bridge to buying into my message and I haven’t even driven home the point yet.
Don’t take us through a problem without taking us through the payoff.
In fact, I strongly suggest that you make the payoff at least equal to (and hopefully greater than) the problem in terms of your emotions. That’s why I intentionally say, “…and I’m HAPPY to say I’ve been running my mouth ever since.”
Happy is the emotion. Keep in mind, I also have to show “happy” on my face and in my body and in my energy. Remember Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “What you ARE speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say.” Show it while you say it.
Why is the Payoff Important?
This payoff is very important to your audience because it pushes them 80% across the bridge to heeding your message (i.e. chasing your dream) before you even begin to drive the message home. In other words, when you take them through your emotional payoff, the story gets their buy-in.
So many speeches are ruined by neglecting to have a payoff that is at least equal (and hopefully greater than) the problem in terms of your emotions.
Remember, people make decisions with emotion backed up by logic. Therefore, you can’t simply tell them the payoff. You need to show them the payoff through your own emotional victory. Relive it.
How can you make sure have an effective Payoff?
The questions to ask yourself to help clarity and emphasize your payoff are the following:
- What was my payoff?
- What happened to me after I transcended my conflict?
- How did my life change for the better?
- How did I feel after I overcame that conflict?
- How can I express that feeling to my audience so they’ll know how much the payoff meant to me and how much a similar payoff can mean to them?
- How can I SHOW THE PAYOFF on my face, through my body language, and in my newfound energy?
The stronger your payoff, the easier it will be for people to buy-into your message even before you drive it home.
Post the following statement somewhere you can see it:
If you take us through the problem, take us through the payoff
Note: If you’d like help with your payoff or any other part of your story, click here to access my best-selling program called the Edge Of Their Seats Storytelling Home-Study Course for Speakers. You’ll be glad you did.
In fact, to thank you for being a loyal reader of my newsletter, you can use the following COUPON CODE to get a $100 discount on the program: 11815. Make sure you hit APPLY after you enter the code. This offer lasts until January 18th, 2015 (hence the code).
What is one payoff you share with your audience? What’s the emotion?
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A quick and easy way to uncover humor is to compare and contrast two stories, examples, statistics, methods, or pretty much anything else. I like this tool because the audience tends to laugh AND learn at the same time. You can use it for dramatic impact (like I do in many of my stories) or you can use it for humor. I call it the “Right vs. Ridiculous” Process. Let’s explore two examples (in audio).
First let’s look at how you can use it for humor and then see how you can use it for dramatic impact.
Listen to this quick 64-second clip of me contrasting the way I get my in-person audiences to subscribe to my www.52Speakingtips.com site.
Welcome back. Basically this comes down to describing the right way vs. the ridiculous way so that the ridiculous way seems even more ridiculous. You see, if I never demonstrated the right way (i.e. putting the result before the resource) and I only mentioned the ridiculous way, it would NOT have been funny.
For example, if I started that module by saying, “Raise your hand if you’d like to receive 52 emails from me,” there would have been some confusion and probably some nervous chatter/laughter. However, because I mentioned the right way first (putting the result before the resource – “becoming 3 times better…”), my audience understood just how ridiculous that second way (putting the resource before the result – “52 e-mails from me”) really was.
Pricing also works this way
This is similar to the law of contrast in pricing that I mentioned in my Back of the Room Sales Home-Study Course. When you put two prices against each other, the higher price makes the lower price seem even lower. Let’s say I first mention that my program (with all the bonuses) is worth $397 but today you get it for $197. Well the $197 now seems lower than it would have had I not first mentioned the $397. The right vs. the Rdiculous has the same effect. It makes the ridiculous seem even more ridiculous and that’s funny.
Contrasting for Dramatic Impact
Like I mentioned, contrasting can also work for drama or an escalation of your conflict. Listen to this quick 76-second audio of how I put two numbers side by side for dramatic effect. This is a short section of a story of when I was hired to give a speech and how excited I was to finally get a nice payday.
Here’s the key to why the drama worked. It’s because I put the numbers right next to each other. I said, “She tucked into my jacket pocket a check for $3,500.” Then I immediately told them I gave the audience a “$150 speech” and you could hear their reaction.
If I never mentioned the $3,500, they would not have thought anything was wrong but, since I mentioned it, they could easily realize I blew the engagement badly.
Quick never-before-told secret: I believe in this side by side contrast so much that I reworked that sentence (“She tucked into my jacket pocket a check for $3,500”) many times just so I could place the actual dollar amount at the very end of the sentence. Why? This is so the $3,500 would be closer to (and fresh in my audience’s mind) when I mentioned the $150. I want those two numbers as close together (time-wise) as I can get so that they’re essentially side by side for effect. Very shortly after I mention the $3,500, I mention the $150.
This just goes to show you that contrasting can be used for humor and drama. But let’s get back to humor.
Your Turn for Right vs. Ridiculous Humor (3 steps)
Step 1: Think about a “right” process that you have.
Step 2: What would be the wrong process that some people might use?
Step 3: Put them next to each other but make sure you mention the right way first.
I believe you’ll surprise yourself by how much humor you can uncover there. It’s quick and easy.
Coming on December 4th – 9th
Back in 1998, the first 10 speeches I gave had absolutely no humor. Today I get booked because of my ability to mix a message with amusement. How did I start adding humor to my speeches? I didn’t. Instead of adding humor, I uncovered it.
If you’ve ever wanted to keep your audience laughing throughout your speech, then you will want to access the 33 humor tools in my newest course called Humor Speaking Secrets. You’ll uncover more humor than you ever knew you could! Stay tuned for an e-mail announcing how to access it on December 4th
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When I get a big laugh, I call that a Power Laugh. Why? Because power is the ability to do more and big laughs give you the ability to do more with your audience. Getting hearty laughs allows you to create a memorable experience, slip in a profound message, and have a blast all at the same time.
The Humor Tools
I believe you can get at least a dozen laughs every 3-4 minutes if you understand and practice various humor tools. For example, listen to this 3 1/2 minute opening of one of my recent speeches and then look below for a few of the tools I used.
A Few Tools to Get 12 Power Laughs in 3 1/2 minutes
You’re most likely familiar with a Callback and that’s what I did with the line about “Those 25 people I beat…” It was a callback to something my introducer misread in my introduction. Therefore, I called back to a previous speaker. However, there are many other types of callbacks you can make including calling back to what I call PEST.
I can call back to my Preparation, something that happened at the Event, something said by another Speaker, and even something that happened during my Travel to the event. The key is to know how and when to call back and how to seamlessly bridge the gap between multiple callbacks.
When I gave the quick example of George Washington Carver, that was me using what I like to call Historical Humor. Some of the best humor can come from funny situations that happened to historical figures. Although this is not a tool I use often, I have even uncovered humor by telling a story about Harriet Tubman. The key is to make sure you can then tie that example into what you’re currently going through these days.
Of course the old-fashioned “twist” is another way to uncover humor. It’s when you take your audience down one road and then unexpectedly change directions. I did this with my daughter’s letter. However, one reason the twist works is because I “sell” that we’re going down one road before I change directions.
For example, when I read the note, I say, “Dear Daddy, I miss you.” After that I pause and let my audience feel my pain. That helps give them momentum down one road before I read that, “You’re the best daddy in my whole family.” The other key here is the twist should be visual and verbal. In this case, not only do the words change but so does my expression. With other twists I have, I actually walk in a direction on stage and then, at the twist line, I stop and look the other way (or look out at the audience). The visual with the verbal twist goes a long way and draws a major laugh.
My daughter’s letter used to end with the one laugh after I read, “…in my whole family.” However, over time I began using the Tag-on line of “I thought I was the only daddy in my family” and then eventually added “Maybe I should stay off the road and make sure no more daddies are coming through my family.”
A key to Tag-on lines is knowing where they should come from and how to develop them. It’s darn near scientific and surefire when you know where to look for them.
They’re so important because they can help you turn one laugh into 3, 4, or more. All of a sudden, instead of 15 laughs in your speech, you can have more than 45 just with this one tool. In my upcoming Humor Speaking Secrets Course, you’ll see how to develop them and where they should come from each time so that they can’t miss.
One key to humor is being able to transition from one humorous situation to the other without jumping around. A good transition line often does the trick. For example, I moved from my daughter’s letter to my son’s equestrian comments by using the line, “That’s just kids though…kids say the darndest things, don’t they. For example…”
Character to character dialogue
One of the most prolific tools you can use for humor is Character to Character Dialogue. I got a nice power laugh when my son looked up and said, “How old is the horse?!” To get laughs from character to character dialogue, it’s critical to actually briefly possess the persona of the person who said the line. For an instant, I have to become my son in expression, tone, posture, and even in the eyes. I’ve seen many speakers give funny lines but all the lines seem like they’re coming from the same person (themselves). Most of the funny lines should come from the other characters anyway.
I personally like to take advantage of 5 different kinds of spontaneous moments. However, with whatever kind you use, you can’t be afraid to use it. You must be willing to leave your mental script to jump on the magical moment. Of course, sometimes you can seed the spontaneity too but that’s going beyond the scope of this post.
In the audio you just heard, I was about to go into my Big Promise when I stepped on a part of the stage that felt like it was about to give way. Because I almost buckled, I decided to jump on the moment and that’s when instead of saying, “How do you get remarkable results in business AND in life?” I said, “How do you get from one side of the stage to the other?” Of course my look had to ride the line for it to be even more funny.
I cherish those spontaneous moments, because they automatically make the speech fresh. That’s the opposite of canned.
Over and Over Again
Hopefully you’ve found these ideas above valuable. Well, there’s a lot more where those came from. We haven’t even come close to scratching the surface.
What I love about the 33 tools you can pick up in my Humor Speaking Secrets Course (that’s coming soon) is that you can use them over and over again in every speech you give for the rest of your speaking life. As you can probably tell, I’m very excited about the release of this course. Why? It’s because not only can it change your life as a speaker, it can help brighten the lives of all your future audiences.
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Patricia Fripp once told me, “Craig, people won’t remember what you say as much as they’ll remember what they see when you say it.” In other words, you must make your speeches very visual.
I’ve often told people that speaking involves a series of scenes. You move from one story and scene into another. But these scenes must be visible and a great way to make them visible is to move with a purpose.
Two Major Reasons for Moving on Stage
There are several reasons for moving on stage but you’re about to pick up two of the most important.
Movement Tool Number 1 – Let the action in your story prompt your movement on stage
I have a story where I say the following:
I told my Vice President, “John, before I say yes to you, I have to go home to talk to my wife about this.” So I went home to my wife and said…
When I make that statement, I physically walk from where my VP’s office is represented on stage to where my home is represented on stage.
That’s an example of letting the action drive. Of course, when I go back the next day to my VP’s office, I walk back to where the office is represented on stage. That’s letting the action in my story prompt my movement on stage.
If you’re telling a story about standing in line, guess what? You should stand quite still throughout that scene.
When a speaker keeps moving at all times, his movements cease to matter. Even the important movements and gestures get lost in a whirlwind of movement.
Movement Tool Number 2 – Let Time Prompt your Movement on Stage
All stories involve the element of time, which means you can use the imaginary timeline on stage for greater impact. In North America (and in most countries where English is the first language) we read a timeline from the left to the right. The left is the past and the right is the future. Therefore, imagine how I might move when giving this part of my speech:
“Now fast-forward 14 years to today…2014. My re-hire rate has now reached…”
When I say the phrase “Fast forward 14 years to today,” I physically, yet subtly, walk from my audience’s left up the timeline to my audience’s right to symbolize the difference between the year 2000 and the year 2014. Again, this is subtle so it might only be a couple of steps. Why is this important for me to walk up the timeline? Two reasons:
- It makes the scene more clear for my audience
- It allows me to eventually do a visual AND verbal call back to places on the timeline.
For example, later in this message I say, “I’ll tell you what made the difference between my failure in 2000 and my success today [I walk back down the timeline to my audience’s left where the year 2000 is represented]. After my embarrassment in the year 2000, I re-dedicated myself to the art of public speaking…” and then I physically travel back up the timeline (from 2000-2014) when I explain the processes I learned during those years.
This call back is visual, verbal, emotional, and clear for my audience members all because I set the stage up as a timeline and walk it.
Three Caveats that make the difference between a connection and a rejection
Caveat #1: Please remember that you have to do the timeline backwards for you so that it’s right for your audience. In other words, your audience’s left is your right, etc. You’re like an aerobics instructor! So when you want to walk back in the past, move to your right, which is your audience’s left.
Caveat #2: Not all cultures view timelines from the left to the right. Therefore, if you’re traveling overseas or you do not live in a country where English is the primary language, it would behoove you to research how the culture views timelines. Otherwise you might walk from left to right when they might view time as front to back. In that case, you’ll only promote confusion not clarity.
Caveat #3: Much of speaking is about subtlety. If you’re being too obvious about what you’re doing, it will break your connection with your audience. Therefore, when you move, make it subtle. I’ve seen some speakers move the entire length of the stage for their timeline. That’s not necessary. A few steps in one direction should suffice when moving to the future or back to the past. The same goes for characters in dialogue. Don’t travel so far between characters. A subtle head turn (and maybe a change in posture) should suffice to allow us audience members to know which character is talking. Be subtle.
What you just picked up are two important reasons for moving on stage. Now let’s look at one reason for standing still.
When should I stand Still on Stage?
If you’ve studied my materials at all then you know the importance of having a Foundational Phrase to drive your memorable and repeatable message home to your audience. However, there is also an important delivery tool to use when delivering that phrase.
Normally, when you’re having a conversation with your audience, you scan the room and look individuals in their eyes. However, when you get to your most important phrase (often your Foundational Phrase) it creates quite an impact when you stand completely still, look directly at one individual in your audience, and hold his/her gaze for your entire foundational phrase.
For example, I scan the audience until I get to the phrase where I say, “Your dream is not for sale” and that’s when I look at one person and hold his/her gaze. Then, once I finish the phrase, I go back to scanning the room and moving if appropriate. In other words, hold their gaze for your entire phrase.
What’s a next step you can take to improve your delivery?
To learn more about delivery strategies that deepen the authentic connection you build with your audience, consider viewing my Dynamic Delivery Devices DVD set.
How do YOU use the stage to make your speech visual? What are some strategies that work for you?
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Can you become more likeable as a speaker?
Can you become more likeable as a speaker? I believe so. When I first started speaking in 1998, I don’t believe I was very likeable. Why? It’s because my goal was to finish the speech rather than to create an experience for my audience.
In fact, I could give my speech the same exact way whether I was alone or in front of an audience. That’s terrible, because it means I wasn’t feeding off of my audience or letting them feed off of me. There was no true exchange of energy.
Once I made the internal shift to focus more on my audience than on completing the speech, I immediately became more likeable and I connected on a deeper level.
Although the internal shift is critical, the following 6 ideas can also help you become more likeable so that your message travels deeper and you develop meaningful relationships along the way.
Note: Not every speaker wants to be likeable. Some speakers have actually built a niche by being hard on their audiences and giving them tough love. There’s nothing wrong with that. Even for those speakers, I believe the 6 keys below can be beneficial.
Likeable Tool #1 – Don’t tell, ask
People don’t like to be told about themselves. So often I see speakers make statements like, “We all have made bad decisions in life…” That turns people off and some actually think, “You don’t know me. How can you tell me I’ve made bad decisions?” Even though we KNOW they have, we can’t tell them they have. It’s much better to ask.
For example, I’d ask, “Have you ever made a bad decision?” Or I’d say, “Be honest, raise your hand if you’ve ever made a bad decision.” Once their hands go up, I’d say, “Me too.” Now I have permission to go down that road with them on board.
Likeable Tool #2 – Don’t come across as special
If all a speaker does is share his successes, what do you think the audience members will think? Eventually they’ll probably think, “This guy is arrogant.” However, they might also think, “This guy is special. Of course the tools he is sharing work for him…it’s because he’s special. But they won’t work for me.”
The key as a speaker is to take yourself off that pedestal and share your failures, flaws, and frustrations. When you do that, your audience will think, “Wow, he’s failed too? I have similar flaws.” In other words, they’ll realize you are similar rather than special. As a result, they’ll believe, “Hey, if HE can do it. I can do it too.” This leads to them following your advice or tools or recipe.
Oh, and remember, it’s completely okay to share your successes too. Just make sure to mix in some non-successful moments too. When you share your failures, your audience will end up rooting for you when you get to the successes.
When you lift yourself up, you let your audience down
Likeable Tool #3 – Have fun at your own expense
Be willing to poke fun at yourself. I often begin my speeches by poking fun at myself through the words of my daughter. I read a note she wrote when she was 6 years old that said, “You are the best daddy in my whole family.”
This lets my audience know that I’m not taking myself too seriously even if my message is serious. I’ve found that my audience members begin to laugh and speak up and connect with me because they know it’s all in fun. Poking fun at myself also allows me to poke good-natured fun at them too. This turns a speech into an experience that people can talk about long after I leave the stage.
Likeability Tool #4 – Embrace the environment
Two weeks ago I spoke at a conference in New York inside of an old mansion. It was an awesome environment. About 60 seconds into my speech, I noticed one of the camera operators was following me very closely. When I went out into the audience, he followed me and was literally one step away with the camera pointing at my face. So I stopped in mid-sentence and turned my head to stare at him in a lighthearted way. The audience broke into a huge laugh and that was the break-through moment that connected me with that audience for the rest of the day.
Most audiences don’t want to hear canned speeches. If you can use the environment to your advantage, it’s almost the same as customizing your message because your audience believes, “Well, this certainly has only happened here.” That’s crucial. So much of what I do in customizing and tailoring and using the environment is to get the audience to think, “This is fresh and has only happened here.” That makes the event special for them and for me.
Likeability Tool # 5 – Listen to your listeners
Always remember that your audience wants to be heard too. People buy- into what they help create. Some speakers give their speech like I used to…the same way whether the audience is there or not. It’s important not to think, “Speech,” but think, “Experience.” When you include them, they have an experience. Here’s a 60-second example of my audience and me feeding off of each other so that they are heard too.
Likeability Tool #6 – Be very approachable afterwards
I have a secret. I’m an introvert. That’s right, in my case I would rather be with a good book than with good people…much of the time.
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, it’s important to remember that even when your speech is over, it’s not really over. You are still on stage. It doesn’t matter what you say on stage if, when you come down from it, you don’t give people the time of day. That’s what they’ll remember. Actions speak louder than words.
I often run into audience members in the airport on my way home. Guess what? If they have questions or want to chat, I do it. Why? Well, for one thing, it’s the decent thing to do. Also, you never want to destroy a connection you established with them. Finally, I truly believe in the importance of going above and beyond what we promise in terms of providing value.
What are some other ideas you have for becoming more likeable as a speaker?