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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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How to Quickly Customize Your Speech for your Audience

One of the ways you can get brought back (re-hired) time and time again is through customization. Your audience wants to know that you know who you’re speaking to and that it’s not canned but fresh.

Click the video below to see a lesson on one easy way to customize your program through what I call the Puzzle Piece approach.

Sample Speaking Secret

It’s about more than just names and places

Keep in mind this is not simply a technique of using someone’s name or location. With these puzzle pieces, it’s about finding something about them that stands out. For example, I once followed a contest where the speakers tried to gross each other out with their speeches. Click the audio below and listen to what I said in that same exact spot in my speech:

Same Spot, Different Words

In that same exact section of my speech, I have used the following lines based on something specific about my audience.

The stem was, “He doesn’t know that one day I’d wake up and speak…”

  • …in my ultimate destination, Elko
  • …to a wonderful group but WAY too early in the morning
  • …in a room that feels like a frozen tundra

The point is, you can use anything about them or the situation that is interesting or noticeable.

Your Turn

Do you have a place in your speech that can be customized every single time with a word or sentence? Feel free to share it here or simply comment on this approach. I look forward to hearing from you.




2 Responses to “How to Quickly Customize Your Speech for your Audience”

  • I really like that this tip makes it so easy to quickly customize the speech, each time you give it.

    In my latest post, I’ve shared a link to this post, as well as to your post about having a “failure file”.

    Check it out! I’d be fascinated to hear your thoughts on my own tips, too.

  • john gross:

    Great enthusiasm and I learn every time I listen to or watch your segments. Thank you for what you do and how you do it. John Gross Minnesota. December 4th 2015

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A Great Tool Many Speakers Never Use – Energy Shifts (Video Lesson)

I have put out a few newsletter lessons on Energy Shifts but I figured now was time to SHOW it rather than just teach it. Take a look at the following video lesson and please forgive the very temporary mismatched audio and video. Energy shifts breathe new life into vital parts of your speech.


Please feel free to comment and/or give an example of an energy shift in one of your stories.





10 Responses to “A Great Tool Many Speakers Never Use – Energy Shifts (Video Lesson)”

  • Craig, I have been following you and learning from you for years. Your creativity, ability to teach and willingness to share are unique.
    Of everything I have learned from you and your products, this lesson has always been my favorite. Many years ago, when I first heard concept as a lesson on my (Lady & Champs) CD I knew it was special. I even played that lesson in a couple of my Toastmasters clubs.
    Keep doing what you’re doing! Thanks.

  • Craig….that’s an awesome lesson on Energy Shifts.

    I really love your facial expressions that’s closely aligned with what you are saying. I am really finding it tough to get there….may be I am being very conscious about myself…too much.

    • Craig Valentine:

      Thank you. Whenever I know I need to work on something, I overemphasize it in rehearsal so that when I get on the real stage, I will find that happy medium. I suggest that you overemphasize your facial expressions in rehearsal.

  • Matt McCarty:

    Great lesson Craig,
    I learned the value of energy shift from singer/storyteller Don White. It does take quite a bit of practice to master it. One other thing that you might mention is that a downshift before something funny can cause the comedic moment to be more impactful. It’s like building emotional tension then you get a bigger release. You do it well in the first example.

    Thank you, as always, for sharing your knowledge.

    Matt McCarty

  • Shift happens – haha!

    Great lesson Craig, merci. I’ll try it soon.

  • Hello!
    Thank you very very much Craig, I am following to since a while and I am looking forward to meet you one day! That is my goal! Thanks to your advices, I just won the First Place Humorous Speech (english one) At the Division F (South France) In my very first try!!! Now I am going to the semi-Finals in Amsterdam.
    I really love your energy and Sometimes when I hear other speakers, I always go back to your speeches because your really Know how to lift energy and That is so wonderful!
    I am a Gospel Singer, A project Manager, A mum and I really intend to be a Great Motivational Speaker and Help Thousands of people like you do!
    Thank you so much because you game me hope in new ways of delivering speeches.
    You are really wonderful! Be blessed And please! Keep Talking!
    Voice is Energy, Voice is Emotions!

    • Craig Valentine:

      Thank you Claude! I really appreciate your very kind words and I can feel your energy through the screen. Congratulations on your success in the contests. I’m sure you’re touching many lives already. Keep it up!

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Customize Your Speech with Call Backs (The PEST Formula)

One of the most important success factors in public speaking is your ability to customize your speech to make each audience feel like, “This has only happened here” and “This message is truly for us.”

In other words, they don’t want a “canned” speech. They want it to be fresh. You can accomplish this in a humorous way too and that’s where call backs come in to play.

 Feels great to connect!

Feels great to connect!

What is a call back?

This is when you refer to something that happened previously in the event, right? Well, yes, but don’t forget to call back to the following as well. I call it the PEST formula for Call Backs.

P = Preparation – call back to something that happened as you Prepared for the event

E = Event – call back to something that happened during the Event

S = Speaker – call back to something one of the other Speakers said

T = Travel – call back to something that happened as you Traveled to the event


See for Yourself

Take a look at the video for a few examples of call backs I used to make a greater connection with my audiences and to have them feel like, “This has only happened here.”


Your Turn

What call backs have you given recently that worked?




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Use Pocket Props to Make Your Audience TALL (Think, Act, Laugh, and Learn)

“You should use more visuals in your speeches.” What came to mind when you read that first sentence? Many speakers immediately think it means to use more PowerPoint or Keynote Slides.

While those may be valuable (when used well), you can also use other visuals to connect with your audience, uncover humor, and even evoke emotions.

I like to use pocket props, which are simply props that can fit into your pocket. I’ve seen speakers bring huge props onto the stage that take the attention away from the speaker. Pocket Props are good because you can use them and then hide them when you’re finished so that they no longer split your audience’s attention.

For example, take a look at the following video in which I used a small Pocket Prop that worked well in front of 4000 people at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina:

 The letter from my daughter was the pocket prop. Let me ask you a quick question. Don’t you think I know that letter by heart? Of course I do. It’s memorized. How could I forget it? So why do I still take it out and read it? It’s because the prop (the letter) benefits me in multiple ways:

  1. It makes my audience more curious for what my daughter wrote. Like I always say, “Tease them before you tell them.”
  1. It lends credibility to the story because the letter is real. In fact, I often flash the letter to people in my front rows.
  1. You can even turn your prop around on your audience. For example, although I started my speech with humor about my daughter’s letter, what if I ended my speech with emotion by pulling the letter out again and then asking, “If your loved one wrote you a note today, what would it say?” The possibilities are endless when you start thinking of some of the items you have that have back-stories.

The bottom line is that story would not work as well without the letter.


How Can You Get the Best use out of the Prop?

With props, I like to give what I call a “StoryWrap.” This means I simply wrap a story around the prop. This can be quite humorous. For example, here’s a video of me using a prop to tell a story (to an audience in Hong Kong) about something that happened to me in Vancouver, BC.

Once again, this prop helped make my audience curious because, when I walked up on the stage, I’m sure they were asking, “Why is he still wearing that name tag?” I teased them before I told them. Believe me, that story would not have worked very well without having the nametag as a prop.

I simply wrapped a story around the prop and it drew laughs. However, you can also use these Props to deepen your connection with your audience.


Emotional Connection Through Props

For example, I once spoke to Middle School kids and shared a story of how I was able to receive a pair of shoes from one of my basketball idols. I built the value and the importance of the shoes throughout the story. At the end of the speech, I gave one of the students that pair of shoes. It was an emotional moment because of the story that was wrapped around the shoes. Also, I REALLY wanted to keep the shoes!


My Main Man Manley

Recently, the speaker I’ve seen use visuals the best is Manley Feinberg. It helps that Manley is a mountain climber. I coached Manley recently and saw some of his props that went very well with his stories and slides. He had a rope, a bag, a locking carabiner, an anchor, and even an admittance wrist-band from when he was bitten by a snake and taken to the hospital. All of these props were worked seamlessly into his stories and each item gained value because of it.



What I like the most is that Manley gives away some of his locking carabiners to his audience after his speech. In fact, after I coached him, he gave me one. Guess what was written on the side? That’s right, a well-used prop can even become good marketing for Manley or for you.





Your Turn – What’s a Proven Process for using Pocket Props?


  1. Take an item that’s important to you that may be in your home or office.


  1. What’s the story behind it? Why is it important? What does it signify?


  1. How can you make its meaning universal?


Making It Universal

Let’s just touch on that last point. Manley gave me a locking carabiner but I’m sure, by now, he knows that I will never climb a mountain. However, he uses the carabiner, rope, and anchor as a metaphor to show how you can support other people during their climb in life and that’s why the message becomes universal. It’s not just for mountain climbers, it’s for anyone on any climb. That’s why I keep his locking carabiner on my desk. It’s a reminder for me to “Keep others on belay.”


Final Thoughts

When using visuals, it’s important to think beyond slides and to dig into your own life and find items that are meaningful to you and can become meaningful to others. If it changed your life then it can touch theirs. Whether it’s a letter or a carabiner, it’s really a reminder of your message.

Okay, I’ve said enough. Now it’s time to go back to being the best daddy in my whole family.



12 Responses to “Use Pocket Props to Make Your Audience TALL (Think, Act, Laugh, and Learn)”

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