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How the Inner Game of Public Speaking can Make or Break your Speech (3 Scenarios and Solutions)

Ready to take the stage in Nevada

There is an inner game of public speaking. What’s going on inside of your mind determines the effectiveness of what comes out of your mouth.

Some speakers simply memorize and recite their words and consider that a success. It’s not. That’s a memorization contest. If your mind is focused on remembering what comes next, then it won’t be focused on what’s happening now.

In speaking, you must be completely present with each moment or else your audience will see right through you. After all, if you’re not really “there,” why should they be?

Here are some scenarios and ideas for what you might want to have in your mind to make sure you are present and focused so you connect with your audience.


Scenario #1 – When you are inside of your stories

People always ask, “How do you keep your stories fresh because you must give them a lot?” The answer has to do with what’s going on inside my mind as I share the stories. Here’s the key:

Relive your thoughts as you recite your lines.

In other words, it’s not enough just to recite what happened. Instead, you need to go back there emotionally and relive it along with everything you were thinking at the time the story actually occurred. For example, listen to this quick segment of one of my older stories.


You heard this lady say to me, “Say some things!” Because I’m reliving that moment, I go back to what I was thinking when she said that, which was something like, “Now! Are you kidding?!” You don’t hear me say that but I actually think it each time that line of dialogue comes up and then, after thinking “Now? Are you kidding me?!” I say out loud, “And I was speechless.”

So let’s do something pretty neat. Click this next audio link  so you can listen to the lines again. However, this time I will add audio (in an echo) so you can hear what I’m thinking as I say these lines. Okay, click the link:

Great. Got it? So you relive your thoughts as you recite your lines.

Here’s another quick example. Listen first to the lines without my thoughts.


Okay, now listen to the lines again with my thoughts (in echo)


When you relive your thoughts, you never have to worry about gestures or facial expressions or energy because they will all come automatically. What you say to yourself will show on your face, in your eyes, and in your movements.

If you relive your thoughts while you recite your lines, you will connect with your audience because you will have reconnected with yourself and your story. At no time will you feel like you are memorizing. You will feel like you are living your speech.


Scenario #2 – When you have a poor start 

Years ago, if I had a poor start that didn’t seem to connect with my audience, my immediate thought was, “Uh oh, this is going to be a long night.” In other words, I didn’t feel like I would be able to turn that audience around and connect with them. But guess what? My internal dialogue acted as a self-fulfilling prophecy and that’s why I wouldn’t connect with those audiences. You can’t connect if you tell yourself you’re in for a long night.

Then, I’ll never forget one speech I had that didn’t start off as planned and, for some reason, my internal dialogue changed from “Uh oh, I’m in for a long night” to “They’ll connect with what’s coming up next.” Guess what happened? They did! My audience connected because, once again, my internal dialogue become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Since then, when I’ve had poor starts, I’ve always said, “They’ll connect with what’s coming next.” If they don’t connect to it, guess what I say then? “They’ll connect with what’s coming next.” Eventually they will connect and often end up connecting at an even deeper level than I have after good starts.

So never count yourself out after a poor start (or a piece elsewhere within your speech that doesn’t seem to connect), instead you can simply think, “They’ll connect with what’s coming up next” and chances are they will.


Scenario #3 – When they’ve seen you before

For years my most difficult speeches to prepare for have been for engagements where half the audience has seen me before and the other half has not. I’ve always wondered, “Shall I go with my best material even if some of them have seen it?” Usually what I did was to go half and half. About half of the material was new to all of them and half was material that some of them had seen.

But here’s where the problem came in. Whenever I went through the material that some of them had seen, I bailed on it! What does that mean? It means I didn’t fully commit to it because the whole time I was  thinking, “Some of them have already seen this” and that internal dialogue would throw me off. So I’d give it but half-heartedly and almost in an apologetic manner. What do you think happened when I presented in that way? Everybody lost, including me.

So here’s the highly scientific technique I learned to overcome this problem. Ready? It only takes two words to describe this method:

Screw it!

That’s right, I said “Screw it.” What I mean is that you have to think, “So what if they’ve seen it before? What’s wrong with seeing it again?” After all, here’s the secret to giving material that some of them might have seen before:

They are now seeing it from a different place in life.

Have you ever re-read a book and received a new perspective? It’s the same with speaking. They might have heard some of your material before but now they are in a different place and experiencing your message from a new perspective. That’s valuable. Very valuable. 

The key is to commit to it 100% without apologies. Now my internal dialogue is, “Here’s a message that can help you improve your life” and I don’t care if they’ve heard it before.

Here’s an e-mail I just received the other day to prove this point:

I have not felt this emotional connection with you as a speaker in all the times I have heard you speak as I did with you when you delivered this keynote.  I left the building feeling like you had just spoken to me, no one else just me.  I have heard those stories before, some of them several times; but on Sunday you brought the life back into them, so amazing I came to tears, tears of connectedness, of hope

Sarah Hilton, Certified World Class Speaking Coach


Sarah had seen me speak many times but, because of my commitment to the material, she felt it more than ever. When you commit to it in your mind, they will connect to it in their hearts.


Your Turn

What, if anything, do you say to yourself while you’re speaking that helps you connect with your audience? What, if anything, have you said that kept you from connecting? Feel free to share. 


Final Thoughts

What you think when you speak determines whether or not your audience connects with you and your message. Change your mind and you will change your results.


5 Responses to “How the Inner Game of Public Speaking can Make or Break your Speech (3 Scenarios and Solutions)”

  • Margot Cassel Don:

    Dear Craig,
    I Love getting your mails and info.
    When I heard you speak in the Drakensberg RSA, in October 2017, I felt totally connected to you and your material.
    You innately just love people and so do I. NO OPTION. That in itself is uplifting.


    When is your next Trainers Course starting.
    Please send me information and Costs.

    Warm Regards,
    Margot Don

  • Dear Craig,
    Thank you for sharing these golden nuggets. This has been a challenge for me at times when I speak, but now, I know how to master this aspect if I feel my stories have been heard before by a part of the audience. I used to say some of you might have heard this before, but not anymore. I learned how to overcome that after reading your valuable lessons given here. Thank you Craig.
    Hope we meet again, in the near future. Thank you, my mentor.


  • Thank you for the three excellent suggestions, Craig.

    Connecting with my regular concert audiences is especially important when they’ve heard before some of my stories with music. I usually think, “Maybe they have forgotten this one.” Pianists Liberace and Roger Williams always told familiar stories over and over again and I never tired of hearing them. Just being there in the audience was thrilling enough for me.

    Also, at the beginning of a show whenever I get the feeling “this is a tough audience,” I always bring on the big smiles. 🙂 It always helps me to connect with them. It keeps me in a fun and happy frame of mind and then the connection will happen.

    Again, thank you for all you do and for being my mentor.

  • Hey, Craig! We connected at the District 63 Toastmasters conference last fall in Nashville (I think–all the hotels look alike). To your third point: I can’t remember who pointed this out to me to give proper credit, but they said your stories/material can be like people listening to their favorite bands. You may want to hear new songs from them, sure, but if ZZ Top gives a concert without playing La Grange or Sharp-Dressed Man or Legs, you feel cheated. When you start on one of those familiar stories, the person who has heard it will elbow the noob next to him and say, “You’re gonna love this.” Great insights in this article, and I appreciate it!

  • And with this post you’ve spoken to me individually. I’ve definitely gone through all these.

    Thanks so much.

    Hope to someday see you live.

    Cheers from Spain.

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My Favorite Secret to Quickly Influence Your Audience and Get More Speaking Engagements

Selling the results in Australia

Whether you want to get more speaking engagements, be way more successful every time you’re on stage, or simply have much more influence in business and in life, the following lesson is for you.

It will help you create the life, speech, and income that you want. Ready? Dive in. Take a look at the following video lesson. 




To make sure I am speaking in terms of “results,” I use the following 3-step process:

Step 1: Figure out the feature I want my audience to have or the action I want them to take. For example, I want them to opt-in to site. 


Step 2: Translate the feature ( site) into a result. I do this by using the phrase “…so that you can.” For example, I would say to myself (NOT to them), “Register for 52 Speaking tips so that you can…be 3 times better than the speaker you are today.” The “so that you can…” line generates the result because whatever follows that statement will be a result (i.e. 3 times better).


Step 3: Flip the result to put it before the resource. For example, now that I have the result (3 times better), I mention that first. I say, “Raise your hand if, a year from now, you’d like to be 3 times better than the speaker you are today.” After I mention that result, I bring up the feature, which, in this case, happens to be the 52 Speaking tips site. Just remember to state the results first. 



Step 1: What’s one action you’d like your audience to take?

Step 2: Give one reason (result) why they should take that action. Remember, here’s where you can use “…so that you can…” in order to hone in on the result. This step is just the inner work you do so you will know exactly how to approach your audience about the action you want them to take.

Step 3: Flip it around and put the result before the resource. What would your sentence(s) look like now?


Your Turn Again

Give one results-based reason why someone should hire you to speak? 





2 Responses to “My Favorite Secret to Quickly Influence Your Audience and Get More Speaking Engagements”

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The Most Important Delivery Tool for Speakers to Connect Deeper than Ever Before

The best way to connect with your audience is to have each person feel like you’re speaking directly to him or her. You can use the following tool to make a deeper connection with your audience than you have ever felt before. Click the video for the tool that changed my speaking life and can change yours too. 



Welcome back. 


Use the Hallway Test so that you speak to one and look to all. Doing so will give you a greater and deeper connection with your audience. 

Your Turn

Have you been speaking to one and looking to all? Be honest. Let’s practice it. Take one sentence from your speech where you have been speaking to everyone and rephrase it so that you’re speaking to one. 

Oh, by the way, it’s important to write this way as well, whether online or off. 

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Do NOT Forget to Step Out to Bring Your Audience In (a Lesson in Dialogue)

Stepping out to bring them in

Stepping out to bring them in

If you follow me at all, you know I believe that dialogue is the heart of your story and therefore the heart of your speech. It breathes life into your speech because…

  1. It automatically brings the audience into the present moment of your scene
  2. It lets your audience members hear what you heard and see what you saw
  3. It essentially allows your characters to speak directly to your audience members and give them a valuable message

Can there be too much dialogue?

Can there be too much dialogue? Yes, especially if it all happens at one time. For example, when two characters go back and forth in conversation too many times, that can be boring for your audience.

Therefore, if your characters have a lot to say to each other, I recommend the following two ideas in order to keep your audience engaged.

  • Condense to connect. In other words, cut down on all of what was said and only leave in the most important lines. I believe if you go back and forth between characters more than 3-4 times, you’ll likely start to lose your audience.
  • Step out. For example, let’s say your characters are going to go back and forth 4 times in their conversation with each other. Well, after the first couple of back and forth lines of dialogue, step out of your scene and talk to the audience for a bit. This breaks up the dialogue, brings the audience in, and intrigues the audience because they want to know what is going to happen in the rest of the story.

Take a look at the following 2-minute story I told in South Africa. Instead of going back and forth and back and forth and back and forth in my conversation with my seatmate, I go back and forth a couple of times and then step out and talk to the audience before stepping back into the scene to finish the story.


Welcome back. Did you see how stepping out of the scene to break up the back and forth dialogue kept my audience engaged? We even uncovered a few laughs. The key is the make sure you remember to step back into your scene to finish it.

The Process

The process is quite simple. If you find yourself going back forth more than 2-3 times with lines of dialogue, try stepping out before you continue the rest of the story. Think about what question you might ask your audience that’s relevant to the story or to their own experiences. Then step back in and finish the dialogue and the story.

Your Turn

Have you used a step-out moment? Where in your story can you use one?

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Connect with Your Audience in the first 30 Seconds (4 Ways)

One of the absolute best ways to connect with your audience at the beginning of your speech is with what I call a Customized Callback. Take a look at this video lesson to see 4 ways you can use this tool:

Your Turn:

What customized callback have you used in a speech?





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3 Sacrifices that will Strengthen Every Speech You Give

Coming soon! My All-Access Speaking Academy

Coming soon! My All-Access Speaking Academy

My mother was an English teacher. My wife is an English teacher. Therefore, I try my best to be grammatically correct. However, in public speaking, I do not believe you must use good grammar at all times. There are times when I sacrifice correct grammar for something that is more important when I am speaking. What is that?


That’s right. To me, rhythm trumps grammar much of the time. The following are three sacrifices I suggest you make in order to take your speaking way past where most speakers will go.


#1 – Sacrifice your grammar for your Rhythm

Listen to the following segment in one of my speeches:

What’s wrong with that line? Well, I said, “When we make excuses for someone, we invite them never to change.” That’s grammatically incorrect. Instead, I should have said the following:

“When we make excuses for someone, we invite him or her never to change.” This is because I am speaking about one person (i.e. .someone) instead of multiple people.

However, if I say it in a grammatically correct way, do you see how it messes up my rhythm? That’s why I choose to use “them” instead of using the phrase “him or her.” Grammatically it is wrong but rhythmically it is right.


#2 – Sacrifice your grammar for your Characters

The other time I sacrifice grammar in speaking is when I use character dialogue. Not all of our characters use correct grammar when they speak. Remember, in speaking, you should say it how you heard it. For example, if one of your characters says, “He ain’t no good for you,” then you should say it how he said it. Changing it to “He is not any good for you” alters the truth and the flavor of that character and tears away the story’s integrity.  Keep your characters true to who THEY are.

If a character in your story used slang, then use slang. If the character spoke in broken English, then speak in broken English. If a character never finished her sentences, don’t finish her sentences. Be true to your characters even if you have to occasionally sacrifice grammar. Keep in mind that you can get away with grammatically incorrect phrases inside of your story that you probably cannot get away with outside of your story when you are having a conversation with your audience.


#3 – Sacrifice your writing for your Speaking

I strongly suggest that you speak like you talk. If you are using words in your speeches that you don’t normally use when you talk, you aren’t being the real you on stage. Speak like you talk, not like you write.

I witness so many speakers saying lines like, “She replied, ‘I am going out for a run.’” What?! Do you really talk that way (i.e. saying “She replied”) in real life? Most people just say, “She said, ‘I’m going out for a run.” Too many speakers speak like they write instead of speaking like they talk.

Put the Narration First

Here’s a surefire way to know a speaker is speaking like he writes rather than like he talks. He puts the narration at the end of the line of dialogue. For example, he says something like the following

“If you don’t give up that habit, you will die,” I said.

I suggest that you do not put the narration (i.e. I said) at the end of the line of dialogue. That’s what people do in writing. When you speak like you talk, you put the narration in front like this:

I said, “If you don’t give up that habit, you will die.”

Putting the narration first is important because it empowers you to keep the most important word at the end of the sentence. For example, what’s the most important word of that dialogue? It’s “die,” not “said.” So put the narration first and set up the dialogue to have the most impact.

Speaking like you talk will help you refrain from delivering a spoken article.


One Final Suggestion:

Writing is very important in business, speaking, and in life. After all, if I didn’t write, you would not be reading this. However, it’s important to speak like you talk and not like you write. Speak your way into speaking. How? Write down an idea and start speaking extemporaneously about it. You will start to turn a mess into a message. After all, if you split up the words MESSAGE, you will just find a MESS with AGE. You have a mess that, over time, turns into a message.

Once you speak your way into that message, you can record it, have it transcribed (I use and then review it. This works well because you can then make tweaks to the page that will end up on stage. However, it will sound natural and not written.


Your Turn

When, if ever, do you sacrifice grammar in your speeches?



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Want a Stronger Speech? Get the Analogy Advantage

Using an analogy at the University of Pittsburgh

Using an analogy at the University of Pittsburgh

Analogies can take your speeches to fantastic heights. One of the best ways to get someone to know something new is to relate the unknown to the known. In other words, relate the unknown to something he or she already knows. 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.”

Remember: Analogies help people relate what they do not know to what they know.

 See if you can pick up the analogy in this story that I began relaying to my audiences recently.


My Analogy

In the case of the story in the video, my analogy involved the similarity of lifting up someone’s life to riding up with them in an elevator. I could have easily taken that analogy further by turning it into a phrase such as “Elevate lives” or even a brand such as “The Lifter.” After all, in some countries, the elevator is referred to as the lift. However, even without extending the analogy too much, the elevator itself helps make the story stick.

Why is an analogy important?

 Analogies are so important because of the following scenario that occurs regularly with me. There’s an analogy I use about how when a crab tries to crawl out of the barrel, the other crabs claw at it and try to bring it back down. This analogy is as old as crabs themselves but I wrapped my own story around it. We relate the crabs in a barrel to negative people pulling us down.

Someone often approaches me and says, “Craig, I saw you speak about a year ago and you talked about the crabs in a barrel. I have not been able to get that speech out of my head. In fact, something happened to me recently and I remembered you said, ‘Stay away from the crabs in a barrel. You also said that you can never stay fired up when everyone around you is burned out.’ Man, it really helped me get through that situation.”

Note: By the way, the fire piece is an analogy too. Usually I try not to mix analogies but every now and then it’s effective.

The point here is that whether it is a year ago or two years ago, people remember your message more clearly if you provide an analogy. They can SEE the crabs in the barrel holding each other down and so that makes it more urgent for them to steer clear of those types of people.

Remember: Analogies help people remember your stories and points and gain a greater understanding of your message.

 Other examples of effective analogies

I’ve heard speakers relate…

  • 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 symphony to racial harmony
  • Opening holiday presents to using your gifts
  • Living life like a track race that never goes beyond “Take your marks, get-set….
  • A telephone call to your life’s calling
  • A train coming to your purpose in life

 Using the appropriate analogies will help you connect on a deep level and empower your audience to grasp your content much quicker.

 How do you develop analogies for your point?

Simply keep asking yourself, “What is this similar to?” “What is that like?” Do this on a daily basis and in no time at all you will have a habit of finding analogies. You do not have to carry the analogy out too far but just far enough to see some similarities between two different entities.

Go back to Webster’s definition of “similarities in some ways” and understand that, through training your mind to see similarities, you will be able to find them. Again, keep asking, “What is that like?” “What is this similar to?”

Your Turn

What analogies do you currently use in your speeches? Do you wrap a story around the analogy?

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The Back to Back Storytelling Method for Influencing Your Next Audience

Using two stories back to back is often a very effective way to influence your audience, especially if one story represents a “don’t” and the other story represents a “do.” Why? It’s because the contrast in the stories helps to make the “right way” decision clear. In this video (from all the way back in 2010), I use two stories back-to-back to make one clear point. Check it out and then we’ll debrief.



Which person do you want to be more like, my speaking hero or Martin Sheen? Sheen offered the right way and my speaking hero offered the wrong way at least in my opinion. Contrast is an extremely important and influential part of public speaking. You can use the Back to Back Story Method to contrast…

  • right and wrong
  • good and bad
  • effective and ineffective
  • how to build or how to break
  • and much more. There’s really no limit to what you can contrast.

Customer Service Example

Let’s say you’re doing a speech on customer service. Think of an experience where you, as the customer, were treated poorly. Now think of an experience where you, as the customer, had someone go beyond the call of duty to help you. If you tell those two stories back to back, the bad will look even worse and the good will look even better because they’re right next to each other.


The Verbal Picture

I liken the Back to Back Story Method to taking a picture. In one of my speaking bootcamps, I once had a student (a former NBA All-Star) who stood 7 feet 4 inches tall. In that same bootcamp, one of my students (a university professor) barely reached the 5 feet mark. When we took a picture and they stood next to each other, I could barely capture them in the same shot. The contrast made the tall person look taller and the short person look shorter. Of course there’s no good and bad with height but I’m just saying that the contrast was clearer when they stood side by side.


Back to the Back to Back Story Method

That’s the strength of the Back to Back Story Method. Because your stories are essentially standing side by side, they make the contrast clear and help your audience more easily choose what to do and what not to do (or how to be or how not to be). Hopefully people will see my story and follow their own Sheen Factor.

I was also a Production Assistant on Forrest Gump in 1994. Here I am in wardrobe for the scenes we shot in Washington, DC. That's NOT my hair!

I was also a Production Assistant on Forrest Gump in 1994. Here I am in wardrobe for the scenes we shot in Washington, DC. That’s NOT my hair!

Your Turn

Do you currently tell two stories back to back that use contrast as a tool of influence? If so, what are you comparing and contrasting?

If you aren’t currently using this method, do you have two stories you can tell back to back to make a point? What would that point be?


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3 Speaking Tools to Avoid Being Worthless to Your Audience

Speaking to the students at Meiji University in Tokyo, Japan

Speaking to the students at Meiji University in Tokyo, Japan


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

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


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


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

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

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


Audience Connection Tool (ACT) Number 1:

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

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


Audience Connection Tool (ACT) Number 2

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

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

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


Audience Connection Tool (ACT) Number 3

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

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

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

Final thoughts

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

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


Your Turn

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





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

One of my stars!

One of my stars!

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

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

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


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


Way #1: Tell His/Her Story

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

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

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


Way #2: Give one audience member dialogue

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Final Thoughts on making your audience members the stars 

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

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


Your Turn

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

Having fun with my audience in South Africa



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

  • Joyce Teal:

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

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

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

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