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2 Characters That Make Your Stories And Speeches More Captivating

CrescendoPicIn our new Teleseminar entitled Storytelling: From Lackluster to Blockbuster (available on August 18th), Michael Hauge and I discussed 4 types of characters that can save your stories and make them MUCH more interesting.

In the following excerpt, you’ll hear about two of these characters and get a quick idea of the ways they can propel your stories to new heights. Once you listen to the 3-minute clip, feel free to reply to any or all of the questions below.



Questions About These Valuable Characters

Why do you think you shouldn’t be the Guru of your own story most of the time? There are exceptions of course.


When do you think it IS a GOOD time to be the Guru of your own story?


What are at least 2 ways the Reflection Character helps bring your story to life?


Even though you only heard a short part of our conversation about the Nemesis, how do you feel the Nemesis can make your story more intriguing?


Are you ready for August 18th?

Available on August 18th at a huge discount for the first 100 people.

Available on August 18th at a huge discount for the first 100 people.

On Tuesday August 18th, you’ll be able to pick up more than 35 storytelling tools, ideas, principles, and strategies that can make you a spellbinding storyteller whose message sticks. On that date, you’ll be able to access and download the Storytelling: From Lackluster to Blockbuster teleseminar replay (1 hour and 43 minutes long) that will likely change the way you see your stories and your speeches moving forward.

Note: I was going to wait until later this fall to release this teleseminar, but, when I went back and listened to it, I realized this content is too valuable to sit on and I felt compelled to release it sooner.

7 Responses to “2 Characters That Make Your Stories And Speeches More Captivating”

  • Harry Hobbs:

    Thanks as always Craig. As I’ve said when I’ve posted here before the crossover between speakng and writing is amazing. As a novelist you’ve caused me to reflect on my in progress book to see that I have both the reflective and guru character and these reflections are essential as I move towards polishing my work. Also very useful as I develop Toastmasters speeches.

  • Larry Schuster:

    Hi Craig,

    Thanks a lot for your detailed answer. That helps. Anyhow, I’d like to be one of the first 25 people to get the tele seminar. In fact, in Shanghai, China, it’s been August 18 all day. So I’ve been ready all day! Hope it becomes available before i go to sleep!


  • Can’t wait to hear the telesemiar … I am continually trying grow into a better speaker thanks you Craig

  • Larry Schuster:

    Hi Craig,

    Really appreciated the additional insight about the value of these two characters. Looking forward to learning about the other two character types.

    You asked the question about why the speaker should almost never be the guru of their own story. As you explained and we discussed in another of your platforms, speaker wants to appear similar to the audience. It’s the process that is special.

    So I feel stumped on trying to identify an exception. The only possibility might be when someone (David) overcomes amazing odds to beat their nemesis (Goliath), and there really wasn’t an external guru. But in that case, the speaker would have to carefully demonstrate how the speaker is still not special, and perhaps the audience members are likely to have even more advantages than the speaker did. And the audience can take each of the same steps as the speaker to achieve their version of success.

    Would that be the exception you are thinking of? Otherwise, I would love to know the exception you had in mind.

    Can you give us a hint?

    Meanwhile, looking forward to August 18 for the teleseminar replay.

    Thanks again for yet another fresh look at these very common public speaking challenges!


    • Craig Valentine:

      Hi Larry! You can be the guru of your story if you’re not the hero of the story. There’s a big difference between the guru and the hero and I can spell it all out here but I think it will be much clearer on the teleseminar. However, here’s an example. You could tell a story about how you helped a client become a better presenter. The client would be the hero and you’d be the guru that gives the client advice (or a process). That way it’s not you giving yourself advice and then succeeding with it. Instead, it’s you giving the hero advice so he or she can succeed. In the teleseminar, I suggest telling quick back-to-back stories about how you learned the advice and then how you gave it. That way you’d continue to remain similar and not special. It will be much clearer on the teleseminar. Thanks Larry.

  • Gary Bisaga:

    Craig, I cannot wait for this to become available. As you know, I have learned so much from you on the art of storytelling, and having Michael’s talents and knowledge added to yours is just amazing. I’m looking forward to having it be available!

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3 Storytelling Keys No Speaker Can Afford to Miss

A couple of weeks ago I recorded a storytelling Teleseminar with Michael Hauge, a highly-successful Hollywood Script Consultant and Story Expert. I expected to learn a few good tips but ended up being blown away by his content. My stories (and your stories when you heed his advice) will never be the same again. They’ll be much improved and make even more of an impact.

3 Quick Keys

Below are 3 very quick storytelling excerpts from the Teleseminar. I strongly suggest that you participate in this post. How? Listen to each audio and then answer the questions I have underneath. You can answer them just for yourself or post your answers in the comments section. Either way, your stories will thank you.

Oh, and this is just the very tip of the iceberg of the teleseminar (which includes more than 25 solid and sometimes rarely used storytelling tips) that will be available in early August.

Coming in mid-August!!!

Coming in mid-August!!!


Audio #1

This first audio is simply what Michael describes as THE primary objective of storytelling

Questions – what story elements do you believe help you meet the primary objective of storytelling that Michael mentioned? Which element(s) do you feel you do well? What do you think you could do better to achieve this primary objective?


 Audio #2

This next clip provides a fantastic piece of advice for describing your characters and making them real for your audience.

Question – What’s one example of a character in one of your stories that you can describe using Michael’s advice?


Audio #3

This final clip includes one key (one of dozens) that will help your story achieve the primary objective of storytelling mentioned in the first audio clip of this post.

Question – When does the EXACT moment of conflict happen in your story?


I look forward to hearing from you!

9 Responses to “3 Storytelling Keys No Speaker Can Afford to Miss”

  • Harry Hobbs:

    I am a writer as well aa a speaker and what you say is relevant to crafting short stories or novels as much as it is to writing a speech. Thanks for the refresher Craig, in any craft reminders help to fortify the skills inherit to that craft.

  • Linda:

    Greetings thank you for all the wonderful and valuable tips.
    Much appreciated.
    Please use the above email address.

    Linda Lourens

  • Wole:

    3 Valuable tips. I never really considered what my characters are wearing as part of their description. clothing has always been an add on to the description for me. But that has changed today after listening to Michael Hauge. Thats a big take away for me.
    As you’ve always taught Craig, conflict is key, introduce it early and then escalate it.

  • Dave:

    Excellent tips, easily implementable for a huge impact. I have already begun to use a tip from Michael’s blog to put some of the backstory details into character dialogue. This has helped me cut down on the blah, blah, blah narration and get right into the conflict. Looking forward to the full teleseminar.

  • A great combination: Michael Hauge and Craig Valentine. I’ve taken many of Michael’s workshops over the years and his simple and straight-forward approach to story resonates with me. And your approach to speaking, known or unknown, has always been in a similar Hollywood script format: clear and concise. I look forward to your future presentations now that you’ve gleaned some additional fine-tuning tips from Michael.

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40 Phrases to Guide You to Greatness in Speaking

Ready to let these phrases guide me while onstage in Elko, Nevada

Ready to let these phrases guide me while onstage in Elko, Nevada

Five years ago I sent out 25 phrases to guide you to greatness in speaking. Today, you get 40.

I strongly suggest that you keep these phrases where you can see them, because internalizing them can dramatically and automatically drive you to greatness in speaking. If you’re very serious about speaking, discuss the list with other speakers. This reflection exercise can lead to lots of breakthroughs in your speaking.

Note: Most of the phrases are mine but I’ve included a few guests phrase-makers as well.



  1. “Let your long road lead to their shortcut.”
  2. “You can’t rush and resonate.”
  3. “Don’t add humor; uncover it.”
  4. “Speak to one but look to all.”
  5. “Tease them before you tell them.”
  6. “Stories must be true but they don’t have to be factual.” Michael Hauge
  7. “Speak like you talk, not like you write.”
  8. “Put the process, not the person, on a pedestal.”
  9.  “When you lift yourself up, you let your audience down.”
  10. “Condense to connect.”
  11. “Come across as similar, not special.”
  12. “The phrase determines what stays.”
  13. “When you squeeze your information in, you squeeze your audience out.” Old speaker proverb
  14. “No phrase, no stage”
  15. “What’s loose is lost”
  16.  “If you take us through the problem, then take us through the payoff.”
  17. “Conflict is the hook and dialogue is the heart”
  18.  “Let your story become their story”
  19. “What you pick up in the Cure (the Cure scene), you hand them out the door”
  20. “Don’t tell; ask”
  21. “Sell the belief before the relief.”
  22. “The more specific and visible the goal, the stronger the story.” Michael Hauge
  23. “Don’t be the Guru of your own story.”
  24. “Don’t create a message without first creating a mess.”
  25. “What gets recorded gets rewarded.”
  26. “Too many speakers try to get across too much information in too little time.”
  27. “Never sell a product, always sell the result.”
  28. “Put the result before the resource (or request).”
  29.  “Never close your speech with the Q & A.”
  30. “Show it before you say it.”
  31. “People buy into what they help create.”
  32. “Give a hint and let your audience fill in the rest.”
  33. “It’s the look before and after the line that makes the line.”
  34. “Don’t just establish conflict, escalate it.”
  35. “Reactions tell the story.” Darren LaCroix
  36. “The bigger the obstacles, the more emotional your story.” Michael Hauge
  37. “Don’t tell us, take us.” Mark Brown
  38. “Don’t speak for standing ovations, speak for standing invitations.”
  39. “Check the VAKS.”
  40. “People remember best what they hear first and last.”


Bonus phrase (from my son Ace): “When the chips are down…eat them!”



I’d love to hear from you to see what are some of the phrases that guide you in speaking? Feel free to share some of your own phrases too!






17 Responses to “40 Phrases to Guide You to Greatness in Speaking”

  • Alex:

    This is an awesome list of treasure.
    Thank you Craig.

    “Don’t bite before you buy”

  • Mary Lynn McPherson:

    Okay – I’ll ask… what are VAKS?
    Craig – thank you for sharing this thought-full and insight-full list.

    • Craig Valentine:

      Mary Lynn, VAKS stands for Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, and Smell. You want to include something your audience can see, hear, feel, and smell when you set your scenes. You don’t want to force any of them in, but even 3 out of 4 will do.

  • “Paint a Picture.”
    A speech creates a picture with its words. Like a picture, a great speech speaks volumes, evokes emotion and has the ability to create lasting memories. Craig, your information is always helpful. Thank you for sharing.

  • Bob Neaves:

    “Time is a long time coming, but it’s gone in a flash!”

    Regards to all
    Bob Neaves

  • Matt McCarty:

    One of my foundational phrases is: “Learning is the key to Longevity.”
    So if you haven’t updated your speech in a while, it may be time to give it a facelift.

  • Eric Outler:

    Never try to “tell someone else’s story” or experience.
    It will not be percieved as authentic.



    • Craig Valentine:

      Thank you Eric. I experienced that myself when another speaker was telling my story pretty much word for word. Even though he told it in countries outside of mine (USA), people in his audience knew the story was mine and so he lost all credibility with them.

  • These are great! Thanks for sharing, Craig. I especially like “You can’t rush and resonate.” So true!

    There’s such power in phrases like those, because they’re so “sticky” and shareable.

    You’ve inspired me to put together a list of my own. So here’s a start:
    “Simple is hard.”
    “Wisdom’s like money: You can’t take it with you when you die.”
    “You probably think your talk’s about your topic, right? Well you’re wrong! Your talk’s about your audience.” (after Carl Kwan)
    “Don’t open your speech; open their minds!”

    • Craig Valentine:

      Thank you Craig! I love what you have listed here. The simple is hard is so true and the one about opening their minds is a great mindset for us to have when we walk onstage. Thanks again!

  • Great phrases! I’ll keep these in mind for sure. I use another…”Hook with Humility”

  • KC:

    Use vivid and descriptive words.

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What Are Two of the Most Persuasive Words in Speaking?

Speaking to CEOs and Executives in Sri Lanka

Speaking to CEOs and Executives in Sri Lanka

Average speakers get a good response, but exceptional speakers get their audiences to take action. Exceptional speakers help change lives long after they have finished speaking and that’s why they get rehired time and time again.

How do speakers become exceptional? They learn the tools that prompt their audience members to go beyond listening and to take action. Here is one of my favorite tools to help you do just that.



Persuasive Tool: “Most People”

Listen to the following 1-minute audio (from very early on in my speaking career) where you’ll hear two of the most persuasive words in speaking.



The two most important words you heard were “Most people.” You can use the term “most people” to get your audience to take action because of the following truth:


Most people do not want to be most people”


The words “most people” are extremely influential because, if used correctly, they immediately create a comparison between something the audience does not want to be (or have) to something they do want to be (or have). For example, once they get the message about “most people living on get set,” they immediately want to avoid being placed in that category. Then the key is to give them a way to avoid it.


Compare and Contrast

One of the greatest ways to get people to take action is to use the compare and contrast method in many different ways. For example, for years Zig Ziglar compared being a “wandering generality” to being a “meaningful specific.” Once we realize that most people are wandering generalities, we immediately desire to become a meaningful specific.

This worked so well for Zig Ziglar because it simultaneously moved us away from what we did not want to be (a wandering generality) and moved us towards what we did want to be (a meaningful specific). This method pushes and pulls you at the same time.

Look back at the first sentence of this post. What does it compare? It compares average speakers to exceptional speakers and then gives you a way to be exceptional.


Be a Bridge-builder

In speaking, you want to create a bridge between what the audience doesn’t want (to be average) and what they do want (to be exceptional) and then let them know the way to cross that bridge (i.e. 3 keys, 4 steps, 5 Cs, etc.). This is a wonderful way to set up your message because you’re heeding the following valuable speaker advice:


Tease them before you tell them”



Questions for you for your next speech

Here are a couple of questions you can ask yourself as you prepare to give your next speech. These can help you use the “most people” line to get them to take action.


What do MOST PEOPLE do that your audience should avoid doing?


What aren’t MOST PEOPLE doing that your audience should do?


You can also ask the same about how most people think or how most people are, etc.


NOTE: If you don’t feel comfortable saying, “Most people (because you haven’t conducted a scientific survey with slopes and standard deviations and percentages of failure, etc.),” you can say “Many people.” However, that will lose some of its power. Why? It’s because that sounds like something most people would say.





4 Responses to “What Are Two of the Most Persuasive Words in Speaking?”

  • Pete Kale:

    Craig, love your note at the end… “…because that sounds like something most people would say.” You really have a knack for the clever and insightful twist.

  • Great article! I started using these in speaking after hearing Les Brown do it and your article brings it home!

  • Thank you, Craig, for refreshing my memory about using the words “MOST PEOPLE” when giving a persuasive speech. I try to use the word “YOU” as well to directly include each person individually and not just the audience as a whole. This important tip of yours is one that “MOST PEOPLE” don’t follow… I hope to be a speaker that does! Thanks again.

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Speak to One and Look to All (a favorite secret to a deeper connection)

How would you like a tool to create a deeper connection with your audience than you’ve felt before? Take 6 minutes to listen to the following audio from one of my live workshops.

When you integrate this tool, no matter how many people are in your audience, each one of them will likely feel that you are speaking directly to him or her. Now THAT’S a connection!



The Hallway Test

Remember, if you can say it to one person in a hallway, you can take it up onstage. Just to spell it out for you (since you couldn’t SEE what we did with the activity), the key is to use your language so it sounds and feels like you are speaking to one person while you’re looking at everyone. So when Carlton asks, “Have you ever been to Baltimore,” he will be looking at the entire audience even though it will sound like he’s speaking to one person.


Note: This same concept applies to the stage and the page. For example, on this post, I wouldn’t write, “I want you all to go out and use this tool.” Instead, I’d say, “I want you to go out and use this tool.”


Your Turn

Feel free to reply to this post with how it feels to speak to one and look to all. I look forward to hearing from you. Oh, and don’t forget the “Look to all” part.


Featured Program of the Week

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7 Responses to “Speak to One and Look to All (a favorite secret to a deeper connection)”

  • James:

    Hello, Craig,

    That was awesome. I am learning to become an effective public speaker and was searching for such-its GOLD, and I will use that-Speak to one and look to all.

    Thanks Craig for that

  • Joe Schmitt:


    Thanks for the tips reminder. I need to listen to my Edges of There Seats again for a tune up.
    Whenever we are having a conversation about the pros, I do remember to tell them that you
    are the Champ!


  • Akash Karia:

    Hi Craig,

    Great article and audio material Craig.

    I subscribed to your “52 Speaking Tips Audio Coaching” audio series years ago and I took notes with each recording which I still refer to today.

    “Speak to One, and Look to All.” is an important yet often neglecting technique to creating a connection with each audience member.


  • Kal:

    Hey Craig,

    I just wanted to say great article and thank you for posting these online for people like myself to read. I have been receiving your emails now for a long time and have found all of them very helpful, this one especially is a great tip on how to engage with an audience and I can say I have definitely been guilty of the “how many” phrase in the past!
    Thanks again and keep up the good work :)!


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20 Ways to Ruin a Speech

This year's class starts on June 8th so register now at

This year’s class starts on June 8th so register now at

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.



I love connecting with my audience members!

I love connecting with my audience members!


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.










4 Responses to “20 Ways to Ruin a Speech”

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Want a Surefire Way to Make Your Speech Stick?

This year's class starts on June 8th so register now at

This year’s class starts on June 8th so register now at

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.


Other examples:

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:

  1. Take your main message and ask yourself, “What is this message similar to?”
  1. 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


  1. 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.







6 Responses to “Want a Surefire Way to Make Your Speech Stick?”

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A Fantastic but Seldom-used Way to Bring Your Audience to You

Me with several awesome Certified World Class Speaking Coaches. This year's course begins on June 8th so register now at

Me with several awesome Certified World Class Speaking Coaches. This year’s course begins on June 8th so register now at

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.


Final thoughts:

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…

5 Responses to “A Fantastic but Seldom-used Way to Bring Your Audience to You”

  • Deb Olejownik:


    I love this strategy, let them beat you to the punch, what a great way to…


  • Balaji Nagabhushan:

    Dear Craig,

    I follow your nuts and bolts tips regularly. This one is really good. I had heard a part of this when you were in India (I was there for your key note speech though I reside in Dubai). Great tips to keep audience involved throughout the presentation. Thank you.

    Balaji Nagabhushan, DTM

  • Ron:

    Very nice. I am impressed with the coaching content given out to all who can use it. I have utilized your suggestions and have improved my confidence to address an audience and am much more relaxed, which allows free flow of thought and delivery.



  • Dan Dubin:

    Craig, I’m competing in D28 District Speech contest tomorrow night. Since being in TM since 1973 (with several 2-3 yr absences to be with my kids), this is by far the most challenging and difficult speech I ever gave. And that says a lot having competed in many district contests. In short, it’s about nearly taking my own life after the woman of my dreams told me she didn’t love me anymore and asked me to leave on the night I proposed marriage to her. It concludes with a strong positive message on how to believe in yourself, Your thoughts here are both profound and timely for me. There are 2 key spots in the speech where I pause and let the audience go to where I want them to go before I say it. I hope that your words ring true for other TMs. It really works. Keep up the great work. I read all your emails but this one warranted a special thank you!! (We met several years ago in a D28 evaluation contest where you were the keynote speaker.) Dan

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17 Storytelling Ideas to Breathe Life Into Every Speech

With a few audience members after sharing stories in Australia

With a few audience members after sharing stories in Australia

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?





15 Responses to “17 Storytelling Ideas to Breathe Life Into Every Speech”

  • Thanks for all the tips Craig!

    I see from the photo that you were in Australia sometime. Do you have plans to return? I’m in Sydney and would love to come to one of your talks.

  • Pete Kale:

    Craig, among dozens of gems I’ve gotten from your courses I still think the foundational phrase ranks at the top. The simplicity of a memorable, pithy phrase to underscore your points has been the most valuable tip, in part because it helps to tie the ideas up into a neat package. But in part because so few speakers do it. So simple, yet so powerful. Thanks for all the great insights over the years!

  • Matt McCarty:

    Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. If you’re telling a story about how your brother wouln’t wake up when his alarm went off, make the sound of the alarm to show how obnoxious it was.

    • Craig Valentine:

      Thanks Matt. In that particular case, indeed, I would make the alarm sound as annoying as possible. Great idea.

  • When I tell a story, I sometimes include a line or two of my internal dialogue, sort of parenthetically or under my breath. The line might be funny or serious, but either way, it connects me to my audience and them to me.

    • Craig Valentine:

      That’s a great idea Gina. When you share your thoughts in inner dialogue, your audience can get very close to you. They get inside of your head and that’s a good thing.

  • Joe Schmitt:


    I’m cheating a little since i already own your Edges of There Seats program.
    I found #11, “foundation” phrase to be the most important of all to keep your speech development on track.
    I did a story about how a fire dept rescued my daughter and grandson who was prematurely born that night. It was about how they followed up after the episode (pretty amazing).
    After the story, the title, “Station 34”, also used as the ending was the foundation. Everyone knew who deserved heroic credit….

    And I have to say #12 is really important. I have seen too many very good speakers ruin the delivery by trying to adjust there voice to someone they are not.

    Thanks Craig

    • Craig Valentine:

      Thanks Joe. Wow, that looks like a very intense story you tell about your daughter and grandson. I hope everyone turned out okay. Thanks for your note!

  • Thank you for sharing such great concrete suggestions. I took notes! Don’t you find that when we know how engage the audience and generate their response, it really does become a genuine two way conversation? In my experience that does wonders for calming insecurity and stage fright and building freedom and confidence. AND, it’s more fun!

    • Craig Valentine:

      Hi Marti, thanks for your comment. Yes indeed I believe it does become a two-way conversation and that is my absolute favorite part about speaking. We can watch our watchers and listen to our listeners and really connect on a two-way street. The freedom and spontaneity this sparks is priceless.

  • My parents taught me so much and most audience members can relate to a story about elderly parents or grandparents. It is both a tribute to them and a way to pass their funny stories and wisdom on to an audience beyond family.

    • Craig Valentine:

      Thanks Hazel. I agree completely. When I was in my 20s, I spoke to a group that was in a Senior Citizen’s home. I told stories about what my grandparents taught me and the audience loved them.

  • Balaji Nagabhushan:

    Thank you so much for this article. It is wonderful. One of the tricks which I use while speaking to an audience is to see if I know someone in the audience personally. If there is someone, then narrate a small part of their experience to the audience. In this way, audience start feeling that I am speaking to them and for them.

    • Craig Valentine:

      Thanks Balaji for your suggestion. I love to use the audience members’ names when I speak as well. If I know a story about one of them, I might ask them ahead of time if I can share it. As long as it puts them in a positive light, it can be a great idea. Thanks!

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5 Rehearsal Rituals for a Remarkable Speech


Receiving the Arkansas Traveler award from the Arkansas Realtors Association in 2014 (I traveled so much I wrinkled my suit)

Receiving the Arkansas Traveler award from the Arkansas Realtors Association in 2014 (I traveled so much I wrinkled my suit)

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.


Your Turn

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.






16 Responses to “5 Rehearsal Rituals for a Remarkable Speech”

  • Jarno:

    Hi Craig,
    thank you for your great tips and insights. I really liked the recordings. You only mentioned briefly that it is better to record yourself on video than to speak into a mirror. Could you elaborate on how you use video? Do you fine tune all gestures and facial expressions based on video?

    Take care,

  • Sylvia Crew:

    Thank you Craig for your weekly inspirations!
    Recently I recorded a practice session. We are our worst critic! I found myself rocking back and forth, hands flying aimlessly and leaning against a wall with my hands in my pocket. However, in the “real” presentation which I also recorded all those “faux pas” gestures were eliminated!
    Craig you are amazing!

  • Ken:

    Craig, I fairly new to public speaking on the level your at. However, I was involved in sales in the real estate and mortgage business. I have joined toastmasters to enhance my speaking skill set. My question to you is? Should one use note cards when giving a speech at the toastmasters level?

  • Sue Amin:

    Thank you Craig!
    You are not only a gold mine of ideas but you have a way of explaining things that remains with your audience/readers. And, we appreciate that…
    We are grateful for the tips!
    I practice old fashion way!!…For me, writing my speech first roughly and then taking time to write it nicely before I begin my actual practice, helps me remember the points easily. I mentally visualize the three parts (Beginning, Body and Conclusion) and where it fell on that paper! The process of writing it out helps me not to internalize it but, also to think-through each sentence thoroughly. Then, I do a mental internalization of the entire speech with eyes closed, like your tip # 3 and finally I do verbal practice. I have never tried the video, but seem like a good idea and highly recommended. Perhaps next time!

    • Craig Valentine:

      Thank you Sue. That looks like a very effective sequence of rehearsal that you go through. Thanks for sharing!

  • Paul:

    Thanks Craig! This is great content, as always.

    One ritual I would add is to actually practice in front of someone. Other people have a way of picking up on the little idiosyncrasies that we tend to overlook as speakers. Thankfully my wife and I are in Toastmasters together so we can give each other very detailed feedback on our speech rehearsals, but any external feedback (from someone you trust) will be better than none. And of course, if you have a speech to give to the public, Toastmasters is the perfect place to rehearse!

    • Craig Valentine:

      Paul, that’s great advice. Thank you! The only way to find if something works is to test it out. Then you can test it and tweak it. Thanks again.

  • P.S. I evaluated a TEDx talk on body language, and would immensely value your thoughts, if you’d like to share them, and have a moment some time:

  • Thanks for sharing the pairs of recordings for comparison, Craig, and your process.

    To me, it was surprising how little variation there was between your recorded rehearsal and the live event. Nice!

    I really value the explanation about why not to practise in front of a mirror, too. That makes total sense, yet I’ve never heard it explained like that before.

    • Craig Valentine:

      Thanks Craig. I find that, when I visualize my audience during my rehearsal, I tend to deliver it in rehearsal pretty much the same way I do in front of my audience.

  • Steve Howard:

    Thank you so much for those tips, Craig. I was particularly interested in Ritual #1. Here’s what I do:
    * Stage 1: Rehearse paragraph by paragraph (or idea by idea) as if I was in front of the audience. Continue until I roughly know the entire presentation.
    * Stage 2: Rehearse the entire presentation as if I was in front of the audience.
    * Stage 3: Present in front of the mirror to identify and correct any annoying or incongruous movements.
    * Stage 4: Present the presentation with the imaginary audience in front of me, looking and doing as if I was on stage.
    It is interesting that you say avoid looking in the mirror. I agree that if this is the only rehearsal, it would be counter-productive, but I find that as a step in the entire process, it is useful to me because I have used the method to correct some annoying habits. I also review videos if they are available but I find that the mirror method gives me immediate feedback.
    I really did like Ritual #4. I have always strived for perfection in rehearsal but I can see exactly where you are coming from. If I do make a mistake on stage, however, I keep on going as if nothing untoward happened – unless the mistake was leaving out vital information.
    I really appreciate your weekly tips.

    • Craig Valentine:

      Thank you Steve for your process. What I like is that it’s the opposite of “winging it.” Too many speakers wing it and that’s not going to be effective. I also like that you start with paper but then you leave that as you continue to rehearse. Thanks for this helpful process.

  • my tip for rehearsing: i call the venue in advance and find out the orientation (north, south, east, west) of the podium. if i’m going to be facing west during the talk, i rehearse it facing west. this might sound new-age-y, but it really makes a difference. if i rehearse facing the opposite way, then when i get to the venue i feel all turned around inside. if i rehearse with the same orientation i’m going to use at the venue, there’s a visceral sense that “i’ve been here before!”which makes the talk flow more easily and feel more familiar.

    I follow all your suggestions and the audiences are always surprised, and then thrilled and excited. i love that feeling when the whole audience takes a breath in at the same time or the laugh lines build – and they come back for more and they request me at the conferences.
    i recommend your program to anyone who asks. i learned about you from my good friend who’s been in toastmasters for years.
    thank you, you have helped me so much. God bless you. J.J

    • Craig Valentine:

      Thank you Janice for your rehearsal process. I love the point about calling the venue in advance. It’s very important to understand the environment in which you will speak. Thanks!

  • Travis Dent:

    Hey Craig,

    Great tips! One thing that I do is turn up the television or stereo while I practice my speech. If I can deliver my speech with all that noise in the background, it prepares me to deal with distractions when I give my speech live.

    • Craig Valentine:

      Travis, that’s a great idea! I hadn’t thought about that. Now, if you can turn the to a cooking channel or something with forks, spoons, and knives constantly banging against plates, then that can prepare you for a lunchtime keynote! Seriously, thanks for the fantastic advice.

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