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How to Give the Speech of Your Life

There are only two rules of public speaking: BE REAL and TELL A PERSONAL STORY. A personal story creates an instant bond and rapport with the audience. By starting out with a personal story, you’re opening up to the audience and connecting with them on an emotional level.

What’s nonnegotiable is that your presentation needs to start with a moment that helps you connect with your audience…The power of a story gets a lot of attention.

Michael Port, “Steal the Show”

At a convention, keynote speaker, Marcus Lemonis, told the story about his childhood as an adopted child in war-torn Lebanon, where he struggled with childhood obesity, depression and abuse. The story of Lemonis’s childhood struggles created an instant connection with his audience.

A Powerful Way to Engage Your Audience

Lemonis asked the audience to share something from their personal lives that they’ve never told anyone. One by one, members of the audience volunteered information that was nothing short of dumbfounding. A 30-something male told the audience that his mother told him that she wished he had never been born…when he was 9 years old. Tears were shed among many in the audience and they quickly bonded with this total stranger. While standing next to this man, Lemonis asked the audience, “Who would you rather do business with? This guy or some shyster pounding his chest and claiming that, “I’m the greatest”.

A speech should always be a dialogue, not a monologue—even if no one else is scheduled to speak.

Lisa Nichols, “Speak and Write to Make Millions

By asking members of the audience to share their own stories, you’re creating engagement. With this technique, members of the audience pick up the microphone and share intimate stories of their own failures and vulnerabilities. These stories may be more compelling than your own and you’re tapping into the collective wisdom of the group in a way that is poignant.

Reveal Your Worst Fears, Failures and Weaknesses

Revealing your weaknesses and failures creates a more intimate bond with your audience. By revealing your weaknesses and fears, you are giving your audience a gift: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You will fail, I have failed and we will continue to fail, but if we fight together long enough, miracles might just happen.

I learned the key to business is being vulnerable and creating a connection.

–Marcus Lemonis

In the book, “Shoe Dog”, Phil Knight, founder of Nike, tells the story of his many failures and mistakes.

Now I was in Chicago, saddled with debt, head of a teetering shore company, rolling out a new brand with shoddy workmanship and crooked swooshes…that night I wasn’t altogether sure I had the strength to drive home.

Phil Knight, “Shoe Dog

Knight’s company, Nike, was the verge of bankruptcy for its first 25 years. Through story after story of his failures and mistakes, you come to realize that Phil Knight is just like you and I and if he can run a multi-billion $ business, anything is possible.

Get to the Point FAST

When you speak publicly, there is one cardinal rule: you’ve got 5 seconds to capture your audience’s attention. And those precious 5 seconds can’t be wasted thanking your host or complimenting the other speakers—you’ve got to grab the audience’s attention by IMMEDIATELY getting into your story.

Use pauses—both long and short—to emphasize a point. When you get to the climax of your story, stop and pause for as long as you can. The pause captures the attention of your audience and they can’t wait for you to continue your story. For special emphasis, you can pause between each word: “You..Are…My…Heroes.”

The podium creates a barrier between you and your audience and screams, “I’m better than you”. Get off the podium, speak eye-to-eye with your audience and interact and engage with the audience. This will humanize you.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Act as if this is the most important speech of your life. Hold a run-through for people in your target audience and get their feedback.

Whenever you are in front of a group of people, your job is to inspire, be transparent and disrupt.

Lisa Nichols, “Speak and Write to Make Millions

Remember that you’re not talking to 200 or even 5 people—you’re never speaking to the room. You’re speaking to one person in 500 seats—because each person wants their breakthrough and inspiration. Give them the inspiration they came for with a personal story they will never forget.


photo credit: nist6dh lecture via photopin (license)

Leave a comment below telling me what surprised, inspired or taught you the most (I personally respond to every comment). And if you disagree with my take on running a personal injury law firm, or have a specific, actionable tip, I’d love to hear from you.