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Home > Presentations

Why a Speech is Not a Speech (continued)

Watch the Yawn-o-Meter

Audiences have heard it all, so you must stretch to keep them from scurrying for the exits. You’re not putting on a Broadway musical, but the audience members won’t find out what you can do for them if you don’t command their attention.


  • Avoid fact-intensive presentations. Business people tend to give audiences more statistics than they can absorb. Limit statistics to a few high-impact facts and figures that breathe life into your message.

  • Best practices are passé. Audiences want to hear about innovative approaches, cutting-edge ideas and techniques they haven’t tried, not the warmed over “best practices” of yesteryear. When explaining a new solution or idea, point out potential benefits and risks but encourage your audiences to think creatively.

  • Your speech is not a commercial. Sell your ideas and know-how, not your company. You can present one slide of your qualifications, but that’s it. Let the person who introduces you blow your horn. Audiences turn off as soon as you start advertising, so avoid it until the end of your speech.

  • It’s about value. Audiences appreciate hearing about tools, processes or systems that will help them solve their problems. Give them solutions that they can apply right away. Usable solutions should be a prominent feature of your presentations. Translate your knowledge and experience into understandable and actionable steps for your audience.

  • Once upon a Time So much has been written about including stories and humor in speeches that you’d think we’d all be master storytellers by now. Sadly, we are not. Yet stories are critical to connecting with your audience. Grady Jim Robinson, premier storyteller and author of Did I Ever Tell You about the Time, advises speakers to use personal stories that “contain just enough self-revelation that your audience will begin to feel comfortable with you, understand a bit of your past history, and sense where you are coming from.” If you can effectively weave a story and a little humor around your core message, it will resonate with audiences and stick with them.


Spread the Word

As the date for your speech gets close, publicize your appearance by alerting your clients, inviting peers, potential clients and the media. Request passes for your guests from the event sponsors. Highlight your speech on your Web site and in other publications.


Plan your schedule so you can spend time at the event itself, not just to deliver your speech but to take part in the event.

Attend as much of the event as you can, including receptions, dinners, exhibits and other presentations. Find out what issues concern attendees, your peers and the other speakers. Ask their opinions and discuss possible solutions. Listen and learn.

Plan to give your audience extras: survey results, white papers, recommended reading lists, how-to articles, and Web site addresses that are relevant to your topic. Don’t give attendees souvenirs or trinkets—give them something useful. Include your contact information, but don’t hold the materials hostage by requiring recipients to give you their business cards or other information to obtain them.


Stick Around

Many speakers leave events as soon as they’ve given their speeches. But in doing so, they lose valuable marketing opportunities. And, occasionally, a scheduled speaker cancels unexpectedly. If you’re still around, the sponsors might ask you to step in, which will win their gratitude and gain you more visibility.

After your presentation, answer any questions and swap contact information with attendees. Be generous with your time. If you don’t have the time or the information to answer a question, make arrangements to do so later.


Within two or three days after your speech, send handwritten notes to event planners and key members of the host organization thanking them for their hospitality and the opportunity to speak. Try to personalize each note.


Call the people who asked you to contact them regarding their business or to answer deferred questions. Strike quickly, while memories of the event are still fresh. Plan how to regularly keep in touch with both the attendees and those who hired you to speak.

Viewed as a marketing process instead of a one-hour session, public speaking can become a workhorse of your marketing program. And given that 75% of speakers hired today are industry experts, now is the time to add speaking to your marketing program. So, take advantage of the opportunity, but heed the speechmaking advice given by Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Be sincere; be brief; be seated.”


Jay Conrad Levinson and Michael W. McLaughlin are the authors of Guerrilla Marketing for Consultants. Jay is the chairman of Guerrilla Marketing International, a consulting firm serving large and small businesses worldwide and is the creator of the Guerrilla series, which is the best-selling marketing series ever published. Michael is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP, and has over twenty years of consulting experience with clients in businesses of every size, from small start-ups to some of the world’s highest-profile companies. He is also the editor of Management Consulting News. For more information, visit http://www.guerrillaconsulting.com.


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