The Holy Grail for speakers

So what if we were asked to define the Holy Grail for speakers?

What would you say?

This has me intrigued now.

So the Holy Grail is a feeling?

What is that feeling?

For me, then,

the feeling is natural

not forced,

confident without being egotistical,

though sometimes a performance.

It is uplifting,

a quiet satisfaction sometimes,

sometimes exhilarating.

It is absolute connection,

shared laughs, emotional highs, and sad lows,

sudden understanding

and joy in discovery,

all shared.

That is me, the speaker, but what about the listener,

the audience member,

what does that person see as the Holy Grail of speaking,

of being in an audience?

What does that feel like?

And I, like you, have sat in an audience, just as we have stood or sat or walked as the speaker.

What is that feeling, as an audience?

We wanted to feel that connection

that experience,

those emotions,

the energy,

those shared learnings,

that absolute connection.

Sometimes we wanted to be the only person in that audience, alone in the experience,

at other times we felt kinship with all the others sitting or standing or online beside us.

We wanted to trust,

for the feeling of communication to be natural,


We wanted to feel somehow changed by the experience,

more prepared to face our challenges,

validated in our choices already made,

motivated to go ahead,

uplifted, entertained, bemused,

if only for the duration of the presentation.

Is this the holy grail of speaking,

and does it exist,

has it ever existed???????

Public Speaking – a mountain without a peak


I don’t like it.

I like Florien Mueck.

If you can get to his YouTube channel, do, he’s worth watching.

But I wish he hadn’t said that, or hadn’t been quoted as saying that.

Starting with a negative.

No, there is no perfection.

I live in a household of sporting people, and the shelves are lined with trophies. In any sporting competition, there are distinct winners and losers. A swimming race, say, takes a measured amount of time and the fastest wins. Simple and cut-and-dried (usually!)

A speech on the other hand … well! I have won many speaking competitions since about the age of 12. I have lost just as many. People come to me afterwards and tell me they thought I won. Sometimes I agreed, sometimes not. Despite the number of very well articulated criteria, there will always be that element of subjectivity involved. I know. I also judge!

So if there is no cut-and-dried “best” speaker, how can there ever be a “perfect” speaker, or a perfect speech?

Perfect according to whom? Perfect according to what criteria?

What if, on the other hand, we went to the second part of this quote and look at a speaking high.

What does that look like? What does that feel like?

To me, it feels like being in flow

– speaking fluently and with enthusiasm

– connecting with members of the audience so that they respond with emotion, or they participate

– it can feel powerful

– it can feel gratifying

– it can feel something close to perfection

And if we looked at the audience members after the speech, they would be doing what we, as speakers, aimed to have them do – repeating, remembering, rehiring, buying, changing, being motivated, or any number of other things we had designed.

It’s what keeps me speaking, meeting the challenge to be the best I can be, to climb higher and higher towards

no, not a mountain top,

not a peak

not perfection even, whatever that may be,

but certainly to more highs and greater heights.

And of course the corollary is that we all need to avoid becoming complacent, thinking that there is no better in us, no better experience we an provide, no need to strive or create anything new or better.

So, yes, Florian, I agree with you, and the quote stirred me to do that!!

And it’s what I want for all of us here – you, Florian, me and all of our fellow speakers and readers.

[Quick Public Speaking Tip] One of the Secret Ingredients that Create Memorability


Memorability is important for us speakers, as it is for anyone building a brand, creating change, inspiring action, or wanting to be rehired.  

If you want your audience to remember your message, there are several wonderful ingredients you can add to the mix.

Today let’s look at this one

… create an emotional connection. 

Maya Angelou is quoted as saying   “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

When you make an emotional connection, you open up the pathways in your audience’s brains that facilitate recall.  Whatever you associate with that emotion will be retained along with the emotion, in their memories. 

If you want to introduce a new way of thinking or doing for your audience to adopt, create an emotional connection.  Having already researched your audience, you should have some idea of what excites them, what they cry about, what their problems are.  And you can use that information to connect to their emotions.  Use examples that will push those buttons, appeal to what matters to them most. 

Tell stories that create an emotion.

Use words that heighten emotion. 

Use emotive verbs.  Rather than “she said” use “she screamed”, rather than “he went” use “he raced”.  Give your adjectives and adverbs the same treatment. 

You can watch your audience as you go, and get a feel for what moves them.

It is also a fact that while statistics and logic and facts and figures are useful in supporting a point, they will not have the power over your audience that emotion does.  People will make decisions (and give you their attention) based on emotions … and justify them afterwards with logic.

So create an emotional connection with your audience and mix it in and around your facts, statistics and testimonials to engage your audience, have them remember your message and be open to making changes in their lives. 

5 Reasons why it might NOT be best to lead with a story


“Always lead with a story”.

I wonder who gave him that advice?

It sounds feasible, even powerful.

Stories ARE powerful.

They engage, build credibility, create an emotional tone, set the scene.

And all of those things are what is needed from a speech opening.

But they are not the only options for a speech opening.

You can do something that really GRABS attention, if that is necessary.  And you will waste anything that is not aimed at getting attention and holding  it … like saying “hello” or testing the microphone.  But between those extremes there are many choices.  You can open with a quote, you can use a different language or colloquialism, you can use humour, you can ask a question.  You can refer to a person or event that has local interest at the moment you speak.

And you can use story.

But certainly not ONLY story.

Does this audience relate to story?  Do they value that emotional connection?  Perhaps they are sleepy after lunch.  A story, unless it is incredibly punchy, may be too slow.

Has something happened immediately before your speech that MUST be addressed?  Avoid that or, indeed, the elephant in the room, and you lose a powerful opportunity to connect and engage.

Is this a regular gig?  Perhaps you periscope your tips every few days.  If you open with the same signature story every single time and, congratulations!, you have regular followers, they certainly don’t want to hear it over and over again.  “For Goodness’ sake,” I mutter, “you promised me 5 tips on this thing, get on with them!!”  “And you don’t have to sell me on who you are, I KNOW you already!”

Please don’t open with a story unless you have it fine-tuned and powerful.  You need to know exactly what you are creating with the story, why you are using it, and have removed anything that does not contribute to that outcome.   This is especially true if you are trying to establish your credibility.  One tiny flaw, one tiny doubt in that story, one weakness and you have me doubting you, wondering about that weakness or doubt and I lose the trust you need me to have and you have to build it up again.  Those tips, that content, had better be good!

Make sure, too, that the story does actually serve some sort of purpose.  I understand that story creates connections, all on its own.  It also creates it own energy, no matter where you use it in the speech.  But we, your audience, are creatures with short attention spans, especially if we discovered you as we were flicking through the internet, or are sitting in your audience reading from devices.  Tell me a pointless story and you insult me and lose my attention.  I return to my browsing.  I gave you my time and attention in hope of receiving something of use, or an experience worth attending.    Reassure me that that is what I am getting by having the purpose of the story absolutely obvious – at some time soon!!

I say “Thank you” to the man who provoked me to write this article.  I like him and I value his content.  I was just sad and irritated to see him devaluing himself by taking advice that wasn’t suitable to his uses.

“Lead with a story”, by all means but not ALWAYS!



You might also be interested in:

All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low Trust World

The story of a secret – your secret

Standing out in the deluge

“The Story is Everything”