The Customer is Always Right. And for the duration of your speech, the audience is your only customer



It has always been a challenge to maintain the view that the customer is always right – not just in speaking, but in business especially.  It can try the most patient and accommodating business owner or customer service professional.

But if we can achieve it, maintain that view, go into our speaking with that view, then everything will fall into place so much more easily.

Validating your audience in any communication is guaranteed to build trust and engagement.

One of the basic premises of storytelling is that you need to meet the audience where they are.

And yes of course our audiences have the right to their objections to our propositions.  The sooner we address those objections the sooner we can hope to succeed in putting forward our visions for them.

The structure of your presentation falls into place.

If you believe that your audience is always right, that they deserve the respect that that entails, then you will be happy to prepare all that you can to gain the understanding you need of what your audience feels, thinks, knows is right.

You will build confidence and calm because you are not trying to manipulate, you are giving respect and service.

And you will have laid the groundwork for success for yourself and for your customer/audience.

The sooner speakers understand this, that public speaking is not a manipulation, not a performance to be judged, not all about themselves, the better the standard of speaking will be.  No, we may not have great “orators”, but we will have more successful public speakers, not afraid to be authentic and of service, and more audiences prepared to come back for more.






What to do when you present in a boring, repetitive monotone – follow TED speaker Robert’s example

This is a TED Talk by Robert Ballard, deep-sea explorer.

If you can, watch it without listening to the words, just to the pitch of his voice, especially about half way through the talk, at about 7.30.

The majority of his speech is incredibly monotonous.

He gives the impression that he is ashamed of what he is saying, that his audience will find it boring and that it needs to be hurried, get it out of the way as soon as it can be done.

There were times when I thought I would stop watching.

It was that bad!

I didn’t stop watching.


Because …

he compensated with some fabulous, very successful strategies that had his audience engaged despite the monotony.

What were these strategies and can we use them ourselves?

There were six that I noted, and all of them are powerful – they needed to be!!

1. The message is simple and strong

He has a very simple, well articulated message. Why are we spending so much time and money on space exploration and so little on exploring our oceans? It is repeated. The whole presentation supports it. And the fact that it is regularly stated as a question keeps it hooked into his audience’s minds and hearts.

2. He uses the unexpected

Several of his statements stand out for me but there are others. The first that aroused my attention was the one about how everything he learned at school in his field was wrong. The second was about the map. Normally when we see a blank space on a map we assume it is just an area of similar topography. A space like that on a map of the sea is blank because it is not mapped. Life under the sea exists in ways no life should. Water is upside down. Volcanoes work in ways volcanoes shouldn’t. He sets his audience up and hits them regularly with the unexpected and each point made that way hits strongly.

3. He uses images.

There are 57 image slides in this presentation with no words. There is no conflict in his audience’s minds between spoken and written words. The images reinforce what he is saying and his audience is more likely to remember a point made and supported by an image than one that is only made verbally. I can still see in my mind’s eye the little girl with her mouth open in amazement.

4. Humour

He’s not exactly a humorous speaker, nor a comedian, but he uses subtle humour, and again often the unexpected. There is self effacing humour, and his use of the name Easter Bunny, the statement “I would not let an adult drive a robot. He doesn’t have the gaming experience.” just three examples. And the audience laughs. But they laugh and they are acknowledging the humour but they are also being drawn to the point he is making at the time. The humour simply highlights it.

5. Clever use of Pause

Robert uses pause to highlight a particular point and his uses it powerfully, interspersing it between questions and single words.

He also uses pause as an antidote to a long session of fast-paced narrative. And that is powerful too.

6. Repetition

He repeated the main message. He repeated his main points. He repeated his humorous “Easter Bunny” statement. And it wasn’t saying the same thing over again. It was calling back to it, later in the speech. It’s a powerful technique, puts the segment just completed, monotonous though it may be, into perspective and creates support for the point he is making, or the idea he has introduced.

7. Passion

This man believes in what he is doing.

He is excited by it.

He is passionate about the possibilities it offers and about creating excitement in his audience and in the world, about his project.

And it shows, when he allows it, in his use of pause, in his enthusiasm, and in his energy.

These are not rhetorical devices he just inserted into his speech. They are the result of his enthusiasm and dedication and excitement.

He left the best for last when he talked about being able to ignite that same enthusiasm and excitement in middle-schoolers, when he talked about “creating the classroom of the future” and how you “win or lose a scientist by 8th grade”.

This is what we want.  This is a young lady not watching a football game, not watching a basketball game.  She's watching exploration thousands of miles away and it's just dawning on her what she is seeing.  And when you get a jaw dropping, you can inform, you can put so much information into that mind ...

This is what we want. This is a young lady not watching a football game, not watching a basketball game. She’s watching exploration thousands of miles away and it’s just dawning on her what she is seeing. And when you get a jaw dropping, you can inform, you can put so much information into that mind …

And he had a standing ovation.

Monotonous, maybe, boring no!

[Quick public speaking tip] Why would your audiences want to do homework?


Why would you give your audience homework?

How could homework be a gift?


Most school children hate homework, or at least see it as a chore.

Why do school children have homework?

I imagine there are many reasons, but one must be to solidify the learning done in school.

Because we learn by doing.

We reinforce theory with practice.

We multiply the learning by applying what we have learned to our own lives.

We take ownership of the learning when we implement it.


We take ownership of the learning when we implement it.


Spend time in the classroom or with an inspirational speaker, and we take in theory.

We take in enthusiasm, too, hopefully!

We take in the steps to success.

We take those “in”… at the time.

But how far “in” do they go as soon as we leave the classroom

… as soon as the speaker leaves the podium

… as soon as the lesson has ended?

How often have you listened to a motivational speaker, felt motivated … and then several weeks, or even days, later, if someone asked what you were doing differently now, could not remember what his message was or what you had felt so motivated to do????

Clever speakers give their audiences homework.

Caring speakers who really want their audiences to achieve or grow or benefit give their audiences the gift of homework.

They will learn by doing.

They will reinforce theory with practice.

They will multiply the learning by applying what they have learned to our own lives.

They will take ownership of the learning when they implement it.

So if you care about your audience, really want them to change, really want to be of service, what will you ask them to do when they get home after your presentation?

Public speaking lessons from a quarry makeover

We are incredibly blessed to have an environmental park just 50 metres from our home. I am grateful to old George Swanston, our local Council representative more than twenty years ago, who fought to have it gazetted as such, and not given over to developers. We now have a backdrop of trees from our house and access to beautiful walking tracks and scenery.

At our particular entrance to the park is a disused quarry – huge sandstone cliffs where blocks of stone were removed. It has been shored up, but part of it remains rather unstable and in times of heavy rain, boulders are sometimes dislodged. It is now a beautiful, serene place.

The piece of landscape I focussed on this morning, though, had me thinking …


This is the wall the park-keepers have created to protect the walking path from falling boulders.

And it reminded me of constructing a speech (possibly because I’m currently putting together a workshop on the subject!)

See the wire netting they have used to make sure the stone wall stays in place?

Sometimes I feel like I am in need of such a cage – something to keep the whole speech together and tight and effective – not allowing ideas to escape out of the structure I want.

We collect such a miscellany of thoughts, and knowledge and experiences and opinions and do our best with them. We sort them and discard those that will not support the message we want for this particular audience. We build them into a structure that will work for this presentation. It will be strong. It will work to make the message flow and shape so that the audience follows it easily without too much awareness of its existence. It will look and feel good to ourselves as we present, giving us confidence in the whole.

And that’s what they have done with these stones in this wall. They collected a huge number, and sorted out the ones that will fit and that are of a similar size so that they can be stacked into a shape. They built them into a structure that will protect the walkers here on the path, without intruding into the flow of their walk or run. And I suspect they are rather proud of their final construction.

And yet …

They had to put the net around it. Was it not built well enough?

Perhaps they did not have a proper dry-stone wall person. Perhaps it is not finished and they intend to replace it or cover it with concrete or such.

The question remains … though I am so happy people are taking care of the park and making it safe.

And yet…

These grey stones are not native to the area – well not in evidence anywhere around. They are imports. The whole structure seems alien.

Did you ever feel that about a speech?

Maybe it didn’t align with your passions. Maybe you were presenting someone else’s material. Maybe you’ve seen a speaker who had found the audience was not as they expected, or the speech just didn’t belong in the event, either subject-wise, or energy-wise.

Still I am grateful.

Returning from my walk, I follow the little side street and in front of me, at the end of the street, is this beautiful tree.


It belongs (though it was planted there).

It has its own natural shape. Nothing constrains it (though it was pruned – many years ago).

It is beautiful.

Is this what it feels to present a speech so that it feels like it belongs, so that it feels natural, unconstrained, and we can feel its beauty?

The speaker’s own energy and authentic passion,

constructed for this audience and their needs and wants and values,

suitable to the event, aligned with its intent and vibe.

I wish you (and me) many more trees … and many more speeches that give as much pleasure and satisfaction.

[Quick Public Speaking Tip] You – Me – The Public Speaking Power in Creating “Us”

The Public Speaking Power in Creating

Public Speaking is all about you, isn’t it?

You the speaker.

You creating a speech.

You delivering a speech.

You taking the audience on a journey.

You affecting the outcome.

You presenting stories, humour, information, ideas, products.

Me, the speaker.

Me, facing my fears.

Me, being confident.

Me, remembering the best words to use.

Me, creating energy in the room.

Me, finally achieving success as a speaker.

This blog is aimed at You (and if you are reading this, then it is about “me”).

I am writing and speaking to you, hoping to give you ideas and resources that will be of value to you as a speaker.

Strange, then, that the one sure foundation of success is the ability, once the presentation begins (or even in the marketing beforehand) to make it about us – all of us in the room, all of us on this journey to being better, living better, being and living more easily.

Not just the audience – the “you” to whom we speak – else we become preachers, philosophers, at least one step, if not a whole staircase removed, from that audience, that “you”.

We are all on this journey together, supporting each other.

How can we best ensure that, in our blogs, in our social media, in our speaking?

Harness the Power of Change to Keep your audience engaged.

People notice change. You notice the hum of the air-conditioner when it comes on and when it goes off – but not in between. So change will get attention in your presentations as well.

Change what the audience sees of you and your environment.

Change your stance and gestures.

Change your position and location to emphasis a point.

Change the type of visual aids you are using – maybe from flip chart to object to slides.

Introduce a video clip into your presentation.

Make sure your slides do not follow a template.

Introduce something very different or unexpected.

Change the way you present. Use silence and pauses. Change your tone of voice and your speaking volume. All of these will match what you are trying to deliver – facts, stories, data, persuasion, all require different presentation styles, but the change caused by this will also keep attention.

Change your material.

Signpost changes, or new points you are making by using a sentence or a word, and a gesture, that heralds something new. This regains audience attention as well as whetting their appetite for more. Change topics.

Change the state of the audience. Have them move into groups to discuss a concept or share ideas about a topic. Change later to simply discussing with a neighbour.

Ask questions. Have them raise their hands to answer. This changes their physical state and allows a change in mental attention as well. Get them moving in some other way.

Changes in your presentation, in your presentation style and in the audience’s own physical, emotional and mental states will keep their attention focussed and re-focussed.

(c) Bronwyn Richie
If you want to include this article in your publication, please do, but only if you include the following information with it:

Bronwyn Ritchie is a professional librarian, a writer, and an award-winning speaker and trainer.
She is a certified corporate trainer and speech contest judge with POWERtalk , a certified World Class Speaking coach, and has had 30 years experience speaking to audiences and training in public speaking. Boost your speaking success, click here for Bronwyn’s FREE 30 speaking tips. Join now or go to

Research more than the content when you prepare your speech

When you start building a speech or presentation, the first thing you think of is the content. What will you say? How will you say it? What message do you want to communicate? And what do you want your audience to say or think or do differently? So you start researching that content – on the internet, at the library, with your friends and from the experts.

Content, however, is not the only thing you need to research if your speech or presentation is to be a success. If you want your audience to say or think or do something differently, you will need to know how to “pitch” your content to this particular audience.

Everything that you say or do in your presentation has to be geared to that audience… what they will be receptive to, what their triggers are, the language that they will respond to.

So in researching that presentation to write it, or prepare it, you will also need to research the audience.

Find out as much as you can – their age range, gender, income levels, dreams, needs, wants, culture. What are their likes and dislikes? What will excite them, offend them, unnerve them? What do they wear? What keeps them awake in the middle of the night?

You can gain much from a registration form, especially if you can design it yourself, or have a hand in designing it.

You can ask the event manager, or the person who hired you. You can research their company or organisation, talk to them and their friends and colleagues.

In your preparation routine, you can mingle with audience members before your speech.

Then you can use the information you have gained in constructing and presenting your speech. Use your knowledge of their interests and dreams, to choose your most persuasive stories, points and suggestions.
You will choose language that they understand, and that is not irritating or offensive to them, and subject matter to suit that audience – themes, supports, anecdotes all will be tailored to them.

One of the strongest engagement techniques in presentations is WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) and you need to be reminding your audience regularly of why they should keep listening to your presentation, and of just what they would gain from your suggestions (or lose by not following them).

I’m not sure whether researching the audience is more important than researching content. What do you think?

I do know that for the content to be effective, the research you do on your audience will be vital.

©2012 Bronwyn Ritchie
Please feel free to reproduce this article, but please ensure it is accompanied by this resource box.

Bronwyn Ritchie has 30 years’ experience speaking to audiences and training in public speaking – from those too nervous to say their own name in front of an audience to community groups to corporate executives. To take your public speaking to the next level, get free tips, articles, quotations and resources, at

Quick public speaking tip – Know your audience

And the first tip is to know your audience.

This is what underlies the construction of most of your content. It is the reason to talk about the benefits of a product instead of the features. It is the reason to use language the audience understands.  Look at your technical terms, and any jargon that they may not understand. Use examples, stories, quotes and other support material that has relevance to their lives and their interests. You will keep their attention and their interest. And if your presentation has been advertised in media or in a conference program, the material in that advertising is what drew people to your session, so try to stick to it, or they will disengage very quickly.

So research you audience before you create your presentation if you can. Find out how best to dress, speak and what will meet their needs, or solve their problems and you have the first step to keeping their attention.

Is it ethical to segment an audience, socially, to persuade?

Meet me in the coffee shop for a cuppa and join in the discussion. =>

Public Speaking quote – Audience response

“It’s not how strongly you feel about your topic, it’s how strongly they feel about your topic after you speak.”

~Tim Salladay