How to Give a Killer Speech

My wife said “You don’t need Public Speaking 101, you have been speaking for 30 years now!

I’ll be shocked if you learn anything you don’t already know.”

But I knew better, this is the Wizard Academy.

I could only stay for ½ the class before catching a flight, but I already had 12 pages of notes. Steve Rae presented all the basic blocking and tackling a new speaker needs to know. Objective, preparation, content, sleep, practice, equipment issues, eye contact, body language, gestures, and the like. It was a great refresher course for a seasoned speaker and an absolute must for a beginner.

My main interest was to learn some new tactics to take it to a whole new level. After reviewing my notes, I boiled it down to 10 things. I plan to use them now as a checklist for any speech.  You should too.

I am giving a keynote presentation at TRIZCON 2010 in Cincinnati in 2 weeks. I had already prepared my speech prior to the class, but gave it a major overhaul based on these 10 Wow factors.

#1 – Open Big –Toastmasters and most conventional training will tell you to:

1- Tell them what you are going to tell them
2- Tell them
3- Tell them what you told them

You have heard it a 1000 times. This is dead wrong.

Pick something that is radically different as an opener. It is the same rationale as a good advertising headline, you have to get their attention first. Choose any statement that would stop them in their tracks. It shouldn’t appear to relate to your content.

You will always be able to connect the headline and the content later, after the 1st drafts have been written. I call it the Bridge from Nowhere.

TRIZCON 2010 is a conference on TRIZ and Innovation.

My opening sequence is “Autism Can Be Good”.

That should get their attention.

Your audience’s initial thoughts should be “Where the hell is he going with this?, not “He told me what he is going to tell me.”

#2 – Mash the Monotone – Use timing, silence, inflection, and animation to emphasize your points. I have always known this is my biggest weakness. The class attendees reconfirmed this. I even tried to exaggerate in my practice speech, and most people thought it was just “normal”.

I was told this effort took some balls……..“but only BB Balls”

I need to practice taking it to another level.

You never look as silly as you think you do by showing emotion, so go for it.

I now make sure in my speech preparation that I have specific areas where I stress the use of timing, silence, and inflection. I have to plan for it and practice it because it is not natural for me.

#3 Authority – You can choose from an infinite number of things that are unusual to show how confident you are in your message, even if you are scared to death. Do something the audience would never expect someone to do if they weren’t totally convinced they were the world’s expert. I have seen the Wizard flip off his loafers and place them on the podium, take off his belt, and tear a $100 bill into 87 pieces. It signals that he is incredibly comfortable and confident in his presence on stage. But come up with your own shtick to show you are totally in charge.

#4 – Crawl into their cage – You need to speak the language of the audience. Tailor your speech to things happening in their company, the city you are speaking in, the venue, etc. Check local newspapers. Ask the locals what are the hot spots. Look for stories that are unique to this audience and environment.

In many cases you are giving the same message just packaged differently. Make the speech harmonize with the specific environment.

In TRIZ it is called “Local Quality.”

#5 – Tickle the Taboo – You want to do something that is a little taboo. You don’t have to go so far that they storm the stage with pitch forks, but push it past the ordinary. Talk about things you’re not supposed to. As Roy says this one is Nitroglycerin.  You have to handle it carefully, but it is all so powerful. Who said you can’t talk about, sex, religion, and money?

To really move some of your audience, you will push others towards the door. That’s OK. As Roy told me, they should love you or hate you, but please don’t bore them.

For Geez sakes, I am opening with “Autism Can Be Good”, that for sure will polarize some of the audience, but it won’t bore them.

#6 – Metaphors– Tell stories that connect the unfamiliar to the familiar. The goal of your presentation should be to reveal a new perspective. To be transformative. Take what the majority already knows or believes to be true and connect it to your new perspective through metaphors.

#7 – Specifics – Specifics are always more believable than generalities. Quote references, use the Dr.’s real name, quote the specific study, etc.

#8 – Planned VulnerabilityI’m screwed up, you’re screwed up, and so is everybody else. So use it to your advantage.

If the information is unplanned, you look like a cry-baby and the audience feels sorry for you. But if you plan to include a intimate personal story that emphasis your point the audience is more likely to connect with you. They will also see your commitment to the message.

In my Cincinnati speech I plan to reveal my chronic White Coat Syndrome. A former Chief Engineer on the Space Shuttle program is scared to death of a blood pressure machine 24/7/365.

I can easily tie it into my overall message.

#9 – Imitate someone you admire – What does R&D stand for?

Yes Research and Development is one right answer.

Another one is Rob and Duplicate.

It is OK to copy someone else’s presentation style until you learn to develop it on your own.

A really bad impression is still good.

In the class, Roy Williams revealed the 3 people he has copied in his career as far as presentation style. I have seen him present for nearly a decade and would never have been able to tell you what 3 people it was.

In fact, I never knew he was copying anyone, I just figured he was a genius (he is).

Now that he told me, I can see it…sort of, but that doesn’t matter. It made him one of the best speakers on the planet.

My biggest moment with this #9 tip involved the character Captain Jack Sparrow, from the movie Pirates of the Caribbean. You know, the movie starring Johnny Depp where he has a quirky walk and almost looks gay.


Depp admitted he was just trying to do a bad impression of Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones.

This bad impression has grossed $355 million.

#10 – Close Big – This is even more important than the 1st one, but uses the same principles. Try to tie it back into you opening statement and overall message, but don’t leave them bored by saying, Thanks for having me everybody.”

Use these 10 tips as a checklist for your future presentations, your colleagues will be dying to know your secret.

About admin

Mark L. Fox is a leading authority on teaching practical creative thinking techniques for business. Mark was the youngest Chief Engineer ever on the Space Shuttle program at the age of 31. He received NASA’s highest recognition of “Launch Honoree” at the age of 23. Mark has an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering with an MBA. Having held top management positions in Rocket Science, Aircraft Hydraulics, Engineering Services, Customer Service, Software, and e-Business, Mark has an extremely diversified background.


  1. Hey Mark, Thanks for the ReCap and the reminders. This is awesome.

    Also, get with one of Wiz guys (dave young or wanek) and have them add share and like buttons to your blog. I love to “like” and “share” this good stuff on Facebook, and Twitter, etc.


  2. In regards to #4, The Reds look like they will be in the playoff when you are in Cinci and the Bengals don’t suck anymore, you should be able to use this in your talk

  3. I know I’m late to the conversation, but MAN, this is high-quality stuff here, Mark.

    Giving presentations is a skill that took me years to develop, and I still have plenty of improving to do.

    It takes a lot of effort, but sometimes I’m able to get out of monotone mode. My wife (God bless her) has told me on numerous occassions that I was boring and needed to be more expressive.

    I look forward to your upcoming videos. Part 1 was great!

  4. Mark,

    Thanks for the great tips!

    I wish I could be in Cincinnati for your keynote presentation at TRIZCON 2010.

    At the moment, I’m in Denver and missing Wizard Academy and the new Tower.

    Living Deliberately,
    Mike Hayden (“World’s Dullest Comedian”)

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