From Better to Best

Many of you who read this blog are experienced speakers. When someone is pretty good in front of an audience, there is a tendency to become complacent and not to continue working to improve the craft. Here are some ideas to keep that from happening.

Change one sentence in each presentation even when you are delivering the same presentation you have delivered many times before. You might use a different quotation to make the same point.

For example, many of my speeches address motivation and improvement in paying attention wherever you are or whatever you are doing. Here is a quotation I heard recently that I believe would be different and possibly improve my point about sustaining attention on a continual basis. Green Bay quarterback, Aaron Rodgers said, “I really believe that you earn your paycheck during the season. And then the postseason is all about creating your own legacy.”

Consistently seek better ways to word your main points to make the greatest impact on your audience. For example, in my “High Bid” speech, I discuss the traits that will enhance your worth in the market place. One point is to have a sense of humor. I used that wording for several years. But one time I changed the wording to say, “Have some fun each day.” The audience responded really well to that wording and I have been using that phrasing in most of my speeches since.

Change the way you deliver your opening or your ending. Since people remember best what you say first and last, seeking to improve either can make a difference in how your message is received.

I typically begin my speech on paying attention by responding to part of my introduction, which mentions that I spent much of my career working with students in the university environment. I will say, “Students have a special problem paying attention. For example, my son who teaches at Purdue had a student walk into his classroom wearing a t-shirt that read, ‘You can never relive a party but you can always retake a class.’ I’m not sure you can depend on that student to pay good attention in class.”

Recently I changed that opening to “How many of you drive to work the same way each day and have done so for several years?” Usually a large number of hands go up. My next question is, “Have you ever gotten to work and not remembered how you got there?”  Most hands go up again, and then I say, “Here you are driving 75 miles an hour down the interstate and don’t remember. We all have trouble paying attention.” I believe both beginnings are effective. But the benefit of the second opening is that I get the audience involved immediately and instantly they see how the topic relates to them.

Some of my most successful speaker clients are those who were already effective public speakers. They simply wanted a tip or technique that would set them apart from their competition. They used me to give them feedback on those small but significant ways to improve. You can always make your next speech the best one.

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at

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