Panning for Gold: Looking for Speaking Nuggets

public speaking tips panning for gold

Of the several reasons to arrive at my speaking room early, my main reason is to chat with audience members. My agenda is to find “nuggets” I can use to apply points from my presentation. Sometimes it is as simple as finding people who are also Hoosiers or who have similar interests as I.

But I have found that sometimes I unearth speaking nuggets that help make a really good speech become a great speech. One such experience occurred a couple of months ago as I joined a group of audience members enjoying a continental breakfast before I spoke. I asked the usual questions about where they were from and what part of the business they were in.

In the course of conversation, a lady mentioned that her daughter was going to be attending Purdue in the fall. I then said that my son teaches at Purdue and asked her what her daughter’s major was. She answered, “Public relations.”

I said, “Well, that is what my son teaches.”

The mother then asked, “Is your son Josh Boyd?”

Surprised, I said, “Yes, he is.”

She said, “He is a major reason she chose public relations. He is the one we met with and he gave us a tour of the building as well as vital information and was so kind and encouraging to my daughter.”  We were both amazed at the very personal connection we had.

Now I need to mention why this was so astounding for the content of my presentation. In this particular presentation one of my points is that we are all connected. In fact based on the theory of “six degrees of separation,” every person is six connections or less away from every person on earth. We are all connected in just those few steps. After explaining the theory, I told the above story. This was a powerful application of my point.

Think about the hour before your presentation as “panning for gold speaking nuggets” for your presentation. This is the personal and immediate detail that audience members can assimilate from a point you are making.

I try to arrive an hour before my presentation to make sure everything in the room is set and become familiar with the arrangement of the front of the room. Then I am free to carry on conversations with audience members as they arrive.

Your presentation is not complete until you have had a chance to “pan for gold.”

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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