Speech Writing… the Marcus Method

Prepare a 20 minute speech in 5 minutes or less

Before I delve into the title of this post, let me start off by saying I used to be just like most people – I had a complete and utter fear of speaking in public. In fact, when I was in high school I once gave a ‘speech’ in front of the student body that went so awfully bad (between the heat flashes, shakes, loss of words, and near collapse) that I committed at a young age to never venture in front of an audience again.

But as time went on, somehow things began to change. Where I once dreaded the thought of public speaking I came to love the results that great communication – the idea of changing lives for the better through your own words. As we all know, there is a special power behind the spoken word, and I’m glad that I can now say that I embrace this gift we’ve all been given.

But I digress. What say ye that we get down to the nitty-gritty? You want to know how to prepare a speech fast, and a good speech at that. I’m here to give it to you.

For many, the process of preparing a talk, speech, or seminar is more painful than passing a kidney stone. They spend hours of reading, writing, and editing just to come up with a few pages of words that will hopefully have an impact on listeners.
If you’ve ever gone through such a routine, I’m here to tell you there is a much, much easier way.

Simple Conversation

Let me ask you a question. When you’re at the office on Monday mornings, how long does it take you to ‘prepare’ what you tell your friends and peers?
Or when someone asks you, “How were the holidays?” how much time does it take you to start to answer?
If you’re like 99.9% of the world, these types of conversations are something you don’t think about.
There is no preparation. You simply are telling others about a snippet of your life.

So my question is why don’t we follow these same steps when we speak in a public setting?
Why do we add so much agony to the process of preparation?
Frankly, the whole thing makes no sense.

How to Burn 20 Minutes at the Snap of a Finger

image indicating preparing a speech

Recently I was asked by a company to give a seminar to a business group. They told me I’d need to speak for about a half-hour, to which I said it would be my pleasure. The only problem, they said, was the fact that they were having this seminar just days away, which meant that I’d have little time to prepare.
Upon hearing this concern I told them to stop worrying, as I could easily talk about business for 3 hours that same night if they wanted me to.

How is such a feat possible?
Think about it, let’s pretend you’re a business owner and you went to dinner with a friend who asked you, “What’s the dumbest thing you’ve done as a business owner?”
I bet you could sit there with your friend and go on and on for hours about different experiences you’ve had over the years and the lessons you’ve learned from each.
And again, you achieve all of this ‘discussion’ without a lick of forethought.

The Magic of Brainstorming Our Past

This same principal applies to the seminar I mentioned above. As soon as the lady asked me to participate, I sat down at my desk and thought about the 5 worst decisions I’ve ever made as a business owner. Within a few minutes, this brainstorming activity had produced over 10 examples of mistakes I’d made, all of which I knew would make for a great personal experience, and corresponding lesson, in the seminar.
Knowing I had only 30 minutes to speak, I chose the 5 experiences I thought would have the best impact and voila.. I was done. That was it. A 30 minute business seminar had been prepared in 5 minutes.

I relate this story because it’s applicable to every speaking opportunity (well over 200 events) I’ve had over the past 10 years. As soon as someone gives me a subject, I sit down and brainstorm experiences I’ve had that had anything to do with said subject, as well as the lessons learned from each.
With the average personal experience/story taking 3-6 minutes to tell, it’s easy to see just how quickly one can come up with 20 minutes of great speaking material.

Now I know some of you may be thinking, “But what if people don’t like my experiences?”
Let me tell you right now this simple rule of thumb that, if followed, will make your speaking days ahead much, much easier:

“If any experience in life has taught you a lesson…
it will likely teach others as well.”

So throw away the script, quit with the worries, and start relying on life and her many lessons folks. By so doing, I can assure you that not only will the process of speech preparation become much, much easier, but there will also come a day when you’ll anticipate the opportunity to change lives with your words.

About Marcus – Marcus Sheridan had his first book on Public Speaking published when he was 24 years old. Since that time, he has become a popular speaker and writer, and has been known to produce some pretty awesome articles on business, marketing, and life at his popular blog, The Sales Lion.


My thanks and gratitude to:

Marcus the Sales Lion for his super guest post
L_Dan for the Pen photo thumbnail on flickr
Steve Jurvetson for the Fire photo on flickr

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  1. Hi Marcus
    I don’t make predictions… and I never will.
    But I think that this is one guest post that my readers are going to love.

    Thanks for taking the time to produce a great guest post.
    You will always be my mane man.
    Keith Davis´s last great post ..Chocolat…My Profile

  2. Ha! You rock Keith. I’m just grateful you posted it after I happily invited myself to the party 😉 But hopefully you won’t be scarred for life after this one and it will go so well that I’ll get to answer the bell for round 2 😉
    Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion´s last great post ..Why You Should Start Writing- Stop Hiding- and Quit Worrying About the CompetitionMy Profile

    • Marcus
      Can’t believe how many of your blogging pals are over here.

      And… you are doing a fantastic job with your replies.

      I’m beginning to like having guest bloggers. LOL

  3. morcus, you have a gift..several actually but, you had aknack for speaking to people since you were a lttle boy…nature vs nurture

  4. Wow! Two of my favorite bloggers together! This is pretty awesome you guys.

    Speaking conversationally in front of an audience, or writing a blog post that sounds like you’re simply talking with a good friend, is deceptively hard to do. The inclination to worry about things like introductions and composition when we write for an audience is almost impossible to resist.

    Kudos to you Marcus for illustrating a way of thinking that actually makes this easy.

    Here’s another thought. When I try to write about something that I have no passion for, it almost always results in agony. And once started, trying to make it better usually results in hours of wasted time and frustration. And then I usually hit the delete button. It’s hard to finesse a topic you hate.

    Your idea to write about experiences and lessons learned is a wonderful one. And your mindset of changing lives is simply beautiful. No wonder I love your blog so much. This was a wonderful post.

    And, speaking of changing lives, well, nice job. You just did it. 🙂

    Theresa Bradley-Banta´s last great post ..23 Extraordinary Questions to Ask Your MentorMy Profile

    • Ahh Theresa, it thrills me that you’ve stopped by. I did not know you frequented Keith’s blog, but knowing how you and I share similar interests, it certainly doesn’t surprise me. 🙂

      It is true that sometimes it’s hard to resist major ‘editing’, whether we are writing or speaking. The key, though, as you mentioned Theresa, is that we’re communicating from the heart. That it’s about our lives and our passions.

      It is my experience that when a communicator crosses that special line where everything becomes a genuine conversation (be it speaking or text), their effectiveness then goes to another level and the whole process just becomes so very much easier.

      Your words here have been so sweet Theresa. Thank you so very much. 🙂

      Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion´s last great post ..Why You Should Start Writing- Stop Hiding- and Quit Worrying About the CompetitionMy Profile

      • My pleasure Marcus!

        I’m really glad you mentioned the effectiveness of going to another level. This is absolutely something to remember… and a very compelling reason to get it right.
        Theresa Bradley-Banta´s last great post ..Learn to LiveMy Profile

    • Hi Theresa
      Appreciate you coming over and leaving a comment.

      Many thanks.

  5. Great Post Marcus,

    I have sat with my eyes glazing over as some person is doing a presentation as the “tell me” about how to do this or that..

    But my eyes sparkle when I figure out that someone is about to tell me story, especially when the story has taught a lesson.

    Great tip, appreciate it..

    • Joe, very kind of you to stop by and leave these words. As a speaker, I can’t help but to notice the effect personal experiences have on an audience. Heck, I’ve had many occasions, especially in church settings, where little children will stop laughing, playing, crying, coloring, (you name it) when a powerful personal experience is told. You’re right Joe, the eyes say it all. And if children are captured by the power of personal experience, how much more of an effect will they have on adults!
      Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion´s last great post ..How to Prepare a GREAT Speech or Presentation in 5 Minutes or Less Every TimeMy Profile

  6. So technically you don’t need to prepare a whole speech which you would need to memorize. All you need do is set down some points that you want to cover?
    Sire´s last great post ..Do You Want To Outrank The ProbloggersMy Profile

    • Exactly Sire. Writing a speech down, in the majority of cases, is the least effective method of communication in this day and age. We hear all this talk of ‘social web’,right? We hear talk of interaction, correct? Speaking needs to be the same. And even if there isn’t a ‘conversation’ per se, learning to relate powerful experience from your life in a relaxed way will win over memorized scripts or even worse, ‘reading’, every time. If you haven’t tried this before Sire, please do, I promise that it will change your entire approach to any ‘public’ speaking you do.

      Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion´s last great post ..How to Prepare a GREAT Speech or Presentation in 5 Minutes or Less Every TimeMy Profile

      • Well Marcus, as Keith will tell you I’m not one that likes public speaking. I’ve only ever done it twice, at my and a friends wedding, and on both occasions I had them memorized. Still you never know if I will have to do it again and if the occasion ever arises I reckon I’ll use this technique. 😉

  7. Completely agree with you, Marcus. Here’s what I found. Making bullet points and outlines are good but if you’re overly focused on those then you’re really worried about how YOU look (am I organized? do I look stupid? maybe I’m rambling?) instead of thinking about what value you’re giving to the AUDIENCE. Once you start speaking from the heart, it becomes so much easier. Thanks for sharing!

    • Stella, great points. When I present, I’m all for a few bullets here and there. The key, as you mentioned, is that the words on the screen or paper are only a guide, not a set law.

      For example, is there anything worse than a presentation where the speaker just stands there and reads to the audience everything that’s on the screen. Are you kidding me?? When I’m in such seminars and presentations, I just want to hit my forehead over and over again on the table in front of me.

      You mentioned ‘speaking from the heart’ Stella. That’s really the perfect way of putting all of this. People want sincerity. They want a true ‘relationship’ with the speaker. That’s why this method is so key.

      Thanks for the wonderful comment Stella!!
      Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion´s last great post ..How to Prepare a GREAT Speech or Presentation in 5 Minutes or Less Every TimeMy Profile

  8. Marcus – great strategy for preparing and delivering a speech.

    I have to say that I do think that your (speaking generally) ability to pick topics you want to talk about and simply have a discussion about them takes lots of practice, which you obviously have.

    I’ve done several speaking engagements, my most recent was last summer and was asked to be commencement speaker at a local high school. Like you, when I was growing up had some memorable speeches 😉 that were less than great to say the least but I think that for someone who does not deliver speeches or presentations as often as you may, this can be somewhat dangerous.

    Personally, when I deliver a speech it is usually crafted a week in advance and has to be crafted in a way that is has points that lead to a result and that compliment each other. The only fear I wold have about taking your approach would be that I may feel like my presentation or speech may be all over the place.

    Do you have any suggestions for overcoming that fear?

    • Hector, I’m so glad you’ve brought up this question. It sounds to me that you’re talking about control. You want to have control and direction over your message. I agree.

      The method I teach starts with you, the speaker, picking experiences from your life that reinforce the goal of your speech/presentation/etc.

      So let’s say you’re speaking to a group of high school students about success after graduation in the ‘real world’. I’d immediately brain storm the best experiences, and corresponding lessons, that I’d personally had since graduation. (If you’re like me, you’ve had about 4,000 or so 😉 ).

      Once you’ve got those experiences (and lessons), you number them on paper (however many you deem necessary for the time allotment) and now the body of your speech is done—that’s your ‘script’. If timing is a concern, practice relating the stories beforehand and you’ll quickly see how long they take.

      In reality Hector, this method gives you complete control and direction, just as you would have if one of your kids or friends asked you what life has taught you since school.

      Hopefully you see what I’m saying here. I’m all about control,direction, and fluidity, and this method, in my opinion, is the most perfect way of achieving such a goal.

      Thanks again Hector, please let me know if you have further questions!!!!

      Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion´s last great post ..How to Prepare a GREAT Speech or Presentation in 5 Minutes or Less Every TimeMy Profile

  9. Hey Marcus – WEIRD! Let me explain… I know you believe in “seek and you shall find” – but it’s happening for me at rates that I’ve never experienced previous. Almost everyday, or every other day these instances are popping up; completely amazing me at the power that an intense focus can create.

    I say WEIRD because I was diligently working in two google Chrome tabs – searching for information and I decided to take a quick break to see what my man Marcus was up to…I planned on reading your comments and replies to your previous post…but instead I found “How to Prepare a GREAT Speech…” which linked here.

    The WEIRD part is this:
    In the tabs that I was proficiently working in – was on public speaking; one on toastmasters.org and the other on a random site about speaking. So, not only has this been a point of research for me in the last few days, but just so happened I got the pull to go to your site – and BAM, found this great work. When they said mysterious ways…they meant mysterious ways!

    This was absolutely great advice by the way. I love how consistent you are in your messages. You layer your approach with the most simple steps. Speaking: rely on life’s lessons.
    Writing: write how you talk.

    Knowing you, is making me better in so many ways man. Thank you.

    Hello Kieth – it’s been a while. Please forgive me in leaving such a long comment. Thank you for hosting this great article from Marcus. I’ll be spending some time here with the gaol of sharpening my speaking skill.s
    Jk Allen´s last great post ..Understanding YourselfMy Profile

    • JK, I know I’ve said it before, but you are bar-none the best commentor on the internet. The value you bring to each and every conversation is a new blog post within itself. Thank you for being so exceptional and caring as much as you do for others. It’s truly amazing.

      On to your comment. I’m thrilled you found a little of what you were looking for here. Awesome. Life works that way when we live inspired– and I know for a fact that you try to live so as to ‘allow’.

      You’ve summed up perfectly my simple message, a message that permeates all of my blog posts about blogging, web 2.0, marketing, or speaking….and you’ve said it in such a way that when I read it, I thought, “Hmmm, that’s it…That’s what I’m trying to help people understand and see.” —-

      Rely on Life’s Lessons
      Rely on Life’s Lessons
      Rely on Life’s Lessons
      Rely on Life’s Lessons

      OK, you get my point. That’s the theme of Marcus Sheridan in a nutshell, so I guess I owe you JK for the perfect psycho-analysis 😉

      Seriously though, if we’ll just allow life to make our communication easier, the changes that occur will be special. It’s simply one of those things you’ve got to experience for yourself.

      You da ma JK. Thanks again my friend.
      Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion´s last great post ..How to Prepare a GREAT Speech or Presentation in 5 Minutes or Less Every TimeMy Profile

    • Thanks for stopping by JK.
      Seen you over on Marcus’s bog – good to see you here.

  10. Marcus, you seem to pile on more talent each time I see your name somewhere. Some awesome tips, man.

    I never had the fear of public speaking most people do. My dad was a preacher and often had me on stage at our church doing something or another. I learned to do pretty well with it.

    One day when I grew up, I decided I wanted to try my hand at stand-up. I wrote down all sorts of things I thought would get the audience going. I had all sorts of stuff. I had listened to years’ worth of Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, and Sinbad, and thought, surely, I could pull this off. I got on stage and DIED (not a good word in any sense, but particularly bad in the world of public speaking).

    At the time I was also a substitute teacher in the Tulsa high schools. I would often just say ridiculous things to students and get tons of laughs and chuckles. I couldn’t figure it out. Why were these ridiculous top-of-my-head jokes getting laughs and my prepared material was bombing in comedy clubs? As you can imagine, I soon found the “conversation” secret, and it changed my whole routine.

    Sorry to drag it on, but your article prompted my own story. Thanks!
    Bryan Thompson´s last great post ..What Career Would You Choose if Money No Longer MatteredMy Profile

    • Perfect example Bryan! So glad you shared.

      You mentioned finding your ‘conversation’ voice. That’s a perfect way to describe it. I look at it like this— I can either be your college professor at the lecture hall, or I can be your best friend, driving in the car and sharing a great tale and a few laughs (or even tears) along the way. Personally, I’ll take the latter 😉

      Thanks so much for coming over to Keith’s site and leaving this comment Bryan. You rock my friend. 🙂
      Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion´s last great post ..How to Prepare a GREAT Speech or Presentation in 5 Minutes or Less Every TimeMy Profile

  11. Thank you for this wonderful post. I just did my very first speaking gig on Jan. 15th. I was sooo scared!! Everything I had rehearsed, got thrown out the window when I was actually in front of the crowd. However, I was able to inspire and motivate those women to make some changes in their dating life. 🙂 This quick technique you just offered will definitely help me on my next one in April! 🙂
    Shay´s last great post ..The Laxative Your Dating Life Needs to TakeMy Profile

  12. I agree 100% Marcus. There is a self trust that we exude when we really KNOW our stuff. And we can only KNOW it when we have lived, breathed and experienced it. I know that if I relax and get out of the way it will flow.

  13. Seriously Marcus, following you at The Sales Lion, then checking out where you’re guest blogging… is this how it feels when you decide to become a Dead Head? Seriously though, great points. I decided last year that speaking was a part of how I was going to differentiate my business, and I quickly found that the most successful (and enjoyable) presentations were where the audience was subjected to my stories and my sense of humor.
    Dave Marciniak´s last great post ..Revolutionary Gardens Weekly Roundup – Week of January 31- 2011My Profile

  14. Hi Marcus & Keith

    Firstly Keith, well done for having Marcus GP. Just from regularly visiting his blog I knew he was an effective communicator.

    Marcus, congrats on the GP. Really top notch 🙂 And you are keeping it real by sharing your own experiences.

    I agree that we all have the potential as we all communicate with people around us without really thinking about it too muchand don’t prepare a speech before we begin a conversation 😉

    When I have done presentations, I have prepared well if it has been to do with research projects I have been involved with.

    However, with my lavender products; it’s more conversational and my own experience and that of my satisfied customers 🙂

    Patricia Perth Australia
    Patricia@lavenderuses´s last great post ..Collaboration- the new buzz wordMy Profile

  15. Hi Keith,
    Marcus has written a lovable article about speech preparation, as you commented. I have participated in number of Debate Competitions in my school and college life and I was good enough in speaking. Still people love my speaking style. I can also deliver my thoughts in well arranged form.
    But I am not good in writing speeches for others, so I would request to Marcus to write an article about speech writing, please.
    nazimwarriach´s last great post ..iContact Coupon CodeMy Profile

    • Hi Nazim
      Thanks for your comment.
      We’ll have to see if Marcus will do a follow up guest post on Speech Writing.

      It will cost me, but in my opinion… Marcus is worth every penny, of his enormous fee. LOL

    • Hey Nazim, thanks so much for your comment. To be honest, I’m not sure you’ll love my answer though. Here’s why:

      I’ve ‘written’ a lot of speeches with other people in the past. In fact, I take people that have ‘speakers block’ and help them prepare a great speech (in 5 minutes or less 😉 ). But the way I do it is too simple for most speech writers to accept. Here are the only questions I ask the speaker:

      1. What’s the topic/goal of the speech?
      2. Tell me every personal experience you can think of that relates to this topic.
      (number of experiences shared will be contingent on allotted time of actual speech)
      3. Good job, we’re done.

      Seriously, that’s all I do….and it works. No script. Just a bullet point of the experiences they are going to share to the audience.

      Again, I know people that read this doubt the methodology, and that’s OK. But anyone that’s ever done this with me before will tell you it works, and it makes for the easiest and most relaxing speech they’ve ever given.

      Thanks again.

      Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion´s last great post ..How to Prepare a GREAT Speech or Presentation in 5 Minutes or Less Every TimeMy Profile

  16. A great read, as always, by the consistently brilliant Marcus Sheridan!

    It’s true about public speaking, you have to know more than what you’re saying. You have to ‘feel’ what you say, the very essence of your topic has to be inside you.

    I’ve seen some riveting speeches done without scripts and notes, and they always have that special something. That special something being ‘belief’ 🙂

  17. Marcus

    Cool post as always. I’ve only been reading your stuff for a week but already feel that I know you quite well and what you’re about.

    So you’re definitely infusing your communications with your personality. I’m intrigued to actually hear you speak….have you done any videos?

    Keith – it’s a week now until I start my 100 Articles in 100 Days challenge. And I also have a series of 4 webinars to prep and run as well – do you have any advice for ‘public speaking’ in the webinar format?

    Paul Wolfe´s last great post ..Protected- OS7 – Pareto’s Principle And Using Online VideoMy Profile

    • At the risk of sounding a little patronizing Paul, this may be the comment I enjoy most from all of the excellent ones that have been shared thus far. Why? Because, as you’ve likely figured out, I’m into relationships. I dig transparency. I abhor fake. And trying to be something you’re not (especially online) drives me nuts…..So if I’m able, through my writings, to help you get a better feel for the real ‘Marcus Sheridan’, then that thrills me to no end. So thank you for that Paul.

      Regarding video— Yes, I’ve got lots on TSL. Just click the tab ‘Awesome Speaking Services’.

      I’ll be tackling your webinar question later, as it’s a dang good one.
      Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion´s last great post ..How to Prepare a GREAT Speech or Presentation in 5 Minutes or Less Every TimeMy Profile

    • Good to see you back Paul
      Check out my reply to Stella below.

      Tom is great with video.
      As soon as his video is available I’ll publish it here or post a link.

  18. hey Keith and Marcus

    Keith, that’s a great idea to have guests on your blog- adding flavors!

    nice to meet you Marcus:)

    sure…when your observations are true- real, they become so valuable!
    in this world where people like to say and believe that everything is subjective.
    We are all explorers, and diving deep into somebody’s world can be life changing.

    ‘There is a crack in everything – that is where the light comes in’
    (Leonard Cohen)

    Martyna Bizdra´s last great post ..Young Entrepreneurs- 2 MinutesMy Profile

  19. And here’s a practical bonus from your method, Marcus – for those of us that can no longer read without glasses but hate wearing them and usually keep them off, this would stop that on-off-on-off that can be so distracting. All you’d need is some REALLY BIG bullet points and you’re good to go:)
    Crystal´s last great post ..Cruz Reader Firmware Update How-toMy Profile

  20. This is interesting Mark — this happens to also be a great way to identify what type your content should be part of your blog.

    People relate to real life stories told by real people. People connect with real, not carefully crafted text about garbly goop.

    I love what you point out here; you don’t have to think of things to say, you just need to share your real life experiences with others so they can get the benefit of learning some of the things you’ve learned along your journey.

    Instead of thinking of things to say, you’ll have to shorten up some of your stories — haha

    Great insight here Marcus, thanks!
    Mark Harai´s last great post ..Does Your Avatar Show Us Your Best SideMy Profile

  21. Marcus and Keith,

    I’m also interested in hearing your suggestions to Paul Wolfe’s question about webinars. In particular, I’m interested in how you would address the issue of eye contact. When you’re “looking at someone” via webcam you are naturally focused on the screen where the person’s face appears as opposed to the actual camera itself. This makes everything look off centered. I know this seems nit picky but I believe eye contact is everything when it comes to communication. Thanks!
    Stella´s last great post ..The Pareto ProjectMy Profile

  22. Hi Marcus (and Keith),

    Phenomenal post. It might even give me the inclination to speak publicly again someday.

    Your beginning story reminded me of a very similar situation in school where I turned so many shades of red and felt I would crumple to my feet. My mother, the protective and loving woman she was, came to my rescue and got me out of speech class so I never had to do that again.

    Then one day, many many moons later, I found myself on stage unexpectedly. While I was very nervous, not having a chance at all to prepare, I simply spoke about what I knew most. It worked!

    There you go. Proof is in the pudding! LOL.

  23. Im always surprised when I see supposedly smart people (CEO, politicians, actors, etc) speak from the script. And their speech is 10-15 minutes to book…I mean c’mon.

    They cant riff for few minutes per bullet point?

    Anyways..Im totally down with the Marcus method of public speaking…count me in 🙂
    Dino Dogan´s last great post ..What Makes People Buy- RejectionMy Profile

  24. Ok, so what happens when the kid who makes it all the way through middle school without speaking a single word on the school bus grows up and becomes best friends with Marcus Sheridan?

    You get a living testimony that literally anyone can use this method to speak well in front of a group of people.

    I’ve seen you use this for well over a decade buddy, and it’s allowed me to overcome some pretty daunting fears.

    Great post.

    Keith, thanks for having him!

  25. Hi Marcus,

    Great post my friend! Despite the fact I studied Theatre, I am not comfortable giving public speeches. This is a skill that I should work on. I like that you think of giving a speech as having a conversation. This small shift really make a huge difference in how we approach public speaking. Thanks for sharing Marcus 🙂
    Dia´s last great post ..How to encourage someoneMy Profile

    • Hi Dia
      I envy yoy your theatre skills.
      I always think that acting and giving a speech have a lot in common.

      Big difference is that when you give a speech you are speaking your own words.
      Makes you a little more vulnerable.

  26. Rhae Swisher says:

    Marcus I will have to go with a split decision on this post. I agree and disagree.

    I think when you give a presentation where you can bring out your past experiences it’s gold. When you wrap those experiences into an engaging story it’s even better. I find it interesting that the “art of story telling” is coming back. Or that’s the way it seems to me.

    However, you knew that was coming, if the presentation is to teach people then you better do more than 5 minutes worth of work.

    I recently gave a 75 minute presentation on Social Media to a group of 90 insurance company managers. I spent a lot of time preparing it and then changed 80% of it the night before because of what I was hearing at the convention.

    These were people that for the most part had no idea what Social Media was or how it could be used to help build their business.


    • Hi Rhae
      Agree with you about preparation.

      Really depends what you are trying to achieve and how well you know your material and how detailed that material is.

      I always prepare well and plan for things that might go wrong.
      That way… you are guaranteed to sound spontaneous. LOL

  27. Wow! I’ve never had the courage to go up there without something written out. Yet when I do, I’m never satisfied with my presentation.

    I’ll be holding a webinar soon, and I’m completely changing my approach, thanks to this article! What happy timing that someone tweeted this and I saw it.

    Yay. Two new blogs to enjoy! Thanks for the great ideas. 😀
    Paula Lee Bright´s last great post ..Go- Granny- Go Beats the Super Bowl! A Baby Boomer MUST SEE!My Profile

    • Welcome Paula
      Sounds as though quite a few people will be looking at their use of notes after reading Marcus’s post.

      Please let me know how things go.

      • Thanks, Keith. Yet I must admit, although my brain sees the wisdom in it, my soul is scared.

        I guess being embarrassed isn’t a good enough reason to abandon a great idea. 🙂

        I’ll let you know how it goes. IF I do it. ??
        Paula Lee Bright´s last great post ..Top Ten Tweeps of St Louis- Meet The TwansformerMy Profile

        • Hi Paula
          Perhaps not totally without notes.
          Try using a card with a few bullet points written down just to jog your memory and keep you heading in the right direction.

          Take a few dummy runs before the actual event so that you feel more comfortable when the red light goes on.

          Good luck and please let me know how it goes.

  28. Gwyneth Millard says:

    Marcus – where have you been all my life?

    I am happy that he agrees with me that more speeches are created from ideas rather than by writing pages of text. Any ideas that are there will come out in the speech without writing them down – as long as they have been organised beforehand. My Rapid Speech Preparation Exercise is my most successful tool so far.

  29. The thing I love here is the value on our experiences and our past that this post portrays. So many people go to other sources for their information and underestimate the value of their own lives.

    Delena Silverfox@Coupon Codes´s last great post ..Barrons Discount OfferMy Profile

    • Good to see you again Delena
      Guess we all have lots of experiences and stories to weave into our speaches.

      Good thing is, because they are real experiences, they are so easy to remember.

      Thanks for your comment

  30. Great guest post. Some of the funnest and memorable “speeches” I’ve given have been on the fly and usually involved telling a story. Sometimes if you overthink a speech, it can fall flat. 🙂
    Jewel Allen´s last great post ..Bumpy Landings and ChocolateMy Profile

    • Lovely to see you Jewel and thanks for your comment.

      I hope that the kids aren’t splashing you laptop too much. LOL

      BTW – congrats on finishing your novel.

  31. Marcus (and Keith), Good story and I’ve left more over at Sales Lion. I like the personal anecdote approach for one reason: it’s real. Not an abstract case study, not a boring white paper. When you tell that experience story – good or bad – it’s something that connects the audience. Spent a few years helping franchisor clients with national meetings, and the panels with successful franchisees sharing their stories were always the best. Real world applications that had the most value to the audience. FWIW.
    Davina K. Brewer´s last great post ..Corner of What and Ever- The Writer’s BlockMy Profile

    • Hi Davina
      Thanks for your comment.

      “I like the personal anecdote approach… it’s something that connects the audience.”

      That’s the important thing, the connection with the audience.
      Without that connection, you might as well go home.

      Hope to see you again.

  32. You made a great point sharing that quote about experience. We should never assume that people already know the information we’re about to share in our writing OR in our speeches.

    We also shouldn’t assume that nobody in our audience will have a profound moment when we shine the light on our experiences (including mistakes).

    Telling stories and the enjoyment of listening to them is ingrained in us. Some of the best online content marketers and public speakers use story to convey a point (or convert sales).
    Jon´s last great post ..Marketing Your Business Online A Real ExampleMy Profile

    • Welcome Jon
      Good point, we all love a good story and they are so easy to remember.

      As you point out, stories are great as long as they are used to illustrate a point.

      Thanks for your comment.
      I’ll stop by your blog and take a look round.

  33. Great tips, Marcus. I dread public speaking and I get mental-blocked when I’m nervous. Your technique, though, is awesome. I can see how effective it would be for me as well.
    Anne Sales | Coupon Codes´s last great post ..GotoMeeting Promo CodeMy Profile

    • Welcome Anne
      Don’t worry about the mental blocking, we all get that when we’re nervous.

      Try speaking using short bullet points as your notes – just to jog your memory.
      Make sure that you jot down dates and names, which you may forget under pressure.

      Practice your speech using your bullet point notes and see how it goes.

      Let me know how it works out.

      • Hi Keith, yes, having a note works for me but even with this I still get to skip some. Your bullet points is a good idea and of course, practice, that’s the one I need most which most of the time I tend to neglect. Thanks for the heads up.
        Anne Sales | Coupon Codes´s last great post ..GotoMeeting Promo CodeMy Profile

  34. Applause! Applause! Applause!

    Experiences + Lessons learned = Public Speaking bliss (minus the knocking knees)

    I always embrace a simple and sensible formula, Marcus (though math was not my best subject in school)

    Huge chunk of ‘right-off-the-cuff’ expertise here and I’m grateful to Keith for inviting you to take the seat of honor as his guest. He knows how to pick ’em!

    Been in front of audiences for thirty years so I hope you won’t mind my taking the liberty of adding one little nugget to everything you’ve shared, which is golden …

    Every single solitary audience is different. No two are alike. They each take on their own unique personality. The more opportunities you have to speak to live audiences, the more you learn to “sense” their moods and demeanor and ‘tweak’ your presentation accordingly. Hard to digest, I know — but true.

    Developing this skill is priceless. The most valuable part of this skill that’s served me well is to look for body language signs and signals from my audience.

    e.g. …

    When I notice people with their arms folded across their chests and they’re slouched back in their seats, I never fail to say something like this …

    “Well, I see we have a few attendees here this evening who may have had their arms twisted to be here and would much rather be doing a root canal on a Rottweiler!”

    I just say it as I see it and it works. And it also breaks the ice.

    Moral of this long comment: Use Marcus Sheridan’s super duper public speaking formula and have fun learning to gauge your audiences.

    Thank you, Marcus and Keith, for indulging me. Exemplary post!

    • Hi Melanie
      “Been in front of audiences for thirty years” and we appreciate you sharing your experiences and technique.

      You’ve got to keep looking at the audience if you want to establish that connection and get any feedback. Establishing audience rapport is so important.

      As you point out, injecting a little humour helps to break the ice and get the audience on your side.

      Thanks for a super comment.

    • This was incredibly kind of you Melanie, so glad you took the time to discuss the point that every audience is unique and that great speakers learn quickly to adjust to them….or lose ’em.

      You’re kind words have made my day.

      Thanks again.

      Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion´s last great post ..Why Blogging is the Greatest Sales Tool in the World TodayMy Profile

  35. Hi Keith and Marcus .. interesting isn’t it how things tie in .. I ‘found’ Marcus yesterday via another blog ..

    His recent post Content Rules makes so much sense ..

    .. as does this post – story telling .. ie telling things in a way that we can each relate to in perhaps another example of our own .. we’ll be engaged and we’ll listen.

    Thanks Keith for bringing Marcus to our attention .. and excellent post .. no worries just talk and tell .. Cheers Hilary
    Hilary´s last great post ..Spring – the season of new growth- abundant change My Profile

    • Good to see you back Hilary.
      As for Marcus, I can’t believe how much work he gets through.
      His own blog, guest posts and replies to each and every comment.

      This guy is a Bloggers Blogger.
      Glad you liked the post.

    • Hilary! So thrilled you’ve stumbled upon me again, guess that crazy thing we call ‘the universe’ is working overtime.

      But you’ve made a keen observation. Great communication is great communication, in all its forms. The principles really don’t change across the board.

      Thanks so much for commenting here Hilary and I hope we chat some more down the road. 🙂

      Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion´s last great post ..Why Blogging is the Greatest Sales Tool in the World TodayMy Profile

      • Hi Marcus
        What did I say?
        “He replies to each and every comment.”

        I’m not wrong am I.

      • Hi Marcus .. and Keith! I’ve been a trying to sort my Reader out & get to the blogs I want to .. etc .. so I’m late occasionally ..

        I’m sure we’ll all be meeting around the blogosphere soon .. have good weekends .. Cheers Hilary
        Hilary´s last great post ..Content is King – is it not How about Passion My Profile

        • Hi Hilary
          I use the “subscribe by email” rather than the RSS.
          See top right on blog and blog pages.

          • Hi Keith – Perhaps I should consider that .. can’t sort the Reader by ABC .. which irritates the hell out of me!? and I get duplicates .. not sure why. And, and, and .. other little tingies that bug me .. but I’m around that’s the main thing .. but I need to sort it before the A-Z Challenge ..

            Cheers H
            Hilary´s last great post ..Content is King – is it not How about Passion My Profile

        • I’m with Keith on this one Hilary. Unlike most people, I use email to subscribe to my blogs. I find that way I can keep things way more organized and overall control over the content is better. What’s crazy though is that many bloggers do not offer email subscription. (Don’t tell anyone but Keith used to be one of those crazy bloggers but soon found the light 😉 )

          Thanks again for all!

          Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion´s last great post ..Husband- Father- Blogger- Business Owner- A Sales Lion Close-UpMy Profile

          • Hi Marcus .. he’s just confessed on another blog – you’re alright?! Ari Herzog’s blog .. just subscribed to it. I’ll learn (soon!!) ..

            I probably don’t have it on mine – but must upgrade mine too .. but as you say – we should have both options .. I have one blogger who has to email me to tell me she’s put a new post up – drives me nuts! But I haven’t subscribed via email … if she offers it – but there’s no RSS ..

            Cheers – we’ll work it out – won’t we all?!

            Oh & oh .. Mr The Sales Lion .. if you check my blog – you’ll see the TED video on The Last of the Lions .. well the post will tell you all .. TEd will tell you way more and show you ..

            Cheers Hilary
            Hilary´s last great post ..Content is King – is it not How about Passion My Profile

  36. I thinking having good personal story’s is a key to effectively communicating your topic.

    This is an area that I need to work on. I find myself focusing on putting together good material that I some times leave out the personal story’s. I think you need to have a balance, though. The next time I put together a talk I think I will brainstorm first about past experience then fill in the rest.

    Thank you for the post.
    Dan Black´s last great post ..Spiritual Leadership Principle-TeachableMy Profile

    • Hi Dan
      Sorry, I nearly missed your comment.

      Good idea to think of useful material and then organise it in a logical order.
      Perhaps put your best material last.
      Your final words are what the audience will remember.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  37. Hilary
    Take a look at this post… all about email instead of RSS.


    BTW – Ari Herzog is a great site to subscribe to.

  38. Hi Keith .. thanks I’ve subscribed RSS! for now .. til I can ascertain I understand what’s what exactly .. So his post on RSS v email .. with all the comments will show up – thanks for pointing me in this direction ..

    Cheers H
    Hilary´s last great post ..Content is King – is it not How about Passion My Profile

  39. Marcus and Hilary
    My plea is guilty… but insane. LOL

    My number of subscribers has gone through the roof since I added “subscribe by email”.

    Much easier to check and manage via email.

  40. Hi Marcus,

    Oooh you make it sound so easy! But when I think about it you are right.

    I am currently attending public speaking meetings and the thought of having to prepare a 20 minute speech is daunting (5 minutes for that matter) .. but the tips you shared above – brainstorming experiences and lessons learned – will definitely make it alot easier in future. Thanks for the Share

    • Welcome to easyP Shelby
      What are your meetings? Are they Toastmasters meetings or another organisation?

      Agree with you, Marcus’s method is a great way to think of preparing a speech.

      Appreciate your comment

  41. Hi Keith,

    Sounds like a good way to prepare for your speech.

    Personal stories are always interesting – because people can relate to those better than just some theoretical stuff.

    • Hi Timo
      Sounds as though you enjoyed Marcus’s take on preparing for a speech.

      Agree with you, people love stories and… they are easy to remember.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  42. Love the guest post, Marcus!

    Though, I honestly don’t know how you can just sit down for 5 minutes and figure out everything that you’re going to say.

    Personally, I’ve always shied away from public speaking or any type of speaking in general. I remember in high school I would actually opt NOT to give an oral presentation and go for the bad grade instead; that’s how bad my fear of public speaking was, and it hasn’t gotten any better.

    I know that I’m going to eventually have to get over this fear and that will take baby steps. But it’s interesting to hear your experiences. 🙂

    Christina Crowe´s last great post ..Do You Read Like an Encyclopedia What You’re Forgetting and How to Fix ItMy Profile

    • Wow Christina, what a pleasure it is to see you come by Keith’s blog for this guest post 🙂

      Listen, and I know you don’t believe me, but there is a great speaker in all of us. And for you, I have zero doubt of this, because you’re a great writer, and the transition from one to another is natural, as they’re both just communication.

      If you just pretend you’re writing a blog post, I think you’d find the process of giving a speech is absolutely invigorating. 😉
      Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion´s last great post ..Relationship Marketing- Emotional Connections- and the Power of YOUMy Profile

    • Hi Christina

      “…I know that I’m going to eventually have to get over this fear and that will take baby steps.”

      My advice, join a Speakers Club.
      That’s how I started out Public Speaking.

      Take a look at my article here…

      Hope you find it helpful and please let me know how it goes.

  43. Thanks Keith and Marcus, I’ve shared this great article on my blog. Fantastic, thank you.

  44. Great insights! This “technique” does require quite a bit of trust though. It is easy to be overtaken by panic juts before an important speech/presentation.

    Sales professional from Finland

    • Hi and welcome to easyP.

      Marcus is a great guy and as I recall he was my first guest poster.
      Just look at his blog now… tremendous!

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  45. Samantha says:

    Hi there Marcus and Keith

    I am giving a speech on the 29 of September and Ive tried rehearsing it and I sound really good, no dought bout that but its when i get up and start doing thje speech in fron od the audience that i start to stutter, become scared that I feel I go black even though I hav ethe speech in my hand and in front of my eyes. I get so nervous. My old english/history teacher on the other hand is so brave and she always makes jokes and makes people laugh and lures you into what she was saying and making you want more of the the facts and stories that came with them facts. But ive tried to be like her but in the natural form I am funny and make people laugh and they want to know more but if put in te spot and make people loopse interest. Could you please help me become a better speaker cos your blog was abosolutely fantastic and the detail you go into and depth is like wow im blown away but i would like to know how to become more like your article.

    Please help me