Give Your Speech, Change the World by Nick Morgan

Give Your Speech, Change the World by Nick Morgan is a fantastic book about the world of public speaking. The following points are what I found most helpful. (Note – quotes are taken directly from the book).

History of public speaking

Beginning with the ancient Greeks, public speaking used to be a form of mass entertainment. Now, with televisions, public speaking has become an intimate genre. The illusion of physical closeness conveyed by television created in all audiences an expectation of intimacy, both spatial and emotional, from a speaker. Public oratory today has not caught up with the audience’s changed expectations.

Understand and listen to the audience

Who are they? What do they fear? What do they want? Figure out detailed answers to these questions. Think consciously about how you and the audience are alike. Personalize your presentation so that you refer to specific members of the audience and specific events that are important to them.  Focus less on yourself and more on the audience. Think of a speech not as a presentation but as an opportunity to listen to your audience. Think of yourself as a strong listener who carefully guides that audience where you want it to go.

Craft the elevator speech

Simply a one-sentence expression of the main reason that you’re giving the speech – on the audience’s terms. Must be geared towards solving the audiences problems. Once you’ve figured out what your elevator speech is, then use that to guide all the rest of the content development. Everything that doesn’t relate to the elevator speech, no matter how fascinating or exciting to you, must be eliminated.

Maximize the first 30 seconds – the introduction

The first thirty seconds of any speech are key. Stride in with lots of energy, smile confidently, and take charge of the space and the audience immediately. The best way to start a speech is to get the audience involved from the very top. Get them to do something interesting. Then tell them your opening story and get to work. Don’t ask for a show of hands. The better way is to engage them in something that relates to the topic. Get them to identify some problems and issues related to the topic. Another way is to report to them about them. Audiences are always interested in hearing about themselves.

Lead them through the decision making process

Your goal in a speech is to lead the audience through a decision-making process to solve a problem it has and for which you have the solution. 5 steps:  [1] Realize that there is a problem and understand how it relates to you.  [2] Dive into a thorough and honest analysis of the situation.  [3] Present your solution. If controversial, lay out alternatives and tell in order why each one won’t work. Then describe your favoured solution. [4] Spell out the benefits of the choice that you want them to make.  [5] Get them started on the action that you want them to take.

Audience-centered presentations – from “why” to “how”

The audience comes into a talk wanting to have a key question answered: Why? Why am I here? Why should I pay attention? Once you’ve answered the “Why?” question, the audience will be asking “How?” by the end of the talk. How do I implement this idea? How do I get started right now?  Your goal = move the audience from why to how. Your goal is to lead your audience down into the valley of despair before taking them up the mountainside of hope.  If the people in the room buy into your answer, you’ll notice that their questions will take the form of “how?” rather than “why?”

Allow the audience to become active

A good speech will lead an audience not only from why to how, but also from passive to active. If you want to move your audience, you must learn to “give” the speech to them. Allow them full participation. Let them act upon your ideas. First, after your opening, ask them to tell you their own stories – ask them who they are. Second, during the problem section of your talk, get them to help brainstorm aspects of the problem. Third, same brainstorming during solution portion. Fourth, ask the audience to play games and give out prizes to the winners. Fifth, ask members of the audience to report to the group (during solution and action steps). Sixth, get the audience to design a response of some kind to what they’ve learned.


If a presentation is worth giving, it’s worth rehearsing at least once. A speech is never real until you give it. Begin by rehearsing the main spine of your speech, including the elevator version. Practice the opening story by itself (each time eliminating detail until you actually are stripping out meaning).

Avoid the PowerPoint trap

If your slides are so complicated that you really need to walk the audience through them, they’re much too complicated for a good presentation. Only use a PowerPoint for simple pictures, graphs, pie charts.

Length of speech

Typical attention span is 20 minutes. For a 1 hour presentation, there should be at least 3 opportunities for questions. After 20 min, 40 min, and at the end. Breaks like that not only allow audiences to catch up and clarify anything they may have missed, but the pauses also allow audiences to recharge and refresh.

Persuade, not inform

We want to persuade people to do something new. Anything else is wasted effort, because people simply don’t remember much of what they hear. It’s not a good format for imparting information. It’s a good format for persuading people to believe in or act on something. If you present a lot of information, you’ll gain credibility – and lose the audience’s interest. But if you solve an audience’s problems, you’ll gain its trust. And that trust is the beginning of a relationship, one that will allow you to move your audience to action.  What’s the problem that the audience has for which my information is the solution?

Move toward the audience when you want to emphasize a point, and away when you don’t.

Q&A Session

A Q&A session doesn’t allow you to end the presentation with your strongest point. You’ll have little idea or control about what the ending will be. So don’t do a Q&A. Take questions as they come up throughout. This gives your listeners the impression that they are involved in the creation of the speech, as well as its shape and flow. It is audience-centered speaking. For Q&A’s, always repeat the question. Always ask, “is that a fair way to state your question?” To answer – state your headline response – then give your reasons, stories, and details in support – then restate your original position. Then check with the person to see if they think you’ve answered it well (unless from a heckler).

Moving your audience to action

Since the last thing an audience hears from you is most important – why squander those moments on something that the audience will deliberately tune out? So don’t do it. Don’t summarize at the end of your speech. If you do, then they will be packing up mentally. Great speeches move your audience to action. Instead, give them a call to action.  Save a bit of your speech for the close – the best bit. Then leave the stay with “thank you.” Whatever you get your audience to do must reinforce in some way your elevator speech. It’s not what you say that counts in the end, but what your audience hears.

The only reason to give a speech is to change the world

If you’re going to take all the trouble to prepare and deliver a speech, make it worthwhile. Your speech has mattered only if the audience has heard it.

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