WHY THIS ?

So, you have to give a speech. If you are like most non-professional speakers you are either receiving an award, running for office, giving a wedding toast, or addressing a small group for any variety of reasons. Initially you may have thought “no big deal…it’s only 10 minutes”, but now as the time draws near you are starting to sweat. We have all heard that the number one fear of most Americans is the fear of public speaking. Not true! The number one fear of most Americans is SUCKING in front of a crowd. The thought of being laughed at, ridiculed, pitied, or disdained is what starts our stomach turning backflips and keeps us awake at night staring at the little red light on the dvd player. I am a professional speaker and have delivered over 1000 speeches to student groups, trade associations, and corporations. Some of what I tell you will blur the rules that your college communications teachers will have taught you, so if you are a college student and are using this book to prepare for class…be careful. The information you will read in this post works. It is not the only way to write a speech, but it is how I prepare for my speeches.  It is the formula that I have used to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking revenue. The tips and strategies found in this book are the combination of my ideas as well as a number of professional speakers and speech coaches that I have learned from over the years. If your goal is to make an A in your speech 101 class, log off. If your goal is to influence, entertain, or motivate your audience to action…read on.
In freshman speech classes, you will learn that there are three types of speeches; Informative, Persuasive, and Narrative. You have also learned that a speech should have an introduction, body, summary and conclusion. I am not saying that that information is wrong, but I would encourage you not to be confined by rules. ALL speeches should contain information, persuasion, narrative, entertainment, and motivation. The most influential and profound speakers are not always the most eloquent or the most diverse in vocabulary. The best speakers are the ones who create an intimate connection with the audiece. That connection can be created with humor, emotion, story telling, relevance, or good old fashioned likeability. The following pages will detail how to create content as well as some tips on creating a connection with your delivery.


The Story

“Daddy tell me some bedtime statistics.”  Have you ever said that? Of course not. Why? Because everybody wants a story. I started my career speaking in high schools and have spoken to tens of thousands of students across the country. I have discovered that if you can speak to a group of high school students, you can speak to anyone. They are the only audience, besides in comedy clubs, who want you to fail for entertainment value.  I have been laughed at, cursed, ignored, and mocked. I have broken up fights and actually had a disturbed student try to fight me ( I would have whooped him like he stole something). As bad as those speeches were, I have also had mountain top experiences that I am certain had a profound positive effect on the lives of the students in the room. As a musician and songwriter, I differentiated myself from other speakers by playing music to get the students all fired up. They loved the music, but it never failed to amaze me how a good story would capture the attention of the entire room. I have seen the rowdiest students stop in mid-sentence to listen to a story I was telling, therefore, I cannot stress the importance of connecting with your audience through a story.
So where do the stories come from? The best ones come from real experiences . Let’s say you are going to deliver a toast for your best friend Brian at his wedding. Brian happens to be a kind and giving person and you want to talk about his character in your toast. Instead of saying “Brian is kind and giving”, you may tell the story of how, in college, you and Brian were heading to the mall to buy a batting glove for intramural softball. You noticed an elderly woman in the parking lot who was wandering around looking for her car. Once Brian realized she had forgotten where she parked, he refused to leave her and walked around with her for half an hour until they found her vehicle. This is a much better way to illustrate Brian’s character. Another example may be an acceptance speech. Maybe you just won a citzenship award for community service and will give a short acceptance speech. From whom did you learn the value of giving back to your community? Maybe your grandmother would let you accompany her to the homeless shelter every Saturday to serve food to the homeless and as a result you saw first hand how one individual could impact many lives. Give an example of an experience that happened that inspired you to serve others.  Do the stories have to be your own? Not necessarily, but in my opinion they are more impactful if they are original. Great speakers are conversational in their tone and delivery. Write your story as if you are telling it to a friend.


How to get started:

Write down the names of the three most influential people in your life. Write down one lesson that each of them taught you. Now give the circumstances in which the lesson was learned. Be as descriptive as if you were telling the story over a cup of coffee at Starbucks.  The following story is one that I tell in almost all of my speeches. It is a true story of an event that happened between me and my father. The story illustrates the importance of paying attention to the details.
By the way, DO NOT USE THIS STORY IN YOUR SPEECH! It is mine, it is copywritten, and more importantly it is not authentically yours. The best story will come from you. You have wonderful stories in your past that just need to be pulled out, dusted off and polished.
Had you been standing next to me on any particular Saturday in the early to mid nineteen eightees, you would have probably seen me pushing a 21 inch,

self-propelled, Craftsman lawnmower. When I was twelve years old I mowed almost every yard in my neighborhood. I charged ten dollars for a small yard, fifteen for a big one, and Judge Nix had the biggest yard in our neighborhood. Had I known that it would take almost seven hours to mow, I probably would have charged more than fifteen dollars but that is the arrangement that we came to. Every other Saturday, spring through fall, I mowed the judge’s yard. One Saturday afternoon, I had been mowing all day long in the ninety five degree Alabama heat and humidity. I was dirty, tired, and ready to go home. When I had finished the last row, I turned off my self propelled lawn mower (meaning I propelled it myself) and began to push it across the yard to the curb where my dad was going to pick me up. As I walked across the yard, I looked back over my shoulder and noticed a row of shrubs in between the judge’s house and the neighbor’s. I had forgotten that behind those shrubs was a patch of grass about fifteen feet long and four feet wide and I had forgotten to mow that grass. I debated whether or not to go back and cut it and in my exhausted twelve year old mind decided that nobody would notice if I didn’t. Besides, half of it belonged to the neighbor anyway and he sure wasn’t paying me. As I reached the curb, I looked back at those shrubs. “Should I go back and cut that grass? Naaa… nobody will notice if I let it go, I’ve already finished the hard part anyway”. After a few minutes of silent debate, Judge Nix came out and handed me a check for fifteen dollars. When my dad arrived I helped him get the mower in the back of the truck. He then began to walk around the yard inspecting my work, as he was known to do, and I saw him begin to walk towards those shrubs. “Uh Oh….somebody is going to notice.” He gave me the come here gesture with his forefinger and I walked over. “Son, I believe you’ve missed a spot”.” Daddy, I’m tired”. “That’s not what I said…you’re not finished” “Daddy, no one will notice”…”Son, remember what I always tell you, don’t ever do a job unless you’re willing to sign your name to it. Are you willing to sign your name to this job?”……”yes sir”. My father and I walked back across the yard in silence. When we got to the truck, my dad pulled out the mower. He pushed it across the yard, started it up and he cut the grass behind the shrubs. It took him all of forty seconds.  When he got back over to me he asked if the judge had paid me. “Yes sir, fifteen dollars”. My dad then looked me in the eye and said…..”Give it back”. I said “say what?!!???” “GIVE IT BACK” he repeated. I was stunned. I said “are you kidding” He said “son, you don’t want to get paid for incomplete work”….I said …”yes I do”. He said “then you shouldn’t want to get paid for incomplete work. Now go give the check back and while you’re at it finish mowing the part that is in the neighbor’s yard too” I had been mowing that yard for almost seven hours in the Alabama heat and humidity and not only do I have to give back the check. My dad made me do work in the neighbor’s yard that I wasn’t even being paid for. I wouldn’t speak to him for a week. Fast forward twenty five years. My wife and I had recently purchased a new house. It was new meaning it was new to us so we had some remodeling to do. We knocked out a wall to open up space, ripped up the carpet, put down hardwood floors and painted the whole house. Painting is the one thing that my wife would let me do and I quickly discovered why they call it faux finish. When you are married to a perfectionist like I am, you will paint it “FAUX ” times “FAUX” you finished. One Saturday afternoon I had been painting all day long. I was hot, tired and ready to quit. I had just finished the half bath downstairs, had put my paints away and come back in to inspect my work….and pat myself on the back. After a day of stripping wall paper, sanding, priming and painting, I was ready for some relaxation. As I looked around the small bathroom, I noticed a spot behind the toilet that I had missed. It was only noticeable if you bent over, craned your neck and looked at the five inch by five inch spot on the wall. I thought to myself “nobody is going to notice” I then remembered the lesson my father taught me almost 25 years earlier. It just cost me 15 dollars. We have all heard the phrase “GO THE EXTRA …MILE”. The extra mile is easy to identify. It is not always easy to do, but it is easy to see. My dad was teaching me that true success is not measured in miles but rather in inches. It is the little bit extra that we give, the little extra we do, even when we think no-one is looking that creates authenticity and distinction in the market place. It’s the small ways that we exceed expectations that is the difference between good and great, between a commodity and a brand, between nice looking and SMOKING HOT!

This story was written in the exact manner I described. Professional speaker and speech coach Patricia Fripp sat down with me and said “Patrick, who is the most influential person in your life?” I said “my dad”. “Tell me one lession that he taught you when you were a child”. I told her that he always said “don’t ever do a job unless you are willing to sign your name to it”. “Patrick, tell me the story of when he first taught you that lesson.” As I told her the story, Patricia recorded it and later we transcribed it into this story that has become a central part of my speeches. As you create these stories and anecdotes, write them down and save them in a file. When an event or occasion arises where you have to deliver a speech, you an access your file and choose an appropriate story.

TALKING TIP: Save your stories in a file on your computer. You can use them again when the occasion calls for it.





* More to follow. If you just can’t wait, send me an email to Patrick@PatrickHenrySpeaker.com with the  word SPEECH in the subject line and I will send you part two.


  1. PQsongwriter on June 10, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Finally, a blog that I can really use! I’m looking forward to the next installment.

  2. Patrick Henry on June 14, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Thanks for the comment PQsongwriter

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