Notes from My Speech Coach

Last week, I spoke at the Re:create 2011 Conference in Franklin, Tennessee. This is an annual conference for Christian “creatives” (e.g., worship leaders, recording artists, book authors, actors, etc.). I talked about the #1 challenge these creatives face: becoming bitter over unwarranted criticism.

Speakers View of an Audience Photo courtesy of ©, Image #7152512

Photo courtesy of ©

A few days after the conference, my friend Ken Davis, who was also a speaker at the conference, gave me some valuable feedback on my speech. In addition to being an enormously gifted speaker himself, Ken is a speech coach. He also hosts the Dynamic Communicators Summit and the Professional Communicators Summit, two conferences designed for professional speakers.

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I was eager to hear what Ken had to say, because he is one of my top five favorite speakers. I have also attended his Professional Communicators Summit and loved it. We sat down at a local restaurant for a one-on-one coaching session.

He was very affirming, but he also had five great suggestions for me. If you do any public speaking, perhaps these will be helpful to you, too:

  1. State the benefit clearly. I had a pretty clear premise (I thought), but I neglected to make the benefits clear. In my speech I said, “There are three truths you must embrace in dealing with offenses.” Ken said, “So what? What’s the benefit?” A better premise is this: “If you want to realize your full potential as a Christian creative, you must embrace three truths about dealing with unwarranted criticism.”
  2. Cut my intro down. I had a good opening. It was warm and pretty funny. However, it was too long. Ken felt I should remove the information that people know or could discover in my public bio. Instead, I need to share the details they wouldn’t know. This adds an element of surprise and connects me emotionally with my audience—especially if I can throw in some humor.
  3. Use more personal stories. I had some personal stories, but Ken felt I needed more. I know he’s right. This is my primary complaint with most of the speakers I hear. The problem is that it takes a lot of personal reflection to find great, relevant stories. Ken also suggested that the more I can share about my weaknesses, the more people will relate.
  4. Engage the audience. I didn’t engage the audience at all. Ken felt that this was a missed opportunity. He suggested I ask the audience questions. For example, before each major point, I could ask, “Do you want to realize your full potential as a Christian creative?” Then wait on a response. Then I could repeat my previous point and move on to the next one.
  5. Craft the ending carefully. I had spent a lot of time on the beginning of the speech. (I had just finished a great book called Better Beginnings: How to Capture Your Audience in 30 Seconds that I found particularly helpful.) This is important, because first impressions really matter. However, the last impression is even more important. Ken reminded me that I need to spend as much time on the ending as the beginning.

I am really excited that I get to give this same speech soon. With Ken’s help, I am hoping to take it to the next level. I have also registered for the Dynamic Communicators Summit. Ken’s other workshop focuses on the business side of speaking. This one focuses on crafting the message. I can’t wait!

Question: What are three adjustments you could make to your speaking to take it to the next level? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Uma Maheswaran S

    • Speaking to audience with expressions, not only in the tonal variety of our voice, but also in our facial expression and our body language.

    • Not filling the voids with grunts, groans, and signs of weakness, but filling them with thought-filled, connected silence.

    • Connecting well with the audience by knowing well about them before we commence the speech.

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  • Geoff Webb

    Thanks for this. I’m off this morning to start two and a half days of workshops. I’ve done this series a million times so I’m challenged to keep it fresh.

    I’ll do that by striving to listen more and be present with my audience. These few days aren’t about me—whether or not I get everything out, don’t make a mistake, and come off as intelligent or eloquent. It’s about them—are they receiving the message, is the light going on, are they changing?

    • Michael Hyatt

      That is a good reminder, Geoff. I do best when I focus on my audience and what they need.

  • Anonymous

    Awesome. Thanks for sharing you session for free! That was very helpful to me. Especially putting more emphasis on the close!

    • Dan Rockwell

      I’m with you Artie. I spend plenty of time on getting into the material, delivery and structure and then wind up with a review of the key points. Pretty lame.

  • Sammy Adebiyi

    Practice and prepare more. Not sure where or how it started but somehow the Holy Spirit the got the rep of primarily working only through spontaneity and randomness.
    As a speaker I’m learning that He works just as much through hard work and preparation. Ironically I feel like the times I’ve seen the Spirit move the most are the times when I’ve prepared the most.

  • Benjamin Lichtenwalner

    I should probably work on #3: Use more personal stories - I find this a difficult balance in both blogging and speaking. How do you know when it’s too much and you come across as vain vs. when it’s too little and you do not have that personal connection?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Honestly, I don’t think you can have too many. The best speeches I have ever heard were basically a series of stories, strong together like pearls on a necklace.

      • Brad Farris

        Donald Miller builds his talks in exactly this way, like a series of stories. He actually uses a storyboard instead of an outline to make sure he’s sticking to stories. He has a blog post about it that was very helpful to me.

        • Michael Hyatt

          Very cool. I will look that up.

          • Air Potter

            Do you have a link to post on this? I can’t seem to find it.

      • Benjamin Lichtenwalner

        Thanks Michael (and Brad). I’ll take this advice to heart. Also, if anyone finds that post from Donald Miller, let me know. I did a quick search with no success.

  • Justin Lukasavige

    Thanks for sharing this tips. It’s tough to get great feedback like this. Most people usually just say a talk was great. It might be time for me to hire a speech coach.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I agree. And when all I get is positive feedback, I get complacent. That’s the beauty of a speech coach. You get the good, the bad, and the ugly!

    • John Richardson

      A good place to practice speaking, is a local Toastmasters club. Each prepared speech gets an evaluation. It’s a safe environment where you can make mistakes, try new things, and truly hone your speech before giving it publicly. I’ve seen people go from fearful to confident in just a few speeches. The great thing is, it doesn’t cost much to join, and you’ll meet some incredibly talented mentors who can help you take your speaking to the next level.

      • Justin Lukasavige

        I agree, the best $60 you could spend to get real feedback.

      • Jeff Randleman

        That’s an interesting idea. I wonder if there is one in my area….. Hmmm…

        • John Richardson

          Hi Jeff. To find a local Toastmaster’s club, just go to this web page and type in your zip code. There are hundreds of clubs all over the country.

          • Jeff Randleman

            Thanks! I’ll look it up!

  • Dwright

    I have noticed that people tend to relate to a speaker more when they use stories and the more personal, the better. I believe that using stories tend to give a connection that would not otherwise be there. I recently delivered a speech and I also received the feedback that my introduction was a little too long as well.Therefore, this was a great reminder for me as well. Like you, I get to deliver my speech again and I aim to take it to the next level this time.

    • Michael Hyatt

      It was really helpful to me to write out my notes from my time with Ken. I really wanted to make sure I took specific action.

  • Erica McNeal

    Great info and great timing – speaking on Thursday to a group of 50 women! These tips will come in handy!

  • Sjohnston

    I rarely speak publically; however, I do occasionally speak to leaders I report to in a group. In that setting, the two I need the most work on would be stating the benefit clearly and cutting down the intro (or typically in those settings cutting down the background).

  • @PaulSteinbrueck

    Mike, one of the things I most appreciate about you is you are always trying to learn and improve. There are not many people in your position or people who speak as often as you do who would be as open to constructive criticism as you are, and even fewer people who would share that constructive criticism with others so they could learn too. Cudos!

  • Doug Hibbard

    3 things I need to do:

    1. Find an honest, qualified source for feedback. Ken Davis not only was honest with you, but he knows what he’s talking about. Too much of the feedback I get is either ‘fluffy’ or lacks directive help.

    2. Don’t fail to prepare presentation. It’s an old joke about the person who looked at the pastor’s notes and saw he had highlighted a section and written “Yell loudly! Argument poor,” but there’s a nugget of truth here: what looks good on paper isn’t always good out loud. While more time needs to be put into making sure I have as few “Argument poor” notations as possible, I need to prepare and notate presentation points.

    3. And I am right with you on the ending issue. I have trouble wrapping up and moving to the ending.


    • Michael Hyatt

      One of the major things I learned from Ken is that the ending should tie back to the beginning. He calls this “tying the bow.”

      • Mjhaley

        Great stuff! I like the ‘tying the bow” image. My mental image of public speaking is that of a flight. My opening is the take off- exciting and a rush of energy (hopefully). Ending with a smooth glide back to that same place. Thanks Michael!

      • Geoff Webb

        Improvisors call this “reincorporation”—when you take something you mentioned earlier and weave it back in later. It’s like having inside joke with your audience. And who doesn’t like being in on an inside joke?

      • Jeff Randleman

        I remember being taught that in my speech class in college. But it’s great to be reminded…

      • Daniel Becerra

        But, when you ‘tie the bow’, how do you go about it? Something like ‘At the beginning I mentioned… (insert) now… (insert)”?

        • Michael Hyatt

          If you state your premise at the beginning, then keep referring to it throughout the speech, taking it apart piece by piece, and then putting it back together at the end. I usually restate it, then ask my audience to imagine what it would be like if they took the action I am recommending.

  • asparagusblogger

    I think #1, Stating the benefit clearly, is very important. I do alot of speaking, and it is easy to fall into the, “I’m just standing here telling you about me and my business” trap. Thank you for your tips, and I will definately take these down and work at applying them to my next presentation.

  • John Richardson

    Great list, Michael. I have had to deal with each one of those on different occasions. The story is the big one for me. When I use stories, I engage much better with my audience. Give me too many bullet points and I go monotone and flat.

    As I’ve mentioned on a previous comment, I use the 4H method… Head, Heart, Hands, and Humor when crafting a speech. I need to make them think, add some emotion, ask them to do something, and make them laugh along the way. While this works well, I’ve found a simple secret that helps my audience remember me, long after my speech has faded from memory. It’s called repetition. I come up with a simple phrase and use it with emphasis throughout my speech. It needs to be short, memorable, and something that sums up what I’m talking about. It’s similar to the title of a book. It needs to grab you from the start and stay with you through the speech. It needs to stick!

    Some sticky titles that come to mind…
    Change or Die!
    What Time Is It?
    Do You Have Enough?
    Can You Survive?
    Do It Now!

    A phrase that might work well for your speech…
    Get Over It!

    I’ve had the privilege of hearing you in person. You have a very engaging style that draws people in. You have a ton of heart felt content right here on your blog. Just grab some of that emotion, put it into words, and make it stick like glue. Good luck on your next presentation!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for this title suggestion, John. Repetition and a sticky title are great recommendations!

  • Karl Mealor

    I’ve always wanted to go to a voice coach. I tend to strain my voice when speaking, and think I could benefit from improvements in my vocal technique. Does anyone have suggestions? Has anyone else tried something similar to this?

    • Michael Hyatt

      I did this about ten years ago. It was very helpful. In Nashville, Vanderbilt Hospital also has the Vanderbilt Voice Clinic for people who have problems with their voice. They serve lots of people in the entertainment industry.

      • Karl Mealor

        How did you locate a voice coach? Did you use a music teacher, a speech therapist, etc.?

        • Michael Hyatt

          I just asked some friends in the music business. Understand that a voice coach is different than a speech coach. (I assume you know this.)

          • Karl Mealor

            Thanks. I apparently need to do a little research.

  • Josh Hood

    I love your transparency on these things, Mike. Thank you for being willing to share this great information with us.
    I have been working on bringing more energy to my speaking. I struggle with this sometimes, and have discovered that the audience usually mirrors the orator. If you are passionate, they will respond passionately.

    (If someone can’t make it to Ken’s Dynamic Communicator’s Summit, they can purchase the material in DVD format on Ken’s site here:

    • Michael Hyatt

      I had another coach who used to always encourage me to “open my heart.” In fact, she taught me how to discern when my heart is open and when it is not. This was hugely helpful in speaking and relating to people in general.

    • mcnair wilson

      Just for clarity, Ken Davis has two different courses and the words in their names get interchanged;

      • “Dynamic Communicators Workshop” (aka “DCW”) is the three and a half day intensive for crafting, outlining, structuring, and delivering talks with power, focus and clarity.

      • “SUMMIT for Professional Communicators” is the behind the scenes, how-to of the business of being a speaker, artist, author.

      I think the first (“DCW”) is essential for ANYONE in the communicating field: speakers, pastors, professors, performing artists, authors, screenwriters, etc. Anyone who has a message and wants to communicate.

      “SUMMIT” is a detailed examination of all the tools and skills needed to grow the business side of being an entrepreneur.

      Having been a speaker/teacher at both events (DCW since 1992) I have seen the stunning transformation of scores and scores for speakers. From novice youth pastors and seminary students to pastors and CEOs with decades of speaking experience. I am not aware of ANY other course that is as effective as DCW. It is positive and affirming week. Every other course I know of is MORE expensive and most courses merely scratch the surface of speaking techniques (delivery.) DCW has all that PLUS the critical content preparation to give EVERY talk power, focus, and clarity.

  • Brad Hill

    Wow – thanks for being so transparent Mike! It takes maturity to receive constructive criticism well. Even more so to share it with the world.

    I had a speech coach last week come up to me after my talk and say, “great recovery!” I had no idea what he was referring to, but I played along and said, “thanks!” After an awkward pause he started laughing and told me that he uses that line on everyone. He loves to see the reaction. DOH!

  • Leah Adams

    THANK YOU for sharing these. I will be speaking this weekend and will be conscious of them.

    I went through the CLASS seminar for speakers a few years ago and the one critique that I received was that I needed to include more personal stories in my messages. I had purposely not done that because I did not want it to look like it was all about me, rather than about Jesus. The CLASS coach helped me see that personal stories create a connection with the speaker for the audience. It was advice that I have remembered and implemented since.

    • Josh Hood

      I know a lot of people feel self-conscious about using personal material. But I think you nailed it- it creates relationship. It allows the audience to identify with you. And as Mike said, it’s especially effective when you can make fun of yourself or reveal your struggles and weaknesses.

      • Leah Adams

        Absolutely, Josh. We all enjoy a speaker much more if we feel like we connect with them….like they are real people just like us. It is that connection that causes the listener to engage and really listen.

  • Brandie Lagarde

    As a home schooling mom of six, I have no issues speaking to my little “classroom” or my Sunday school class, but since my first book was released in November I have four book clubs scheduling me to speak. I never dreamed of writing a book or public speaking, even on a small scale! Thanks for sharing great advice so newbies like myself can gain a little confidence and know how.
    Brandie Lagarde

  • Bill Bliss

    The elements I can work on are the opening, the closing and the personal stories. I read that the opening 14 words are the most important part of a speech or article, because it is in these words that you either capture the audience or don’t. Fourteen words! For it is in these opening words that one will lay out the compelling reason for others to listen or read.

    As Ken pointed out to you, the closing is just as important – it is your last chance to have people walk away with something of value for them. After all, we speak and write not for ourselves, but to give something of value to the audience (whether in person or someone who reads).

    The personal stories is what may be more difficult for me. This assumes that people will be interested in my personal stories – that is something that is not always easy for me to believe. However, my pastor provides many personal stories as a way to illustrate a biblical point, and I find it very effective. He keeps me engaged in the story, not so much for the story itself, but what I try to do is identify what biblical principle he is leading us to get a grip on. I know this pattern does not demonstrate effective listening on my part. Michael, maybe you can write a post to help me with that as well!

    I know your upcoming speech will be well, well received by your new audience because you are making the effort to think more about them.

    Bill Bliss

    • Michael Hyatt

      With regard to your personal stories, God wouldn’t be creating your story if it wasn’t important. The Apostle Paul calls us “epistles”—living letters—that God uses to communicate his truth to the world. Look at how the Apostles themselves taught: they used LOTS of personal stories.

  • Curtis

    As a long time instructor with Ken’s Dynamic Communicators Workshops I can echo the importance of personal stories. The use of personal story moves you from just providing information to sharing your passion…and your audience feels that even if they can’t clearly articulate it at the moment. I’ll look forward to seeing you in May, Michael.

  • Anonymous

    I highly recommend Ken Davis’s speaker conferences. He’s a master orator himself, but he has a huge heart for training others the skills of public speaking. I attended his Professional Communicators Summit (where I met you, Michael) last fall, and my family ministry has been rolling full-speed ever since.

    • Michael Hyatt

      It was huge for me, too.

  • Brandon

    Yep…all of these are true! I am always told to tell more personal stories whenever I write or give a speech…

  • Juan

    Mike – That is the shape of a great leader that you are – always open to learn, to improve.
    I think 3 things I need to work on :
    1) Outline the benefits (What’s in it for them?)
    2) Connect with them by tellings stories
    3) Make my presentations short (20mins) and then open for QA

  • Cara Putman

    What a gift to get that type of feedback. Great tips. I think the pieces I need to incorporate are making sure I pick the right personal stories to incorporate and making sure I ramp up the conclusion instead of petering out. That is a big challenge, but you’re right that the end needs to be at least as big so you get invited back to speak.

  • Laurie Baedke

    Excellent post, Michael! And so timely for me. I am a newer speaker, only several years into my professional speaking career, my radar is always up for insight and feedback that will help me refine my craft. I was delivering a keynote over the weekend at an association conference in Denver. After the presentation, I was chatting with a participant. We had met in the elevator the day prior, but he asked if he could offer me some feedback. He asked hesitantly, not wanting to offend, but I eagerly accepted. We sat for 45 minutes and he shared very openly his feedback on my presentation. He had many nice compliments, but several very valuable suggestions for improvement. I was humbled and so grateful for his willingness to take the time and be so genuine. As our conversation progressed, we found shared faith. In fact, I even shared your blog as one of my favorites on leadership! As leaders, we’re often isolated | insulated from feedback, but it is so critical to our success.

  • Scott McDaniel

    Regarding your talk: the #1 challenge creatives face: will you expound upon such here?

  • Jenny Herman

    When I read your opener, I thought, “Ahh…Getting feedback on a speech about accepting criticism! A chance to put it into practice.” That’s a personal tidbit you can add into one of your speeches some day!

    Now you’re making me try to think clearly in the first few hours of my day, with the boys rambunctiously playing in the background. ; ) Hmmm…As someone who does “home parties” with jewelry I could improve my presentation by:
    1) shortening it
    2) smiling more, as someone before me mentioned using expression more
    3) using more personal stories

    Thanks for yet another fabulous post!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Andy Andrews says that one of the main thing you can do to be successful and win people over is to smile while you talk.

  • Roy Wallen

    The ability to tell a story is, I believe, key to successful presentations. This is something I have learned (though not yet completely applied) from Suzanne Bates (Twitter: @CEOCoachBates) in her training and her book, Speak Like a CEO. Thanks for sharing the feedback from your coach.

  • Ddzina

    Great stuff – here is some food for thought – most people take so long on the intro becuase that is where they start. For me, if I start with how I want to close and then work back to the intro I usually nail it with a quick, engaging, informative intro that has the listeners eager for me to move to my points. It also then gives me the oppotunity to refine the closing.

  • JD Eddins

    I can identify with the small tweak that you made in suggestion number 1. But I think my 3 biggest issues are:
    1. Connecting at the beginning with personal stories and humor
    2. Crafting points that are memorable and concise
    3. Being more expressive with my body language and facial expressions

  • PatAlexander

    Mike, thanks so much for sharing this. I am currently working on a new presentation that I will be giving with a partner. We have not put in the benefit proposition. You made this stand right out for me.

  • Lucille Zimmerman

    I really agree with #3. I know a pastor who is an excellent speaker and teacher, but her rarely lets you see his life. It makes it difficult to connect and accept what he has to say.

    I remember learning in one of my psychology courses (Group Counseling) that the person who shares something vulnerable instantly becomes the most likable and popular member of the group. It’s pretty paradoxical since that person took the risk, thinking that if he shared something vulnerable people would like him less.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I have heard going first referred to as “giving others the gift of going second.”

    • Steven Cribbs

      Going first and being vulnerable are always scary propositions. We don’t want people to get the wrong impression or to think that we are weak in some area. Interesting, though, that people tend to connect with us more and learn more when we teach openly from our experiences and our failures.

  • Christopher Scott

    My three things:

    1) State questions at the beginning of my talk
    2) Focus my talk around one statement, not a thought
    3) Practice on a live audience before I actually deliver it.

  • Anonymous

    1. Not being afraid I am going to make someone mad when speaking about what Christ has done in my life.

    2. Move around more.

    3. Cut the word “um” down.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Cutting the word “um” is challenging. Ken recommended that to me in a previous session. I have really been working on it!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Cutting the word “um” is challenging. Ken recommended that to me in a previous session. I have really been working on it!

  • Bill Bliss

    Thanks for pointing that out Michael. Your points are so true. God doesn’t allow anything by accident or coincidence. It is all for a purpose.

  • Joseph Sanchez

    Whenever I preach, the areas I find to be the most difficult are the introduction and conclusion. My intro ends up being pretty good but I always struggle at the end so I normally finish pretty weak. This post challenged me to put a little more effort into my conclusions.
    Andy Stanley said there are 4 main questions he likes to ask whenever he prepares a sermon and they are:
    What do they need to know?
    Why do they need to know it?
    What do they need to do?
    Why do they need to do it?
    The first two questions deal with finding the heart of the sermon and the necessary information people have to hear. The last two questions have to deal with application and vision. I’ve found this to be helpful whenever I put a talk together as well.

    • Michael Hyatt

      In a recent podcast that Andy did, he outlined five questions he asks. It includes your four plus an additional one. I summarized it in this blog post.

      • Joseph Sanchez

        Sweet! Thanks!

    • Michael Hyatt

      In a recent podcast that Andy did, he outlined five questions he asks. It includes your four plus an additional one. I summarized it in this blog post.

  • Steven Cribbs

    Last week as I prepared to teach, I had the realization that I needed to work more on the ending. I needed to be well prepared with the point that I was driving to – the beginning and middle wouldn’t end up meaning much if I did not make the destination worthy.

    Also, I have always had a hard time remembering personal stories that really engage the topic – I need to work more on this.

  • Steven Cribbs

    Last week as I prepared to teach, I had the realization that I needed to work more on the ending. I needed to be well prepared with the point that I was driving to – the beginning and middle wouldn’t end up meaning much if I did not make the destination worthy.

    Also, I have always had a hard time remembering personal stories that really engage the topic – I need to work more on this.

  • Anonymous

    1. Generate rapport with personal stories, but not so personal that the stories become awkward.
    2. Do something surprising or unexpected during your talk. (Walk into the audience, toss a paper airplane, etc.) But make sure it fits with your talk.
    3. I love ending my talks with corporate worship. Some messages demand response.

  • Scott Cochrane

    Michael, your openness and authenticity continues to inspire. Thanks for posting something of such practical worth. So appreciate you sharing out of your own journey.

  • Daniel Decker

    Great tips! Sounds like Ken is right on the money with dishing out great advice.

  • Jeff Goins

    I love the humility you demonstrate, Mike. At your level of experience and with your reputation, it would be easy (I imagine) to coast. It says a lot about your character that you continue to look for opportunities to grow and develop yourself. I love Ken and his insights; it’s interesting to read this in light of the talk that he gave… especially the last point. It’s always fascinating for me to find out that what great speakers/artists seem to do naturally is often the result of intentional practice.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Jeff. There is always room for improvement!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Jeff. There is always room for

  • Diane Stortz

    Mike, your points make a great outline for an effective written piece too.

    • Mark McDonald

      I think Michael shares lots of personal stories in his written posts so I agree with Diane.

  • Peter P

    The ending is the part that I find the hardest.

    I always want to end with a BANG! Finding that great ending is tough though.

    Great advice here, Michael.


  • Jennifer Fulwiler

    How generous of you to share these tips! Every one of them are things I could work on too. Some other ideas that I’m currently working on are:

    1. Pause for three seconds before the speech, and use pauses to emphasize key points throughout the talk. I tend to speak too rapidly, so this is my #1 area that needs improvement.

    2. Get there early — preferably, go to the room where you’ll be speaking the day before and take a moment to get comfortable and visualize yourself really connecting with the audience.

    3. Leave the audience with a call to action, something I want them to *do* when they walk out the door.

    Thanks again for sharing these great tips!

    • Michael Hyatt

      I like your points, too. All excellent.

  • Derwin L. Gray

    Great reminders!


  • Dan Foster

    This is great Mike. Thank you for sharing today. Here are my three: 1-focus on the topic and don’t go down rabbit trails, 2-don’t say the word “um” and “uh”, 3- end powerfully and intentionally with a call to action.

  • Anonymous

    1. Consider the actual proxemics of the situation — room size, shape, arrangement of chairs, etc. I’ve found a circular shaped arrangement far friendlier than a square one. What I’m trying to figure out is how to best communicate when forced into the traditional rectangular shape

    2. Be comfortable with seeing audience members who are texting, on laptops, etc. As much as I would like to have every single person on the edge of their seat throughout, I need to remind myself that this is a multi-tasking society. Also, just because they’re on their laptop doesn’t automatically mean they’re not paying attention. Sorry for the double negative but you know what I mean.

    3. Finish early. This one is tough because I’m usually so enthusiastic (and have so much to say) about the topic. The fact of the matter, though, is that by finishing 10-15 minutes early I’m probably cutting down on significant distractions – people looking at the clock, getting ready for lunch, etc. If I’m going to pour my soul into the conclusion I want people to hear it rather than leaning on their chairs, anxious to get out of the door.

    The last thing is to avoid PowerPoint unless absolutely necessary. I want the attention on me, not the screen.

    • Peter P

      Great advice, Mike.

      All things that I need to take not of and remember!

    • Michael Hyatt

      I think PowerPoint—or preferably, Apple Keynote, is fine, as long as it doesn’t usurp your role as the presenter. If it augments, it can be very effective. (Think of Steve Jobs.)

  • Wink Rush

    Thanks for the advice…
    God bless you and your ministry!
    Wink Rush

  • Tammy Cannon

    I appreciate that two experts can sit down and talk about ways to improve. So many of us have a hard time listening to suggestions. I quit working as an international marketer to raise 3 kids, so I haven’t had to speak in public for some time, but 3 things specific to me would be 1) increase confidence 2) focus on WIIFM (audience) 3) relating passion for topic.

  • Wade Hodges

    I attended the the Dynamic Communicators Workshop many years ago when it was in Colorado. It was a great experience and helped me become a better communicator. You’re blessed to have him in your life. I wonder if Ken is still teaching the SCORRE method?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I think that he is!

  • Scot Longyear

    Thanks for the example to keep learning, even near the top of your game.
    Enjoyed meeting you at the Summit a couple years ago. You will love DCW. It was a game- changer for me.
    All the best!

  • Randy Willis

    Wow. Thanks for sharing. I’m pretty sure I need to do all those things, and probably more! :-)

    I’m going to take a look at some of Ken Davis’ resources listed on his site(s).

  • Mark McDonald

    Great post. I struggle most with my endings. I once heard Andy Stanley describe endings as “Landing the plane”. I think ending are the hardest because you have to give yourself enough time to finish well. Sometimes I get 2 minutes from the finish time and realise that my ending takes 5 minutes, but those extra three minutes can turn an audience off because I went over time. what were Ken’s tips for great endings?

    • Michael Hyatt

      His main tip was to circle back to your premise, re-state it, and then bring it home. Andy says to use the word “imagine.” In other words, help them imagine what their life will be like if they do what you have asked them to do.

  • Mark McDonald

    One more thought, Michael can you do a whole blog post on starting a presentation well based on what you learnt from your time as a presenter and the books you were reading?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I will look for an opportunity. Perhaps I could review the book I mention in the post above. It has been VERY helpful.

  • Theresa Ip Froehlich

    Thank you for sharing your insights on speaking. I just heard Ken Davis speak at Christian Writers Guild conference and admire him a great deal.
    Sharing personal stories to me is more than just having the material. I have to first of all pay attention to my own life experiences and then be willing to be vulnerable enough to share. One thing that impresses me about Ken, and many other speakers I admire, is that they seem to be able to turn simple daily happenings into a life lesson for crowds.
    Conference speaking is also quite different from preaching. I’ve done more preaching than conference speaking. Nonetheless, both types have to answer the question “So what?” If my speaking does not add value to the audience, I am not being a good steward of their time.
    Mike, I always appreciate your generosity in sharing your knowledge with us all.

    Theresa Froehlich

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Theresa. I find that being a blogger makes you notice what happens a lot more, too.

  • K.C. Pro

    Wow! Thank you for sharing this great advice. Definitely interested in how you think the next time you give the speech is different by implementing Ken’s advice.

    I’m still in grad school and working on climbing up the ladder at work, but love the opportunity to present in front of a group and hope to do more public speaking in the future. Again, thank you for sharing the advice.

  • Jaymie Dieterle

    The workshops sound amazing! Thanks for sharing these tips. My struggles tend to be with the preparation of material in the first place – choosing the best pieces, not being redundant, etc.

  • Craig

    I’ve considered going to one of Ken’s training times many times. Now that I’ve read the helpful tips he gave you, I’m definitely making my plans!

    • Michael Hyatt

      I am really looking forward to going. I think it will be a major milestone for me.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for posting this post. I was sitting by Ken and noticed him taking notes. I am glad to find out what he was thinking. I am keeping this post close so that I can use it the next time I prepare a presentation.

  • Anonymous

    Great advice. I just forwarded to several public speaker friends. My two biggest challenges when speaking includes illustrations and keeping the content simple. I am constantly trying to ‘Narrow the Focus’ as Andy Stanley would say.

  • mcnair wilson

    Along with a powerful opening, strong closer (not a wrap up, that’s weak), and making it clear the benefits of any presentation, I always craft a clear and certain OBJECTIVE. This answers the question “Why this talk?” What do I want my audience to DO, consider, try, move toward, or change as a result of my presentation. Without knowing your “objective”, a speaker is merely making announcements—sharing information. Every piece of information, each illustration, even every joke in a talk should build towards the listener considering the objective.

    “Objective” is too often the missing piece at the heart of far too many keynotes, sermons, seminars, and other professional presentations. Having a reason and a direction is the whole point behind being a professional communicator. Otherwise, you might just be a great story teller or humorist but with nothing of value to offer your audience.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I couldn’t agree more. If you get clear on this, everything else seems to fall into place.

  • Heath Stoner

    I need to have more evaluators in my audience. I need to have more “mystery shoppers” that give critical feedback so that I can continue to improve.

  • Rick Koelz

    Thanks Michael for sharing this with us. I appreciate your open and honest sharing.

    I’ve heard Ken many times and he is one of the best, I’m sure he’s a great coach too.

  • Nicole

    I’ve been reading a lot of John Maxwell lately, so here’s a couple tips I’ve gleaned from him:

    1. Take time to connect with the audience. It may mean arriving early to walk around and talk to people, or staying late to sign books and answer questions, if needed. When you start, thank them for being there and express appreciation for them.

    2. Show some energy and passion! People will only be engaged with the topic if you are.

    3. Make an impact by doing or saying something out of the ordinary. I still remember when one of my pastors, trying to describe the consequences of sin on God’s creation, grabbed a beautiful ceramic vase and slammed it to the floor. As the bits of glass flew through the air, he punctuated the moment with one word: Fractured. This was over five years ago and I still remember that message.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I have seen John speak numerous times. He is especially good at connecting with the audience before the speech. He is a role model, for sure!

    • Air Potter

      Thanks for this! Really helpful

  • Cyberquill

    I would like to say something, but now I’m terrified I may not properly engage this audience or that I could mess up the ending of my comment.

  • Jeff Randleman

    These are all great points. In my youth ministry, I speak to teens twice a week. This gave me a few things to work on for the coming weeks. Using more personal stories and crafting my ending more carefully will be my areas to work on. Thanks!

  • Jstark

    Thanks Michael! You shared a personal story with us that shared some of your own areas of growth. I found the post engaging. Your insights helped me see that I need to share more personal stories too. Whenever I do people really find it helpful. Just like your post!

  • Jack Heimbigner

    -Better Closing comments. I generally don’t close well at all. Things will mostly dissipate and then I go, “well, that’s all I have for ya.”

    -I probably need to fiddle less. Its a particularly bad habit, but I fiddle with my hands or my notes, or what ever else is around me. I need to have better gestures to eliminate these quirks.

    -And probably prepare more thoroughly. I feel like I prepare well, but do not always prepare to a comfortable level for myself, which probably leads to the fiddling that I do out of nerves.

    If I could work those things out, I feel like I could take it to the next level for sure. Thanks for the post!

  • Clay Rohde

    This has challenged me as well to develop clear and concise closings. How is it I want my audience to respond. As a pastor of teens it has to be clear. I was taught to be able to communicate the message in four sentences if needed. I need to get back to that.

    I as well need to put a strong effort into picking out the personal stories that are worthy of mentioning.

    Thank you for sharing your conversation with the twitter world. I will definitely check out Ken Davis.

  • Jeff Jones

    Thanks for sharing this. I find myself doing more public speaking than I could ever want and I feel I have certainly improved over the years but there is so much more I could know to be more effective.

    I hope you will be at Catalyst Dallas this year. If so, I will look forward to hearing you again and learning from your presentation.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I am schedule to speak at Catalyst in Dallas. Thanks.

  • Dan

    Great points. I will defiantly apply them into my next speech.

    Keep serving, growing, and leading


  • Gail

    1. More diversity in speed and tone (I’ve been working on this one for a while but feel I’ve still got a way to go).

    2. Keeping an eye on the audiences’ reactions rather than getting caught up in my love of public speaking.

    3. Allowing people time to absorb what I’m trying to say by including “thinking breaks” e.g. a joke, silence or more descriptive story. As a very direct person I can forget to allow for indirect people’s listening preferances.

    • Michael Hyatt

      WIth regard to “think breaks,” I once had the privilege of hearing Henri Nouwen speak. At the end of each major point, he would say, “Now, let’s think about that.” Then he was silent for a full minute. It was powerful.

  • Daniel Becerra

    I REALLY like the personal stories speakers use, specially when they mix it with their weaknesses. I just love to know the guy I am watching struggles just like me. I remember when I first heard my favorite speaker detail his struggles as a beginner, my life changed. One of the things he said was “Take risks, even if you fail, God will pick you up”. I don’t know why, but when he said it, it actually hit home for me. I heard that many times, but as he shared his story, he drove the point home.

    The one adjustment I still ought to make is fearlessness. I love it when speakers do something new, like they make funny interpretations or funny faces, without being afraid of looking ridiculous. I can’t seem to do that, but I will practice until it comes out right.

  • Daniel Becerra

    One last question Michael, why is it that the ending is more important? I would love to get your perspective on that, if that’s okay with you :)

    • Michael Hyatt

      Because it is the last thing people hear. It is what they are left with. Thanks.

  • Deiric


    The ending is what I struggle with – and the impact is enormolus. Deliver a great talk that fizzles into a ‘that’s all I had to say’ and it’s like popping a balloon. A great book recommend.


  • TNeal

    I’m on the road and just catching up on your blogs. I appreciate your sharing your own personal story in relating this information. Your five points stir specific thoughts which I’ll enumerate in separate posts.

  • TNeal

    State the benefit clearly. Often when I speak, I assume the benefit is crystal clear to the audience. Yet, like writing a book, a lot more thought is in your preparation than in your presentation. People don’t know what’s in your head until you disclose it.

    Also stating the benefit helps focus your message and keep you on task as you speak.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I literally write out the premise and the benefit. It’s the one sentence I want my audience to remember after they have forgotten everything else. Andy Stanley does this, and it is powerful!

  • TNeal

    Cut my intro down. I’ve heard it said you can usually rip out the first few chapters in your WIP and improve the reading experience for your targeted audience. I just chopped off 10,000 plus words, better than 10% of the manuscript, in order to start where people said the story really begins. Ouch!

    You’ve got remember, whether speaking or writing, your listeners and your readers should dictate how you share your material.

  • TNeal

    Use more personal stories. My pastor and close friend had a great message a few weeks ago. What made it great? He told a personal story, one as his friend I had never heard, that deepened his point. You can usually tell when a congregation connects with the message. No shifting in their seats, no coughing, no rustling in the pews. Chuck got that kind of response when he told his story.

  • TNeal

    Engage the audience. A speaker certainly takes a risk on this point. I remember preaching and asking the question, “Does God need our help?” I thought the answer was obvious. “No, He’s God.” Someone spoke out, “Yes, He does.”

    But the risk is worth it. Despite my surprise, her response really made me think and I’m sure it hooked the congregation’s curiosity. I had the opportunity to build on her answer and their curiosity.

  • TNeal

    Craft the ending carefully. Boy, is this something I’ve learned my lesson on. I spoke to a gathering of missionaries in the Russian Far East at a Resurrection Day service (often known in the U. S. as an Easter service). I really hadn’t preached in more than six months at the time.

    I had a strong message (after all what better message do we have as Christians than “He is alive?”), came to the end, realized I had no conclusion, simply stopped speaking, froze for a moment, then bowed.

    People stared at me with deer-in-the-headlights surprise then clapped.

    My message became a performance (clapping but no standing ovation) simply because I didn’t “craft the end carefully.”

  • Alece

    Mike — I was disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to thank you after your session. So please know that this is long overdue. Thank you for speaking so strongly and poignantly a word that was so timely for my heart. I needed to hear the challenge in your message. I needed to be reminded of the vast grace I’ve received. I needed the gentle but firm prodding to forgive and let go… To extend to others the grace I’ve been given. I took so much from your session, not only on dealing with criticism and offenses but also the deep wounds and hurts in my past. Thank you. Really.

    (I learn so much from your leadership — and your seeking out Ken’s input the way you did speaks so much of your character and heart. I’m grateful to know you and Gail. I can’t wait to be back in Nashville permanently so I can get my heart’s fill of Tuesdays…)

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Alece. I can’t wait until you are back and part of our community. I so appreciate your kind words. Bless you!

  • Connie McKnight

    All your points made so much sense. Don’t you think the same suggestions apply when writing a post?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I do. Thanks.

  • Ricardo Bueno

    I need to work a stronger closing into my speeches. I often close by opening things up for Q&A. Any recommendations, samples of strong closings Michael?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Not really, other than Ken’s suggestion to tie the bow and come back to your original premise. I wish there was a complement to Better Beginnings.

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  • Fpeiqin

    I’ve seen the Spirit move the most are the times when I’ve prepared the most.

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