Question: Public speaking to get the audience truly excited

I have to give an important company update in an annual all-hands meeting. Recap our key initiatives, wins, learnings, people who made a difference, etc. My boss, the CEO of the company, is relying on me to lead into his talk on the plans for next year.

This will not be the first time I have spoken to a large work gathering. But it will be the most important, and it is planned to last for 45 mins.

I want to get past rehearsed body language and scripted speech, and get the staff truly excited about our achievements this year.

Do you have any advice for me?

9 Expert Insights

I've taught presentation skills for over 30 years to everyone from Actors and Rock bands to executives for large and small meetings. Here are some questions and a couple of observations that seemed to have been valuable for people I've worked with.

1. In the category of : Know your audience - Since you want to get them excited about the achievements, what do you know about what gets this particular group excited?  Simply trying to amp up the "yay, look at our wins" quotient may not do it. Finding out as best you can about what excites them vs. what you think they should be excited about will help.

2. in the category of: Get Your Attention off Yourself - When they leave, what do you want them to feel?  What then will help them feel that?  If you leave them in their heads thinking about the details of what you've said by making the data the most important thing then you've forgotten the human equation.

3. In the category of: It's all about connection - there are 4 connections to be responsible for. First is connection to yourself. If you're not going to be real with your own emotions present then how can you expect them to be. Next is connection to the content. If it's not meaningful for you in a personal way, then why should it be for them? Next is connection to the moment. Going unscripted is great. I fully endorse Len's idea about having it be a conversation. Do get clear about what you want to say but not how you're going to say it. Lastly and most importantly is use the three previous connections to connect WITH your audience. They are people with needs, wants and desires just like's not a you/them equation it's an "us" so keep putting your attention on them,

4. In the category of: Tools, tips and trade secrets - one of the most valuable ones is surprise. When people can anticipate where you're going then they will go on even in presenting something do so in an unexpected frame, viewpoint or method. Surprise keeps them awake.

5. Have fun.

Good question. The challenge is to speak TO your audience not AT them. That means, you frame your message in language and within the context the audience wants to hear. You speak with respect to the audience and you ask them them for their involvement in the initiative you are seeking them to support. For more check out my brand-new book on this topic "Speaking with Presence." Available everywhere books are sold. Also see

The best piece of advice I can give you is to:

(1) Make a simple outline of key point to talk about and your key points.
(2) Do not write out what you will say (other than key points) and just talk about it conversationally.
In other words, just have a conversation with your audience and do not get too hung up about how you are going to say things.  Focus on providing accurate facts, but write out the order or sequence of ideas/thoughts you want to talk about.

If you speak conversationally your body language will happen naturally.

Focus on your message and not on yourself and you will do fine.

Let me know how you make out. If you are interested, contact me, and I will send you copies of my two latest books.

I gather there's something about this particular presentation that has you concerned inasmuch as you have spoken before such a group previously.  It's a good guess that the CEO has confidence that you are the right and the best one to be doing this and, if that is true, then use his confidence in you to allow yourself to have it ... in you.

I believe that Lenny (above) has said it well.  You need an outline of topics that you intend to cover ... not a rigid speech.  Given that you are speaking of accomplishments of several types and that means being enthusiastic should come with the territory.  After you have covered your area, introducing the CEO who is there to take the momentum of this year's successes and carry it forward to the initiatives planned for the new year should be somewhat natural and easy.

Don't over think your presentation.  I imagine that the CEO has picked the right person for the job.  Believe it and you will prove yourself to be.

Looking into the crystal ball ... nice job!

Congratulations on this opportunity to represent your company on such an occasion! And good for you for thinking of your audience. You already know what not to do: read the bullet points from a series of slides. It sounds like you have a great story to tell, and I'd suggest a picture book. Like Rod Stewart says, "Every picture tells a story".

You may have access to a graphic artist, or you may want to get access to a graphic artist who could go over your specific content and help you tell the story visually. I'm going to assume you're a left-brain person and that the graphic artist would be a right-brain person - could be a great combo.

Although you want to be yourself, this will be a performance. You'll want to rehearse as you would for any other occasion you'd be taking the stage. Best of luck with this great opportunity

I've always lived by, and coached others to live by, this simple outline:

 facts & data and/or stories & opinions?
 where we’ve been?  where are we today?  where are we going?
 what’s in it for me/them?

 “have I walked in their shoes in some way at some time?”
 “are we in the same boat today?”
 “are they seeking my help, or do I need their help?”


Tell them what it is you’re going to tell them… set out your 3 points
Then tell them… deliver the content re: each point, with smooth transitions from point-to-point
Then tell them what it was you told them… summarize what you said

The single best piece of advice I can give would be to encourage you to order a copy of Garr Reynold's "The Naked Presenter" and read/skim it cover to cover! It's by far the best book out there on the subject of presentation skills and public speaking. Beautiful to look at and inspiring to read, I consult this book as a resource more than any other in my extensive business library.

You can also visit the author's website at and click on the "Presentation Tips" tab to find his key suggestions broken down into three phases: Prepare; Design; Deliver. This will definitely help you out. You can also find more of his "Presentation Zen" tips in video form on youtube.

To me, among the key things to keep in mind are:

* Our company's motto is the "3 E's": "Educate, Engage, & Excite"...and that is what every presentation should aspire to do. Educate (aka Inform) is about your content, or what you want your audience to know, to understand, and to learn; Engage (aka Interest) is about how you are going to capture and hold people's attention; and Excite (aka Inspire) is about getting people emotionally moved and positively motivated. If your presentation does all three of these things well, you will be successful.

*Remember these two acronyms: WSIC & WIFM, because that is what your audience will be thinking about anything and everything you say: "Why Should I Care?" and "What's In it For Me?" Your message should be all about THEM.

*And if you use PowerPoint slides, see everything Garr Reynolds has to say!  Stay away from bullet points and definitely do not read off the screen. Make it visual, engaging, and fun...and use the power of metaphor, analogy, visual imagery, and visual storytelling to inform, interest, and inspire your audience.

I hope this helps! Any other questions, feel free to contact me anytime. Good luck!

Congratulations for this opportunity.  Here are a few things that work for me. (After I write these down, I look forward to reviewing everyone else's recommendations because even though I've been a professional speaker for a few decades, I can always learn more.):

1. Prepare (do not over prepare).
     a. Prepare the opening. … for 2 reasons: First, you only have one chance to make a first impression. And also to help you get through the initial "nerves."  Once you get started, your own energy will carry you.
      b. Prepare the flow. I find the that transitions are important, where they are in the outline and how to do them.
      c. If you memorize anything, memorize the opening and the transitions.
2. Talk your talk, don't read it. Use an outline but don't read a script. It is really hard to listen to.
3. Connect to the material. If you don't, they won't
4. Engage, engage, engage. Do everything that you can do to connect with the audience. Look them in the eye. Talk with them (not at them). Have a conversation.
5. Tell stories when you can. We love stories.
6. Allow your self to be humorous. This does not necessarily mean telling joke (although an occasional joke might work) but to be light hearted and not take yourself too seriously.
7. HAVE FUN! If you do, they will too.

Think conversation - not presentation.  Answer the question, "What do i want the audience to know, think, feel,  or do at the end of my talk?" Once you know that - start with it.  You must believe your message and feel it if you want anyone else to.  What makes a great speaker is that connection.

Practical tips:
- Practice your opening
- Pick three key points you want to make
- Tell a story
- Know how you want to close