Powerful Speaking Techniques From Three World-Class Talks

When we watch outstanding public speakers do what they do best, it often seems that most of what they do comes quite naturally and effortlessly. In actuality, even the most gifted public speakers are extremely practiced in techniques that all speakers, from beginners to pros, can benefit from.

In this post we’ll examine 3 particularly well-known,of some of the most memorable and powerful talks from the past few decades. We’ll break down the strategies these 3 master speakers are using that make these talks stand out.

Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States

At the 1992 Democratic National Convention, future President Bill Clinton accepted the Democratic Party presidential nomination for the very first time. What we see in his speech is an outstanding example of effective communication. He begins by roadmapping his speech, telling us the three things he will talk about—who he is, what he wants and where he intends to lead America. He opens by telling us where he’s from, and in his final words in the speech he closes by once again mentioning his hometown.


One of the most important things a speaker can learn early on is the ability to portray themselves as being both ordinary and extraordinary simultaneously. .Clinton’s speech is an outstanding example of doing this well. He talks about some of the everyday struggles of his life and the life of his parents—struggles that are extremely relatable to the average person. This gets the audience on his side from the get-go.

The speech is also an example of excellent episodic storytelling. He doesn’t just tell us about his grandfather and his relationship with him growing up—he takes us right into his grandfather’s store and allows us to see what he sees and feel what he feels. One of the things we always try to do as speakers get people to go from a first-person memory to a first-person narrative, to form more of a connection between the story and the listener.

When combining this ability with the ability to be ordinary yet extraordinary, you get powerful results. Here, Clinton talks about humble beginnings in Middle America, his time with his grandfather and watching the birth of his daughter, yet is able to work in his time at Yale Law School without coming off as an upper-class elite. He says all of this as the sitting governor of Arkansas and the Democratic nominee for President of the United States, yet he is still able to relate to and connect with average Americans using these strategies.

In discussing the birth of his daughter, Clinton uses a different, nonverbal technique to enhance the emotion of his speech—he takes a short pause and swallows. People might not think of swallowing as being a powerful oratory technique, but when you see someone’s Adam’s apple go up and down, the emotion suddenly feels much more real and palpable. He also licks and purses his lips to show two different sets of emotions, partially as a stalling technique to get the audience with him, but also as a way to communicate to the audience that it is an emotional moment.

Clinton also makes use of “repeated stems,” which are repeated key phrases that draw attention to ideas and takeaway points. Perhaps the most famous example of a repeated stem is “I have a dream,” in the famous Martin Luther King, Jr. speech. Those repeated stems help listeners to remember the speech and take away the intended message.

In Clinton’s speech, one example of a repeated stem is “let it be our cause.” This happens several times throughout the speech, and whenever it does, it is always followed by three items, often pairing the following words with different techniques to help the audience better connect to his message, such as slowing down and adding separation to emphasize important points, or using alliteration to help people remember the points he is driving home.

None of this happens by accident. You could present this exact speech to any other person and have them read it, but it would not be as effective without putting all of these little details and techniques into practice. This is a man who has honed these skills over the decades in the political sphere, and has become a master of public speaking and influencing people. There are few in our time who have done it better. His “aw shucks” style, his pacing and rhythm in his cadence and his ability to get the audience to feel a moment with him through episodic storytelling make him an outstanding example for public speakers.

What makes episodic storytelling so powerful is not the amount of detail, but one or two small details that really drive the story home and define everything. Ideally, this main detail is something especially human that makes for a strong connection. The story in the hospital room, for example, includes the smell of antiseptic, and the feeling of holding his daughter in his arms for the first time.

Throughout any speech that includes episodic storytelling, however, it is important to remember that the entire reason one uses episodic storytelling is not to make a person laugh or cry—it is to show them your “why.” In the case of Clinton, “why” should the audience vote for him?

If you are able to show your “why” and connect with your audience through storytelling, they won’t just fall in love with your product—they’ll fall in love with you.

Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize Recipient

Malala Yousafzai was a co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, the youngest person and the first from Pakistan to be so recognized win it. She first became famous as for being “the “girl who got shot for going to school” by the Taliban.

She may be a young woman, but her acceptance speech for the award is one of the all-time greats, and speakers of all ages have plenty to learn from it.


One of the first things you see in this speech is the building of “participation momentum.” It is the role of the speaker to bring out the energy of the audience. If you say you have a dead audience, it is likely you haven’t done enough to get the audience on your side. This can be especially problematic at a Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, which tends to be less energetic, but Malala masterfully increases the momentum to get the audience on her side.

Just 53 seconds into her speech, Malala already has the audience on her side by giving some simple thanks and also using the ordinary/extraordinary approach. She mentions being the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize, but also that she still fights with her younger brothers, which immediately draws laughs from the audience. She was shot by the Taliban for standing up for her rights, but her brothers still call her a bossy sister. Using this humor helps to get the audience on her side and build momentum.

Participation momentum begins as soon as you are introduced as the speaker and the audience claps as you come on stage. An easy way to keep that momentum going is to ask the audience to clap for the person who just introduced you. You can thank the organizer of the event and even recognize the speaker who came before you, and already you have had the audience clap and cheer several times before you’ve even begun your speech. This momentum will carry through the early parts of your speech and give you a friendlier audience. Malala uses this tactic masterfully.

Malala also demonstrates the repeated stem method, using the stem “it is for those,” talking about the people the award recognizes and honors beyond just herself. The repeated stem technique helps her to get her rhythm going and pick up her pace. For a young girl who might be a little more nervous in front of an audience, the repeated stem method gives her something to lean on and build up confidence.

The method also works with Malala’s natural speaking cadence. She tends to speak a bit slower, which is seen in other interviews with her. Speakers should always use their natural speaking cadence as much as possible, rather than trying to force change in the hopes of sounding more natural. Ultimately, using a cadence that feels comfortable to you is the best way to sound natural. Telling stories can help you to draw out your natural cadence and get you relaxed because it is a natural memory rather than something you need to memorize.

Contrasting your cadence (moving from fast to slow or vice versa) and changing volumes also is an effective technique to highlight key speaking points, and Malala uses these techniques repeatedly.

Malala uses another technique that is effective for most beginning speakers, which is contrast. Malala paints a picture of the world as it could or should be, versus the world as it is, rather than just discussing the negative state of the world. For business owners using this method, it is more effective to not just talk about the benefits of a product, but the benefits of a product versus what would happen without using that product. What is more powerful is when you contrast how it is with how it could be.

Jim Valvano, Basketball Coach

Jim Valvano was a basketball coach at North Carolina State University who received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs after his cancer diagnosis. During his speech, he told the story of his battle with cancer, despite having already been told that cancer had taken over his brain and that he had limited time left to live

An extremely emotive and emotional Italian, Valvano’s speech is one of the most beloved and remembered moments in sports in the last several decades. A line near the end of the speech has become especially famous, and is consistently used in stories of fights against cancer: “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.”

Right at the beginning of his speech, Valvano takes the stage and begins building participation momentum, making a joke about Dick Vitale, who just introduced him. This keeps the audience warm for him as he begins his speech.

As he begins his actual prepared speech, Valvano then uses the technique of road mapping, which we discussed earlier when looking at Bill Clinton’s speech. Valvano points out the three main points he wants to make, saying he wants people to laugh, think and cry every day.

He also uses the ordinary/extraordinary method, talking about his Italian roots, despite being up for a prestigious award and being recognized for an outstanding career in sports. He discusses how important it is for a person to remember where they came from, and to have a goal and a dream they work for, then introduces his family in the audience. All of this connects with the average person sitting and watching the speech.

When the light begins flashing and Valvano is told his time is expiring, he famously turns to the camera and shakes it off and jokes that his head is full of cancer, so he doesn’t care that they are attempting to cut him off. Actors have plowed through their music at the Academy Awards, and singers have shaken off their cues at the Grammys—this was Valvano’s own unique take on that strategy.

Valvano is able to use humor as a way to help get through an emotional story. It can be tiring for an audience to sit through a depressing or serious story, even if it is important. The use of humor can help to release the tension and get an even bigger audience reaction.

He also uses the repeated stem method, by saying about cancer research that “it may save” his life and the lives of others. He also says about cancer that “it cannot touch” his mind, “it cannot touch” his heart and “it cannot touch” his soul.

The entire speech is filled with great oratory technique, even if a lot of the more memorable moments weren’t particularly planned. Jim Valvano had been on the speaking circuit for a long time and understood how certain speaking tactics could help to get people on his side. These repeated stems, moments of interjected humor and nonverbal touches such as swallowing and licking his lips come across very naturally, but they are all very practiced tactics.


These are three speakers who have very different backgrounds and are seen in very different settings, but all three of them use tactics that other speakers of all ages, backgrounds and experience levels can use to great effect. They are outstanding examples for any beginning speaker to look at and analyze.

Storytelling Secret Weapons – How To Create A BHAG

As entrepreneurs, we spend a lot of time talking about our businesses–whether it’s at a networking event, business development, speaking from the stage, or chatting with our Uber driver. You’d think with all these opportunities to talk about our business we’d be pretty good at it, right?

Well, the fact is, most of us aren’t so good at it. More often than not, we drown our listeners with irrelevant and uninteresting details, which hurts our growth and limits our opportunity.

But with a few storytelling tools and a bit of practice, we can transform our boring elevator pitch into an inspiring and engaging story.

One simple and powerful tool to do this is a BHAG.

What is a BHAG?

BHAG stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal. It represents the impact you want to make on the world through your business. It’s the future that you are manufacturing day by day with the work you’re doing.

Here’s an example of our BHAG at Advance Your Reach:

Benefits of a BHAG

A good BHAG can impact your business in many surprising ways.

  • It makes it easier to talk about your business – With your BHAG, you’ll have a tool that explains your business and sparks thought-provoking conversation.
  • It creates something bigger than yourself – With a BHAG, you have a vision that you’re set on carrying out. This gives more meaning to your work.
  • It allows you to enroll your customers in a vision – A good BHAG gets people excited and inspired, and by working with you, your customers feel that they’re playing a part in carrying out your vision to improve the world.
  • It creates more meaning for your work and your team – Like with yourself and your customers, your team members will also find inspiration and meaning in your vision. This means your team will be more loyal and inspired.

How To Create Your Own BHAG

First, you need to identify a goal worth pursuing. We often think too small with our BHAG, so as you write out your potential ideas, don’t try and filter yourself. If anything, try to err on the side of “too audacious” or even “crazy.”

A good BHAG is not something can be achieved quickly or easily. Aim for a goal that would take 10 years or more to achieve.

Your goal should be action-oriented. It’s not something that will take care of itself.

Your goal should be measurable. Giving a concrete number in your BHAG allows you to measure your progress, but it also makes it more memorable and compelling.

A BHAG Is Simple

You should be able to fully communicate your BHAG in a sentence or two. Don’t confuse simplicity with dullness, though. You can create more of an impact with a few well-chosen words and ideas than with a drawn-out monologue.

Connect a BHAG to your story

Your BHAG should come from your story. It should connect with something in your past or present that has shaped you to be who you are.

  • How did someone help or inspire you in the past?
  • What mistakes have you made that you want to help people avoid?
  • What problems do you see in the world that you want changed?

[bctt tweet=”Connecting your BHAG with your personal story should inspire and excite you.” username=”advancereach”] You’ll use this as fuel to achieve this ambitious goal, and the energy and passion you feel will be contagious to your audience.

Daniel Moskowitz from Superhero Sales Academy has a goal to change how people see sales from “manipulative and sleazy” to “inspiring and helpful”:

“I want to help 100,000 Entrepreneurs double their sales with INTEGRITY and LOVE and ZERO ICKINESS!”


A BHAG Is Long-Term

[bctt tweet=”Any goal that you think you can achieve in a year or two is not ambitious enough to be your BHAG.” username=”advancereach”] It should be something that represents your legacy. Your BHAG should be something you aim to achieve in 10 years of focused work. By setting a goal 10 years out, you’ll aim higher, and your BHAG will be more compelling to you and your audience.

It’s a goal that should force you out of your comfort zone. It’s a goal that should intimidate you at first and cause you to think, “How in the world am I going to pull this off?” By aiming high like this, you’ll start to think differently about your day-to-day work and consider new strategies that you may not have with a more comfortable and achievable goal.

A good example of a long-term BHAG combined with a Proprietary Process is Malorie Tadimi’s “Billion Dollar Business Plan”

“Our mission is to help create a thousand 7-figure businesses with our 3-part framework:

  • Money is the greatest tool you have to take care of yourself.
  • Money is the greatest tool you have to take care of others.
  • Money is the greatest tool you have to create the impact that you were born to make in this world.”

A BHAG Is Measurable

[bctt tweet=”Measurability is key to making your BHAG stick.” username=”advancereach”] Making it measurable adds more clarity to your vision and allows you to break up your BHAG into clear steps. It also makes you more accountable to the goal. If it’s measurable, it’s clear to you, your customers, and your team if you’ve ended each day/month/year closer to the goal than when you started.

Moving toward this goal with measurable numbers creates a storyline in itself. It enables people to follow your progress and it gives your audience a clear way to participate. If they join in your vision and become a customer, advocate, or partner with your business, they know exactly how much they moved the needle on this vision.

You can see the power of measurability with how Alex Turnbull from Groove HQ shares his story.

In 2013 Alex Turnbull was considering shutting down his startup, Groove. His content was not getting any traction, and growth was too slow to be sustainable. Alex had a BHAG to reach $100k in monthly recurring revenue, but the customer support SaaS space is extremely competitive and already had a few big players. To break into this space, Alex had to do something very different.

There was plenty of content on customer support already existing, but Alex discovered that few people were talking about what was happening behind the scenes in their businesses. So he decided to blog about his $100k goal and discuss what he was doing to achieve it. He introduced this new direction in the first post of his blog “Startup Journey”:

“This is the blog I wish I had read the first time I started a company. It’s going to cover the lessons we learn from our own experiences, including our tests, our wins, and our fails backed up with real numbers. Everything from design, development, strategy, marketing, sales, growth hacking, hiring, fundraising, culture, customer support and more.”

The combination of transparency, storytelling, and the measurability of his goal completely changed the direction of his startup.

By using your BHAG as a measurable goal you can create a visual story that enhances your message and allows you to share your progress.

Testing Your BHAG

Once you identify your goal, you can test it on friends and colleagues. You want to create an emotional response in the people you share it with, and it should be memorable.

Is it something that people will understand if you share it?

An easy way to test this out is to get in an Uber or Lyft and go on a drive. During the drive, explain your BHAG to your driver and see how they take to it. You’ll know you’re on the right track if you see your driver start to get energized and ask a lot of questions.

Announce your new BHAG on social media and start conversations in the comments and responses with people who like it or respond to it. If your BHAG is good and you commonly post on social media you should get some engagement.

Another strategy is to head to events and test it out with the people you meet. Anything from a local networking event to the next Reach Live is filled with all kinds of people eager to ask you, “What do you do?”. We also have a few Facebook groups like our Backstage Pass group that is filled with people who want to tell better stories and could give you feedback.

Need more inspiration for your storytelling? Check out 26 Tips For Storytelling

Where To Use A BHAG In Your Business

Webinars – Talk about your BHAG in one of your first slides. Talk about the goal and the story behind the goal. This is a good way to capture the attention of your audience and talk about yourself without sounding like you’re bragging.

Signature talk – Talking about your BHAG from the stage is a powerful way to inspire and connect with your audience.

Content – You can also use your BHAG as you create content that solves your customer’s problems and walks them through the Buyer’s Journey.


With a good BHAG, you can transform talking about your business from an awkward experience to something engaging and inspiring for everyone involved.

If you’re looking for more great tips to tell your story, come join us at Reach Academy Live, where you’ll meet hundreds of other people with world-changing BHAGs.

Storytelling Secret Weapons – A Proprietary Process

Are you ready for an uncomfortable truth?

It does not matter how good you are at what you do or the results you can get for your clients…

That sounds outrageous, right? But your skills and your results alone won’t create the kind of business you’re looking to build. There’s a missing ingredient.

You need to be able to talk about what you do as skillfully as you actually do it. Unfortunately, many of us are terrible at that. Even when we have the attention of a potential customer, meeting planner or ally for our business, we have a hard time talking about what we do in an interesting and clear way. As a result, we get lost in a sea of competitors, cut our prices, bleed money with advertising, and end each day stressed and exhausted.

But you’re better than that, and you deserve more.

It’s difficult to differentiate ourselves online when we’re competing with potentially thousands of other businesses that offer similar products or services to our own. But we don’t want to compete on price, or by “working harder.” We need to describe what we do and how we do it in a way that gets people to clearly visualize the value we provide and imagine themselves experiencing that value.

Often, talking about our business can feel a lot like this:

We think we describe what we do masterfully, but really we may as well be speaking German.

Gregory Diehl sums up this problem in his book Brand Identity Breakthrough:

“When they’ve been doing things one way for a certain amount of time, and have had some success with it, they will get often trapped in that particular pattern of thinking. There’s a lot of emotional and intellectual inertia that needs to be overcome when someone voluntarily changes their mindset.

What is a proprietary process?

A proprietary process is like grandma’s secret lasagna recipe. Lots of people make lasagna, but nobody does it quite like grandma. In fact, you don’t even like other lasagnas, because grandma’s is so much better that it makes all the others seem cheap and terrible!

Your proprietary process has the same effect. It’s your “secret recipe” for how you get results for your customer. It’s a narrative for you to communicate the “what” and “how” behind the results you bring people.

Why should you have a proprietary process?

It empowers you

The beauty of having a proprietary process is that it empowers you to talk about your business in a way that’s both clear and thought-provoking. This not only impacts how people receive your message but also how you deliver your message. With this process in place, you draw upon your own story and the deep aspects of who you are. This creates something bigger than yourself and changes how you show up every day.

You’ll get more clients

Of course, a proprietary process also helps you get more customers. People buy from people, and your proprietary process gives you a story to tell and creates a personal connection while talking about your business.

As you begin to speak to people about your new process, your story will resonate with them, and they will sense your energy and empowerment.

You can charge higher prices

A proprietary process instantly changes you from another “me too” business to “the one and only,” which allows you to charge higher prices because they can’t get what you have anywhere else.

It makes presenting easier and more effective

A proprietary process helps you outline your signature talk and provides a framework to clearly deliver your ideas from the stage in a way that makes your audience want to engage with you more.

You’ll have a better team

Your proprietary process and the story behind it will resonate just as much with your team members as with your customers. It will create added meaning for them in their work and become a source of motivation for them to draw upon.

How do you create your own proprietary process?

A proprietary process must say three things about you:

  • You’re ordinary – They need to know that you’re just like them, a normal person with the same problems and setbacks they have.
  • You’re extraordinary – At the same time, they need to know that you’re special, that you’ve solved the big problem they have, and can help them with the same.
  • You care – They need to know that you’re in this for more than just money. The story of your signature talk needs to communicate that you care about them and their success.

Create 3 sections for your proprietary process.

Why 3? It’s a number that’s easy for the mind to process and remember. It’s enough to create a sense of sequence with your process, but not so much that people get confused. If you must, you can add more than 3 distinct sections, but with each addition, you risk diluting your message.


Listing your process as a sequence is a powerful way to show people a path to working with you. For example, at Advance Your Reach, we help people with three things: story, stage, and scale. Typically our customers start with story, and once they’ve mastered their story, they begin to get stages. Once they have stages, then they scale up their business.

Your process does not necessarily have to be a sequence. You can list various components or “ingredients” to your process that are all integral to getting the results you promise.

Connect each section of your process to your story or a metaphor

Personal stories help people know you care. They allow people to see the reason “why” you do what you do.

What are your roots? Where do you come from? What events have shaped who you are today? Look at how your past and your roots influence what you’re doing today, and find a way to connect that with your process.

Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Stories that connect with a painful moment or a mistake in your past can quickly create a deep connection with your audience. They also help you appear both ordinary (you make mistakes just like everyone else) and extraordinary (you have overcome these challenges). Learning from these mistakes, you’ve become sensitive to them and notice the same problems in your customers.

Here’s a video of Chris Smith from the Campfire Effect building a proprietary process live with an audience member at Reach Academy Live. You can see Chris work through these specific steps and draw a story and shape it into a proprietary process. The incorporation of story in the process creates a powerful and engaging effect right away.

Identify specific results you get

Most of us focus on “what you do,” with the specific nuts and bolts of how that will work. Our proprietary process focuses on results and what your customer will get out of the process. By focusing on results, you instill confidence in your listener and they will begin to imagine themselves experiencing the results and benefits you offer.

Each section should have a clear result that you can promise at the end.

Break each section your process up into 3 concrete steps

Within each section, you should outline concrete steps that people can take to get the result you promise. Within these steps, you need to have something for your whole audience. Remember that your audience has a mix of experience and familiarity with what you’re teaching. You need to reach both the beginners and the experts in your presentations.

When designing your steps, make sure you address:

Newbie – Something that someone who is totally new to your concepts can take action on right away.

Expert – Something to show the experienced professionals in the audience that you’re not just repeating what everyone else is saying.

Short-term – Something that can get fast results and be applied immediately to their business

Long-term – Something that takes time and investment, but yields good long-term results.

Create activities for each section of your process

A good way to break up a presentation and get your audience to engage with your ideas is through activities. An activity helps your audience see the value of your process and gives them a little taste of what working with you is like.

Activities don’t have to take long–you can get a lot done in 2 or 3 minutes. Here’s a list of a few different kinds of activities you can test out with your process.

Reflect – Have them think about the step and how it would work in their own life or business.

Apply – Have them write or discuss how they can take action on the step.

Solo – If you’re on a webinar or don’t want people to get lost in conversation, consider an activity that they can do on their own.

Group – Group activities are great to get people connecting with each other. They allow people to bounce ideas off their neighbors and get more clarity on the step. If you’re on a webinar and your audience is likely alone, then ask them to share their thoughts with friends or colleagues after the presentation.

Move – Incorporating movement into your presentation helps ideas stick and can refresh an audience that’s tired of sitting. Even just asking someone to move around the room to get into groups is good enough. This is a particularly good strategy for health professionals to get people to try out ideas if they involve exercises, stretches, or breathing.

Build sales into your process

People dread a pitch that comes at the end of a presentation and often shut down when they sense it coming. It’s possible to talk about your product or service in your business and make people want them in a way that does not feel “salesy” to your audience.

You can embed your testimonials and offers right into the stories you tell for each section, or to support the concrete steps. Just make sure it adds value and clarity to the ideas you share.

Embedded testimony – Most people just have a single slide of “quote” testimonials from their clients. Slides like this are often quickly forgotten by your audience because they don’t connect with the emotions and actions in your process.

An embedded testimony involves adding a testimonial to support your story or point directly. Instead of framing your testimonial as proof that you get results, use it to prove that this process works. This gets people more invested in the process itself.

For example, in his presentations, Pete often builds testimonials in with screenshots from social media – “Just this week I got a message on facebook from someone who applied these ideas and booked a stage in 24 hours.”

Embedded next engagement – This is when you mention what next step your audience can take with you. A good embedded next engagement feels to the audience like they’re getting a bit of extra information that you usually only give away to your clients. By wrapping the next engagement into a useful piece of information or a story, people are more open to the idea and associate what you embed with the feeling you provoke.

For example, you may hear our head coach Pat Quinn embed a plug for the story execution workshops into a tip about speaking well.

“One of the things people are worried about is that I’ll change their ‘style.’ I don’t want to change your style — I want to make you more authentic. One of my favorite parts about the Story Execution Workshops I host is being able to focus in on the movement of our speakers. Some people like to move a lot, and others don’t like to move at all. Either way is fine, but what’s important to me is that, when you move, you move with purpose.

Embedded value offer – If you give away a gift or lead magnet at the end of your presentation, remind them about it when discussing sections of your proprietary process that relate to the download so they anticipate the gift and understand it’s value to them.

For example, “A lot of this process can get confusing but don’t worry, I’m going to give you a template/tool at the end of this talk that will keep you on track.”

How many proprietary processes should you have?

I recommend you start with just one — create a process that describes the full-spectrum of your business and the results you get. This will become the foundation for your marketing and brand storytelling.

Once you have your foundational process established, you can create multiple proprietary processes in your business.

As you begin to create multiple processes, think about the “big picture” result you want to get for people and try to create a proprietary process to solve the major problems keeping your audience from that result. Your processes should relate to each other, but they should not overlap too much. Otherwise, you’ll confuse your customers and your messaging.

At Advance Your Reach, we have several processes, but our most prominent is our Unstoppable Stage Campaign and The Story Braid Framework that explains how to get on stages and how to deliver an amazing talk once you’re on that stage. They address two separate and unique problems for our customers, and they support each other.


There are few tools more powerful than a proprietary process for your business. It makes sales, marketing, and speaking from stage a breeze. Join us at Reach Academy Live where we’ll help you build your own!

Want to get some feedback on your own proprietary process? Type yours in the comments below, and we’ll share our thoughts.

Key Takeaways From Reach Academy Live – Day 1

The first day at Reach Academy Live was focused on storytelling. Story is an essential tool for speakers to master, not only for speaking from the stage but for helping them relate to their customers, their work, and themselves. Here are some of the highlights from the keynotes and the world-famous speak off.

David Bayer – How to overcome suffering and unintelligent thinking

David Bayer is a master at helping entrepreneurs make big leaps forward in their business by improving their mindset and outlook. David provided some unique insights into how the story you tell yourself can have a dramatic impact on the results you see in your life.

“Your brain is a goal-achieving machine. The stories that you tell yourself are shaping your brain. Your story dictates what you think and how you view the world; your brain looks for evidence to confirm and fulfill that story.” – David Bayer

Many entrepreneurs experience a great deal of suffering and stress while growing their businesses. Most assume that suffering is something to be expected. David broke down the truth about what suffering really is and how to view it.

There are only 2 states of being, a state of “beauty” and a state of “suffering”. You’re always in one, never in both. Suffering is separate from experience; the only cause of suffering is your own experience and the meaning you assign to it.

With a little bit of self-awareness, we can actually use the suffering caused by unintelligent thinking as a compass to find our own truth.

Examples of unintelligent thinking:

  • “I’m not ready to get on more stages.”
  • “I need to achieve more to deserve what I want”
  • “Nobody wants to hear my story”
  • “I’ll never make it as an entrepreneur”
  • “There’s no good men/women out there”

The good news is that whatever thoughts cause you suffering, the opposite is true. If you can manage to notice and recognize the unintelligent thinking patterns.

Unintelligent thinking can be overcome and uprooted by noticing when you are having unintelligent thoughts. When you start to see your unintelligent thoughts, you can question them and replace them with “intelligent thinking”. For example, trading a thought of “why can’t I succeed?” to “what needs to happen to double my sales next month?” transforms how you feel about your current situation, and sheds light on new solutions. This breaks the cycle of repeatedly telling the story that causes us suffering and holds you back.

Chris Smith – The 5 forces of storytelling

Chris Smith from The Campfire Effect continued with the thread of storytelling and how it can impact how others relate to your work.

Most of us do not have a good way of sharing our story. Any time someone asks us what we do, we “vomit” a bunch of information on them. Most of us do this because we don’t understand how to use our stories. But if we can get clear on what our story is supposed to do, we can begin to craft it into something powerful.

Your story has 2 jobs:

  • It needs to make sense – Your story should be easily understood and followed. This builds trust and familiarity with the listener.
  • It should make the listener believe you can help them – It needs to relate to your listener in a way that makes them feel like you understand their problem and that you can help them with it.

“Stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone.” – Jennifer Aaker

To create a story that does these jobs well, it’s important to understand the five forces of storytelling.

  1. Who you are – People buy from other people, your story should be a bridge to build a relationship with your listener and help them understand where you come from. Understanding “who you are” also gives you a source of power and confidence, it gives you context to create and live your own story.
  2. What you do – Most people overdo this part. It’s easy to go on and on here, and this is where we usually end up losing out listeners. This part should be clear, succinct and thought-provoking.
  3. Why you do it – What lead you to where you are now? Whats gets you excited about the work you’re doing. This builds credibility and context in your story.
  4. How you do it – Your process for solving a problem. Your “how” is what makes you unique from your competitors. Chris helps people get clear on their process and helps them create a “proprietary process” that is unique to them and engaging to their customers.
  5. Social proof – You want to add evidence that reinforces that you can solve this problem and points to some of the results you have gotten in the past.

For more on the five forces of storytelling check out: 5 Steps To Great Brand Storytelling With Chris Smith

Pat Quinn – Amazing presentation tips

Pat Quinn is the master of delivering a good talk from the stage. He opened with high-energy and delivered several value bombs before he even made it up the stairs on the stage. This left the audience transfixed on him with pens in hand, taking notes trying not to blink for fear of missing something.

He shared a framework for speakers to use to make sure every line of their talk is effective and contributes to their presentation. He calls it the “litmus test”.

The litmus test is simple, take any part of your talk and ask yourself, “does it help drive home the core point of my presentation?”. As you practice your talk, use the litmus test to find areas that you can improve your message.

Pat then shared one of his most powerful tools for capturing the attention and imagination of the audience, episodic storytelling.

Episodic storytelling is stringing together a few vivid moments into a narrative. You should bring your listener into each moment with you. This means talking in the first person and sharing details that allow the listener to create the scene in their mind.

Pat demonstrated this in his talk several times, once by describing gathering wild grapes in the fall to bring to his mother to make wild grape jelly and “eat like kings”. This conjured an image of Pat as a youth and allowed us to share that memory with him, which he called back several times in the presentation.

Another great example of episodic storytelling came from the speak off contestant, Shelli Varel, when describing a low point in her journey.

“…I remember laying in bed staring up at a white stippled ceiling…” This tiny little detail allows us to join her at that moment and put ourselves in her shoes and feel what she feels.

By stringing two or more of these little moments together, you can create a powerful talk that engages your audience from the moment you begin speaking, to your closing line.

For more information on giving a great talk and storytelling for your business, check out: How the best speakers use storytelling as a business growth tool.

The Speak Off

The night closed with 12 speakers testing out their own stories in front of a panel of over 20 meeting planners. Each had five minutes to deliver a talk. Many talks shared inspiring stories of overcoming challenges, while others shared heartwarming scenes from their past and related them to the world-changing work they aspire to do.

Here’s a video where the panel of 24 meeting planners give their final feedback to the contestants, and the winner is announced.

Don’t miss out!

These takeaways are just a small piece of the value you can expect from Reach Academy Live, in addition to great talks you’ll meet amazing people, form lifetime relationships, and grow your business beyond what you thought possible. If you want to take part in the speak off, be sure to register early, it tends to sell out fast!

Get your tickets to the next Reach Academy Live in November here.


5 Steps to Great Brand Storytelling, with Chris Smith

Storytelling is critically important when giving a presentation, making a sale, or pitching your business idea – but how do you achieve great brand storytelling? How do you make sure that your story is compelling, that other people will connect with it? How does your story relate to your brand?

Chris Smith of The Campfire Effect teaches entrepreneurs and their teams how to powerfully tell their story so that they can increase clients, revenue and their impact on the world. He shared some of his trademarked frameworks with us, which you can use to clarify your story and tell it in a meaningful, impactful way. Smith recently gives us a detailed interview on his methodology and the key techniques needed for engaging connected brand storytelling. This post will go over the key highlights that you can take away today and apply to your own business. For an even deeper look, check out the full video:

First Things First: Story and Brand

Smith says that many clients come to him, asking how they can brand their story, but they aren’t always clear about how story and brand-related.”Your story is your brand. It’s what you speak into the world, what you become known for.”

[bctt tweet=”Your story is your brand. It’s what you speak into the world.” username=”advancereach”]

Another way to think about it is that after you speak with a client or prospect, your brand is what they remember about you. And we, as humans, always remember stories. There are three components of your brand:

  • What you’re known for: What do people immediately think of when they hear your name?
  • What you consciously decide to stand for: This is what you’ve decided to put out into the world. It’s the image you project and the causes you attach your name to.
  • What other people say you’re known for: What is your audience going to say to a colleague about you? How will they describe you and your business?

That last idea might be a bit scary to some entrepreneurs. If my brand is what people say I’m known for, that means I’m not fully in control of my brand! That’s right. “You control that by telling your story in a powerful way,” Smith says. If you tell a compelling, unique, authentic story, people will remember and share it.

Brand vs. Branding

Before we get into details, there’s an important distinction between brand and branding. Your brand is your story, that essential, unique story that drives you and your business. “Branding is an external manifestation of your brand,” Smith explains. “It’s your logo, marketing, materials, collateral.”

Many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of mistaking their branding for their brand. They obsess over logos and collateral. They have trouble making clear decisions about how their branding should look or feel – and it’s because they haven’t addressed the internal work of understanding their brand first.

Image of dog with caption "When in a hole, stop digging"
Branding for the People helps companies understand their brand identity. Once they have that, branding and collateral fall into place.

“You should at least have a high-level understanding of your brand… for your team to communicate your story consistently and effectively,” according to the experts at Branding for the People. Branding has to come out of your brand, and your brand comes from your story. Once the story is clear, you know your brand. Once the brand is clear, the branding decisions are easy.

[bctt tweet=”Once the story is clear, you know your brand. Then, branding decisions are easy.” username=”advancereach”]

The Importance of Storytelling

Okay, so understanding your story will help you understand your brand. But what does great brand storytelling do?

The truth is, great brand storytelling leads to more clients, more revenue, and a bigger impact. Smith often asks his audiences, “Do people buy from people, or do people buy from companies?” Most of his audience raise their hand to say that yes, people buy from people. “So,” he asks, “How much of you is in the story of your business?” The audience goes quiet.

Image of Chris Smith standing in front of wooden boards
Chris Smith of

Leaders know intuitively that people buy from people, but then fail actually to tell their personal, unique story. We’ve written about this before – storytelling is not just a feel-good exercise, it’s a vital business growth tool.

The Five Forces of Brand Storytelling

The Campfire Effect™ is Smith’s proven storytelling methodology. He uses five forces to tell his story and to lead clients through storytelling workshops. These forces help leaders understand the storytelling process and improve their storytelling technique. They can be used as the actual structure of your story in a presentation – each force can be a few slides in your deck.

On top of that, he says, after a Five Forces workshop, clients “actually have the confidence to tell their story – because they know they have a great story.” These five forces are a powerful tool not just as a framework for telling your story, but for really understanding the impact of your brand storytelling.

The First Force: Who You Are

Telling your story starts with telling who you are. What are your roots, what connects your childhood to what you do now? Who are the important people in your life?

Smith grew up in Arizona, around ranchers and cowboy storytellers, and he always includes that when he tells people who he is. He was fascinated with storytelling, and now he teaches people how to tell their stories. This connection to his roots is part of his story, and it’s often what people first connect with when they meet him.

Or think of this story, of a father coming to understand that his son’s tattoos were his way of telling his life’s story. Both the story and the son’s means of telling it were distinctly personal, and it brought them closer together.

Image of woman with numerous tattoos on her arms
The way you tell your story is just as unique as the story itself.

“Everyone has connections in their childhood and roots that connect to what they do today,” Smith says. “We have a tendency to leave it out because we don’t want to be vulnerable.”

This should be simple and genuine. It’s not a sales pitch, and you’re not trying to influence your audience. Your audience will see that you’re a real human being and interested in connecting with them. It builds trust.

Another benefit to really understanding your roots is that it builds confidence. Smith’s clients see for themselves that there are connections between their roots and what they do now, which gives them a sense of connection and purpose.

Need more inspiration for your storytelling? Check out 26 Tips For Storytelling

The Second Force: Why You Do It

The second part of brand storytelling is explaining why you do what you do. Don’t use this time to state that this work is your passion or your life’s purpose – if you tell your story right that will be clear without you ever having to say it. Instead, why you do it is external. Talk about how you saw a problem or need and knew that you could do something about it.

If you’re having trouble putting this into words, Smith has some advice. “Break it up into observations and realizations,” he says. “Observations are things that you observed that were struggles or challenges.” Those are the problems you saw in the world around you, suffering or need that you observed in other people. Then, he explains, “Realizations are the ideas you had about how you could make it better.”

This starts to plant seeds of credibility, reliability, and hope. Again, this stage is not about selling. It’s about telling your authentic story, which will demonstrate to your audience that you’re credible, outward-looking, and here to solve a problem. If they identify with the struggles you’ve described, now they know that you may be the right person to help them.

The Third Force: What You Do

“This is where most entrepreneurs get in a lot of trouble,” Smith warns. Entrepreneurs are excited about their businesses, and genuinely want to share that excitement with others. They can go on for days about what they do – whether their audience wants them to or not.

The key to getting this pillar right is to tell your audience enough to get them interested, but not so much that it turns them off. They don’t need to know every detail of your product or service. This is not the time to close the deal. It should be just enough information to build a little bit of interest. You want the person on the other end to say, “Tell me more.”

Four Filters for “What You Do”

Smith has a list of filters he likes to use, to check himself when he starts to talk about what he does. By asking these questions, he makes sure that he’s giving the right amount of information.

  1. Is it clear?
  2. Is it succinct?
  3. Is it thought provoking?
  4. What’s the benefit?

Here’s an example from his business. At The Campfire Effect, he says, “We teach entrepreneurs how to tell their brand story in a really powerful way, so they can get more clients, build a stronger culture, and make more of an impact.”

That statement is clear – it’s a simple language that anyone can understand. It’s succinct – a single sentence. It’s certainly thought-provoking, making the listener want to ask how exactly he accomplishes all of this. And it states major benefits that his clients get out of working with him.

A simple, clear statement of what you do builds interest in your audience and makes them want to engage with you to learn more.

The Fourth Force: How You Do It

Many entrepreneurs can go on for hours about what they do without ever getting to how exactly they do it. The more precise and specific you are with this, the more it instills confidence in your business – you know what you’re doing. You’ve thought this through.

Have a specific name and clearly articulated steps for your methodology.. Rather than telling people that he leads a “two-day workshop on brand storytelling,” for example, Smith explains that he has a “proprietary framework” to help companies tell their story and increase sales. He goes into the details here, listing the parts of his framework and the stages that he leads clients through – stages like these Five Forces of Storytelling.

Image of Chris Smith speaking on stage giving a presentation on brand storytelling, facing a large audience
Chris Smith engaging his during a presentation on brand storytelling at the Entrepreneurial Summit in India in 2016.

The clear articulation of your process shows that you’ve put time and thought into it. Every prospective client wants to know what they would be buying. For many people, “a two-day workshop” is simply not enough information to feel confident that they’re going to get a return on investment from working with you.

The Fifth Force: Social Proof

“The fifth force is the one that I see so many entrepreneurs use the least, and it’s the most powerful,” Smith says.

We use social proof every day to make decisions about how to spend our money and time. We look at product ratings on Amazon, we find restaurants on Yelp, and we decide to go see that movie that everyone has been talking about on Facebook.Your customers are guided by social proof in the same way, and many entrepreneurs miss the opportunity to use it.

The most powerful form of social proof you can use is telling a client’s story. Who were they? What were they struggling with? How did you approach the problem? What was the result?

[bctt tweet=”The most powerful form of social proof is telling a client’s story.” username=”advancereach”]

It’s strongest if you can talk about a client who has a lot in common with your audience – the key is knowing your audience first. If you’re in a one-on-one conversation, this means listening to the person you’re speaking to and asking good questions. Then look them in the eye and say, “You remind me of a client that we recently helped, can I tell you their story and what we did for them?”

With a broader audience, it means doing your research. Learn who is going to be there, and learn what their challenges are most likely to be. Then tell the specific, detailed ways in which you helped a similar client. Be intentional, and use this as an opportunity to reinforce “How You Do It.” Explain exactly how you walked the client through your process. This makes your process real and relatable and demonstrates the value in what you do.

One final piece of advice

This framework is useful in understanding and telling your story – which, remember is your brand. That’s important and powerful, but it’s not the most important story when you talk to a prospect or client. Their story is.

Smith uses this same framework to learn other people’s stories and asks these questions when he meets a new potential client. It builds trust, Smith says and creates an opportunity to relate your story to theirs directly. You’ve set your listener at ease by building trust, and you know exactly what form of social proof will have the greatest impact.

Image of a blue hanging sign that says "Ask More Questions"
Use this framework for your own brand storytelling, then use it to connect with others and learn their stories.

Remember: Your story is your brand. Everything else – the collateral, logo, and designs that you’ve been obsessing overflow naturally out of your brand and your story. Clearly articulating your story and being able to share it with an audience makes you a more powerful speaker, helps you connect with clients, and gives you the confidence and clarity to develop your branding.

Let your story bring wealth to your business and those you’ve set out to help, and let us help you with your story. Follow the steps in our Signature Talk Outline to develop your Signature Talk in a more compelling and impacting way. Download now to get started!.

How The Best Speakers Use Storytelling As A Business Growth Tool

The single most powerful tool to grow your business is storytelling. Ironically, in this world where technology offers us unlimited information, people are starved for true, authentic stories.

Your story is unique, and no matter who you are, you’ve got something in your story that can help people. Inside you, there is a story that is relatable, shows who you are, and speaks to universal emotions.

The greatest speakers always open with stories like this; they are vulnerable with who they are. They share. We call it “leading with the heart”.

Crafting your story into a signature talk

A signature talk is a presentation or speech that you can use at events, webinars, podcasts, and many other situations to present your mission and expertise. A signature talk has 4 main components.

  • The heart – A personal and relatable story that gives a “why” behind what you do.
  • The head – The main body of your presentation where you give actionable advice to solve the problem you’re discussing.
  • The hands – A call to action encouraging your listeners to go out and face this problem.
  • The heart – An emotional close that ties your talk together and resolves the experience you create.

The most crucial part of a signature talk is “leading with the heart”. If you can master the foundations of storytelling and build a great signature talk, you’ll create a powerful tool for your business.

[bctt tweet=”Master the #storytelling in your signature talk, and you’ll create a powerful tool for your business.” username=”advancereach”]

A good 30-minute story in front of the right audience can build more trust than weeks of online content, email marketing, social media, or any other high-tech tool on the market today. A story makes you memorable and will cause people to associate you with the problem you solve. Even if a person who hears your story will never become a customer, they may mention you to friends and colleagues that could use your help.

The power of a story goes far beyond the stage; a good story can transform your team culture. If your team members understand and resonate with the story behind your brand, they’ll be more meaningfully engaged with their work. This boosts the performance on your team and makes it harder for your star players to get snatched up by a better offer.

Let’s explore some strategies for creating a great story that can drive your business and energize your brand. Once we lay out a framework for how you can create a good story, we’ll examine some tactics you can use to have a big impact when speaking.

Isn’t Storytelling Only For Inspirational Speakers?

Storytelling seems like an obvious fit for motivational and inspirational speakers, but what about other businesses? Is storytelling useful for more “serious” business models like accounting, life insurance, or software development?


No matter what niche you are in or who your audience is, stories can transform businesses. The desire and appreciation for a good story are hardwired into every human. Even if you have a business that is “boring”, your life, your business, and your team are all filled with powerful stories that you can use.

[bctt tweet=”No matter what niche you are in or who your audience is, stories can transform businesses. #Storytelling” username=”advancereach”]

How To Find Your Story

Often in crafting a story, the most difficult step is the first one. Figuring out what your story is. People write themselves off and don’t think their story would be interesting. Everyone has the raw materials for a great story; it’s just a matter of discovering them.

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to dig up your story and give you a little inspiration.

Why do you do what you do?

You probably have some good reasons why you are in the business and industry that you’re in. There’s a reason why you started out on this challenging journey to solve a problem for people. Maybe it’s a passion for the product you are creating, maybe you feel deep empathy for the customers you work with, or maybe the problem you solve now is one you experienced yourself in the past.

Looking in on these basic reasons for why you do what you do can often reveal a story and some of your differentiators.

What are some of the core values of your business? Is there a story behind why those are important to you and now a core element of your business?

Where did you come from?

Your audience wants to know the history of your business and your own personal history if you are the face of your brand.

Were there any key points in your business where you needed to make a tough decision? Did it change how you operate fundamentally?

Are there any stories from your past clients that you can share that give a glimpse into your own history?

How have you failed?

Though sometimes difficult to share, failures are often excellent places to look for a story. They have some of the key elements of “The Hero’s Journey” built into them. People can relate to your more easily through stories of failure. They associate the pain they currently feel with your story and start to anxiously await learning how you succeed.

The Formula For A Great Story -The Hero’s journey

[bctt tweet=“The highest-paid person of the 21st century will be the storyteller.” – Rolf Jensen ” username=”advancereach”]

Something that holds many people back from storytelling is they simply don’t know how to tell a good story. It turns out most of our favorite stories follow a pattern. You can see this pattern play out in movies, books, and talks everywhere. The pattern is called “The Hero’s Journey.” This term was coined by Joseph Campbell after studying hundreds of ancient myths and stories.

Here’s a great video that illustrates “The Hero’s Journey” and compares it to some of the most popular stories of our time.

Here’s a breakdown of the different points of The Hero’s Journey. Remember that your story may not fit perfectly into this archetype. You may need to change the order of a few of these points or remove some that aren’t relevant to you.

  • Status Quo – Everything’s normal. The beginning of your story.
  • Call to adventure – There’s a desire or an invitation for something more, something better. This could also be a problem that is bothering you, and it forces you out of your comfort zone. This desire or problem should resonate with your audience and what they desire as well.
  • Assistance – You receive some help or guidance to help set you on your path. This could be a mentor giving you guidance on what to do next. Mentioning others that seemed to have solved the problem you have or are at a place you aspire to get to.
  • Departure – You’re off on your new adventure. You get some early wins and you think life is always going to be this easy.
  • Trials – This is where your struggle begins. You hit some unexpected setbacks. You start to share some of the pain you’re experiencing.
  • Approach – Things are getting harder, you’re losing momentum, experiencing doubts. You are experiencing the fears and pain that your audience wants to avoid.
  • Crisis – Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse… It did. You hit rock bottom. You experience painful emotions, and you start thinking about the long term consequences and ramifications of not solving this problem. You’re about to give up…
  • Treasure – You find the thing that can turn it all around. Maybe it’s an idea, and maybe it’s a tool, a new way of looking at things, a new person you meet, or a process. This should relate closely to the solution you provide in your business.
  • Result – You decide to take action, and you use this newfound treasure to solve the big problem you’re experiencing. You start to see new results coming. These are the results that your audience craves.
  • Return and resolution – You’re getting new results with your new treasure, things are looking hopeful again. Best of all, the solution to the problem was something anyone could do or use. The results you get are within anyone’s reach.

Visualizing the Hero’s Journey

Another way to visualize the hero’s journey is through a graph. I prefer graphs to the circle shown in the video because many business owners and entrepreneurs work with graphs all the time and appreciate a good way to visualize information.

Here’s what Cinderella looks like a graph. I have added some notes to show how it aligns with The Hero’s Journey framework.

A graph is just one of many visual storytelling strategies. Using visuals can dramatically enhance the emotional impact and memorability of the story you share.


“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.

― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

A key to “leading with the heart” in your story is a vulnerability. Vulnerability is something many entrepreneurs avoid because they fear that exposing their flaws or weaknesses will diminish their credibility. But vulnerability and authenticity are foundational to a great talk. They are the tools you’ll need to build a connection with your audience.

Vulnerability is not easy, and it often takes a lot of practice and self-reflection be able to share your story fully.

Usually, the “crisis” point in your “hero’s journey” is where vulnerability is essential. The crisis point is one of the essential parts of a good story. It’s when people are sitting on the edge of their seats, wondering what will happen next. They share the pain you felt and empathize with you. Holding back, your vulnerability can deflate the power of your story.

Take Them Into the Room

A common mistake people make is they tell their stories from a third-person perspective. As if they were the Ghost of Christmas Past taking their audience to see their story from a distance. Observing from afar, but not directly engaging with the story. The problem with this approach is it reduces the emotional impact and relatability of your story.

Pat Quinn, master storyteller and host of the Amazing Presenter’s conference recommends that you “take them into the room with you”. What he means by that is to tell your story from the first person, take us into your own mind at that moment. Re-live the story and share that experience. Describe small visceral details to bring context to your story that brings out the emotions you were feeling without directly saying it.

Bad example: “I remember feeling heartbroken when I discovered we had to move out of our house. We could not afford it anymore. I saw the sad looks on my children’s faces, and knew I had hit a low point in my life.”

Good example: “I remember carrying out my children’s toys to the front of our house for a yard sale. I nearly cried when I asked them to choose which toys they wanted to keep. Confusion on their faces as I explained how we could not afford to live in our house anymore.”

Open Strong On Stage

Your first few seconds on the stage are crucial for the success of your talk.

If you mosey onto the stage and open with slow, unenthusiastic speech, your audience will check out, and it will be difficult to get them back.

Take the stage with energy; make it obvious how excited you are to be talking and sharing. Complement the audience, remind them how smart they are for being at this event. Give a hat tip to the people behind the event and show gratitude for inviting you to speak.

An easy trick to capture the audience’s attention right at the beginning is to open with a “few quick tips”. Tell them to grab their pens and get ready for some notes then fire off a few valuable ideas.

Another tactic engages the audience through questions. “Have you ever had problem X?” or “Does anyone want more Y in their lives?” Raise your hand up to invite the audience to do the same if they agree. If you can tap into an emotion or a desire for your audience right away and get them saying “yes” early, you’ll capture their attention and keep them focused during your talk.

Let’s look at a live example of how Grace Smith, owner of Grace Space, makes a strong opening by polling the audience about their stress and asks if they want a fast and easy solution to the stress they feel. She then gives them an interactive activity by asking them to examine their current stress and continues to keep them engaged.

Grace’s opening captured people’s attention immediately, got them feeling strong emotions, and made them excited to learn her solution. All in less than 60 seconds.

Bake Social Proof Into Your Business Storytelling

Many speakers will list off past achievements, clients, or successes like they are reading off their resumé. This approach often comes off as boring and braggadocious. But including social proof in your talk is critical for building trust and authority with your audience.

Bad example: “I charge $30,000 for my service and only work with high-quality businesses, and I’m often booked out months in advance.”

A good approach is to weave these facts into a story and train your audience to expect certain behavior from you.

Good example: “A few days ago, I got a call from a big potential client. I let them know I could not start work with them for another few months and the work would cost $30,000. They said, “We were thinking more like $20,000,” and they asked if I had a cancellation policy.

Now, I was willing to give them a bit of a discount if they paid it all upfront, but told them I didn’t have a cancellation policy, I only worked with people who were serious about this.

They respected this boundary and ended up taking my offer to pay up front.”

“Landing the Plane” – How to Close Your Story

Pete Vargas Business Storytelling

A strong close is as important as a strong open in your story, but there are a few risks that come at the end of your presentation. The biggest is timing; if you go over time, have to cut off your talk or rush through it, you’ll damage the trust you have built up with your audience. You’ll lose that opportunity to leave a powerful impression that incites action in your audience.

Here are a few tips for a strong close:

Know exactly how long the close of your story will take – Keep a close eye on the time you have left and drop everything to transition into your story.

Build flex time into your presentation – A good option for flex time is opening the floor to Q & A before you close. You can answer as many questions as you have time for then transition into your closing story.

False finish slides – Create a few closing slides throughout your presentation. So you can have a few places you can end your presentation. This keeps you from looking disorganized and skipping forward to your closing slide if you’re short on time.

Take care of “housekeeping” before you close – Most speakers mention they have books for sale, a booth in the back, or how they can be contacted as an afterthought of their presentations. As soon as you close, people will begin talking with their neighbors, rushing to the bathroom, or heading for the coffee bar. Mention all of these things before your close while you have their attention.

Let’s look at an example of this in action. Here’s a clip of Pat Quinn wrapping up one of his talks. Watch how he finishes with the main content of his talk then does a quick plug for his event and then opens up for a few questions to fill out a little bit of extra time in his talk. He wants to end with a story to make maximum impact. He knows how long his closing story is going to take and uses questions to make sure his story ends his talk ends exactly when it’s supposed to.

Start With One Story

It’s possible to build a thriving business around just one good signature talk. I recommend starting out by focusing on just one story, even if you have more than one that you think would be a good tool for your business. A great signature talk can be repurposed and reworked for many different formats and different audiences.

A good signature talk is not an easy thing to create, and it takes a great deal of time and effort to practice, refine, and test. By focusing on just one story, you can be sure that your story is optimized for impact.

A good story takes work to hone and refine into something great. By choosing just one, you’ll be able to bring out the best in it and start seeing results faster.

Need more inspiration for your storytelling? Check out 26 Tips For Storytelling

[bctt tweet=”A good story takes work to hone and refine into a great talk. #storytelling” username=”advancereach”]

Have Short and Long Versions of Your Story

As your speaking career develops, you’re going to have lots of different opportunities to speak, but they won’t all be the same. Maybe you’ll have an hour to speak on a podcast or a keynote speech. Sometimes you’ll have just 5 minutes to make a lasting impression. You’ll also have lots of opportunities to tell a bite-size version of your story in a minute or less in a passing conversation.

A master storyteller has their story prepared and practiced for all of these situations, so it comes off naturally and clearly.

A story is only one part of great talk, and you’ll want to keep it in good proportion with your content and the educational part of your talk. We recommend that your opening story take about 20% of the total time you have to speak. Though the shorter amount of time you have, the more time you should give to your story. In most cases, it’s difficult to convey a lot of good information in a 10-minute talk, but you can still create a good experience and a lasting impression with your story.


Crafting a good story to tell around your business and your content marketing can have as much impact at making a new hire if done well. Remember that your business storytelling is more than a marketing tool. It can also impact how your team feels about the work they do and how it fulfills their own purpose.

Telling your story truly takes courage because the best stories require you to be vulnerable and share some of your failures. But through that courageous act, you’ll help countless others solve the same problems and challenges you’ve faced.

Let your story bring wealth to your business and those you’ve set out to help, and let us help you with your story. Follow the steps in our Signature Talk Outline to develop your Signature Talk in a more compelling and impacting way. Download now to get started!