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Overview description of the video:
Patrick Schwerdtfeger discusses speech structure and how to write a good speech and guarantee a powerful close. Use it if you’re a motivational speaker, an executive preparing for a board meeting, a manager needing to motivate his/her staff or a salesperson wanting to make an impact with prospective customers. This approach to speech writing will dramatically and immediately improve your presentations and leave attendees inspired to take action.
Patrick’s approach is to write his speeches like a song with verses, a chorus and a “bridge” near the end. And what’s the bridge? Back in the 1980s, it was the guitar solo! In a speech, it’s designed to break attendees out of their rhythm and seal in the “surprising truth” of your speech. This speech structure virtually guarantees a powerful close.
Patrick also incorporates neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) to seed ideas during the speech and tee up the surprising truth before you even introduce it. He uses “The Office” as an example of topic “out-takes” and describes how you can use questions to make your speech insightful and powerful for the audience.
Here is the full transcript from the video above:
Hey, this is Patrick and welcome to another edition of Strategic Business Insights. Today we’re going to talk about writing a super-powerful speech. How do you have that powerful close? How do you leave people with really that buzz that they have to go out, they’re inspired to do so, and they’re inspired to take action? And it boils down to one thing.
Now, look, before we get into it, I’m going to talk about this from a keynote perspective, because that’s what I do. That’s what I do for a living. That’s where I have expertise. So for you, you might be a sales coach, you might have to have to motivate your sales team, maybe you’re a manager and you have a number of people, you have a staff meeting where you have to motivate people, or maybe you have some other capacity. So you can take what we talk about here and morph it and adjust it to fit whatever you need.
But in terms of a keynote, a keynote speech, the most important element that you’re going to need is a surprising truth. You have to challenge a conventional belief. You have to understand, when people hire a keynote speaker, like when people hire me, they’re looking for buzz. They want buzz for their attendees. That’s what they’re looking for.
They’re not buying me. They’re not buying my topic. They’re not buying my reputation, for the most part. I’ll get to this in just two seconds. But for the most part, they’re buying buzz. They want their members to be at the conference, whatever event they’re holding, and to leave the room buzzing with energy and talking amongst themselves and discussing having the message of that keynote speech just roll over again and again in the minds of attendees.
Now, I said there’s one exception as far as what I get paid for as a keynote speaker. You get really paid for one of two things: Your ability to deliver a message – and that’s the buzz. That’s what we’re going to talk about in this video, buzz, right there. But the second thing is your ability to drive registration.
Getting people to attend events is harder than ever. People have event fatigue. People have event fatigue. There are too many events. So if you’re an event planner, you’re a meeting planner, you know that getting people to sign up for your event, to commit to pay the money, to attend the event that you’re organizing, is harder than ever. And the registrations come at the last minute, by the way, more so than ever before.
So some keynote speakers, the celebrity kinds, they’re paid huge amounts of money because knowing that those folks are going to be at the conference, it helps drive registration. So that’s the other kind of exception. We’re not going to talk about that in that video. But it’s a big part. And certainly, as a speaker having a little bit of celebrity cache, you can immediately make a lot more money because you’re helping to drive registration.
But anyway, let’s get back to buzz. You need a surprising truth. You need to question a commonly-held belief. Because what happens when you do that? People start thinking, “Gosh, is that true? Do I agree with that or do I agree with this? What’s my opinion on this?” And what happens when people think that way? They turn to their neighbor and say, “What do you think?” That’s buzz. That’s buzz. It’s that simple.
You have to challenge a commonly-held belief so they’re thinking, “Gosh, this is interesting. I’ve never thought about it in that way. What do you think?” Boom. If you’ve got a whole room doing that, you’ve got buzz.
Now, how do you write an effective keynote speech? I write my speeches like a song. So what you have is you have verses, a chorus, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, close. What’s the bridge? We’ll talk about that in a second.
But let’s say you have your three primary arguments. General rule of thumb, by the way: If you’re writing a speech, you want to do roughly one point every 10 minutes. So if you’re going to speak for an hour, I would do four, maybe five points, and then you’ve got your bridge and your close, and we’ll get to that in a second. If you’re speaking for 45 minutes, I would do three major points, maybe four, but I would probably stick with three, and then bridge, chorus, close.
So your first argument is your first verse, and then you have your chorus, whatever your primary message is. That’s your chorus. Verse number two, chorus, verse number three, chorus. What are you doing during this period of time? You’re building trust. You’re building trust by providing arguments that make sense to the audience. It has to make sense to the audience. You’ve got to think through your arguments. Think about, who is your audience? What are their commonly-held beliefs? What is their life experience? What do they do for work or why are they out there at that event? And then provide arguments that are going to be somehow congruent with that because you’re building trust.
Then that verse one, they don’t know who you are yet. They’re still a little bit skeptical at that point. Verse two, they kind of already see your style. They’re like, “Okay, I understand what this person’s going to do here,” so they’re starting to listen. Verse number three, they’re listening but they’re kind of sitting back. They’re relaxed. You’ve already built trust, they know what’s going on, so they’re starting to relax. That’s when you’ve got to break them out of that rhythm, and that’s what the bridge is.
Now, let’s go back to a song. What is a bridge in a song? Well, back in the 1980s, it’s the guitar solo. The guitar solo, it breaks out of the rhythm. Your verse one, verse two, verse three, chorus, everything’s kind of a rhythm. Then all of a sudden you have the guitar solo. It’s different than the rhythm. It breaks out. It kind of shocks people in a way into, “Wow, this is different,” so they’re listening again.
And then it goes back to a chorus, close, where you’re doing the same thing in the speech. Argument number one, boom, chorus, your primary message. Verse number two, chorus, your primary message. Verse number three, chorus, your primary message. Bridge. What’s the bridge? The surprising truth. That’s where it goes. It goes into the bridge.
You know, a great example of this is if maybe you watch The Office, the television show The Office. And what they do in The Office is they have the scene progressing, whatever’s taking place with the characters, and then they’ll do like an outtake and they’ll talk to one person. They’ll do like an interview style with that one person who’s in the scene over here and they’ll talk about what’s going on, and then they’ll go back to the scene that’ll continue.
Well, you’re doing the same thing with a speech. When you’re cutting over here, that’s the bridge. The scene’s progressing, and then you can do a full stop and be as if you’re the audience. “Guys, do you see what we’re talking about here? Boom, surprising truth. This is the reality. You thought this but it’s not true. This is the reality.” And all of a sudden you’ve broken them out of the rhythm.
In verse number three, they were sitting back, they were relaxed, they were understanding, they were appreciating your argument. Boom, you hit them with the bridge. “Guys, do you see? This is a whole different thing than what we thought. We all have always thought this, but that’s not the case. The case is over here.” And all of a sudden people are like, “Wow, I never thought about that.”
So that’s where you bring that in. You bring that surprising truth. And then you go back to the chorus, your primary message, and you close.
So how you guarantee a powerful close is with your bridge. Your bridge guarantees a powerful close. You do that outtake and go break out of the scene, break out of the rhythm of your speech and go, “Guys, ladies and gentlemen, do you understand what we’re saying here? Do you understand the implications of this?” And you say it, “This is what everyone thinks but that’s not true. The truth is over here, and this is the implication for you.”
Everyone’s like, “Wow,” and they’re thinking, “Gosh,” and they look up into the left, because that’s what people do when they’re thinking. They look up into the left. And you can see that as the speaker. You can see all the people looking up into the left. My right is their left. You can see the whole audience doing that. “Gosh, wow, what’s going on?”
And then you bring the chorus, which is the message. Now they’re understanding it with renewed insight. And then you close your speech.
What’s going to happen? Immediately everyone’s going to start talking to their neighbor. “Is that true?” “Do you agree with that or…?” “Wow, I never thought about it that way.” “That means this and this and this.” That’s buzz.
And those event organizers, if you deliver that kind of buzz where everyone’s leaving the room, the conference room where you spoke, and they’re all talking to each other and buzzing and talking about it, and ideally, two, three, four hours later, the next day, two days later, they’re still talking about it, those event planners are going to be very, very happy.
And if you’re not a keynote speaker the way I am, if you’re doing this as part of your job, whether you’re a sales trainer or whatever it is that you do for a living, if you can deliver a message that just rolls over again and again in the minds of the people who heard you speak for two, three days, you’ve done your job. You’ve done your job.
Now, let’s talk about a couple of other things that you can do to make your speech even more powerful. First off, you can seed ideas. Seeding ideas. Now, I do this a lot. For example—I use myself as an example—when I’m speaking, like at least 70, 80% of my business comes from referrals, people passing my name along, so I want to try and encourage that behavior. And it’s exactly the same thing that we said before about breaking out of the scene and doing a little outtake. Because I might be speaking and, let me see, talking about…like a lot of my business is in the insurance industry, a lot of insurance conferences I speak at.
So I might be talking about, say, an insurance example, and I’m talking, here’s the scene, here’s the argument that I’m sort of talking about as it relates to the topic of my speech, whatever that might be, and then I might just do a quick outtake and say, “You know, I speak all the time. This is all I do. I did 57 events last year. About a third of those events are in the insurance business. So this example is relevant for the insurance business.” Boom. Go back to the argument.
What did I do? It’s the same thing with The Office. The scene was over here. I’m presenting an argument about whatever it is I’m talking about. Break out and say, “Listen, this is all I do. I’m a keynote speaker. Did 57 events last year. A third of them are in the insurance business. So this is an example that I provide for them.” Go back and just continue. Don’t do anything.
But what happened right there? I just seeded an idea. All those people in the audience are like, “Wow,” and they might not even consciously know that they’re thinking this. They might not even consciously be aware of it, but in their subconscious or somewhere in their mind they’re thinking, “Gosh, this guy speaks all over the place and he’s big in the insurance business.” Who do I know? What conferences do I go to? I’m seeding the idea I’m a keynote speaker.
Now, another thing I might do is, because I travel a lot, so a lot of the speeches—I just went to Dubai, which was fantastic for me. I loved going over there. In fact, I should be going back later this month. But anyway, so I travel extensively. So that might be another thing that I seed. Say, “You know, actually, I just was recently in Dubai, which is amazing part of the world. But I did this example for them.” Or, “This is how it related to their circumstance.” And then go back to the scene and continue on. But that little seed…I just dropped seed, to seed that in their minds. “Wow, this guy does this in different parts of the world.” What am I doing? I’m building credibility.
Well, you can do the same thing. Think about what ideas you want to seed. What do you want your audience to believe about you? Well, you can do little outtakes. You can map this stuff out. You can map it out strategically and be like, “I want them to know this about me, this about me, this about me,” two or three or four things, and you can strategically put them in your speech and do a little outtake and refer to that thing. And then just go back and ignore it. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Just a small thing, just say it, and then drop it and keep going.
You don’t need to spend a lot of time on these things. Ten words, 20 words, just drop something, and then just ignore it, forget about it and move on like you never did anything. It’ll stay with…the people will self-identify. The people who need to know that information, they will self-identify. You don’t have to push yourself onto anybody.
This is a truism in life. The whole “push sales?” It’s over. You don’t have to do that anymore. The way to do it is to seed ideas and let the people come to you. The people who need your services, they will come to you if you seed those ideas correctly.
Now, questions, this is another thing. If you’ve ever studied neuro-linguistic programming, that’s a big field. I hate saying NLP because to me it immediately sounds manipulative or deceptive, but the reality is that NLP is basically the science of words. How do you use the language? And just like the little outtake that we just talked about.
I’ve never really studied NLP, by the way. I’ve read some books on it, so peripherally I have some knowledge, but I’m not like a master practitioner. I’ve never done any of those expensive courses to learn it. But what we just talked about is probably an example of NLP. And I don’t even know, they probably have a label for it. I don’t even know what that label is, but it’s these sorts of things.
Well, questions is a huge part of NLP as well. See, questions, you answer questions involuntarily. Maybe your conscious mind can restrict it, but your subconscious mind can’t. So, for example, if I say, “What was the best thing that happened to you today?” Well, a little picture just went into your mind. It might have lasted for half a second, but your subconscious mind, it’s involuntary. People will answer the questions you ask, and this is true in speaking, it’s true in life. Questions are extraordinarily powerful. The power of a good question.
So remember before, we talked about verse, chorus, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, close. Well, what you want to do is you want to drop some questions in there. And the way I do it—you do whatever you want but this is the way I do it—I do verse one, and then I tee up the course with a question. “How can you use this information? How does this relate to you? Has anything like this ever happened to you?”
Whatever that is, you want your verses to probably be stories. Stories sell really well. So if you’re making an argument, rather than just spewing out facts and figures and pie charts or whatever, tell a story about something. Stories are way more engaging. Stories sell. Again, in life, in speaking, telling stories is very powerful.
So verse one, tell your story, bam, tee up a question. Involuntarily, they’re going to think about the answer, whatever that answer is. “How does this affect you? Does this happen in your business?” That’s it. It doesn’t have to be anything big. “Does this happen in your business?” Boom, chorus, primary message.
So you’ve got verse one, tee it up with a question, get their mind thinking, boom, chorus, your primary message. Verse two, tee it up with a question, boom, chorus. Verse three, tell a story, tee it up with a question, chorus.
Again, it’s involuntary. This is human nature. If you ask a question, people’s…I mean, it’s got to be a question that’s somehow related. You can’t just take your question out of left field and throw it at them and expect them to do something with it. But if you’re telling a story about some subject, and then at the end you’re like, “Has this ever happened in your business?” or “What are the implications in what it is you do for a living?” That’s going to happen very quickly. Their subconscious mind is going to put a picture in their mind. Then you can deliver your primary message.
But the point is that these questions, you can take your audience on a thought journey. And again, you can map it out. If you want to get scientific about this, you can map it out. You can write down on a piece of paper, “What thought do I want them to have first? Second? Third? Fourth?” and you can inject those questions into your speech to get them to go on a thought journey.
You can get them to make your argument for you. Do you see how that works? You guide them through a thought journey, you drop these seeds as you go, gets people thinking, you seed ideas, you ask those questions to get them to think about things – what you’re doing is you’re taking them on a thought journey which logically goes to your conclusion. You can get them there on their own.
And that’s why when you get to your bridge, your surprising truth, it was a surprise in the beginning, but now that you’ve gotten there, you’ve already taken them on this thought journey, they’re ready for it. They already know it’s true. You’ve teed it up. You’ve teed it up the whole time. So they know that there’s something different here. “I didn’t realize that it was this way.”
And they already have that cognitive dissonance. What’s buzz? Buzz is cognitive dissonance. There’s tension in the brain, two different ideas competing for attention. So they had their ideas that they came in with, and then you brought them on this thought journey and all these arguments that’s challenging their conventional view, so there’s cognitive dissonance. They want to resolve that.
It’s human nature to resolve cognitive dissonance. People want cognitive harmony. They want to come back to harmony. So you’ve teed up the tension, and then your bridge, boom, you deliver the surprising truth. They already know it’s coming. They know it’s on its way. “Guys, do you see? It’s not what we all thought it was. We all thought it was this way but it’s not. It’s actually this way.” And people are like, “Yes, it’s true. I never thought about that.” And the whole thing starts going. That is how you deliver a good keynote speech.
So regardless of how you use it, if this is a part of your job that you have to deliver, you have to speak in front of people, you have to motivate people, do it in a scientific way. Be better than what you are now. You might be excellent right now, but you can be better. Just add that extra layer of awareness between you and what you’re doing. Here’s you, here’s the speech, it’s right in here. It’s an extra layer of awareness.
Be more deliberate in how you deliver your speeches, and the people who are your audience, even if it’s your employees—referrals happen in any part of business. If everyone’s talking good things about you at work, it’s going to benefit you. For me, if people are talking good about the keynote speech that I delivered, it’s going to result in more business for me. But it really doesn’t matter what aspect of life you use this, what type of profession for example that you’re using these skills in, if you deliver powerful speeches, you’re going to benefit as a result.
Thanks for watching this video. This is Patrick reminding you to think bigger about your business, think bigger about yourself.
Patrick Schwerdtfeger is a keynote speaker who has spoken at conferences and conventions in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Please click the button below to inquire about speaking fees and availability.