Blow ‘em away with the WOW factor
The How of WOW: A Guide to Giving
a Speech That Will Positively Blow
By Tony Carlson
NY: AMACOM; 277 pages with index;
Yes! That’s what we all want—to blow
’em away with our speeches.
In a surprisingly good book for both
beginners and vets, Canadian speaking
consultant Tony Carlson gives great advice.
He treats the challenges of the platform
with both breadth and depth. Read this
book and you’ll think, Wow! Do what it says,
and your audience will think the same
According to Carlson, only 1 in 500
speeches is good enough to be remembered. So, how do we rise above the elevator music level of speaking? Carlson’s
answer: “Insight. Enlightenment. Meaning.
Stimulation. Wit. Entertainment.”
But what are the steps?
1. Crafting your style: Let the greatest
speakers be your mentors. Don’t be
afraid of emulating them. Eventually,
your own style will take over, but with
the power of the greats.
2. The three most important components
of successful performance: Rehearse,
rehearse, rehearse. As noted actor,
Michael Caine, has said, “Rehearsal is
the work; performance is the relaxation.” And do it standing up, with at
least one person listening.
3. Audience research: What are the
main points that need to be highlighted and how can you bring all your
talents to bear down on that focus?
4. Early arrival: Time to check the sound
system; schmooze with those that may
be a familiar, emotional connection
during the presentation.
5. Technology: Great, but don’t let the
PowerPoint process outshine your personality. Let it back you up, not out.
6. First line: Can be a shocker that lets
the audience know you mean business—something many suspect, but
no one will say, except for you.
7. Starting off: Present your most human
side, engaging the audience with a
vulnerability they can appreciate.
8. Appearing authentic: Put yourself in the
situation you’re describing—deeply.
9. Power of the platform: Move around
and use it to engage the audience
with your (and their) agenda. This, too,
10. Daring to be different: Not necessarily with gimmicks, but with good, old-fashioned, honest candor. Tell the truth
that others dare not, without hurting
11. Arc: Improve on the old formula:
Strong start, strong finish, with the rest in
the middle. Instead, build an arc that
grows and grows until you “feel a sense
of catharsis,” a climax of emotion that
your audience enjoys.
12. History: Each of us has a family story or
two that goes into a piece of history
that our audience can relate to. It creates common ground.
13. Ad-libs: Good, especially when they’re
already practiced—very carefully.
14. Acting: During the talk, become the
actor you always wanted to be, to reinforce the drama and intensity. This is
definitely not the time to hold back on
being the ham; just keep it focused on
Take a look at this book—you’ll be glad
David Ryback is the
author of Putting
to Work. He can
be reached at