It takes courage to be a
different kind of speaker.
After attending my first NSA conference
in 2009, I questioned whether or not real
speakers use a character. I considered
ditching Louis and might have actually
done so—except I continued to get referrals specifically for Louis!
After speaking in Toronto, Ontario,
at MADD Canada’s National Victims’
Weekend last April, I evidenced the
power of characters. In 12 short minutes,
Louis opened the hearts and minds of
a most resistant, sensitive and grieving
audience to embrace a healing message
titled, “Humor helps and laughter heals.”
I’m keeping Louis. Real speakers use
talents, devices and even characters to
impart their messages and impact lives.
1. You must first love your character
so your audience may love your
2. For your character to be real to
your audience, you must step out of
yourself and become the character.
3. A great character alone is not
enough. You need a message that
inspires change, influences, teaches
and moves others to act.
4. The character must reinforce,
strengthen and anchor your
5. The audience must be able to relate
or identify with the character.
6. Fiercely protect the integrity of
your character. Never compromise
your character’s character.
7. Acknowledge that not everyone
will love your character. Accept that
most will like it, a few won’t, but all
will remember the message.
Not all characters are created equal.
In fact, the best characters are created
one at a time. The greatest charac-
ters have no mold. My character was
created in the 1994 movie Forrest
Gump. Of course, Academy Award-
winning actor Tom Hanks portrayed
Forrest, the slow-witted man from
Greenbow, Alabama, who achieved
remarkable success in life by follow-
ing the simple wisdom of his mother
and living by the philosophy, “A
promise is a promise.”
So, how does one improve on that?
You don’t. In fact, you don’t even try.
Instead, all you can do is borrow
some traits: style of dress, haircut,
accent, memorable lines from the
movie, and the chocolate box. With
those key elements in
place, you then bring
your own personality
and energy and ideas
to create a magical
meet. If you’re really good, you leave
people walking away feeling like they
just met the real Forrest Gump.
Look-alike: A look-alike bears
an uncanny resemblance to another
person (typically a celebrity). The
look-alike is hired to conduct
photo-ops, walk-arounds, and meet-
and-greets. The look-alike relies
almost entirely on the physical
resemblance and isn’t expected
to have an act. He or she spends
the majority of speaking time
repeating famous lines
or phrases that mimic
the original celeb-
rity and remind
others of the
or she resem-
bles. The term
dead ringer is
often used to
describe the best