The Blueprint for Public Speaking Success – Hugh Culver

Hugh-Culver-PinterestA good opening is key to setting the tone for any public speaking engagement. A successful public speaker first needs to gain the trust of their audience – within the first 3 minutes – before delivering their material, as well as stay clear of common mistakes that could jeopardize their audience’s engagement with their presentation.

Follow Hugh’s tested and successful model for putting together an amazing speaking presentation. Gain your audience’s trust, engage them, challenge them and then sit back and wait for the standing ovation!

Hugh Culver speaks, consults, and writes about creating real results as a public speaker. By using his speaking “templates” and “Think. Plan. Act.” philosophy, you will now have the necessary tools to be able to put on the best possible presentation.

Rich Brooks: Welcome everybody to another episode of The Marketing Agents Podcast. Today we’ve got Hugh Culver on the show. I’m excited to have Hugh, we met at Social Media Marketing World last year out in San Diego. After about 16 years, the popular keynote speaker and seminar leader, Hugh Culver was burnt out. He was speaking over 100 times a year – he had the big office, staff, big income – but he didn’t feel successful. In desperation, he shut down his business and started again. In the following year he dropped his paid bookings by half, took 3 months vacation, doubled his income, published a book and trained for and won the world’s longest endurance race. That’s pretty crazy. Now Hugh speaks on creating real results and a rich life and supports other speakers to grow their business and have more impact. Hugh, welcome to the show.

Hugh Culver: Thanks, Rich. I’m really happy to be here. And I’m sure everybody says it, but I am a huge fan of your work. I’ve got The Marketing Agents Podcast right here on my iPhone, I was listening to it this morning, so there you go.

Rich: That’s awesome. Everybody does say that, but that’s because of legal obligations, I make them say that. You, I know, are just saying that from the bottom of your heart and I appreciate that.

Hugh: Of course.

Rich: So in your bio we talked about the fact that you got burnt out after being a keynote speaker. I want to talk to you today about being a public speaker. I’m just curious, how did you originally become a professional speaker?

Hugh: Great question, that’s where I wanted to start as well. I got into the industry how a lot of people did back then, which was through life experience. So I grew up in a big family with an older brother – who is not with us anymore, unfortunately – but, remarkable man. One of the things that he did that was remarkable is he started one of the very first white water rafting companies in western Canada. Well actually one of the very first in Canada in the early 1970’s, and I joined him very early on at the age of 15. I became a guide and we really worked together to grow that business, and then I became a senior guide and a trainer and literally thats where I cut my teeth in business, was in running this really renegade, pioneering company that we had about 35 guides. We sold that company and I joined up with 3 partners and we launched the first flights to the South Pole. To this day it’s still the only company in the world that operates in Antarctica as a private company, and we have our own base camp and we have 4 airplanes and so that was an incredible jump from $35 one-day rafting trips to now dealing in literally millions of dollars, buying airplanes that I hadn’t even seen, and buying them over the phone. So when I came out of that industry, Rich, it was just a natural that that’s what I would talk about. At the time I was also teaching marketing for people that were becoming self-employed, and so I got into it like a lot of mountain climbers do or athletes do. I got into it because of my stories, and I actually stared at a university, I was doing graduate studies getting my MBA and they asked me to start teaching weekend programs. And then one thing lead to another, but I got to tell you at the time – and this is what I learned so many years later – I really did not know what I was doing, and I really got by because I had amazing pictures of penguins. I mean, I had the best pictures of penguins. One of my partners was Pat Morrow who may not be known to you, but in Canada he is very well known – he’s the first Canadian on Everest – but also is quite a remarkable photographer and author and a good friend of mine. So I had Pat’s photographs. If I didn’t tell a good story, I had amazing pictures of penguins. So that’s how I got started.

Rich: Excellent, alright. And I’m glad you’re here today, I’m glad we’re actually talking now because before we got on the recording today we were talking a little bit about my upcoming conference, Agents Of Change. I am going to be taking the stage along with all of these great names that we have with us, so I wanted to have you on in part because I wanted to kind of talk to you. You’ve got this template for creating amazing presentations, so I thought I’d be completely selfish – which I always am – plus that’s the benefit of having your own podcast, and talk to you about these templates so I can put on the best possible presentation. And also I know a lot of our listeners are interested in doing presentations and getting their name out and building their business and this podcast is all about building your business through generating more leads, so it’s just one more way to get some business.

Hugh: Absolutely. It absolutely is. Here’s the thing, before I tell you the template is that you can really use – so let me step back – one of the mistakes that people make whether it is onstage as you just mentioned, or it’s making a sales call to a client or responding to an inquiry or even writing a blog, is that they’re disorganized. And what typically happens is that people will either go to the path of least resistance – in other words they’re going to tell a joke, because they know it’s funny and they know it gets a laugh – or they’re going to make some sarcastic comment because they’re nervous and they’re trying to dissipate the energy, or they’re going to bumble around and try and find their way. And that disorganization really impacts the trust in the relationship. So let’s go back to talking onstage, because that’s the example we’re going to use here. When you step onstage, you do not have much time, you need to immediately get the trust of that audience. And if you’re disorganized, if you’re fumbling – and I’m not just talking about physical fumbling of course, you know my water glass or my notes or whatever, I’m talking about fumbling with what comes out of your mouth or even how you present. Right away, you now have to earn back the trust that you’ve lost. Every audience – and this was taught to me years ago – audiences want you to succeed. They do. An audience wants you to succeed. So when they’re giving your introduction – which of course is always glowing – they’re always sitting there going, “Well, this should be good. This is going to be good. I want this to be good. I’m here for the next 60 minutes, I just went to the bathroom and got a coffee, I got my pen out, this is going to be good.” It’s our job not to disappoint them. So one of the first things that you need to understand about using this template is, your job is to never lose the trust of the audience.   And that trust is, I want you to be successful. And any time you’re disorganized or you go off track or you ramble around or whatever, you now make them distrust you. It’s kind of like going to a movie where there’s something that doesn’t quite sync in terms of the date – “that doesn’t make sense, why are they wearing that clothing, this is supposed to be modern day?”- so that’s the first thing is we need to gain trust. When I’m coaching speakers I tell them, “As soon as you step on stage, you’re performing, and you need to in the first – I usually say 3 minutes – you need to do a number of things. So, you want me to jump right into it, Rich, and show you how I do it?

Rich: Yeah, let’s start with that first item.

Hugh: Ok. So my job is I don’t want to lose their trust. I’ve already got their trust, now I don’t want to lose it. So as soon as I step onstage, I start in the middle of a story. So I don’t start by saying, “Let me tell you a story.” And I definitely don’t start by saying, “I’m so glad to be here.”, which is completely self serving.   Speakers that get up and say, “I’m so glad to be here”, are basically building themself up. We know you’re glad to be there, and especially if you’re a paid speaker, of course you’re glad to be there. Don’t waste the audience’s time. So I start in the middle of a story. And the reason I do that is because now I’ve got them confused on the edge of their seat. They’re wondering, “Where is this going?” It’s kind of a little trick but it works, because now the audience – first of all, I’m doing something that no other speaker on the agenda has done. Every other speaker on the agenda has thanked the presenter or thanked the audience or made some joke about the taxi ride to the hotel, which again loses the trust of the audience. This is another little tip I’ll give you, if you’re a traveling speaker never talk about airports, taxis and hotels, because that’s not where most people live. They don’t spend their time in taxis, airports and hotels. But public speakers are always scrambling for stories, and usually there’s something funny or strange or weird about taxis, hotels and airports. But what happens is you’re losing the trust of the audience because the audience is saying, “Well that’s nice for you, you get to stay in the Sheraton, the Hyatt, the Marriott, and I go home to my 2-bedroom bungalow tonight.” So don’t talk about those things. What I talk about is, I start in the middle of the story. So to give you an example, I might say something like, “I was riding home with my 14-year old daughter when she completely stopped on her bicycle”, or something like that. And now people are going, “What the heck? What’s going on and what’s going to happen next?” Now it’s really important that this story that I’m starting in the middle of actually has a punchline and actually is interesting and is a perfect segue to my main message. Or I might start with a fact or statistic. So I might say for example, “Towers Perham Group just released this April a study which says that 30% of our time is spent on email.” Well right away people go, “You’ve got to be kidding me?” Either they disbelieve it or it confirms their worst fears. So I start in the middle of something and I want to get them on the edge of their seat and I want them to be wondering where I’m going. But what I need to do in the rest of those 3 minutes, is I need to tell them what’s going to happen for the remainder of the hour or 45 minutes or 30 minutes

Rich: Alright, so the first thing we’re going to do when we get on stage is we’re going to avoid what the other speakers do, and we’re going to immediately connect and build trust with our audience. They’ve started from a point of trust, we hope, and at that point we can’t lose it by telling them things that they can’t identify with. So it could be humor or some interesting fact – if we’re not the funny type of people – but that’s what we’re going to do, and then if I hear you correctly, then we’re going to tell them what the rest of the presentation is going to be about.

Hugh: Yup, absolutely. Now when you get comfortable with doing these kinds of things like getting up in front of audiences – whether it’s 10 people in a workshop or you’re facilitating a group of 50 or you’re standing on the main stage in front of 200 – it’s also really important how you own the presence in the stage. So one of the things to do – which again, most other speakers don’t do – is go right to the middle of the stage, because that’s where the lights are, that’s where the people expect you to be, that’s where it should be and everyone can see you. People shouldn’t have to look around something to see you, so go right to the middle of the stage and look at the people that are about 6-10 rows in. That’s where you want to look. What a lot of speakers will do is they’ll look at the front row because it’s comfortable, those people they can actually see because the lights are usually set up so that they’re on the speaker. So it’s really easy to see the people in the front, its hard to see the people further back in the room. But you want to look about 6-10 rows in because what happens is if you look there and you start looking individually at one person, and then move over and look at another person, it’s the weirdest thing, Rich. People will all feel like you’re looking at them. But if you look at the front row, then only the front row feels like you’re looking at them. You want to look into the crowd, and look at people one at a time, just a little technique but you want people to feel like, “Man, he’s looking right at me.” And you don’t scan the audience, this is not like machine gun shots, this is like a bullet. Like you look at a person while you’re talking, you look at the next person, next person. Ok, step 2. I‘ve now spent 3 minutes, I’ve completed my story, and now what I have to do in those 3 minutes as I’m completing it is I have to give them a promise. Now I have some colleagues that will say things like, “Imagine if the next hour completely changed your life.” And you know, they’re motivational speakers and it works for them, but I can’t pull that off. I’m not a motivational speaker, I’m a speaker that’s more of an educator. I like to think I’m motivating, but I’m primarily an educator. So I don’t make promises like that, but what I will do is I’ll either pose a big, open ended question or I’ll make kind of a promise that I know I can fulfill. So I might say something like, “Today I want to share with you 3 things, and I know these 3 things have completely changed my life.” Now that, I can say with all honesty. So if something has changed my life, I can totally own that. As far as promising it will change their life, for me that’s for the motivational speakers. “So this has changed my life, and my challenge to you is..” And then I give them a challenge. And usually the challenge is something like, “My challenge for you is not to treat this like a college lecture, where you write down everything I say. My challenge for you is to write down the one thing that you’re going to do differently.” And then I usually go one step further and I’ll say something like, “You see the best test for me is if I was to meet you in the hall after this speech and I was to ask you what’s the one thing you’re going to do differently, that you are able to tell me what that one thing is. That means I’ve been successful. So that’s my challenge for you.”   So now what I’ve done is I’ve told them: here’s a little story to get your interest, here’s what I’m going to talk about today, and now here’s a challenge. And again, my expectation is that those 3 things – especially in that order – nobody else has done that day. Nobody else has taken that kind of a stand. And Rich, in this speaking industry, the biggest contracts and the biggest conferences are typically Association conferences. So you can think about doctors and dentists and podiatrists.

Rich: And I’ve spoken for 2 out of 3 of those groups. So I totally know what you’re saying.

Hugh: Exactly! In order of popularity and potential as a public speaker, it goes: ‘Associations’, and then it goes ‘Internal Business Audiences’. For example, your telecommunication company, your cell phone company, your Starbucks of the world. They have internal conferences which is only for their staff. And then after that is a mish mash of events. But I would suggest that after that it would be ‘Non-Profits’. So large, not for profits or something like that. So if we think about ‘Association’ events being the biggest, and also hiring the most speakers – they have the most complex, longest agendas – multiple days, multiple speakers, etc.   Typically a huge majority of them are technical, so they’re technical speakers. This is an association of nurses, this is an association of contractors or whatever it is, and so they want that technical content. Often they’re getting education credits by going to this association conference – which is a part of their designation. For example, professional engineers, architects, that sort of thing. So there has to be technical content. But also it’s because the event planners want to deliver things that are industry specific. So the people listening to this podcast probably are not going to be the technical speakers, they’re going to be the people coming in with soft skills. We’re going to be customer service, leadership, motivation, personal development and that sort of thing. And so my point is that when you come in and you’re bold about what you are going to deliver, you will absolutely stand out. Not only are you going to stand out because you’re not a technical speaker – talking about the latest ways to use CAD drawings – but you’re going to stand out because you’re going to be bold. How does that sound so far?

Rich: Well it sounds good. Can we go into a little bit more depth about what it means to be bold, or are you just saying you’re bold because I’m going to come here and tell you what I’ve learned in the past 3-6 months doing something and I challenge you to do one of these things to get the results that I’ve seen or that my client’s have seen?

Hugh: Exactly. That’s what I mean. And so what I remind myself of – and its a really good discipline – just to take a bit of a step back and do a couple of things before you ever arrive at the events. You’ve secured the deal, you’ve got the negotiation, you figured out the book sales, etc. I almost always will interview delegates ahead of time. It’s a little trick I learned years ago from one of my bureaus. As I interview delegates ahead of time – and usually 5-6 delegates – and I get a list from the event planner or the client and I say I want to have at least 10 people and I interview the delegates. Now what I’m doing there is I’m looking for not only the kind of language that they use to describe their industry and their problems, but project managers have a certain language, architects have a certain language, which obviously medical professionals. I want to get that, I also want to get a sense of some really specific issues that tend to be trendy. And I won’t use them specifically onstage of course -I don’t want to embarrass anybody – but what I will do is I will refer to them.. And I want to refer to those in the first 3 minutes. So that’s one of the things I always do beforehand. So what I’m saying about “being bold” is, I want in the first 3 minutes to know I understand them. You know that old line from is it Richard Carleton that says “Enter the conversation going on in the customer’s mind”? You know, in marketing. Well we want to do the same thing from stage. I want to enter the conversation going on in the audiences mind. So if they struggle with succession planning or staff recruitment and that’s my specialty, I want to mention that in the first 3 minutes.

Rich: I would definitely agree with that. In fact, one of the things that I have started doing in the last year – without hearing it from you, but I’m glad to get confirmation from you – is when I’m doing these association presentations – and by the way, for everybody who’s listening, this is exactly the kind of technique you want to use – I ask for 3-5 representative people who are going to be in the audience. And like you said, this is more for association websites. And I ask them their biggest problems and I make sure when we talk about what we’re going to go over today, that I address some if not all of those issues. For example, I just spoke to a group of truckers – or trucker association – their biggest concern was getting young people to become truck drivers. And so we immediately refocused the presentation and delivered a much better presentation because I helped address the problems they were talking about rather than the ones that I thought they might care about.

Hugh: Brilliant. Brilliant! It’s so good. And you know, there’s many, many times when I think to myself, “You know, I’ve been doing this for over 16 years, do I really need to make these phone calls?” And it always pays off.

Rich: There’s always one person that gives you that one line that makes all the difference. Or they give you that language that you never would have picked up on. And then all of a sudden you immediately start to build on the trust that you already have. And I will say, if you’re doing this for a living or at least as a part of your income, that you can charge a significant more higher amount of money if part of your package is the fact that you’re going to do pre-event interviews.


Hugh: Oh I love that, thank you. I’ve never done that. I love that. So it’s definitely a winner, you’re going to be nervous, you’re going to have to ask, but I’ll tell you the event planners are very impressed. Event planners are very impressed because you’re going to be one of the very few that’s actually done this. And I can tell you, I’ve also been a MC at some events where I’ve actually had to be on the conference call prior to the event to interview all the other speakers. And I’ve interviewed big, Olympic athletes and well known speakers and none of them do this, and it always amazes me at how little they actually care about what’s unique about the event. So let’s move on. We’ve got 3 minutes, we’ve maintained the trust, we have kind of shocked them and surprised them with our opening, we’ve laid down the path, the big goal. This is so important, its like if I’m reading a book and I don’t know where the book is going, why would I want to keep reading it? So we’ve laid that down, and then thirdly, we’ve stated a challenge. So now we’ve got the audience thinking, “Whoa, this is different. I guess I better pay attention here.”   Now what we want to do is we want to tell them – I think Craig Valentine, who is a very talented speech coach, calls this the “Then, Now, How” part – and I call it the personal story. What I mean is, now it’s time to take a breath and tell them you’ve been there, or you’ve worked with a client that’s been there, or at the very least you have really good data that supports the argument that this is an important problem. In the first three minutes, I basically proposed a problem. I’ve said something about – in my case I speak on productivity – I say something about overwhelm, I’ve said something about letting our health go, I’ve said something about taking your work home. I’ve said something that I’ve learned in the interview calls that is going to hit a trigger with them. Well now I need to tell them I’ve been there, because now the audience is looking at me and I’m this skinny guy onstage and my physicality might look different, my age might look different, my gender might look different, my clothes might look better or worse, so I need to let them know I actually understand you. I have some empathy for you, not because I’ve read this in a book but because I’ve been there. I have either worked with a client or I have gone through it myself. So that story that you introduced, Rich, about me where I hit burn out and I spent a year rebuilding, I might actually use that story. I might actually describe what I went through, it was only 3 years ago now, and I might tell them that story with the sole purpose of gaining trust with them again. Because I’m about to launch into my solutions, but no one wants to hear my solutions if it’s something I read out of a book. What they want to know is, I’ve been there as well, and they can trust me because I’ve been in the trenches and I’ve struggled with staffing and I’ve struggled with trying to delegate and failed.   I’ve struggled with my wife blaming me for bringing my work home, so I’m going to spend probably 5-10 minutes – this whole leadup, by the way, typically is almost 25% of my talk – this whole leadup to the solution. The solution I consider to be 50%, and the leadup and the close 50%. So I’ve got a little bit less than 25% invested in this opening, 50% is the solution, and the balance is the close. So Craig calls this the “Then, Now, How”, I call it “the personal story that happens next.” Does that make sense?

Rich: Yep. Absolutely.

Hugh: And this is where – as a professional speaker or a facilitator or a seminar leader – this is where Evernote is great. I’ll tell you why. Because you’re not going to think of this on the spot. You’re going to have to have an inventory, and this is where Evernote or Google Docs or whatever you like to use, you have an inventory. So if you get nothing else from this call, do this: go into Evernote or whatever you like to use, and make an inventory of opening stories, make an inventory of personal stories that you can segue into almost any topic that’s your expertise, make an inventory of client’s stories that you’ve experienced with clients, make an inventory of your best 10 quotations that you can remember by heart – like you don’t need to look them up – make an inventory of your best closing stories – because those are very different, they’re usually short, very succinct, very memorable – so make those kind of inventories. Because the day before or the night before, that’s when you need to go to that inventory. Step #3: So we’ve done the opening, I’ve done the personal story. Step 3 is give them kind of the global solution. A mistake that a lot of speakers make is they go right into the nitty gritty, they go right in to the technical.   They start explaining better ways to save time on email. Or they start explaining better ways to do performance reviews. And it’s all great, and people will take notes, but they haven’t got a clue how to apply it because you haven’t given them context. So now you want to give them your big model. So as far as definitions go – and a big model to me you can also call a framework – so what’s your big framework? How do you hinge all your work together? So (Stephen) Covey had the Seven Habits (Seven Habits of Highly Effective People), that’s a classic framework. Within the Seven Habits he had all these different models, He had urgent and important and all these other things. He had Jim Collins as the hedgehog and he has keep getting the flywheel going – those to me are models, or metaphors – but it’s the framework that hinges all of those together. My next step is I’m going to say, “Let me tell you how we’re going to approach this.” And my model is “think, plan, act”.   So to me, everything I do in my life – if it creates positive change – is all about thinking better, planning better and acting better.   So people pick up their pen and go, ”Oh, thats good… think, plan, act.” It’s super simple and it’s three, we all know three works.

Rich: Three is a magic number.

Hugh: Exactly. So before you jump into the nitty gritty, make sure you give them context or a framework – like a big picture – and here is the secret there, the secret is at any time during the speech you need to return to the framework to remind them where we’re at. It’s kinda like when you watch Suits, it’s about these 2 lawyers in New York and it’s brilliant, and a lot of people like Breaking Bad and whatever, but often when you start the next episode they tell you what happened in the previous episode. Well that’s the idea here. When you’re on point #2 in the nitty gritty, it’s a really good idea to quickly revisit the framework. It’s like saying, “Hey, don’t forget!” It’s about “think, plan, act”.

Rich: You’re also giving them the map, the lay of the land as well.

Hugh: That’s exactly it. And what you’re doing – here’s another little trade secret here – what you’re doing is making yourself valuable. I was listening to Michael Hyatt – who we both know – on a podcast this morning, he had an interesting comment. He writes a blog and wants to not give it all away, he wants to leave something for people to comment on. And it’s the same thing with a speech. the purpose of a speech – or it won’t serve people – don’t tell them everything, don’t give them everything you know, it’s not going to help them.   They’re going to end up with ten pages of notes that are going to be virtually useless because 15 minutes after you finish they’re in another room taking another 10 pages of notes. So what you want to do is you want to give them enough to show that you know what you’re talking about, you want to definitely help them, but your job is not to do the work for them. your job is not to spell it all out.   So, framework is how I hinge it all together. So in my case it’s “think, plan, act”. And then the model – or your solutions – is your 1, 2, 3, 4 or whatever it is that you’re going to deliver. So now we go from framework and we start to deliver each one of our nuggets. Are you with me so far?

Rich: Absolutely.

Hugh: Ok, now here’s the trick for the nuggets. So the nugget model that I follow is: “story, lesson, application”.   And it works everytime. So I’ve explained my framework, “Ok, today we’re going to talk about ‘think, plan, act’.” I’ve already explained to you why I think it’s important. And “think, plan, act” is all about thinking better, planning better and acting better so you can get better results than you’ve ever had before. And in that model I’m going to share with you three solutions today. And don’t ever say this, “If I had more time…” Do not ever say that. What that says is, you’re disorganized.

Rich: Interesting.

Hugh: You’ve been paid or asked – and I don’t care in the world of speaking if you’ve been paid $10 or $10,000 – you’ve been given the privilege of the stage. Do not ever apologize for having not enough time, that’s your mistake, that’s your fault. So just to give some context for the listeners, I’ve done over 2,000 speeches, seminars and consultation contracts in my career. I’m one of the busiest speakers in Canada, or have been historically, and at one point was doing over 110 engagements every year. In some years I would do double or multiples in a day. I’ve had occasions where I’m about to get onstage and a minister or some executive has gone way over time. You’ve had that too, right Rich?

Rich: Oh, sure.

Hugh: I’ve had them go 20 minutes over time. So your job – always, always – is to finish exactly at the promised time, because your job is to respect the agenda. That’s a big mistake that speakers make is they go over time and it’s basically an insult to the event planner. So my job is to finish on time. So what that means is, I’ve got to take a 60 minute speech – which really only ends up being 50, by the time you get introduced – and now I’ve lost 20, which means I’ve got to do it in 30 minutes. And my job is not to rush, so if I’ve got to delete slides as I’m going, or jump slides – which is a little trick which you should learn how to do on the fly – my job is to speak at the same pace, never apologize for not having enough time, never blame anybody else or make a joke about it. My job as a professional is to get up there and do a great job with 30 minutes. That’s my job. And so when you’re going into your models, your 1, 2, 3, 4 – whatever your solutions are – your job is to make sure that people are comfortable listening to this and they never once think, “Well too bad we didn’t have more time.”   Your job is to deliver in such a way that they are getting the story – which is the segue in – and that’s where you have Evernote or whatever you’re using to have a great inventory of little stories that are at least loosely related to the topic. Then you teach the lesson. And then application is how you tell them they can use it. And this is what a lot of speakers miss. They deliver this amazing instruction, they talk about how to delegate more effectively and they give an entire methodology and whatever. But then they don;t give examples of where I could actually use it. So people only think about their most current examples, they don’t think of other things they can delegate to. So let’s say you’re talking to an audience of entrepreneurs, erll most entrepreneurs do not have anyone they can delegate to. They have maybe one employee or part-time person or their spouse. So what you need to do is give them examples of how they could be delegating to their printer – more responsibility – so they don’t always have to give them the instructions every time. They could be delegating more effectively to the person that cleans their office or cleans their home. They could be delegating more effectively to someone that they hire offshore or for a single task. So in every single model or lesson that you teach, you need to help people to understand how to apply it. Otherwise, all this becomes kind of an intellectual exercise.

Rich: Right. At which point they don’t walk away with anything. First you create context, but then by giving them specific examples, then all of a sudden it becomes tangible for them. And even if they can’t take action on that one thing because they don’t have a printer, for example, they can start to say, “Well, if it worked there, I bet it will also work over here.”   So this is the way we ground the example we’ve created.

Hugh: Very good. So for example one of the topics I usually include is about building willpower. Just because willpower is this amazing resource that we typically never think about, but willpower is the source of all of our habits and all of our discipline. And through our discipline we can actually achieve more, better results. And so when I’m teaching about willpower, I need to help people understand where the heck do I practice willpower. So I might say for example, “Well, for 1 week get up 10 minutes earlier. For 1 week, drink less coffee. For 1 week, eat less muffins.”   Just pick one thing for 1 week that you’re going to do that requires willpower, and you will automatically start to build more willpower. I need to give them 5 or 6 examples. If I just say, “Well, you should go out there and practice more willpower.” and they look at me and say, “Well great, all you do is live in taxis, hotels and airports, I guess you’ve got lots of time.”   So the flow is: story, lesson and then I go to application.   Alright, so I go through my lessons – 1, 2, 3 or 4 – I usually never go more than 3 anymore, I find that I’m probably overwhelming them. This is also where I’m going to dance around the topic. What I mean by that is I should know these lessons so incredibly well that I don’t need notes, I just need to remind myself of the keys points before I step up on stage. But this is where I am adding or removing at will – it’s definitely nothing scripted here – I have maybe a couple of points, because these are my gems. This is the stuff I’ve lived, I’ve written about and so this is when you’re at your best. The opening, the close, I would really encourage people to not necessarily script those, but definitely have very detailed points that you think about and rehearse before you get onstage. But when you’re teaching the heart of it, that’s when you’re at your best. That’s when you’re loose. a story comes to mind, and all you need to do is make sure that you hit your metrics. Have I delivered? Am I at my break off points? As a speaker, I always have break off points. And what I mean by that, is I know that by point #2 I need to be at this time. And I’ll literally write down the time of the day that I need to be at that time. So for example if my speech started at 9:30 and I need to be off the stage at 10:15, then I might write down that for point #2 I need to be there at 9:50. So I’ll write down 9:50 on an index card. And I know if I hit that timer, then I’m good for the rest of the speech. So I can ad-lib and I can go, but I’ve got to hit that 9:50. Then I know I can go to point #3, I can go to my close, I can present whatever opportunity is for the back of the room sales, and I will nail 10:15. Does that make sense?

Rich: Absolutely, And it sounds like the beginning – and correct me if I’m wrong – but what I’m hearing is the beginning, the intro and the outro are a little bit more structured, a little bit more scripted – we’re not talking about reading from a card – but there’s a little bit more structure there. And then the middle part – if we were thinking about this as a piece of music – is a little bit more of the jazz solo, where you know exactly what you need to talk about but you’ve embedded in yourself so well that you can just kind of talk without thinking about it so much because you know you’re going to end on time. That’s the only important thing, and just to get your message across.

Hugh:   So good, Rich, yeah. And one of the tricks there is to keep your slides to a minimum. And even for the minimum number that you have, have very little on the slide. People do not need to see subtitles. Often when people create slides they create subtitles. Everything I say is on my slide. You should have a big, beautiful image, you should have a couple of single words or two words per bullet as a reminder. The slides just help people to keep track, and so the less you have on your PowerPoint or Keynote deck, the more flexibility you have. One of the biggest mistakes speakers make is that they have everything anchored to a slide and when they lose time because they started late or ran over and got carried away, they now have to rush the slides. So cut back your slides, cut back your, cut back your slides. I was giving a presentation 2 years ago and it was an after dinner speech – which I really do not like doing, because people are not at their best – and the person in front of me was given a word and was going on and on and was extremely verbose and having a good time, and I literally was sitting there at my VIP table and my laptop was already set up to go onstage and I would jump up and I would delete 2 more slides, then I would sit back. And then he’d talk some more, and I’d delete 2 more slides. And you know, when I got up onstage I had 12 slides left and it was one of the funniest, easiest, best speeches I ever gave, because I had absolutely no worries about where my slides were at. So, you really nailed it there. Opening and close – more scripted, very thoughtful, you do not want to be rushing when you come to that close, you finished your 3 points. One of the things that I do – virtually every speech that I can – is I try to get 3 points of interaction throughout my time.

Rich: So define to us what you mean by “points of interaction”.

Hugh: What I want is a moment when they’re not listening to me anymore, they’re talking to a colleague. So I don’t do “give your partner a high five, slap them on the back, tell them they’re great”. I’m not of that ilk. What I do instead because I’m a trained facilitator, what I do instead is I get them to anchor what I’ve talked about in their life. What I want to do is I want these interactions – and I’ll give you in a minute the instruction I give my audience because it’s really amazing how this works. What I want them to do is I want them to now be talking about their world. So they’ve listened to me, my story, my lesson, story lesson application, and now let’s suppose I finished. Usually the first interaction is after I describe the problem, so that’s in my opening 3 minutes, I might do it right there. And what I do is I want them to talk about their world to a partner that they’re beside. My instructions typically sound like this: “Please turn to the person next to you and here’s what you’re going to do in just a minute, because you’re going to be working with this person, you’re going to look them in the eye, shake their hand and you’re going to say. ‘I am so excited about working with you today.’” And they do it, and I can get Penitentiary guards to do this. So as long as you set it up with lots of enthusiasm and make it fairly safe, that’s good to go. Then I turn to them and I say, “Now you’re only going to have 90 seconds, but what I want you to do with your new partner is I want you to share with them what is it about the problem that I just described that’s real for you?” In other words, what’s one example of where that problem is happening in your life? Ok, you have 90 seconds, go! And that’s it. When you’re working with adults, here’s a little trick, don’t ever tell them what’s coming next. Don’t tell adults what’s coming next, because if you do they’ll start thinking about it. Don’t ever tell them, “Oh, then we’re going to debrief it.” Give them enough instructions to get going. So it’s sounds like this, “You only have 90 seconds, I want you to turn to your new partner and I want you to share one example of how this problem has shown up in your life.” And I can have 800 people in the world now completely engaged. The event planner is looking out there and they’re thinking, “Wow! That;s the first speaker that’s actually got control of the audience. Thats the first speaker that’s got the audience engaged.” Someone told me recently that what I’m doing with this technique is I’m actually teaching the audience to respond. And if you stand onstage – which is the opposite approach – and do all the talking, you’re teaching the audience to listen. But if you want the audience to give you a standing ovation, to buy back of room, to hire you to come to their event, you need to teach them to respond. So by breaking up my speech with these 3 points of interaction, I’m actually teaching them to respond to me. Because if you do it properly, when it comes to interaction #2, it’s automatic. They know exactly what they’re supposed to do. I’ll just say, “Turn to your partner and in this 90 seconds I want you to talk about this. Go!” And now they know that was comfortable last time, that was no big deal, I enjoyed it. So now I’m going to go and do it again. So it’s this amazing, simple thing that you can do where you get the audience eating out of the palm of your hand, but you can’t overdo it. I find one hour, three times. The first time I ask them to introduce themself and do the interaction,and the last time I ask them to do the interaction and thank their partner and it’s a wrap. So, now the close. Now, let’s go through it again. I start off with my 3 minute opening where I’ve got a bit of a story, I describe a problem, I might do my interaction after that. Then I tell them how I’ve been there, or my client has been there or I’ve got good data to build empathy and trust. Then I go into my framework – the overall picture – then I go into my lessons, and now it’s coming to the close. Depending on whether you have back of room sales or not, this is again something that should be really well planned out. The first thing I’m going to do is a summary – that’s really important to help people understand where they’ve been – so I’ll go over a quick summary, I might have a simple slide, and again with the summary I’m really encouraging application. So every time I go over the summary points, again, I repeat applications. It’s really important to me that they are being reminded of how this is practical. Then I’m going to go into my back of room offer – so I’m going to hold up my book – I have an online course called Time Freedom Formula that sells really well back of room, so I’ll explain that very quickly with maybe 2 slides. And then I go into my close. I always want to leave them with a great taste in their mouth and that’s going to be the motivational close and usually I find what works here is a personal story or a story that I’ve been involved in. With my style, Rich, it does not work for me to talk about Rosa Parks or Lincoln, it just doesn’t work. I can’t pull it off, I can’t talk about baseball players.

Rich: Is this because you’re Canadian?

Hugh: I don’t know what it is. It’s like being called a motivational speaker, it just makes my hair go up in the back of my neck. But I can talk about my kids, I can talk about my relationship with my wife, I can talk forever about all the goof ups I’ve done and struggles, but what’s the purpose of wrapping it all together in terms of how did what I just share with you make sense. I’m not trying to take them off path here, I’m trying to encourage them to understand that because I applied these disciplines, it actually has made an improvement for me. And then I will finish with a final invitation, and that’s usually when we get the standing ovation.

Rich: Fantastic.

Hugh: That’s it. That’s the trick.

Rich: That’s a great summary. One question that I have is, I know a lot of entrepreneurs when they get onstage, we feel like we want to over deliver – we want to give more and more and more – and so how do we find that right balance? Because from what you’ve said, we definitely don’t want to give away everything. We want to leave them wanting a little more, a little space for conversation during Q&A, whatever the purpose may be. So how do we know, as we’re putting together our presentations when enough is enough?

Hugh: Well, I’m going to be a little blunt here, but I’m going to suggest – because I’ve been there and very guilty for many years of doing this – is that most speakers that deliver too much don’t know enough about a little.   So they deliver too much because they think if I give you 10 examples it won’t be revealed that I really don’t know much about what I’m talking about. So let me give you an example. If people are talking about changing their life or changing their business for the better or changing their relationships for the better or changing their roles of leader for the better, I have seen unbelievably powerful speakers that got up there and with one story they nail it. But it’s delivered so well with such passion and empathy that they don’t need 10 more points. We get it with the one story. So I’m going to suggest if you know lots about your topic, you can spend a lot of time on one point, you don’t need 9 more points. So when I stopped trying to be a stress management expert and a leadership expert and a customer service expert and a sales expert, and I realized I just need to start to become more of an expert on how to get results in life. Which is what I’ve always been challenged by. I’ve always started projects and I need to know how to take it through to fruition and finish it. If I can become more of an expert at that, I only need to give them one lesson. I can talk forever about that one lesson. I feel pretty comfortable now talking about willpower forever because it’s what I have been thinking about and studying for years. So I don’t need to talk about willpower and habits and discipline and goal setting and vision and passion. I can just talk about willpower. So I’m going to suggest if you want to become a better speaker, really, really learn a lot about a few topics.

Rich: Makes a lot of sense. Well, Hugh, I want to thank you. This has been great. Now I know that there are people who are listening who are just getting into speaking – or maybe they’ve been doing it for a while – but after listening to you they realize that they’ve just been scraping the surface, they want to dig a little deeper. What resources do you have at your website or online? Where can we go to learn more about public speaking as well as what you’re doing right now?

Hugh: Thanks, Rich. Well, I really appreciate that. So, first of all, they can go to my website which is my name, There is a ‘goodies” link on the new menu, and on it there’s lots of videos where they can actually watch me present, they can actually see how I teach various lessons, and right now we have 2 products that we’re offering. I coach a very select number of speakers that are aspiring or want to become more profitable. The other solution that we offer is our SOS solution, and that’s where we actually take their social media off their hands as well. But the first thing I would suggest is go to “goodies” and just see if you like what you see, and if you want, just contact me personally,

Rich: That sounds great. And of course, as always, we’ll have those links in the show notes. I really can’t say enough how much public speaking can change your business and your opportunities. I know we talk a lot about “search, social and mobile” on this show, but really, public speaking is a whole other channel that I really challenge you all to try out for yourself. So Hugh, thank you once again for your time today.

Hugh: Wow, Rich, it’s really been my pleasure.

Links mentioned in this show: – Hugh’s “goodies” – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Hugh Culver