How to give an Epic Speech

Successful public speaking comes down to preparation, confidence, relaxation and telling stories.  Check out this podcast to learn how to give a fantastic speech that will blow your audience away even if you hate public speaking.  Learn from Jim Simcoe, a nationally recognized speaker and author, about all of the inside tips and tools to be a great speaker. You'll learn how to prep a speech, how to instantly relax and how to connect with your audience immediately.


Fun facts

• Public speaking is one of the biggest fears people have, more than death • I used to hate it • we have all seen bad speakers • Powerpoint is a creation of the Devil:) • People love great speakers • You can learn to be a great speaker, you do not have to be a “natural”

3 possible goals of your speech • Inform (Ted Talks) - tell your group something • Inspire (a coach) - get your group pumped up to do something • Entertain (best man speech) - get your audience to laugh and enjoy themselves

Telling stories: • people connect emotionally to you • every story is a journey that takes people from one place to another • our brains are not hard-wired to retain facts/figures only • a great story has 3 parts, often called “acts" ▪ 1st act/Exposition - establish characters and the world they live in.  Ends with a dramatic question ▪ 2nd act - rising action, the main character is faced with problems, choices and must make a decision ▪ 3rd act- resolution/climax

What not to do: • rely on your slides • read off your slides • stand with your hands in your pockets • start with an opening joke

What to do: • Plan for your audience (who is it, what will they like, are they formal, informal, do I know a lot of them personally, are they eating, will they be drinking, etc) • Self-deprecating humor is one of the best ways to get the audience on your side • Practice 2-3 times beforehand • Get to the room early (helps ground you)

How to relax: • Play out the worst case scenario (does your wife leave you after a bad speech?  Does someone take all your cash?) • Remember that most people admire you for even trying to give a speech • Set a low bar of success - “Won’t fall off the stage” “Wont’ drop my drink”, etc • You’ve practiced and thought about your audience so you are prepared • You’re not presenting, you’re telling stories

Body language and visual cues: • visual is everything (what you wear, your shoes, your hair, your jewelry, etc) • how you walk and move when you’re speaking • Are you confident or do you look nervous?

Closing thoughts: • Giving a good speech or toast is an art form • You can master it with a little practice and effort • Key to success is connecting with your audience and believing in yourself


Welcome to the Epic Living podcast with Jim Simcoe. I'm Jim Simcoe. I'm here to help you make your life epic, so let's get rolling. Hey, this is Jim Simcoe, welcome to the podcast. Today's episode is all about giving an epic speech. How to give an epic speech, toast or presentation. Public speaking tips for people who do not like public speaking.

I got to say, before I even get into this, one of the funniest things about this podcast is this is literally the sixth time I've tried to record this specific topic. I think it's pretty funny, because I give speeches all around the country, and I've done it in front of big groups, small groups, kids, college students, business people, whatever, and if you listen to any of the other podcasts I've done, you can tell that ... Right away, everything I do is in first take. I have some notes and I record the podcast.

I don't do that much editing. I send it off to somebody in ... A woman named Evelyn ... To edit everything down from a music an audio levels perspective, but I don't really edit anything I'm saying in there. Anyway, I've been trying to give this speech, this podcast, on this topic, because I know it's an important topic for a lot of people. I've tried to give it sixth times, and each time something's happened with recording, or there was a lot of background noise, or whatever it is. This is my sixth, and hopefully final, attempt at this podcast, because it's pretty funny that a podcast about public speaking has taken this long to record.

Anyway, let's get rolling. Public speaking, this is one of the things that freaks people out, so much more than just about anything else. It's one of the biggest fears people have. A lot of people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death, which is crazy. Now, luckily for me, although I use to hate public speaking, I now seem to have the gene pool where I don't get afraid of public speaking at all. I actually look forward to it. The things that I get afraid of are really serious things, like snakes and heights. Do not like that. Ferris wheels. I would rather give a speech in front of a hundred thousand people, than sit on a ferris wheel for two minutes. Would not want to do that.

Anyway, public speaking's a big fear for a lot of people. Hopefully I'm able to help any of you who have that fear. Really, when you think about public speaking, I'm talking about whether you give a speech, a toast, or any kind of presentation. That's a public speaking thing. We've all seen bad speakers, right? You've seen bad speakers, and they're horrible, and they just like, you're dying while you're watching the person. You're just like, "OH, My God, what can I do to get this person to stop talking? When will time with this person end?" It's just horrible.

Then, we've also probably seen really good speakers where we're like, "All right, this guy or this girl was awesome, I loved watching them, I could keep watching them forever. I really got a lot of great lesson out of it." You feel, and you leave, totally inspired. I know that first time I saw Simon Sinek speak ... He gave a speech right before me ... And his speech is all about knowing your why, and starting with your why. Knowing why you're in business, and what you're trying to do with your life. Why that so important ... I remember he gave a keynote speech right before I gave a speech.

I was so inspired by his speech, that I really think I didn't really do a good job on my speech, because I was still thinking about his speech. So anyway, people love great speakers, and here's the thing ... At the end of the day, you could really learn to be a great speaker. You don't have to be a natural. Again, a very good friend name John, who I did a presentation with several years ago ... And quite frankly, I love him, like a brother ... And his presentation just wasn't ... It was okay, material was great, but him as speaker, he just wasn't that great. You could tell he was really, really nervous, and kind of freaked out by the whole thing.

He worked on it, and he worked on it for a couple of years, and he ended up being an amazing speaker. I saw him speak last year, and I was blown away. I was like, "Who's this guy? This guy's totally different, then the guy that I know, and the guy that I've presented with. He's so much better now." I really do believe you can learn to be a great speaker. You don't have to be a natural to do it.

Keeping all that in mind, I want to give your some tips about speaking. Any kind of public speaking. Again, whether you're giving a speech, a toast, presentation ... Doesn't really matter what it is. I'm going to take a sip of water first. Now that that's done ... That's me banging the water on the table. When you think about giving a presentation, a speech, or a toast, you have to think about, there are three possible goals, for your speech.

Number one is to inform. If you think of TED talk ... When you're informing, giving information, you're telling your audience something. What are you trying to tell your audience? Number two is to inspire. If you think of a coach before a big game, the idea there is you're trying to get your audience, or your group, just pumped up, just totally jacked up to do something. Think of a coach giving a speech to his team, or her team. Number three is to entertain. Think of a typical maid of honor, or best man speech ... That's really to get your audience to laugh, to have a good time, and enjoy themselves, while they're listening to you. Those are really the three main goals of any speech, boiling it down. You're really trying to inform, inspire, or entertain.

On big goal ... Also, our side goal, you should have ... Is to not bore people to death. Being not boring is also a big goal of any speech. You should do whatever possible to not be boring, because, again, nobody likes a boring speaker. If you're listening to the podcast, you're way too cool, way too good looking to be a boring speaker ... Can't have that happen.

Now, one of the other things about giving a good speech, is that, where people get freaked out is they say, "Okay, I have to give a speech, or I have to give a toast, or I have to give a presentation." Just those words themselves, tend to freak people out. What I'm going to challenge you to do, is to ... Instead of saying you're going to give a speech, or toast, or presentation ... To think about telling stories. Think about telling a story instead of giving a speech. What that means simply, is that, you're just going up there to tell a story.

People really connect more emotionally to you when you tell stories, than if you just throw facts and figures at them, because, at the end of the day, our brains are not hard wired to retain facts and figures only. We're hard wired to hear stories. Ever since the very first cave man walked in the cave and told his buddy, "Hey man, that cave woman chick down the block is pretty freaking hot, and I want to ask her to the next bonfire." We've been telling stories for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. Think of telling stories rather than giving a speech.

If you think of a story ... Very quickly, I'm going to break down what a story is. A story basically has three parts. There's the first part, where you're really talking about the situation, establishing the characters, and that usually ends with a dramatic question. These three parts are often called acts. If you look at any movie, or any great story, they have three acts. The second part is really the rising action, with the main characters faced with problems and choices, and must make a decision. Then the third act, or third part, is the resolution, and climax.

If you think of the example of the movie Rocky ... One of my favorite movies of all time, recommend it highly ... Fun fact ... What most people don't know, realize about Rocky ... It's really not a sports movie. It's really a love story, which makes me seem like I just sit around and watch romantic comedies all day long, which is partially true, but not totally true. Just don't tell anybody. You think about the movie Rocky. The first act, first part, we meet Rocky, he's a down on his luck club fighter. We meet Adrian, who's like, this homely, painfully shy, pet shop girl, who lives with her oppressive brother. We meet Apollo Creed, who's like, the cool looking, dapper, boxing champion of the world. We see their situation, and the end of the first act, Rocky's posed the question ... Is he willing to fight the champ for the title?

At first he say no, but eventually, he says yes. In the second act, we see Rocky and Adrian falling in love. We see Rocky training harder and harder for the fight, and battling a variety of different things about self doubt and his self worth, whether or not he's going to be good enough. We also see Apollo start to slack off in his training, which brings us all to this dramatic third part, where they fight. They beat the living crap out of each other, and Rocky goes the distance. Even though he goes the distance, and loses, or it ends up being a tie ... Which means Apollo retains his championship ... For Rocky, it's a hugh win, because he wins his self respect, he gets the girl, and he gets the fame.

There's a part in the second act where he says, for him, winning isn't about beating Apollo Creed. Winning is all about him, just being able to go the distance. He says if he goes the distance, then he's not just another bum from the neighborhood. In the third act, he goes the distance, and although he doesn't actually win the fight, for him, it's a hugh win. Anyway, this is a classic story, and this is a classic story line in three parts. When you're giving a speech, think of things, of that ... Telling a story in three parts, and then you'll be able to connect with people, way more emotionally, and, once you've won people over emotionally, then it's much easier to connect with them, the rest of the speech.

It's one of the easiest, most sure fire ways, to make sure your speech or presentation, or your talk, goes over well. I'm going to talk a little bit about what to do, what not to do, how to relax, and some body language stuff now. First of all, let's talk about what not to do ... Because I think that these are probably more important than some of the other things. First thing is, if you're giving a speech with any kind of PowerPoint slides, or anything like that, I would really recommend that you don't just talk to the slides. Don't use the slides as a crutch. Don't just read off your slides, because you never know what's going to go on with those slides. You never know if there's going to be a mess up, or something's going to happen.

I gave a speech last week, and I had sent my slides into the coordinator of the event, and literally, as I'm walking up to give the speech ... And I've got the clicker in my hand ... I realize that they'd screwed up one of my slides, and they were out of order. I had to do some adjusting on the fly, and luckily, I don't ever really use my slides. I don't read off of them ... So it went fine. No one really even noticed that that had happened ... So don't rely on your slides. Don't read off your slides.

The other thing is, don't stand there with your hands in your pockets. That's the worst thing you could do. Don't just stand there with the hands in your pockets. People are looking at you, so don't just be some [inaudible 00:11:41] dude with his shoulders hunched, and with your hands in your pockets. Another thing ... If you've done any research on public speaking, some people will tell you to do this ... I think it's the worst thing in the world you can do ... Is to start with an opening joke. I think this is, by far, the worst thing you can do with any speech you're giving, no matter where it is, because they almost always fall flat. You're almost always guaranteed to piss somebody off in the audience. It's just a bad idea all around. Don't start with a joke. That's the worst thing to do.

Let's talk about what you should do. There's four or five things you should do. The very first thing is to plan for your audience. When you're writing your speech, you're thinking about your speech that you're giving, think about your audience. Who is it? What are they going to like? When are they going to hear from you? Are they going to be ... Is it a formal event? Is it an informal event? Do you know a lot of them personally? Do you not know anybody personally? Are they going to be eating? Are they going to be drinking? Will it be breakfast, lunch or dinner?

I can tell you, I've given speeches at all those times, and there's a huge difference between giving a speech during a breakfast meeting, and then giving a speech after a dinner, at night, when you're the only thing between the people in the audience and the bar. Know your audience. Know when you're going to give the speech. Know what they're probably going to feel like. Are you the first speaker of the day, or are you one of the last? Are they going to be mentally drained when they see you, or are they going to be fresh and ready to go? Know and plan for your audience.

Another thing I highly recommend ... I think, while telling a joke is a horrible idea, in the beginning ... I do think that using humor in your speeches, is very important. The kind of humor that is ... What I've found to work, no matter what the audience is, and no matter what the topic is, no matter where in the country I've gone, and given a hundred plus speeches ... The best kind of humor to use is self deprecating humor. Basically, when you're making fun of yourself, that's called self deprecating humor, if you don't know. I do this all the time. That's how I usually start my speeches, is, I'll literally make fun of myself, as I'm walking up, or as soon as I get the clicker.

There's been a couple of times that, for whatever reason, I haven't been able to use the clicker correctly?, so, I'll sit there and say like, "Hey man, I'm an expert and all this other stuff, but I just can't seem to figure out how to use this stupid clicker, so, bear with me." I'll tell people ahead of time that, although English was my minor in college, there're going to be a lot of swear words, there's going to be a lot of ahs and ums, and I'm just not a perfect person, so I'm not really trying to be perfect. You tend to get a lot of laughs, and then, people like it when you make fun of yourselves. It humanizes you in their eyes, and it makes you feel like ... It makes you look like one of them.

I think that's one of the big things, is, being able to bridge that gap between the audience and you, and making them see you as just one of them. That one of the best things you can do, is having yourself look like someone in the audience, and making them connect with you, and feel like, okay, that guy's just like me, or that woman's just like me. People like people like them, so when you're able to use some self deprecating humor, it's going to make you appear much more like them. It's just a nice way to connect with people right away.

Another thing I always recommend doing, is to practice your speech a couple of times beforehand, two to three times should be fine. I usually do that in the day, day and a half before the speech. The way I do is speech is typically ... If I've got notes, I don't ever read off of the speech, or I don't read verbatim off of something I've written. I usually just write bullet points, so I highly recommend you just write bullet points, three or four. I use index cards, so do three or four per index card, and kind of roll through that a few times, during the speech.

During your practice, what you'll find is, is when you go up on stage, you'll be more prepared, and you probably won't even need your index cards. Practice a couple times before. Then the last thing I do, which I highly recommend, is get to the room early. Wherever you're giving a speech ... I don't care if it's a best man speech, or you're giving a speech in front of ten thousand people .. Go to the room early, check out the acoustics, go on the stage, walk around, walk through the audience. What this will do is, this will help ground you to the environment you're going to be in, and the speech you're going to be giving.

I do this with all of my speeches. I always walk the room. I sit in a couple of different chairs in the audience, and I look up at the stage, so I can see how my audience will see me. The one time I didn't do it, I was giving a speech in Arizona, in front of, probably seven hundred people, and it was on this circular stage, that was kind of a rotating stage? I wasn't used to having people on my left, on my right, almost behind me, way up in front of me, and then, way down, kind of like, in the orchestra seats. It totally freaked me out. The first five minutes of my speech, I'm sure just totally sucked, because I didn't ... I couldn't figure out how to get a lay of the land, couldn't get a lay of the stage.

I always recommend getting to the room early, that will help ground you. When you're doing all these things, planning for your audience, using humor, practicing beforehand, getting to the room early ... These are all things that help you relax. Being relaxed, and telling stories, are the two biggest keys to giving a good speech. When you talk about ... I want to give you some tips on how to relax. This is the thing that I hear from other people. This is their biggest challenge. I've got a good friend Cisco, who's a very well spoken guy, and we were talking the other day about public speaking.

He was saying, "I can't relax. I'm afraid of looking bad. I'm sitting there and, if I have to give a speech, I'm thinking about what I'm going to say, instead of just saying what I should be saying." I was telling him, I'm like ... That's usually what I hear from a lot of people, what he's saying is very common. People have a very challenging time relaxing. Here are some tips. The first thing is, is to play out the worst case scenario. The worst case speech scenario that you could ever think of. Here's what I mean. If you're giving a speech, if you just absolutely bomb, what is the worst thing that could possibly happen to you?

Does your wife leave you? Does your husband leave you? Does someone steal your car? Does someone take your wallet and take all your money? Do you get fired from your job? No. These are obviously, worst case scenarios. Those things are just not going to happen, right? People might walk out, and be like, "Hey man, you gave a horrible speech", but no one's going to take all your money. Your wife's not going to dump you, all that. She's not going to dump you for that reason. When you play out the worst case scenario, it kind of puts everything else into context that like, "Hey, I'm here to give a speech, I'm here to tell a story, and if I bomb, like, life will go on. This is okay."

The other thing to do ... Another way to relax ... Is to remember that most people admire the fact that you're even giving a speech, for even trying to give a speech, because you're doing something ... Again, that I talked about before ... That most people are scared to death of. People will admire you just for the fact that you're willing to try. The other thing is, to set a really low bar of success. When you think of your speech and what you're trying to do, think of things like, what's your bar of success. When I first started speaking, I set really low bars of success. I would say, "Okay, I'm going to go give this speech, and no matter what happens, I'm not going to fall off the stage."

Or, "I'm going to give this toast, and no matter what happens, I'm not going to drop my drink." You set a really low bar of success for yourself in the beginning, and as you're giving your speech, you're thinking, "Hey, man, this is fantastic. I didn't fall off the stage. I didn't drop my drink. This is great." Set a low bar of success for yourself. The other thing is ... To relax ... Is to think about the fact that ... You've already practiced this. You've thought about your audience, so you're prepared. Once of the best things I see from people, is that, when they feel prepared about something, then, they automatically relax.

If you go into a big meeting, and you're prepared, and you've got your pen, you got your pad, you know what you're going to say, you know the things you got to go over ... You're kind of like, "Hey man, I got this, I'm ready to roll." You're just relaxed. Then we've all had other times where we're running to a meeting, we're five minutes late, don't have a pad of paper, nothing to write with, our phone's going off, and you're like, "What the hell am I even doing at this meeting?", and you're not relaxed. You're just not prepared for it. By being prepared, for the speech, thinking about your audience, you will be relaxed just based on that.

Another thing to do to relax yourself ... When I talked about this earlier ... Is to think more about the fact that you're telling stories. You're not giving a speech. You think about, okay, "There's a thousand people in that room, I'm going to go tell three really good stories." You don't go, "There's a thousand people in that room, I have a thirty minute speech, and I've got to cover these twenty slides." I mean, Jesus, even saying that phrase, makes me nervous even saying it.

Those are some ways to relax, and the other things to do, that I always do before I give a speech, is, as I'm walking up, I take three deep breaths ... And I'll do that until I get to the microphone, because I have a speech ritual, which I would recommend that you establish. That is basically saying, okay, before every speech, here are the two things I'm doing. For me, the two things that I do ... As I say ... I take three deep breaths, and then I think about the worst case scenario, and that's it. When I started earlier, I would do ... Earlier in my career ... I would do, three breaths. I'd say a quick prayer. I'd say, okay ... When I pray to my grandmother, my grandfather ... And say, "Hey, please let me give a really good speech. Send me good vibes." That would be my mantra, that would be my ritual, my pre-speech ritual.

I would definitely establish that ... Some type of pre-speech ritual, that you do before every speech, to relax you. Being relaxed means you're going to give a better speech, and , if you're prepared, you're going to give a better speech.

The last thing I want to talk about, is body language. This is a pretty easy one, but I'm going to mention it anyway. Your body language and how you present yourself, is everything. Everything from what you wear, to your shoes, your hair, your jewelry, how you're dressed, how you move across the stage ... Everyone is always looking at that. They're always going to be looking at you. Even if you've got PowerPoint slides up there, people like looking at other people. Think about how you walk, how do you move when you speak. Do you have your hands jammed in your pockets, with your shoulders slumped? Or, are you walking around confidently? Are you striding to the stage confidently, like you're excited to tell people? Are you confident or do you look nervous?

Think about those things, and really, it sounds silly, but, I would practice those things. Walk into a room, pretend you're giving a speech. What do you look like? Do you stride in confidently? Is your head held up high? Are you making eye contact with people in the audience? Practice those things, because your body language ... People are going to make a decision on you in the first ... Anywhere from thirty seconds, to the first couple of minutes of when you speak. Knowing your body language and really nailing that down, is really key.

Closing thoughts on this, at the end of the day, giving a really good speech, or toast, or presentation, is an art form. Some of the tips and tricks that I've outlined here, are the things that work for me. I'm sure you'll find other things, in addition to these, that will work for you. Think of it as an art form. Think of it as something that it's a progression. No matter where you are right now, you can become a much better speaker. You can master it with a little practice and effort.

Again, and the final thing is, the key to success in this, is being able to connect with your audience. You got to be able to believe in yourself and what you're saying. You got to remember to tell stories. You got to remember how to relax, figure out how to relax yourself, and remember what to do in terms of planning for your audience, practicing it. Practicing your speech beforehand, getting to the room early, and making sure that you understand what the goals of your speech are. Are you there to inform? Are you there to inspire? Are you there to entertain.

Hopefully, this podcast has been valuable. Please let me know, and ... If you wouldn't mind ... If you could go our link on iTunes and leave a review, I would greatly appreciate it, and, as always ... I always welcome your questions and comments at jim@epicallday. Again, this is the sixth time I've recorded this podcast, so I don't know that I'm going to edit out any loud banging noises, or the train going by, or me sipping a glass of water. I'm just so thrilled that I finally was able to get this puppy out. Thank you very much for checking in, and I will talk to you soon.

Thanks for listening to the Epic Living podcast with Jim Simcoe. I hope you have a great day. Feel free to check us out online at Thanks again. Talk to you soon.