Let Your Audience Beat You to the Punch

One of the best ways to stay connected and deepen your connection with your audience is to let them beat you to the punch. What does this mean?  Let’s use some examples to clarify this delivery strategy.

Example #1

Listen to this quick audio and think about what happens after I say, “I joined Toastmasters in March of 1998.”

[audio:https://craigvalentine.com/wp-content/uploads/1998.mp3|titles=1998]

I could have simply kept going on with my speech by saying, “I joined Toastmasters in March of 1998, got my CTM in March of 1999…” However, I know something very important about my audience. They already know I am the 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking. This means they are figuring out in their minds, “Whoa, it only took him one year to win it?” My job as a speaker is to slow down and let them figure this out so they can beat me to the punch. In other words, instead of me saying it, I let them think it first. Their thoughts beat my words to the punch. Then and only then do I finish what I’m going to say, but guess what? My audience is already there! That’s why they laughed and became vocal immediately after I said, “I joined Toastmasters in March of 1998.”

Example #2

Let’s listen to another short example from a different story and experience what happens after I say the words, “Okay daddy.”

[audio:https://craigvalentine.com/wp-content/uploads/Okay-Daddy1.mp3|titles=Okay Daddy1]

I could have simply kept going on with my speech by saying, “‘Okay daddy.’ I got home the next day and where was he?” However, I decided to slow down and let my audience beat me to the punch. I paused, gave them a look that expressed a sarcastic, “Yeah, right” and let my audience think, “Oh, I’m sure Ace climbed up there again.” Then and only then do I confirm what my audience thought by letting them know he climbed up there again.

Partnering Deepens the Connection

If you really listen closely to the audio, you’ll find something very interesting. I NEVER even actually had to say he climbed back up there. I let my audience say it! In a way, they filled in that part of the story without me having to actually say it. Then I simply picked up my story at the point where I asked, “Ace what are you doing up there?”

This is what I love about speaking. I learned from Bill Gove that speaking should be a dialogue and not a monologue. People buy into what they help create. Letting your audience beat you to the punch at strategic times during your speech makes them feel like they’re creating part of your speech, which deepens their involvement.

 Example #3

Let’s listen to one more quick example of me letting my audience beat me to the punch. Experience what happens after I say the words, “Get lucky?”

[audio:https://craigvalentine.com/wp-content/uploads/Get-lucky.mp3|titles=Get lucky]

I could have simply kept going on with my speech by saying, “Do you want to get lucky? Then stay ready.” However, I decided to slow down and let my audience beat me to the punch. I looked one audience member in the eyes when I said, “Do you want to get lucky?” In this case, this person happened to be dressed in a costume (complete with a wig and a Marilyn Monroe-type outfit) for an event later that night. I let my audience beat me to the punch before I confirmed their thoughts by saying, “I’m looking at the wrong person…” This audience member got a real kick out of it and so did the audience. Make no mistake about it, my audience beat me to the punch with their thoughts and then I confirmed it with my words. 

How can you apply this “Let them beat you to the punch” strategy?

First

You’ll have to come to an understanding of where in your speech you can use this strategy. You don’t choose the place; your audience does. Over time you’ll see where they are already starting to beat you to the punch because you’ll be able to hear them wanting to chime in and be vocal. But here’s the problem. You’ll never know where these places in your speeches are unless you record all of your speeches. You can’t monitor yourself on the spot, but you can certainly monitor yourself afterwards IF you’ve recorded your speech. That’s why I always say

What gets recorded gets rewarded

Whenever you begin to see where your audience is anticipating your next words, those are some of the times you want to let them beat you to the punch.

Next

The one thing you heard me do in every audio clip was to pause and let it happen. You must give space to let your audience think and beat you to the punch. At times it takes an extra cue from you and you can accomplish this with a facial expression like I described with my son’s story. The audience will take that  cue and chime in.

Final thoughts:

Is it critical that you use this strategy? No. Will it deepen your connection when you do? Absolutely. When you partner like this with your audience throughout your entire presentation, you’ll find yourself connected at the core with them, time will fly by, and everyone will have a blast. So let them beat you to…

Craig Valentine

As a motivational speaker I've been fortunate to have spoken in over 20 countries, and back in 1999 Toastmasters International awarded me the World Champion of Public Speaking.

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