The Nuts and Bolts of Public Speaking (Sample Chapter)

The Nuts and Bolts of Public Speaking (Sample Chapter)

By Craig Valentine

The Nuts and Bolts of Public Speaking
Sample Chapter


Once you have told your story it is time to make your point. Your point is the most important message to get across to your audience. In fact, the whole reason you told your story was to illustrate your point. When making your point you cannot simply tell them what to do, you must also sell them on why they should do it. To do this we can transition from our “I-focused” story to a “You-focused” message. The “You” is the audience.

How do we sell our points?

First we must become aware of the sales process in general. What is the question that people have in their minds whenever we want them to do or buy something? The question is “What’s In It For Me (WIIFM)? This is the station that our audience is tuned into! If you stay tuned into this station (WIIFM?), you will sell them on your point and there is a good chance they will act on it. For example, in the speech entitled A Key to Fulfillment that I gave at the World Championship, I need to sell people on the benefits of taking moments of silence every day of their lives. My point was extremely clear, and I sold it by relating the following to the audience:

If you take five minutes of silence each day then you will experience peacefulness, tranquility, and serenity that you never even knew existed. Five minutes of silence will give you confidence exuding from every pore in your being. Taking five minutes of silence will eventually make you feel [pause] fulfilled.

The question is WIIFM? and the answer is peace, tranquility, serenity, confidence, and fulfillment. Who would not want these in their lives? That was years ago and I still have people telling me how the speech has changed their lives. They usually say they take at least five minutes of silence during their day and they go on to tell me additional benefits they receive from this practice. I sold them on it because I believe in the practice, I shared an illuminating story, and I drove the point home by tuning into their favorite station (WIIFM?).

Features Tell, Benefits Sell

It is extremely important to understand the difference between a feature and a benefit. If you understand this difference, you will significantly increase your likelihood of selling your points successfully. A feature is a physical attribute or something inherent in a product or service. A benefit is what that feature does for you. It answers WIIFM? Take a look at the following chart to distinguish one from the other:

Features Benefits (WIIFM?)
The Air-conditioner You will be cool and comfortable
Airbags You and your loved ones will be safe and secure
CD Player You will be entertained/empowered by listening to music and educational materials
Horn You will be able to get on peoples’ nerves

Does selling the benefits really make a difference?

When I went to buy my first automobile it almost did not happen, because the salesperson tried to sell me on the features, and features do not sell. He walked up and gave me information on the brakes, engine, windows, and other features of the car. I was not moved at all, so I told him I had to think about it. The same day I went to another car dealership and looked at the same model. However, this salesperson approached me differently. He was benefits-oriented. He said, “Man, you are going to look great in this car and the girls will be all over you!” I looked at him and immediately asked with excitement, “Where do I sign?” Keep in mind this was way before I got married so he definitely understood his audience. He made a difference by selling me on what was in it for me rather than dwelling on technical features. By the way, he lied!

Do you see the difference? Features (or actions in this case) tell what you should do or have while benefits sell you on why you should do them or have them. People are motivated either by an opportunity for gain or by a fear of loss.

A great way to remember how to organize the selling of your point involves something that I am sure you did when you were a kid. Well, I am not exactly sure, so let me ask. Did you ever go swimming? Did you ever push someone into the pool? If you did, great! That is exactly what you should do here. But instead of pushing people into the pool, you should push them into the “pull.”

The Pull

The pull benefits are ones that demonstrate an opportunity for gain. Let me share a few examples from speeches that I give:

What to do? Why? (Benefit)
Forgive You will have more energy to focus on your goals and dreams
Use your imagination You will gain confidence and attract what you want into your life
Set goals You will accomplish much more!

Remember: People are motivated by two ways: A fear of loss and an opportunity for gain.

The Push

The chart above shows ways that the audience can gain from following the advice you give them. However, you can also push them by showing what can happen if they do not use the advice. The push uses the fear of loss. Look at the following chart for examples:

What to do? What if you don’t? (Push)
Forgive You cannot live your dreams if you are still holding on to your nightmares. The baggage will eventually break you down.
Use your imagination If you cannot see it you cannot be it.
Set goals You will waste energy and you may become frustrated, confused, and depressed.

When you use the push and the pull together for each point and express them in a passionate way, most of the audience will be moved to do something!

This is because, contrary to the belief of some speakers, fear actually does motivate. However, the problem with using fear as your sole motivational factor is that it motivates you to move but not in any particular direction. For instance, when I was a child, I remember being chased by a dog. I was afraid so I was very motivated to run. However, although I ran fast, I did not run in any designed direction. I had no focus other than to outrun the dog. Nevertheless, I was motivated. Now, on the other hand, I know I have run just as fast trying to catch up to the ice cream truck. The truck represents an opportunity for gain (pull) and my direction was always clear.

Put together, the push will get people moving and the pull will take advantage of that mobility and give them direction. Some people need to be pushed and then pulled to get out of the mud. So many audience members feel stuck in life and you can give them the boost they need to get started. We know from physics that an object in motion tends to stay in motion. Well, the push gets people moving and the pull keeps them moving. Let me show you how you can put them together to sell your points powerfully. I use a chart like the following for clarifying and selling my points:

What to do? Why? (Benefit) If you don’t? (Consequence)
Forgive You will have more energy to focus on your goals and dreams.


You cannot live your dream if you are still holding on to your nightmares. The baggage will break you down.


Use Your Imagination You will gain confidence and attract what you want into your life.


If you cannot see it you cannot be it.


Set goals You will accomplish much more!


You will waste energy and you can become frustrated, confused, and depressed.


You can either start with a pull statement (opportunity for gain), and then go into a push statement (fear of loss), or you can do it the other way around. I prefer to start with the push and then go into the pull. Why? Because you want to finish that point on a high note rather than leaving the audience members’ last thoughts on the possible calamity that may happen to them if they do not act on your advice. Plus, when you begin with the fear of loss statement, it brings greater anticipation of a solution or a pull statement. Then, once you highlight and sell the benefits of acting on your points, the audience will be relieved while regaining their energy. This is what is meant by pushing them into the pull. You will create an emotional pull.

Categories of benefits

One of the most important ideas to understand in order to motivate people is that benefits have four major categories. If you offer benefits from each one of these categories during your speech, there is a good chance that you will motivate the vast majority of the audience. If someone is left unmotivated, check his or her pulse. The four major categories are the following:

  1. Do more
  2. Gain more
  3. Shine more
  4. Enjoy more

All of the benefits that fall into these four categories answer the question WIIFM?

  1. A benefit that helps you do more is empowering. The act of setting goals is an example because the benefit is that you will accomplish and achieve much more with your laser-like approach.
  2. A benefit that helps you gain more is profitable. The act of consolidating your bills to get one monthly payment with a lower interest rate is an example, because the benefit saves you money over time thereby creating a gain. After all, you can increase your bottom line either by raising revenues or by cutting expenses.
  3. A benefit that helps you shine more is prestigious. Shine more means that you get recognized more or held in high esteem. The act of furthering your education can be an example because your advanced degree can propel you to be held in higher esteem by your colleagues and others. That very well may be the button that motivates one person while the potential increase in salary commensurate with the degree (Gain more) motivates someone else in your audience.
  4. A benefit that helps you enjoy more is fun. The act of “doing something different daily” is a point I give to audience members about tapping into the creativity within them. I then explain how life can become the adventure it is supposed to be. I regularly express to my audiences that they will no longer need an alarm clock because they will have a zest for life that lifts them up in the morning without needing to use “mind over matt…ress.” to get out of bed.

If you can fit three to four of these categories of benefits in your speech, you will find your audiences responding more favorably and your impact will be felt at a deeper level. Organize the selling of your points by listing the do more, gain more, shine more, and enjoy more benefits your audience can receive. When selling your points, try to include a benefit from each category if possible and if time allows. When you do this you end up reaching the vast majority of the audience members.

Telling a story and making a point

Once you know your points and the benefits and consequences surrounding them, it is easier to sell them. For example, during my forgiveness story about the snakebite, I start by asking the audience, “Why is it that most people do not live their dreams?” The audience responds by saying things such as “Lack of courage” or “They don’t believe in them.” Again the audience is certainly correct, but I then say to them that “the reason most people do not live their dreams is because they are too busy holding on to their nightmares. They are holding onto something that happened to them in the past of which they have not yet let go.” I am already selling the solution before I start the story. Toward the end of the snakebite story I get the audience involved by asking them to repeat after me, “In order for us to truly live…we must be willing to forgive.” Throughout the painful story and the point, I stress the benefit of gaining energy to live your dreams if you forgive (pull). Also, I stress the consequence of being held down by the baggage if you do not forgive (push).

Come out of character to make your point

After you tell your story with the characters it is important to come back to yourself to make your point. It is as if you are saying to yourself mentally, “Now here is what I want you to understand….” Go to the make-your-point-spot (we will cover this in Chapter 8) on the floor, use your voice, and step forward to make your point. This is what is known as stepping up to your point. This will anchor the audience and let them know that the story is finished and the clear message is on its way.

The Power of Passion

Now that you know the technical way to sell your point it is crucial to understand the intangibles. You cannot make people passionate about your point unless you are passionate about it. In Dale Carnegie’s masterful book entitled How to Develop Self-Confidence & Influence People by Public Speaking, he mentioned that we speakers should be under the influence of our own emotions, which we will then naturally express to the audience. This means you must believe in your points and follow them yourself. If you talk about forgiveness yet fail to forgive, then the audience will see directly through you.

You must be excited about the points you are making no matter how many times you’ve made them in the past. The audience will feed off of your sincerity and passion. Remember that the audience members will make their decisions based on emotion backed up by logic. Therefore, you need to show some kind of true emotion when selling your point. This does not mean bouncing off the walls, but it does mean letting your true passion for your topic shine through you.

Remember: The Push, Pull, and Passion you give will have your audience taking action to change their lives for the better.

The Lincoln and King approach to motivation

One of the most exciting things for me to do as a speaker is to read, and in some cases listen to historical figures that have had a great influence on our world. Two of the speakers I love to study are Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and both of them regularly used a motivational strategy that I call the back-from-the-future approach.

This approach actually moves you mentally into the future and then lets you look back at your current generation to see how you will be viewed by future historians. In other words, it forecasts how you will go down in history. Put in this new context, our actions may become clearer as we see the larger picture. Take a look at a few examples from Abraham Lincoln.

  • Prior to signing the Emancipation proclamation he stated, “If my name ever goes into history, it will be for this act.”
  • In a letter reaching out to Democrats that were against the Civil War and essentially against Lincoln’s idea of utilizing blacks in the Union Army, he appealed to the future and wrote, “…there will be some black men who can remember that, with silent tongue, and clenched teeth, and steady eye, and well-poised bayonet, they have helped mankind on to this great consummation; while, I fear, there will be some white ones, unable to forget that, with malignant heart, and deceitful speech, they have strove to hinder it.”

What Lincoln did in this letter and in several speeches, was to get his audiences to move beyond the present moment and to understand how they would be viewed by future generations. These kinds of letters and speeches were effective, because most people did not want to be viewed as a bottleneck on the road to progress. Who wants to go down in history as having a “malignant heart?”

Now let us take a look at a couple of examples from Dr. King’s speeches:

  • When receiving the Nobel Peace Prize at Oslo University in Norway, he spoke of the courageous men and women of the Civil Rights movement by stating, “…when the years have rolled past and when the blazing light of truth is focused on this marvelous age in which we live, men and women will know and children will be taught that we have a finer land, a better people, a more noble civilization, because these humble children of God were willing to suffer for righteousness’ sake.”
  • When kicking off a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, Dr. King spoke to thousands of expectant people and claimed, “You will be the people that will light a new chapter in the history books of our nation.”
  • These speeches again appealed to how the current generation would be viewed by future generations and they inspired people around the globe to become part of the civil rights movement.

Even though we may not speak on behalf of a large movement or as the President of the United States, we can still utilize this back-from-the-future strategy to get our audiences to take action. Some people refer to this as the rocking chair technique, in which a person envisions himself or herself as an elderly person sitting in a rocking chair while reviewing his or her life. If you are speaking on the negative effects of procrastination, then you can use this strategy to make people feel the regret of not accomplishing the things they know they were put on earth to do. I know this may seem harsh, but please remember that you will eventually bring the audience members back to the present and give them complete control over changing their future reality. Of course, to make an even greater impact, you should show them the wonderful possibilities available when they do take action. Look familiar? Yes, this is more of the Push, Pull, and Passion approach. You will get the audience moving by pushing them into the pull.
Chapter 3 Nuts and Bolts Notebook

Making Your Point

  • You must sell your point, not tell your point.
  • Answer the all-important question of the audience members (WIIFM?).
  • Features tell, benefits sell.

Selling your Point

  • Push them (audience) into the pull.
  • Come out of character and step up to your point.
  • Evoke the emotion of regret and then share benefits of joy.
  • Make use of the back-to-the-future approach to temporarily change your audience’s point of view.

Craig Valentine, the 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking, is an internationally-known professional speaker, author, and speech coach. Do you want to increase your number of speaking opportunities, maximize each engagement, and become a speaker in high demand? Great! Visit and get a year’s worth of speaking lessons for free.