What about the Payoff? A Tool for Speakers

What are Speakers Neglecting to do?

So often I’ll coach a speaker who does everything right with his story until the end of it. He establishes the conflict, escalates it, and gets the cure or revelation. But guess what happens then? He ends the story!

Hello? Do you mean to tell me you’re going to take us down to the depths of your struggle and make us relive those down times with you and then, when you get to the big payoff part of your journey, we’re not invited? How rude!

If you take us through the problem, take us through the payoff


What is a Payoff?

A payoff is not only what happens to you after you overcome the conflict but also how you feel about it. The feeling is the key. In the both examples below, you’ll hear me mention (and demonstrate through my energy and tone) my happiness.  Of course you cannot see my face but those expressions are part of the payoff too. In other words, it must bring emotions into play. Don’t just tell what happened, sell what happened.

Payoff Example #1

Here’s an example. A decade ago, I used to give a story about forgiveness. It’s about how my ex-girlfriend (my girlfriend at the time) was unfaithful and how that venom started to destroy me. I became what I despised and started treating people poorly myself. With this speech, I take my audience through my entire struggle until I get the revelation (from a book) that told me that forgiveness will rid me of my venom. So in my heart I forgave the girl who did that to me.

Okay, now that I forgave her, I need to take you (the audience) through my payoff because I surely took you through my problem. So here’s the payoff I take my audience through after I am free of the venom (This clip is 54 seconds):

[audio:https://craigvalentine.com/wp-content/uploads/Free.mp3|titles=Payoff Example #1]


Pretty nice payoff, isn’t it?

Why is the Payoff Important?

This payoff is very important to your audience because it pushes them 80% across the bridge to heeding your message (i.e. forgiveness) before you even begin to drive the message home. In other words, when you take them through your emotional payoff, the story gets their buy-in. So many speeches are ruined by neglecting to have a payoff that is at least equal (and hopefully greater than) the problem in terms of your emotions.

Remember, people make decisions with emotion backed up by logic. Therefore, you can’t simply tell them the payoff. You need to show them the payoff through your own emotional victory. Relive it. Show it through your entire being.

Payoff Example #2

Another payoff I give in a different story is after my wife tells me, “Craig, your dream is not for sale.” So I go back to the Vice President of the company who won’t let me leave and I tell him, “Hey, my wife said my dream is not for sale.” After I leave the company, here is what I give as the payoff (This clip is 14 seconds).

[audio:https://craigvalentine.com/wp-content/uploads/RunningMouth.mp3|titles=Payoff Example #2]

That’s a heck of a payoff isn’t it? It encourages other people to not let the good get in the way of the best in their lives too. They’re 80% across the bridge to buying into my message.

Don’t take us through a problem without taking us through the payoff


How can you make sure have an effective Payoff?

The questions to ask yourself to help clarify and emphasize your payoff are the following:

  • What was my payoff?
  • What happened to me after I transcended my conflict?
  • How did my life change for the better?
  • How did I feel after I overcame that conflict?
  • How can I express that feeling to my audience so they’ll know how much the payoff meant to me and how much a similar payoff can mean to them?


The stronger your payoff, the easier it will be for people to buy-into your message even before you drive it home.  

Post the following statement somewhere you can see it:

If you take us through the problem, take us through the payoff

Craig Valentine

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