Skip to main content
20 Tips for Giving a Zone Speech

20 Tips for Giving a Zone Speech

During my first speech I wore a red bowtie and red suspenders. My mom had slicked my hair up with a product called Vitalis. I had memorized some very big words. Nervous? How could I be nervous? I’m five years old…what do I know?

My mother was the Director of the King’s Daughters School of Nursing in Ashland, Kentucky. She conducted high school career day speeches in order to sell students on becoming nurses.

I was Mom’s opening act. Here was my spiel:

“My name is Jimmy Fannin. You should become a nurse. It is so cool to be a nurse because you’ll learn some very big words like “streptomycin,” “acetylsalicylic acid,“ “chloromycetin,” “penicillin,” “appendectomy” and “tonsillectomy.” Now I would like to introduce my Mom, Mrs. Lahoma Fannin, from the King’s Daughters School of Nursing.”

Years later I was paid $200 for my first professional speech. Even though I had given dozens of speeches prior to this event, I was nervous. I thought, “They paid me, therefore I need to deliver the goods.” Here are 20 tips I have learned over the years from presenting 2,000+ speeches:

1. What do you want your audience to think when they leave your presence? What can you give them that they need? This will dictate what you are going to say. Always work backwards from B to A.

2. Know this simple outline for preparing your speech. Here are the three parts of your talk.

o Tell them what you’re going to tell them.

o Tell them.

o Tell them what you’ve told them.

3. Know how you want to close your speech. Make the close meaningful and powerful.

4. Discuss no more than 3-5 points within your speech. Make these points simple, concise and clear. Surrounding your points with personal stories and anecdotes helps you bond with the audience.

5. Let the points that you want to discuss flow naturally. You are the expert on the speech subject. Act the part.

6. Use notes only if there are lots of facts such as numbers or quotes. Having a simple PowerPoint or Prezi presentation is great to use as an outline for staying on course. Reading your speech, of course, is taboo.

7. Practice your speech multiple days prior to the event. Try it in front of another person or group.

8. Practice using your hands naturally. Keep them out of your pockets. Gesture like you would in a normal conversation.

9. The night before the event, within 30 minutes of falling asleep, visualize your audience happy, better educated and wanting for more. See your success.

10. Drink lots of water the day of your speech. This will help your focus.

11. Thirty minutes before the event, reduce your breathing to 6-8 breaths per minute. Take long inhales and exhales to make this happen. You will instantly feel relaxed. Do your best to keep your mind calm.

You will feel the “butterflies.” You are NOT nervous unless you think you are. This is your body getting ready to attract the Zone state of mind. Your blood vessels and capillaries in your stomach will constrict diverting the blood from your stomach to your brain for clarity and your large muscles for inordinate strength, power and energy. This is a good thing. Trust me.

12. Just prior to your speech, ONLY go over your opening.

13. Know how to walk on the stage. Enter with your chin up with confidence. Know your opening statements without notes.

14. Once you are on stage, walk physically and/or mentally a few steps toward both corners of the audience. Look out over the audience. This should take 2-4 seconds.

15. Do not speak until you are settled stationary and comfortable. Open confident and to the point. Set a good rhythm or tempo.

16. Be sure and look to all parts of the audience. Until you are comfortable looking them in the eye, set your gaze just above their heads.

17. Talk to the audience in your conversational tone. Be your authentic, genuine best self. No preaching.

18. Be physical with the audience. Smile a lot and they will smile with you. Give them your physical and mental energy. Let the audience react to your words, gestures and mannerisms without talking over them. If they are laughing, laugh with them.

19. A few seconds of silence sprinkled just before a major point in your speech increases the audiences’ listening and retention by 30-40%. Silence before any of your words does the same. Silence is golden. Master this!

20. Know how to exit the stage. Memorize your final, closing statement as you take your time and look directly at the audience. Be genuine and sincere. Use your arms and hands to say goodbye as natural as you can. For example, “It was great to be with you in beautiful Vancouver. Thank you. Get in the Zone!” After speaking be still for 4-5 seconds (unless the applause lasts longer) then move to the exit. Asking if there are any questions works with some audiences. If you’re an expert and can handle the unknown question, then go for it.

See what you want and not what you don’t want out of your speech.

Sixty years later, I’m ready to walk into the GM Center in Vancouver, Canada. The place is packed and full of energy. I could feel the electricity and excitement as I walked through a private entrance behind the giant stage. Immediately I was hooked up to a wireless microphone and taken to the green room. Food, drink and comfortable chairs were plentiful. I would be on in 30 minutes.

As I finally walked up to the main stage, I peeked through the curtain and saw 15,000 people vertically stacked, all waiting for my entrance. I could see them, hear them and feel them. Collectively, they would leave the stadium in 90 minutes, all thinking what I want them to think. As the butterflies enter my stomach, the “purposeful calm” feeling of the Zone will soon arrive.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome the Coach of Champions and America’s ZoneCoach…Jim Fannin.”

I wish my Mom were alive to hear me knock this one out of the park. Thank God I’m not wearing a red bowtie with red suspenders.