How To Rig A Speech To Get The Outcome You Want Every Time

by drjim on February 16, 2010

If You Stack The Deck, Then You'll Win Every Time

If You Stack The Deck, Then You’ll Win Every Time

You can’t always do it all by yourself. If you want to make a lasting impression on your audience, then sometimes you just gotta bring in some help to pull it off. Speakers who are ready to move up to the next level in their speaking often come to me and ask for advice. Now that they’ve gotten over their fear of speaking, they want to move on and start to make more of an impact with their audience. It’s time to bring out an advanced speaking skill – rigging a speech.

The Setup

If as a speaker you can put aside your ego long enough to admit that sometimes if you really want to make a lasting impression on your audience, then you are going to have to allow others to help you, then you’ll be half-way there.

An advanced speaking technique is to work with an outsider to act as a “plant” in the audience. Having somebody in the audience who you control gives you enormous power as a speaker when it comes to steering the audience’s mood and reactions.

The most important part of stacking the deck is to make sure that you take the time to rehearse what you want to happen with your partner in crime – these things don’t just happen by themselves.

The Action

When you rig a speech, you need to make sure that you’ve carefully scripted what you want to happen. The three most common uses of a plant are to generate anger, humor, and questions.

Having a member of your audience stand up and angrily shout something out or accuse you of something is a fantastic tool; however, it’s just about as dangerous as nitroglycerin. This is an unexpected action – your audience will not be expecting it and so it will wake them up and grab their attention. I’ve used this one when I knew that what the audience would be thinking at a certain point was directly opposite to what I was telling them. Since you knew that it was coming, you have a fantastic response ready for them, this calms your angry audience member down, and everyone else is very impressed with you. That’s exactly what I did and it took the tension out of the room.

Humor is difficult enough to try to do by yourself let alone with a partner, but if you can pull it off you’ll be able to make a lasting impression on your audience. As with all types of humor, timing is everything here. One of my favorite techniques is to have my plant ask a question and then we end up getting involved in a very fast back-and-forth dialog that amazes and entertains everyone. Once upon a time I answered my plant’s question by saying that something would take 1 year, they replied with 2, I said “3”, they said “4” and so on.

Finally, one of the worst things that a speaker can do is to wrap up a speech by asking “does anyone have any questions” and then be greeted by dead silence. This is when having a plant can save your life: have them stand up and ask an interesting or controversial question just to get things going. Since you know what they are going to ask, you can structure your speech so that your answer to that question is really part of your speech.

What All Of This Means For You

When you are ready to take your speaking skills up to the next level, starting to “seed” the audience with your trained agents is a great way to ensure that you are able to control how the speech will flow. These agents can control the audience’s mood: get them angry, make them laugh, or ask the questions that they are all thinking about.

As with all tools, the planted agent requires skill to use. You have to take the time both to structure your speech in such a way as to accommodate your plant and to rehearse what each of you is going to say before the big day. Do it right and you’ll have left your audience with a positive lasting impression.

Under what circumstances do you think it would be a bad idea to plant someone in your audience?


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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If you could wish for just one thing before you give your next speech in public, what would it be? Sure we’d all like to be able to talk like Tony Robbins, move a crowd like Zig Ziglar, or even have a powerful story to tell like Rudy Giuliani. However, I’m willing to bet good money that after considerable thought, we’d all settle for spending our wish on making sure that there were no hecklers in the audience.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ninon de Vere De Rosa February 16, 2010 at 9:29 pm

This is great what you are offering people. Is it harder now to get a speaking engagement than before ? I really need a lot of help promoting myself. How can you help me.

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Dr. Jim Anderson February 19, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Ninon: It’s no harder to get speaking opportunities now than at any other time — you just have to have something interesting to talk about! If you want help on promoting yourself, I’d suggest joining the National Speakers’ Association (NSA) [http://www.nsaspeaker.org/]. They’ve got a lot of material that will help you out.

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