motivational speaker

Early in my career, Hall of Fame motivational speaker Willie Jolley was a hero of mine. I had stars in my eyes when I met him.

He gave me a piece of sage wisdom that I always remembered. He said, “Here’s the best tip I can give you, Jonathan. Don’t speak to impress, speak to inspire.” What he meant was, don’t speak from the point of view of someone who has always gotten it right or someone who never struggles. Inspire them by showing them someone just like them who started where they are and earned their way to success.

Those who understand this principle and incorporate it into their lives quickly master the art of connecting.

At my annual live event, Presentation Power, I teach this principle through a concept I have labeled “Bus Stops.” Bus Stops are points in your presentation in which you strategically share elements of your life that resonate with your audience to “get them on the bus” with you.

For example, I grew up in Texas. If I were speaking in Texas, I would give a shoutout to all of the fellow Texans. However, If I were speaking in Atlanta, Georgia, that wouldn’t be a fit. Instead, I would say, “Who else besides me grew up in the South?” The point is, you want to expand the scope as wide as necessary to connect with as many audience members as you can.

As you prepare for your presentation, keep asking yourself, “In what ways am I like them?” Even broad, seemingly obvious questions such as “Who else in here is a busy person?” have value for unifying you with your audience. What you’re looking for is common ground, a way to get your audience to identify with you. You want them to unconsciously say, “This person is just like me.”

Here are some additional Bus Stops that are also effective:

  • Sports
  • Movies
  • Music
  • Popular television shows
  • Pet peeves
  • National pride
  • Books
  • Parenthood

Stop at their Bus Stop and meet them where they are. Keep asking yourself the following three questions:

  1. What do I know about what they’re thinking, feeling, and stressing over?
  2. What are their biggest issues that they want solved right now?
  3. Where are my points of connection and how can I use this to help them identify with me?

Start here and build a bridge between you and them. That’s a hallmark of great communication skills.  Mention how their issues have also shown up in your life. Demonstrate how what concerns them also concerns you. You will see how quickly a few well-placed Bus Stops will connect you to your audience and when you connect with your audience, magic happens.

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