November 22, 2008

Brand Your Speech with a Phrase That Pays

After you’re finished making a presentation and you leave the room, what sticks? What did you say or do that was memorable?

As Karen Post, the Branding Diva, says, “Many of us operate in a space where many others offer a similar product or service. If you want to stand out, you have got to be distinct, compelling and memorable. Boring, ordinary and like everyone else simply does not fly.”*

In this article I want to talk about why branding is critical when you’re making a speech or presentation.

As you know, it’s not just what you say that’s important, it’s what people remember. If you speak, and your audience or customer deletes what you say within minutes, you’ve failed. You can’t sell anything; a product, service or idea, if you cannot make a convincing argument that continues to influence the decision-maker after you leave the room.

In speaking, branding has two elements: the right words or phrase, and the musical and rhythmic delivery of those words or that phrase. These two elements are equally important.

Consider product branding in TV commercials. A concept is developed that is built around a theme. Right now Wal-Mart is blitzing the airways with an ad campaign built around the theme, Save Money. Live Better. The next time you see it, listen to how that phrase is delivered. It is consistently delivered with the same music and rhythm.

Home Depot has built their brand around the phrase, You Can Do It –We Can Help. Once again, listen to the musical and rhythmic delivery. It’s not musical because they sing it – although many brand phrases are sung – it’s musical because the phrase is spoken with a carefully chosen cadence and rhythm that is consistent.

How is this relevant to speaking and sales? While working with clients like Microsoft, Hewlett Packard and Cisco, and in industries as varied as construction, insurance, health care, pharmaceuticals and education, everyone I work with struggles with the same issue. They talk too much and say too little. In other words, they overwhelm their listener with too much content, too many words. And in the end, nothing sticks.

If nothing that you say sticks, nothing sells. What is needed is a phrase that acts as mental Velcro. You need a Phrase That Pays!

Here are the criteria for a good Phrase That Pays:

  • It is short and sweet: 2 – 6 words
  • If it’s more than 6 words, it should be in two parts that are rhythmic (like You Can Do It – We Can Help).
  • It is a call to action.  Make the first word a verb whenever possible.
  • It summarizes the main point of your presentation.
  • It is repeated (called back) multiple times.
  • It is always spoken within the same rhythm and cadence.

Branding is about having one consistent message, one consistent imprint that is repeated so often and so consistently that it sticks to the brain of the intended audience like mental Velcro. It must be imprinted visually, verbally, vocally and emotionally to be effective.

In all of my programs on storytelling, Emotional Eloquence and influence, I use one consistent phrase: Emotion is the Fast Lane to the Brain. When I speak it, I always syncopate the delivery of those words exactly same way. This is how I say it:

Emotion (beat) is the Fast Lane (beat) to the Brain.

It’s a catchy phrase and people love it. It sticks because it summarizes the main point of my Story Theater Method storytelling technology, which is that your core message must contain an emotional trigger to get into peoples’ heads.

To turn that phrase into a Phrase That Pays, one that tells people what I want them to do, I needed to make it into a call to action.  I simply created the Phrase That Pays: Flip The Emotional Trigger Switch.

Emotion is the Fast Lane to the Brain is a concept.

Flip the Emotional Trigger Switch is a call to action. It tells my presentation skills students what they need to do to be more compelling and engaging, they need to Flip the switch, the emotional trigger switch.

And here is something really interesting, one of those synchronicity things that just makes you smile… while I’ve was writing this article and podcast – I  received an email from someone who was in one of my audiences 7 months ago. These are his exact words.

 “I bored my class last week. There, I said it.  After attending your session at SPBT in May, I was a total convert to your use of emotion technique.  By November, I was back to my old failing techniques. As I was reflecting on my failure to capture their attention, it is the emotional connection that would have fixed the problem.  I had technical information soooo complex to help them solve all their problems with my product.  And nothing but rolled-back, glassed over eyes looked back from the seats.” It’s obvious from his comments that my phrase that pays about emotion is the fast lane to the brain was mental Velcro because here he is 7 months later remembering me and my presentation and that what was missing from his presentation was the emotional connection. This works guys – it’s mental Velcro.

Consider your next presentation. It can be a one-on-one sales presentation or a speech in front of 600 people. To make it more memorable, answer the following questions:

What is the one thing you want your listener to remember? What do you want them to do differently or more consistently? Next, play around with phrases that summarize the one thing you want them to remember. Play with multiple word combinations. Look to TV advertisements and magazine ads for clues. Do this with your team or by brainstorming with a group of friends. Use the following criteria to come up with something memorable:

Try not to use a phrase that’s been used before (no Just Do It rip-offs please).

Write a list of verbs that can be the action you want people to take.

Get creative. Get quirky.

Don’t edit out weird ideas in the creative process.

Think non-linear.

Be contrarian. Here are some examples to stimulate your creativity:

Walk small. Take your thyme. Outsmart your inner critic. Lose the blues and go green. Check your baggage (double meaning). Hang up your hang-ups.

The next time you make a presentation, use your Phrase That Pays three times. You’ll see immediate results. Your phrase will be memorable and so will you.

Until next time, present yourself well.

Doug Stevenson, president of Story Theater International, is the creator of The Story Theater Method and the author of the book, Doug Stevenson’s Story Theater Method.His 10 CD – How to Write and Deliver a Dynamite Speech audio learning system, is a workshop in a box. It contains an 80-page follow along workbook.
Learn more at:
Dynamite Speech Home Study Course
Doug can be reached at 1-800-573-6196  or  1-719-573-6195        or at: Story Theater Website * Learn more about Karen Post at: and check out her unique social networking site:

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