5 Powerful and Memorable Speaking Techniques Almost No One Is Doing

by Marcus Sheridan

Marcus Sheridan TED Photo

Those of you that know me, know that I’m a passionate fan of great communication in all its forms—be it presenting to small groups or speaking to a thousand people for a conference keynote. And having been to 9 different speaking events in the last month, I’ve been reminded of a few skills and principles that few people do, but can make all the difference when trying to make a lasting impact on audience and listeners.

1. Name Memorization Techniques

The other day I was speaking to a smaller group of about 35 people. Having arrived at another speaker’s presentation an hour before my slotted time to present, I had the event organizer write down on a sheet of paper each person that was in the room, in conjunction with where they were sitting. Over the next 60 minutes, by using a mnemonic technique, I was able to memorize everyone’s name and could literally call out each person with the snap of a finger. As you might imagine, audience members were shocked when they realized I knew all their names, which led to a tremendous experience for all of us over the next 90 minutes.

This certainly isn’t the first time I’ve done this with a smaller audience, but I can tell you its impact on listeners is profound every time. And even though this technique can’t be accomplished with much larger audiences, you can still pick out 10-20 audience member names to memorize beforehand, and then call on those very people once you start speaking.

As the old saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” By taking the time to become familiar with audience names (and any other personal information for that matter) is a sign you care, and will get powerful results every, single time.

2. Why Name Tags are a Must

I’m going to stick with the principle of names for a moment and discuss the importance of name tags.  As the incredible Dale Carnegie once said, “Nothing is more sweet than the sound of one’s own name.

Whether we want to admit it or not, this statement is true. We do love the sound of our own name. We also like it when others call/address us by name.

It is for this reason that I require every place I speak to use name tags with attendees. In fact, I’m so serious about the principle of calling people by their name that I carry an extra set of sticky-tags on me just in case the event’s organizer forgot to set things up properly.

By doing this, audience involvement is enhanced tremendously and your ability as a speaker to make powerful connections with said audience will be facilitated and heightened.

3. The Law of Spatial Intimacy

I’m going to write an entire book at some point on the following subject, but the Law of Spatial Intimacy (my word) goes like this—The closer people are seated together in an audience, the more ability for the speaker and the audience alike to create a moving and powerful experience.

Tight audiences lead to intimate, powerful experiences.

Tight audiences lead to intimate, powerful experiences.

To help explain this law on a deeper level, think about the last time you went to an “amazing” conference: Were the rooms full of people or was attendance sparse? Did it feel like the speaker was close to the audience or far away? Were there many empty seats or were people lined up against the walls?

Hopefully you see where I’m going with this, and just why the skill of creating and promoting intimacy through proximity is a HUGE deal when it comes to audience related events.

To give you an example of how this can be leveraged as a speaker, let’s look at an experience I had this past week while speaking to a group of high-end plumbing, kitchen, and bath retailers. In this particular event, we were located in a room that had 4 sections of seats with about 100 seats in each section. As the 200 audience members sat down, they were spread out across these 4 sections, and I could see clearly no one would be “rubbing-shoulders” if I accepted things as they were.

So instead of just accepting the situation as it was, I told everyone to move to the two inner sections, therefore creating a stronger feeling of togetherness and intimacy within the group and myself as well—a move that led to another tremendous experience with the audience.

4. The Power of Music to Set the Tone

Music is magical. It moves us. It changes our mood. It gets our juices flowing.

This is exactly why I play music (often with video) before every talk I give—as it creates a tone and vibe that gets audience members excited, upbeat, and ready to learn.

Ever been to a conference that was dead-silent before the speaker got in front of the audience? Yeah, it’s not too good, especially because silence often leads to people getting lost in their cell phones, checking their inboxes, etc.

5. Explaining the Deeper “Why”

Most of you have heard me discuss Simon Sinek’sStart With Why” in the past, but when it comes to giving a great presentation, I want you to consider “End With Why.” And what do I mean with this phrase? Simple:

Everything we teach at a conference—no matter what the subject is—is ultimately meant to provide listeners with one thing: Time

Many people think if I’m talking about marketing, then I’m really talking about how companies can make more money. And although this is partially true, “money” is not the “why” of my message. But what money can bring us—financial peace to do that which we love most with our TIME—now that’s the “why” of all the speaking I do. It’s the core of my message, whether it’s sales, marketing, personal development, etc. Each one of these subjects, at least to me, has EVERYTHING to do with having more time and freedom in our life to do that which brings us the most joy.

One of many photos I occasionally share at the end of a presentation-- My Why.

One of many photos I occasionally share at the end of a presentation– My Why.

It is for this reason that I end so many of my talks showing a photo of my family, and telling audience members how following the principles of inbound and content marketing (or anything else I’ve taught) have changed my life, given me financial freedom, and allowed me to be with my wife and kids more than I ever could have dreamed of just five years ago.

Your Turn

So there you have it folks, 5 presentation techniques that can have a lasting impact on your audience and help you to get great results whenever you speak in the future. I’m curious, which of these 5 have you done? What were the results? Also, what “outside the box” techniques would you add to the list?

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{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

David Frey - MarketingBlogger.com October 15, 2013 at 11:09 am

These are great speaking tips. I concur with every one of them. I remember getting one of the most impactful speaking tips ever from a speaker in the MLM industry.

He said, “David, take a sheet of paper and write down on the left side all the tragedies and hard times you’ve had in your life that you were able to overcome. Then on the right side, write out the lesson you learned from that difficult period and how it can help someone in their business.

Now just tell those stories. I’ve done this with amazing results.

Thanks for another great post Marcus.


Marcus Sheridan October 15, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Wow, now that puts it in a way anyone can come up with powerful stories for their presentations David. Loved this man.

And if I may say, it’s about time I saw you speak again after all these years, we are a long ways from what I believe was the last time, 7 years ago. :)


PS: So thrilled to see your health is doing well David. Makes me smile :)


David Frey - MarketingBlogger.com October 16, 2013 at 8:42 pm

Thanks Marcus, I’m feeling great. Heavenly Father is good. :-)

And you never. I might start speaking in a year to two. Who knows.


Jennifer Nash October 16, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Along with Marcus’s great tips, I really like your tip as well. I can see it help with more than just public speaking.


Brent Kelly October 15, 2013 at 11:19 am

Awesome tips Marcus. As an aspiring speaker I find these very helpful. The law of spatial intimacy if very interesting. As a audience member there is so much truth to that law. Thanks again.


Marcus Sheridan October 15, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Brent, congrats on setting goals to be a powerful speaker, props to you. If you ever get a video of you doing your thing, I’d love to see it and if you’d like feedback, just let me know.

To big things,



Matt Eve - BetterBusinessResults.com October 15, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Interesting article Marcus so much of speaking seems to come down to connecting with the audience. I think I have suffered in the past on focusing so much on the content and not enough on the delivery. I’ve noticed that the best speakers seem to only have one or two key points that they try and get across with the majority of the speech spent on building rapport with the audience. It is something I need to keep procticing.


Marcus Sheridan October 15, 2013 at 7:35 pm

EXCELLENT point Matt. Glad you brought it up. Stuff 5lbs of stuff in a 10lb bag happens too much for too many speakers. Absolutely try scaling back with your next presentation, I’d love to hear how it goes.




Ryan Biddulph October 15, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Hi Marcus,

The name thing is so simple, yet few use it. This is why I address each blogging buddy by name and usually sign off by addressing my buds by name. It is the best sounding word in your native tongue, by far, and when anybody addresses me by name I remember it.

All spot on tips Marcus.




Marcus Sheridan October 15, 2013 at 7:34 pm

Nicely said Ryan. It’s a VERY underutilized tool/skill.

Great seeing you stop by man, hope you’re well,



Caelan Huntress October 15, 2013 at 12:56 pm

I like the Law of Spatial Intimacy. It reminds me of comedy clubs, where they cram the audience in close to each other, to increase the laughter.


Marcus Sheridan October 15, 2013 at 7:33 pm

Caelan, great example. There is power behind tight spaces, no doubt. I’m just amazed so many conference organizers don’t prepare “packed” rooms more often.




Ian Cleary October 15, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Hey Marcus,

I love your tips. I also try and remember the names. It makes such a difference, it’s one way of keeping people on their toes!

I also love when a room is packed. I try to market my speaking events as much as possible as I feel great when it’s full so that helps ensure that it goes well.

I like to meet as many people as possible before the event and before I speak I go around the room and chat to people. The more people I meet the easier it is because you’ve established a connection with some of the crowd.

I love humor so always try to have a bit but you have to careful with this!



Marcus Sheridan October 15, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Ian, great ones man. In fact, I’m looking forward to seeing you speak live soon!!

Thanks for all,



Ian Cleary October 16, 2013 at 5:14 am

I guess that will be March in San Diego! Always love your sessions!


Don Stanley October 16, 2013 at 12:54 pm

That’s an excellent tip and often overlooked Ian. When I’m in the audience and a speaker has taken the time to mingle and interact with the audience beforehand, they seem so much more approachable and human. This changes the overall feeling in the room when they present. The feeling is more relaxed and engaged, which enhances interaction and learning.


Ian Cleary October 16, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Thank you Don, I hope to get a chance to hear you speak soon, I’d love to be in a room with that exercise you do! (which like Marcus, I’d love to try some day!!!)


Don Stanley October 16, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Likewise Ian! I’ve listened to you online, but would love to see you present IRL (that stands for in real life and in Ireland ;-) My mom’s family is from Ireland but I have yet to make the trip over.


Don Stanley October 15, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Being lucky enough to see you speak multiple times, I immediately picked up on how you included audience members BY NAME in your presentations. When you did this, I could literally see the attention and mood of the room change. People were more attentive and engaged. They smiled more, laughed more and — I would venture to guess — learned more. Maybe they were more focused because they were excited or maybe they were afraid of getting picked on ;-) but who cares? They were present more present and engaged. That’s why I borrow this tactic from you!

When I see speakers refer to people in the audience by saying “this lady in the audience” or “that gentleman sitting in that seat”, the level of intimacy and connection is much weaker. Obvious I know, but how many speakers are willing to take the time to do what you do?

I want people to feel like they are participating and engaged right from the start. I start out almost all presentations with this type of activity.

Everyone has to get out of their seats and walk around the room (as they are able) for two short exercises. This is a warm-up/greeting exercise.

In the first greeting exercise, attendees roam the room greeting as many people as they can for 30-60 seconds. They greet each person they meet as though they are completely unimportant and they are looking for someone much much more important.

For the second greeting exercise, they again greet as many people as they can for 30-60 seconds, but this time they greet one another as though they are long lost friends there really really happy to see each other.

As you can guess, the energy between both exercises is completely different.
With exercise number two, there is much more engagement energy activity laughing and hugging. The barriers between people have been greatly reduced and they feel more connected with one another. So there is now better interaction between the attendees.

The attendees always say the second activity is more fun. I will ask them “why do you think I had you do these exercises do?”. I get a lot of interesting responses. And then I follow up with another question ….I will ask them “what changed between exercise number one in exercise number two”? Eventually, they say it was their perspective and their attitude. When they changed their focus of what they were willing to do what they got out of the activity changed.

Itell them that the reason I have them do this exercise is it shows them they are in control of what they get out of an experience. If they have a negative attitude, they will reap what they sow and not get much out of a new experience. But if they go in an experience with energy excitement and expectation, their experience will be completely different. It is up to them.

So I tell them that they will be listening to me for the next 30, 60, 90 min etc, and it is up to them to be engaged and participate so we can all maximize the value of the experience.

With rare exception, I’ve gotten rave reviews about this exercise. Hope I explained it well.

BTW, I love that you end your presentation with pics of your family. Puts everything into perspective IMHO. Keep brinin’ it bro ;-)



Marcus Sheridan October 15, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Rhino, I’m so glad you shared this warm-up activity of yours bud. It’s GREAT!!! I might even give it a go myself! :-)

Appreciate the heck out of you bud,



Ian Cleary October 16, 2013 at 5:18 am

Hey Don, I love it!


Don Stanley October 16, 2013 at 10:15 am

Thanks Marcus and Ian,
Definitely give it a go. It’s a blast to do and really helps to create connections between people. The whole dynamic of the room is much more interactive and friendly, which I love. Appreciate both of you!


Randy Cantrell October 15, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Great tips. Gotta ask, what music do you prefer to play and does it vary based on the crowd (I’m assuming it does)? Inquiring minds want to know. Thanks!


Marcus Sheridan October 15, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Appreciate that Randy. :) I have played with a few different types, but lately I’ve been playing a music video made by my daughter Danielle that has been a huge hit. The song is Adele, Set Fire to the Rain, but she made it with whiteboard animation, and it took her about 26 hours to make it. Pretty amazing, and I think I’ll actually post the video soon, because it’s really, really neat.

But in the past I’ve done a variety, with 80s music–like the Top Gun theme song w corresponding video, being one of the most enjoyable.

I’ve also had huge success with the band FUN and We are Young—-that gets ‘em going!

Best to you my man,



Jeremy Abel October 15, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Hey Marcus,

Thank you- these are excellent tips! After experiencing your session at Inbound, I can attest to the impact that these techniques have on creating memorable speaking engagements (and you certainly put the *engage* in speaking engagement!).

I like to mix a few black slides into my presentation decks when transitioning from one section to the next, and leaving the black slide up as I’m introducing the next topic. When I throw up a black slide, the audience has nowhere else to look and no other distractions. I’ve captured their attention at an audio and visual level.

This also helps set the tone for the concept I’m about to introduce, and allows the audience to rely on their own imagination when I ask them to imagine a concept or situation. The experience becomes more personal as attendees are now using their own personal experiences and imagination to relate to a concept. As a result, they’re engaging with the presentation, even if only through their thoughts.

Again, wonderful recommendations, Marcus. Thank you so much for sharing.

Keep changing lives,



Ian Cleary October 16, 2013 at 5:15 am

Hi Jeremy, that’s a really interesting tip, I think I’ll try that one out!


Jeremy Abel October 16, 2013 at 7:23 am

Thank you, Ian! If you use several black slides throughout the presentation, this approach definitely requires that you to know the order of your deck inside and out (just a heads up!).


Ian Cleary October 16, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Thanks Jeremy!


Meredith Juengel October 16, 2013 at 10:03 am

Jeremy – I agree. What a great tip! I’ve never seen it done and believe it would be a wonderful way to get a pulse check on the audience. When audience members detect a potential technical glitch, they always tune back in. But, in this case the “glitch” is actually part of the pitch. Love it!


Jeremy Abel October 16, 2013 at 11:45 am

Thanks Meredith!


Don Stanley October 16, 2013 at 12:46 pm

LOVE this tip Jeremy. What a great idea. Reminds me of when commercials on TV do this … the screen goes black and there is no noise. That pause captures attention and we wonder what’s wrong. I’m definitely going to try this one. Thanks for the idea!


Jeremy Abel October 16, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Thanks Don- I’m thrilled you’ll be giving this one a go! You’re absolutely right in that it captures attention and puts a heavy focus on the presenter.


Gita Street October 16, 2013 at 8:35 am

I know the feeling of attending a speech and afterwards leaving feeling like the presense of the audience didn’t matter :-)

One of the best speeches I’ve ever heard was by a Norwegian mnemonic technique guy named Oddbjørn By.

I expected a boring speech by a guy who must be from another planet. Instead we met a funny, charismatic and down-to-earch guy.

I was surprised that he could teach us to remember a great amount of things in a very short time. I was really surprised how well even I did remembering stuff.

If you ever get at chance to go to hear him speak, I strongly recommend taking it. Just like it would be a shame to miss a phenomenal speaker such as you, Marcus Sheridan.

Oddbjørn By wrote the book “Memo-the Easiest Way to Improve Your Memory”. It comes with loads of techniques to remember things that would otherwise seem impossible.


Mike Kawula October 16, 2013 at 9:36 am

Marcus Love your “Why”, so special!

Remember watching you do this live in NYC over the summer and you truly were the best speaker that day. You captured the room and we all walked away better.

Hope you’re speaking in January at NMX. Mike


Meredith Juengel October 16, 2013 at 10:08 am

Hi Marcus,

Thanks for all the great posts! I’ve been reading your blog over the past two years and am always amazed at how effortless the flow of content seems for you.

Quick question – do you have a particular mnemonic technique that you would suggest? There are so many out there that one can get lost looking. Given your testimony, I’m sure whichever you suggest will be a great one to try out!

Thanks as always!



Anthony Fors October 16, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Hey Marcus,

Great post as always.

I was lucky enough in college to work with an amazing teaching and presenter from UMass, George Parks (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNaH2xppnKg) and one of his favorite tips was “GET A RESPONSE.” He would periodically ask questions that would require a response from the crowd. Whether it was raising hands, eye contact, or something similar, it was a great way to test who was with you and to get any size crowd on the same track with physical responses.

Thanks again for all of your great work!



Steve Freeman October 16, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Marcus, I would be interested in learning more about how you can memorize names in a group of 35 people. I was at a party and someone asked what street I lived on….I couldn’t call it up. Oh man do I need a way to memorize names!

I was involved in Toastmasters for a couple of years and learned how to be comfortable in front of groups. It is exciting to see and understand that you are connecting with an audience. People want their time to be respected so providing quality content with some personality is really important. Sounds like you learned this long ago. Great article.


Mike October 16, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Hey Marcus,

Great tips. I was at your AZIMA presentation. You WORE ME OUT. Amazing energy during your presentation and great information. I loved the way you roamed the audience and got people engaged. You actually made them part of the presentation.

Nicely done!


Adam Dukes October 17, 2013 at 1:59 am

Again, just some awesome tips you shared here. #1 seems a bit difficult, but my hat is off to you for being able to do that, I am sure the audience is always in amazement…or a little freaked out :)

Love #4 and I was going to ask the music, but saw someone beat me to it. Some 80 music…I like!

Have a workshop I am going to be giving next month and will be implementing some of these ideas Thanks again for always provindg TSL community with great valuable content we can pout to use.


Mark Reutzel October 17, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Marcus, just like you did with a previous post showing you and your daughter in her sports uniform…again I find myself welling up, Man! The True Why is just the point that brings it all home! I am so grateful for the road markers along the way, as yourself, that remind me what this is all about! Keep up the obra maravillosa, mi amigo!


Serges October 18, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Could you explain the Mnemonic Technique you use to remember names. I did read Dale Carnegie’s book that had the quote “Nothing is more sweet than the sound of one’s own name” and have always tried to remember person’s name with not much luck. Not sure is this is the place to ask but any guidance would be greatly appreciated.



Iain October 19, 2013 at 7:45 am

I teach and one of the most important things you can do is learn students names. This is particularly true at the start of the year.

Can you imagine trying to call on a student by saying, “hey you”?

The fact that you use a technique to remember everyone’s name before a small speaking event is amazing.

I thought of a another example of spatial intimacy. Think about when it was story time in a class and all the kids got on the ground and sat in a circle. I think that works the same way.

Stellar job mate.


Chris the Surfboard Guru October 19, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Great article, I came to the site just to glance at the page but couldn’t stop reading.

One thing I would add to the list: Humor!

Now, it’s not very “outside the box”, but it is so important when presenting. I believe if I get the other person to at least smile, I win. Even if I have to use self-deprecating humor to do so! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling knock-knock jokes that could fail miserably. But I am always looking for ways to add little corny or cheesy things to my presentation in order to get a smile.


Amy Lane October 20, 2013 at 7:37 pm

I strive for the gift of memorizing 35 peoples names in an hour! That’s why I always use name tags at any events. I found myself laughing at the notes on music as I have attended both types and you’re right! The quiet ones are awkward and I’ve seen people actually leave before the speaker gets there!

Thanks for reminding us of the tried and true methods, Marcus, that seem to get lost in the day and age of technology. Human connection beats a Power Point presentation every time!


Jon Giaan October 20, 2013 at 9:07 pm

You make some nice points there. Why not only motivates people to take action (to act to achieve that purpose) but also explains to people why you are giving away such great content which builds trust and reduces signals from their inbuilt bullshitometer.


Arbaz October 22, 2013 at 9:54 am

Speaking techniques are really nice but they won’t be of much use to me as I suffer from stage fright.
As soon as I get on stage, I can’t speak a word and this has happened a lot of time with me. Don’t know how to get over it!


Craig Hadden – Remote Possibilities October 27, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Wow, I couldn’t imagine remembering 35 people’s names.

I like the idea of using music or video to engage people even before you start. As I’ve seen some people do, you can even just use a self-running slideshow. (That works if on each slide there’s just a question or short statement, plus a photo, to start people thinking.)

One unique technique I saw was to stick rhetorical questions on the FLOOR (in a training session). It was so different that it really got people engaged. (Works best where the floor’s hard, not carpeted!)

I came up with a novel technique for use during the Q&A session near the end of your talk. I call it “Stop Q&A hypnosis” because it involves showing a relevant, simple photo whenever someone asks a question. So there’s always something to look at, without distracting people. It sure beats having the usual “Any questions?” slide up the whole time, especially for webinars (where people tune out so quickly)! Would love to hear your comments on that.


Kuldeep October 30, 2013 at 8:15 am

A good reminder about the need to speak to the ears and not to the eyes. Much of public speaking I have encountered focus on body language, gestures, movement, etc. And I like blogs that use smarta nd relevant references to Greek and Roman mythology, if, for no othe reason than its scarcity generates curiosity when used. One criticism, whiel I am guesisng blogs like this are used to rpomote the author and sell products at some otehr delivery pooint, specific examples, powerful words to use and ways to use cadence and pace effectively would have been appreciated.


Ian Adams October 31, 2013 at 12:46 am

Hey Marcus –

Last week, I gave a presentation to 45 people. Even though I only knew 10 of their names. It made a significant impact in drawing the rest of the audience in.

Great points.



Marcus Sheridan October 31, 2013 at 10:17 am

10 is pretty good Ian, nicely done and congrats on a successful presentation!!




Davina K. Brewer October 31, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Some smart ideas Marcus, and as always your community has some exceptional suggestions too.

I can’t agree enough on the space. The configuration of the room – if it’s lecture or classroom, if people are spaced out or jammed in like sardines – it makes a difference; a good presenter uses that to advantage. Many of the other suggestions (names, Q&A) all have to do w/ the most important part of speaking: The Audience. The Audience gets the caps b/c they’ve paid the $, put in the time to actually be there; a good speaker respects that.

All too often conferences do little more than rehash what’s be published on the web or being sold in the book. That drives me batty. It’s a goal of any presentation of mine: give them that extra that can only come by being there, give practical advice, perspective that they’ll be excited to put to use the minute they leave.

The deeper WHY, that’s totally you and I respect that. Someone above mentioned challenges, failures… again, it’s about connecting with The Audience. You’re not a talking head, this isn’t a recording or video – this is live and in color. Be real and connect with The Audience that way. Sharing stories and anecdotes that are human, relatable is one of the best ways to connect, make an impact as a speaker. That and your trademark double espresso style of Sales Lion enthusiasm, always memorable. ;-) FWIW.


Vaidhegi Patel July 18, 2014 at 9:21 am

This is really an awesome share. Presentation always plays an important role when it comes to network marketing industry. For marketing speaking ability always keeps your ahead of your competitors.


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