Presentation Summit 2017: Conversation with Sam Horn

Presentation Summit 2017: Conversation with Sam Horn

Created: Wednesday, September 20, 2017 posted by at 9:45 am

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Sam Horn

Sam HornSam Horn, CEO of the Intrigue Agency is on a mission to help people create quality brands, businesses, books and presentations that add value for all involved. Her TEDx talk and books – POP!, Tongue Fu!, IDEApreneur, Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – have been featured in New York Times, Forbes, INC and on NPR, and presented to NASA, Boeing, Capital One, ASAE, National Geographic. Accenture, Intel and YPO.

In this conversation, Sam talks about her keynote at the upcoming Presentation Summit 2017 in Clearwater Beach, FL.

Geetesh: Sam, you are doing both a keynote and a session this year. You do the keynote, The Long View on Short Talks. You are also doing the Short Talk Workshop session. Can you step beyond descriptions, and tell us what attendees can expect to learn from your talks?

Sam: In my keynote, I’ll be focusing on the 5 of the 10 C’s we can use to use to give an original TED or TEDx talk – or any high-profile, high-impact talk.

Here’s a heads-up about those C’s (and I’ll be using all new examples at the Presentation Summit).

Have you watched the careers of Brene’ Brown, Simon Sinek, Sir Ken Robinson, Amy Cuddy and Dan Pink SOAR after they delivered powerfully original messages? If so, you already know that a quality 10-18 minute talk can be a career-maker.

When you get up in front of a group of people, please understand that everyone in the room (and watching the video later) matters. Every person has the power to take you and your message viral. Each person has the power to post about you, promote you, fund you, refer you or work with you.

Here are 5 of the “10 Cs of Original Messaging” I’ll be sharing at the Presentation Summit (with new examples at the conference) on how anyone can create a genuinely intriguing, memorable talk that positively influences everyone in the room and in the online audience in the years ahead.

1. Clear

A Hollywood producer once told me directors can predict when their movies will make money. How? Simple. Do people walk out of the theater repeating something they heard word for word? If so, they become word-of-mouth advertisers. When people ask, “Seen any good movies lately?” they’re talking about your movie and taking it viral.

The same applies to your talk. Can listeners repeat your big idea word for word? If they can, they’ll become your word-of-mouth advocates. If they can’t, your big idea will be out-of-sight, out-of-mind … in one ear, out the other.

Neil Gaiman’s 2012 commencement speech for the University for the Arts shows the payoff of distilling your big idea into a crystal-clear sound bite. “Make Good Art” resonated so powerfully with the initial audience of hundreds, the video went viral within days and was turned into a best-selling book.

2. Compelling

You’ve got 60 seconds to capture everyone’s attention or they’ll start checking email.

No perfunctory opening. No, “I’m glad to be here today and want to thank the organizer for inviting me.” That’s predictable, and predictable is boring. Pleasantly surprise everyone by jumping right into your origin story or into a compelling, counter-intuitive insight that flies in the face of current beliefs.

Test your premise beforehand with colleagues. If they say, “I already know that,” it’s back to the drawing board. Or, as comedian George Carlin said, “What did we go back to before there were drawing boards?” Keep tweaking your idea until people’s eyebrows go up (a sure sign of curiosity) and they say, “Hmmm. That’s interesting. Tell me more.”

3. Congruent

After you’ve come up with a big idea, run it by your gut. Ask yourself, “Is this congruent with my voice, vision, and values? If the meeting planner suggests a topic and it doesn’t feel right, it’s wrong for you. A career-making talk shares your EEE – Expertise, Experience, Epiphanies – not someone else’s. What do you passionately believe? What is a legacy message that sums up what you’ve learned? What’s an exciting invention, innovation or breakthrough you’ve been part of?

An executive called me a week before his program and said, “I hope you can help. I’ve been traveling almost nonstop, so I asked our company speechwriter to help prepare my talk. It’s well-done, it just doesn’t sound like me.”

I said, “You’re right. A career-making talk has got to be your voice. Get a recorder and ask someone to take notes while you read the script. Every time you read something and think, ‘I would never say it that way,’ say out loud how you would say it. Don’t second-guess yourself, don’t try to be eloquent, and don’t overthink it. Just keep moving forward, rewording it into your natural voice. Ask your assistant to integrate your phrasing into a new version and then read it out loud again until you wouldn’t change a word. Now, it’s your talk.”

4. Commercially Viable

The purpose of a talk at most venues is not to sell your products or services, and it shouldn’t be your priority. Unless this is a pitch forum where you are supposed to be marketing yourself and your company, the point is to add tangible value for others, not to promote yourself, your products and services. The fact is, though, an excellent talk will scale your visibility, viability and drive business to and for you.

Witness what’s happened to Brené Brown. Brené was a professor when she spoke for TEDx-Houston. She was popular at her university but hardly a household name. Her talk on vulnerability was so evocative, it was quickly uploaded to the site and has since received millions of views. Her resulting Oprah appearances made her a global success, generating lucrative book deals and five-figure keynotes.

5. Consistent

It’s important that your talk be consistent with your brand, positioning and primary focus. However, instead of summarizing what you’ve done in the past, turn this into a “pebble in the pond” talk that fast-forwards your future. Ask yourself, “What do I want my next 1-3 years of my life to look like? How could this talk catalyze that and set that in motion?”

For example, a colleague was asked to give a TEDx talk about bullying since she’d had a horrific experience being bullied at work. She feels strongly about this issue, and has a lot to say about the importance of speaking up instead of waiting for HR to rescue you (not going to happen). But she is a management consultant. She doesn’t want to keep reliving that negative experience by speaking, consulting, and doing media interviews on it. It wouldn’t serve her goals to drive demand that’s inconsistent with her priorities and the quality of life she seeks. It’s smarter to select an idea that’s in alignment with what she wants to accomplish the next few years.

Does your upcoming talk meet all these criteria? If so, kudos. You’ve dramatically increased the likelihood your talk will be a success for you, the organizers, and everyone who watches in person and online.

If not, invest the effort to craft an original talk that gets and keeps people’s eyebrows up. Your audience, career, and legacy will thank you.

Geetesh: Sam, you’re also giving a breakout session.  What will you be covering in that? How will it be different from your keynote?

Sam: How my breakout session will differ from the keynote is that we’re going to get “into the weeds” and each person will be crafting a compelling 60 second opening and 60 second close for their talk so they start and end on a high note … and develop a repeatable, retweetable “rally cry” that really drives home their big idea and helps take their talk viral.

Here are some of the tips we’re be referencing in that session.

What was the last conference or convention you attended? Can you remember anything of what was said? Did you take action on anything that was said?

If not, (and that’s the norm), it means what was said went in one ear, out the other. It means all the hours and thousands of dollars spent putting on that convention, preparing that presentation, or organizing that meeting … is down the drain.

This is not petty, it’s pivotal. Taking responsibility to make your message memorable is crucial. If you don’t, then nothing you say gets heard, remembered acted upon.

Garry Marshall, the director of the film Pretty Woman (which has grossed more than $465 million worldwide), said something so profound during his Maui Writers Conference keynote, I remember it as if he said it this morning. He said, “Hollywood directors can predict when their movies will make money. The question is, ‘Do people walk out of the theater repeating something they heard, word for word?’”

Think about it. If you walk out of a movie voluntarily repeating its signature sound-bite, (i.e., “Make my day,” “I’ll be back,” or “Show me the money,”) you’re taking it viral.That movie will be top-of-mind. You can talk about it in an enthusiastic way that motivates others to want to see it. You’ve become its word-of-mouth advertiser, all because its screenwriter coined a catchy phrase-that-pays that stuck in your mind.

Garry Marshall’s insight about the power applies to all communications. When people listen to your sales presentation or funding pitch, watch your video, read your article, look at your website, can they repeat anything they read or you said, word-for-word?

If not, what you said didn’t make any lasting impression. It won’t have staying power or enduring impact. If you want your message to be top-of-mind instead of out-of-sight, out-of-mind, turn your most important point into a phrase-that-pays that people are motivated to repeat, retweet, remember and act upon.

What’s a Repeatable, Retweetable Rally Cry?

It’s a phrase-that-pays … a pithy, profound, strategically- crafted sound-bite that resonates.


  • Succinctly sums up the message you want people to remember
  • Distills the action you want people into a single sentence.
  • Resonates with people so they voluntarily share it with others, taking it viral
  • Works as a title that can be merchandised/monetized to create a financial pay-off

Five Steps to Crafting a Memorable Rally Cry

You don’t have to be a wordsmith to craft an enduring phrase-that-pays. In the twenty years I’ve had the privilege of coaching people on how to be more clear, concise and compelling, I’ve witnessed the dramatic difference it can make when you invest the effort to create a memorable call to action that takes your work viral. Here’s how you can craft memorable sound-bites that reinforce and scale your message’s impact.

Step 1. Distill: Condense Your Call to Action into Eight Words or Less

What do you want people to remember, feel, start or stop? If they only did one thing as a result of your message, what do you want that to be? Condense that into a single sentence with a verb to prompt people to take the desired action. Edit it into a tight eight words or less. If they can’t say it after hearing it once, it’s too long and clunky.

Step 2. Rhythm: Put Your Words Into a Beat So They’re Easy To Repeat

Think of your phase-that-pays as a jigsaw puzzle. At first, the words don’t fit, but if you talk out loud while experimenting with different combinations, they will fall into place and sound right. Say out loud, “If you see something, say something.” Feel how easily those words roll off the tongue? Keep playing with variations until your ears tell you you’ve found the perfect combination because you wouldn’t change a thing.

When you make it fun for people to repeat your message, they’re self-motivated to talk about to others which produces bottom-line results for you and your priority. This Week magazine reported, “What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas” is “one of the most quoted, talked about, and recognized ad campaigns in any industry” and has generated billions of dollars in additional revenue. That’s a phrase-that-pays!

Step 3: Alliteration: Use Words That Start with the Same Sound

Have you ever put one of those “cardboard insulating sleeves” around a hot cup of coffee so you didn’t burn your fingers? Entrepreneur Jay Sorenson saw an opportunity. He knew it’s hard to build a business around an unpronounceable name. So, he named his product Java Jackets and cornered the market. “Customers who meant to call our competitor call us because they can’t remember our competitor’s name.”

Wouldn’t it be nice for people to call your business because they remember its name?

Step 4. Rhyme: Use Rhyme If You Want To Be Remembered Over Time

The U.S. government was concerned about the number of injuries in car accidents. So, they launched a public service campaign to convince people to wear their safety belts. It’s name? Buckle Up for Safety. Yawn.

So, they went back to the drawing board. But this time they incorporated rhyme and rhythm. Bet you can guess the iconic phrase? Click It or Ticket? not only got people’s attention, compliance went up, injuries went down, proving a well-crafted phrase-that-pays isn’t “silly semantics,” it can change behavior for the better. It can even save lives.

Step 5. Pause and Punch: Deliver Your Phrase-that-Pays with Distinctive Inflection

Be sure not to rush and blush when delivering your phrase-that-pays. Some people race through their material because they’re nervous. They’re subconsciously trying to get the presentation “over with.” No one will register your rally cry if you race through it.

Arthur Levine, editor at Scholastic of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, walked up to me after I emceed the Maui Writers Conference and said, “Sam, I like the way you speak. You put space around your words.”

Put … space … around your phrase-that-pays. If you pause before it, punch it by articulating each syllable and upping your volume, and then pause for three more beats, people will be able to repeat it after hearing it once.

Other ways to make sure your phrase-that-pays gets noticed and heard is to:

  • Draw attention to it, “The most surprising finding from our research was … .”
  • Say, “Please write this down so you can share it with your staff ….”
  • Verbally highlight it, “The most important thing I’ve learned is …”
  • Spotlight it, “If you remember anything from our meeting today, I hope it’s this.”

Writing? Don’t bury your phrase-that-pays in the middle of a paragraph. Put white space around it so it stands outs or give it its own paragraph so it pops off the page.

Coining a phrase-that-pays with Rhythm, Alliteration, Inflection, Rhyme is not trivial. It’s the difference between your message being out-of-sight, out-of-mind and staying top-of-mind where it creates enduring influence. Which would you rather have?

Remember, the goal of communication is to produce real-world results. Investing the time to create a memorable, motivating rally cry is one of the single best things you can do to ensure people take action on your message. And isn’t that what we all want?

Geetesh: I clearly remember you speaking at a previous Presentation Summit event, and your talk was among the best that season. What brings you back to this event, and what is it, in your opinion that makes this conference different from others that you attend?

Sam: Why am I happily coming back to the Presentation Summit?  Because Rick and his team put on one of the friendliest conferences I’ve ever been to.  They focus on value-added sessions that really deliver tangible ideas people can use – and even more importantly they create a community where every single attendee feels welcome, engaged and honored.  And did I mention the fun!

Presentation Summit 2017 Clearwater

Presentation Summit 2017 Clearwater

What is the Presentation Summit?

For many years now, Rick Altman has been hosting the Presentation Summit, a highly popular event that is geared towards users of PowerPoint and other presentation platforms.

Date: September 24 to 27, 2017
Location: The Sheraton Sand Key Resort, Clearwater Beach, United States
Register now!

Twitter Hashtag: Presum17

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