Great speakers make giving presentations look deceptively easy. You may think there's nothing to it because when delivered well, it almost looks effortless. But, the truth is, great speakers work hard at their craft, and they spend an enormous amount of time researching and preparing for the audience.

As a professional speaker who speaks around the world, people often ask me what they can do to earn more speaking requests, reach more clients, spread their message, and drive more business. The simple (and not so simple) answer is to do your homework. Preparation is key to delivering exceptional value to the audience. When you deliver great value to the audience, that buzz drives future engagements. 

Event planners want speakers who can connect with audiences and offer them actionable takeaways. They want speakers who are professional, easy to work with, and who can really connect with their audience - not just audiences in general.

Here are some things you can do to deliver exceptional talks that wow audiences every time.


Nothing compares to hard research. It's what great speakers do to impress clients, delight audiences, and set themselves apart from the masses. Research can include understanding audience demographics, brushing up on important events affecting an industry, or delving into the issues an audience cares about.

For instance, I send surveys to attendees in advance of my talk because it helps me know exactly what topics to cover, the language they use to describe those topics, and where to focus my attention for the greatest impact to them. In addition, I record a video that is sent out to conference participants 30 to 60 days before an event that gives them a brief preview and asks them about additional topics they want me to cover during our session together.

Doing research ahead of time allows speakers to connect better with an audience and deliver relevant content.

Know your audience's lingo

I tailor my talks to my audiences, yet I don't need to completely customize my talk every time. Simply by knowing key phrases and buzzwords in an industry, I can address an audience using their language. For instance, one client can refer to a customer as a client; another may refer to her as a buyer; still another might refer to her as a beneficiary or insured. By asking the right questions, I get a sense of the terms and phrases they use so I can use them too. This simple action goes a long way toward establishing trust and rapport with clients. People appreciate when you take the time to understand their business.

After a recent event, someone said to me, "Wow, that's the most customized talk I've ever heard." Ironically, it's not the most customized event I've ever given but the language and terminology I used, and the examples I gave, were all tailored specifically to the audience so they didn't have to wonder, "How does this apply to me?" Instead, all the examples were exactly for them.

By doing that work for them, they can stay fully present during the session.

Make it real

In nearly every keynote, I bring audience members on stage and we role-play a real-life example using the concepts I have presented. This moves the ideas from theoretical to practical and helps the audience see exactly how to apply the lessons. Of course, I ensure that the participants have a safe environment to always look brilliant.

By doing this, you demonstrate to the attendees that you really understand their business. In fact, they may feel like you're actually one of them.

I've had participants approach me after a talk insisting that I've spent time working in their industry: "How long were you in the trash collection business?" Or, "How many years did you spend in healthcare...or audio/visual...or enterprise software?" or "Are you still a financial advisor?" The truth is, I haven't spent any time working in these industries other than enterprise software.  But all these people believe I spent years in their profession because I invested time doing my homework.


Years ago, it was tedious doing research before an event, especially if you had little to no experience with an industry. But today, technology and social media makes it so much easier. Event organizers understand this and expect speakers to do their homework well in advance of the session.

Like great athletes who study the nuances of their opponent in advance of a game, great speakers prepare before every event to tailor their content so as to better connect with and serve their audience. With a bit of research, preparation, and tailoring, it might appear that you were born a great speaker - even if you weren't.