How To Start A Speech Using Surprisology Part 2

How To Start A Speech Using SurprisologyHow To Start A Speech Using Surprisology

You have an important speech or presentation to give in a few days. You have crafted powerful words that focus the audience on the one main idea you want to communicate, you have rehearsed well, (this is a key point) but still, you want to give your presentation that extra bit of excellence, what can you do? How to start a speech that captures attention? Start a speech using Surprisology!

When was the last time you were on the receiving end of a nice surprise? Are you someone who loves surprises? Would you count yourself among the growing global tribe of Surprisologists? I am a Surprisologist. Coined by Tania Luna and Surprise Industries, who focus on helping companies develop resilient and adaptive leadership teams through creative training events, corporate away days and coaching, Surpisology is the intentional action of creating a surprise to bring adventure and excitement into life. A Surprisologist is someone who looks into any moment that’s dull, frustrating and unfulfilling and asks, “what can I do right now that is surprising?” Let’s be honest, the start of most speeches are not usually that captivating, “thank you for inviting me to speak, blah, blah, blah …” Opportunity and possibility to capture the audience, missed. Why not consider using Surprisology the next time you start a speech?

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This is part 2 of a post on how Surprisology can help your public speaking. In part 1, I told of how I went to America and got a shift at a McDonalds to create a surprise for my friend Michelle, in this episode I want to tell you how a few years later, totally unexpected, I created another surprise for Michelle she will never forget! I will also show how when you start a speech with a surprise it too creates a significant impact on your audience that helps them remember you and the message you want to communicate.

Will You Marry Me?

The unexpected is memorable. Michelle was not expecting me to be serving at McDonald’s that day, so her expectations were exceed and what was an ordinary trip to a fast food restaurant became an extraordinary memorable adventure. We kept in touch with Michelle and one day to my surprise, she called me and said, “If we come to England, would you marry my fiancé John and I in your church?” Of course, I would, it would be a pleasure! The day was strikingly special as John and Michelle said “I do.” Family and friends crossed the ocean to share in the day, a beautiful dress was worn, flowers were ordered, a cake was cut, photos taken and a the adventure of married life began for John and Michelle.

Peter Billingham How To Start A Speech

Open Wide

A few years later my wife and I were travelling to America on holiday and we decided to visit a number of friends in different cities. The journey would take us to within a few miles (well, once again a few miles for surprisologist anyway) of where John and Michelle now lived. To give Michelle the surprise of her life once, was memorable, to do it twice would be epic! So a plan was hatched with her husband John and if it worked, it would be a master stroke in league of surprises. Again, Michelle did not know that we were in America, and she would be attending the dentist surgery for a regular check up the day when we arrived in town. Opportunity was favouring the brave as John knew the dentist practice and they were prepared to help us create a moment, maybe they were Surprisologists too! Totally unsuspecting, Michelle reclined back in the dentists chair, gown on, letting the dentist check out her teeth. “Could you excuse me for one moment,” he asked and left, only to allow me to enter with a face mask and two of biggest tooth pliers I have ever seen! I quietly stepped forward and looked down directly into Michelle’s eyes and said,”open wide!” The shock on her face as she looked up to see me about to extract two molars was monumental. Surprises enrich our lives. Surprises bring adventure and excitement. Surprises create powerful memories.

Don’t Be Boring!

In conference rooms and lecture halls across the world today speeches and presentations will be given with high hopes of something of value being communicated. The reality will be very different. Detachment, disappointment, and disconnection is more the norm. Predictable “death by powerpoint,” pitches will be remain unmemorable and an opportunity will be missed and time will be wasted. The audience may be looking as if they are engaged and connected, but their minds will be far away and their fingers will be updating their Facebook profile. However, that could be completely different by adding the element of surprise, especially to start a speech, into your public speaking and presentations.

“All Aboard”

In a Toastmasters World Championship speech, J. A. Gamache did this excellently by concealing a train whistle up his sleeve. His opening story was about an incident when Mr G (Gandhi) was at a train station. By blowing the whistle and the call “All Aboard” the element of surprise immediately transports you to a train station. The element of surprise captures your attention instantly. The speaker continues to surprise the audience by kicking off one sandal as an illustration to the story he is telling, then a few minutes later kicks off the other one! He creatively and skilfully uses the same surprise technique to close the speech, a masterful demonstration of public speaking. J. A. Gamache is certainly an artful speaker.

Take a moment to watch his video:

For an excellent and in-depth critique on this speech and for a wealth of other resources on public speaking, speech writing and presentation skills I would wholeheartedly recommend visiting the Six Minutes Speaking and Presentation Skills website by Andrew Dlugan it is probably of the top websites in the world on the art and skill of public speaking.

Rise To The Top

Not every speech you make will be a “I have a dream” or “ask not what your country can do” masterpiece. But to raise your ability to become an artful speaker is not that difficult. As Gearon says, “Even in the familiar there can be surprise and wonder.” The majority of people will still make the #1 fatal mistake when they speak, they won’t rehearse and they won’t communicate, but you can be different, you can rise to the front in your field as a public speaker and adding a surprise to the start of your speech is a simple way to move in that direction. In the next post I will tell how I used a hosepipe in a hessian sack, a bread making machine under the chairs and a sculptor on the stage to add a surprising dimension to speeches that I have given.

I would love to hear stories how you have used the element of surprise to create attention, become remarkable and establish a memory in the minds of an audience. Let’s start a conversation! You can email me here or tweet me here.

PublicDomainPictures / Pixabay

By Peter Billingham


Posted on by Peter Billingham in Blog Posts, Creativity, Leadership, Public Speaking, Speaking Opportunities, Speech Writing

About Peter Billingham

Leader, Learner, Speechwriter, Storyteller, Author. a.k.a. 'The Artful Speaker' Enjoy working on social action projects, Toastmasters, films & adventure travel.

6 Responses to How To Start A Speech Using Surprisology Part 2

  1. Tania

    Wonderful post! I LOVE the dentist swap idea.

    Have you seen Bill Gates’s malaria surprise?
    Pretty effective, I think.

    • Peter Billingham

      Thanks Tania, it was certainly a surprise! Thanks for the word that has been a part of my life, Surprisology, for so many years. I have always been know for giving people good surprises and I have so many stories to tell. Thanks for the inspiration, Surprise Industries sounds a great place to work and play! I haven’t seen the talk you suggest, but will go and look now. Thanks again – appreciate the time to comment on the blog as well, many thanks. Go make a surprise today!

  2. Mark Sheldon

    Great post Pete, I love the idea of surprisology but I almost fell foul of it recently. I was delivering a talk about fear & anxiety to about thirty people and was looking for something to make them jump. I asked the group to look in their resource pack for something that didn’t exist and at the same time reached down and pulled out an air horn and quickly gave it a quick blast. Yes it got the desired reaction and most people jumped a good foot of their seats, alas I hadn’t taken into account that we had just had coffee and three folks narrowly avoided first degree burns as they flinched and hot coffee went flying around the room!
    I think I need to work on my timing of breaks and this session.

    Great video by the way Mr Gamache would certainly be an aspirational role model of public speaking.

    • Peter Billingham

      Thanks Mark! That’s a great idea, use the horn for when you see someone updating their Facebook profile during a speech and “honk honk” that would shock them! Sounds like your training sessions could be fun but need to carry a public health warning! Thanks for taking the time to comment, appreciate that! “All Aboard!”

  3. JenM

    This was a fun article! I followed your link from a comment you made on the Public Words blog. I don’t know that I could call myself a speaker, but I’ve had a few opportunities to speak.

    I recently opened with the jingle from an old TV commercial, complete with props. I quickly followed up with the question, “Who can name! That! Commercial!” I was afraid that otherwise, the next half hour would be wasted as people used that time to try to remember where they had heard it before. BTW it was the Enjoli perfume commercial – “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan… Cause I’m a woman!”

    I had a teenage boy working audio visuals and had requested that he record me speaking. Unfortunately he started the recording a little bit late, but his comment did make me chuckle. “We missed the best part!”

    That was nowhere near the best part, it was only the beginning! However, considering that my message was geared to a room full of women, I’ll count it as a win that he appreciated any of it! ;)

    • Peter Billingham

      Thanks so much for your comment on the post, I appreciate the feedback and glad that it was helpful. Also, really useful to know how you found me! It sounds a really great way to start your speech. It’s SOOOO important to start with a BANG! If you don’t (and I think you only have about 2mins or less) trying to gain back the attention you’ve lost is very difficult. Thanks again for taking the time to write to me. Is there anymore I can do to help you?

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