How Can Being a Surprisologist Improve Your Public Speaking? Part 1


How Can Being a Surprisologist Improve Your Public Speaking? Part 1

Surpriseology - Memorable Public Speaking

I love surprises. I love surprising other people, do you? Nice surprises of course. My definition of a surprise is to cause another person to feel amazement or wonder. Not the kind of surprises where someone jumps out of a big cardboard box with a “Freddy” Krueger mask on and scares the wits out of a poor unsuspecting person, but positive surprises. Though, (confession is good for the soul) watching those home videos with clip after clip of sheer terror on peoples faces always makes me laugh.

The kind of surprises I delight in are when something that you least suspect of happening, happens. When the unexpected breaks into the ordinary, it creates a memorable moment, a lasting legacy. Creating those positive surprising moments can be fun and exciting, of course, but being a Surprisologist can also dramatically impact your public speaking effectiveness. The artful speaker knows that by adding the element of surprise to a speech it makes it engaging, entertaining and memorable.

In this 2 Episode post I want to tell you how I ended up in America being a server at a McDonald’s just to create a surprise moment for someone and how you can improve your public speaking effectiveness and make your speeches memorable by adding the element of surprise into your next presentation.

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I am a Surpriseologist

I have just discovered the word Surprisologist. Following a link from a TED video, I was introduced to Tania Luna from Surprise industries. Tania and her company coined the phrase Surpisologist. I am a Surprisologist. I once surprised my family by travelling 7812 miles to cook them a burger! I “just happened to be passing” a friends house who lives 170 miles away on his birthday and “just happened” to be at the cafe I knew where he would eat lunch. Positive surprises, even little ones like the odd note left on a bathroom mirror, bring fun, laughter and most importantly, create memories in our lives.

Interns and Income

When I left the corporate world to become a full time student at age 34, money became in very short supply! The local church my wife and I were attending at that time was asking if anybody would house two American student interns for 12 months. As a way to supplement our income, we agreed and it panned out to be a fantastic decision. Cyndi and Michelle became integral to our household. Both in their late teens, they became older sisters to our children, “adopted” daughters to my wife and I and filled our home for a year with fun and laughter. I would tease and joke with them, and they would do the same with me. The year soon passed and they left England to return to their studies in America.

Would You Like Fries With That?

Artful Speaker Peter Billingham

Unknown to Michelle, a couple of years later, I was in America fund-raising for a ministry and not too far away (well, it was about 200 miles, but too far away for a surprisologist) from the town where she was attending College. With the help of Cyndi and the friend I was travelling with, we found out who was the owner of the McDonald’s in the town and asked if they would let me be a server one night when we knew Michelle would visit. He said yes and gave me a uniform and said go for it! With my back to the counter I was shovelling ice into a 32oz cup when Michelle approached to make her choice. The “surprise” factor when I turned around and said “can I take your order” was spectacular! She squealed and shouted and I think everyone in the restaurant thought someone was being attacked. A Surprisologist in action. A memory created. To create a surprise like this moves an ordinary visit into a McDonald’s into an extraordinary experience. It makes the normal, noteworthy. It makes the mundane, memorable. Building surprises into our presentations and public speaking can do the same.

Using The Element of Surprise in Public Speaking

In a TED speech called Surprisology we can see how Tania explains the nature of surprise and also how excellently and artfully as a public speaker she weaves surprise into her presentation. Tania is an extremely effective storyteller opening this section of her speech with short personal statements that quickly creates an emotional engagement with the audience. This is vital, it’s creating the understanding that, “I know how you feel,” Why? Because I have felt that way too. This builds ethos with an audience. She continues building this connection with the audience by being vulnerable, even talking about feeling “vulnerable” which can be scary, but with an impeccable timed level of humour, great tone and pacing, you are drawn to the story of Tania and Surprisology even more.

Surprise and Engage

Then she demonstrates surprise. As a public speaker this is a great way to gain attention and keep the audience engaged, to turn an ordinary presentation into an extraordinary. Suddenly, the room goes dark. People would suddenly be blind to their surroundings. Tania with great word craft helps them see something new by building powerful pictures in the minds of the audience. She then inspires the audience by casting a vision of life from the perspective of her death bed, ‘sinking her teeth” into living life each day as a Surprisologist. She asserts that a Surprisologist looks into any moment thats dull, lonely and frustrating and unfulfilling and ask what can I do right now that is surprising?

Pièce de résistance

Then the Pièce de résistance! Tania involves the whole audience in becoming surprisologists. She invites them to look under the chair and there they find a glow stick. The room goes dark once more, but this time the audience are intrinsically involved in the speech, a master stroke. Slowly all over the room florescent lights appear, music plays, laughter ensues, learning takes place and a memorable speech concludes. A powerful example of using surprise to create memories in artful public speaking. You can watch the speech below:

If you watch this speech and laugh, smile or are inspired please take a moment to reach out to Tania through twitter and encourage her, it will be a surprise for her to hear from you! Why not tweet this:

I’m a Surprisologist! I’m creating surprising memories & “sinking my teeth” into life! 

Also I would fully recommend watching the TED talk Tania gave called “How a penny made me feel like a millionaire.” Wonderful, inspiring storytelling in 6 minutes. Tania Luna is certainly an artful speaker.

In part 2 of, “How Can Being a Surprisologist Improve Your Public Speaking,” I will tell you how many years later I surprised my friend Michelle once again, but this time masquerading as her dentist! Also, I will give you more examples of how building a surprise into your public speaking can make your speeches more exciting, entertaining and importantly memorable. If you have enjoyed this post, please write and let me know, it would be great to start a conversation!

Photo Credit: ericalaspada via Compfight cc

By Peter Billingham


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Posted on by Peter Billingham in Blog Posts, Creativity, Happiness, Public Speaking

About Peter Billingham

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

3 Responses to How Can Being a Surprisologist Improve Your Public Speaking? Part 1

  1. Peter Watts

    What a wonderful surprise, and what a sensational TED Talk find. I tend towards the surprise-aversed, but having read, heard, and seen this post Peter, I’m going to work on being just that little bit less planned. Now…. how do I plan for that????

    • Peter Billingham

      Thanks Peter – in post two, I build a bit on my story but give a couple of examples, but I have hid bread makers under chairs to get a “smelly talk” hidden a hose pipe in a hessian sack saying it was a snake, to talk on fear and had a sculptor on a stage behind me when I was speaking about moulding the future. Surprise -averse mmmm now let me think, I wonder what I could about that!

  2. Pingback: How To Start A Speech Using Surprisology | Public Speaker & Speech Writer

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