with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Can You Present a Program Worthy of a Standing Ovation

Okay, I’m about to brag. I just wanted to warn you.

As a long time public speaker and public figure, I’ve been honored to receive a lot of standing ovations. There is nothing like the first couple of times when people suddenly jump to their feet, hands clapping or waving over their heads, and shouts and hoots filling the room. It’s stunning. Overwhelming. And can either crush a fragile ego or boost it up. Either way, it is an honor and a joy when it happens.

But it doesn’t happen to everyone. And it doesn’t happen every time. I’ve also presented programs and walked out wondering why the clapping was fairly luke warm. Instead of quitting, I just suck it up and examine what happened and how to make it better, working constantly to improve my overall performance.

In a simple and clear explanation, Guy Kawasaki offers tips on how to get a standing ovation to help others learn what it takes to make that standing ovation thrill be theirs. Here is one highlight:

Practice and speak all the time. This is a “duhism,” but nonetheless relevant. My theory is that it takes giving a speech at least twenty times to get decent at it. You can give it nineteen times to your dog if you like, but it takes practice and repetition. There is no shortcut to Carnegie Hall. As Jascha Heifitz said, “If I don’t practice one day, I know it. If I don’t practice two days, my critics know it. If I don’t practice three days, everyone knows it.” Read this article to learn what Steve Jobs does.

It’s taken me twenty years to get to this point. I hope it takes you less. Part of the reason why it took me so long is that no one explained the art of giving a speech to me, and I was too dumb to do the research. And now, twenty years later, I love speaking. My goal, every time I get up to the podium, is to get a standing ovation. I don’t succeed very often, but sometimes I do. More importantly, I hope that I’m standing and clapping in the audience of your speech soon.

If you are teaching or doing any public speaking, whether on your travel adventures, photography, or whatever, this should be required reading. If you are selling your writing or photography, or blogging about these subjects, I would also include this in a required reading list, if you seriously want to impress your audience, even virtually.


  • Posted January 19, 2006 at 3:35 | Permalink

    Standing Ovation devalued: Without in any way detracting from those who actually deserve standing applause, isn’t it the case that it’s nigh impossible NOT to have people on their feet? I blame the milksop correctness imposed on us all.
    I’ve been to concerts or plays where the performance has been what I expected and at the end people are on their feet applauding as if it was something special. I’ve sat there applauding politely in my seat and I’ve been the only one not gushing and freaking out. In a way, an insult to the performers’ ability. Wasn’t it Miles Davis who sneeringly commented on an over-the-top reception, “What’re they so excited about? I always play that way?”

    As I say, there *are* those who deserve it, but it’s rather lost its meaning since becoming the norm. CH

  • Posted January 19, 2006 at 9:02 | Permalink

    Good point.

    I have to say that there are people, Miles Davis among them, who deserve standing ovations because of their history. They came a long way through trials and tribulations to be in front of us, and we are truly honored by their presence and paying recognition for that lifetime achievement.

    Milksop correctness has indeed been a way of life lately, for sure. No argument there. But for the dozens and dozens of programs presented by people who are milksop themselves that I’ve suffered through, I offer the above post as a way to pulling the plug on their wishy washy performances and programs, draining away the sop, to try to at least consider the audience when they stand up to speak. This is for the people who “always play that way” but it’s the same old same old. Notch it up, folks!

    The above isn’t a lesson for the audience. It is for the presenter. You think you deserve a standing ovation, well, damn it, do it right and you might. ;-)

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