As a Communications Coach, I love watching Ted Talks to observe the strengths and opportunities of good speakers. Many of my clients mention Tony Robbins, so let’s look at his Ted Talk “Why We Do What We Do.” Tony demonstrates, above all, how to grab attention.
When I first chose to review this Ted Talk I wondered what feedback I may have for TONY ROBBINS!!! After all, he is a household name in inspirational speaking. I chose this talk because I love learning about what drives people, I love being inspired, and, because this talk has garnered tens of millions of views.
Strength: Provocative language
There are many examples of provocative language in Tony’s speaking. Tony calls himself a “Crazy mofo” in the first minute. At 7:39, “That son of a B****” Later in his talk he says, “Get a f@#$%&# life!!!”
Regardless of how you feel about profanity or its place on a big stage or anywhere, Tony’s use of profanity serves a purpose. He uses this language to jar his audience and grab their attention. In fact, Tony’s full performance (his movement, his profanity, his direct style) comes off as if he just pounded a giant Red Bull and is leading us all to battle. But, in the world of inspirational speaking, isn’t that what we are looking for? Someone to help us cut through our crap to pave the way for change? Profanity gives Tony a sharp knife which he uses to cut through the emotional barriers of the audience to get in their heads. Tony’s use of profanity grabs attention.
Strength: Level of Energy
Throughout the entire talk, Tony maintains a high level of energy. He walks with intensity, he gestures with intensity, and he speaks with intensity.
Tony’s high level of energy grabs and maintains the attention of his audience. By exuding a high level of energy, Tony projects a high level of confidence that gives him instant credibility on an emotional, and yes, gut level. Tony believes every word he says, and his energy makes us feel and believe it too. I mean, his energy his sooooo high the sweat is POURING down his face.
Strength: Getting to the point
At 13:00, Tony says, “Aren’t you glad you came to this positive visit?”
I absolutely LOVED this moment in Tony’s talk. The word choice of ‘visit’ wasn’t as precise as it could have been for what he was trying to communicate. He could have said many other words that would have fit better. However, in oral communication, the goal is to speak simply in short sentences. Many speakers often stumble as they search for the PERFECT word and as they do this, the spontaneity of the moment is lost. Tony COMMITTED and guess what? We knew what he meant. And honestly, only a trained ear or Communications Coach would catch this.
Opportunities: Key Message
Tony begins his talk with what I like to call a “pre-amble.” He rambles his way though an opening without a clear message up front.
Many speakers do this. Some give their audience this pre-amble as they attempt to warm themselves up. Others may feel they need to do this until they know everyone is listening and they can deliver that opening punch. However, his opening could have been MUCH stronger with a clear, concise key message, all ideally delivered in the first 30-45 seconds. Starting with a key message would have grabbed his audience’s attention from the onset.
Tony speaks rapid fire for nearly his entire talk, often firing question after question without a breath.
While I mentioned before that his energy was a strength, there were times when I felt he moved too fast for the audience, and as a result, had less impact. His content is SO powerful, but he speeds through some of it. When he poses a powerful question to the audience, pausing and allowing the audience to reflect on the question would have grabbed their attention even more, allowing a great window for him to answer the question.
We could all take notes from Tony Robbins on how to grab the attention of our audience. However, even the best can get better and Tony can capitalize on his gifts by delivering and repeating his key message, all while incorporating pauses throughout. We at Executive Speaking are committed to helping even the best get better. If you would like to translate these insights into action, we invite you to explore Leadership Speaking Bootcamp.
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