How to start a speech | Simon Lancaster | TEDxUniversityofHertfordshire



who wants to get high yeah you up for

some shall we really get this party

started shall we

you're in the mood excellent I've got

tons you're up for it and there's loads

there look at this

I've got cocaine ecstasy speed yeah but

mine are all Fairtrade organic and 100%

legal ted approves I checked so don't

worry today I'm going to talk about how

to start a speech and that is how every

speaker should start their speech by

getting the audience high because let's

face it when most speeches starts

delighted to be here ahead groups our

heart sings of God's sake studies of

students at universities show their

brain activity levels during lectures

are actually lower than they are when

they're asleep actually lower not the

same as or a bit higher actually lower

and no speaker wants that we want a

speaker's high not low right from the

get-go and we want to lift their heart

right from the start so today I am going

to set out three ways that you can start

your speech three different drugs that

you can deal depending on how you want

your audience to feel the first drug

that we can deal is dopamine this is the

one that we want to go for if we want

our audience to feel like that dope

dopamine is the pleasure drug it makes

us feel strong satisfied wonderful it's

the drug that's released naturally when

we finish a Sudoku or start taking

things off a list so how do we get that

going in a speech simple we start with a

joke there are heaps of websites and

books full of one-liners and anecdotes

just waiting to be reused and recycled

most speakers have one or two of these

up their sleeve that they're just ready

to shove allows anytime that they want

to and it doesn't matter whether it's an

old shaggy-dog story or a Churchill

anecdote or a Seinfeld one-liner as long

as it makes people laugh that's all that


so my own go-to gag if I can try it on

you is is is is one about Einstein so

Einstein during the 1920s he was going

basically all over Europe making the

same speech over and over again about

the theory of relativity

on one of these occasions it's driver

was taking him there and his driver said

Oh God's sake you doing that same bloody

speech again today I swear over to do

this so many times now I could deliver

it myself word-for-word and Einstein who

had a mischievous sense of humor said

okay then I've got an idea

why don't I dress like the driver and

I'll stand at the back of the room and

you go you deliver my lecture and we'll

see how your door rights drivers law

would give it a go give it a go

and Einstein stood at the back of the

room and he watched with Wonder as his

driver delivered this incredibly

complicated lecture absolutely

WordPerfect but then someone in the

audience asked this humdinger of a

question so complicated no layman could

have dared to understand it but the

driver he did not miss a beat he said

very good question and of course it

sounds very complicated but the answer

to it is so simple even my driver can

tell you so anyone can learn a gag like

that but it's also worth having a few

one-liners up your sleeve just for in

case anything goes wrong at the

beginning as it invariably does so

someone laughs it will Cheers

embarrassingly loudly so glad you came

mum a phone rings halfway through your

speech can you tell Barak I'm busy right

now but I'll call him straight back

there's a crash at the back of the room

look I don't mind people checking their

watch when I get up to speak I do

objects when they collapsed to the floor


the technology fails as he variably

happens and you can always use every

blokes ultimate fallback line I'm so

sorry this has never happened to me


the power of self-deprecating humor is

immense it reduces even the most pompous

speaker and elevates the audience making

them feel superior which is why of

course they love it

it's also a sign of supreme confidence

on the part of the speaker and so the

the late comedian the late great Bob

Monkhouse was a master of this everybody

laughed when I said I wanted to be a

comedian ha they're not laughing anymore

are they or I saw a businessman start

his speech the other day where he opened

up remember in this conversation that

had had with his wife at the breakfast

table this morning where he turned her

and said did you ever in your wildest

dreams imagined that one day I would be

running one of the largest companies on

the planet to which she replied darling

you never featured in any of my wildest

dreams or the politician I saw given his

speech the other day where he opened up

sin last week I dreamt I was given a

speech to the House of Lords and then I

woke up discovered I actually was given

a speech to the House of Lords so these

are the kind of ways we want to open if

we want our audience looking like that

but we don't always want our audience

looking like that

sometimes we want our audience looking a

little bit like this if that's the case

the drug we deal is oxytocin oxytocin is

the empathy drug the love drug it makes

us feel all warm fuzzy and gooey it's

the same hormone that's released

naturally when mothers are breastfeeding

when we're holding

hands cuddling making love or when we're

listening to a great speech because

great speeches always include stories

you think about any of the great

speeches that you've seen over the last

year and I'm thinking what / Winfrey

pink Michelle Obama Emma Watson people

like this they're all telling stories

and you see this is the thing there's a

myth about speech making that you tell

them what you're gonna tell them then

you tell him it and then you tell them

what you've just told him and that is

like tell your audience you're gonna be

boring then be boring and then tell your

audience you have just been boring you

can't stamp a point into someone's head

and in fact the only reaction that that

is likely to get is it's gonna make them

want to stamp you on the hitch in return

simply a certain to an audience

something like our values matter our

corporate values matter has zero

persuasive value so what you find the

best speakers will do is they'll make

their points but they'll be wrapped up

in a story and I'm in a good story like

a movie or a novel where you have a

strong hero scary antagonists and a big

big goal the story might be metaphorical

like Churchill's Iron Curtain or Hillary

Clinton's smashing through the glass

ceiling or Donald Trump draining the

swamp the story might be historical from

someone we admire like Cleopatra to

Confucius Malala to Mandela Jane Austen

to John Lennon but for me the best

stories are the personal ones so I'm

gonna tell you got on its truth as I was

coming here today I had a call with my

wife where my wife was in tears because

this afternoon her sister had a baby boy

and this is absolutely food so can we

please have a round of applause for my

sister-in-law Zoey

and she's in truth Brie at the moment

and a bit of my heart is there now

because I've got two daughters I've got

Charlotte who's nine and Alice who six

and and Zoe was with us when both of

those little girls were born and I tell

you I remember when Alice was born

Charlotte was born and it was a doddle

when Alice was born it was very very

difficult the maternity ward was

understaffed and she ended up being born

very very quickly and as a result when

she was born she was struggling to

breathe and so she went into the special

care unit for the first nine days of her

life and she's absolutely fine now

before anyone worries back at school

today but the thing was was that this

was the worst time of my life

because we didn't know whether she was

going to make it through or not me and

my wife will literally go into the

hospital every waking hour and checking

on her I was drawing pictures of her

because we thought that that was all

that we might have you know my

mother-in-law came down to stay to look

after our eldest daughter so as if

things weren't hard enough but the thing

that I really remember about this is

that all of the time when I was going in

there to see Alice in the incubator next

to her there were two twins and they

were the tiniest babies that I have ever

seen before in my whole life and they

were so small you could hold them in the

palm of your hand like that it was a

miracle they were alive and all the time

me and my wife were going in to see

Alice no one came in to see these twins

no one not once

and whereas Alice had her name on her

incubator Alice Elizabeth Lancaster

these twins the charts marking their

progress were simply marked a and B I

asked the doctor who ran the ward what

the story was and she said oh they were

born to a teenage girl from the valleys

had given them up for adoption

and so you see I think back to that and

I think about how Alice we had

everything ready for her her cot was

ready her room was ready her sister

couldn't wait to play with her Auntie

Zoey couldn't wait to play with her

grandparents couldn't wait to take her

out to the park you know we knew what

school she was going to everything was

sorted out and for these two little

twins what did they have

what future lies ahead for them so if

there's one thing I think we should all

be trying to do it's trying to make sure

that kids like that

have the same opportunities we would

wish for our own children don't you

so was that more persuasive forgive me

share in the story but you kind of do

have to do it to demonstrate what's

happened and the thing is is that if we

went round now and we checked all of

your blood levels what we would find for

most of you would be higher levels of

oxytocin because we've connected your

shared my story you've seen the world

through my eyes not for all of you on

the balance of probability at least six

of the people in this room are actually

psychopathic and incapable of empathy

and by the way I think I've got you I've

got you I know which ones you are but

for the rest of you you would have

higher levels of oxytocin and this is

critical the neuroscientist Paul Zak has

shown there's a direct correlation

between our oxytocin levels and our

susceptibility to persuasion and he's

carried out a series of fascinating

experiments in this including one where

people were asked to lend money to a

stranger and he found that not only

could you predict who would give money

to strangers based on nothing more than

their oxytocin levels you could even

predict how much money they would give

them absolutely extraordinary so there's

the real clinch you know stories

entertain stories persuade but stories

get people to

you money you know and this of course is

why children in need is so successful

it's why stories feature so prominently

within advertising campaigns and it's

why stories are a great way for you to

start your speech if you want your

audience to look a little bit like that

but we don't always want our audience

looking like that sometimes we want our

audience looking a little bit like this

so how do we do that how do we do that

how do we make them look like that

what's the answer how do we do it come

on how do we do it for goodness sake

well just like that we ask a question

all of your faces absolutely right like

that this is that this is the the

University lecture how to wake up your

audience and the thing is is that when

you ask an audience a question like that

they have increased levels of cortisol

cortisol is the stress drug the fear

drug it raises our heartbeat focuses our

attention increases our energy levels it

gets us ready for fight or flight very

very instinctive and you get it by

asking questions and so this is why

asking questions is something you'll see

real high-pressure speakers do like

we're you know evangelists or salesman

or stand-up comedians if they want to

shut up the audience they'll just flip

it back on them and you see very

powerful speakers doing it as well so it

might be an emotional question you could

ask an emotional question how many of

you have lost someone that you really


it could be a factual question did you

know that the rural richest 46 people on

the planet have the same wealth as the

poorest 50% of people on the planet you

could fit the richest people on a

double-decker bus it could be a kind of

philosophical question why are we all

here today while we meet in today nor

yesterday not tomorrow but here and now

what is it that's brought us together

what magical force is it that's brought

us together are we just here to swap

business cards or are we here because

we've got something deeper in common the

best speakers though the best speakers

were last kind of prolonged questions

which present like a moral dilemma and

there's one guy I saw do this absolutely

amazingly not so long ago and so he

opened up like this he said right it's

1935 India and you're Mahatma Gandhi you

are running to catch a train just as the

train is leaving the station and as you

board the train one of your sandals

comes off and falls under the train onto

the track what do you do do you board

the train carry on getting on the train

or do you go back to the platform so you

can retrieve your sandal I'd like you

just to think about that we'll come back

to that at the end what completely threw

us and then he went into the body of his

speech where he started talking about

leadership his theories on leadership

and it was all stories and questions and

jokes and all the time I couldn't get

this image of Gandhi out of my mind it

is just absolutely it was wedged in my

mind and then it got to the end of his

speech and almost as an afterthought he

said oh yes

Gandy the station he asked for a show of

hands so how many people would have got

on the train just for show of hands how

many of you would have gone back to

retrieve your sandal fantastic well let

me tell you what Gandhi actually did

what he did was he took off his

remaining sandal and he threw it onto

the track under the Train and when his

companion said why did you do that

Gandhi replied well so whoever finds

them has a complete wear pair of sandals

for them to wear genius a question and a

story and it makes so many points

doesn't it like about values about

compassion thinking rationally under

pressure you know about showing there's

always an alternative to fight all or

flight's but critically it creates

feelings and that's what all of this is

about questions stories jokes they

create feelings as mayor Angelou wrote

people will forget what you said they'll

forget what you did but they will never

ever forget how you made them feel and

this guy he made us feel amazing we felt

connected we felt as one and this is

what great speakers do and it's how they

create followers and it's how they

builds movements with the promise of

feelings making us feel joyful making us

feel proud making us feel connected

making us feel like we belong making us

feel part of something bigger than

ourselves that's what keeps us coming

back and that's what gets us evicted

because we are always craving more and

great leaders

always keep us wanting more which takes

me to my final point how do you end a

speech well there's only one way to do