Do you set your audience on fire?

Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld series, wrote in his novel Jingo

Give a man a fire and he is warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he is warm for life.

One of the problems with motivational speaking is that they are akin to giving a man fire ? the effect of the speech only lasts as long as the fire. But what happens when your speech sets a man on fire? Then the change becomes lasting. Being given fire is good ? it makes you feel nice. Being set on fire can be painful, but the changes are long-lasting.

Mark Brown, the 1996 WCPS, says that in his speeches he tries to touch the head to make you think, to touch the heart to make you feel, and the hands to make you act. I think that Mark sets people on fire.

Here are some of the differences that the audience will feel:

Given Fire
Feel good (but no action)
Motivated (but to do what?)
I (the speaker) achieved in life, so can you (yes, but how?)

Set on Fire
Action plan (today, tomorrow and next week!)
Open up possibility ? new ways of thinking
Challenge paradigms
Feel uncomfortable, challenged

When you speak, do you give your audiences fire, or do you set them on fire?

2 thoughts on “Do you set your audience on fire?”

  1. As a speaker, your success shouldn’t be measured by the “standing ovation”.

    I have often heard speakers say they know they have done their job only months after the speech. They know because an audience member tells them how they have changed their life or career because of speech months earlier.

    That is long lasting fire in the belly!

  2. Michael-

    You are absolutely right, which is why I say “put a man on fire” so that you create lasting change, and not just a momentary feel good experience. It is not about the standing ovation, it is about what happens tomorrow (although a standing ovation is pretty cool-grin).


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