How to Give a Great Speech with Attorney Brian Beckcom
Hi everyone. It’s Jenn DeWall. And on this week’s episode of The Leadership Habit podcast, I sat down with Brian Beckcom to talk about how to give and deliver a great speech. Now, I know what you might be thinking. You might be thinking, well, I don’t ever have to actually give speeches. We’re not just talking about the speech where you have to get in front of an audience. We’re talking about, even when you’re in the business of trying to influence a partner or a colleague or a boss to do something to think differently. Heck, it might even be to think about how you could set up an argument for your kids to go to bed on time. So let me tell you a little bit more about Brian. He is a great individual to just really hone in on why it’s so important to have a plan around how we communicate.
Brian Beckcom is one of the leading lawyers of his generation. Brian’s peers have voted him a Texas Super Lawyer 14 years in a row — and every single year that he has been eligible, he received his JD from the University of Texas law school. He also has a background in computer science and philosophy. He brings a wealth of knowledge about understanding how we can construct and create compelling communication cases. Because that’s essentially what these speeches are. So I hope you enjoy this conversation as Brian shares with you more insights, techniques, and perspectives, so you can deliver a great speech.
Meet Texas Super Lawyer, Brian Beckom
Jenn DeWall: Wow. I am so excited to be here with you, Brian. This is a topic that I feel like I wish everyone wanted to know more about. I’m so happy for those that are listening, and hopefully, by the end of this podcast today, we’re gonna really help people understand how to deliver a great speech. Brian, you’re an attorney. You also are. I mean, you and I have had a tremendous and great conversation about computer science and data and AI and philosophy. You are a man that is a joy to have a conversation with. I have just loved the dialogue back and forth, and I’m so excited to talk about, you know, the communication aspect today, but because our audience hasn’t met you yet, Brian, would you go ahead and introduce yourself to The Leadership Habit, audit audience, tell us how you came to be you’re a lawyer. How in the heck did you find yourself where you are today? Just tell us a little bit about yourself.
Brian Beckcom: Yeah. So, first of all, I really appreciate the introduction. That’s very kind of you. My story of becoming a lawyer is a little bit unusual. I don’t have a single lawyer in my family as many generations back as I can find. And I’ve looked, I mean, I’ve looked back seven or eight generations, so I’m the first lawyer in the family. Most of my family, at least on my father’s side, were in the military. My father and grandfather were Lieutenant colonels in the air force. My mother was an air force nurse. My older brother was a Marine. I was in what’s called the Corps of Cadets today at A & M which, which is like a military academy inside of a college, 24 hours a day, stuff like that. But anyway, I went down to, I went to Texas A & M University.
And when I first got there, this was in the early nineties. You didn’t have to declare a major. You could be what’s called general studies. So that’s what I was. I was playing basketball at the time. Didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I love computers. And remember, this is the early 1990s, but the email had just come out. I, I distinctly remember being in college and and having an email address, but the problem was there was nobody to email because nobody else had an email address. There were like, there were like five people I could email, but, but anyway, so my first two years I was general studies, but I was super interested in computers. And so I took a bunch of computer classes. I ultimately declared computer science as a major. And as part of the computer science major at my school, you could take another degree.
From Philosopher to Computer Scientist to Attorney at Law
Brian Beckcom: And what a lot of people would do is they would do electrical engineering or mathematics or something, physics, something that they felt complemented computer science. I chose philosophy because I’ve always been interested in philosophy. And it turns out interestingly enough, when I didn’t know this, when I made the decision, Jenn, but the original quote, computer scientists, a lot of ’em were philosophers. And so there were, there’s a lot turns out a lot of overlap between philosophy and computer science. But anyway, the story I tell is I spent four years in college looking at a computer screen, and I decided I didn’t wanna look at a computer screen all day long. So I went to law school, and what do I do now? Twenty-five years later, look at a computer screen all day long. So, so that’s kind of my, that’s kind of my brief story.
I went to law school at the University of Texas. I really, really enjoyed law, did well and got a really good job at a big firm. And within about two years, I realized that wasn’t for me, I needed to do something on my own. So I’ve had my own law firm now for almost 20 years called VB attorneys. The reason we call it V as in Victor, B as in Brian, VB attorneys is because my partner’s last name is Vujasinovic. So it’s kinda hard for people to spell. It used to be Vujasinovic and Beckcom. And then we’re like, let’s make this easier on people. So anyway, that’s kind of my origin story. I’ve run the law firm for about 20 years. I run a podcast on leadership, written six books, super interested in all sorts of different things. I tell people I’m probably the most overeducated. <Laugh> one of the most overeducated people you know. I know a bunch of useless things. So anyway, that’s, that’s a little bit about me, and again, thank you for having me on the show. You got a great show, Jenn.
Lessons from Leaders with Brian Beckcom
Jenn DeWall: Oh, I am happy to have you. And I love when people, you know, the quest we’re learning, we all know that we need to continue to open ourselves up, but, and to learn more, to see things differently, to challenge that. So I love that because you likely can find the patterns and the perspectives that many people can’t because of the diversity of the knowledge that you have, or even just the interest in philosophy. Being able to think about the arguments or think about how do we make decisions? But first, I want to plug your podcast. Let’s talk about your podcast. We wanna check out Brian’s podcast. Tell me more about your podcast.
Brian Beckcom: Yeah. So during quarantine, looking at computer screens, 10 hours a day of all this negativity, and I was just like, man, I’m so sick of all this negativity, I’m gonna start a podcast. I’ve been thinking about starting a podcast for a couple of years, but I was like, what the heck would I talk about? Who wants to hear a lawyer on a podcast other than maybe other lawyers? So I’m sitting there on the internet, on social media, mainly. And everybody’s complaining and moaning and Trump is bad or this person’s on the other side is bad. And I was like, man, I’m gonna try to get some positivity out the world. So I started a podcast on leadership. It’s called Lessons From Leaders. And it’s highlights people that you may not see all over the news, but that are the real leaders, what I call the real leaders in the country.
So it’s like, for example, it’s sports coaches, it’s athletes, it’s district attorneys. It’s politicians that you maybe not, maybe not have heard of nationally, but are doing some really great things. And it’s turned out to be one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life. And not because the podcast has made me a bunch of money or anything like that because it’s, but because I’ve got to meet some of the most incredible people that I never would’ve had an opportunity to meet, but frankly, you being a great example, like the reason that you and I are talking right now, Jenn, is because I started my own podcast. And then you kind of get into this podcast ecosystem. And people start asking you to come on their shows and vice versa. And so, yeah, so the, the podcast is a hundred percent focused on positive leadership.
The Importance of Positive Leadership
Brian Beckcom: And when I say that, what I mean by that is in contrast to you can be a leader, and we can think of plenty of examples of people that are leaders that are leading their people off a cliff. Or that use methods or, you know, techniques that don’t work long term. And so the positive, when I say positive leadership, I mean leadership that is long lasting. The type of leadership that uses principles that have been that have worked for hundreds and hundreds of years and that are actually trying to do good things. So, for instance, I had a friend of mine who’s a district attorney in a very small Texas county that most people would think would be maybe a little racially backward. And this guy, I had him wear a cowboy hat on the podcast. <Laugh> This guy started. This was right after the George Floyd incident.
I had him on the podcast, and he started this program in his county, which basically allows a minority community to come in and serve as like a grand jury to say, was this a good arrest? Are there things about this that maybe we should look at? but it, But it’s, it’s the type of thing you would never hear. You don’t hear about this on the news because it’s a small Texas county, but this guy, Dusty Boyd is a leader and a positive leader. So that’s, that’s kind of just one little example of the types of things that I kind of try to highlight on the podcast.
How to Give a Great Speech Like a Podcast Host and Lawyer
Jenn DeWall: Well, and I love that because we’re talking about today how to give a great speech, and podcasting has so many parallels between speaking, right? We know it’s obviously public speaking in a different format. Maybe there’s more dialogue, but I know we’re gonna talk about some of the ingredients of maybe what makes a compelling podcast, but really what, what makes a compelling speech? Because if we’re in the business of leadership, we’re in the business of influencing others. And even I just love how you kind of, whether you realize it or not, you know, starting with the story, starting with the why. You did so many things that we’ll likely get into today, but you know, we’re talking about this topic, how to give a great speech. You would think that with the number of years that public speaking has been around, we would’ve mastered this, right?
That everyone’s walking around, feeling more confident or that no one is sitting through a meeting anymore that doesn’t have a purpose or that we’re bored checking our watch. But when you start to think about, you know, the elements of how to give a great speech, why do you think that this is so important? I mean, in your work as a lawyer, I imagine you have to be able to like really paint the story, see the observations, but I wanna hear from your words tell me a little bit about like, why it’s important to have this skill set.
Technology & Communication Skills
Brian Beckcom: Yeah. So as, as somebody who has thought about technology, and by the way, my focus and philosophy were ethics and morality and things like that. And so what I, when I look at technology, one of the things that I think about and look at a lot is like, what’s the, what’s the future gonna look like? Like how, how is technology gonna change what we’re gonna do in the future? I’ve got three kids. That’s one reason I’m really interested in this. And one way I think everybody agrees that technology’s gonna change things is there’s gonna be, there’s gonna be jobs that don’t exist in 10 years. So, for instance, computers now read radiology films far more accurately than radiologists. There will not be any radiologists in 10 years. There may be people that attend to the AI radiologists, but computers just do it better.
And you can go on and on and on about jobs like that that won’t exist in 10, 15 years. And so what will exist? I think, you know, one of my personal kind of philosophies is I’m not the type of person that just wants to talk about the problems. I want to talk about the problems and think about solutions too. So like in my firm, for instance, nobody’s allowed to come to me with a problem unless they also propose a solution. So there’s gonna be a lot of jobs that don’t exist. What kind of jobs are not gonna be as affected by technology? And two kinds of, and these aren’t necessarily specific jobs, but communicating with people, either in writing or communicating with people on video effectively, it’s not going away. There are a lot of computer programs right now. Google’s got an AI that can mimic human communication.
If you go on Facebook and you look at the news stories, some of the time they feed up to you, it’s obvious that those are written by AI, that they’re not written by a human, because there’s always a little bit just off about the language they use. And so the ability to communicate in writing and on video, I think, is the type of skill that will serve anybody in any profession going forward well. That, that’s the kind of skill being able to read a radiology film is gonna be used essentially useless in 10 years. And there are a lot of other examples I could give of that. So I’m not just picking on the radiologists. But being able to, seriously, be able to communicate effectively and writing or on video is if not one of the top two or three skills you’re gonna have, certainly in the top five.
Human Communication vs. Artificial Intelligence
Brian Beckcom: So, so I think it’s it’s not just for lawyers. It’s not just for podcasters; it’s for just about anybody. So here’s an example. Let’s say you wanna run a landscaping business. You gotta tell people about your business. You gotta have a website nowadays. Who’s gonna write the website? What are you gonna put on the website? How are you gonna convince people that your landscaping business is better than the guy next door, or the girl next door. You’re gonna do that with how you communicate what you do and whether you do that in writing or video or both. And so I’m not sure there’s a more important skill frankly, than the ability to clearly communicate both on video and writing.
Jenn DeWall: Well, and I, I have in total agreement, but you, every time I talk to you, it’s either things land differently. Or I just, I, I just love it because even talking about that in the era where the future of work is here, we know that artificial intelligence or AI is going to impact the way that we do our business. But, okay. Here’s the first thing to level set that I feel like I wish I would’ve asked you on our precall because now I’m remembering you say it, there are really blogs written entirely by artificial intelligence?
Brian Beckcom: Absolutely. A hundred percent. And so here, so let me tell you that. So it is so far beyond what people realize I’m serious. It’s so far beyond what people realize right now, Jenn. So have you ever seen, this is just one example of, of how far, how far along this stuff is like, and it’s gone on right underneath most people’s noses, the capture forms where you have to prove you’re not a computer by like picking out in a, in an image where the street lights are, where
Jenn DeWall: I’ve seen so many stoplights and fire hydrants.
Brian Beckcom: <Laugh> okay. Do you, do you know what the real purpose of that is?
Jenn DeWall: I mean, I’m guessing to make sure it’s well, I, I always thought it was to make sure it’s a human being able to identify that.
Brian Beckcom: And that’s not the, that’s not, that’s not the, those are called CAPTCHAS Those are C A P T C H A. That’s not the real purpose of that. What you are doing is you are training AI every single time. Somebody fills out a capture and says these three images, and these boxes are bikes. That data is fed into an AI. And so that’s the purpose of those captures the, the purpose of seeing if you’re a computer, not that’s a completely secondary purpose. And that stuff has gone on Jenn all over the place right now, we’re being used and manipulated not when I say used, I don’t mean that make it necessarily in a pejorative sense, but we’re being manipulated in ways that we don’t even see anymore. So again, that’s why I think being able to communicate effectively is, is so important because otherwise you’re just essentially, you’re a robot. You’re being programmed by social media or the internet or whatever it is you look at.
Jenn DeWall: My gosh, I just, I, you know, and I’m glad that you even just weaving this in, because I think the average person, maybe isn’t aware of what’s kind of happening. I, whether it’s by choice or whether it’s just not realizing at all, but that we will still no matter what AI does. And that’s it. What we had talked about on the pre-call that we will still need communication. You can’t find necessarily the full technological solution. That’s going to take away the importance of communication.
Communication Will Always Be a Vital Job Skill
Brian Beckcom: I’ll give you a perfect example that Jenn, that the number one, at least last time I checked the number one job that was not gonna be impacted by technology was, guess what? A nurse. Nursing. And why is that? Because nurses have to have that close human contact nurses have that they have to be able to talk to the patient in a way that makes ’em feel better. Everybody knows what I’m talking about when we’re talking about nurses. We’re not anywhere close to having an AI that can do that sort of thing.
Jenn DeWall: Yeah. I don’t know if I would ever trust an AI to, to suit me if you’re giving me bad news, or if I’m in pain, I think I would be like, why does it feel like I’m in a hold line right now? Can’t I just talk to people again, when I’m feeling this way.
Brian Beckcom: Exactly. <Laugh>
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The Ingredients of a Great Speech
Jenn DeWall: So when you think about the ingredients of what makes a compelling speech? What are the things that you would want our listeners to keep top of mind?
1. Tell a Story
Brian Beckcom: The very first thing I wanna keep top of mind, and this is absolutely going back and watch any good speech you’ve ever heard. And I can almost guarantee that this will be the biggest part of the speech. And here it is, tell stories.Tell stories. That is how you give a good one. Bottom line. If people are listening to this, if you don’t remember anything else about this podcast, please remember that that is absolutely the best way to communicate with people. It’s the best way when, when you’re in the audience, it’s, it’s what people like to hear the most. Stories are so deeply hardwired into our psychology and into our cognition. And it bypasses by the way, a lot of the normal defensive mechanisms we have. So for instance, if I’m trying to persuade you of something and I just try to start throwing facts at you or data and stuff, you’re immediately, most people, there’s a mental phenomenon where they’re immediately gonna start, okay, through this fact at me, you’re gonna go, well, what I wonder if that fact is accurate, or I wonder if that really applies.
And so you start engaging what what’s called counter-thinking. Like, here’s why I don’t wanna do what the person is trying to persuade me to do this. Person’s trying to convince me to do something. I need to push back a little bit. The beauty of stories is you get none of that. It totally bypasses those filters. So, you know, the best way to give a speech. You could start a speech literally by walking up on stage and say, I wanna tell you a story. If you do that, your audience is gonna be like, uhoh. I want to hear what this person has to say. If you get up there and say, here’s a pie chart, I’m gonna put a PowerPoint slide up there that’s got 7,000 numbers on it. And I want you to look at it and try to figure out what it is.
2. Start Well & End Well
Brian Beckcom: Because it makes my point. Literally, nobody everybody’s gonna be asleep within about two minutes. So right. Advice, piece of advice, number one, and this is by far, the most important advice is tell stories. Piece of advice. Number two is start well. And piece of advice. Number three is end well, everything else after that is kind of secondary. Now there’s one other little thing that I think is really important that I wanna mention. We can talk about this individually, if you want, but passion persuades. So if you wanna persuade people in your speech, and when I say persuade, I’m not necessarily even talking about, you want somebody to buy something. Maybe you’re just persuading them, that the speech you’re giving or the point you’re making is, is a good point or is correct. Or people should look into it a little bit more. So if you wanna do that, if you wanna persuade people that your speech is worth listening to, and the points you’re making or worth checking out, you have to be passionate.
3. Be Passionate
Brian Beckcom: You have to feel it yourself. If you get up there on step. Hi, my name is Jenn. I’ve been told to give you a speech. You know, I mean everybody’s asleep immediately, but if you jump up on stage and say, I am so excited about this, I’ve got a great, great speech prepared for y’all today. Let me tell you how, let me tell you a little story about how I ended up on stage, like I am today. And then you tell a little story about how you ended up giving this speech. I mean, people will be people will have rapt attention. So, those are kind of, and we can talk about little details and stuff if you want to later. But to me, those are the four main points. Tell stories, start well, end well, and have some passion about what you’re talking about.
Jenn DeWall: Oh my gosh. I mean, because if you don’t have the passion, why in the heck are you talking about it ? Because I feel like off the, you know, at the beginning of that, when we don’t have passion, I feel like you sense that I can sense that if someone’s just reading, you know, a PowerPoint that they’ve said, or like, what the heck, if you don’t even care what you’re talking about, why does that make me wanna care about? Because if you’re bored by it, I’m bored by it. I guess that’s how I kinda see. Passion’s like, if it’s not fun to you, it’s gonna be hard to make it fun for your audience. How do you think people kind of get there? Do you think, what do you think clouds our passion? Do you think that’s then more of that, you know, going back to the, the quote that people are, are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death or whatever. Is it just maybe more confidence that it’s hard to exert the passion? Or what do you think makes it challenging for people to do that?
Brian Beckcom: I don’t, I, you know, I would say that probably would be a couple things. One, one of which obviously just brought up would be nervous that sometimes it’s hard to be passionate about things when you’re nervous. And a lot of people are really nervous when they give speeches. I’ve been giving speeches and I’ve been doing jury arguments for over 20 years. Now I still get nervous before I have to give a speech. And some people it’s, it’s almost debilitating. They get so nervous. So that’s, that’s probably part of it. Another part of it is, you know, in this corporate world, we live in maybe there’s times where people are assigned to give a speech on a certain topic that they may not intuitively or innately feel passionate about. And so what I would tell those people is find something about your topic that makes you excited.
Because again, giving a speech, you you’re asking a lot of people, we were talking about this right before the podcast, Jenn, with so many podcasts, streaming shows YouTube social media, that there is such a demand on people’s attention, that if you’re gonna have people in a room for 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 40 minutes, something like that. And you expect them to pay attention to you. You better figure out a way to be passionate about it. Because that’s that that’s a big demand on people’s time nowadays. And yeah, we’ve all had the experience where, for example, I had a friend text me two weeks ago. He just listened to a, a podcast I had done about how to give a good speech. He goes, man, I just got back from this conference. And I listened to the speaker and he got up there. He literally talked about himself for 30 minutes. It was the worst speech I’ve ever heard in my life. Because all he did was talk about him himself.
As a Speaker, You Have an Obligation to be Excited About Your Speech
Brian Beckcom: And so I, I think as a speaker you have an obligation. If you are gonna get up and start talking to a group of people who are giving you their attention for however long, you have an obligation to find something that you can get excited about. Now I’m not talking about being goofy and being completely over the top. I mean, that’s not what I’m saying at all, but you, you can, if you look hard enough, you can, you can find something that’ll, that’ll jazz you up. That’ll get you excited about giving a speech. I gave a speech last year to a bunch of air force officers for instance, and it was on leadership. And I got really excited about the fact that I was gonna be able to basically do the speech the way I did it.
I said, I’m a trial lawyer. So I’m gonna, I’m gonna give you a, I’m gonna do a trial for you and I’m gonna call witnesses and the witnesses are gonna be people that were on my podcast. And I’m gonna try to prove to you that they’re basically five principles of leadership. And so I use the podcast like clips from the podcast, people talking about different leadership principles to prove my point, but I was able to get super fired up about that because I’m talking to these us military men and women who I have a great affection for. And I’m giving a speech about a topic that I was able to, I was able to turn this speech into something as a trial lawyer that I get really excited about and that’s trying to persuade people in trial. So there’s a lot of different ways to do it, Jenn. But, but you have a response if you’re, if, if your answer is I’m just not that excited about giving the speech, then my response to you would be either find a way to get excited or don’t give the speech.
Great Speeches Are About the Audience, Not the Speaker
Jenn DeWall: Yeah. Especially when we’re talking about how to give a great speech too, it might not, you know, it might be around getting people excited around a change. You know, I guess when you think about, yeah, we’re talking about speeches, there’s different talks that you and I do given the profession, but then the day to day of someone that might be motivating your team to buy into an idea. And if, yeah, if you can’t be excited, then who the heck is gonna wanna follow it, they’ll be like, no, I’ll just stick to what I already know. But I think you said something that is so important that a lot of people, and I’m not even sure how it happens, but I think a lot of people lead with themselves. Let me tell you about how this impacts me. Let me tell you all about me, me, me, and that is the fastest way for me to be like, do you want someone to listen or do you, are we saying this out loud just so you can know that you’re talking?
You know, because it’s hard when you have someone that’s constantly making it about themselves, which I feel like comes down to maybe how you even start, like making sure that you even see your audience because one piece of advice I got and maybe this is what you meant with how we start like starting strong. One piece of advice that I picked up early on in my career and I’ve heard it said a few different ways now is you have three seconds to get someone’s attention span, which is someone else that you actually have like less than a second to make them want to listen to you. And I’ve always thought about that as like, people don’t really care about what you say. They actually just care why they should listen. But when you talk about starting strong, what does that look like?
Find Unique Ways to Capture the Audience’s Attention
Brian Beckcom: I’ll give you an example of, so you said you have one to three seconds to capture people’s attention. There was this great trial lawyer in Houston, Texas, and he used to give speeches all over the time. You would go in front of juries to try a case. And one thing he would do is, he would walk up to the podium and they’d be, you know, they’d introduce him. And now Mr. John O. Quinn, his name was John O. Quinn. He’s deceased now. He died a few years ago. But they’d say, all right, Mr. John O Quinn’s gonna come up there and give his speech. And so he would go up there to the podium. And this, this is to your point about the one to three seconds thing. Yes. You gotta capture people’s attention fast, but that doesn’t mean you have to immediately start talking. As a matter of fact, what John O. Quinn would do is he’d get up there and he’d shuffle his papers and he’d start getting organized and you could see him kind of, and he would do this for what seemed like forever.
I mean, it was probably only 10 seconds or so, but by, by the time he started to give the speech to him, people were just on the edge of their seats. They were like, when is this guy gonna start? But, but see, he did this to build people’s anticipation, right? Because he wanted people to have rapt attention because the first thing that was gonna come outta his mouth was like, just like you’re saying, it’s gonna be super important to capture people’s attention with the first thing that comes out of his mouth. So he would literally, like I said, he would, would sit there and shuffle paper.
And it would be painful, like almost painful. He’d be like, when is he gonna start talking? And then he would say, I am so happy to be here. And let me tell you why I’m so happy. You know? And I mean, the combination of the two was, it was, is just kind of thrilling to watch. So one, one of these days, like if you’re watching people, anybody listening. Or Jenn, if you’re listening to somebody’s speeches, a lot of people use this technique and that’s the, as opposed to like you get introduced and you rock up there and you just immediately start going and you know, you just, it also helps you kind of settle in. It kind of helps you. You don’t wanna get up and “Hey, my name’s this I’m here to give a speech?” You know, <laugh>, it kind of helps calm you down too.
So you walk up there, you get everything in order. I do this too, by the way, I don’t do it quite as long or as painfully, but I like to catch my breath, kind of get my, if I have some notes or something, kind of get them adjusted, kinda look up at everybody and then go. And, but to your point, the first things outta your mouth better be pretty dang good. And you owe that to the audience. And so there’s all sort, I mean, there’s a, basically an unlimited number of things you can start with. You can start with a joke. You can start with like some amazing statistic or some extremely troubling fact. There’s a million different things you can do. But the point is, you’re exactly right. The first few things that come outta your mouth need to be super important. There’s, there’s actually a psychological principle, the principle of primacy and the principle of recency, the principle of primacy says people remember what they hear first, the principle of recency says as the name implies, they remember what they heard most recently. And so that’s why first and last are so critical.
People Remember the First Thing You Say and the Last Thing They Heard
Jenn DeWall: Oh my gosh. I see. And I like that. You just brought up the rule that our, our listening bias can play within that. Because I remember having this conversation with it was a leader that we were coaching for Crestcom and I just remember them saying you, we were talking about triggers. And when I asked what their trigger was, the response was well, when I have to repeat myself. And I think it’s important to note that because what you just said, the primary and the recency bias, if you don’t pay attention to how the human and I know that you could probably explain this better than me, but that’s what I just kept thinking of. I’m like, it’s actually not about you. There are other things at play right now. I mean, how would you have responded to that individual being like, oh, well, like, because that’s what I think of I’m like you are competing against bias. I don’t care how great your message is. If you’re not aware that this bias exists.
Brian Beckcom: And the other thing is– and this is, this is probably something worth mentioning as far as speeches in general is you’re giving a speech for the audience. You’re not giving a speech for yourself. And I think we’ve all had experiences where we see somebody speaking and we’re like, does this person even know there’s an audience out here? Because it sounds like they’re talking to themselves for the, you know what I mean? And so, so, so it’s important I think. And this is a technique is to put yourself in the shoes of the audience, what would you wanna hear from Jenn DeWall on this topic? Like what would make you interested if Brian Beckcom is getting up there and Brian Beckcom starts talking about the most boring, legal case of all time. That’s Brian Beckcom’s fault. But if I get up there and talk about the movie Captain Phillips and Tom Hanks and how I represented the crew of this ship and was on Nightline and Dateline, and here’s why this was so cool.
That’s something that maybe people there’s broader interest in that. And so try to try to perceive the speech. Think about when you’re writing your speech, think about it not from your perspective, think about it from the perspective of what the audience wants to hear. So as a trial lawyer, I have to think about what does a jury wanna hear? As a podcast or I have to think about, and you have to think about what does my podcast audience want to hear? As a seller of cookies? You wanna, what does my audience wanna hear about these cookies? So, so think about it from the perspective of your audience.
Jenn DeWall: I appreciate that you just brought that up. Because yeah, I think a lot of people do just think, okay, what am I trying to say here? It’s not about what you’re trying to say. It’s about why the heck they should care. And that, that comes in with that hook and the opening. What about the finish? You know, you talked about also, it’s not enough to just start strong and maybe that plays into that bias piece that we were just talking about. Well, what does it mean to actually then finish strong?
Brian Beckcom: So there’s again, it’s just like the beginning. There are an unlimited number of effective ways to end this speech. And so when I talk about, I’m gonna talk about a few now, but it’s certainly not an exclusive list. The overarching point, Jenn, is you have to spend the time on the beginning and the end. You probably gotta spend more, frankly, a lot more time on the beginning and the end, because they’re so important, but there’s a lot of different things you can do. So for, for instance, again, as a trial lawyer, what I might do is I might try to inspire the jury at the end of my closing argument to do something for the greater good of the community. I might say something like, this is maybe the only time you’ll ever have an opportunity to have as much power as you have. You have more power right now than the judge on the bench than any politician. This case is yours. This person’s life is yours. And when you go back there, you have an incredible opportunity to make a difference in this person’s life for the next 40 years.
To Give A Great Speech is to Inspire and Challenge Others
Brian Beckcom: And, so you would give, you would try to inspire people in a way. So that’s one thing to do. The other thing to do is to challenge people, to, you know, you might give a speech about, I dunno, pick the topic global warming or whatever you wanna pick. And at the end of the speech, you might say something to inspire people to go check out. So if you’re interested in how you can help with this problem, here are five or different, different websites you can look at. And, and, and here’s what I would leave you with as a challenge to the audience on this issue.
The other thing a lot of people do is, and this is actually almost a cliche in the speech-making community is say what you’re gonna say, say it, and then say what you just said. And so that’s not to be repetitive, but at the end of the speech, you, you, you might wanna say, so what I did in my speech, for example, for the Air Force people is, I said, I’m gonna put her on a trial. And at the end of the trial, I, I told these air force officers. I said, you’re gonna be the jury and you’re gonna vote on whether I proved my case. And I was a little nervous about doing that, frankly. I didn’t wanna lose my case when I had no opponent <laugh>.
But anyways, anyway, at the end of the speech, I said, I said, all right, now we’re gonna vote. You’re the jury. Did I prove my case to you? And I got a unanimous verdict. So that was good, especially since I had no opponent! <Laugh> But those are just, again, those are just some examples of different way. The point is not, there’s not any particular specific way to end a speech. There’s, there’s a ton of different ways to do it. And I’m not saying any way is better than the other anyways, worse than the other. The point is you gotta think about it and you gotta spend the time on it. And a lot of people don’t do that. And, and so really, really when you’re giving, when you’re, when you’re constructing your speech, really focus on the beginning and really focus on the end, the middle kind of, you know, frankly usually kind of takes care of itself for the most part. It’s the beginning and the end. I think that differentiate a good speech from a great speech.
How to Structure a Great Speech
Jenn DeWall: So do you have any advice Brian, on how to think about the structure of it? Not the structure in terms of what you just said of like how we, you know, start and begin, but would you recommend maybe starting with, you know, what are you trying to get them to do? Like what’s the problem. And then what do you want them to do as you know, as a result of hearing you, like, do you have any simple questions you ask yourself before you go up there to kind of level in to make sure you’re, you’re creating a compelling case or, you know, a structure for them to follow?
Brian Beckcom: Yeah. So you could certainly get up there structure-wise and say something like I mean, let’s pick our, I don’t know what the topic would be, but you could get up there and say, here’s what I want to prove to you today. Or here’s what I want to persuade you of today. And at the end of the speech, my goal is to have persuaded you of X, Y, and Z. That’s a good technique because it’s like, like when you hear somebody do that, you’re immediately gonna be like, Hmm, Hmm. Let’s see if this person can actually do what they say they’re gonna do. And it kind of gives you a little roadmap. The other thing that’s helpful is giving people little guidepost about what here’s, what I’m, I’m gonna talk about this, this and this. And then that gives people a little frame of reference before you start. But again, the point, Jenn, is I consider things more techniques and mm-hmm, <affirmative> the, and there’s a million different techniques that we could talk about none any better than the other. It’s the overarching principles that are more interested in like telling stories, starting and ending well, having passionate about your topic, those principles apply across any speech you’re giving. And that’s why I think it’s important. You know, we could, we could talk about taking specific techniques for days and days and days. But it’s overall structure, I think.
Jenn DeWall: That’s so helpful. Because depending on the nature of the topic, the type of communicator we are maybe our role and who we’re talking to there are going to be a lot of variables that will open themselves up to different techniques. That might be more or less effective. Brian I’ve loved our conversation. And I like the anchoring point of the structure of thinking about really understanding. And I know it wasn’t necessarily this order, but your passion, like you have to find your source of passion and energy around it. Otherwise, your audience is not gonna buy in for it throughout your presentation, if you can’t present it to them. And then also thinking about using the stories and how we start and how we St how we finish Brian, is there anything else that we didn’t cover today that you think would be really helpful to know as it relates down to how to deliver and give that great speech?
Influence Others by Giving a Great Speech to a Single Audience
Brian Beckcom: That the only thing I’ll say on this is when we’re talking about speech is I think a lot of people may have this image of somebody standing in front of an audience at a podium giving a formal speech. But these principles apply when you’re talking to your 18 year old kid about where you should go to college. Or when you’re talking to your wife about where you wanna go to dinner. Or when you’re talking to your colleagues about how you’re gonna get the promotion or your boss, why you deserve a raise. Like if you wanna go talk to your boss about why you deserve a raise, you have to give a speech. And so these principles. I seriously, these principles are, are apply, not just to these formal speech making settings that we think about, but Hey Mr. Boss, I wanna talk to you about maybe getting a raise.
I wanted to tell you the other day I was doing X, Y, and Z, and this is what happened. And this is why I believe. And I really love working for the company. I love what I’m doing. I have some ideas, here’s two ideas I have to make the company better. And all you’re doing is giving a speech. You’re trying to persuade somebody. So the principles that I’m talking about apply, not just a trial or stand in front of a jury or some, somebody like a, a professional, like you stand in front of an audience, giving a speech that applies to every single thing you try to do in your life, you are trying to persuade.
Jenn DeWall: We are all in the business of influencing. We are all there! Brian, how can our audience get in touch with you.
Where to Find More from Brian Beckcom
Brian Beckcom: So I have my law firm, its VBattorneys.com V as in Victor, B as in Brian attorneys, all one word.com. Then I might, I host I I’m an photographer and I write stuff into the podcast. And that website is Brian Beckcom, kind of a funny spelling, B E C K C O M, BrianBeckcom.org. And then I’m fairly active on Facebook, on Instagram and on Twitter, under my own name. Brian Beckcom.
Jenn DeWall: Brian, thank you so much. And I love again, the closing points that no matter what you’re trying to do, this is a framework that you can use, whether you’re talking to one person or you’re talking to hundreds of people. Brian, thank you so much for giving your time, your expertise, your experience. Oh my gosh. You need to check out his podcast or just have conversations with Brian. I’m telling you, I want to have like an hour long conversation about so many different things with you. Thank you so much for just giving us the gift of your time and expertise to help our audience be better speakers and influencers. Thank you so much, Brian.
Brian Beckcom: Thank you, Jenn. It’s been a pleasure.
Jenn DeWall: Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of The Leadership Habit podcast. I love my conversation with Brian. Oh my gosh. There are even just so many things I love talking with Brian about. I would encourage you to get to know more about him. If you want to head over to his website, you can go to VBattorneys.com or you can find that link in our show notes, there, you can get to know a little bit more about his background. Heck, you can subscribe to this podcast. I think the Lessons from Leaders is an essential one that we all need to hear. If you know, someone that should listen to this or that could benefit from listening to this, don’t forget to share our podcast with them. And of course, if you enjoyed today’s episode, leave us a review on your favorite podcast streaming service! Until next time.