how to deliver an award-winning speech

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a long while know that I love Toastmasters and have been an active member of Toastmasters International since 2001. The highlight of a memorable District 64 Toastmasters conference in Winnipeg for me was to hear Ryan Avery share his public speaking tips. I’d like to share them with you here.

 Ryan Avery’s Public Speaking Tips

Ryan Avery is a Toastmaster from Portland, Oregon (originally from the American South) who is the youngest Toastmaster to ever win the World Championships of Public Speaking. At the age of 25, he won the world competition in 2012, and in 2014, Avery launched his first book about his public speaking journey, Speaker, Leader, Champion.

But winning didn’t come easy to Avery. He worked extremely hard, watching other winning speeches that he’d purchased on a series of DVD’s from Toastmasters International numerous times. He studied them, and looked for a common thread in these winning presentations. He read numerous books on how to make effective presentations, and says, “If you only read one book in your life, make it Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Another of Avery’s favourite books on how to deliver a dynamic presentation is Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln by James Humes.

Avery says he has 3 simple rules that have led to his success as a public speaker, and now as a professional workshop presenter.

1)   Make it SIMPLE.

–     Simple always wins.

–     String stories together in your speech. Let the stories make your point.

–     Keep unusable ideas in a file that you can use in future presentations.

–     You should not be the hero of your own speech. Someone must teach you something.

–     Mention that person at least 3x in your speech. Anchor those points to move the audience along.

–     Write in poem form vs paragraph form. That means writing your points in short, easy to memorize and remember lines. Group those lines in a series of “poems.” The lines don’t have to rhyme. They just have to make a point, before you go on to the next story or point.

–     If you want to engage your audience, engage their senses. Smell is the strongest sense. Ensure you spread those sensory references throughout your speech.

–     Drop the prop. The audience’s imagination is stronger than any visual aid you may provide. Paint a picture for them and let them fill in the details. It will personalize and strengthen the message for the audience members.

–     Always use the active voice.

2)   Make it IMPACTFUL.

–     Never give a speech again. Only deliver a message from the heart.

–     Life is short. Only talk about what you really care about.

–     Remember Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle: Think in terms of why/how/what vs what/how/why. Your WHY is important in order for your speech to have impact.

3)   Make it RELATABLE.

–     Envision the 60/6 rule. Your message should be intelligent enough for a 60-year-old and simple enough for a 6-year-old to relate to.

–     Never tell a joke. Share only failures, as we can all relate to them.

–     Family stories are great for being relatable as everyone can relate to quirky family stories. But remember to leave your family on a pedestal at the end of the story.

–     Dress to relate to your audience.


In summing up, Avery shared these insights that have helped him achieve success, and now form the basis of his inspirational talks:

–     In order to be great, you must start.

–     You have to believe in yourself before others will believe in you.

–     Set up Visualization Stations to help you focus. Write down your dreams and goals and people will come to you and help you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

–     Act like you’re already what/where/who you want to be.

–     Practice. How you practice is how you will play out.

–     Your voice matters. What will you do with it?

–     You don’t need an IQ. You need an I WILL.


You can find Ryan Avery at

I hope you found these tips helpful. Being a visual learner, I’ve always been a strong supporter to the use of props. But I can understand that when telling a story, a prop may not be as necessary as when one is delivering an informational talk to teach the audience something, as I do when delivering my talks about the world of chocolate.

Did you find Avery’s points helpful? Are there any that you particularly relate to or disagree with? Let’s talk about talking.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

42 Responses

  1. Christian says:

    I love your 60/6 rule. That should help a lot in my future speeches. Thanks … And about keeping it simple? I usually do.

  2. I have never heard of the 60/6 rule before, but I can see that it makes sense. Ryan sure has a lot of great tips! Mentioning someone at least three times, too, is also something I have never heard of it but, to get your message across, repetition usually works.

    This is a an excellent, informative post, Doreen. Public speaking is something I used to do when teaching. Of course, my audience was mainly teenagers. 😉
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  3. Dianne says:

    Hi Doreen. Thanks so much for the notes on Ryan’s speech – great summary and I loved being there to hear him speak – he has so much wonderful energy. I read some of the replies and I just want to tell people that I joined Toastmasters 17 years ago and can’t tell you what a difference it has made in my life. I feel so much more confident, have gathered great leadership skills and have made many, many wonderful caring friends. So go to a few meetings as guest and see what all the talk is about.

  4. Brilliant post Doreen, such excellent advice. The tips are so smart and not the usual round up of advice. There is nothing so moving and impactful as a well delivered speech, it IS a message from the heart.
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  5. andleeb says:

    Avery’s rules are simple and amazing. I have learned a lot from this post. I never tried to show that I am in position where I wanted to be and sometimes to break the boredom I tell a joke…. I have to work a lot to use only active voice as well.

    I use to read all such posts keeping in view of my interaction with my students as I teach Mathematics. They get bored quickly so I have to learn new techniques to keep my students active. Thank you for the informative post.
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  6. Sheryl B. says:

    I too found Ryan to be a marvellous teacher, full of passion for his subject and love for his audiences. I interpreted his point about props as relevant to competitive speaking. As a teacher I find props indispensable but in competition they add challenges you can do without. Regarding jokes, I think Ryan would agree that original funny stories that sound like jokes are fine, just avoid those being passed around the internet and the workplace! I find I have more respect for originalality than even the most cleverly told “canned” joke. There is an advanced Toastmasters manual project where the speaker is to try and work in those kinds of jokes. I found it difficult and artificial when I did that speech.

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Sheryl, and welcome to the blog!

      I know you are an accomplished speaker and make excellent use of humour in sharing funny stories that have happened in your life. And in recollection, I think they have been about the humorous types of ‘failures’ that Ryan talks about. It’s great when we can laugh at ourselves!
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  7. Doreen — a very insightful post. I think as speakers we need to develop our own personal style. I do agree with almost all his points. It’s particularly important to believe in what you’re saying. Your passion will resonate with the audience. We communicate with words, pictures and actions. So paint a visual imager. Regarding props, it you’re giving a motivational speech a prop will tend to detract from your message. But, like you, I’m a visual learner, and if a subject is fairly technical then I think a prop is appropriate and even necessary. I hope your speech went well!
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    • Hi Jeannette and thanks for your comment.

      Yes, definitely no “one size/style fits all” for public speaking. We all need to put our individual personalities into it. But I think it was interesting how Ryan studied the winning speeches from the world competitions and found they had many similarities.

      I give my next talk today! We’re having the next chocolate dinner at McNally Robinson Booksellers tonight. Should be another tasty talk!
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  8. I love the tip, don’t be the hero of your own story and if you tell a story about your family, be sure you end with them on the pedestal. Wish I could have heard him speak, as I am a trained speaker and I do think I picked up a couple of pointers from this Toastmaster winner!
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  9. Jeri says:

    I really like the suggestion of writing in poem vs. paragraph form. Teaching is a bit like public speaking, but differs in so many different ways. Toastmasters is on my list of things to try, right along with the local photography club.
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  10. Bev Doern says:

    What a great summary Doreen! You saved me time and effort in deciphering my own scribbles. What I thought Ryan did so well is not only share his tips, but he illustrated them in action – showing us how to be simple, impactful and relatable. One additional thing I noted – our goal is not to probe our audience’s pain, but to feed their hunger. Then when they are hungry again, they’ll come back to you to be fed.

    • Thanks for that additional point, Bev! I’m wondering if that might have been from the breakfast talk on Sunday, as I don’t remember that particular point about satisfying the audience’s appetite/quest for knowledge. In any event, thanks for adding it.
      WizardOfWords recently posted…how to deliver an award-winning speechMy Profile

      • Bev Doern says:

        He mentioned that his goal was not to probe for pain, but to feed his audience instead, right after the exercise where we stood to show if we were ‘Speaker Ready’ and before the video of his world championship speech. I took note of it because the ‘probe the pain’ piece is commonly promoted in the professional speaking world – and I prefer Ryan’s focus. It just resonates better – I’d rather feed someone than cause them pain!

  11. Great tips. This should help me in my next public speaking event.

  12. Hello; you certainly packed a lot into that post. I could have easily seen this as a three part work. I use a lot of these when i am preparing to record a youtube video for my website. but i didn’t know about the 60 6 rule. it makes a lot of sense. and i can see a lot of your points in one of my favorite speakers the preacher joel osteen. thanks for sharing. Take care, Max
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  13. Tim says:

    Public speaking has never been something that has excited me. In fact it is one of those things in life that sends me into an ostrich position; head in the sand while I hope it passes on by. I do agree with some of the points he makes though, imagination is better than props, only way to succeed is to start. I do sing in the shower though so maybe I have it in me somewhere 🙂
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  14. What a great article and truly on target. I love the idea…never give a speech again, but speak from the heart. But frankly, I’ve told little jokes or anecdotes and they were received very well! Though…they were part of the story! I lucked out…folks laughed in the appropriate places! LOL
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  15. Hi Doreen. I relate to and agree with every single aspect except NEVER TELL A JOKE. A correctly targeted joke can be a great transition point and create a receptive mindset to inform or inspire. It would be more accurate to say don’t do it unless you know you are good at it.

    I especially support DROP THE PROP. It isn’t a pre-school show-and- tell and simply conveys a lack of confidence. People told effective stories long before the advent of audio visual .The old porridge about people remembering more of what they see than what they hear is only true if what they hear isn’t memorable. They already have visual overload from TV and other media and don’t need any more
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  16. I love this post for all the info you provide. I really appreciated the part about stringing stories together and letting the stories make the point. Keeping unusable ideas in a file that can used sometime in future is something I do now, but not for speeches. 🙂
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  17. Love these tips, although like you, I don’t think they’re always relevant. Some people tell jokes in every story they relate, so these people really need to tell jokes. Also, props can really make a speech memorable, especially if they’re not overdone. I remember vividly a gardening speech by Des Kennedy in which he dressed in atrocious clothes to emphasize several points he made about gardeners, including that we’re so obsessive, we lose control of our looks; we’re so concerned about budgets, they we overdo savings; we have no sense of how colour should go together, etc. etc. It worked so well that I remember the gist many years later. There’s two important tips that he didn’t mention: when outlining your key points, consider how you want the audience to feel at the end of the speech and who you want to be in their eyes at that point. I’ve found that considering these two ideas separately helps people really hone their message so that it’s geared to what the people listening need to hear.
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  18. A.K.Andrew says:

    Awesome post Doreen. Thanks so much for sharing this. Very insightful points. Love the poetry v. prose – good analogy, as well as don’t need IQ just I will. But my favorite was in order to be great you must start. So many people feel they need to have achieved the end to even attempt the beginning. It’s simply not true. It inspires me to consider Toastmasters myself. Thanks so much.
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  19. Lenie says:

    Doreen, this was great. I loved the way he stated things, like don’t make another speech, speak from the heart and you don’t need an IQ, you need an I will. Love that. When I was working I often wanted to join Toastmasters as public speaking was part of my job and the part I liked least – I think Toastmasters would have helped me except I never had the time.

    • Hi Lenie: It’s never too late to join Toastmasters! It is helpful in any stage of our lives. You never know when you may be asked to make a toast to the bride, deliver a eulogy, or conduct a meeting for a community group. TM helps prepare you for any and all types of public speaking scenarios.
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  20. Thanks for your comment, Linda, and for opening up the discussion.

    I’m hoping Ryan will drop by the post and shed some more on the specifics of his talk. I think the reason he suggested not telling a joke is that they’re often too vague and long-winded and add no value to the story.
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  21. Linda says:

    What an amazing, brave, and sharp young man! I applaud his success in public speak, which, as you may remember, the very thought of turns me into a lump of quivering jello!

    His admonition to not tell a joke, surprised me. I thought jokes (if tasteful and well told at the right time) were an effective way of loosening up the audience and getting them to care about you. But what do I know?

    I can see where too many props or visuals can become distracting and cumbersome. But as you point out, there are different types of communications with different needs. Many TED talks are done sans any visuals. But some include props and visuals. I can’t imagine talking about chocolate without a few props!

    • June LaRonde says:

      Thank you for summarizing Ryan’s speech and getting the message out in such a beautiful way. Some of the things that really stood out for me are:.. 1) keep it simple… 2) the 60/6 rule and 3) voice. Ryan is definitely a role model. I loved his delivery…. his simply yet dynamic way of delivering did engaged his audience in a captivating way.

      I am glad I had the opportunity to hear his delivery.

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