The Wow Factor!

by Stephen Boyd | April 6, 2010

Every speech needs a "Wow!" factor—content that makes the audience respond with "Wow! I didn't know that!" In fact, if you are delivering a 30-minute speech, you should have a "Wow!" factor every 10 minutes.

An audience's attention span is short, so you know you are likely to lose your audience at various places in your speech. Each time you include a "Wow!" you bring the audience back to you.

In addition, the "Wow!" factor makes you a better speaker because it energizes you and maintains your enthusiasm. You can't wait to get to the "Wow!" factor because you know this content will impact the audience and you will enjoy presenting the material to your audience.

Let me give you examples of the "Wow!" factor. I include a story about chicken glasses—yes, glasses for chickens. I show an actual pair of chicken glasses as I tell the story. The audience has never heard of this product; they are open-mouthed. I also have a slide of a snake crossing sign I discovered in the Arizona desert. The audience chuckles, and in their minds they contrast this unusual sign with the more familiar cattle and deer crossing signs. In speaking to youth groups, this statistic can have impact: "College graduates earn at least 60% more than high-school grads on average."

I often tell the story of how my daughter found her birth mother and birth father. The dynamics in this personal narrative always create an emotional response from the audience. Sometimes the "Wow!" factor is an unusual statistic or a poignant quotation. When I quote a few lines from a speech the pilot of United Airlines 564 made to his passengers before take-off from Denver to Washington Dulles on the first flight after 9/11, "Wow!" is always the response.

You can see that a "Wow!" is usually information out of the ordinary in the form of a story, quotation, statistic, slide, object, fact, or comparison.

Some cautions in choosing your "Wow!" factor are in order. Only use them if you can connect them to the point you are making. After using the technique, quickly make the application. If you don't, the "Wow!" may take their attention away from the material you are trying to get across to them. Keep them short. This material is usually not hard content so don't take more a minute or two to develop. Be careful to pause, either as you are relating the material or at the end; there is usually laughter, empathy, or surprise, and the listener needs a moment to assimilate the material.

To keep your next presentation stimulating and memorable, always include "Wow!" factors. I'd appreciate your input: What are some "Wow!" factors you have included in a presentation?

About the Author

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or email him through his website.

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