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20th February 2014

Anatomy of an Inspiring Speaker: Anthony Robbins - "Why we do what we do"

TED Lessons

What was it that made Anthony Robbins TED talk 'Why we do what we do' one of the most amazing speaking moments in recent times? As public speaking expert Sarah Lloyd-Hughes analyzes Tony Robbins, we'll see that the magic comes from much more than a good script...

This famous speech is the only really good example of Anthony Robbins speaking on the internet. Probably the world's top and best known motivational speaker and is seen as a real source of public speaking mastery. Mind you, Mr. Robbins is not everyone's cup of tea but I think it's really worth watching his talk. We can learn from him as he demonstrates the kind of power a human being can have if they own themselves and own their qualities.

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1. ‘Everyman trying to figure it out’ meets razor sharp patter

One the one hand he's very casual, spending most of the first few minutes of his speech wandering around with his hand in his jeans pocket. He doesn't necessarily look so "professional" but what he does do is look casual and connective, looking relaxed and comfortable on a visual level. Anthony gives the impression that he's one of us, that he's "working it out too" not claiming to be an all knowing expert but that he's just figuring it out for himself right along with us.

At the very same time, he speaks at an incredible pace much faster than you would recommend. Breaking up that breakneck pace with a masterful use of silence, he is adept at speaking quickly but still be understandable. As he connects the dots very quickly, it means that we have to keep up with him as the audience. It means that we are not patronized as he speaks the very same way to every audience that has the pleasure of hearing him speak. Forcing the audience to keep up with his amazing pace leaves very little or no time to think "Yes but...". This is a very clever and skillful way of drawing the audience through his argument.

2. Big in every way! 

Anthony is at his best when the audience is audience is bigger and bigger, a stadium speaker if there ever was one. He uses his size quite incredibly, being a tour de force but not being afraid of his energy. Often as speakers we're afraid of using that energy thinking that it may be too "big" or too "much" for the audience to handle, but Anthony Robbins owns his energy in a way that is quite remarkable. Who else could command a highbrow TED audience to ‘SAY AY', a trademark much awkwardly copied on the motivational speaking
scene. He does these big things, who some would say were "cheesy", but they work for him. Whereas others who attempt to copy him simply cannot pull them off and appear to be lacking authenticity.
Yes Anthony Robbins can get away with huge gestures and asking his audience to holler, but it doesn't mean that we can get away with it. If we copy his style then that is what it seem to be to the audience... a copycat. It's important to develop your OWN trademarks, your OWN style, and your OWN unique quirks that the audience will recognize in YOU every time you speak.  It's very easy to look at someone like Anthony Robbins and attempt to copy the power that he exudes during his speeches. I encourage you to go to the root source of that power and find it within yourself, making it equal to his power but completely yours. This is the key to authentic speaking.

3. Masculine Power

Leading the audience, Anthony has a way of prowling back and forth on the stage. He presents himself as if he's a bit of a wolf with a growling, husky voice. He moves and then stops dead in his tracks in silence at just the right moment. The way in which he exudes his masculine power is incredibly attractive, commanding his audience to follow wherever he leads. He owns his style, not being afraid to be assertive and direct. 

4. Spontaneous 

The famous moment in this speech where he high fives Al Gore is pure brilliance and very memorable. He gets into audience interaction and when the former Vice President makes a joke he loves it and goes into the audience to give him a high five.  It shows us that he's not afraid of anyone and is completely comfortable in his own shoes, allowing him to create the space for spontaneity. He directly addressed the reasons that the former Vice President did not win the election, using new material to illustrate his point. Done as if it had been part of the speech, shows Tony's mastery of spontaneity. One the one hand, he has very mature content that he's presented many times before. But he's also aligned with the idea of bringing something new to the audience, leaving us room to get involved in a unique way.

5. Showmanship

Humour, charm, humanity. ’ Anthony has a wondrous ability to whip up the audience into an emotional state, taking us expertly on a journey and leave us dangling on a cliffhanger. The brilliant moment where he looks at the TED moderator slyly asking for more time, teasing us by saying ‘I can’t tell you the rest because I’m out of time', utilizes a masterful display of humour, wit, and charm. Very successfully he implores Chris Anderson (the moderator) for a thumbs up- thumbs down if he can continue to the climax of his speech which the entire audience is dying to hear. He's playing to the audience, being very well aware that he's approaching the emotional crux, completing the story with a huge emotional lift leaving the audience filled with energy.

The experience of Tony Robbins as a speaker is larger than life. The main thing I learned from hearing him was to not be afraid of going full size. Don't be frightened to go a little bit bigger than your comfort zone allows.

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