Public Speaking Lessons from the Old Spice Guy

Old Spice

Those of you who live outside North America (as I now do) might not be familiar with Old Spice men’s care products, but when I was growing up in Canada, I used to love the smell of my Dad’s Old Spice aftershave. In fact, I still use Old Spice deodorant.

In 2010, the company aired a number of commercials in North America that received rave reviews. The commercials feature a suave, good-looking “Old Spice Guy” played by Isaiah Mustafa. The special effects, combined with Mustafa’s persona were hilarious. For example, this was the commercial that really got things rolling:

So what does all this have to do with public speaking?

Well, the Old Spice Guy has a Twitter account and he was getting lots of questions from followers for advice on a variety of topics. Rather than just answer by Twitter, the Old Spice team and Mustafa created dozens of short video replies on YouTube.

As I watched them, it occurred to me that he uses many of the same techniques that good public speakers use to convey their messages. (Even if he does so in a more “manly” way than the rest of us ever could.)

So without further ado, I give you: 11 Public Speaking Tips from the Old Spice Guy.

1. Tell stories, especially personal ones

2. Use metaphors

3. Use similes

4. If you don’t know the answer, don’t bluff

5. Develop your own style

6. It’s always about the audience, not the speaker

7. Be passionate and inspire your listeners

8. Use props effectively

9. Dress appropriately for the occasion

10. Have a call to action for your audience

11. Know when to stop speaking

If you’d like to see more videos from Old Spice, check out their YouTube account. You can also follow Isaiah Mustafa himself on Twitter: @isaiahmustafa.

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50 Replies to “Public Speaking Lessons from the Old Spice Guy”

  1. John,
    Interesting way to weave the Old Spice campaign into public speaking and presenting. Your ten tips are right on though – especially Storytelling (which appropriately was #1). Presentations are stories, and stories engage audiences.
    Hopefully the readers don’t get mesmerized by Isaiah Mustafa’s manliness and miss the great advice.
    Jon Thomas
    Presentation Advisors
    http://www.twitter.com/Story_Jon

    1. Thanks for the comment, Jon. And I agree with you about the importance of stories. One of the best (but often overlooked) ways to connect with your audience.
      Cheers!
      John

  2. Hilarious, poignant and as always, well written like your speeches John! I can see you giving this as a speech…coming soon to a Toastmasters Club near you!
    You do have a missed word on point #3 (missing a you) and what seemed like a cultural apology actually served as bait to the non-Old Spice familiar audience with a hook that in my opinion gave enough through the rest of the speech to catch that group up on the “Old Spice Experience”!
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Very cool – makes me long for that Old Spice scent.
    Thanks for extracting the 10 “lessons learned” – pulled me back from getting distracted by the videos 🙂 🙂

  4. This is a really cool post! One of the best ways to teach public speaking I have ever seen.
    Really well done.
    No. 3 is extremely important. Many times I have seen a speaker trying to get himself out of answering a question he simply didn’t know the answer to and ultimately making an idiot out of himself.
    Another important thing I would add here is that when you use humor, research your jokes and don’t kill them by prolonging the joke. Often speakers not only tell the joke but also try to explain it afterwards to the audience. Never works.
    Anyway, a good post. Thanks John

  5. I too enjoyed the Old Spice video campaign. You gleaned wisdom from something I was content to sit back and watch. Your post prompted me to look more critically.
    A couple points that missed your top ten (maybe they’re number 11 and 12?) are body language and use of pacing and pauses. He consistently communicates his message without flailing arms, pacing randomly to and fro, or *gasp* gripping a lectern. His facial expressions are also fantastic. Silence can be a powerful tool, and speakers should not fear it. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DW25ApIyy4U for a great example.
    Thank you for distilling these lessons from something I was merely content to observe and appreciate.

    1. Thanks for the great comment, Todd. Admittedly, I was going more for the humour with this post – and it seems to have worked! – but there is always a bit of truth in every joke. I agree with your extra points but had to draw the line somewhere so stopped at 10 (11 actually, as I doubled up on No. 2). I would also have liked to mention his great voice, but that flows through in each clip.
      Thanks again! Cheers! John

  6. Using a well-scripted paid commercial to show good public speaking skills is a stretch. These commercial are not examples you’d ever use to teach anybody any kind of speaking skill.
    But I’ll enjoy your post for it’s humorous value 🙂

  7. John,
    Great job sharing these tips through a masterful marketing campaign. The clever way you extracted and applied these useful lessons are both informative and entertaining. Keep up the good work, it is appreciated.
    TW

    1. Thanks, Dartanion. And kudos to the Older Spice Guy for having the courage to do that. I am sure that he will get lots of flak for trying to be an amateur knock-off of the original, but we all have to march to the sound of our own drum!
      John

  8. John, thanks for this. Quite apart from public speaking, I’m discovering the truth of what you say on my own blog – use personal stories. People really seem to resonate with them, I’m quite surprised. Well, maybe I shouldn’t be. I will think about how I can use metaphors etc.
    I don’t think I can manage to “dress appropriately”, but who knows?

    1. Thanks for the comment, Jonathan. As I said in an earlier post – http://wp.me/pwfa1-l1 – the importance of stories cannot be overestimated. Have a look. And I’m sure that you can find lots of ways to incorporate other speaking techniques into your presentations. As for dress, there is always a bath towel!
      Cheers!
      John

  9. Hi John,
    Old Spice is available in Europe (e.g, Germany) – I am coming to Lausanne end of August, let me know if you want me to bring you something to sniff.
    Your ten points are excellent which I will pass on to our SMEs when they are producing their e-learning courses. Who knew Old Spice is Candy for the Eyes?!
    Ciao, Autumn

  10. John,
    I stumbled upon this site without meaning to and found it to be quite interesting. (I would have pressed the “back” button but you drew me in.)
    I was wondering why you never mentioned the importance of humor in your post. I would think it would be quite important in a speach to have a joke or two and (even without a handsome man in a towel pointing out all the 10 lessons listed above) I believe each clip caught the attention of the audience by humor.
    Just curious,
    Liz

    1. Hi Liz. Thanks very much for “stumbling” by. Even more thanks for staying!
      Of course, you are absolutely correct when it comes to the importance of humour in helping a speaker connect with the audience. It is vital. I know a little something about humour as I won the Continental European Humorous Speech Championship for Toastmasters in 2008 and 2009. In case you are interested, here is an analysis of my 2009 humorous speech that goes into line-by-line detail and why I did what I did: http://wp.me/pwfa1-nN.
      For the Old Spice Guy, there were a couple of (obvious) speaking points that run through all of his videos: a great sense of humour; terrific voice projection; appropriate gestures; eye contact; etc. But as I had to draw the line somewhere, I decided to link each video to a specific speaking trait that was directly relevant to that particular video, and to skip the speaking points that ran through all of them.
      Ultimately, my main objective was to have a light-hearted post that would give people a few laughs while also reminding them of some fundamental speaking points. I hope that I have succeeded.
      Thanks again for the comment. Much appreciated and I hope that you visit again soon.
      Cheers!
      John

  11. Great lessons, thank you for sharing. I have seen the video before but was too distracted to get as much insight as you did.
    I can see now a lot of useful tips for public speaking and what a great way to learn. Real pleasure.
    And yes, most importantly, you can see he is having fun while recording these videos; I think it transfers to the audience. I know I perform much better when I have fun on the stage.

    1. Spasiba, Irina! I appreciate the comments.
      Yes, it is interesting to see the different ways in which we can pick up good speaking tips. Of course, it is rare that we would be as “over-the-top” as the Old Spice Guy, but it is a fun way to learn.
      Cheers!
      John

  12. Today, I got the link of your blog John, and as I randomly checked a few posts, I have been completely thrilled. They have all that what interests me.
    Like this one — Public Speaking Lessons from the Old Spice Guy.
    This is super — not only what Old Spice Guy has to say, but more than that, your explaining the same.
    I will get backwith my comments as I read more.
    Thanks, John. I will definitely be gaining from your blog.

  13. John,
    That was clever, clever, clever.
    Never heard of the Old Spice Man here in the UK.
    Your ten tips are spot on and made so much more memorable by the way you presented them.

    1. Thanks, Keith! I had a lot of fun writing that post. The ad campaign was marketing brilliance and a sign of things to come, I am sure. It was too good to pass up. Please be sure to share it with your friends and contacts.
      Cheers!
      John

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