10 Ways Public Speakers Should Be Like Santa Claus

Anyone looking for public speaking training should start by taking a good look at Santa Claus. Here’s what Kris Kringle does that all speakers should do.

1.   Prepare thoroughly

Santa Claus spends most of the year getting ready for his one big night. When he takes off in his sleigh, there’s no turning back. Similarly, when you step on that stage, be sure that you know your material.

2.   Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Sure, on Christmas Eve Santa is the main attraction, but the Big Man can’t do it all by himself. He needs elves to make the toys; reindeer to pull the sleigh; Mrs. Claus to keep him fat. In short, he has a superb support team. Likewise, you can (and should) seek support from others: brainstorm ideas with colleagues for that big corporate presentation; practice your speech in front of friends and family; seek feedback from your Toastmasters club; arrive at the event early and meet the technicians.

3.   Make a list and check it twice

Santa’s got to stay on top of a lot of logistical matters: bag full of presents; several billion addresses; fastest routes; best places for a pit stop. Similarly, public speakers have to keep track of several logistical matters. Get in the habit of having a checklist of the things you will need. Here’s a comprehensive one that you might find useful.

4.   Deliver the right material for the audience

If Jimmy wants a Lego set, then Santa will bring him a Lego set and not a toy truck. (Of course, the foregoing is based on the assumption that Jimmy has been a good boy). Speakers need to tailor their messages for their audiences. Always ask yourself the following question: “Why should the audience care?” If you cannot come up with a good answer, you’ve got a problem. Perhaps your message would best be delivered to another audience.

Santa Claus with child

5.   Create memorable sentences or phrases

I don’t care if it’s the middle of August and you’re on the beach, if you hear “Ho! Ho! Ho!”, you’re going to remember Santa Claus. Great speakers spend time working on their speeches to come up with memorable lines that reinforce the message.

 6.  Dress for the occasion

Santa making the rounds in blue jeans and a plaid shirt just wouldn’t feel right. Only red and white will do. Likewise, speakers should dress appropriately for the occasion. A good rule of thumb is to dress at least as well as your audience, or perhaps a little bit better.

7.   Project your voice

Santa knows how to make himself heard. Just check out T’was the Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore: “And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name! … But I heard him exclaim ‘ere he drove out of sight, ‘Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!'”.

Although you should not necessarily shout, you do need to make yourself heard. Practice breathing deeply to give your voice resonance. If you have a soft voice, practice speaking in different tones and at different volumes to extend your vocal range.

Arrive early and check out the acoustics, especially if you are speaking to a large audience. Test the microphone. Have someone stand at the back of the  room to let you know how you sound. And remember, an auditorium full of people will absorb and dampen sound more than an empty auditorium.

8.   Be present for your audience

Sure, Santa brings presents, but he also brings presence. He reads all that mail; he sits through all those photo sessions in all those malls; he eats all those cookies and drinks all that milk; he arranges the presents just so. Bring that same level of presence to your speeches and presentations. Your audience wants to feel that you care about them. They don’t expect you to be perfect, but they do expect you to be present.

9.   Have fun

Look at Santa: “His eyes, how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry! … He had a broad face and round little belly that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly!” He clearly enjoys himself and so should you. Public speaking is both a privilege and a responsibility, and we should treat it as such. However, there is no rule that says we cannot have fun as well. Only the most sombre of occasions will be the exception. So smile and enjoy the ride. You are being given the chance to share your message with others.

10.   Leave them looking forward to the next time

Children never get tired of Santa Claus. They always eagerly anticipate his next visit. If you make the effort to do a good job, not only might your audience invite you back, they might also recommend you to others. And that’s a gift that every speaker would like to receive.

Merry Christmas and a peaceful and enjoyable holiday season to you all.

Photo courtesy of  __ drz __ on Unsplash

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  1. Thanks a lot, John, for your 10 bullets that we all at The Xplorers Toastmasters Club appreciate.
    Best Christmas wishes to you too and your family, and also best wishes of further success in your profession and in the Toastmasters arena.
    Giorgio Medi – The Xplorers Toastmasters Club – Milan

  2. Great analogies, John!
    I might add that before the event, Santa, and we speakers, need to be good listeners. That’s how he, and we, find out about what the audience expects and wants.
    The research pays off for everyone!
    Thanks for all your great Posts this past year, John.
    I hope 2012 will be your Best Year Ever!

  3. Your ten tips plus the one Fred left are a great and comprehensive list. There are none I can think of adding, but I’d love to see if others can.

    1. Thanks very much for the comment, Mike. I am sure that there must be others and welcome any thoughts that you or others have. (I am a bit spent at the moment with all of the Christmas festivities.)
      All the best for 2012!

  4. John!
    I would like to add – Before you speak, double check all your sources and permissions!!
    Ho, Ho, Ho! Thanks for the shout out.

  5. John,

    Jak zwykle, świetny post. Odkopałem go tuż przed Gwiazdką 2013, przyda się wszystkim moim podopiecznym, którzy zechcą opowiedzieć Wigilijną historię.

    And yes, I dare you to answer in Polish, John! 🙂

    Merry Merry Christmas in 2013 and hope to see you in 2014

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John delivered a keynote address about the importance of public speaking to 80 senior members of Gore’s Medical Device Europe team at an important sales event. He was informative, engaging and inspirational. Everyone was motivated to improve their public speaking skills. Following his keynote, John has led public speaking workshops for Gore in Barcelona and Munich. He is an outstanding speaker who thinks carefully about the needs of his audience well before he steps on stage.

Karsta Goetze

TA Leader, Gore and Associates

I first got in touch with John while preparing to speak at TED Global about my work on ProtonMail. John helped me to sharpen the presentation and get on point faster, making the talk more focused and impactful. My speech was very well received, has since reached almost 1.8 million people and was successful in explaining a complex subject (email encryption) to a general audience.

Andy Yen

CEO, Proton Technologies

John gave the opening keynote on the second day of our unit’s recent offsite in Geneva, addressing an audience of 100+ attendees with a wealth of tips and techniques to deliver powerful, memorable presentations. I applied some of these techniques the very next week in an internal presentation, and I’ve been asked to give that presentation again to senior management, which has NEVER happened before. John is one of the greatest speakers I know and I can recommend his services without reservation.

David Lindelöf

Senior Data Scientist, Expedia Group

After a morning of team building activities using improvisation as the conduit, John came on stage to close the staff event which was organised in Chamonix, France. His energy and presence were immediately felt by all the members of staff. The work put into the preparation of his speech was evident and by sharing some his own stories, he was able to conduct a closing inspirational speech which was relevant, powerful and impactful for all at IRU. The whole team left feeling engaged and motivated to tackle the 2019 objectives ahead. Thank you, John.

Umberto de Pretto

Secretary General, World Road Transport Organization

I was expecting a few speaking tips and tricks and a few fun exercises, but you went above and beyond – and sideways. You taught me to stand tall. You taught me to anchor myself. You taught me to breathe. You taught me to open up. You taught me to look people in the eye. You taught me to tell the truth. You taught me to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I got more than I bargained for in the best possible way.

Thuy Khoc-Bilon

World Cancer Day Campaign Manager, Union for International Cancer Control

John gave a brilliant presentation on public speaking during the UN EMERGE programme in Geneva (a two days workshop on leadership development for a group of female staff members working in the UN organizations in Geneva). His talk was inspirational and practical, thanks to the many techniques and tips he shared with the audience. His teaching can dramatically change our public speaking performance and enable us as presenters to have a real and powerful impact. Thank you, John, for your great contribution!

Sara Canna

HR Specialist, World Health Organization

John is a genuine communication innovator. His seminars on gamification of public speaking learning and his interactive Rhetoric game at our conference set the tone for change and improvement in our organisation. The quality of his input, the impact he made with his audience and his effortlessly engaging style made it easy to get on board with his core messages and won over some delegates who were extremely skeptical as to the efficacy of games for learning. I simply cannot recommend him highly enough.

Thomas Scott

National Education Director, Association of Speakers Clubs UK

John joined our Global Sales Meeting in Segovia, Spain and we all participated in his "Improv(e) your Work!" session. I say “all” because it really was all interactive, participatory, learning and enjoyable. The session surprised everybody and was a fresh-air activity that brought a lot of self-reflection and insights to improve trust and confidence in each other inside our team. It´s all about communication and a good manner of speaking!"

Jon Lopez

General Manager Europe, Hayward Industries

Thank you very much for the excellent presentation skills session. The feedback I received was very positive. Everyone enjoyed the good mix of listening to your speech, co-developing a concrete take-away and the personal learning experience. We all feel more devoted to the task ahead, more able to succeed and an elevated team spirit. Delivering this in a short time, both in session and in preparation, is outstanding!

Henning Dehler

CFO European Dairy Supply Chain & Operations, Danone

Thanks to John’s excellent workshop, I have learned many important tips and techniques to become an effective public speaker. John is a fantastic speaker and teacher, with extensive knowledge of the field. His workshop was a great experience and has proven extremely useful for me in my professional and personal life.

Eric Thuillard

Senior Sales Manager, Sunrise Communications

John’s presentation skills training was a terrific investment of my time. I increased my skills in this important area and feel more comfortable when speaking to an audience. John provided the right mix between theory and practice.

Diego Brait

Director of the Jura Region, BKW Energie AG

Be BOLD. Those two words got stuck in my head and in the heads of all those ADP leaders and associates that had the privilege to see John on stage. He was our keynote speaker at our annual convention in Barcelona, and his message still remains! John puts his heart in every word. Few speakers are so credible, humble and yet super strong with large audiences!

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Senior Director and Talent Partner, ADP International