Stage Time: The Two-Step Power Punch! Presentation Boxing Magic | Darren LaCroix

Stage Time: The Two-Step Power Punch! Presentation Boxing Magic

By Darren LaCroix | Master Public Speaking

Two-Step Power Punch... Writing a SpeechWhen putting a presentation together, too many people try to write the whole thing out as their first step. If your presentations are based on a slide presentation deck, you know the crutch of putting a new one together by taking a previous version of the slide deck and simply tweaking it. Guilty? I know I am. I know many of my corporate presenter clients are guilty as well.

A brilliant presentation is clean, clear, and concise. Creating something with true clarity is a great deal of work. It is even more work when you don’t follow a proven process. When we coach presenters at our Get Coached to Speak LIVE Event, we are working mostly on the clarity of their message and delivery.

It takes less effort and less time to build a presentation first on paper from scratch. The best presentations are built from scratch (even if you are reusing pieces from other presentations). Focus on each piece, one at a time. As fellow World Champion Speaker Craig Valentine says,

“If you want a masterpiece,
you first have to master the pieces.”

I have published this article before, but years later I now have even more clarity on its practical application. If you have seen this before, it’s time to revisit it, along with me. Whether you are working on a five-minute or one-hour presentation or an all-day training, starting with the two-step power punch will multiply your efforts in creating the rest of your presentation. So, what is the two-step power punch?

Step one: Clarify Your Message

You may heave heard this before, but are you doing it? Are you sitting down and getting super clear on the result you are trying to create for your audience? If you do not get clear on this first, you may work really hard in the wrong direction and have to start over. This is one of those basic foundations that we see many seasoned professional speakers breeze over because they think they’ve got it. It is not a fun part of the process, but it is essential.

Consider my principle of the “Cherry Tree Effect.” In 1899 Dr. Robert Goddard was eighteen years old. His grandmother asked him to prune the top of her cherry tree. He took his axe up the tree, but instead of pruning it, he sat there and daydreamed. While dreaming, he thought of building a device to take off from the ground and reach the stars. Dr. Goddard later said that when he climbed down from that tree, he was the not the same boy who had climbed up. The thought literally changed who he was.

What does that have to do with your presentation or training? Everything. Step one is clarifying the change in perspective that the audience will have as a result of hearing you. How do you do this? Ask yourself the question, “What do I want my audience to think about differently when I’m finished presenting? If you are doing an all-day training, ask what you want the audience to be able to do as a result of your training. The key to step one is being able to clarify your result in ten words or fewer. An example of this is what we use for our Get Coached to Speak LIVE Event… “Cherry Tree Effect:” How to make a good presentation and delivery great. That is only nine words. Can you do that with each of your presentations?

Step two: Box it!

Once you are clear on your message, the next power punch is structure. Whether you are having all-day training or a five-minute speech, break it down into pieces. TEDx coach Cathey Armillas has her clients break down their 18-minute speeches into three pieces. Each piece is then broken down again through storyboarding to even smaller parts. Working on individual pieces allows you to tap into the power of focus. I used a similar technique when creating my World Championship speech, “OUCH!”

How to Format Your Speech in BoxesI highlighted each piece of my presentation in word.doc, and from the dropdown menu chose Format. Next I selected “Insert Text Box,” which places a box around that selected area. This allows you to focus, for example, on just your opening. Every word in that box is about your opening. There is a clear transition and then your next box. Most presenters do not take the time to consider transitions. If you do, you will stand out.

Put each piece of your script in a box when using a word.doc tool. This will help you focus not only on each piece, but also make the transitions between each piece clear and concise. Look how cleanly this was done for my winning speech.

It takes a good deal of work. I often say,

“When you shortcut the process,
you shortcut the result.”

That being said, there are powerful processes out there; you just need to find them.

Here is an example of boxing my winning speech.

by Darren LaCroix


Can you remember a moment when a brilliant idea flashed into your head? It was perfect for you, then all of a sudden from the depths of your brain, another thought forced its way through the enthusiasm until finally it shouted, “YEAH, great idea, but what if you fall on your face?” What do you do when you fall on your face? Do you try to jump right up and hope no one noticed? Are you more concerned with what other people will think than what you can learn from this? Contest chair, friends, and people way in the back! Ouch!


Do you feel I stayed down too long? Have YOU ever stayed down too long?

After 4 years of business school, I went for the American dream. I bought a Subway sandwich shop. You’re all impressed, I can tell. I don’t want to brag, but I took a $60,000 debt, and in six short months, I doubled that debt. I turned my Subway sandwich shop into a non-profit organization.

I financially fell on my face, but I realized I was not the only person from my home town of Auburn to fall on his face. 100 years ago my first hero, Dr. Robert Goddard, had a ridiculous idea of building a device that could take off from the earth and reach the stars! His failures were the reason we landed on the moon.


I remember my ridiculous idea.

I was listening to a tape of Brian Tracy, a great speaker. He asked the question, “What would you dare to dream if you knew you wouldn’t fail?” I struggled for an answer, then BING! I would be a comedian! But you have to understand my background. I was not funny; I was not a class clown. In fact, the first time my brother ever laughed at me was when I told him I was going to be a comedian. Ouch!


Who do you want to be? What changes would you like to make in your life?

So many of us can see clearly where we want to go, and yet we go back and forth. If I just had more time . . . If I just had a little more money . . . If the kids were a little older . . . But we never take that first step. Dr. Goddard’s first flight took off from Auburn and landed in Auburn. It only went up 41 feet. The first step can be small.


Strangers will mock your first step.

When the press found out about Goddard’s short flight in an effort to reach the moon, the headline read, “Moon rocket misses target by 238,799 1/2 miles.” Ouch! It’s part of the process.


We also have friends and family who love us and don’t want to see us fall.

Imagine my parents’ reactions after stretching their budget to help me through college. Seeing me fall on my face, I then came home (hands in pocket): “Mom, Dad, I want to be a comedian.” I was met by silence. (Mouth Ouch!)


It’s part of the process.

After a year of trying comedy, I remember a night when I’d been bombing for 20 minutes. So I went for my surefire bit. I brought a woman up from the audience. She stood directly behind me and put her arms forward in place of mine. I would tell the story verbally as she told it in gestures. The more animated the hands are, the better it works. Well, this woman stood there like an ancient statue. I turned to her in desperation, “Please do something with your hands.” She did. She . . . (cover mouth) OuuuuuuuCH! I called my mentor, Rick. “I bombed! They hated me!” Rick said, “So?” “What do you mean, ‘So?'” Rick said, “Darren, every comedian, every speaker, anyone who has accomplished anything, has fallen on their face.”


Then I remembered Subway.

I fell on my face, but I never took the next step. The step AFTER the Ouch is the most difficult. Take it. It will be hard. You’ll be unsure, but when that foot lands, oh, you’re going to like that feeling.


We learn from the Ouch!

Dr. Goddard always referred to failure as valuable, negative information, information essential for each step towards landing on the moon. He was an Ouch-master. We need to be Ouch-masters.


If you are willing to fail, you can learn anything.


I still have my day job, but it’s because I took the step after the Ouch. Now my picture hangs in a comedy club in my home town. I was not given the gift of making people laugh. I was given the opportunity to take a next step. So were you. What is your next step? Take it!

I didn’t want to look back on my life and say, “I never did try stand-up, but instead I PAID ALL MY BILLS!”

We will find that our feet get stuck. We are so afraid of the Ouch that we forget that when we take a risk and fall on our face, we still make progress. Fall forward.

Winning Speech, August 25, 2001, Anaheim, CA

What do you think? Sitting down to try and write out a whole speech as your first step may sound like a time-saver, but it isn’t. It will actually lengthen your process substantially.

You and I are hired not to give a presentation, but to change our audience’s perspective. In the case of training, its purpose is to change the behavior of those we are training. That is not easy. Even if you are not getting paid, the privilege is not about your giving; it is about what the listener is receiving.

Do you see how each piece was focused in my “OUCH!” speech? Can you see how this makes it much easier to focus on one piece at a time? Clarify your message, and then create a clear structure. Step two: work on one piece at a time! Invest the time to do these two steps, and it will work like magic.

With whom can you share this post?

I invite you to share your thoughts below!

Click here to check out the winning speech. See if you can catch how I move on the stage along with each transition.


(2) comments

Add Your Reply

What are the secrets, stories and strategies behind Unforgettable Presentations? Find out. Listen to Darren’s Brand New Podcast.