Here’s the big secret (that’s not really a secret) to becoming an unforgettable speaker who delivers successful presentations of virtually any kind...

Design Backward to Move Forward

Lisa Sasevich has assumed the throne as ‘The Queen of Sales Conversion’ not by accident! She is a master (Queen) of the not-so-secret-secret. Hands up if you like to tell a story with a lot of build-up and then WOW your friends with the point. (If your hand isn’t up, it should be, because it’s a very human trait. If you’ve ever bombed a joke before, your hand should be up, too!).

Whether you call it reverse engineering or backward design, Lisa has used it to build a personal empire of her own teaching others how to implement and follow-through with this counter-intuitive, but highly effective (and affective!) method.  (Check out Lisa’s, The Close Doesn’t Happen at the End philosophy.)

You see, if you want to make a sale or be known as a stand-out speaker and authority the first moments of your presentation matter just as much as (more than) your close! In fact, what you do BEFORE you ever take the stage matters the most!

Backward Design is a philosophy that I’ve used for many years to create success in education, fitness, entrepreneurship, and performance. I have adapted the principles with your business and personal speaking success in mind so you can begin to reverse engineer your talks and presentations to achieve the same success Lisa, I and other 'knowers of the truth' have enjoyed (ritual free zone, guaranteed).

For this article the definition of presentation is: any talk, keynote, workshop or experience where you share ideas and content to ultimately offer a transformation in the form of information (think funnel), a new way of thinking (education), or even the sale of a product or service (coaching/consulting).

CALLING all SPEAKERS, ENTREPRENEURS, and FB LIVE STARS: This model will help you to structure and deliver highly successful - AND UNFORGETTABLE - talks, workshops, events, and live streams! (In other words, if you want to be a #boss in your space, read on!)

And now, something visually enticing:

The Backward Design Model © 2017 Davide Di Giorgio

The Backward Design Model © 2017 Davide Di Giorgio

Step 1: Identify Your WHY

Before you stop reading and judge me for sharing something you probably already know, stick with me because there is more to WHY than you may realize. 

WHY is the desired result

Why are you speaking or presenting, and WHY should someone listen to, learn from, follow or invest in you, in this instance?

You see, when you look at the learning process (also applicable to the sales process) the end result is the point. Take a cookbook (a what?) or an online recipe (that’s better) as the example. The first thing you are presented with is the finished product: the recipe title and often a picture. The WHY; upfront, and uncluttered [insert the Facebook 'wow' emoticon here].

Imagine instead if you were presented with blank ingredient lists and instructions, and the final product was left to be a mystery, because you, the author of the recipe, wanted someone to ‘learn by doing’ and achieve an Emeril like ‘BAM’ only in the final moments, because ‘that, is impactful.' [Insert new Facebook 'angry' emoticon here.] (Enough said?)

Your WHY needs to be clearly defined, and everything you say and do must lead the audience to the WHY.

(...A Deeper Dive)
In an instructional design model (my teaching background has served me well when working with speakers) the WHY is referred to as the enduring understanding (big words, big concept, easier to digest than you think).
‘Enduring’ refers to the big ideas that you want someone to truly ‘get inside of’ or internalize even after they’ve forgotten the finer details. Back to the recipe we just cooked up. Is the enduring understanding the experience of the final dish for you and your meal guests, or the way you carefully mixed ingredients with a wooden spoon in step 3? Obvious, right?

So then, your WHY also keeps you on track and helps to distinguish between:

  • Information worth being familiar with
  • Information/actions important to know and do
  • Enduring understandings

Determining enduring understandings is a master class in itself. A good starting point to is to apply the 7 Criteria for Expert Content Selection to the content/information you would like to present. (Read the full article here.)

WARNING: diving into content before you have a fully developed WHY is a recipe for a speaking disaster (which I see far too often).

Your WHY not only anchors your entire talk, it drives the audience forward - closer to your vision, mission, and purpose - and it inspires them into ACTION!

Step 2: Define the WHO

As important as the WHY is WHO: your audience. They will have an impact on your WHY.

The WHO is the ‘big picture’ view of your audience. The WHY for a group of beginners should reflect their needs, directly, which would be different than the WHY for a group of seasoned experts in any given niche.

When you know WHO your audience is, you can craft a clearly defined WHY - the purpose for your talk or presentation and the desired final result.

Continue to explore your WHO based on where they are at in their understanding of your topic.

Yes, here’s where you have to commit to truly understanding your audience and their needs/wants.

  • What do they know? 
  • What do they not know? 
  • What do they need to know (to achieve your WHY)?

A discussion on WHO would be incomplete without YOU.

In other words, WHO are you? Who are you showing up as for your audience? What is your stand? What do you believe in? And most importantly:

WHO will you BE

to give an audience a reason to reject you,

so that they can accept you?

Just let that sink in for a while... Can you see how critical your WHY and WHO are? ...and we haven't even touched on your talk's content yet! 

Step 3: Define Your WHAT

WHAT: the acceptable evidence that will validate and prove that your desired outcome is achieved

You thought THIS was the content part, right!? And it is, sort of. 

How will you measure results, success or progress? (But, but, but…)

This does raise a lot of questions (buts) about logistics and I’m here to challenge you to get crystal clear on this step because it is one of the most important things to consider if you want to achieve lasting success while becoming an unforgettable speaker and entrepreneur at the same time!

What is WHAT?

Here are some success-measuring tools to consider:

  • Conversion/Metrics (in a funnel or sales situation)
  • Observation (in a live setting)
  • Dialogue/Discussion
  • Quizzes/Tests
  • Prompts/Agreement (especially in sales and transformation)
  • Performance Tasks
  • Self-Assessments

If you deliver a content-heavy presentation, provide opportunities to use content in context. Show how what you speak about can be applied to the person (every single one of them) sitting in the audience (WHO).

Include prompts and provide opportunities to share to confirm agreement and understanding.

Take polls. Make observations. If you're speaking about living a life on fire, for example, and you observe the audience is not 'being' on fire when you ask for agreement, there is a disconnect. While they may be hearing what you say, you are not creating an experience that will transform them. So, challenge them to respond in a way that lets them feel what it is to live a life on fire!

WHY? Because that is what you believe AND what you want for every member of the audience. 

WHO? Because that is who you ARE, and who you know every member of the audience to be (their true potential).

(Shoutout to Nick Unsworth of Life on Fire for being the inspiration for the example.) 

To stay true to the concept of backward design, it’s critical that you do not measure results ONLY at the end. By then, it’s too late. Even in a sales situation, if you are presenting in hopes of landing sales at the end of your talk or pitch with no other measure in place along the way, you will have left money on the table (and, ain’t nobody got time for missed opportunity)!

Ask yourself, WHAT tools, devices, and opportunities, OVER TIME (over the entire talk; good things take time, and repetition) will I put in place to determine that my outcome is being achieved. Stay true and committed to your WHY and WHO and actively define the WHAT throughout.

Step 4: Plan your HOW

Now, you’re just about ready to actually create your talk or presentation. Before we deal with the HOW we have some business to finish with WHAT. (I know, this is the hardest part - to resist planning HOW to present until the last moment! Stick with me, the results will astound you.) 

Determine WHAT is needed for success (YES! THE CONTENT!)

  • WHAT knowledge/skills are required to achieve the goal/desired results?
  • WHAT activities/experiences will best teach/deliver/instill those skills/knowledge?
  • WHAT resources, materials or platforms are the best to accomplish the desired goal?

** It's important to note that I included content under the HOW. HOW you deliver content is as critical as WHAT you choose to deliver. They are linked. To be unforgettable, HOW you deliver is the game-changer!

HOW will you deliver to most effectively connect your audience to the WHY?

  • Will you use personal stories or stories from others?
  • Will you use affective slides and language to build desire, pursuit, and encourage transformation? 
  • Will you present for thirty minutes, one hour, or three days?
  • Will you leverage your own content or use curated content?

This is when you get to make the slides, write the copy and design the flow of your presentation, always with the WHY, WHO and WHAT in mind.

Something important to note: when you use Backward Design there will be a moment when your WHY becomes the WHY of your audience (each one of them) because you have taken the time to understand them, speak to them directly and included the measure for results (the WHAT in step 2) that allows them to internalize/see personal value in your offer (be it education, transformation, or further pursuit).

The SINGLE BIGGEST mistake speakers make - even successful speakers - is to jump into content selection and design. Even those speakers who can quickly and eloquently rattle off their WHY make this mistake. Look, just because you know your WHY and can recite it, doesn't mean you've infused your talk with it. When in doubt, ask yourself, 'WHY am I including this?' 'WHY does it matter?', 'WHY am I doing it this way?' -- when the answers to those questions directly link back to your actual WHY - then you know you are on the path to creating a truly UNFORGETTABLE experience for your audience.

Amy Yamada (pictured above) really dove-in when we worked together on her Unforgettable Talk. The result - she was so deeply in alignment with her WHY and WHO - she agreed to make her WHAT about ONE idea ONLY - and her HOW absolutely WOWed the audience. Her success was measured by the fifty percent of the audience who opted-in to her list after her talk and still, to this day, people talk about the experience Amy created on that stage! UNFORGETTABLE!

So, the WHEN is now! YOU are ready, NOW - to create world-class, world-changing experiences that make you and your business UNFORGETTABLE.


I'd love to hear from you. Comment and let me know if this topic has given you something new to consider as you plan and your next keynote, presentation, workshop, or event.

Photo credit: Amy YamadaMarcy Browe Photography & Serious Take Productions

Davide Di Giorgio, The Unforgettable Experience Alchemist. YOU are ready, NOW - to create world-class, world-changing experiences that make you and your business UNFORGETTABLE.