William Riggs
South Dakota School Activities Assn


     One of the most rewarding aspects of being a motivational speaker is the opportunity I enjoy to positively impact the lives of so many different types of people. Though cynics may perceive my profession to be a little on the cheesy side, I’m convinced that it remains one of the most effective means of catalyzing life change, and for a host of reasons. Many a person has told me that a message I delivered decades ago transformed their lives and still stirs their souls. Good speeches deliver far-reaching benefits that go well beyond merely the immediate effects on the moods of their audiences.
     History confirms that memorable speeches can move the world. From Abraham Lincoln (“That this government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the Earth….), to Winston Churchill (“We shall fight them in the streets, we shall fight them in the landing fields…”), to MLK (“I have a dream that this nation under God shall rise up and live out the true meaning of her creed….”), to Ronald Reagan (“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”), speeches not only captured the underlying zeitgeist of the era, they forced it to the surface and focused it, transforming positive emotion into forward motion. Words have power, and those who wield them well can alter the destinies of individuals, companies, organizations, societies and nations. If my messages, which powerfully inspire people to alter their priorities, harness the power of enthusiasm, and strive mightily toward their goals are “cheesy,” then perhaps you should call me “Cheese Whiz” because I’ve been told I’m a whiz at it. I even teach people how to deliver powerful speeches, too. (details here)
          Great speakers rivet the attention of audience members from the opening moment until the last, breathless conclusion. A master speaker knows when attentiveness is beginning to wane and immediately seizes it back, taking attendees on a roller coaster ride that wows them, gives them a chance to catch their breath, then takes them to a newer, greater height and does it again. Minute by minute the audience is lure to deeper levels of interest. That’s why I use magic in my presentations. A person cannot absorb a solid hour (let alone a half-day or full day of training) any more than one can drink from a fire hose. Content must be delivered in bite-sized chunks with breaks in between to allow attendees to “chew” on the meaty material and swallow it. I slip Las Vegas-quality magic into those in-between seams to purposefully build breaks into my talks, then use them as an illustration and launching pad to prepare them for the next, loftier peak.
          I love the challenge of a reluctant audience! When I see a group of business people sitting in the ballroom of a luxury hotel, arms folded and scowling as they prepare to sit through a mandatory conference session while their kids are playing by the pool, I smile. They skeptically eye me and my magician’s props onstage and I can read their minds: “I dare you to try to teach me anything!” or “You had better be good!” I relish that test of my skills, knowing that I’ll soon wear down their resistance by making them chuckle a few times during the first few seconds, almost in spite of themselves. Before long, they’re holding their sides and trying to keep from wetting themselves in uncontrollable laughter. That’s when I know that I have them! Once they’re laughing, they are almost powerless to prevent the content I present from penetrating their tough outer defenses.
          The difference between a keynoter who merely fills a speaking slot (even if he or she does it well) during a conference and a true motivator is that the latter evokes emotions that lead the hearer in a better direction. It’s not enough just to tell touching stories. Anyone can do that. All you need to do is read Chicken Soup for the Soul or watch Oprah to find such stories. Merely recounting touching events that cause audiences to shed a sympathetic tear or two won’t help you or your organization reach your goals. I once knew a preacher who could say “Mesopotamia” so beautifully that it made people cry! It didn’t help them any; it just made them cry. The salient issue is whether the emotions generated by a speech actually create helpful behavior change in your people. This is achieved by telling the right stories to drive home important and useful points.
          Attempting to fill audiences’ brains with content before completing the three steps above is a tall order, and teeters on the brink of becoming a fool’s errand. You know this to be true based on your own personal experience, don’t you? Have you ever sat through a “speech” that was little more than a recitation of one fact after another, and afterwards thought, “Why didn’t the speaker just write up the list of bullet points and email it to me?” Said another way, “There’s a method to my magical madness.” I do magic, deliver one-liners, and tell stories in order to prepare people to receive and implement a vital message.
          After all, it is one thing to say to a person, “You should do the important things first.” (Doesn’t everyone already know that, including the ones who don’t do it?) It is quite another to arrest that person’s attention, break down that wall of resistance, move him or her with a relevant story, and then demonstrate how putting the important things first will revolutionize their lives, improve their incomes, advance their careers, stabilize their marriages, build their businesses, and positively influence their children. Only then does the message translate into useful, meaningful action. The test of a motivational speaker, even a funny and magical one like me, is not how many people enjoy the presentation. Almost everyone rates my keynotes as excellent or even the best they’ve ever experienced. The true measure is: “Was helpful, relevant content successfully delivered to the mind and the heart in such a way that behavior is changed accordingly?”
          While the best speaking coaches charge thousands of dollars to train laypeople to speak publicly, I’ve chosen to “keep the cookies on the bottom shelf.” Executives, salespeople, teachers, and preachers are only a few categories of individuals who, with a little tweaking, can become persuasive and even dynamic on the platform. Billy will meet with you via Zoom, analyze and organize your thoughts, add humor and moving stories, interview you to see if any of your own unique experiences might be turned into fascinating illustrations of the points you’re trying to make, and help you become winsome and natural onstage. Your first six months of coaching (and I always deliver more than I’m paid to do) are only $250. You can learn more here and even sign-up online and we’ll be in contact right away, often within minutes.
Billy Riggs is a Texas-based, Funny Motivational Speaker who uses magic, humor and music in his keynote speeches. Find out more about booking Billy for your conference in Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, or anywhere in the world by clicking “Contact” above.

William Riggs

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