The phrase that pays: 3 ways to make your point stick

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Every day, your listeners are bombarded with more and more information until their ears are positively ringing. How on earth can you make your messages the ones that stick in their memories?

Your goal as a business professional and presenter is simple: Speak To Be Remembered And Repeated.

Tying a powerful, repeatable message to each point gives you a “Phrase That Pays.” When we remember vivid examples, we nearly always remember the associated lesson or message. Your Phrase That Pays is your Point of Wisdom or Foundational Phrase or Sound Bite Statement. The following are techniques that help to create or identify your memorable phrase.

1. The “Two and a Half Men” Technique.

One very popular sitcom on TV at the moment is Two and a Half Men. Many people don’t realize that the unusual titles of the episodes always occur in the dialogue of one of the characters:

Go East on Sunset Until You Reach the Gates of Hell

If I Can’t Write My Chocolate Song, I’m Going to Take a Nap

The Last Thing You Want Is to Wind Up With a Hump

Did You Check With the Captain of the Flying Monkeys?

I Can’t Afford Hyenas

Round One to the Hot Crazy Chick

I Remember the Coatroom, I Just Don’t Remember You

Back Off, Mary Poppins

Can You Eat Human Flesh With Wooden Teeth?

Viewers begin watching for the title to occur in the show’s dialogue. If you are a fan, you can probably even guess which character said each title. The actor’s dialogue amuses us and cements the show. The brilliant writers know we, the audience, will go out and retell the storylines. The result is that we add to the show’s success with our word-of-mouth reviews and advertising.

So, how can this help you as a speaker? When you give others a catchy, repeatable catchphrase – something funny, powerful, or thought provoking – your listeners will be eager to repeat it to others. When your power phrases that are attached to your content and examples you will create an ever-expanding network of people retelling your key messages.

2. The “Quote Others” Technique.

Let the wisdom in your speech come from the actual advice or dialogue of your characters, not you. Reframe and emphasize your own key points with the pithy comments of others. They may be talking to you, or you overhear something said. It is important to let your audience know that you had to learn what they are leaning, and give credit to who passed on that knowledge – you never want to be the hero of all your stories.

In my leadership speech, I tell the story of how I learned to better manage my staff.

“In 1975, I opened my first business. My staff quickly made it known what they thought of my leadership style by assigning me a few non-complimentary nicknames.”

“With my life savings tied up in this business and a ten-year lease, I realized I had to do something fast. So, I attended my first leadership seminar. The seminar leader said something I will never forget. It was as relevant in 1975 as it is in 2012. He said, “Your business is as good as your worst employee.””

After a pause to let that idea sink in, I ask my audience, “Isn’t that a terrifying thought while you are attending this conference for the next three days?”

3. The “Repeat After Me” Technique.

Often, it is helpful to give your audience the actual words for them to use when they repeat your message to their own team.

During a presentation on Exceptional Customer Service and using examples that incorporate “Two and Half Men” or “Quote Others” techniques, you can help cement the ideas, by recommending the following:

“When you leave this conference, you will be filled with enthusiasm and information that you’ll want to share with your team. After you tell them the best ideas for your company, say, ‘For the next few minutes, I would like you to tell me which ideas will be the most relevant to our company and how we can best incorporate them.’ As good leaders, you know your team will be more committed to the results if they help design the solution.”

This is how you can connect your entertaining stories to the reality of your listener’s lives and businesses.

Let Others Provide Your Phrase That Pays

There are few new Universal Truths, but unending ideas that can become fresh and powerful when aided by your stories and personal experiences, then summarized in your Phrase That Pays. Here are some ways to develop them. 

  • Listen to speakers and even read newspaper and magazine articles, trying to spot the Phrase That Pays – the point of wisdom, the sound bite, the foundational phrase. If there isn’t one, create one.  
  • Sometimes an audience can invent the Phrase That Pays FOR you. A presenter teaching good customer service asked the audience to tell stories about good and bad service. One attendee said she had complained to a Customer Service Department and heard, “Oh, that must be Anthony.” This indicated everyone knew a problem existed, but nothing was being done about it. So, “Oh, that must be Anthony” became the Phrase That Pays for that audience and subsequent ones when the story was retold. 
  • While phrases usually derive from stories, sometimes a dynamite phrase can send you looking for a story to present it. Here are some great phrases that I’ve encountered:

“Don’t focus on making a lot of money. Rather, focus on becoming the type of person others want to do business with, and you most likely will make a lot of money.” A. H. Fripp.

“If you roll out the red carpet for a billionaire, they won’t even notice it. If you roll out the red carpet for a millionaire, they expect it. If you roll out the red carpet for a “thousandaire,” they appreciate it. But if you roll out the red carpet for a “hundredaire,” they tell everybody they know.” Banking executive Gary Richter.

Get the idea?

Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE, keynote speaker, executive speech coach, and sales presentation skills expert, works with organizations and individuals who realize they gain a competitive edge through powerful, persuasive, presentation skills. She builds leaders, transforms sales teams, and delights audiences. Fripp is past-president of the National Speakers Association. For more information, go to, (415) 753-6556, @PFripp, or

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