Make waves

by Doug Stevenson 2004

This is the “Make Waves” Issue

“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.”
George Bernard Shaw


Make Waves by Doug Stevenson


True or False? Your presentation begins the moment you start talking.

And the answer is…false. Great presentations begin long before the speaker opens his or her mouth to speak.

I want you to visualize a huge wave off the coast of Hawaii. It’s 30 feet tall, the height of a three-story building. Next, imagine that you are riding that wave on your trusty surfboard, your arms outstretched as you move flexibly to maintain the perfect balance. As the dynamic force of the wave propels you forward, you masterfully glide in and out of the wave’s curl, hanging ten and mesmerizing the crowd watching from the shoreline.

Before you step in front of any audience, you must first create The Wave. In this analogy, the wave represents the dynamic force within you that propels your content forward. It is your authentic spirit, energy and passion. The surfboard represents your content. Without it you will drown, or at the very least, dog paddle for dear life as your audience watches you struggle. The surfer is your mental capacity, your brain. It keeps track of where you are and what you are saying.

Imagine a speaker who stands before the audience without The Wave. Their content is presented in a logical and linear fashion, but without spirit, passion or energy. Boring!

My point is this: it is assumed that all speakers have prepared good content. Some have amazing content. Without The Wave however, their presentation will have all the excitement of sitting on a surfboard in a swimming pool – waiting for a wave that never comes. I’ll say it again: Boring!

Your job as a speaker is not only to create and ride The Wave of your energy and passion, but also to make waves in the hearts and minds of your listeners. Your audience needs to hear you, your unique perspectives and opinions about your content. If you don’t say or do something that someone might find challenging or objectionable, you are probably playing it too safe. I’m not talking about pushing the boundaries of good taste; I’m referring to taking a stand – making some waves. Audiences love dangerous speakers. They love to be challenged – to be made to think. They hate predictability. They want to see you hang ten!

Create The Wave before you speak. You will be funnier and more spontaneous. Your right and left brain will function as one. My coaching students refer to this heightened state as being “in the zone.”

Follow these five steps and create your Wave of spirit, energy and passion before you speak.

Step One

Warm up physically. Do some yoga or take a walk outside. Do something that elevates your heart rate to release “feel good” endorphins into your bloodstream.

Step Two

Do some Brain Gym exercises ( to integrate the right and left hemispheres of your brain. Your right brain is creative and spontaneous. It works with the logical and linear left brain to make interesting connections such as metaphors and analogies. When your right and left brain work together, you will think faster on your feet and be spontaneous and funny.

Step Three

Rehearse your material, especially your stories, out loud and on your feet. Practice at an up-tempo pace while moving around.

Step Four

The fifteen minutes before you speak is critical to maintaining The Wave that you have created. Don’t let others steal it away from you with last second distractions. Excuse yourself and go to the bathroom or some quiet space where you can get centered and grounded. Shift your self-talk to positive affirmations.

Step Five

Right before you speak, smile. Smile with your entire being. Visualize someone that you love, loving you and smiling at you, and open up your heart. Look at your audience and know that they want you to succeed. Then release the outcome into God’s hands and have fun.

Over the years I’ve coached over 1000 individuals on their stories and presentations. Every one of them has stated that they spend most, if not all, of their time working on their content. Yet the most powerful impression we leave on our audiences is often not just our content. It is the way we present ourselves and convey our content. It is our presence, our humanity.

As you anticipate your next presentation, consider adding a new level of preparation to your process. Work on your presence. Work on The Wave. Remember, the messenger is as important as the message. Are you bringing your heart, mind and soul with you when you speak? Or are you playing it safe, hiding behind PowerPoint slides and an overdose of content?

Speak from your heart with your head. Make waves.

Doug Stevenson


Copyright 2005 by Doug Stevenson. Reprinted with permission. Doug Stevenson is the creator of the Story Theater Method. He is an author, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. Reach Doug at or 800.573.6196