Be honest.  If you’re a speaker, you crave one.  Everyone else gets one, why shouldn’t you?  And those invitations to speak are going to flow much more often if you can say, “She’s greeted with rapturous audiences giving standing ovations wherever she goes!”

So how do you get a standing ovation?  Three simple steps.  Simple, but not easy to do well.

1.  Speak on a topic you’re passionate about.  Ultimately, it comes down to passion, because speakers unconsciously share their emotions with the audience and you need to care to make the audience care enough to stand up at the end.  So pick a topic you really, really care about.  Or don’t bother to speak.

2.  Tell a personal story of overcoming hardship.  The most common mistake speakers make is to skip over the bad news, their imperfections, or the rough spots in their story.  Yet that’s precisely what audiences love.  You must give your audience a story arc, one that shows you facing and overcoming some challenge – but really struggling with it, not just taking it as another hurdle among many you easily surmount.  Character is revealed in conflict, struggle, and difficulty.  If you’re not willing to show us that, we won’t care.

3.  At the end, turn the speech over to the audience.  I mean something quite specific here.  That is, at the end you must share your cause, or universalize it, or find some way for the audience to join in.  Together we can….. Find some way to give the audience a chance to jump to their feet ready to do something to make the world better.  If you really want a Standing O, you need to make the end of the speech about the audience’s role, not yours.



  1. These are all good points. One more is to have a clear ending. Letting things trail off will not end well. Make it clear to people the speach is over and they are way more likely to clap, stand up, etc!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Dan. You’re right; clear endings are essential. You need to send a signal to the audience that it’s time to start clapping! The simplest way is to say “Thank you,” which is universally understood as a signal for the end. But there’s controversy about “Thank you”; some speaking biz folks hate it, others love it. I’m in the “love it” camp because it’s simple, clear, and unambiguous. And it always works.

      1. Nick,I have found that most of the standing ovations go to political speeches and much less for social,cultural,business and academic subjects,if it is true,why is it so ?BG

          1. Great point Nick! If I may add a thought: most great political speeches are written by professionals who are great at writing speeches, and delivered by politicians who are great at the art of oration (or they wouldn’t have made it to a stage where they’d give such speeches). As far as best case scenarios go, these are pretty close to ideal.

            Don’t you agree?

          2. Hi, Michael — thanks for the comment. Yes, you’re right; politicians can bring their “A” game to their speechifying. But you’d be surprised how often they don’t — they’re rushed, under-prepared, over-committed and imperfect like the rest of us.

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