Word of mouth has been around since the beginning of humanity.

Word of mouth is the most powerful, natural, and free tool you can have. In the last two posts of this series, I gave you some tips on Branding, Marketing, and Storytelling as a public speaker. In this post, you’ll learn specifically and in as much detail as I can give you about using word of mouth to make your speeches go viral.

If you’re not talking then how will people know about you and what you’re trying to accomplish?

Talking  a no-brainer, but I actually think so many people forget to promote themselves especially when meeting new people. However, you probably don’t want to annoy people you already know about the work you do every day unless they’re genuinely interested.


That’s why using word of mouth on people you’re more unfamiliar with gives you a huge advantage. You’d be surprised how far your reach can go just through word of mouth.


Before getting into the depth of the post I want to give you an example of a word of mouth epidemic I reviewed about in The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. I wasn’t too huge a fan of the book, but there were certain takeaways that were worth remembering such as this one.

Word of Mouth Midnight Ride

‘The British are coming! The British are coming!’

word of mouth paul revere

This line is very well known in American history. It is the night Paul Revere went on his midnight ride to warn the militia in the surrounding towns that the British were planning an attack on Boston. However, it wasn’t just one man who took this valiant ride to warn the people. Paul Revere had friends riding out to help spread the message. The only difference between Revere and his friends was his word of mouth had more power.


We only remember and give credit to Paul Revere for warning everyone. Why do you think that is?


Paul Revere had credibility and connections, or as The Tipping Point calls it, he was a ‘connector’.


Credibility is one if not the most important factors in creating a word of mouth epidemic. This is a topic I wrote briefly about in the first post in this series, Branding Yourself as a Public Speaker, and will discuss more specifically in this post about the most ancient form of marketing there is.

1. Word of Mouth – The Natural Way of Marketing

Imagine going to a restaurant. It looks average, nothing too special about it, in fact, it’s a bit grungy. You look around at the people eating their hot dogs and then spot an old telephone booth like the ones in the 1950’s black and white films with the rotary dial phone. You step inside and pick up the receiver and dial 2 just for the fun of it.


To your surprise, someone picks up and says, ‘Do you have a reservation?’. ‘What?’ You think. ‘A reservation at a hot dog joint?’ The back wall of the telephone booth slides open and you step inside to a completely transformed luxuriously secret restaurant that does not advertise or even have a sign out front. It is completely secret, and the name of the restaurant is even better. It’s called “Please Don’t Tell”.


The food is absolutely delicious and the concept makes you feel privileged to know of a secret place (actually it isn’t secret to the people living in that city because the secret place is so cool that everyone talks and knows about it. That’s how word of mouth works). So what do you do the next day after your amazing night out at “Please Don’t Tell”? You tell all your friends, coworker, parents and maybe even every person you know!

word of mouth please don't tell restaurant

Even if half the people you ended up telling about “Please Don’t Tell” end up going to the restaurant in the next week, “Please Don’t Tell” will surely be booked out due to the number of customers leaking the secret of this restaurant’s location.


This is the power of word of mouth at work and the key is to elicit a powerful emotion!


(Adapted from Contagious: Why Things Catch On which I highly recommend reading. It’s one of my favorite marketing books which gives several more amazing tips to apply in your own marketing strategy.)

How you can apply a word of mouth strategy to marketing yourself as a public speaker.

Why do you think “Please Don’t Tell” did such a good job of making people interested in going to their restaurant?


The restaurant is unique and also presents a bit of scarcity, one of the six principles of Robert Cialdini’s persuasion techniques (I love this guy by the way!). Scarcity is when there is (perceived to be) less of something available. For example, seats at “Please Don’t Tell”. When the customers know the restaurant is going to be completely booked if they don’t call by 9 am then they’re more likely to call as soon as they wake up to make a reservation.


Scarcity is also great for word of mouth epidemics. Have you had a friend tell you about the huge weekend sale going on at Best Buy? Yes, I’m 100% sure you have. The sale only lasts 2 days, so you better go while you can. This creates urgency.


And then there’s the fact that the restaurant is very unique. Before I had read this story, I had never heard of a secret restaurant. I’d heard of secret or exclusive clubs, but never a restaurant, especially one that is hidden behind an average hot dog joint.


This elicits an emotion of awe or amazement. How do you suppose you could apply this to public speaking?

2. Word of Mouth – Using Awe to Your Advantage

Using awe in your speech has the potential to make your presentation go viral by word of mouth especially if it is recorded live and uploaded on YouTube. Word of mouth doesn’t start with two people face-to-face talking. It starts with you. It starts from the source of the amazing speech given by you.


So that puts extra pressure on you to dish out some amazing and inspiring content when you speak in front of people. By using positive emotions or disturbing content that elicits a strong emotion, people will talk about it. You’ll be able to leverage that emotion to encourage people to start talking with their friends and family about your speech.


Just like when people told their friends about “Please Don’t Tell”.


3. Word of Mouth – Why Do People Talk?

word of mouth talk

You may not even realize you do this, but when you talk with people, have you ever found yourself sharing something you think will help the other person or sharing something you think will make yourself seem smarter?


Whether you agree with it or not, you share information with other people either because you want to help the other person, you find the topic interesting or funny, or you want to make yourself look better. That last one sounds arrogant, but it’s very true and you’re probably shaking your head ‘yes’ right now.


Give your audience something to talk about. It’s not about you, it’s about them, so treat your listeners accordingly.


Leverage this knowledge about the power of word of mouth when you’re planning your next public speaking engagement.


4. Word of Mouth – Why Do People Listen?

word of mouth listen

I think trust plays into everything! A person will listen to you if they trust you. From friendship to relationships, coworkers or the public speaker you hire for a job, all people need trust in order to fully listen to you.


This is the hardest concept to actually practice and there is no exact science behind how you gain trust. There are tools and tricks you can do but the best way to gain trust is by being a genuinely helpful and knowledgeable person. Trust takes a long time to build and really, there are no shortcuts. You must continually work at building trust.


One of my favorite blogging/marketing books, ‘The Impact Equation’ talks heavily about trust being the most important attribute you must have. I highly recommend reading this one and adding it to your collection.


And then there’s, of course, whether the topic is interesting. Actually, and even more important question you might want to ask yourself is, ‘Is this topic interesting to the people I’m talking with now?’


If you know the people well enough then you’ll know what to speak about and what not to speak about. If you don’t know the people at all then you might have to test the waters a little bit before diving deeper into a topic.


If it’s a public speech then you need to get to know your audience as much as you can before speaking in front of them if you want them to connect with your topic and then spread your name and message by word of mouth. That could be tough because in most, if not all public speaking events you will not know individuals in your audience. It is doable though.


5. Word of Mouth – Compel people to spread your message

You already know that you need to speak about something that will stand out emotionally. You can do this by telling a story or useful information. But how can you ensure that people will remember to talk about your compelling message with other people?


Tell a Story

At the beginning of this post, I told you two stories. Are you going to remember them? Probably most of you will because those stories are quite amazing and memorable. When you tell a story it has to be memorable. Include lots of emotion, but try staying away from sad emotions. It’s okay if the story is sad as long as it has a happy ending.


One of the best ways to start a word of mouth epidemic is to tell a story. Not just any story, but a personalized story that people can share. It should be a story that is easy to remember and can be told again and again.

Storytelling: The Key to Public Speaking Success

Build a Community

Having a community online or in person is one of the best ways to get people talking about you and what you’re doing. In the internet age having just word of mouth and nothing else will not make you famous. There are so many tools, social media being the big one, at your disposal to help encourage people to start spreading your message.


Think of it from my perspective, with this new website and blog, through my social media accounts, new Facebook group, Matt’s Business Book and Growth Mindset Community and YouTube I’m able to reach hundreds of people just starting out. As my accounts grow, more people will start talking face-to-face and online about BookMattic.


Building my community of business book and knowledge lovers has been one of the best choices I’ve made. You need to also consider building a community too, so that:


1) So you can learn from others in your niche.


2) So you can make more connections.


3) So you can build your own credibility as well as your confidence as a leader in your field.


Just those reasons above should prompt you to make a group right now. But before you go off and build a group on social media be sure to plan out clear guidelines before you launch the group. I’ve seen many groups fail because their guidelines were not clear enough and too lenient on the members of the group. When you don’t have clear or strict enough rules people will piss all over your group. I’ve seen it way too many times.


Get your group set up, and set it up right the first time, then watch as your community grows, you make more contacts and more people start talking about how great your brand is. Post your public speaking videos on there. Make personalized videos. Do all you can to engage your community. Make them feel special and like they belong.


Use a Call to Action

A call to action is urging someone to take action whether it be to take up a reading habit, or comment on your post, or even share it. Public speakers can also use calls to action in their word of mouth strategy. In fact, it is a must.


Why must you use a call to action? Simply put, so that your speech matters. If you don’t mention a call to action at the end of your speech or blog post most if not all of the people attending or reading your post will forget about it the next day.


You’re almost 100% more likely to make a difference in other people’s lives by compelling your audience to do something by providing a call to action. It could be as simple as telling them to smile every day from now on, for example, if your speech was about happiness.


Some of you might not even know how to make a call to action. I’ll give you a few examples.


  • Just be direct. By saying exactly what you want your audience to do they will clearly understand. For example, ‘ Now I want all of you to get out there and spend at least an hour playing with your kids every day without a break. They will love you for it.


  • Tell your audience your vision for the world, or city, or whatever your topic is. Think along the lines of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech.


  • Close with a question that makes your audience want to do something, or question their own existence.


Word of Mouth Final Thoughts

I hope this post has been very helpful in your public speaking journey. Many of these tips can be applied to other parts of your marketing strategy for your business or blog so feel free to use them and share them with other people in your field.


Never forget that even though you live in the digital age it doesn’t mean you should only use digital marketing techniques to make your brand go viral. Digital marketing techniques are actually tools you can use to leverage and expand your word of mouth virality.


Now it’s your turn to help spread this knowledge. Please share this post with your friends to help this post reach more people.


Realated Public Speaking Posts:

Branding Yourself as a Public Speaker

Marketing Yourself as a Public Speaker

Storytelling: The Key to Public Speaking Success


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