8 secrets for viral internet content and going viral yourself – be admired and rehired as a speaker


What is it that will make you go viral – become admired and rehired as a speaker? What is it that will have audiences flocking to your presentations where they will engage with you, and change or act or think differently as a result of their experience? Afterwards, their conversations will be about your presentation; stimulated by the experience, providing positive feedback to you … and to event coordinators!

And if there’s one thing event coordinators love, it’s speakers who come recommended, and with their own fan base.

What makes people tweet your sound bytes? What makes them recommend your presentation and share it? What makes them give that positive feedback?

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did, but people will
never forget how you made them feel” ~ Maya Angelou

The answer lies in the hooks you embed in your presentations. These are the hooks that create an experience for your audience, make them feel something, involve them. They catch and keep attention. They heighten the impact. They are then held in the memory, and shared later. They are the elements that make internet content go viral and that you can use to build your own reputation.

Here are 8 specific hooks that provide those experiences on the internet – making people want to share, and making others want to click and experience for themselves – that you can use in your speaking to make you and your message “go viral”.

1. Tell a story

People are used to watching stories on screens – in the theatre, on television and computer. A piece of content that tells a story, on the internet, then automatically captures attention and draws an audience in immediately. They follow along with the story, waiting for the entertainment or the learning that they expect from a story. Your audiences, too, have been hardwired by a long history of storytelling to automatically tune in to a story, giving you instant engagement – in the same way. You then have the opportunity to draw them in with you, into the story, its emotional arc and its “moral”. Make it vivid enough, make it work to communicate a point, and you have created that hook, that experience, that feeling; a memory to be valued and shared.

2. Appeal to an emotion

May Angelou’s quote says it all. Emotion on its own is a means for content to go viral, and for you to create a hook that people will remember from your presentation. It can by funny (think videos of babies laughing) or sad (family loss or cancer’s ravages), moving or stupid, cute (all those Facebook videos of cute animals) strange or gross. Create an emotion to associate with your message and attract “hits” (attention) and “shares” – recommendations.

3. Add a rollercoaster to the emotion …

and you multiply the effect. You may have seen the Dove “sketches” video. It utilises this effect well, as the women, originally challenged and then gradually coming to realise that they are seen as more beautiful than they see themselves. The emotion swells.

4. Be Positive/Uplifting

While it may seem that we are addicted to negative news and all that is awful, there are many pieces of viral internet content that are successful because they inspire us and show us that, as humans, we can be good, kind, tolerant. The video “Validation” is just one. Inspire your audience and you create an experience that they value, remember and share.

5. Use the unexpected

People love surprise. They love the unexpected. The “Gangnam style” video had an element of

the unexpected (along with “humour” and a human element that people could relate to!) And the

Pepsi ad “Test Drive” was based around the unexpected. If you can create this element in your

presentation you engage your audiences, you add it to your speaker brand and you can make it a

powerful hook.

6. Use a compelling opening

Open with a bang, something that captures attention right from the start, and you have your audience focussed on you and your content. You can use something we have already listed – a story, something unexpected, something emotionally evocative. Or use something guaranteed to get attention that the audience shares, such as a geographical humour, reference to a local or international celebrity or an event you all shared. But open with a bang and follow up with content that is equally engaging and you have the elements of an experience, a viral speech.

7. Inform your audience. Open their minds

The classic internet example, of course, is the TED talks which show new ways of thinking about their topics. If you can present a unique viewpoint on a subject, a point that creates “a-ha” experiences, then you can establish yourself as a thought-leader in your niche. People will be drawn to your presentations for the insight you can provide; just as the appellation of ”TED talk” draws internet users time and again to those speakers.

8. No ads

There are so many advertising videos produced now that are produced simply to go viral, and there is very little mention of the product. Evian’s “Baby and me” is a great example, and so is the Dove ad we mentioned before. These companies are very aware of the role of the story, the unexpected, and the way it can create such an experience that viewers remember that and then make the connection to the product. We as speakers can relax in this knowledge, especially since no audience want a “salesy” presentation. Make your “sale” whatever it is, secondary to your great content and you still can be successful.

In the end, what you are providing is a memorable experience for your audience and that experience is heightened by the hooks you use. Begin with your compelling opening, and then provide an experience that moves people and gives them new ways of thinking about things and you will

  • have them engaged and focussed on you and your message
  • have them remembering, repeating, acting on and sharing you and your message.
  • impress event coordinators who see that you come with recommendations, that their delegates are engaged and responding, are being moved to change and are talking about the speaker they chose.

Want success as a speaker? Go viral!

Bronwyn Ritchie from Pivotal Public Speaking mentors coaches, authors, entrepreneurs and speakers, inspiring them to speak their story, in their own voice to build confident, productive speaking. Build your speaking skills over 30 weeks with her 30 speaking tips, delivered weekly. Go to www.30speakingtips.com, and start now!

Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon via Compfight cc