Make Your Message STICK - Vince Poscente

Let’s talk about making your messaging stick, whether it’s in front of a room full of people or one on one.

The ol’ good cop/bad cop routine is something that works in speeches. Now, you may be imagining a bi-polar speaker, but we’re not talking about two different personas. In an effective keynote, the "Good Cop, Bad Cop Presentation Technique" can help people learn at a deeper level.

Our most profound life-lessons occur when hardship hits. In addition, blissful, joyful, loving and peaceful moments are full of life lessons too. We're on this planet to learn and grow. If you can optimize learning, whether it is as a speaker, leader, parent or a true friend, then let’s find a way to make your message as sticky as possible.


Using comfort AND discomfort, you will be able to truly drive your message home.

For example, I will regularly challenge my audiences to look in the self-honesty mirror.

Here’s a transcript clip:

"Do you want to know what the competition is not willing to do? Typically, those are the things you're not willing to do either." (discomfort)

Then I follow that with, "I'm not here for you to like me. I said that once and a guy at the back said, We don't." (audience laughs followed by a comedic build...)

"It was Enterprise Fleet Services."



"Huh... easy to let go of stuff." (more laughter)

"Seriously, be honest with yourself. Find ways to do what the competition is not willing to do. Own it."

Here is another example:

A number of years ago, Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence, did a legendary 'bad cop, good cop' routine at the Canadian Postal Service. As the story goes, Mr. Peters was called to the stage after his standard introduction. (Tom Peters was nowhere to be seen.) There was abject discomfort. The audience looked around. The a/v team had no back-up plan other than filler-music occupying the dead air. After an agonizing period of time, Peters walked out to the center stage. The music faded down and he started with, "Based on your standards, I'm on time."

Peters went on to engage the audience with his direct and unfiltered content. But, he wasn't there just for the audience to like him. He was there to deliver an ROI. Were the leaders at the Canadian Postal Service paying for pandering or value?

When you combine good cop with bad cop honesty, you will be sure to make your message stick. And, let’s face it, by wanting your message to stick, you are clearly selling something. Be it a direction, idea, concept, product or service… you are selling!

Another way to make your message stick is - storytelling.

Masterful stories are critical as an upfront approach. Tell great stories or, better yet, create 'viral' stories and look at what happens next...

Everyone has a vacation tradition. Buy a spoon or a mug. Drink a local brand of beer or keep the coaster. Hold onto a piece of currency or make sure you get “that stamp” on your passport. What has been our trip-tradition?

Ours is to buy a piece of art. Over the years, we have acquired works from Cuba, India, Ireland, New Zealand, and Russia. Closer to home; Chicago, Dallas, New Orleans, and New York. It wasn’t until a cold day in January did we realize how important ‘story time’ is in our buying decision.

Paris in the winter will drive you indoors. The denture rattling, bone-cracking, don’t stick your tongue on that patina gargoyle COLD forces you to dash into the heat behind frosted doors. Once inside, you are somewhat compelled to buy something. By design, we went to the district in Paris where art galleries are waiting for appreciative buyers.

At the nearest art-shop, we shivered our way through the door. The tiny brass bell designed to flip a latch and ding decided to ring into nothingness. The entire latch and bell blasted off the hinge and ding, clang, banged its way across the worn wood floor. I turned to Michelle and said, “It’s so cold, the doors are freezing their bells off.” I think Michelle tried to laugh but her frosted lips weren’t ready for action just yet. Things heated up when she scanned the room for a piece of art waiting to be our next traditional acquisition.

The art was appealing and had potential. We envisioned what pieces could go on which walls. A cherished memory from this trip was waiting for our Amex card.

“Please tell us about this piece of art?”

The gallery attendant had her head buried in something on her screen. Her wood desk had nothing but a lamp and a computer on it. It was a lonely desk ready for transactional paperwork. She looked up with a confident gaze and said, “It is one sousand Euros.”

Expecting more of a description we realized the attendant was clearly not enthused about our first choice.

“Could you tell us about zat one?” I accidentally ask in a French accent.

“Zees is seecks ‘undered Euros,” the ‘salesperson’ said without a hint of sales-ishness.

“Yes. Thank you. What can you tell us about it?” asked Michelle, giving our attendant the chance to put the “sell” into sales.

“It is oil. It is possible to ship. It is elegant – oui?”

We tried to like what we saw but nothing was connecting. Could we rationalize the purchase anyway? It is, after all, our tradition. But, half an hour later we left the store empty-handed. Unable to contain her annoyance, Michelle said under her breath, “Why buy something without a story?”

Immediately upon going back outside the temperature froze any further inclination to spend money or time on a piece of art. The moment was gone and the French GDP would have to do without our contribution.

Now, let’s talk about your sales strategy?

What strategies and tactics do you use to close a sale? Do you sell services, products or both? Or, are you pitching a specific work initiative? Are you attempting to convince a colleague of a certain direction? The age-old saying stands true: If your lips are moving, you’re selling something. If that is the case, what will help your cause?

Story Time.

If you want to superpower the sale, turn it into its own unique narrative that is a personal experience. Do this and your service or product story creates its own ripple effect.

Case in point: I took a Tesla for a test drive. The copilot said, “At this straight away, punch it. Slam on the accelerator. Don’t worry, you won’t scare me.” I had no idea what he was talking about until the pedal touched the carpet. With a 0 to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds, a wheel gripping, head pinned back, slingshot of a ride, the ‘copilot’ created a story I’ve told over and over. It was entirely personal! The car painted the picture! It was a spine-buzzing, stomach twisting experience.

When others come through your door or are sitting in your audience look for all the ways you can make your message stick. Good Cop, Bad Cop or Story Time. It all works to get ‘their’ attention.

To book Vince Poscente for your next event, visit his profile:

Poscente is the author of The Ant And The Elephant and The Age of Speed. To order copies in bulk for your event, please visit 

Vince Poscente: New York Times Bestselling Author, Olympian, and Hall of Fame Speaker, Activate Purpose + Accelerate Growth

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