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Inspire — Renovate Communication Design, LLC

Three Lessons for Speakers and Presenters from “Friday Night Lights”


Have you ever been a part of an activity that allowed you to work with an inspiring coach?

I enjoyed many sports and clubs throughout high school and college, but if I had to choose the one coach who made me want to play the hardest it was Jerry Logan, my grade school basketball coach.

Every practice was packed with instruction. I remember drills that were completed again and again. Having to shoot and make 20 free throws before we could leave the gym.

Every game was the opportunity to showcase the hard work and dedication he was expecting and inspiring in us.

Coach Eric Taylor (played by Kyle Chandler) in “Friday Night Lights” is that kind of coach. When his team, the Dillon Panthers, takes the football field he tells the boys:

Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.

Coach Taylor’s advice works equally well off the gridiron and can help you make better presentations.

1. Give your audience clear eyes by focusing your message and making killer eye contact.

You need to have focus going into your talk. This could mean something as simple as turning off your computer and writing your thoughts down on paper.

Old school?


Less likely to be distracted by all that technology and social media has to offer?


Allow yourself to process the big idea that your talk is built around. That big idea is the main point you want your listeners to walk away with.

If they only remember one thing from your entire presentation, what do you want that to be? You need to build everything around that thought.

And eye contact is crucial not just for you, the speaker, but your audience needs it as well.

Make good eye contact and you’ll get instant feedback. Are they getting your big idea? If you can see their eyes, you’ll know.

Your audience expects you–wants you–to look them in the eye. Using great eye contact will show that you’re confident and that you want to connect with them.

2. Give your audience full hearts by moving them to action.

When you speak you have the opportunity to lead and inspire–don’t let that opportunity pass you by. You’re not just there to give information; no, you want your audience to do something, to move.

If you want action from your audience, you need to think about who they are. Speak to each person like they are the only one in the room.

Focus your talk by answering questions about your audience members that go deeper than their demographics:

  • What are their hopes, fears, and dreams?
  • What is their pain, need or frustration.
  • What do you want them to do?
  • Why might they say no?

The answers to these questions can make your presentations more relevant and powerful.

Write your talk to move that person who is sitting in the crowd with her arms crossed asking,“So what?” If you can reach her, the rest of the audience will be easy.

Fill their hearts by showing your passion as well. A great way to make your talk memorable is to use emotion. 

How do you want your audience to feel at the end of your talk? Inspired? Called to action?

Craft your message in a way that uses emotion. Consider the words you will use and the voice you will deliver them with. Varying your use of words, your volume and your pace will add contrast and make your talk more interesting to your listeners.

We remember more when we feel. If you can make your listeners feel, you can make them care. Choose words that will make an impact on your audience.

Make them care, and they will act.

3. Give a well-planned presentation that can’t lose.

A successful presentation, just like a great play on the football field, takes planning and practice.

Great teams scrimmage and so do great speakers.

Take the time to run through your talk from beginning to end a couple of times. Ensure that you can make it through your introduction using that great eye contact we already talked about. Connect.

And a team wouldn’t practice without its gear. Practice like you’re going to play. Use the tools you’ll be presenting with: your computer, your projector, your remote. Stand in front of a large room. Find a co-worker to listen. Run through your slides from beginning to end.

It’s like Coach Taylor says,

Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.